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13th Apr 2024

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New sanctions and democracy in focus This WEEK

  • French president Emmanuel Macron (l) and German chancellor Olaf Scholz ahead of a previous EU summit last October (Photo: Council of the European Union)
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Paris and Berlin will try to relaunch German-French relations, which have strained as the two countries differ how they see Europe's changing role in the new emerging geopolitical setup.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz was expected in Paris on Sunday (22 January) to meet French president Emmanuel Macron before they lead a joint cabinet meeting to mark the Elysée Treaty signed on 22 January 1963, sealing their post-war reconciliation.

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The UK, and Poland and France have been pushing Berlin to deliver modern Leopard 2 battle tanks to Kyiv, or to allow re-export of the German model widely sold abroad.

Recent developments — Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the EU's response to the US plans to subsidise companies investing in green technology — drove a wedge between the tandem which had been, historically, the main motor of EU integration.

In Paris there's an impression of German "disinterest in the French-German relationship", Jacob Ross, a researcher at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) told AFP last week.

Foreign affairs focus

On Monday (23 January), Brussels will see foreign affairs ministers focusing on a 10th sanctions package against Russia, a special tribunal, and preparing an EU-Ukraine summit on 3 February in Kyiv.

Some member states want the new sanctions package in force by the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine — 24 February.

On Monday, MEPs on the employment committee in the European Parliament are expected to hear from the director of the Fundamental Rights Agency, Michael O´Flaherty on the impact of crises, including the war in Ukraine, on social rights.

On Tuesday (24 January), MEPs from the foreign affairs committee will hear from the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi.

In the second half of the week, justice and home affairs ministers are expected to meet in Stockholm.

On Thursday (26 January), the European Parliament's special committee on foreign interference is set to debate Qatargate and other cases of foreign powers trying to influence the workings of the assembly.

As work in committees picks up in the parliament, on Tuesday, MEPs on the energy committee are expected to vote on their position on the European Chips Act.

The legislation aims to address the semiconductor shortages and mobilise billions of EU funding to strengthen research, innovation and production of semiconductors in the EU.

It's part of the bloc's efforts to become more self-reliant and mitigate its exposure to global powers such as the US and China when it comes to chips and semiconductors.

On Thursday, Israel's president Isaac Herzog is set to address MEPs at a special plenary meeting for the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Defending democracy

The internal market committee on Tuesday is expected to vote on a draft law to modernise and strengthen rules on the provision of paid political advertising services.

The proposal would oblige political advertisements, online and offline, to be clearly identifiable and for information to be available about the sponsor, the cost of the ad, how it is targeted, and the elections to which it is linked.

MEPs, on Monday (23 January), on the education committee are set to discuss the European Media Freedom Act — draft legislation aiming at protecting media pluralism and independence in the EU.

On Tuesday, Dutch liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld is set to lay out recommendations on the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spywares in the EU in a special committee dedicated to the issue.

Defending women

On Wednesday (24 January), MEPs on the women's rights and civil liberties committees are expected to vote on the EU-wide ratification of the so-called Istanbul Convention, which is the first legally-binding international treaty to prevent and combat violence against women.

The move is part of an effort to have the EU as a bloc join the convention, which has come under fire by some member states in recent years.

Bulgaria, the Czechs, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia have not ratified the convention.

And in July 2020, the Polish government announced its intention to withdraw from the convention, but that has not yet been enacted.

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