Wednesday

29th Jan 2020

Agenda

Brits and French go to polls This WEEK

  • Actors portraying UK candidates Theresa May (Conservatives), Jeremy Corbyn (Labour), and Tim Farron (Liberal Democrats), at a theme park in Surrey (Photo: Casey Gutteridge / CPG Photography)

Citizens of the second-largest and third-largest EU members will go to the polls this week in elections that will have a significant effect on the rest of the bloc.

First, the United Kingdom will vote on Thursday (8 June), in elections for the House of Commons.

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  • Emmanuel Macron became president of France last month. Now his 14-month-old party needs lawmakers in the National Assembly, so he can carry out his plans (Photo: Reuters)

When the vote was unexpectedly called by prime minister Theresa May seven weeks ago, her aim was to strengthen her Conservative party's presence in parliament, so that she can negotiate Britain's exit from the EU with a stronger mandate.

Most will have thought the election campaign would be about Brexit.

But after Saturday's terror attack in London, the second attack during the election campaign after the Manchester killings, a key theme on voters' minds will be security.

Seven people were killed and at least 48 were injured after attackers drove into people with a van on London Bridge, and stabbed them. The Islamic State (IS) jihadist group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Arguments could be made in favour or against this being to the Conservative party's advantage.

In favour: by virtue of being the incumbent prime minister, May could be seen as a safer choice. Against: May has been responsible for home affairs for six of the past seven years.

Her main opponent, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, suggested after the attacks that May should step down over cuts in the police force when she was home secretary.

His centre-left party has reason to dream of not being wiped away once again, instead inching closer and closer to their rivals – although polls in the UK have been notoriously wrong in the past years.

France

Meanwhile, polls in France suggest that freshly-elected president Emmanuel Macron could continue his surprise winning streak by securing a big win or even a majority of seats in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

France will elect the 577 members of the National Assembly in two rounds, the first of which will be on Sunday (11 June).

Macron's En Marche! party, founded just 14 months ago, is leading in the polls.

Macron could move forward with proposals to reform France's welfare state and labour market, as well as the eurozone.

Already two years ago, Macron suggested that the eurozone, which includes 19 of the EU's 28 member states, should have its own budget and parliamentarians.

The EU institutions meanwhile have a short week, which began on Tuesday because of Pentecost.

How to combat terrorism is on the agenda at a meeting of justice and home affairs ministers in Luxembourg on Thursday and Friday, a topic that was put on the agenda before Saturday's attack in London.

They will also discuss setting up a European Public Prosecutor's office, although not all member states will participate.

Ministers responsible for transport and telecommunications issues will also be in Luxembourg over those days.

The transport meeting will centre around updated EU rules for the training of bus and truck drivers, maritime safety and road safety, while the telecom debate will be about how to improve internet connectivity for EU citizens, privacy online, and cross-border parcel delivery.

The European Parliament will have a relatively quiet week, with little legislative work on the agenda.

Instead, the institution will receive several foreign leaders, including Norway's prime minister Erna Solberg, and Bolivia's president Evo Morales.

The European Commission is expected on Wednesday (7 June) to present several documents about how to deepen defence cooperation between EU states.

With the UK – a strong opponent to defence cooperation outside of the transatlantic Nato alliance – moving towards the exit door, other member states see an opportunity in Brexit.

The EU executive has scheduled to present a reflection paper “to open a public debate and discuss different visions for Europe's defence and security up to 2025”.

It will also present a legislative proposal to start a European Defence Fund.

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