29th Mar 2023


Sanctions and possible post-Brexit deal This WEEK

  • The Titanic Quarter in Belfast. Northern Ireland and its politics have been in limbo since Brexit (Photo: K. Mitch Hodge, Unsplash)
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EU sanctions against Russia are on track to be approved by governments in time the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Friday (24 February).

The 27 EU countries are set to sign off the proposed new sanctions estimated to be worth some €11bn, likely to happen on Tuesday (21 February).

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In the meantime, EU foreign affairs ministers will meet on Monday (20 February) to discuss the Russian invasion, and have an informal exchange with Ukraine's foreign affairs minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Ministers are also expected to have a discussion with deputy prime minister of Moldova, Nicu Popescu.

Moldova's parliament has last week approved a new, pro-western government led by the prime minister, Dorin Recean.

The country has suffered continuing economic turmoil, while president Maia Sandu repeatedly accused Russia of trying to destabilise Moldova. She recently accused Moscow of plotting to topple the country's leadership.

Ministers are also set to discuss Afghanistan with the deputy secretary-general of the UN Amina Mohammed, who will speak via videoconference.

The next day, EU affairs ministers are set to meet in Brussels, and prepare the next EU summit at the end of March.

Meanwhile, there is subdued hope that a deal between the EU and the UK could finally be reached on the post-Brexit trading arrangements regarding Northern Ireland.

British prime minister Rishi Sunak last Thursday traveled to Northern Ireland to meet with local political leaders in a sign that the agreement could be near.

It would end disputes that have plagued EU-UK relations since 2020, when the Brexit divorce deal was agreed.

However, unionist politicians have so far opposed any deal that would draw a trade barrier in the sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and collapsed Belfast's power-sharing government almost a year ago. Any emerging deal would have to convince them too.

During a relatively quiet week in the Brussels bubble, MEPs from the European Parliament's committee investigating the use of Pegasus spyware are set to travel to Budapest on Monday and Tuesday.

The lawmakers are set to learn more about allegations of spyware abuse targeting journalists, the opposition and civil society, and are set to meet journalists, judges and NGO representatives.

Early in the week, delegation of MEPs from the civil liberties committee will visit Brussels, Calais, and Ter Apel (Netherlands) to look into people crossings to the UK and the status of reception facilities at the three spots.

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