31st Mar 2023


Biden-Von der Leyen meet, and migration in focus This WEEK

  • Ursula von der Leyen, EU Commission president, meeting US president Joe Biden last year at the G20 summit in Bali (Photo: European Commission)
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This week the EU Commission will be busy reinforcing transatlantic relations while trying to salvage a key piece of green legislation.

On Friday (10 March), EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will meet US president Joe Biden in the White House.

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The two are expected to discuss clean energy and supply chains and also US green subsidies, which have irked EU countries worried that it will hurt their economies.

Biden's Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), worth around €400bn, offers subsidies for US-made products and promoting renewable energy.

Von der Leyen and Biden could also discuss possible US sanctions on China in case Beijing supplies Russia with weapons, on which the EU wants to see evidence.

Before heading to Washington, von der Leyen will start her transatlantic trip in Canada, meeting prime minster Justin Trudeau on Tuesday (7 March).

The two will talk trade, as the EU-Canada free trade deal is on its way to come into full force, as EU countries ratify it, after being provisionally in place since 2017.

Fit for 35?

In the meantime in Brussels and Berlin, talks are expected to intensify after Germany threw a spanner in the works last week on a bill to ban the sale of new combustion-engine cars and vans in the EU from 2035.

The legislation, which had been previously approved by the European Parliament and was expected to get the green light in the council of member states as well, is a key component of the commission's Fit for 55 legislative package, which aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

Last Friday, the Swedish presidency of the EU council has decided to postpone the formal sign-off — which had been expected to be a formality, until Berlin's last-minute objections.

The German government wants the commission put forward a plan to carve out a role for e-fuels after 2035, and had been joined by Italy in threatening to oppose the bill.

Border control

Justice and home affairs ministers meet in the second half of the week in Brussels.

On Thursday and Friday, they are expected to discuss migration and asylum ahead, especially on the external dimension, including on boats operated by civil organisations.

EU leaders at their March summit is set to focus on migration as well, as once again more and more people arrive to the EU seeking asylum.

Justice ministers are set to discuss the possible judicial responses and impunity regarding the crimes committed during Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Energy check-up

MEPs on the foreign affairs committee are expected to vote next Thursday (9 March) on a report calling for the establishment of an EU rapid deployment capacity, equipped with up to 5,000 troops to respond to crises.

On the same day, MEPs on the energy committee will hear from energy commissioner Kadri Simson on her assessment on the EU energy situation, one year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

On Thursday, parliament and EU council negotiations will try to conclude talks on new energy-saving rules, aiming to help households and SMEs cut their energy use.

Early in the week, a delegation of the European Parliament's civil liberties committee will travel to Athens to assess rule-of-law situation and fight against corruption and media freedom.

On Wednesday (8 March), Europe will mark International Women's Day, rallying for women's equality.

This week EUobserver will put labour issues in focus, featuring dozens of articles on this underreported topic as a first in our series of themed weeks. Make sure you check back for the different takes throughout the week.

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