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19th May 2022

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EU's retaliatory Russia sanctions in focus This WEEK

  • EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell on a previous visit to Ukraine (Photo: consilium.eu)
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All eyes will be on Ukraine this week, as Russian president Vladimir Putin keeps the world on edge about whether he will, or will not, spark a conflict in Europe.

The EU has been busy drawing up a list of sanctions in retaliation for any aggression from Moscow, although the threshold for imposition of those sanctions still needs to be determined.

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EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday (21 February) will host Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba for breakfast.

Also on Monday Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will speak with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian. That follows a phone conversation on Sunday in which French president Emmanuel Macron and Putin agreed to work towards a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.

Over the course of the week, a delegation of MEPs will go to Baltic capitals Tallinn and Vilnius to see first-hand how those countries contend with the threat of cyber-attacks against the backdrop of the tension over Ukraine.

On Tuesday (22 February), EU affairs ministers meet to begin preparations for the March meeting of EU heads of state and government, or European Council.

Poland's move

Those EU affairs ministers are expected to push ahead with the so-called Article 7 sanctions procedure against Poland that could result in the suspension of its voting rights.

The ministers will also hear their Polish counterpart on fresh developments in a long-running rule-of-law dispute with the commission that now appears to be easing somewhat against the backdrop of the heightened regional and geopolitical threats posed by Russia.

Early in the week MEPs from the civil liberties and constitutional committee will be in Warsaw to assess the situation of rule of law in Poland, and to meet with government and judicial officials, civil society and the media.

During the meeting on Tuesday in Brussels, the French presidency will also give an overview of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

Data week

On Wednesday (23 February), the EU Commission is expected to come forward with its proposed Data Act, which includes an update of the database directive.

The act aims to provide a harmonised framework for data-sharing in Europe. It would also set conditions for access to data by public bodies, international data transfers, plus rules for using the cloud.

There may also be significant digital news from Ireland next week, with a decision expected from Ireland's Data Protection Commission on the legality of data sharing by Dublin-based tech giants such as Facebook and Google.

The Irish data authority, which policies the tech giants because their European HQs are on its soil, already took a preliminary decision deeming the currently-used legal gateway is not good enough — meaning the firms could lose their only option of transferring data from the EU to the US.

At the end of the week, on Friday (25 February), eurozone finance ministers will hold their monthly meeting followed by an informal meeting of economy ministers.

Von der Leyen seen dragging heels on Hungary and Poland

Lawmakers vented frustration that the EU Commission might delay action against the nationalist leaderships in Poland and Hungary despite a court victory. Experts on EU affairs sounded a more cautious note.

Russia sanctions and energy dominate Next WEEK

The EU Commission is expected to put forward the RePowerEU plan, which aims to help the diversification of fossil fuel imports in the bloc, as the EU aims to get rid of its dependence on Russian energy supplies.

Podcast

Ultraconservatives in Putin's shadow

Vladimir Putin's Ukraine war has threatened to be a public relations disaster for hard-right gatherings like the Conservative Political Action Conference — now meeting in Budapest and featuring Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, who remains highly-cordial with the Kremlin.

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