Monday

4th Mar 2024

Agenda

Two elections and 'Macron's club' in focus Next WEEK

  • French president Emmanuel Macron announced the idea of a club including the countries in the EU’s wider orbit in a speech in May (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)
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This weekend will see elections in two EU countries where relationships with Russia are under the spotlight.

Latvians will go the polls on Saturday (1 October), where once again a growing rift between the country's Latvian majority and its Russian-speaking minority may be exposed.

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There has been widespread anger over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, which has put national identity at the core of the election.

Prime minister Krisjanis Karins' centre-right coalition government has proposed imposing limits on the use of the Russian language in public life.

Karins' New Unity party is leading polls in the 1.9 million-strong country, of whom 25.4 percent are from the Russian minority.

In Bulgaria, voters go to the polls on Sunday (2 October). The snap election will be the fourth such vote in just 18 months.

Inflation, price hikes, the looming energy crisis and the war in Ukraine are dominating the campaign.

Voters' fatigue and disillusionment with the political system could result in low turnout and a fragmented parliament with populist and pro-Russia groups increasing their representation.

The centre-right GERB party of ex-premier Boyko Borissov, accused of corruption, is tipped to finish first. Pro-Western prime minister Kiril Petkov lost a no-confidence vote in June.

Community-building

In Prague, a major European leaders' gathering will take place on Thursday (6 October)

It is the first meeting of the so-called European Political Community (EPC), the pet project, vanity project — take your pick — of French president Emmanuel Macron, who announced the idea of a club including the countries in the EU's wider orbit in a speech to the European Parliament in May.

The countries present will include: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Iceland, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine — and former EU member state, the UK.

New British prime minister Liz Truss is expected in Prague, even though the post-Brexit trade issues over Northern Ireland remain unresolved with the EU, and London seems determined not to stick to earlier signed legal agreements with the bloc.

The EU-27 leaders will on Friday remain in Prague for an extraordinary meeting — despite meeting again in two weeks time in Brussels for their regular October European Council summit.

Escalation

In the European Parliament, MEPs are expected to call for strong response from member states and the EU over Russian president Vladimir Putin's nuclear threat and Russia's annexation of further Ukrainian territories.

On Thursday, European lawmakers will vote on resolution on Russia, after a debate on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, MEPs will adopt a report, spelling out their position on the EU Commission's proposals to ease the pressure of rapidly rising energy prices.

Besides Russia, Iran will also be on the EU's agenda with countrywide protests against the Islamic regime in Iran, triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iran's morality police.

On Tuesday, MEPs and EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell will discuss the issue.

New rules

Lawmakers are also expected to debate on Thursday the commission's proposal to suspend funds for Hungary over fraud and corruption concerns.

Meanwhile the economic ministers will meet at the beginning of the week in Luxembourg, and are expected to discuss the recovery fund available for the bloc's countries. They are also set to talk about the energy prices and their impact on the financial markets.

The parliament is also set to approve the new law ensuring that, as of end of 2024, all new mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones devices will be equipped with a USB Type-C charging port.

The aim is to reduce electronic waste and make consumers' lives easier.

On Monday, MEPs in the transport committee are set to vote on new rules to spur the deployment of recharging and alternative refuelling stations for cars, trucks, trains and planes.

Draft targets include deploying recharging stations every 60km on main EU roads by 2026, and hydrogen stations each 100km by 2028.

Opinion

Competing options for EU enlargement

We now have French president Emmanuel Macron's "European Political Community", European Council president Charles Michel's "European Geopolitical Community", and former Italian PM Enrico Letta's "European Confederation" — among others.

EUobserved

Why not recreate the European Community?

The revival of a European Community might not be a solution that solves all problems, but it could be a positive way out of several deadlocks in which the EU finds itself.

'Cosmetic changes' not enough on EU funds, Hungary warned

Critics point out that Hungary will continue to receive substantial inflows of EU funds since the proposed suspension applies only to around 22 percent of total EU subsidies earmarked for Hungary in the bloc's current budget for 2021-2027.

Feature

Hungary's Ukrainian refugees in two minds as relations sour

Ukrainians struggle to match the kindness of individual Hungarians with the nationalist government's pro-Russia rhetoric. "Ukraine's primary enemies are Russians and Putin, obviously. But the number two is Viktor Orbán," Viktoria Petrovszka, a Ukrainian woman living in Hungary, says.

Opinion

The six-hour U-turn that saw the EU vote for austerity

The EU's own analysis has made it clear this is economic self-sabotage, and it's politically foolish three months from European elections where the far-right are predicted to increase support, writes the general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.

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