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12th Aug 2022

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China and Hungary on the spot This WEEK

  • European Council president Charles Michel, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese president Xi Jinping talk via a video link at a summit during the Covid-19 pandemic (Photo: Council of the European Union)
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Top EU officials are scrambling to make sure China won't support Russian president Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine.

An EU summit with China on Friday (1 April) will see the issue tackled via videoconference as war rages on in Ukraine.

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Both European Council president Charles Michel and EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen are expected to warn Chinese president Xi Jinping not to undermine EU sanctions against Russia or send it military support.

Similar warnings were issued at a recent EU summit in Brussels by Finland's prime minister Sanna Marin.

"If China helps Russia, then the sanctions will not work as we want," she said, adding that the EU needs to make sure that "they are on the right side of history".

With millions of refugees fleeing Ukraine and many more expected, the EU is also seeking to better coordinate their arrivals and reception.

The task will be discussed on Monday (28 March) among EU home affairs ministers in Brussels. Their immediate focus will be on Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, which all share a border with Ukraine.

Ministers are also set to discuss where refugees settle among EU states, as well as how to better assistMoldova, a country that is not in the EU but also straddles Ukraine

Earlier this month, the EU triggered a temporary protection scheme that provides residency and other rights to Ukrainian refugees throughout the member states up until next March, alleviating pressure on national asylum systems.

The scheme has been heralded as a joint display of rare solidarity among the EU states. But it also stands in sharp contrast to the poor and sometimes abusive treatment handed out to refugees fleeing wars and persecution in other regions of the world, including the Middle East, Central Asia or Africa.

Also on Monday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell is set to brief European lawmakers on the foreign affairs committee on the EU's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its consequences for Europe's security.

A delegation of MEPs from the foreign affairs and defence committee are planning to travel to Moldova in the second half of next week to assess the security situation and the influx of refugees.

The gender equality committee on Tuesday (29 March) is expected to hear from home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson on the situation of women refugees fleeing Ukraine.

The first package on circular economy, including policy initiatives on sustainable products, is scheduled to be published by the EU commission on Wednesday

Hungarian election

On Sunday (3 April), Hungarians will go to the ballot boxes in a high stakes general election. Prime minister Viktor Orbán, who has been in power since 2010, and will face a united opposition for the first time.

The election will be overseen by a full-fledged election observation mission of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe), as persistent issues over media freedom and democratic backsliding have raised concerns over the fairness of the election.

Hungarian election will need scrutiny 'at all levels'

The move came after 20 civil society organisations and think tanks, 62 MEPs from 19 countries, and five different political groups wrote separate letters demanding a fully-fledged election observation mission to Hungary.

Rule of law and Czech presidency priorities This WEEK

The European Commission will unveil its rule-of-law audit of all EU member states this week. Meanwhile, several ministers from the Czech Republic will present to EU lawmakers the priorities of the rotating EU Council presidency for the next six months.

Czech presidency and key nuclear/gas vote This WEEK

MEPs will gather in Strasbourg for the final plenary before the summer break, with a crucial vote on the classification of gas and nuclear. The Czech Republic will present to EU lawmakers its presidency's priorities for the next six months.

Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties

Beijing's club was meant to forge stronger European relations. Lithuania left it last year. Now Estonia and Latvia have also decided to walk over Chinese bullying.

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