31st May 2023


UN annual meeting plus Poland in focus This WEEK

  • EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, European Council president Charles Michel and the EU’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell will be in New York (Photo: un.or)
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Senior EU officials will travel to New York for the UN general assembly, taking place between 20-24 September.

It comes at a sensitive moment in EU and US relations: the US's messy withdrawal from Afghanistan last month reinforced calls for more EU sovereignty, while the move last week by the US and UK to supply sensitive technology to Australia has been described as a "stab in the back" by some European politicians.

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The EU officials will also try to push the US to join the bloc's ambitious plan in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate change.

The European trio will not meet US president Joe Biden in person, because the US president will not be there in person, but they are scheduled to have a meeting online, EU officials said.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, European Council president Charles Michel and the EU's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell on Monday will go to New York.

On Monday they will hold a high-level roundtable discussion on climate, and meet with UN secretary-general António Guterres.

On Tuesday, Michel will host a meeting of UN women with a focus on women in conflict. He will make his speech on Friday, and is expected to meet with African leaders and the president of Vietnam, Libya, and Turkey.

Michel will travel to New York from Mexico City, where he is meeting with leaders of Latin America and the Carribean countries.

The EU side is expected to raise the issue of the UK and US new security pact with Australia with its UK partners, and the issue will also feature on the October EU summit.

The deal, seen as an effort to counter China, will have the US and UK pass on sensitive technology to Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines.

The move surprised and angered EU partners, with France's foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian calling the announcement a "stab in the back".

Illiberal creep

In the meantime, over the weekend Russians went to the polls in a general election, where the winner was already clear from the beginning: president Vladimir Putin and his United Russia party.

Parliamentary and local elections began on Friday and lasted three days.

Although a total of 14 parties took part in the vote, many candidates seen as anti-Putin had been barred from running.

For the first time since 1993, election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were not present due to "limitations" imposed by Russian authorities.

On Wednesday (22 September), the Polish Constitutional Tribunal is holding a hearing on the issue of whether EU law has primacy in the country. It is not clear whether the tribunal will deliver a ruling.

Poland's prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki asked the court, dominated by ruling party loyalists, to make a judgment - amid a larger conflict over systematic changes to the judiciary in Poland, which the EU views as a violation of democratic norms.

Back in Brussels, on Tuesday (21 September) EU affairs ministers will meet and will focus on EU-UK relations, the Conference on the Future of Europe, Covid-19 cooperation, and preparations for the October EU summit.

EU 'stands by Afghans' but wants most kept away

The European Commission wants to help vulnerable Afghans to reach the EU, while seeking to resettle thousands of others. But an internal document also says those not welcomed should be returned to transit or so-called third countries.

Von der Leyen issues rallying cry for more EU sovereignty

The Commission president hailed the EU's scientific capabilities at providing the most vaccines to the world, and the speed at which the bloc rolled out its digital Covid-19 vaccine certificate, as examples of the EU's resources and capacities.


US relations and European security after fall of Kabul

For Brussels in particular, one lesson should be painfully clear: do not put all your eggs in one basket. Placing big bets on Biden cannot be a substitute for a strong and common European approach to international security.

Russia sanctions and EU elections on top This WEEK

The parliament's constitutional affairs committee is set to vote on a draft proposal on the number of seats in the European Parliament, and their distribution among EU countries, ahead of the 2024 elections.

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