14th May 2021


Recovery goals and Visegrad in focus This WEEK

  • European Council president Charles Michel (left, centre) discussing the EU budget with the Visegrad prime ministers last July (Photo: Council of the European Union)

This week brings a little bit of breathing space for the EU Commission and diplomats in the 'Brussels Bubble', as the winter break means the European Parliament has a week off, and the other institutions also quiten down.

After weeks of criticism over the vaccine strategy, its communication, and the blunder surrounding the Northern Ireland trade protocol, the EU Commission president last Friday provided some clarity when she asserted that 'summer' ends on 21 September.

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"We have the common goal in the EU to vaccinate 70 percent of the adult population until the end of the summer. This sets a date, it is very clear the summer ends normally on the 21st of September," Ursula von der Leyen said.

Previously, the commission had only talked about "by the summer", "by the end of the summer".

Von der Leyen's new, precise, date came a day after the commission published its estimates for the economic recovery -which all hinge on a successful vaccination drive.

Von der Leyen also said the EU "can still reduce the time in the regulatory process for approving the vaccines", after the Amsterdam-based European Medicine Agency was also criticised before for taking longer than other regulators to approve the jabs.

Her commission will meet on Wednesday (17 February) as usual.

EU finance ministers will meet online on Monday (15 February) and Tuesday (16 February) to discuss the commission's economic forecast and the recovery efforts.

The disbursement of recovery funds can only start once all member states ratify legislation allowing the EU executive to go to the markets and raise money. So far, only six countries have ratified this.

The ministers will also discuss their national plans, which need to be submitted by the end of April, and form the basis for accessing the funds.

The commission can disburse some 13 percent of the funds as pre-financing, and Von der Leyen said "mid-year" the commission should be able to distribute the first batch of money.

Outside of Brussels, the four Visegrad prime ministers will come together to celebrate the 30th anniversary of central European cooperation within the V4 group.

Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki will host the premiers of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia in Krakow on Wednesday.

European Council president Charles Michel will also join the prime ministers - who are often regarded nowadays as blocking common EU policies.

Founded in 1991 by then three countries (the Czech Republic and Slovakia separated amicably in 1993), the aim was a coordinated effort for European integration.

Its original objectives were full restitution of independence after the Soviet occupation, eliminating the totalitarian state, parliamentary democracy, a "modern state of law", human rights and freedoms and EU integration.

However, currently the V4 is more synonymous with a eurosceptic stance - with perhaps the exception of Slovakia which is the only of the four that is also a member of the eurozone.

Next week will also see the new Italian prime minister, the 'saviour' of the euro as ECB chief, Mario Draghi present his program after he secured the support of the 5-Star Movement in parliament.

Von der Leyen concedes mistakes in vaccine rollout

The European Commission admitted mistakes were made during the bloc's approval and rollout of vaccines - triggering criticism from MEPs who demanded more transparency and accountability, plus solidarity with low and medium-income countries.


Hungary breaks with EU on Russia, China vaccines

While all governments are seeking to secure vaccines as fast as they can so they can open up their economies, so far only Hungary's Viktor Orban has chosen to break with the EU's vaccine strategy.

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