Friday

18th Jan 2019

Agenda

Migration row at centre of EU summit This Week

  • Merkel will be looking for a way out of her own political crisis at the EU summit (Photo: bundeskanzlerin.de)

An ever-deepening row over how to handle migration in Europe that goes to the core of EU integration and a coalition crisis in Germany exacerbates the split among member states ahead of an EU summit next week.

The week will kick off with a hangover from Sunday's (24 June) "mini-summit" where chancellor Angela Merkel will seek assurances from frontline countries Italy and Greece that Germany could return asylum seekers first registered in those countries without it triggering a wave of unilateral moves from other EU countries.

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Italy pushed back an initial statement prepared to end the summit, as it insists that arrivals and illegal migration has to be tackled as well, not only Germany's concerns over secondary movement.

The ad hoc 'mini-summit' (or "informal working meeting", in EU parlance) also irked European Council president Donald Tusk, who has been traveling across the bloc to secure a consensus on "disembarkations platforms" designed to keep asylum seekers out of the EU as they lodge their request, and on distributing refugees already in the EU among the countries.

All EU leaders will then gather in Brussels on Thursday (28 June) for a two-day summit to haggle over migration again.

The summit will also deal will trade issues in the face of the commercial tit-for-tat prompted by US president Donald Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminium.

It will give the leaders a first chance to discuss the EU's long-term budget as proposed by the EU Commission in May. Leaders are also expected to roll over sanctions against Russia.

Eurozone reform will also be on the agenda, with leaders expected to give guidelines for discussions on transforming the European Stability Mechanism into a kind of EU monetary fund, establishing a stabilisation mechanism and an unemployment fund to help crisis-hit countries.

The will also talk about the eurozone budget, pushed by French president Emannuel Macron and accepted by Angela Merkel.

EU-27 leaders will also take stock of the Brexit negotiations and expected to warn of the possibility of the UK crashing out as it struggles to solve the Irish border issue.

Both the EU and the UK want to keep the border open in Northern Ireland, but that proves to be difficult, as it will become the bloc's new external border.

Defence

Before the leaders meet, foreign ministers will meet on Monday (25 June) and discuss defence cooperation, the defence funds proposed in the new long-term EU budget.

The ministers will also discuss EU-Nato cooperation with Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg.

EU affairs ministers on Tuesday (26 June) will discuss Brexit issues, focusing on what has so far been agreed in the withdrawal agreement and the Irish border question.

Ministers will also discuss enlargement and the EU commission' assessment of the candidate countries.

Poland in the spotlight

Ministers will also hear from Poland's EU affairs minister Konrad Szymanski, who – under an unprecedented Article 7 sanctions procedure – will outline his country's response to the commission's concerns over the rule of law and judicial independence.

Each member state will have the opportunity to ask two questions from Szymanksi on specific issues concerning the judiciary.

Vice president Frans Timmermans has stepped up efforts to put pressure on Poland, which has been reluctant to amend its judicial reform significantly based on the commission's recommendations.

The "hearing" on Tuesday comes as Poland's Supreme Court is expected to be reshuffled on 3 July, when several judges will be forced to retire under the new rules.

On Monday (25 June), the European Parliament's civil liberties committee will vote on the report by Green MEP Judith Sargentini on Hungary, in which the committee – supported by several other committees – will call for the triggering of Article 7 sanctions procedure against premier Viktor Orban's government.

A vote in the plenary is expected in September.

MEPs will follow up Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's presentation to the EP leadership with a hearing with Facebook officials on Monday (25 June) to talk further about preventing misuse of personal data.

Merkel, Macron in pre-summit pledge on migration, eurozone

Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel and France's president Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday signed a joint declaration that offers concessions by both camps in terms of migration and the setting up of a eurozone budget.

Poland urged to halt 'purge' of top court

Next month Supreme Court judges could be removed in Poland - due to a controversial reform seen as a judicial purge by a government that wants to control the courts. The European Commission wants Warsaw to act now.

Investigation

How Italy's government might hijack EU migration policy

Matteo Salvini promises to send record numbers of migrants packing. However, that quickly comes up against the cost, logistics, and diplomacy, of how such a threat would be carried out - and the price for the EU as a whole.

Romania takes over the EU This WEEK

Romania will officially take over the EU's presidency this week, with commissioners and senior EU officials kicking off the testing next six-month period with meetings in Bucharest.

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