Sunday

17th Feb 2019

Agenda

Macron speech and Catalan vote This Week

  • Macron aims to shape German coalition talks (Photo: Reuters/Pascal Rossignol)

French leader Emmanuel Macron will detail his vision for the future of Europe at the Sorbonne university in Paris on Tuesday (26 September).

His speech comes after the German election on Sunday, where the far-right AfD party made big gains amid a small victory for chancellor Angela Merkel.

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  • Catalonia to hold "illegal" referndum (Photo: president.cat)

Macron is expected to call for a eurozone budget and finance ministry, among other reforms.

His timing is intended to shape German coalition talks and to lead to a new Franco-German accord on the EU by the end of the year.

EU leaders will have a chance to digest his ideas at informal talks in the capital of Estonia, the EU presidency country, on Thursday and Friday.

The Tallinn Digital Summit is meant to discuss EU policy on digital security, commerce, and R&D for the next eight years.

But European Council president Donald Tusk has called for a broader discussion on post-Brexit EU reforms, including migration, defence, and eurozone integration, at a dinner on Thursday.

Catalan vote

If Merkel survived what the AfD called a "political earthquake", the EU will brace itself for another seismic event at the end of the week.

Catalans aim to vote in a referendum on independence from Spain on Sunday.

The vote comes despite a Spanish constitutional court ruling that the referendum is illegal and despite raids and arrests by Spanish gendarmes.

The European Commission has insisted that the crisis was a domestic issue, while saying that the constitutional order must be respected.

But Catalan authorities distributed more than 1 million ballots last weekend and onlined a new website with details of how and where to vote.

Brexit, Poland

Meanwhile, EU states will start the week by discussing two of the most sensitive items in European affairs - Brexit and rule of law in Poland.

The Commission's Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, and its deputy head, Frans Timmermans, will brief EU affairs ministers at a general affairs council in Brussels on Monday.

Barnier will speak to the EU-27 without the UK minister in the room.

He is likely to say Britain has not yet made "sufficient progress" on the terms of its exit deal to launch talks on future EU trade relations next month.

He will also kick off the fourth round of Brexit talks with British officials in Brussels the same day.

Timmermans will update ministers on "the state of play of [the Commission's] rule of law dialogue with Poland".

He has threatened to propose unprecedented EU voting sanctions if the Polish government snatches control over courts and judges.

But Poland's ally, Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, said last week he would veto any Commission proposal.

EU budget

In the European Parliament, budget committee MEPs will vote on the 2018 budget on Wednesday, amid plans to undo cuts in spending on education, youth unemployment, SMEs, and migration policies.

Civil liberties committee members will vote on Thursday on plans by 20 EU states to create a joint public prosecutor who is to chase up misspending of EU funds.

Social affairs committee MEPs will vote the same day on plans to create an EU-wide minimum wage.

Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank, will also brief members of the economic affairs committee on Monday on the bond-buying programme that helped to save the eurozone during the financial crisis.

The bank is expected to scale back purchases of government debt, but to keep up its buying of bonds issued by private firms.

Other affairs

In other affairs, Cecilia Malmstroem, the Commission's trade chief, will meet British trade minister and arch-Brexiteer Liam Fox on Tuesday.

Vytenis Andriukaitis, the health commissioner, will meet health ministers from Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands on Tuesday to discuss their countries' role in the egg scandal that saw a toxic insecticide - fipronil - pollute farms in the summer.

Federica Mogherini, the EU's foreign policy chief, will also meet the foreign ministers of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Uganda on Friday.

The meeting comes amid EU efforts to use aid money to make African states stop migrants from going to Europe.

Barnier: UK risks undermining trust in Brexit talks

A day before UK PM Theresa May sets out her Brexit strategy in Florence, top EU negotiator Michel Barnier told lawmakers in Rome: there can be no transitional deal for the UK without a withdrawal agreement.

Hungary and Poland defy EU authority

Hungary and Poland have said they "don't want a mixed population", amid a tug-of-war with the Commission on migrants and rule of law.

Merkel survives election 'earthquake'

Christian-democrat leader set to rule Germany together with liberals and greens, but with a new troublemaker - the AfD party - on the scene.

Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK

Brexit talks will continue in Brussels, as UK PM Theresa May's government is trying to find a way out of the political impasse at home. Murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee will speak at the European Parliament next week.

Brexit votes set for This WEEK

Brexit looks to dominate news this week as British MPs gear up for a vote on how to break the internal deadlocks over the proposed deal with the European Union.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK

Brexit talks will continue in Brussels, as UK PM Theresa May's government is trying to find a way out of the political impasse at home. Murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee will speak at the European Parliament next week.

Saudis paying College of Europe to lobby MEPs

The Bruges-based College of Europe is setting up private meetings with the EU institutions for seven ambassadors plus seven high-level officials from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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