22nd Mar 2018


Election fever picks up This WEEK

  • EU parliament president Antonio Tajani said he was flattered Silvio Berlusconi touted him for Italy's next PM (Photo: European Union)

The European Parliament is in session ahead of an Italian general election amid broader discussions on the EU's long term budget after 2020.

The election fever has already gripped MEPs who are pushing forward the so-called Spitzenkandidaten (lead EU commission president candidate) process for the 2019 EU election despite wide resistance from member states.

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Antonio Tajani, the European Parliament's president, told reporters in Brussels on Friday (23 February) that the Spitzenkandidaten is a gateway towards greater democratic legitimacy.

"If the parliament can be included in appointing the president of the commission then people will feel closer to the European Union," he said.

Tajani also brushed away any notion that he may leave Brussels for Italy after Silvio Berlusconi touted him for prime minister, telling reporters that he is "100 percent committed to being the president of the European Parliament."

Italy's general election is taking place on Sunday (4 March). Should Forza Italia 'win' (ie be able to form a governing coalition), then Berlusconi, a disgraced billionaire and convicted fraudster, will get to choose who becomes prime minister. Berlusconi suggested Tajani.

"I can only thank him [Berlusconi] and feel honoured for the consideration he has towards me," said Tajani.


Meanwhile, Tajani and other MEPs will be pressing for the Spitzenkandidaten amid a debate on Wednesday (28 February). Given the UK departure from the EU, other topics like the parliament's composition and the EU budget will also be discussed at the plenary session.

But on Monday, another candidate is up for debate.

ECB job

Luis de Guindos, Spain's economy minister, is hoping to secure his seat as the European Central Bank vice-president. MEPs in the economic and monetary affairs committee will grill De Guindos on Monday (26 February) with a plenary vote the following day.


It will be a week during which other big issues will be tackled as well, including Brexit, with EU negotiator Michel Barnier set to give an update to ministers at the general affairs council on Tuesday (27 February).

Those Brexit talks will lead into a March summit, where leaders are expected to adopt the guidelines for the negotiations on the future relationship with the United Kingdom.


EU vice-president Frans Timmermans will also brief the same ministers on Tuesday on the tense relations with Warsaw over the rule of law. The same topic will then be picked up by MEPs on Thursday (1 March), when the plenary is set to vote on whether Poland is breaching EU values.

The Middle East peace process and the two-state solution are back with talks set to take place among foreign ministers on Monday (26 February).


Meanwhile, German coalition woes have yet to end.

German chancellor Angela Merkel's fourth term will be possibly sealed or unravel when Social Democratic party members have until Friday (2 March) to submit their votes on whether to enter a grand coalition.

ECB, Budget, EU elections This WEEK

EU leaders will gather to begin talking about the 2019 election process and the post-2020 budget, while eurozone finance ministers will ponder choosing the next European Central Bank deputy chief.

Western Balkans and Brexit restart This Week

The EU Commission will unveil its strategy for the Western Balkans in an effort to keep the strategically important region close. It will be a busy week at the EP with geo-blocking – almost – coming to an end.

Brexit and trade will top This WEEK

A crucial EU summit will decide whether to give a green light to the Brexit transition period, while the EU is also fighting to get exemptions from the new US steel and aluminium tariffs.

'Selmayrgate' moves to the EU Parliament This WEEK

As a global trade war looms over the new US steel tariffs, the EU's attention will shift to Strasbourg - where MEPs are expected to debate the Martin Selmayr appointment, trade, Brexit, journalism and the budget.

Italy and migration will top This WEEK

Italy will have voted for a government, Germany's social democrats will have voted to confirm a government (or not): the dynamics in European politics may change, while Brussels will focus on Brexit again.

Germany casts doubt on Austrian intelligence sharing

An Austrian police unit headed by a far-right town councilor and tasked to tackle street crime was sent to raid the offices and homes of people working for Austria's domestic intelligence agency - prompting German counterparts to review cooperation.

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