19th Jan 2020


Commission still in waiting This WEEK

  • Changing of the guard: outgoing EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and incoming chief Ursula von der Leyen (Photo: European Commission)

The EU this week will be very much the same place as it was before Halloween. The UK is still a member of the bloc, and is now gearing up for a bruising campaign ahead of a snap general election on 12 December.

Meanwhile, in Brussels, Jean-Claude Juncker remains in charge of the EU Commission as incoming president Ursula von der Leyen is struggling with completing her team.

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Von der Leyen has met with France's Thierry Breton and Hungary's Oliver Varhelyi, but still awaits a name from Romania and now also from Britain.

Juncker will meet with von der Leyen on Tuesday (5 November).

The parliament's committee on legal affairs, which rejected the original candidates from Romania and Hungary, stands ready to examine the new commissioner-designates' possible conflict of interests.

Parliamentary moves

In the meantime, the parliament's committee on foreign affairs will meet on Thursday (7 November) with enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn on recent developments - mainly the EU not opening accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania.

EU Parliament president David Sassoli will be in North Macedonia early next week.

The transport committee will discuss the outcome of projects under the 2019 Connecting European Facility (CEF) transport call with commission representatives on Wednesday (6 November).

The environment committee will debate the recent special reports prepared by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on climate change with IPCC experts on Wednesday.

Equal pay

Ahead of the European Equal Pay Day on Monday (4 November), commission vice president Frans Timmermans, employment commissioner Marianne Thyssen and justice commissioner Vera Jourova issued a statement promoting equal pay for the same job between women and men in the EU.

Women in the EU still earn on average 16 percent less than men, a slight improvement from last year's 16.2 percent.

"It is 60 years since the equal pay principle was written into the European treaties, and yet women across Europe still don't see the laws matching the reality of their daily lives. European women still work for two months for free compared to their male colleagues and the progress is too slow," the commissioners said.

Finance matters

On Thursday eurozone finance ministers will gather in Brussels to discuss the appointment of a new European Central Bank executive board member, and the commission's autumn forecast.

The next day EU finance ministers will hold a joint meeting with education ministers to discuss effective and high-quality education and training.

The council is also expected to adopt a statement on climate finance in preparation for the December UN climate conference.

Ministers will discuss the issue of digital taxation.

On Thursday, the second EU-Ukraine civil society forum will take place under the free trade agreement agreed by the two sides, with representatives from employers, unions, labour and business organisations, environmental groups and other civil society organisations.

Romanian president and PM at war over commission pick

The president has publicly scolded the prime minister over picking a new name for Romania's EU commissioner candidate - a week ahead of the formation of a new government in Bucharest. Premier Viorica Dancila has hit back on Facebook.

MEPs block Romanian and Hungarian 'commissioners'

In an unprecedented move, MEPs in the legal affairs committee said there were conflicts of interests for two commissioner-designates. Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen will now have to decide what to do with them.

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.

Green money and Iran tensions in focus This WEEK

The EU Commission will unveil the financial backbone for its Green Deal, and also debate a possible minimum wage with MEPs. Lawmakers will also hear from the Jordanian king and the EU's foreign affairs chief.

News in Brief

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  6. Trump threatened EU-tariffs over Iran, Germany confirms
  7. EU trade commissioner warns UK of 'brinkmanship'
  8. Germany strikes coal phase-out deal

Boost for Right in post-Brexit EU parliament

The far-right Identity and Democracy will overtake the Greens as the fourth-largest party in the European Parliament on 1 February, after the UK's MEPs vacate their seats.


Why EU minimum wage is actually bad idea for workers

As president of one of the largest trade union confederations in the EU, I see the need for good working conditions and decent pay in all member states - but an EU-wide minimum wage could be used to lower wages.

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