Wednesday

24th Apr 2019

Agenda

Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK

  • Theresa May wants to find enough compromise with Brussels to push the Brexit deal through the UK parliament (Photo: Council of the European Union)

The UK's Brexit negotiator Steve Barclay will return to Brussels to meet with the EU's chief negator Michel Barnier on Monday (18 February) after British prime minister Theresa May suffered another defeat in the London parliament on her Brexit strategy.

May is pushing on with efforts to revise the Brexit deal, despite the defeat, and will return to Brussels "within days", the leader of the House of Commons said on Friday (15 February).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

British lawmakers voted against a motion endorsing the government's strategy by 303 to 258, with 66 of May's own Tory MPs abstaining.

May is seeking to rewrite the withdrawal agreement on the backstop, the insurance policy to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland - despite the EU repeatedly reaffirming that it cannot reopen the Brexit deal.

The EU has offered to give assurances on the backstop through other means, such as an annex to the withdrawal agreement, or a joint commitment exploring technological alternatives, Bloomberg reported.

With only a little over a month remaining until Brexit day on 29 March, the possibility of the UK leaving the bloc without a deal is on the increase.

Winter sun

At the end of the week on 24 and 25 February, EU and Arab leaders will gather Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt for the first time.

On the EU-League of Arab States summit migration will top the agenda. EU council president Donald Tusk will co-chair the meeting with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

On Monday (18 February) EU foreign ministers will meet in Brussels. Their agenda will be dominated by Syria and Ukraine, focusing on the upcoming elections, the reform process, and the security situation in the eastern European country.

They will also discuss the situation in Venezuela, where opposition leader Juan Guaido has been spearheading efforts to unseat president Nicolas Maduro.

Also on Monday, the prime ministers of the Visegrad Four, a group of member states comprising the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, will meet in Jerusalem with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The V4 has been a staunch opponent of redistribution of migrants who arrive in Europe to seek asylum. Populist governments in Poland and Hungary have also been under scrutiny by the EU for concerns about dismantling the rule of law in their countries.

Netanyahu has been cultivating Israel's relationship with the central European countries to weaken EU consensus on issues relating to the Palestinian territories and Iran.

The V4 leaders previously held a summit with Netanyahu in Budapest in July 2017.

On Tuesday (19 February) EU affairs ministers will gather in Brussels to review talks on the EU's long-term budget.

They will also continue to look into rule of law issues in Poland and Hungary, but the process has been bogged down due to lack of political willingness by member states to move the procedure forward.

Institutional jealousy between the European Parliament and the council of member states also complicates the issue in the case of Hungary, as in the case of prime minister Viktor Orban's government it was a parliament report that triggered the so-called Article 7 procedure.

Back to Dieselgate

Members of the European Parliament's environment committee will question EU commissioner for industry, Elzbieta Bienkowska, on Wednesday (20 February) on the Dieselgate scandal.

The debate will be a follow-up to parliament's inquiry committee into the widespread diesel-emissions cheating uncovered since September 2015.

The inquiry committee, which investigated in 2016-2017 the legal situation in which the cheating was allowed to take place undetected, concluded there had been five accounts of maladministration by member states, and three cases of maladministration by the European Commission.

MEPs are expected to ask the commission what has been improved since their damning report.

They may also ask whether the commission will decide to appeal a Court of Justice ruling, delivered last December. The Luxembourg-based court ruled that an EU decisionthat gave carmakers additional flexibility on emissions limits, was in fact illegal.

Saudi shadows and US star power

On Tuesday, the European Parliament's subcommittee on human rights will hear from the fiancee of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's, Hatice Cengiz.

Saudi Arabia initially denied involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance at Saudi Arabia Istanbul consulate, but following international pressure, the country admitted that the killing took place on the consulate's premises.

An American political star will also be in Brussels next week as EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will meet with Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives on Monday.

Pelosi is steering a Democratic-majority House and has emerged politically victorious from the US history's longest government shutdown after a dispute with president Donald Trump over the border wall with Mexico.

Saudis paying College of Europe to lobby MEPs

The Bruges-based College of Europe is setting up private meetings with the EU institutions for seven ambassadors plus seven high-level officials from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

MEPs call on EU countries to deal with Hungary

MEPs who launched a procedure examining the democratic situation in Hungary last year now want member states to step up efforts. The government in Budapest meanwhile accuses MEPs of attacking Hungary over migration.

Barnier: UK has to move on Brexit

No breakthrough emerged from the meeting between the top EU and UK negotiators on Monday evening in Brussels. Michel Barnier urged the UK to move on its red lines to help clinch a deal, with 45 days left until Brexit.

EU parliament meets last time This WEEK

MEPs will gather for the last time this week in Strasbourg before the European elections in May to finalise several bills. Lawmakers will have a Brexit debate and hear from Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Brexit and China top EU affairs This WEEK

Brexit and China will dominate EU affairs this week, as leaders meet for two summits - including emergency talks two days before the UK is due to crash out of the EU with no deal in place.

Brexit no-deal and chief prosecutor top This WEEK

No-deal Brexit has become more likely than ever before, and EU leaders will start preparations for it as the drama continues in London. Negotiations also continue over the candidates for the EU's new top prosecutor.

News in Brief

  1. Political deadlock looms at Sunday's Spanish election
  2. Le Pen in Copenhagen for talks with new key ally
  3. Trump to meet May and Macron on Europe visit in June
  4. Johnson's sister to run in EU elections on new list
  5. Weber pledges to 'block' Nord Stream 2 as president
  6. UK warns migrants not to cross 'dangerous' Channel
  7. Austria's FPO publishes racist poem
  8. Spanish party leaders spar over Catalonia

Opinion

'Next Juncker' must fix EU's corporate power problem

The time for genuine lobby regulation and a stop to the risk of corporate capture of EU policy-making is now. It is a question of survival and must be a priority for the next head of the European Commission.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Weber vow to block Nord Stream 2 amid 'sue' threat
  2. 'Next Juncker' must fix EU's corporate power problem
  3. EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections
  4. Ukraine comic-president invited to EU capitals
  5. Trump's Israel plan to 'test' EU resolve
  6. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  7. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  8. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us