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15th Aug 2020

Agenda

Iran, Brexit test 'geopolitical' commission This WEEK

  • EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell has invited the Iranian foreign minister to Brussels - but has yet to receive a response (Photo: exteriores.gob.es)

The EU this week will continue to struggle to deal with the latest crisis sparked by the US administration's killing of Iran's senior general Qassem Suleimani and US president Donald Trump's continued threats to bomb Iran.

Brussels said it wants to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East, but has appeared to be so far remaining on the sidelines and taking few concrete actions.

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This will be the first major test for the new EU executive, which its president, Germany's Ursula von der Leyen, has promoted as a "geopolitical" commission.

The EU's foreign affairs chief, Spain's Josep Borrell, is trying to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, and has invited Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif to Brussels. Tehran has yet to confirm the visit.

EU foreign affairs ministers are expected to hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the crisis on Friday (10 January) in Brussels, according to EU diplomats.

Meanwhile, the commission will travel to Zagreb on Thursday and Friday (9-10 January) as Croatia kicks off its first-ever EU presidency.

Von der Leyen will hold a joint press conference on Friday with Croatian prime minister Andrej Plenkovic - whose name also came up as possible commission president last summer during the haggling for the EU top jobs.

London calling

Before Zagreb, von der Leyen will travel to London to meet with British prime minister Boris Johnson.

The UK will become the first country ever to leave the EU, on 31 January.

Von der Leyen pledged the commission will be ready in February to start negotiations with the UK on the future trade deal, but the negotiating mandate for the EU executive will have to be first approved by member states.

The two sides will "discuss holistically the UK's withdrawal from the EU, and to look forward to the year ahead in all of its dimensions", a commission spokesperson said.

If the UK does not extend the transition period (due to expire at the end of this year), the UK and the EU have only 11 months to negotiate a trade deal that usually take several years to hammer out. Johnson has so far ruled out any extension request.

Parliament meets

In the meantime, European Parliament committees will this week also discuss some controversial issues.

On Thursday (9 January), MEPs on the civil liberties committee will hear from the commission on questions by Dutch MEP Sophie in 't Veld after EUobserver revealed that the UK had been illegally copying classified personal information (including photographs and fingerprints) from the Schengen Information System (SIS).

EUobserver reporter Nikolaj Nielsen has also shared the internal EU report on the UK's mishandling of the data.

On the same day, the legal affairs committee will discuss waiving the immunity for Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt.

Lawyers with the Polish ultra-conservative institute, Ordo Iuris, have accused Verhofstadt of defamation after, in 2017, he described the far-right participants of the Polish Independence March as "fascists", "neo-Nazis" and "white suprematists".

A Polish court asked the parliament to waive the MEP's immunity.

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