Wednesday

27th Jan 2021

Agenda

EU leaders discuss bloc's future in Sibiu This WEEK

  • Jeanl-Claude Juncker will appear before the press ahead of the Sibiu 'post-but-now-pre-Brexit' summit. His EU commission has already laid down its proposals for the EU's future before the European elections (Photo: European People's Party)

It was the week that was supposed to 'relaunch' the European project after the UK had left the EU. But events interfered with that planning.

EU leaders will gather in the picturesque town of Sibiu, Romania on Thursday (9 May) to discuss the way forward for the bloc, with the UK still being a member - at least until the new 'exit' date was of October 3, with Britain still to find a common strategy out of the union, and approve the withdrawal agreement.

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Originally proposed by EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker for 30 March, the day after the original Brexit date, the meeting in Sibiu, the home town of Romanian president Klaus Iohannis, will now be held on Europe Day, which marks the anniversary of the 'Schuman Declaration', a 1950 speech by the French foreign minister, setting out his ideas for a political cooperation in Europe.

The process of rethinking the European integration started immediately after the Brexit vote with the so-called Bratislava Roadmap and continued with the Rome Declaration in March 2017.

But little new emerged on substance beyond insisting on the importance of European unity.

EU leaders will now discuss the political future of the union in highly-volatile times with only three weeks to the European elections, when opponents of the current European integration project, mostly populists and nationalists, are expected to surge. Theresa May, the British prime minister, is not expected to attend - despite the UK's continued membership and unexpected participation in the May European elections.

Nevertheless, the EU commission came out with several strategic documents to lay down how they see the way ahead for the EU. Leaders will likely have their own ideas.

Juncker will hold a press conference on Tuesday (7 May), two days ahead of the summit, reinforcing the commission's ideas for the future.

It will be a rare sighting of the self-proclaimed "political commission" chief in the press room, who went lower-key after the LuxLeaks scandal broke which raised questions about his time as prime minister of Luxembourg, when it built a highly-beneficial tax regime for multinational companies.

On Tuesday Juncker and Iohannis will hold a meeting with citizens in Sibiu.

EU leaders will have the elections on their mind, and top EU jobs that will have to be filled once the new European parliament is set up in July.

Still on Tuesday, finance and tax commissioner Pierre Moscovici will present the commission's spring economic forecast with projections, analysis and recommended action for the EU economies.

The annual Brussels Business Summit will take place on the 6-7 May in the Egmont Palace in Brussels, bringing together policymakers and business, featuring again Juncker, trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, competitiveness commissioner Jyrki Katainen, digital commissioner Andrus Ansip among others.

Analysis

From Bratislava to Rome: Little more than a show of unity

The so-called Bratislava process of reflection for the EU came to an end on Saturday, but there were few tangible results that citizens could take away from the soul-searching. Despite that, unity among the EU-27 has been maintained.

Analysis

Sibiu: EU leaders prepare post-Brexit show of unity

With the European elections just three weeks away, the EU-27 will try to set the agenda for the next years for the EU institutions. But with persisting divisions on key issues, unity will be an achievement in itself.

Vaccine delay and Russia sanctions debates This WEEK

The director of the European Medicine Agency, Emer Cooke will be quizzed by MEPs in the parliament on vaccine authorisation on Tuesday. EMA is expected to give the green light to the third vaccine at the end of the week.

Gruelling Brexit and budget talks continue This WEEK

After almost a week of arm-wrestling and ten days before the UK severs all of its EU ties, negotiators are back working hard on a deal on the future EU-UK relations. Budget and rule of law talks will also continue.

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