Sunday

19th Jan 2020

Agenda

Von der Leyen and Greece in focus This WEEK

  • Alexis Tsipras, a symbol for an anti-establishment experiment, is expected to be voted out this weekend (Photo: Consilium)

After a long and tumultuous week in Brussels, where EU heads of government and dates finally named the EU's new leadership - which earned them a scolding from the European Parliament - reverberations from the top job nominations process will still be felt.

After a lightning visit to Strasbourg and Brussels, EU Commission president nominee, German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen, will now need to keep on campaigning among MEPs to secure her confirmation.

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European lawmakers will vote on von der Leyen the week after, but until then, MEPs will have to figure out if they want to reject her, the first woman ever nominated for the job, and descend into an institutional battle with member states.

Greens have said 'no, thanks' to approving von der Leyen, and German and Spanish social democrats are irked as well that the lead candidate process system was not respected by EU leaders.

The European People's Party seem resigned to the fact that now the conservative von der Leyen is their candidate, rather than their 'Spitzenkandidat' Manfred Weber.

Outgoing commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker last week endorsed von der Leyen, but then admitted her nomination process "was not very transparent" - shedding light on the paradoxes embedded in the EU's institutional framework.

Committees

In the meantime, European parliament's all-powerful standing committees will hold their constitutive meetings in Brussels on Wednesday (10 July).

Their members were appointed at last week's plenary sessions in Strasbourg. They will elect their chairpersons and vice-chairs for a two-and-a-half year mandate.

Greek drama

Before we find out what will be the fate of the EU leadership, we will learn on Sunday (7 July), what kind of leadership Greeks want for themselves after four years of having premier Alexis Tsipras and far-left Syriza at the helm.

After Tsipras came into power as a firebrand politician who will show to the EU that Greece will not take any type of bailout deal, he folded and Greece had to undergo painful reforms and austerity, with the 44-year-old Tsipras' popularity waning.

Sunday's vote is expected to bring the 51-year-old mainstream conservative Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his centre-right New Democracy (ND) into power.

Mitsotakis promises lower taxes, privatisation of public services and more investments. He also called the name deal with North Macedonia that Tsipras secured a betrayal.

The elections in Greece will bring a populist, anti-establishment experiment to its end, and could signal what happens if lofty populist ideas crash into the hard reality.

Back to business

Despite the excitement around the top jobs in Brussels, business as usual will be picked up on Monday (8 July) with a meeting of the euro area's finance ministers.

The eurogroup will look at specifically how Greece and Spain are doing as they are recovering from the economic crisis. They will also discuss the budgets of the eurozone.

Here the commission will present its assessments and zoom in on Italy, which has avoided possible sanctions for its efforts to push EU budgetary and debt rules twice in six months.

EU finance ministers on Tuesday (9 June) meeting are expected to agree with the commission's take: that Italy's latest commitments are sufficient to avert an immediate launch of a probe over Rome's debt.

The EU's executive has said that the new measures submitted last week by Rome would help bring its growing debt into line with EU fiscal rules. Italy's populist, eurosceptic government made further concessions in talks with Brussels.

Ukraine summit

The 21st EU-Ukraine summit will take place on Monday (8 July) in Kiev after the new Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on his first foreign visit met with EU council chief Donald Tusk last month.

Both Tusk and Juncker will travel to the Ukrainian capital to discuss the way forward for EU-Ukraine relations and the implementation of the association agreement and of the trade deal between the bloc and its eastern neighbour.

EU leaders last month rolled over sanctions against Russia, and at the Kiev summit, the EU is expected to reaffirm its support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Leaders will condemn the Moscow measures to grant Russian citizenship to Ukrainians living in Moscow-backed rebel-held areas in the country.

Ukraine's reform agenda will also be on the menu, such as rule of law, administration, but especially the fight against corruption.

Conflicts of interest loom for Brexit Party MEPs

New Brexit Party MEP June Alison Mummery is the director of a company active in the fishing industry. She just joined the EU parliament's fisheries committee as a substitute member.

Deal on EP vice-presidents divides new liberal group

A majority of the new parliament's 14 vice-presidents are from the centre-right EPP or the centre-left S&D. They also control the Bureau, which decides on crucial internal issues like expenses transparency.

Parliament outmanoeuvred in EU top-post game

The European Parliament on Tuesday lost a years-long power struggle, and gave up winning more influence on European politics via the so-called Spitzenkandidat process it had championed.

Feature

Greens yet to be convinced by von der Leyen nomination

After a inconclusive meeting with Ursula von der Leyen at the European Parliament on Monday, all Green MEPs will now get to meet her on Wednesday - ahead of the key vote on her nomination as EU Commission president.

Davos and Libya in focus This WEEK

The all-powerful will meet in Davos after Berlin tries to resolve the Libyan conflict over the weekend, while MEPs will set the stage for final ratification of the Brexit deal.

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