Friday

21st Jan 2022

Agenda

Brexit and EU budget in spotlight This WEEK

Negotiations on the future relations between the EU and the UK are entering their crucial and final phase, with time running out for any post-Brexit deal to be agreed.

The mood has soured: the EU asked the UK to move on key hurdles, while the London accused Brussels of refusing to negotiate seriously, and failing to offer a Canada-style trade deal.

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British prime minister Boris Johnson said that unless the EU comes to London with a fundamental change of approach, the UK will go for no deal.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will nevertheless be in London and has pledged "intensive" negotiations if his British counterparts are up for it. Johnson has not ruled out talks.

EU leaders last week urged the UK to move on the key issues of fair competition, fisheries and regulatory governance of the future deal.

Tense discussions will also be going on between European Parliament negotiators and diplomats from the German EU presidency, representing member states, on the €1.8 trillion long-term EU budget and the coronavirus recovery fund.

On Tuesday (20 October), negotiators will have another go at trying to reach a compromise.

The parliament wants €39bn in fresh money for EU programmes, while the German EU presidency has insisted it cannot go beyond what EU leaders had agreed at their July summit.

At last week's EU summit European Parliament president David Sassoli raised the issue with EU leaders.

Several leaders, including German chancellor Angela Merkel told him bluntly that they will not reopen the July agreement.

Sassoli responded that the parliament does not want to question the July deal, only seeks "technical adjustments".

"We are going to need creativity," Sassoli later told reporters last Thursday.

Sassoli said negotiators had until the end of October to find a compromise between parliament and member states.

"We are not behind schedule," he insisted.

"What is the most important is that council takes or offer serious and treat it as serious. We have been saying from the beginning that our consent depends on a reasonable counterproposal from the council," chief parliament negotiator Johan Van Overtveldt added on Thursday.

The parliament and the presidency is also locked in parallel talks about linking EU funds to the respect of rule of law.

There the parliament - with the backing of several member states - wants to broaden the scope of issues that can trigger the suspension of EU funds for such breaches.

The presidency, however, insists on focusing on corruption and fraud, arguing that anything more will not fly with other member states.

Hungary and Poland that have threatened to block the recovery fund if the rule of law link gets stronger.

The parliament also seeks a more automatic triggering of suspension of funds, arguing if member states get the final say, the tool will never be used.

A compromise will be difficult to find.

"If the council has its way, only individual cases of fraud or mismanagement of EU funds will be sanctioned (there are already possibilities for sanctions in such cases)," Green MEP Daniel Freund, who is part of the parliament's negotiating team, said.

"A government that replaces all unpleasant judges would still not have to fear sanctions as long as the EU does not incur any concrete costs," he said - adding that no agreement can be expected by this week.

MEPs not travelling to Strasbourg

MEPs in the meantime are gathering in Brussels and online, instead of Strasbourg, as EU countries are battling the second wave of coronavirus infections.

On Wednesday (21 October), MEPs will hear from European Council president Charles Michel on the outcome of last week's EU summit.

MEPs will recommend rules of customer protection for digital service providers and outline how the EU can best regulate artificial intelligence.

Lawmakers will adopt a position on EU farm policy, and how to make it more sustainable and flexible for individual member states.

MEPs will also call on the commission to come up with an urgent plan to secure education for students in the EU during the pandemic.

Sassoli, and the political group leaders, will also decide on Thursday (22 October) who will receive the 2020 Sakharov prize for freedom of thought.

EU tells UK to move if it wants post-Brexit deal

After their discussions on Brexit, where phones were not allowed in the meeting room, EU leaders called on the Commission to draw up contingency measures in case there is no deal.

Germany asks capitals to give a little in EU budget impasse

European Parliament negotiators are demanding €39bn in new funding for EU programmes such as Horizon research and Erasmus, in talks with the German EU presidency on the budget. Meanwhile, rule-of-law enforcement negotiations have only just begun.

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.

New EU Parliament chief elected This WEEK

The lead candidate is the centre-right European People's Party's (EPP) Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola, who has been outspoke against corruption and rule-of-law issues - but some MEPs are concerned over her anti-abortion voting record.

Key talks with Russia over European security This WEEK

The Nato-Russia council will take place in Brussels on Wednesday, as western and Russian officials begin a series of meetings this week in an effort to de-escalate tensions over Ukraine's eastern border - where Russia has amassed troops.

Recovery and green financing plus Omicron This WEEK

Energy has emerged as a key dividing issue between EU countries, with leaders failing to agree on a common statement on the rise of energy prices (and how to tackle them) last week at their summit in Brussels.

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