14th May 2021


Online 'Future EU Conference' and AI strategy This WEEK

  • Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba (l), and EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell last year in Ukraine (Photo: Council of the European Union)

After over a year of intra-institutional infighting, lots of fine-tuning, vague goals, a postponed start and yet undecided physical formats, the digital platform of the Conference on the Future of Europe will finally launch on Monday (19 April).

The online platform will be the main channel for the time being for citizens to share and discuss ideas about how they imagine the future of Europe - which then will feed into physical meetings of citizens and lawmakers.

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The three institutional chiefs of the soul-searching exercise, Belgian liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt, Portuguese EU affairs state secretary Ana Paula Zacarias and EU Commission vice-president Dubravka Šuica will launch the website.

The conference - initially pushed by French president Emmanuel Macron, whose country will be at the helm of the EU presidency when it ends a year from now - will not lead to treaty changes.

On Wednesday (21 April), German chancellor Angela Merkel and Šuica, along with Manfred Weber, the leader of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) in the European Parliament will discuss their ideas on EU's future at an event put together by the EPP.

On Tuesday (20 April), EU affairs ministers will also discuss the launch.

They will also talk about ongoing UK-EU relations and will discuss rule-of-law developments in five member states, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Spain and France, based on the commission's annual rule-of-law review.

Foreign tensions

As tensions heat up at the border between Ukraine and Russia, EU foreign ministers on Monday are set to discuss the Russian military build-up. Ministers will also hold talks with their Ukrainian colleague, Dmytro Kuleba.

MEPs in the foreign affairs committee will on Thursday (22 April) vote on the commission's annual progress report on Turkey - which underlines that relations between the EU and Turkey are at a historic low.

The parliament's report will point to three areas where there has been backsliding: rule of law, fundamental rights, and foreign policy.

On Monday in the civil liberties committee, MEPs will hear from the working group that has been scrutinising Frontex, the EU's border protection agency that has been caught up in several controversies recently.

MEPs in the afternoon will also hold a discussion with commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas about mental health care and vulnerable asylum applicants in Greek reception facilities.

On Monday, MEPs on the foreign affairs, development, and budget committee will assess the EU Trust Funds established in 2014, mainly aimed at Africa, and the facility for refugees in Turkey at a joint meeting.

Future plans

On Wednesday, the European Commission is expected to put forward the first section of the guidelines for sustainable finance, that will determine which activities can be considered a green investment in Europe.

The EU executive last week decided to postpone the decision on whether to label natural gas as a "sustainable investment" - an issue that strongly divides member states.

On Thursday, the parliament will host a first conference on the New European Bauhaus initiative, aimed at bringing together design, art, culture, social inclusion, science, and technology in order to build a sustainable future.

On Wednesday, the commission is expected to unveil its proposal to regulate artificial intelligence (AI), focusing on legal and ethical guidelines, which aim to set global standards for a "human-centric" approach to AI.


On Thursday, MEPs on the environment committee will quiz health commissioner Stella Kyriakides on issues around Covid-19 vaccines and their deliveries to Europe.

Commission chief von der Leyen on Friday (23 April) will visit pharmaceutical company Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine production facility in Puurs, Belgium.

On Thursday, the social affairs and women's rights committee will organise a hearing on the commission's proposal for a pay transparency legislative, aimed at making sure salaries and benefits are comparable publicly, in order to close the pay gap.

The lack of pay transparency remains one of the biggest obstacles, as the gender pay gap in the EU is still around 14 percent.

Frontex guilty of inflating legal fees against activists

A lawyer for Frontex billed too many hours in a case against transparency activists, the General Court of the European Union ruled. The agency had demanded a €23,700 legal bill from the activists - now reduced by over half.

Ukraine urges Borrell to visit Russia front line

Ukraine has invited EU foreign relations chief Josep Borrell to visit its front line with Russia, in what one EU diplomat said would be his "best revenge" for his recent humiliation in Moscow.

Von der Leyen's summer plans undisclosed, after Ukraine snub

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