29th Mar 2023


Fears on migration plus Ukraine summit this WEEK

  • EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv last September (Photo: European Commission)
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Former army chief and Nato official Petr Pavel won the Czech Republic's presidential election last Saturday, defeating billionaire ex-premier Andrej Babiš.

Pavel pledged to keep the country firmly anchored in the West, ran as an independent and won 58.3 percent of the vote, Reuters reported.

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"Values such as truth, dignity, respect and humility won," he said Saturday.

"I am convinced that these values are shared by the vast majority of us, it is worth us trying to make them part of our lives and also return them to the Prague Castle and our politics," Pavel added, who was supported by the centre-right cabinet in Prague.

Babiš ran a campaign claiming that Pavel, as a retired general, wanted to drag the Czech Republic into war, and offered to mediate in peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.

The role of president in Prague is a mostly ceremonial but still highly-influential post.

Now let's dive into this week.

EU-Ukraine summit

This week will see EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel heading to Kyiv on Friday (3 February) for the EU-Ukraine summit in the war-torn capital.

Von der Leyen will take the majority of her 26 commissioners to the Ukrainian capital as the EU wants to show solidarity with the Ukraine.

Member states have so far disagreed how much encouragement the EU should give to Ukraine on its perspective EU membership. Poland and the Baltic states want to speed up the process for Ukraine.

The EU has recently disbursed the first tranche of €3bn in financial assistance to Ukraine, with €15bn more going this year.

The EU foreign affairs ministers recently agreed on another €500m of military support to Kyiv, bringing the total since the war began almost a year ago to €3.6bn.

MEPs will outline their demands and expectations for the summit in a debate with the commission and the council on Thursday (2 February) morning.

EU lawmakers are likely to emphasise the need for a special tribunal to prosecute Russian top officials for any war crimes that may have been committed in Ukraine.

Labour rights

On Thursday, MEPs will put labour issues centre-stage as they are set to confirm the negotiating position for talks with member states on new rules to improve conditions for workers on digital labour platforms.

The rules would regulate how to determine the employment status of platform workers, such as Uber drivers or Deliveroo couriers, and how digital labour platforms should use algorithms and artificial intelligence to monitor workers.

Asylum action

MEPs are expected to present their migration and asylum priorities on Wednesday (1 February) as EU leaders will focus on the issue at the 9-10 February special European Council.

The focus is likely to be on the legislative proposals and efforts to ease the return of migrants and asylum-seekers.

EU home affairs ministers also week sought ways to curb migration and send more people away, reviving ideas for border fences and asylum centres outside of Europe.

EU border agency Frontex reported around 330,000 arrivals last year, the highest since 2016, with a sharp increase on the Western Balkans route.

On Wednesday, MEPs are set to debate the situation in Afghanistan with EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell.

Political debate

MEPs are set to debate on Wednesday and vote on Thursday on their negotiating position for talks on new political advertising rules to make EU elections more transparent.

The draft report demands that more information be made available to citizens, authorities and journalists, and aims to ban online advert providers from micro-targeting users based on demographics.

The parliament's special committee on the Covid-19 pandemic will hold three hearings: on Monday, it will discuss the impact of disinformation and propaganda during the pandemic.

The next day, the committee will hold two hearings on the impact of the pandemic on EU democracies and on fundamental rights.

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