Sunday

17th Oct 2021

Agenda

Turkey, Belarus and migration in the EU spotlight This WEEK

  • European Council president Charles Michel in Cyprus last week, visiting the demilitarised zone of the divided island (Photo: Council of the European Union)

EU-27 leaders will gather in Brussels next Thursday and Friday (24-25 September) for a special summit originally designed by European Council president Charles Michel to have a strategic discussion on Turkey.

For years the EU has been struggling to find a coherent policy towards one of its most important neighbours, which once had aspirations to join the bloc - but in recent years Ankara's leadership have used asylum seekers to threaten the EU and most recently has been combative towards both Cyprus and Greece.

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EU leaders will discuss China as well in light of last week's EU-China summit.

On Monday, MEPs in the foreign affairs committee will hold a discussion with China's EU ambassador Ming Zhang on the negotiations on an investment deal, disinformation, the situation in Hong Kong, human rights, climate change and Covid-19.

EU leaders are also expected to talk about the internal market and industrial policy, and Russia - including the recent positioning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

Belarus opposition leader in town

EU leaders will also discuss the latest developments in Belarus, as their foreign ministers struggle to give the green light to a sanctions list of around 40 people responsible for the presidential election fraud and subsequent violent crackdown of protests.

Ministers are due to meet on Monday (21 September), when it had been hoped they would sign off the sanctions decision.

However, that is uncertain as Cyprus has threatened to block the sanctions because the EU has not imposed similarly tough measures against Turkey.

On Monday, exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who also ran in the elections against incumbent strongman Alexander Lukashenko, will be in Brussels and will meet with MEPs in the foreign affairs committee.

Migration

As the climax of a packed week in the EU, on Wednesday (23 September) home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson will present the long-awaited new plans to overhaul the bloc's asylum and migration policy.

The devastating fire in the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos provides a catastrophic backdrop to the plans.

But the issue is so sensitive in all the member states that any agreement on the asylum reform will be hard-fought.

The day after the presentation, on Thursday, commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas and Johansson will hold a first debate with MEPs in the civil liberties committee on the plans.

Coordinating measures

EU affairs ministers will meet on Tuesday (22 September) to discuss the ongoing negotiations on the long-term EU budget and recovery plan with the parliament, and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will also brief them on the state of play of the negotiations with the UK on the future relations.

Ministers, who meet for the first time in person since the pandemic, will also take up the issue of ongoing Article 7 sanctions procedure against Poland and Hungary and discuss latest developments.

Ministers will also talk about better coordinating Covid-19 measures among member states, and synchronising data and align better the indicators for taking restrictive actions.

Budget grind

On Monday afternoon EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and European Parliament president David Sassoli will have a video meeting to discuss the EU's long-term budget.

Negotiators of the council and parliament met again last Friday (18 September) to bridge the gap between the parliament's conditions for its approval and the tiny room for manoeuvre for the German EU presidency. EU leaders only struck the budget deal in July after a gruelling summit.

Parliament negotiators last Friday said that "substantial progress" has been made on the legally-binding commitment by member states to introduce new 'own resources' (new EU-level taxes). But on the top-ups requested by parliament on 15 key programs, the council did not present detailed proposals.

New rule-of-law tool

MEPs in the civil liberties committee on Tuesday (22 September) will vote on an initiative that sets out a permanent EU mechanism to monitor and prevent backsliding on EU values and rules in all member states, through country-specific recommendations.

The idea is to comb together the several EU monitoring programmes set up in the past few years, as the EU has been struggling to address democratic back slinging in member states, particularly Poland and Hungary.

MEPs on the public health and industry committee will hold a public hearing on Tuesday with researchers and representatives from pharmaceutical companies and civil society organisations on how to secure access to Covid-19 vaccines for all.

New special committees on foreign interference in democratic processes in the EU, on artificial intelligence, on beating cancer and the subcommittee on taxation will hold their constitutive meetings and elect their chairs and vice-chairs on Wednesday.

New EU migration pact 'to keep people in their country'

The European Commission's long-awaited pact on migration and asylum is now set to be unveiled on 23 September. Commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas has likened it to a "house with three floors".

Top EU officials urge MEPs give quick budget-deal approval

MEPs criticised the EU deal on the budget and recovery package clinched by leaders after five days of gruelling talks, saying it is not enough "future-oriented", and cuts too deeply into EU policies, including health, innovation, defence and humanitarian aid

Cyprus blocking EU sanctions on Belarus

Cyprus is holding hostage EU sanctions on Belarus in return for a new Turkey blacklist, EU sources said, as Greek and Turkish ministers traded harsh words in the EU parliament.

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