21st Mar 2018


'Selmayrgate' moves to the EU Parliament This WEEK

  • Martin Selmayr's rise in the European Commission will be challenged by MEPs (Photo: European Commission)

'Selmayrgate' - the swift and controversial appointment of the new secretary general of the European Commission - will be a key topic next Monday (12 March), as the row moves from the EU bubble in the Berlaymont building to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, who is in charge of the EU executive's human resources, is expected to brief MEPs on the procedure, which has seen EU commissioners rubber-stamping the surprise nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker's chief of staff Martin Selmayr, a widely admired and feared behind-the-scenes eminence.

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  • The issue of protecting journalists will be addressed by MEPs, two weeks after the killing of Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee (Photo: Peter Tkac)

Liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld sent a letter to the EU ombudswoman asking if the appointment was a "maladministration" on the part of the EU executive.

US steel tariffs and an impeding globe trade war will feature high on the EP's agenda as well.

A debate in the assembly will take place on the recent US steel tariffs and the possible EU countermeasures on Wednesday (14 March) with trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem, and vote Thursday (15 March) on a resolution .

The EU is hoping for an exclusion from the new tariffs on steel and aluminium, and it fears the US might try to divide the trading bloc by granting exceptions to some of the member states.

Brexit rolling

On Wednesday (14 March) MEPs vote on the parliament's position on future EU-UK relations. A debate will take place on Tuesday (13 March) with Michel Barnier, the commission's chief Brexit negotiator.

The resolution has been prepared by the political group leaders, and the EP offers an 'association agreement' to the UK as the core of the future relations.

The EP's Brexit point man, Guy Verhofstadt will hold his regular press conference on Tuesday.

Wednesday (14 March) will also see EU ambassadors further working on the bloc's guidelines on how it wants future relations with the UK to unfold.

Protecting journalists

A delegation of six MEPs travelled to Slovakia following the assassination of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova.

Kuciak's murder was the second recent high-profile killing of an investigative journalist in the EU after Maltese Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered last October.

The Greens suggested a European Parliament prize for investigative journalism, and are in discussion with the other groups on how to realise this.

MEPs will also prepare a report and the issue of protecting journalists will be addressed on Wednesday (14 March).

Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa will be the third EU leader, and first Socialist PM, this year to debate the future of Europe with MEPs on Wednesday (14 March) morning.

French president Emmanuel Macron is next in line for April, while Belgium's Charles Michel is expected to make an appearance at the May Brussels mini-plenary while Luxembourg's Xavier Bettel will be in Strasbourg in May.

Money talk

Eurozone finance ministers on Monday, and all EU finance ministers on Tuesday will discuss the deepening of the econmic and monetary union, ahead of the next EU summit at the end of the month. How to complete the banking union will be the main issue.

Finance ministers will also on Tuesday discuss how to reduce risks in the banking sector, as well as how to apply greater transparency to controversial tax planning schemes.

The debate on tax is likely to be contentious after EU tax commissioner Pierre Moscovici said on Wednesday that the domestic tax policies of some seven member states were "unbearable" and undermining a level playing field in the internal market.

The EP is also set to vote on a proposal to overhaul the EU's corporate tax system to prevent big firms gaining an unfair advantage by choosing to pay in the most favourable member state.

The EP is also expected to take a preliminary stand on the long-term EU budget. In a resolution expected to pass on Wednesday it will argue that more money should be used to fund research and support young people and small firms.

EP business

On Monday evening the EP's environment and health committee will discuss a recent mission to Amsterdam regarding the post-Brexit relocation of the European Medicine Agency from London, which needs to be adopted in co-decision. MEPs will then also vote on it.

On Wednesday the environment committee has commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska to discuss the follow-up to the recommendations the parliament made after its diesel emissions inquiry committee.

On Tuesday the plenary will vote on the defence fund backing research and development.

A petition against sexual harassment is to be handed over to the EP president Antonio Tajani either on Monday or Tuesday. Tajani could not receive the petition last week because he was travelling.

And the Socialist group will start choosing its next leader after Italy's Gianni Pitella won a seat in the Senate in the recent Italian elections.

Candidates for the post have until Monday to announce their candidacy, and a vote will take place next Tuesday (20 March) in Brussels.

In the meantime, MEP Maria Joao Rodrigues will be acting group leader.

In the wake of those Italian elections, eurosceptic leader of League party, MEP Matteo Salvini, who wants to be Italy's next prime minister will hold a press conference on Tuesday (13 March) in Strasbourg.

Trump starts countdown to EU trade war

EU sales of steel to US to face 25 percent tariff from 23 March, with Europe to hit back on motorbikes and bourbon in looming trade war.


At the court of the EU bubble kings

The elevation of Martin Selmayr to the position of secretary general highlights how far the EU Commission has gone in disconnecting itself from what it is supposed to represent: the general interest.

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.

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.

US yet to push on Nord Stream 2 sanctions

Washington would still like to block a planned gas pipeline between Russia and Germany but is not yet considering hitting companies involved in the project.

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