Friday

21st Jan 2022

Agenda

Gruelling Brexit and budget talks continue This WEEK

  • EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier: time is short for an EU-UK agreement (Photo: European Commission)

EU leaders are back on videoconferencing, after two physical summits in October, amid rising Covid-19 infections in Europe, including among government ministers.

Leaders will talk on Thursday (29 October) online on how to better coordinate in the face of the second wave of the pandemic.

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After almost a week of arm-wrestling and 10 weeks before the UK severs all of its EU ties, negotiators are back working on a deal on future EU-UK relations.

Talks will continue throughout the week, with fair competition between businesses, the governance of the agreement, and fisheries, still on the table. The first issue, the so-called level-playing field, being the politically most sensitive.

Parliament still holding out

Negotiations on the long-term EU budget and the coronavirus recovery package continue with meetings between MEPs and German EU presidency representing member states.

The top-up for 15 EU programmes, to the tune of €39bn in fresh money the parliament is holding out for, is one of the key hurdles - with the German presidency arguing that it cannot reopen the July deal reached by EU leaders on the numbers.

One mooted way around it would be to channel competition fines collected by the EU to these programmes, rather than distributing them among member states. Another alternative could be using the possible leftover money from the recovery fund to finance EU programmes.

Negotiators will have another round of talks on Monday (26 October) and Wednesday (28 October), but an agreement is still unlikely.

The recovery fund will most likely now not begin in January, as member states still have to ratify legislation to give it the green light, which could take two-three months. It remains to be seen if the EU budget would have to be delayed as well.

On a separate track, MEPs and diplomats continue negotiating on how to link the respect for the rule of law to the disbursement of EU funds.

Positions are still far apart, but the atmosphere seems to be more relaxed than budget talks.

Nevertheless, the parliament holds firm on: wanting to broaden the scope of triggers for the mechanism, have the parliament be part of the procedure, and ensuring a minority of member states cannot block sanctions.

The budget and rule of law talks are intertwined, an agreement on the rule of law is prerequisite to finalising a deal on the budget.

'Right-to-repair'?

On Tuesday (27 October), MEPs will vote on a report assessing the impact of Covid-19 measures on democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law. MEPs in the cvil liberties committee will also vote on a report on media freedom.

On the same day the trade committee will have its final vote on the EU and China agreement to mutually protect over 200 products, including Cava, Champagne, Feta, Irish whiskey, Münchener Bier, Ouzo, Prosciutto di Parma.

The civil liberties committee on Tuesday will discuss the situation at the Greek islands following the fire that destroyed the Moria refugee camp and left around 12,000 asylum-seekers homeless - most of whom were moved to the temporary Kara Tepe camp.

The internal market committee will on Monday vote on asking the EU commission to establish a consumers' "right to repair". This right would aim to promote a culture of reuse, making repairs cost-efficient.

Early in the week, MEPs from the new special committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age (AIDA) will hold a debate with commissioners Thierry Breton and Margrethe Vestager on the EU data strategy and commission's plans on artificial intelligence.

The European Parliament will hold its first European Gender Equality Week, with several committees organising hearings on the issue.

On the women's rights committee, the director of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), Carlien Scheele, will on Thursday present the findings of the Gender Equality Index 2020, with a special focus on digitalisation in the world of work and its consequences for gender equality.

Massive MEP majority for better rule-of-law mechanism

A large majority of MEPs back an initiative to streamline the EU's tools on protecting rule of law and democracy and have effective sanctions. They also backed a tough stance on the rule of law conditionality in budget talks.

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.

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