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4th Dec 2022

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Biden, bread, and more blocks on Russia in focus This WEEK

  • US president Joe Biden will join the European Council next Thursday (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)
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EU heads of state and government were to be joined by US president Joe Biden on Thursday (24 March) in a show of transatlantic unity over Ukraine.

The gathering will be the second meeting of the 27 EU leaders in two weeks, after their gathering in Versailles. They are expected to focus on the internal economic consequences of the war and on sanctions against Russia.

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There are hopes in Brussels that the 27 leaders will offer guidance on the energy crisis now hitting citizens. Decoupling gas from the electricity prices and imposing a possible price cap were among strategies being considered.

Leaders also are set to discuss worries around food security in Europe and disruptions to food supplies around the world. Russia and Ukraine supply nearly 30 percent of the world's wheat, and the conflict has led to a sharp increase in the price of fertilisers.

The food security issue also is on the agenda for a meeting of EU agriculture ministers on Monday.

MEPs, who will be gathering for a plenary meeting of the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg, are expected to vote Thursday on a resolution, also concerning food security. A debate ahead of that vote is set to take place Wednesday.

In the meantime, EU diplomats are working on a fifth round of sanctions against Russia but they've been doing so against the background of some member states pushing the bloc to give more time for the ongoing sanctions measures to bite.

EU foreign affairs ministers meeting on Monday could discuss those new sanctions, and the ministers were set to also talk to deputy prime minister of Moldova, Nicu Popescu. A video update from Ukraine's defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, was also foreseen.

On Wednesday, in the European Parliament, lawmakers are scheduled to quiz EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel on the outcome of the recent summit in Versailles — and the upcoming meeting with Biden.

Also in the European Parliament, the energy committee is expected to hear on Monday from representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the safety situation in Ukraine, where two nuclear power plants have come under Russian control.

On Tuesday, in the parliament's foreign affairs committee, the Moldovan deputy prime minister, Popescu, is scheduled to address the impact of the war in neighbouring Ukraine on his country.

Also Tuesday, the EU commissioner for financial services Mairead McGuinness will brief committee members on the taxonomy legislation that aims to boost green investments.

And on Wednesday, the MEPs are expected to debate and vote on a report about how member states and the commission should fight against oligarchical structures within the EU itself.

On Thursday, in a plenary session, lawmakers are set to discuss plans to make the EU far less dependent on Russian energy over the course of the decade — and how that can be done affordably, securely and sustainably.

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The draft report, from a special committee on foreign interference and disinformation, also calls for the EU-wide ban on foreign funding for European political parties — and legislation to make it harder for foreign regimes to recruit former top politicians.

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In the European Parliament, MEPs will hear from ECB president Christina Lagarde, Kyiv's Vitali Klitschko, and from the three candidates proposed by the EU Commission to be the new boss of EU border agency Frontex.

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