Sunday

18th Nov 2018

Agenda

Poland's rule of law centre of attention This WEEK

  • Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaking in the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament. He will give a speech in the European Parliament on Wednesday (Photo: Sejm RP)

The EU spotlight will be on Poland in the first week of July.

On Tuesday (3 July), a highly-controversial reform of the country' judiciary will come into force.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz (l) will meet with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Vienna (Photo: eu2018at)

The change has been criticised from Brussels and other EU countries, but Poland's right-wing government maintains that it is a necessary update of communist-era laws.

Under the new law, 27 of Poland's 72 Supreme Court judges may be forced to retire in a move which critics have said will put the eastern EU member's judiciary effectively under political control.

The EU commission is expected to launch a probe into the legislation on retirement because of concerns that it infringes EU rules.

The commission has been discussing the issue with Poland for months, disagreeing with Warsaw's assertion that the independence of the judiciary will be strengthened rather than weakened.

According to the commission, the reform constitutes a threat to the rule of law in Poland.

According to Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg's foreign minister, Tuesday 3 July will be "an important day for Poland and its justice". He warned that he and other EU foreign ministers may take steps that could end up with Poland losing its voting rights in the Council of the EU.

Poland's prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Thursday (28 June) criticised "interference" into member states' affairs and that "attempts to undermine the credibility of a key member state, such as Poland, is not a step in the right direction".

"We will continue judicial reforms, because the judicial sphere in Poland requires substantial improvements in efficiency," he told press in Brussels.

Morawiecki should expect many questions about the rule of law situation on Wednesday, when he will deliver a speech in the European Parliament.

Formally, his appearance in Strasbourg is part of a series of debates with government leaders on the future of Europe – last month it was Dutch PM Mark Rutte.

But the parliament has been critical of the Polish judicial reform, and supported the European Commission's decision to trigger article 7 from the EU treaty, which launched the sanction procedure, last December.

It is highly likely that a good chunk of the debate will focus on the rule of law in Poland.

Morawiecki's ally, Hungary's premier Viktor Orban will travel to Berlin on Thursday (5 July) to hold talks with chancellor Angela Merkel after a cruch EU summit where the two leaders clashed again over migration.

Austria arrives

Austria takes over as the EU's temporary chair on Sunday (1 July).

On Tuesday morning (3 July), Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz will discuss his country's priorities during the coming six months, when it holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

His speech will follow a debate between MEPs and Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisov, to review the Bulgarian presidency.

The EU presidency gives a country the responsibility to organise ministerial meetings, but also offers an opportunity to shape the EU debate.

Austria has said that its main priorities in the coming half year will be tackling immigration, Europe's competition through digitisation, and working towards enlargement of the EU with countries in the Western Balkans.

On Thursday and Friday, the members of the commission will visit Vienna to mark the handover.

Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will meet with chancellor Kurz and with president Alexander van Bellen.

While Van Bellen's constitutional role is mostly symbolic, his victory over a far-right anti-EU opponent in 2016 was hailed by pro-EU forces – but the 2017 legislative elections put a dent into Austria's perceived pro-Europeanness.

The centre-right Kurz is leading a coalition with the far-right eurosceptic Freedom Party and takes a tough stance on immigration.

Time for Etias

The European parliament will also continue with down-to-earth legislative work, and vote on political deals agreed with the commission and member states.

MEPs will vote on setting up a European Travel Information and Authorisation System, aimed at reducing the risk of letting in irregular migrants. It will require "visa-exempt third country nationals" to pay a €7 travel authorisation fee.

They will also vote on setting up a €500m fund to support EU military consortia.

MEPs will also debate posted workers in the road transport sector, and possibly vote on a proposed directive on copyright.

The committee legal affairs committee reached a position on the copyright file, with which MEPs would head to the Council of the EU for final negotiations.

However, the Green group is worried the bill would "undermine basic internet freedoms", and is collecting signatures to change the committee's mandate. The European Conservatives and Reformists group said it also had concerns.

TBC: Brexit and Trump

In addition to the above agenda items, some as-yet unscheduled events are also up in the air.

UK prime minister Theresa May said on Friday (29 June) that the UK government would be publishing a white paper on Brexit "shortly". The document should speed up the talks with the EU on the UK's orderly exit from the bloc.

May gathers with her divided cabinet on 6 July to discuss how close to stay to the EU. A day before that she will be in Berlin briefing German chancellor Angela Merkel.

On Friday, the EU's lead negotiator, Michel Barnier, said he was waiting for the white paper.

"I hope it will contain workable and realistic proposals, but let me mention once again that the time is very short. ... I'm ready to invite the UK delegation to come back in Brussels next Monday," he said.

Another decision is awaited in Brussels with decidedly less enthusiasm. US president Donald Trump could take his announced decision next week on imposing tariffs on European cars exported to the US.

The tariffs would be particularly worrisome for Berlin, as the car industry is an important part of Germany's economy.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte will be visiting the White House on Monday. It remains to be seen whether he returns to this side of the Atlantic with bad news for his German colleague Angela Merkel.

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.

Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK

All eyes on London this week, where May struggles to hold onto power against Brexit rebels, while EU leaders meet in Brussels on Sunday to try to clinch agreement.

Merkel and Brexit in spotlight This WEEK

The now-outgoing German chancellor will outline her vision for Europe in the EU parliament, as political parties gear up for the election next May. Brexit will also dominate, even though talks have yet to yield a breakthrough.

EU elections and Italy's finances are in focus This WEEK

A debate among would-be EPP 'Spizenkandidat' candidates next week in Helsinki will be the first of many clashes of ideas ahead of European elections next May. The liberals are also holding their own congress.

News in Brief

  1. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  2. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  3. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  4. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  5. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  6. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  7. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  8. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May

Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Authorities in Budapest confirmed the former prime minister of Macedonia, fleeing a jail sentence in his own country, has filed for asylum. Despite Hungary's strict asylum laws, the pro-Kremlin politician was not turned away.

Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army

Angela Merkel's much-anticipated speech to the European Parliament was brief and to the point. Her message: Europe is alone in the world, the EU should be more united on defence, but not on the economy.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  2. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  3. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  4. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  5. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  6. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  7. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  8. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  3. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  5. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  6. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  8. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  9. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  11. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us