5th Mar 2024


Hamas-Israel war and EU-US summit in focus This WEEK

  • On Friday, the second EU-US summit since president Joe Biden took office will take place — with the conflict between Israel and Hamas bound to dominate (Photo: European Union)
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In the wake of the shocking terrorist attack of Hamas in Israel and the Israeli brutal response in Gaza, EU leaders will hold an emergency meeting via video conference on Tuesday (17 October) to discuss the latest developments in the region — amid concerns over a widening of the conflict.

"The unfolding tragedy has many consequences for Europe. That is why I am convening an extraordinary European Council VTC to set a common position and a clear unified course of action," said EU council president Charles Michel.

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Later this week, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Michel will travel to Washington to participate in the second EU-US summit since president Joe Biden took office — with the conflict between Israel and Hamas bound to dominate.

A potential EU-US deal for placing common tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from countries like China and efforts to accelerate the global clean energy economy will also be high on Friday's (20 October) agenda.

Hamas' attacks in Israel will also be discussed by MEPs on Wednesday (18 October) during the plenary session in Strasbourg. A resolution will be subjected to a vote on Thursday (19 October).

"The European Union must speak with one voice and do everything in its power to de-escalate the crisis and ensure that civilians do not become the target of further hostilities," the European People's Party said in a press release, after last week's mixed messages and crossed wires in the Berlaymont on Palestinian aid.

Also on Thursday, the parliament will announce the winner of this year's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the special prize the parliament gives out each year to a person or an organisation.

The nominees are Jina Mahsa Amini and the women's movement in Iran, Nicaraguan human rights activists, and women fighting for a free, safe and legal abortion.

The winner will be decided by EU parliament president Metsola and political groups' leaders.

Online child sexual abuse

At their meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday, EU justice ministers are expected to reach a deal on the controversial bill to prevent child sexual abuse online — controversial because it has been met with scepticism for potentially becoming a tool of mass surveillance.

The proposal has been highly-criticised for eroding privacy rights as it would oblige digital platforms to scan private communications of potentially all of their users to detect child sexual abuse online.

And media reports revealed last week that the commission has launched a highly-subjective and emotional micro-targeting campaign on X, formerly Twitter, in at least seven member states against the proposal, in an attempt to swing public opinion.

"Why is it always up to individual citizens (…) to hold the commission to its own standards? Doing the right thing, playing by the rules, should be its default position," said Dutch MEP Sophie in 't Veld.

Also on Thursday, the Spanish EU presidency will update ministers about the state of play of the package of legislative reforms on migration policies, after weeks of intense EU inter-institutional debates.

The controversial EU-Tunisia deal as well as a potential anti-migration deal with Egypt will also be subjected to a debate.

This comes after Tunisia's autocrat president Kais Saied said he rejected €60m from an ongoing EU programme to support the country's economic recovery from Covid.

On Friday, EU justice ministers will discuss the next steps to support the prosecutor general of Ukraine and ongoing investigations in EU member states to hold Russia accountable for the alleged war crimes being committed in Ukraine.

2024 work programme

The European Commission will unveil on Tuesday its work programme until the next European elections in June 2024.

An action plan to tackle drug trafficking, especially at European ports, as well as a proposal amending the visa suspension mechanism will also be presented on Tuesday, after the meeting of commissioners in Strasbourg.

The EU has currently a visa-free regime in place with 61 non-EU countries. The mechanism allows a temporary suspension of the visa regime whenever there is a sudden influx of irregular migrants or security risks.

The prime minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, will address MEPs on Tuesday — in the wake of Baku's recent attacks on the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

On the same day, the parliament will discuss how effective EU sanctions against Russia are, and attempts to circumvent the export or import prohibitions. EU restrictions are targeting 1,800 individuals and entities, as well as the financial, trade, energy, transport, technology and defence sectors.

On Monday (16 October), MEPs will vote on the parliament's position on the allocation of €50bn from the EU 2021-2027 budget in support of Ukraine — paving the way for trilogue negotiations with EU member states.

The parliament's committees on trade and the internal market will jointly vote on Monday on their position regarding the draft bill banning products made with forced labour from the EU market.

Meanwhile, von der Leyen and Michel are expected in Tirana on Monday to discuss with Albania's prime minster Edi Rama and president Bajram Begaj progress regarding their country's aspirations for EU membership.

COP28 and energy reform

Moreover, EU environment ministers will kick off the week in Luxembourg where they are expected to agree on the EU's mandate for the UN climate conference taking place at the end of November in the United Arab Emirates.

The Eurogroup is meeting on the same day with US treasury secretary Janet Yellen to discuss transatlantic economic cooperation. They will also discuss the EU's recovery plan as well as the digital euro project.

The post-pandemic recovery of the EU as well as the EU's contribution to international climate finance will also be discussed by EU economy ministers on Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, energy ministers are expected to reach an agreement on the reforms of the EU's electricity market — after clear differences between Paris and Berlin have hindered progress on the reform initiative.


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