22nd Jan 2022


EU summit focus on Covid-19 and Russia This WEEK

  • The EU-Ukraine summit in October, with European Council president Charles Michel (l), Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen (Photo: Council of the European Union)
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EU leaders are meeting on Wednesday and Thursday (15-16 December) for their traditional end-of-the-year summit in Brussels.

This will be the first European Council for the new German chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has big shoes to fill at the table where the 27 leaders sit together in a sort of group therapy -to fight, debate, reminisce, make decisions (sometimes) and kick the can down the road (more often).

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Angela Merkel's departure now leaves Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orbán as the longest-serving leader at the European Council.

The summit is expected to focus on the Covid-19 pandemic, vaccine take-up, and disinformation.

They will also discuss rising energy prices, which - along with inflation - have hit households around Europe hard.

Leaders will also focus on the military buildup by Russia around Ukraine. They are also expected to provide guidance on the draft Strategic Compass on the EU's place in the world.

On Wednesday, MEPs will debate with EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and the Slovenian presidency of the EU Council, and efforts to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.

Eastern focus

On Wednesday, the 27 EU leaders have a meeting with the leaders of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries.

The EU-27 and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine are expected to raise alarm on "continuous destabilisation" in Ukraine.

On Monday (13 December) foreign affairs council will also discuss the Russian military build-up and movements of troops and equipment at the border with Ukraine.

They are expected to draw up new sanctions on Russian nationals and entities connected to the Wagner Group, a proxy force that is allegedly working for Russia, and will discuss sanctions options for Russia on its military build-up around Ukraine.

On Thursday (16 December), leaders of the eurozone countries will get together for their usual discussion on where the economic of the eurozone is headed next year.

Navalny award

The European Parliament will also focus on Russia, to some extent.

On Wednesday, there will be an ceremony for this year's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, awarded to the Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny.

Navalny is imprisoned in Russia and his daughter Daria Navalnaya will receive the prize in his name from parliament president David Sassoli.

On Tuesday (14 December), MEPs will discuss with EU foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell the large-scale Russian military build-up along the Ukrainian border and fears that Russia might invade Ukraine. A resolution will be adopted on Thursday.

Guest list

Lawmakers are expected to vote on Wednesday - and debate on Monday - concrete measures to improve gender equality, such as equal pay.

MEPs will vote on a report asking the commission for an EU law, establishing a common criminal law definition of online abuse of women.

There will also be a vote on mandatory anti-harassment training involving all MEPs. It remains to be seen which groups support the idea.

On Wednesday, MEPs will debate the recent commission document which recommended language for the Christmas holiday season and caused such uproar that it needed to be recalled.

The centre-right European People's Party (EPP) initiated the debate, arguing "it is not necessary to deny our traditions and our history in order to be inclusive".

Going green and digital

Mid-week the commission is expected to present its new Gas Package, a reform of the rules governing how the market works in the EU.

On Wednesday, the executive is also expected present the remaining part of the so-called 'Fit for 55' package, namely the energy and mobility packages.

The revision of the Schengen Border Code is also expected to be presented on Wednesday by EU commission vice-president Věra Jourová and commissioner Margaritas Schinas.

MEPs will debate and vote on Wednesday on the parliament's position on the Digital Markets Act, which sets rules on what big online platforms will be allowed to do and not do in the EU.

MEPs will vote on Tuesday for a new tool as part of the EU's efforts to be more assertive on the global trading markets.

The new international procurement instrument introduces measures to limit non-EU companies' access to the open EU public procurement market if European firms are not offered similar access in third countries.

On Wednesday MEPs will discuss the Covid-19 national recovery plans, and if they meet the agreed targets and milestones to unleash the funds. They will also discuss plans from Hungary and Poland, which have not yet been approved due to rule-of-law concerns.

Also on rule-of-law: MEPs on Thursday will vote on a resolution on the situation of rule of law in Slovenia. They will also assess recent events in Poland on Wednesday.

WHO warns mandatory vaccination 'absolute last resort'

Mandatory vaccination has become a hot topic in the EU, but the European branch of the World Health Organization has warned that it should be "an absolute last resort". Children, meanwhile, account for the highest infection-rates across the continent.

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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Facebook whistleblower is expected to meet with MEPs and representatives of the French senate this week. Meanwhile, eyes turn again to the Glasgow UN climate summit as pressure is mounting for negotiators to finish the 2015 Paris Agreement rulebook.

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