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28th Jan 2022

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All eyes on von der Leyen's state of the EU This WEEK

  • EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will address MEPs on Wednesday (Photo: European Parliament)
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This week all eyes in the Brussels bubble will turn to Strasbourg, where MEPs gather for a plenary to hear EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen's annual state of the union address.

A year-and-a-half after the Covid-19 pandemic interrupted everyone's life, von der Leyen on Wednesday (15 September) will no doubt praise the EU's vaccination programme and economic recovery plan.

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MEPs expect von der Leyen to also address issues such as the economy, climate change, digital transformation, the EU's role in the world, migration policy, and the conference on the future of Europe.

According to a new Eurobarometer survey, 60 percent of Europeans think the recovery plan will help their country's economy bounce back after the pandemic.

However, only 49 percent in Sweden, 51 percent in the Netherlands and 52 percent in Germany think the EU funds will help.

In Portugal, 75 percent of respondents, 76 percent in Cyprus, and 78 percent in Malta think the mammoth €800bn program will have a positive impact.

However, 44 percent of respondents thought that national governments cannot be trusted with spending the recovery funds properly - although that is the route of the vast majority of EU subsidies. 35 percent do not think the fund will have a positive effect on their personal or professional situation.

Climate change is top of the agenda for EU citizens, the survey showed, particularly among young people.

Action against climate change is a priority for 43 percent of the respondents, the fight against poverty and social exclusion is a top issue for 32 percent of EU citizens, support for the economy and fighting crime and terrorism is top of the list for 31 percent of the respondents.

On Tuesday morning, MEPs will debate the Fit for 55 package, the commission's flurry of legislative proposals on how to make Europe's economy more green and sustainable.

Meanwhile, the corridors in the European Parliament are filled with gossip on who is going to take over the presidency of the parliament next year, when Socialist David Sassoli's term comes to an end according to an agreement made by the big three parties in 2019.

The centre-right EPP group has started what seems like a pre-emptive campaign, arguing that according to the 2019 agreement, the second 2.5 years of the five-year mandate will have to be filled with a president from EPP - even if the other groups might have doubts now.

The EPP has promised to put forward a candidate in November.

Foreign affairs

On Tuesday (14 September), MEPs will debate the situation in Afghanistan with EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borell and vote on a resolution on Thursday.

MEPs are also expected to adopt on Wednesday a strongly-worded report on Russia, and how EU-Russia relations should develop in the future. MEPs will debate the document on Tuesday.

Similarly, MEPs will also adopt a report on relations with China, debating the issue on Tuesday, and voting on Wednesday.

Poland

MEPs will also adopt a resolution on Poland, voicing concerns over recent developments regarding media freedom and the independence of the judiciary.

On Wednesday, MEPs will hold a debate, while the vote is expected on Thursday.

The parliament's actions come a week after the commission asked the European Court of Justice for a daily fine to be imposed on Poland for failing to respect the interim orders of the court. It also launched a separate probe into a judicial issue.

Over the weekend, Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel, whose successor will be chosen at the federal election later this month, travelled to Poland.

Analysis

The State of the Union speech - digested

The 61-year old former German defence minister, who only narrowly won the backing of MEPs last year, outlined not a vision, but an ambitious list of policies to tackle - including more health care competencies to the EU.

Ukraine and Covid-19 on Europe's minds This WEEK

Throughout the week, MEPs will vote on the chairs and vice-chairs of the 20 standing committees and three sub-committees for the next two-and-a-half years, the remainder of the current legislative term.

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.

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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