Saturday

16th Feb 2019

Agenda

Turkey and money dominate this week

  • Turkey is back on the agenda as MEPs are set to vote on cutting funding by €70m (Photo: David Stanley)

The European Parliament gathers in Strasbourg next week amid plans to slash €70m of aid to Turkey in a plenary vote set for Tuesday (2 October).

The funds are set to be cancelled from an overall budget used by Turkey in its frozen bid to one day join the European Union.

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The move follows a critical report by the European Commission earlier this year on issues dealing with rule of law, human rights, and press freedoms in Turkey.

The EU and Turkey are working together to stem migratory and refugee flows towards Greece - amid tense relations and on-going political spat between Ankara and the EU's paymaster in Berlin.

The agreement included EU promises to lift visa restrictions on visiting Turkish nationals, along with other political concessions, that have yet to materialise.

Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel, who helped mastermind the migrant pact with Turkey, is now seeking to secure similar deals with other autocrats in north Africa.

Turkey is not the only big issue to be dealt with in Strasbourg as MEPs also tackle efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions for new cars.

A Tuesday debate will be followed with a Wednesday vote on a new law to help clean up car exhausts. They are hoping for a 20 percent reduction target by 2025, set to increase to 45 percent by 2030.

Those seeking to get a glimpse into the issues for the upcoming EU summit in mid-October, may want to tune into the debate on Tuesday where MEPs will outline their priority topics ranging from Brexit to migration.

It's not all Strasbourg next week.

Money in Luxembourg

In Luxembourg, ministers from across EU states using the single currency will gather on Monday for a Eurogroup meeting where they will discuss European Stability Mechanism (ESM) reforms.

No decisions will be made on Monday but the talks are politically charged.

The mechanism was set up to provide financial assistance. In August, it had paid out out the fifth and final tranche of financial assistance to Greece, amounting to €15bn.

A tussle earlier this year between France's president Emmanuel Macron and Germany's Merkel exposed diverging views on eurozone reforms.

Macron had been pressing for a common eurozone finance minister and an investment budget to deepen fiscal integration. Merkel had warmed up to turning the ESM bailout fund into a European monetary fund but opposed ideas for a eurozone finance minister.

ESM director Klaus Regling over the summer warned of another financial and economic crisis should the remaining weaknesses in the European monetary union remain unresolved.

On Tuesday, also in Luxembourg, finance ministers will meet to discuss renewed efforts to crack down on money laundering as part of their Ecofin rendezvous.

The ministers will discuss a European Commission anti-money laundering proposal to give more powers to the European Banking Authority to monitor threats at EU level.

"On this anti-money laundering, it is only at this stage an initial presentation by the commission, nothing more," noted one EU official.

The finance ministers also aim to reach several VAT agreements linked to e-publications, liability, and the currency framework.

Brexit or break up?

In the UK, prime minister Theresa May's Conservative party holds its annual conference from Sunday to Wednesday.

May will deliver a possibly make-or-break keynote speech defending her so-called 'Chequers' blueprint for a Brexit deal with the EU, which was roundly rejected by EU leaders at an informal summit in Salzburg last week.

The blueprint is also unpopular with both large segments of her party and some members of her own cabinet.

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Brexit talks will continue in Brussels, as UK PM Theresa May's government is trying to find a way out of the political impasse at home. Murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee will speak at the European Parliament next week.

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