Wednesday

21st Feb 2024

Agenda

Turkey on EU leaders' plate This WEEK

  • US secretary of state Antony J. Blinken will be in Brussels this week and meet with EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell (seated) (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU leaders will hold a videoconference on Thursday and Friday (25 and 26 March) where they once again will discuss the roll-out of vaccines and the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The EU Commission published its proposals for the 'digital green certificate' aimed at making free movement possible in the EU, with the certificate proving that the holder is either vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19, or has a negative test.

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Leaders will also talk EU-Turkey relations, after last December they proposed asset-freezes and travel-bans over Ankara's "unauthorised drilling activities" for natural gas in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean.

The EU leaders agreed then to weigh tougher economic sanctions at this March summit - but it is unlikely that further sanctions will be adopted as Ankara has shown a more conciliatory tone.

Heads of state and government will have a strategic debate on relations with Russia. Leaders will also look at economic policies and digital taxation.

Ahead of the EU summit, on Monday EU foreign affairs ministers are set to approve a new package of sanctions on persons in several countries, including China and Russia, over human rights abuses.

Vaccine prices

Staying on vaccines, on Tuesday (23 March), MEPs in the budget control committee will hear from a senior commission official, Sandra Gallina, who played a key role in negotiating the contracts with pharmaceutical firms, to discuss how much the EU and member states are spending on vaccines.

On the same day, MEPs in the environment committee will question the European Medicines Agency (EMA) director Emer Cooke on the EMA's review and conclusions regarding the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Last week, the EMA confirmed that AstraZeneca's vaccine is safe and efficient, after several member states halted its use due to several deaths due to blood clots.

Rule of law redux

MEPs on Wednesday will vote on a resolution to warn the EU Commission to activate the rule-of-law mechanism adopted by EU leaders last December, without delay.

The new mechanism, which links EU funds to the respect of the rule of law, was challenged by Poland and Hungary at the EU's top court.

The commission has said it would wait for the ruling of the commission before taking action under the mechanism.

MEPs are also expected to stress that parliament will use all means at its disposal if the commission fails to use the new mechanism to protect the budget before the summer.

MEPs will also say that the parliament will request an expedited procedure in the European Court of Justice over the legality of the mechanism.

On the same day, MEPs will also vote on the rules implementing the EU's new sources of revenue, which enable the recovery fund to kickstart an economic rebound after the pandemic.

On Thursday, MEPs on the committee on foreign financing will discuss anti-abortion and anti-choice organisations in the EU that undermine women's sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Blinken in Brussels

US secretary of state Antony J. Blinken will be in Brussels this week to attend the Nato ministerial meeting.

Blinken will also meet with commission president Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell to discuss transatlantic efforts to contain the pandemic, economic recovery, climate change, and strengthening democracy.

On Tuesday (23 March), China, the EU, and Canada co-convene a meeting with ministers and representatives from over 30 countries, including G20, to discuss global cooperation ahead of the UN climate talks in Glasgow (COP26).

First glimpse of new EU 'vaccine certificate' for summer

The European Commission has presented a common approach to vaccine certificates to facilitate travel. All EU-wide approved vaccines will be accepted for this document, but member states can decide to accept other vaccines too.

Brussels urges capitals to coordinate Covid re-openings

EU governments' lack of coordination in the first and second wave of the pandemic has caused concerns around supply chains, long queues at borders, and practically froze the bloc's passport-free Schengen zone.

New Red Sea mission and more Russia sanctions This WEEK

EU foreign affairs ministers launch the bloc's new Red Sea naval mission, plus hold talks on new sanctions against Russia — amid Hungarian objections — on Monday. Plus a home for the EU's new anti-money laundering authority will be picked.

Nato, defence summit, and UNRWA in focus This WEEK

Nato defence ministers will meet this week ahead of the Munich Security Conference. ECB chief Christine Lagarde will address MEPs in the committee on economic affairs and MEPs will hold a debate about the defunding of the UNRWA agency.

Opinion

EU-Israel trade agreement must be on table to stop Rafah attack

The EU-Israel association trade agreement enabled €46.8bn of trade last year. Exports rose for both parties by around 20 percent in 2022. As the bloc's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said: "Yes, we have the capacity to influence [Israel]."

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