Sunday

19th May 2019

Agenda

Spanish vote and EU court's Airbnb ruling in focus This WEEK

The election result in Spain, the EU's fifth-largest economy, is promising to be tight this weekend as voters head to the polls on Sunday (28 April). It is the third such general election in just four years.

While incumbent prime minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialists are expected to receive the most votes, it is uncertain whether they will be able to form a majority coalition.

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As in other EU member states, Spain's party political system has become increasingly fragmented over the past years, and 40 percent of undecided voters could swing the result in any direction.

Nevertheless, the relatively recent far-right party Vox is expected to get gain around 11 percent of the vote.

In other countries, the campaign for May's EU elections is in full swing.

On Wednesday (1 May), the liberal ALDE party's four-out-of-nine lead candidates for the election will head to Budapest to join the "March for Europe" event, organised by local opposition liberal party, Momentum, as the country celebrates the 15th anniversary of joining the EU.

Emma Bonino, Katalin Cseh, Luis Garicano and Margrethe Vestager will join the expected 1,500 participants in central Budapest, where prime minister Viktor Orban has been building an avowedly 'illiberal' state, proclaiming liberalism as a threat to the country's sovereignty, and has regularly attacked the EU.

Gas and court

But as the campaign for next month's European elections picks up in member states, the 'Brussels Bubble' falls into a somewhat dormant state.

On Thursday, a business forum on will focus on bringing together US and EU officials and companies from the liquified natural gas (LNG) sector.

US president Donald Trump has been pushing Europeans to buy more American LNG, while criticising Germany's plan to build a new pipeline to Russia, North Stream 2.

Since EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker visited Trump in Washington last summer, EU imports of US LNG have increased by 181 percent, a joint EU-US statement said last month.

US secretary of energy, Rick Perry and EU energy commissioner Miguel Arias Canete are both expected to make speeches.

In Luxembourg, the European Court of Justice will issue an important opinion on Tuesday (30 April) on whether the dispute settlement mechanism in the EU-Canada free trade deal is in line with EU law.

The controversial "investment court system" unnerved many in the EU.

The system sparked fears that it could strengthen multinationals to the detriment of states and citizens, prompting Belgium's Wallonia region to hold upthe signing of the deal in 2016.

As part of a compromise struck in Belgium, to gain Wallonia's approval for the deal, Belgium turned to the ECJ in 2017 for its view on the dispute settlement.

Earlier this year, the advocate general of the ECJ - a legal advisor whose opinion is largely then followed by the court - already said the free trade deal is compatible with EU law.

Airbnb

On the same day, the EU's top court will also rule on whether the services of Airbnb, the online rental platform, can be restricted in the EU. A French court asked for the ECJ's preliminary ruling on whether restrictive rules can be enforced against Airbnb.

The French hoteliers' association, who filed the original complaint, argue that it is a real estate agent and should be subjected to property rules, which Airbnb rejects.

The rental platform has been accused in several cities around the world of worsening housing shortages and pushing out lower-income residents.

Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU

The justice commissioner says the accommodation-rental website will better inform users about prices, and about the legal status of their 'hosts'. Facebook, however, could face sanctions if it doesn't comply with EU rules.

Belgium breaks Ceta deadlock

[Updated] Belgian leaders signed a joint declaration, clearing the way for the government to sign the EU-Canada trade pact. Wallonia's leader Paul Magnette said it was a victory for his people, and the rest of Europe.

Opinion

Ratifying CETA after 'Achmea scandal' is anti-European

While few people in Europe have heard of the 'Achmea' ruling, the case will have far-reaching consequences. Member states must understand the implications of the case quickly - especially those considering ratifying the EU-Canada trade agreement.

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Timmermans calls for left-wing coalition at debate

The centre-right's Manfred Weber got most of the heat at the EU Commission presidential candidates' final debate before the European elections, while Frans Timmermans reached out to a possible coalition partners - piling more pressure on Weber's EPP.

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.

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