Tuesday

19th Jan 2021

Agenda

EU struggles to remain united This WEEK

This week will be crucial in Europe's fight not only to contain coronavirus, but in the EU's effort to stick together and battle the economic consequences of the pandemic.

Spain and Italy, the most badly hit countries by the coronavirus so far, have been under lockdown for at least two weeks, so efforts to contain the spread of the virus could show some tangible signs.

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Meanwhile, nordic and southern EU countries locked horns about the possibility of issuing a one-time joint bond to help finance economic stimulus, the so-called "corona bonds", to help with economic shock.

The Netherlands and Germany are refusing the idea so far, while nine eurozone countries have supported it.

Spain and Italy have also called for a new Marshall Plan, referring to the US-financed program after the Second World War to rebuild western Europe.

"The European Union has an appointment with history and history does not wait, we must live up to it. The reaction to the emergency coronavirus it must be strong, vigorous and cohesive," Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte tweeted over the weekend.

The European Commission said last Saturday (28 March) that "at this juncture, the president [of the commission] is not excluding any options within the limits of the treaty".

EU leaders failed to agree last week on key details for the economic rescue measures and on the corona bonds.

And France's European affairs minister said on Sunday that there would be no economic rebound in Germany and the Netherlands if the rest of Europe remained sick.

"Our Europe is one of action, one of solidarity, and if certain countries see otherwise, well then the question of their place will raise itself, as will what the union should be doing as a group of 27," Amelie de Montchalin was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The next two weeks will see a videoconference of eurozone finance ministers, who were tasked by EU leaders last week to come up with proposals on how to offset the devastating economic consequences.

No date has been set yet, and EU leaders gave no political guidance on what is the scope of measures that finance ministers have to flesh out.

On Thursday, MEPs in the internal market committee will hear from commissioner Thierry Breton on the EU response to the outbreak.

Breton has been working with European companies to ramp up production of key medical supplies.

Participation in the European Parliament's Brussels building will be limited,and MEPs will mostly follow the hearing remotely.

On Friday, there will be an informal videoconference of foreign affairs ministers.

In the meantime, parliament president David Sassoli told staff that the institution's anti-coronavirus measures would continue until 30 April.

That means cancelling events further and having staff continue to work remotely.

Hungary vote

On Monday, the Hungarian parliament is also expected to vote on a controversial draft bill that will give prime minister Viktor Orban's government power to rule by decree for an unlimited time.

The bill would also introduce the possibility of prison sentences for breaking the quarantine and spreading misinformation, raising concerns - once again - about media freedom and rule of law in Hungary.

But Orban's two-third majority is expected to approve the bill.

Coronavirus

Von der Leyen warns 'end selfishness' in virus crisis

The EU commission president scolded EU countries that have introduced export bans, or slowed down border traffic by reinstalling controls. She told member states that the EU is at a turning point.

Coronavirus

EU heads struggle to find joint virus response

EU leaders failed to flesh out what the economic response to the corona crisis should look like, but they agreed to build a crisis management system and fight disinformation.

Coronavirus

EU leaders at odds on virus-hit economy

Italy, with the backing of France and Spain, call for substantial EU economic help, others want to see how long the outbreak will last before committing to big plans.

Coronavirus

Hungary's Orban seeks indefinite power in virus bill

In a draft bill Hungary's ruling government seeks special powers uncontrolled by parliament, election, referendums, courts for an indefinite amount of time, rights' groups worry. The bill could be vote on within eight days.

EU leaders seek to speed up vaccinations This WEEK

EU leaders talk vaccines, while the Portugues EU presidency introduces itself to MEPs. Joe Biden will be inaugurated as president of the United States, and the EU hopes this will mark a new beginning for EU-US relations.

Vaccines in focus in the EU This WEEK

The European Parliament's environment committee will hear from the person who negotiated the vaccine contracts, commission director-general of health and food safety, Sandra Gallina.

News in Brief

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Gruelling Brexit and budget talks continue This WEEK

After almost a week of arm-wrestling and ten days before the UK severs all of its EU ties, negotiators are back working hard on a deal on the future EU-UK relations. Budget and rule of law talks will also continue.

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