Friday

18th Jan 2019

Agenda

Juncker White House trip trumps the agenda This WEEK

  • 'All efforts to divide Europeans are in vain,' Jean-Claude Juncker (l) said ahead of his meeting with Donald Trump

Relations between the EU and the US will top the news agenda this week, with European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker's visit to the White House on Wednesday (25 July) - just days after US president Donald Trump called the EU a "foe".

Both sides said the meeting will focus on "improving transatlantic trade and forging a stronger economic partnership," with US tariffs on steel and aluminium and the threat of additional tariffs on cars at the centre of the talks.

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  • The commission will present proposals to manage arrivals of migrants who have been rescued at sea (Photo: SOS Mediterranee)

Juncker, who will be accompanied by trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, said he will "repeat European arguments" against US measures.

"It seems that relations between partners and the EU and the European Union have to be better explained," he told journalists on 17 July.

He said that he "would like the US president to understand that when it is about trade, the EU, its single market, are one indivisible entity," and that "all efforts to divide Europeans are in vain."

Juncker was invited by Trump in June, in an attempt to decrease tensions on trade after the US decision on tariffs and a disastrous G7 summit in Canada.

"We will try everything to avoid a trade war," German chancellor Angela Merkel said when EU leaders confirmed Juncker would go to Washington.

But during a recent trip in Europe, Trump has attacked the EU for its trade policies.

"EU is very difficult. I respect the leaders of those countries. But, in a trade sense, they've really taken advantage of us," he said in an interview while in Scotland.

On Thursday (19 July), he reacted angrily to the €4.3bn fine imposed on Google by the European Commission for breaking EU antitrust rules, saying that the EU would "not for long" take advantage of the US.

Tit-for-tat

"We'll continue to react tit-for-tat to provocations", Juncker warned, referring to possible US tariffs on cars.

Malmstrom also said that the EU has "made clear" to the US that it is preparing counter-measures.

But on 19 July, US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross said that is was "too soon" to way what Trump would decide.

Migration

In Brussels meanwhile, the European Commission will try to address the current political tensions over the management of migrant arrivals in the EU.

On Tuesday (24 July), it will present a proposal to create so-called controlled centres - facilities to welcome migrants who were rescued at sea and where it would be decided whether they can claim asylum.

The idea was proposed by French president Emmanuel Macron and Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte at the last EU summit after Italy refused to open its ports to migrant boats.

But the controlled centres will be "more a process than a place", an EU source said.

In line with Macron and Conte's idea, migrants will be dispatched in voluntary countries, on a case-by-case basis.

The commission's proposal will be about how decisions are taken, and how facilities set up when people arrive get a technical and financial support from the EU.

"It is an interim solution," a commission spokeswoman said on Friday, until a long-term reform of the EU asylum system is agreed.

In the meantime, she said, the commission will continue to coordinate the effort between voluntary member states.

The commission paper will be submitted to EU ambassadors on Wednesday and the process would be put in place as soon as member states agree to it.

The commission will also present a paper on the so-called disembarkation platforms - facilities outside the EU where migrants would be confined while waiting to be granted asylum or returned to their country.

Several countries, including Libya, have already refused to host such centres, and the commission paper will only present principles to make them compatible with an involvement of the UN refugee and migration agencies - if and when they happen.

Brexit

After a week where Brexit was much discussed in Brussels and in London, negotiations will continue in Brussels at expert level, in order to speed up the work and try to reach a withdrawal agreement by October.

Amid discussions over the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland - which the EU wants to remain open after Brexit - a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference will take place on Wednesday (25 July).

The conference, whose role is to ensure dialogue and consultation to implement the Good Friday peace agreement, will focus on the lack of a devolved government shared between unionists and republicans in Belfast. But the impact of Brexit on the border and the agreement itself will be also discussed.

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