Friday

28th Feb 2020

Agenda

Second phase of Brexit starts This WEEK

  • EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will be back to set out exactly what the EU and the UK should be talking about (Photo: Council of the European Union)

The EU has entered the week with one less member, as the UK has officially became a "third country" last Friday (31 January).

However, Brexit continues as negotiations on the future relationship will start, to reach an agreement by the end of the year - a deadline that will be almost impossible to respect, officials warn.

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On Monday (3 February), EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will unveil the EU commission's proposal on the negotiating mandate for the next phase of talks.

The broad mandate will be around 30-pages long, will lack details, and be based on the political declaration attached to the Brexit withdrawal agreement and the recent negotiating mandate on trade talks with Australia, one EU official said.

The EU will be looking for one overall agreement on all aspects of trade, because it would want to avoid the sectorial approach similar to its troubled agreement with Switzerland.

One key aspect to look for in the proposal will be the legal framework of the agreement: a mixed agreement could mean that in the end national and regional parliaments would have to ratify the deal, which takes several years.

The proposed mandate is expected to be agreed by member states on 25 February, so that the actual negotiations with the UK can start in early March.

Enlargement?

In the meantime, the EU moves on.

The enlargement commissioner Oliver Varhelyi will on Wednesday (5 February) present a new methodology for the EU enlargement process.

Albania and North Macedonia's bid for opening accession negotiations with the EU was denied in October last year.

It was mainly down to opposition from France, which insisted on a new accession strategy and methodology, to be developed before candidate countries start the negotiations for EU membership.

The new methodology will have to be agreed by member states eventually, but EU officials and diplomats hope it would be enough to nudge Paris into agreeing to the start of negotiating talks at the Zagreb summit in early May.

On Thursday (6 February) MEPs on the civil liberties and budget control committee will hear from Laura Codruta Kovesi, the EU's first-ever chief prosecutor, on the establishment on the office.

The economic committee will host Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, on the same day.

The environment committee will will discuss the outbreak of coronavirus on Monday with Andrea Ammon, executive director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Top officials from the centre-right European People's Party will meet early in the week in Brussels and are expected to decide on the fate of their suspended party member, Hungary's ruling Fidesz.

The decision has since been postponed, and the suspension will remain in place, but tensions could still run high over prime minister Viktor Orban's party.

Orban, meanwhile, will meet with commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Monday.

EU council president Charles Michel will be meeting heads of governments all week in preparation for the 20 February summit on the EU's seven-year budget.

Member states have been deeply divided on the budget and how to fill in the gap left b the UK's departure. Michel will try to figure out where is room for compromise.

EPP to keep Orban's Fidesz suspension

European People's Party president Donald Tusk told his group's MEPs that the suspension of Hungary's Fidesz party will continue - and vowed not to compromise on the centre-right party alliance's values.

Africa visit and EU parliament missions This WEEK

The European Commission will visit the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, for a joint meeting with the African Union, ahead of the EU-Africa strategy being unveiled. MEPs will carry out missions in the Czech Republic, Turkey and the US.

Budget, Zuckerberg, Pelosi and Cayman Islands This WEEK

EU leaders will put their heads together on Thursday night to look for a compromise on the next long-term EU budget. EU Council president Charles Michel's latest proposal has received a lukewarm welcome from member states.

Feature

Coronavirus: voices from a quarantined Italian town

Panic-buying, plus resentment at the media for fuelling the panic, are the paradoxical responses of residents of the Italian towns of Vicenza and Vo', where Italy's first victim of the coronavirus died last Friday.

Greek island riots require measured response, says EU

Residents on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios have been met with riot police, following protests against plans to erect new migrant detention camps. The European Commission says measures by Athens' authorities must be "necessary and proportionate."

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