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21st Feb 2024

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New EU ethics body and Moldova conference This WEEK

  • EU Commission vice-president Vĕra Jourová is set to unveil plans for the new ethics body for EU institutions (Photo: European Commission)
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The EU Commission is finally unveiling long-awaited proposals for setting up an EU ethics body, with commission vice-president Vĕra Jourová set to unveil plans on Wednesday (31 May).

The European Parliament, which voted by a large majority in February for the EU to finalise plans for an independent ethics body, has been concerned that the proposals will fall short of earlier pledges.

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Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in 2019 promised to back the creation of an ethics body common to all EU institutions, to win the backing of MEPs for her presidency.

But little happened until the Qatargate broke out last December, in which some MEPs allegedly received cash for influence from Qatar and Morocco.

Jourová has said previously that the commission had no legal competence to create an organisation that would investigate and sanction. The new body would only set minimum ethical standards, and install similar control mechanisms in the nine different EU institutions.

Meanwhile, on Thursday (1 June), Moldova will host 47 countries of the so-called European Political Community.

It is the second meeting of the EPC, the brainchild of French president Emmanuel Macron, and will bring together leaders from across Europe at Mimi Castle in the small town of Bulboaca.

Moldova's president Maia Sandu recently said that the EU should let Moldova into the bloc "as soon as possible" to better protect the country against rising Russian threats.

Sandu also said that the EPC gathering "is important because we see that we are not alone, that we have many friends."

In the meantime, in Brussels, the European Parliament is set to hold a mini-plenary.

The final report of the special committee on foreign interference is set to be adopted on Thursday by MEPs.

The report calls on the EU to act urgently against foreign interference in democratic processes, particularly from Russia and China — especially ahead of the 2024 European elections.

"Europe continues to lag behind and is suffering from fragmentation and a lack of coordination. My report outlines clear and strategic recommendations on how to strengthen our institutions and develop tools to counter hostile disinformation", centre-right MEP Sandra Kalniete, who drafted the report, said.

Research shows that over two-thirds of Europeans encounter fake news at least once a week and that 83 percent of Europeans think fake news is a threat to democracy, according to the Kalniete's European People's Party.

MEPs on Thursday are also set to vote on a resolution on Hungary, which urges the council of EU governments to look into whether Hungary is fit to hold the EU's rotating presidency next year as prime minister Viktor Orbán's government is under intense scrutiny for backtracking on democratic norms.

"Hungary still needs to take specific actions. The frozen funds cannot be released without endangering the EU budget. The commission should find a legal way for funds to reach the Hungarian people directly, bypassing Orbán's control", Finnish MEP Petri Sarvamaa said.

MEPs want to hear on the issue from the commission and council on Wednesday.

Lawmakers are also set to vote on Thursday on their position on the proposal to urgently deliver ammunition and missiles to Ukraine and to help member states refill their own stocks.

After the parliament adopted its position, negotiations with the EU governments can start with the aim of adopting the act in the July plenary.

MEPs to urge block on Hungary taking EU presidency in 2024

"This will be the first time a member state that is under the Article 7 procedure will take over the rotating presidency of the council," French Green MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, the key lawmaker on Hungary, warned.

New Red Sea mission and more Russia sanctions This WEEK

EU foreign affairs ministers launch the bloc's new Red Sea naval mission, plus hold talks on new sanctions against Russia — amid Hungarian objections — on Monday. Plus a home for the EU's new anti-money laundering authority will be picked.

Nato, defence summit, and UNRWA in focus This WEEK

Nato defence ministers will meet this week ahead of the Munich Security Conference. ECB chief Christine Lagarde will address MEPs in the committee on economic affairs and MEPs will hold a debate about the defunding of the UNRWA agency.

Opinion

EU-Israel trade agreement must be on table to stop Rafah attack

The EU-Israel association trade agreement enabled €46.8bn of trade last year. Exports rose for both parties by around 20 percent in 2022. As the bloc's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said: "Yes, we have the capacity to influence [Israel]."

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