Wednesday

21st Nov 2018

Agenda

Trump, trade, and Brexit in EU headlines This WEEK

  • Trump (r): "We've been extremely tough on Russia" (Photo: Kremlin.ru)

Donald Trump's meeting with Vladimir Putin, global trade, and Brexit will dominate the EU agenda this week.

Russia's election meddling, its Syria and Ukraine wars, and nuclear arms control will top priorities when Trump, the US president, meets his Russian counterpart, in Helsinki on Monday (16 July).

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  • Clashes on trade and Nato defence spending form backdrop to Helsinki event (Photo: Thomas Hawk)

The talks, to be attended by huge delegations, and accompanied by a media and security circus in Finland, might deliver nothing in terms of concrete deals, but will be carefully watched for Trump's relationship with Putin.

They might also see Trump recognise Putin's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine for the sake of better relations, tearing up previous Western policy on the conflict.

They will meet after the US leader appeared to threaten to quit Nato and launched a personal attack on German leader Angela Merkel at a Nato summit last week.

Trump claimed on Friday in London that his Nato tantrum prompted leaders to spend more on defence, strengthening his hand on Russia.

"The Russians might be saying: 'Oh, gee, we wish Trump had not been the victor in that election.' We've been extremely tough on Russia," he said, in a nod to allegations that Putin helped him to win the 2016 US vote.

But he continued to attack Merkel, saying she should have expelled more than just three Russian diplomats over Russia's attempted murder of an ex-spy in England and that she was wrong to be building a gas pipeline with Russia in such sensitive times.

"I think it is a horrible thing that Germany is doing," he said, referring to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.

"Nato helps Europe more than it helps the US. Whatever you want to say, it helps Europe more," he said.

EU foreign ministers will meet in Brussels the same day to talk about the situation in Libya, where disorder continues to see smugglers put migrants on risky boats to Europe.

They will discuss the future of the Iran nuclear arms control pact after Trump walked away from it earlier this year.

They will hold talks on closer relations with former Soviet states despite Russia's menace, on North Korea, and, no doubt, try to make sense of Trump's Nato and Russia policy.

The fact three groups of MEPs will fly to Washington on Monday to discuss data protection, financial crimes, and tax laws indicates that transatlantic relations remain functional, despite the occupant of the White House.

But the the data group will touch on the painful question whether a British consultancy, called Cambridge Analytica, helped Trump and Putin to fix the 2016 vote.

EU tension with Trump also extends to free trade, after he slapped tariffs on European products, prompting a tit-for-tat response.

Beijing on Monday

But top EU officials will pledge commitment to the principles of free trade and to the authority of the World Trade Organization at a two-day summit with China, America's main competitor on the world stage, in Beijing on Monday.

They will also sign a new trade treaty with Japanese leaders in Tokyo on Tuesday.

"EU and Japan leaders are expected to reaffirm their commitment to the rules-based international order and to free trade," the EU said.

Brexit before the weekend

EU affairs ministers will round off the week with a debate on Britain's Brexit position paper on Thursday and Friday after British prime minister Theresa May eventually published it.

Her model, of de facto staying in a customs union for goods, if not services, is unloved by hard-Brexit rebels in the Conservative government who threaten to topple May's fragile majority.

It is also little loved in EU circles for cherry picking topics for agreement, while leaving unsolved questions on tough issues, such as what will happen on the Irish-Northern Iriish border when Btitain leaes next March.

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.

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