Monday

17th Jan 2022

Agenda

EU struggles how to deal with Western Balkans This WEEK

  • EU Commission presient Ursula von der Leyen on her visit to Albania last week, with prime minister Edi Rama (Photo: European Commission)
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EU leaders will gather in Slovenia on Tuesday and Wednesday (5-6 October), for the first time since the summer break, to discuss EU and Western Balkan relations.

The six leaders of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia and Kosovo will also be in Brdo pri Kranju for the meeting on Wedensday.

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There will be a "reaffirmation" of "shared commitment to work towards strong, stable and united Europe", as European Council president Charles Michel put it in his invitiation letter last Friday - but without giving out anything concrete on the European perspective to the six aspiring countries.

And that reaffirmation hangs on a thin thread as well. Fearing a political backlash, some member states are reluctant to give a guarantee of future membership to the six Balkan countries.

"The Western Balkans have a place in the EU. It is in our common interest, but I believe that it is also our destiny," EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said last week, during her tour in the region, in response to media reports that EU countries no longer support membership end-goal.

The EU will provide up to €30bn for the region in the next seven years to boost regional investment and help the green and digital transitions.

On Tuesday evening, EU leaders will discuss China, Afghanistan, the EU's role in the world, the migration stand-off with Belarus, and rising energy prices.

On Tuesday in Luxembourg, EU economy and finance ministers will give the green light to Malta's recovery funding.

The ministers will also prepare for the G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors later in the month.

Ministers are also expected to approve conclusions on climate finance ahead of the UN climate change conference (COP26) at the end of the month in Glasgow.

A day earlier eurozone finance ministers will focusing on the banking union and take a look at eurozone priorities in the Covid-19 recovery plans.

At the end of the week home affairs and justice ministers will gather in Luxembourg, to discuss the rights of children, and pre-trial detention.

Interference

On Thursday (7 October), justice ministers will discuss the work of the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) based on the first few months since the start of its operations.

Slovenia, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, has still not yet nominated its EU prosecutors, prompting EU chief prosecutor Laura Kövesi to tell MEPs last week that Ljubljana is interfering in the EU's justice system and she raised concerns whether the bloc's budget is protected from fraud or corruption.

"The fact that a member state is interfering with the proper functioning of an EU judicial institution sets a very dangerous precedent," she said.

On Friday, home affairs ministers are expected to adopt without discussion the 'Blue Card' directive, which would establish rules for highly-qualified non-EU nationals coming to live and work in the EU. EUobserver revealed that Hungary would be the only EU member voting against the new rules.

Recovery in spotlight

In Strasbourg, MEPs will debate EU-US relations and how to deal with the Biden administration, and will adopt a resolution on the issue on Wednesday (6 October).

On Tuesday, MEPs will quiz EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell and home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson on relations between the EU and Belarus, where migrants are being pushed into Latvia and Poland. MEPs will adopt a resolution on this on Thursday (7 October).

On Wednesday morning, MEPs will hold a debate on the high cost of energy, caused by high demand and low stock in member states, and will look at possible European solutions.

Still on Wednesday, MEPs will hear from commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis and economic commissioner Paolo Gentiloni on the recovery plans of Hungary and Poland - which not have been approved by the executive yet, although deadlines have expired.

The liberal Renew group called for the debate on the Hungarian and Polish plans, and several political groups will seek to ensure EU financial interests will beep properly protected, but there will not be a resolution on the issue.

On Monday (4 October), French Green MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield will hold a a press conference, after she last week led a delegation of MEPs to Hungary, to evaluate developments on democracy and rule-of-law issues.

In the meantime, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will on Monday travel to Helsinki, after her commission approved the recovery plan of Finland.

She will move onto Estonia the next day to mark the official approval of the Estonian stimulus plan under the EU's Covid-19 recovery fund.

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