Wednesday

16th Jan 2019

Agenda

Trump rides back in to Europe This WEEK

  • Trump meetings in Brussels, London, and Helsinki to dominate headlines (Photo: whitehouse.gov)

The first time he came to Brussels, in February 2017, US leader Donald Trump caused upset by physically barging aside the prime minister of Montenegro at a Nato summit and by declining to pledge support to Nato collective defence.

This week he is coming back, for a summit at Nato's new HQ on Wednesday (11 July) and Thursday, amid reports he might pull out US soldiers from Germany - the backbone of Nato's Russia-deterrent in Europe - unless European states spend more on defence.

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  • Austria's semi-far-right EU presidency comes to Brussels (Photo: Roderick Eime)

He is then going to meet British leader Theresa May in London on Friday to talk about free trade and Brexit after starting a trade war with the EU and suggesting that other member states, such as France, should leave the European Union.

A huge street demonstration is planned for his London visit - including an inflatable caricature balloon of Trump, which London mayor Sadiq Khan has granted permission to fly over the British capital.

Trump is also due to meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Helsinki the following Monday (16 July) after dropping hints that he might recognise Russia's annexation of Crimea - the first time the borders in Europe were redrawn by force since World War Two.

Trump's ongoing onslaught against normality on the global stage comes amid an equally nasty crisis on immigration inside Europe.

EU interior ministers will hold informal talks on how to handle asylum law reforms and better protect EU external borders, among other issues, in Innsbruck, Austria, on Thursday and Friday, after Austria took over the EU presidency on 1 July.

The EU presidency holder is currently co-ruled by a far-right party, the FPO, in a sign to what extent populism has hijacked European politics despite drastic falls in the numbers of refugees.

The interior ministers of Austria, Germany, and Italy, who dubbed themselves the "axis of the willing" on migration last month, will also meet outside the EU format in the run-up to the Innsbruck event to discuss ways to "shut the Mediterranean route into Europe", according to Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

All that comes as the UK and the EU head into what appears to be a slow-motion train crash on Brexit in testing times for Europe.

The British government will next week publish its much-awaited white paper on what customs and trade model it wants with the EU after it leaves.

But British leader Theresa May is struggling to get British agreement on EU demands, and vice-versa, as well as struggling to hold on to her own job, as the clock ticks to the UK exit date next March.

Ukraine on Monday's menu

The week begins with a meeting between top EU officials Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker and Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko in Brussels.

The summit comes amid ongoing Russian aggression in east Ukraine and Kiev's effort to prove to the EU that has made progress on fighting corruption despite the slow-burning war.

Japan and the Western Balkans

Tusk and Juncker will also meet Japanese leader Shinzo Abe in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss free trade.

Meanwhile, Western Balkan leaders will meet with those from enlargement-friendly EU states in London on Tuesday, amid Britain's push to show it is relevant on the world stage despite Brexit, and EU efforts to spur ties with the region.

Erdogan's inauguration

The EU's Greek commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, will also visit Ankara on Monday to take part in president Recep Tayyip Erodgan's inauguration.

But the EU has decoupled Turkey from its enlargement push as Erdogan begins one-man rule.

Turning to internal affairs, the European Parliament's economic affairs committee will meet with European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi on Monday amid controversy over his membership in a secretive bank lobby, the so-called Group of Thirty.

Several of Austria's far-right ministers - including those holding the interior and foreign minister posts - will shuffle in and out of EU parliament committees in the first half of the week as MEPs meet and greet the EU presidency holder.

The budgetary control committee will also hear from the bloc's anti-fraud chief, Nicolas Ilett, on Thursday, to see what his fraud-busting Olaf squad was up to last year.

Analysis

Trump befriends Conte, depresses EU

Most EU leaders found US president Donald Trump "depressing" at the G7, but one of them - Italy's Giuseppe Conte - made a new friend.

UK holds internal Brexit summit

Britain's divided government will try to agree on a single Brexit wishlist at Friday's special meeting, but none of the options augur well for EU talks.

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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