Tuesday

19th Nov 2019

Agenda

New hearings for the von der Leyen commission This WEEK

  • Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban and the country's EU ambassador, prospective enlargement commissioner, Oliver Varhelyi (Photo: Council of the European Union)

This weekend Spaniards go to the polls to try to break the political deadlock that resulted in four general elections in four years, and the second already this year.

Prime minister Pedro Sanchez's socialists are leading in opinion polls but have lost some support, while right-wing parties have increased in popularity since last month's separatists rallies in Catalonia.

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But no party or bloc of parties will have a clear majority after Sunday's (10 November) vote, according to the polls.

Romanians are also heading to the ballot boxes Sunday for a presidential election.

Incumbent conservative-liberal president Klaus Iohannis, who promises continued anti-corruption efforts, is widely expected to win the first round.

Iohannis has struggled to curb the judicial overhauls by the then ruling Social Democrats (PSD), but since his ally, prime minister Ludovic Orban won a parliamentary vote of confidence last Monday, the president's anti-graft efforts could get a boost.

PSD's Viorica Dancila, a former former premier, and Dan Barna, from the centre-right opposition Save Romania Union, are below 20 percent in polls.

Iohannis, 60, will then probably face a run-off vote on 24 November.

New round of hearings

In Brussels, attention will be on a new round of hearings of commissioner-desginates.

The parliament's legal affairs committee will hold an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday (12 November) to examine the declarations of conflict of interests of the new candidates.

The committee has rejected previous candidates from Hungary and Romania.

If the three candidates pass the first hurdle, their hearings will take place on Thursday (14 November).

Hungary's current EU ambassador, Oliver Varhelyi will face MEPs in the foreign affairs committee to win their backing for the enlargement portfolio.

Hungary's close ties with Russia and Turkey, and its move to block Ukraine's cooperation with Nato have raised concerns among some MEPs over Budapest being given the enlargement commissioner, however.

Nevertheless, Varhelyi is expected to be confirmed, although MEPs might ask him further written questions to pin down some commitments from him.

Romania's candidate, MEP Adina Valean, who has led the parliament's environment and industry committees, is also expected to be confirmed by the transport committee for her commission position.

France's Thierry Breton, picked to lead the EU's industrial policy, a former CEO of the French information technology company Atos, will face MEPs from the internal market committee.

France's previous candidate, Sylvie Goulard has been rejected by MEPs in the committee.

Next week will also see if British prime minister Boris Johnson will nominate a UK commissioner, as requested by commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen, and as is set out by EU rules.

If all goes well for von der Leyen, parliament could vote on her commission before the end of the month and take office on 1 December.

Foreign affairs

On Monday (11 November), EU foreign affairs ministers will meet to discuss the Turkey, and its military action in north-east Syria.

They will also debate the Afghanistan where a presidential election took place late September, and will also zoom in on the security situation in the Gulf and Iran.

The next day ministers will also discuss defence issues and adopt 13 new defence cooperation projects.

On Thursday, MEPs in a mini-plenary in Brussels, will discuss the situation of stranded migrants on the Greek islands as well as in Bosnia with the commission.

On Monday, the subcommittee on human rights along with the development committee will discuss the human rights and humanitarian situation in north-eastern Syria.

MEPs in the plenary will vote on Thursday on a resolution warning against potential threats resulting from the amendment to the Polish criminal code, which seeks to criminalise sex education to minors.

On Friday, the parliament and member states will hold a meeting to try to bridge deep differences regarding next year's EU budget.

The council aims at a budget of €166.bn in commitments and €153.bn in payments whereas the parliament aims at €171bn in commitments and €159.1bn in payments.

If no deal is reached by 18 November, the commission has to come up with a new draft budget for 2020.

On Wednesday (13 November), European parliament president David Sassoli and German Bundestag's president Wolfgang Schauble will address MEPs to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989.

MEPs again reject Romanian, Hungarian 'commissioners'

Hours before the European Parliament hearings of would-be commissioners begin, two nominees are rejected in a second vote by MEPs on the legal affairs committee. It is an early blow to president-elect Ursula von der Leyen.

Key moments for new commission This WEEK

MEPs will decide on Monday if they want the Hungarian commissioner-designate to come back for a second hearing, as commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen hopes to finally take office on 1 December.

News in Brief

  1. France: wide EU backing for enlargement change
  2. EU Council calls for policy action to protect marine life
  3. ECJ: Poland's judicial independence in doubt
  4. Suspected 'middleman' in Caruana Galizia case arrested
  5. European populists more favourable to Russia
  6. Hungary's new commissioner approved by MEPs
  7. Balkan coal power plants fail to meet emissions targets
  8. Belarus vote: zero opposition candidates elected

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Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

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