Saturday

31st Oct 2020

Agenda

EU summit focuses on Brexit and Covid-19 This WEEK

  • European Council president Charles Michel and German chancellor Angela Merkel at one of the few physical meetings this year in Brussels (Photo: 16/07/2020)

EU leaders will hold a summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday (15-16 October) - only two weeks after their last meeting - to discuss better coordination of Covid-19 measures and the tortuous post-Brexit deal with the UK.

Talks between the UK and the EU have progressed painfully slowly but a deal on future relations needs to be agreed by the end of October and then ratified by the end of the year.

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Access to each others' fishing waters remains one crucial issue, with eight member states, including France, Belgium and Denmark, pushing for a tough EU position.

Another key hurdle are state aid and level playing field rules, where the EU wants to make sure the UK will not be able to undercut European companies. Any dispute resolution in the possible future agreement also remains an open question.

EU leaders will also talk about Africa and climate change, and progress in delivering the EU's objective of climate neutrality by 2050 is progressing.

Before leaders meet, EU affairs ministers on Tuesday (13 October) will get a briefing from EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier on the post-Brexit talks.

EU affairs ministers will also discuss recommendations on better coordinating Covid-19 measures in order to have a less fragmented approach in Europe, and avoid border closures.

Ministers are trying to hammer out a common approach on joint data-analysis (with a clear focus on regions), agreeing on a unified colour code for regions at different level of infections, and common rules on quarantine and testing.

Budget block

Ministers will also discuss the negotiations with the European Parliament over the seven-year EU budget and the coronavirus recovery fund.

Talks were suspended last week by MEPs after they said the German EU presidency, which is representing the council of member states, had not made an effort to compromise.

A senior EU diplomat said, however, that the German presidency has made a comprehensive offer, and suggested the MEPs' move to withdraw from talks is partly political theatre.

"I do find it [withdrawal] regrettable. We are not far from an agreement, we cannot afford the luxury not to talk to each other," said the diplomat.

One of the key disagreements is over extra funding, of around €39bn, MEPs requested for 15 EU programmes, such as Horizon and Erasmus.

The diplomat said the German presidency "offered an upper single digit number between 5.0-9.9, which is probably not very far from where the landing zone will be," he added.

Talks with MEPs will continue on Wednesday morning (14 October).

Another key issue remains the rule-of-law conditionality: linking the disbursement of EU funds to respect for judicial independence. In a parallel negotiation, MEPs will meet with diplomats from the German presidency on Monday (12 October) to agree on the exact mechanism.

Merkel via videolink

On Monday and Tuesday, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and German chancellor Angela Merkel will will discuss the EU's response to the coronavirus pandemic at the European Committee of the Regions via videolink.

On Tuesday, von der Leyen will hold another videoconference with Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron with different European companies to discuss digital issues.

EU foreign ministers will meet on Monday to talk about recent developments in Belarus, the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, and relations with Russia.

Prizes

On Monday, MEPs on the foreign affairs and development committee will vote on the shortlist of candidates for the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

The democratic opposition in Belarus led by Sviatlana Tsikhanouska, the Archbishop of Mosul Mgr Najeeb Moussa Michaeel, Guapinol activists and Berta Caceres in Honduras as well as a group of Polish LGBTI activists have been nominated.

The new annual Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism, rewarding outstanding journalism centred on the EU's principles and values, will be launched on Friday (16 October), the date that the Maltese anti-corruption investigative journalist was murdered, three years ago.

On Monday, the parliament's new special committee on beating cancer will hold its first meeting.

On Thursday and Friday, MEPs on the civil liberties committee will talk about emergency measures adopted by EU countries to tackle the pandemic and their impact on democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law.

EU budget talks suspended in fight for new funds

MEPs are requesting additional, new funding of €39bn for 15 EU programs. The German presidency argues that budget ceilings, agreed by EU leaders at a marathon summit in July, will be impossible to change without a new leaders' meeting.

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.

Brexit and EU budget in spotlight This WEEK

Tense post-Brexit talks in London, and EU budget and rule-of-law negotiations in Brussels, will continue this week, as EU countries battle the second wave of Covid-19.

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