Friday

28th Feb 2020

Agenda

EU budget battle gears up This WEEK

  • EU Council chief Charles Michel has been talking to all national leaders in an attempt to find a compromise on the budget (Photo: Council of the European Union)

Now the UK left the room, the remaining EU countries are gearing up for a likely gruelling fight over the next long-term budget for the bloc.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will on Wednesday (12 February) brief MEPs on the commission's position on the EU's seven-year budget.

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EU Council president Charles Michel has been meeting member states' leaders in preparation for the extraordinary summit on the budget on 20 February.

Meanwhile, member states have never been so divided on the size and how the money should be structured, after the UK's departure leaves an annual €12bn hole in the budget.

Positions have hardened between the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria and Sweden, and to some extent Germany, that want the first post-Brexit budget to stay below 1.0 percent and at least 15 countries that reject cuts to EU cohesion funds.

The Finnish presidency proposed a budget cap at 1.07 percent of the EU gross national income (GNI) last month, which was criticised by both sides. New numbers and proposals are expected by Michel in the next week.

Next Brexit

Von der Leyen will on Tuesday (11 February) address MEPs on the negotiating directive proposed last week by the EU executive for the next phase on the future relations with the UK.

The commission put forward its strategy last week, which still has to be adopted by member states on 25 February.

France, and some other member states, want to insist that the UK stays aligned in its rules with those of the EU. Prime minister Boris Johnson has said he will not do so, claiming it could hinder London striking trade deals with other countries.

MEPs will discuss the mandate, and vote on Wednesday on a resolution laying out the parliament's position on the UK trade talks.

The EU parliament will ultimately have to ratify any deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU.

Balkan beats

On Monday (10 February), MEPs will assess the commission's proposal on reforming the accession process after France rejected the start of negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania last October.

At the end of the week, on Sunday (16 February) von der Leyen, Michel, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, and Croatian prime minister Andrej Plekovic, whose country holds the EU presidency, will welcome Western Balkan leaders for an informal summit in Brussels.

It is part of preparations for another informal summit of all EU member states plus Western Balkan states in Zagreb in May by which time the commission hopes the green light can be given to North Macedonia and Albania.

Trade vote

MEPs will debate on Tuesday (11 February) and give their final vote on Wednesday on the free trade and investment deal between the EU and Vietnam, the first such deal without the UK.

Greens will ask for postponing the vote on the deal and if they don't succeed, they will vote against it.

The Green group says the human rights situation in "Vietnam is increasingly worrying, and that Vietnamese government is not keeping promises while taking increasingly brutal action against dissidents and trade unions".

The trade deal would abolish all customs tariffs over the next 10 years, protect EU products, and create access to EU firms to the country.

The war in Syria and recent US peace plans for Israel and Palestine, will be discussed by MEPs and Borrell on Tuesday afternoon. Borrell has already strongly criticised US president Donald Trump's proposal for a Middle East peace.

European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde will address MEPs for the first time on Tuesday, to discuss the eurozone's economic governance.

On Tuesday, MEPs will discuss parliament's priorities for the commission's upcoming Gender Equality Strategy.

Black sheep

On Tuesday, MEPs will debate the threat to the rule of law in Poland, where legislation bars judges from questioning judicial appointments made by the president, and allows judges to be disciplined for criticising the government or its judicial reforms.

The new law also prohibits judges from being politically-active, and requires them to make public their membership in associations or civil society organisations.

In the meantime, Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban will meet German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday. Orban will also meet with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the leader of the ruling CDU.

Hungary's ruling Fidesz party has been suspended for almost a year from the European People's Party (EPP), where the CDU is a heavyweight player.

Vietnam sent champagne to MEPs ahead of trade vote

A trade deal with Vietnam sailed through the European Parliament's international trade committee and after its embassy sent MEPs bottles of Moet & Chandon Imperial champagne over Christmas.

Analysis

EPP's Orban struggle exposes deeper mainstream dilemma

Europe's largest political alliance was once reformed to dominate EU politics and band together like-minded, but at times, very different parties. Now increasing political fragmentation in Europe seems to pull it apart.

Opinion

Trump's 'plan' for Israel will go against EU values

As someone who has been personally targeted by Benjamin Netanyahu's incitement against Arabs and Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Druze, I still believe that peace is possible. But Donald Trump's 'plan' will be a gift to Netanyahu's campaign.

Opinion

What the Dutch don't get about the EU budget

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is for chopping the European budget and its redistributive mechanisms. But each year, according to one economic analysis, the Netherlands get €7.1bn of additional revenues which should be payed in other tax jurisdictions.

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.

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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