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18th Aug 2018

Agenda

Macron and Syria top EU agenda This WEEK

  • Macron won his presidency after a pro-EU campaign (Photo: Consilium)

French president Emmanuel Macron will make a highly anticipated speech on the future of Europe on Tuesday (17 April) in the European Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg.

Macron, who despite a populist surge across Europe won the presidential election with a distinctly pro-EU campaign last year, will try to breathe new life and momentum into the European project.

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On the backdrop of populist victories in recent elections in Italy and Hungary, Macron is expected to talk about how the EU can assert a European democratic model.

The French president will also hold a so-called citizens consultation on Tuesday evening in Epinal, and kick off a series of town hall-type meetings across the EU, attempting to make the European debate more inclusive.

Macron will later meet with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Thursday (19 April) for discussions focusing on trade, international issues, as well as joint work on eurozone reform and migration.

Macron's speech comes as France and the UK are considering military action in Syria after a deadly chemical attack there. Russia - which had promised before to help Syria dispose of chemical weapons - said the attack was staged by foreign agents.

Foreign ministers will meet in Luxembourg on Monday (16 April) to discuss Syria. It will also be the first time since March 2016 the whole EU's Russia policy is on the menu in light of a recent attack in the UK against a former spy and the chemical attack in Syria.

Ministers will consider further sanctions, the possible political transition in Syria as EU diplomats consider that peace cannot be achieved with the current regime of president Bashar Al-Assad, but only within the framework of a political transition.

On Tuesday, MEPs will hold a debate with the EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Syria.

Foreign ministers will also focus how to eradicate the so-called Islamic State from the country.

They will discuss how to save the Iran nuclear deal, as European diplomats make progress toward an agreement that would address US concerns about the accord.

US president Donald Trump has threatened not to extend the sanctions relief for Iran if the "flaws" of the deal were not fixed.

Brexit back

Brexit negotiators will sit down next week from Monday (16 April) through Wednesday and formally discuss the future relationship of the EU and the UK for the first time.

EU officials are expected to present a draft political declaration on that, which would be attached to the Brexit withdrawal deal, but in-depth talk about trade is not expected to start before June.

Negotiators will also discuss the issue of the Irish border, which is far from being solved. EU officials want to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Norther Ireland before moving on to trade talks.

Facebook, journalists, Selmayr

Facebook will be at the centre of debate among MEPs on Wednesday (18 April) afternoon, but no resolution is yet foreseen. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was invited again to a hearing with several EP committees over fears of breach in data protection.

A resolution on the protection of investigative journalists will be voted on Thursday (19 April) in light of the recent murder of Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The same day MEPs will also vote on a resolution by the budgetary control committee on the controversial appointment of Martin Selmayr as secretary-general of the European Commission.

The committee will put forward its resolution on Monday, which will call for changes to the commission's administrative procedure for the appointment of senior officials.

The EU commission will on Tuesday (17 April) publish its annual report of the progress made by countries who seek to join the EU, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. The yearly assessment will be discussed by ministers soon after.

The report comes as EU leaders planned to hold a summit in Sofia with the countries wanting join the bloc, but the Western Balkans meeting might be derailed due to Serb-Kosovar tensions.

EU affairs ministers will gather in Luxembourg on Tuesday (17 April) to talk about Western Balkan enlargement and to hear the commission's assessment of Poland's official answers on concerns over the independence of judiciary.

No decision is expected with regards to the sanctions procedure against Poland.

On Monday (16 April) the commission's vice-president Timmermans will meet with US billionaire George Soros, who has been at the centre of Hungary's latest general election campaign with prime minister Viktor Orban claiming Soros wants migrants to overwhelm Europe and its culture.

EU toes the line on Syria air strikes

EU foreign ministers to back Western air strikes on Syria, the same way they backed the UK over Russia's chemical attack on an ex-spy in Britain.

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