Saturday

15th Dec 2018

Agenda

Brexit vote and Merkel's successor top This Week

  • Chancellor Angela Merkel stepped down as the CDU's leader - marking an end of an era for Europe (Photo: European Parliament)

Next week will be crucial for all of the EU's 'big three' - Germany, the UK and France. What happens there will shape where Europe heads in the next years, as two of countries are in deep political turmoil, and the future of all of three is cloudy.

Over the weekend, France will see a third weekend of massive protests as demonstrators in 'yellow vests', originally sparked by a planned fuel tax, take to the streets again.

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The protests have grown into demands for the resignation of president Emmanuel Macron and his government, due to inequality, massive taxes and a deep mistrust and disappointment in the governing political and financial elite.

The country-wide protests enjoy the support of the majority of French, although they also condemned the violence at the Paris demonstration last week. It is not yet clear how Macron can politically salvage the situation, and where France is heading.

Brexit climax - or anti-climax

The UK's future also hangs in the balance next week, as on Tuesday (11 December) the British parliament will vote on the Brexit deal.

British prime minister Theresa May has insisted repeatedly she will not resign even if the vote fails - which it widely expected to do, and by a heavy margin.

No-one knows what will happen after that, from a constitutional crisis through frantic calls for re-negotiations with the EU, to a possible second referendum or a no deal, or even fresh elections. Anything could happen.

However, the EU is unlikely to move significantly on the key issue of the backstop, a guarantee mechanism to keep the border open on the island of Ireland after Brexit.

Meanwhile, the European Court of Justice is expected to rule on Monday (10 December), 24 hours ahead of May's crucial vote, if Britain can unilaterally withdraw its intention to leave the UK, a decision that could influence MPs last-minute intentions.

In Germany, the largest governing party, the Christian Democrats (CDU) will have chosen its new leader - who is likely to become the country's next chancellor.

On Friday (7 December) Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has led the party for 18 years, bid farewell to the leadership position, saying that in difficult times the CDU should not forget its Christian and democratic stance.

"Whether it's the rejection of multilateralism, the return to nationalism, the reduction of international cooperation to deal-making or threatened trade wars... hybrid warfare, destablisation of societies with fake news or the future of our EU - we Christian Democrats must show in the face of all these challenges what we've got," she said in an effort to secure her legacy.

The party is expected to move to the right after Merkel. If the party delegates elect CDU general secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, universally known as AKK, the change is expected to be mild, while if corporate lawyer Friedrich Merz is chosen, the shift is likely to be more definite.

EU affairs

In Brussels EU leaders will gather on Thursday (13 December) for a two-day summit to endorse the limited eurozone reforms agreed by ministers previously.

Leaders will also hold a crucial discussion on migration, trying to come to an agreement how to proceed with an agreed common position to deal with the issue, and prepare the bloc for a possible next wave of people.

The conference to adopt the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration will be held in Morocco on 10 and 11 December.

Starting with Hungary and Austria, whose governments have been pursuing a hardline anti-migration policy, an increasing number of EU countries have rejected the non-binding compact that they had agreed to earlier.

The absurd U-turn by some of EU member states over the pact has almost led to the fall of the Belgian government.

In Brussels, on Tuesday (11 December) EU affairs ministers will prepare the summit later in the week, and also hold a hearing with Poland on its highly-controversial judicial overhaul, and an exchange of views on respecting EU values in Hungary.

The EU has launched a sanctions procedure both with regards to Poland and Hungary, and the ministers' discussion is a part of that Article 7 procedure.

EU foreign affairs ministers will meet on Monday (10 December) and discuss Iran, its latest missile tests and Russia.

In the meantime, the most important UN conference since the Paris 2015 deal on climate change is continuing in the Polish city of Katowice, a former mining town. The aim is to agree on a rule book on how to enforce global action to limit the further warming of the planet.

Parliament closing

The EU parliament will also hold its last plenary session for of 2018 in Strasbourg.

MEPs on Wednesday (12 December) will award the Sakharov Prize for freedom to Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, currently imprisoned in Russia.

Deputies on Wednesday will also vote on the parliament's position on the scope and priorities of some of the EU funds for research, the space program, digital and defence in the next long-term budget.

MEPs on the same day will vote on the free trade agreement with Japan, the largest bilateral trade deal ever done by the bloc.

It depends on the events following the UK vote on Tuesday, but EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is expected in Strasbourg to discuss the outcome of the vote in the British parliament on Wednesday morning.

The president of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades will also be in Strasbourg on Wednesday outlining his vision for the future of Europe to the parliament.

Opinion

Brexit, migration, cities - and the UN pact

It's not surprising that a handful of nationalist European governments – Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland and Italy – have followed Trump's lead in rejecting the UN's migration pact, to be formally adopted in Marrakech next week.

British MPs could 'unilaterally' halt Brexit

British MPs will now vote on Brexit in the knowledge that their ballots could halt the whole process - if the EU court follows the opinion of one of its top jurists.

EP lawyers back EU plans for migrant centres in Africa

European Parliament lawyers endorsed plans by the EU to set up centres in north Africa to offload rescued migrants, but did so on the basis of making big assumptions given the lack of operational and technical details.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders endorse creation of eurozone budget
  2. Selmayr has no comment on MEPs' call to resign
  3. May had 'robust' discussion with Juncker
  4. UK to continue talks on EU 'assurances'
  5. EU invests €20m in AI software for self-driving cars
  6. Belgian PM 'not optimistic', urges 'no deal' Brexit preparedness
  7. Romanian president expects no Brexit summit in January
  8. Swedish MPs reject Lofven to lead new government

EU leaders stuck on asylum reform

Migration was overshadowed by Brexit at the EU summit, with leaders stuck on key legislation. Some warned that free movement could be at risk.

Interview

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