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2nd Mar 2024

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EU summit plus pesticide vote in focus This Week

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European leaders come together again this week (for the third time this month), to discuss the latest developments in the Middle East, reconfirm their support to Ukraine and address migration concerns.

The European Council on Thursday and Friday (20 and 21 October) follows last week's emergency online meeting on the situation in the Middle East plus an informal summit in Granada earlier this month.

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Pressure is mounting on EU leaders to deliver a clear and consistent message regarding the conflict in the Middle East, especially after previous contradictory communications over EU aid to Palestine.

And concerns have arisen about European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen possibly exceeding her mandate due to her strong support for Israel.

The terrorist attacks in Brussels and France have also raised alarm bells across Europe — amid a rise in antisemitic attacks and fears of an increased risk of radicalisation or further terrorism.

Islamist terrorism linked to migration is also expected to be discussed. Migration, the other hot topic on the agenda, was left out of the Granada declaration after Hungary and Poland refused to sign the pre-negotiated text.

The Hamas-Israel war is "extremely polarising" in Europe and in the broader international community, confirmed an EU diplomat.

The conflict has triggered profound divisions in some countries, such as France, which is home to some of the largest Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe.

And the EU risks being accused by third countries of applying "double standards" when it comes to Ukraine and Gaza, the diplomat also said.

Meanwhile, EU leaders are expected to reconfirm their support for Ukraine — including a debate on the allocation of €50bn in funding for Kyiv as part of talks over the revision of the EU budget.

"It is important to support Ukraine to ensure that it has not been forgotten," said the diplomat

Ministers responsible for EU affairs will gather in Luxembourg on Tuesday (24 October) to prepare for the summit.

The annual discussion on the rule of law, and Spain's request to make Catalan, Galician, and Basque into official EU languages will also be discussed.

Ahead of the summit, EU foreign affairs ministers will also meet in Luxembourg on Monday (23 October) to address the Israel-Hamas war and the EU's response — which has the potential to significantly hurt relations between the 27-nation bloc and the Middle East and North Africa.

EU funds for Ukraine, the use of frozen Russian money, as well as the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan will also be part of the agenda of the meeting.

In addition, the commission's proposal to increase EU aid for Palestine following the Hamas attack will be discussed by MEPs in the development committee and commission officials on Tuesday.

The human rights situation in Israel and Palestine will also be discussed by MEPs on Thursday.

EPP against pesticide rules

On Monday and Tuesday, EU agriculture ministers are expected to agree on fishing quotas for 2024 in the Baltic Sea.

The ministers will also have an exchange on the agricultural market situation and efforts being undertaken to increase grain exports through the so-called solidarity lanes — given Russia's blockade of Ukrainian ports.

Also on Tuesday, the parliament's environment committee will vote on the proposal to reduce the use of pesticides in Europe by 50 percent by 2030.

The EPP is expected to vote against, as they argue that reducing pesticide use without alternatives could increase food costs, lower food production in Europe, and force farmers out of business.

EU ministers are still negotiating their position on the file, with a recent rejection by a group of 11 EU member states on binding national targets, proposed in the EU Commission's initial plan.

On the same day, the environment committee will vote on the objection to the re-approval of glyphosate for another 10 years. While the objection is non-binding, it is the only way for the European Parliament to have a say in the process. EU member states failed to reach a substantial majority earlier this month.

MEPs in the environment committee will on the same day vote on rules aimed at phasing-out almost entirely traditional combustion engines in trucks and lorries.

Rules aimed at reducing packaging and packaging waste will also be subject to a vote on Tuesday.

Still on Tuesday, the commission will present its European Wind Power Package which aims to fast-track permitting to unlock the bloc's wind power.

This and other green proposals will be discussed in the energy committee on Wednesday (25 October). MEPs will then have an exchange of views with EU commissioner Maroš Šefčovič, commission vice-president and current EU Green Deal chief.

Trade and enlargement

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis, for his part, will talk with MEPs in the trade committee on Monday.

The debate comes two days before another round of negotiations with Mercosur countries and after the recently signed free trade agreement with New Zealand. MEPs will also give their consent to the free agreement on Tuesday.

MEPs in the committee on the internal market will vote on the right-to-repair report on Wednesday. The plenary vote is planned for November.

On the same day, MEPs will discuss with EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson the latest allegations regarding a highly-subjective and emotional micro-targeting campaign used to swing public opinion in at least seven member states.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament will hold this week its fourth European Gender Equality Week. Different events will reflect on EU achievement and what is still pending. Here is the full programme.

Additionally, EU leaders and social partners are expected to gather in Brussels for the tripartite social summit on Wednesday.

Column

Russia — balancing between Hamas and Israel

Russia will try — and is already trying — to benefit from the Israeli-Hamas conflict, which has an unfortunate potential to develop into a regional conflict.

EU 'must tax pesticides' to cut use, expert warns

The European Commission put forward a new proposal to reduce pesticides in mid-June. But experts warn that it is based on weak rules, and that European agriculture is stuck in a "permanent pesticide-dependence."

Arab diplomats voice anger at EU inaction on Gaza war

Palestine's EU envoy and 15 other Arab diplomats have voiced outrage at Europe's inaction on Israel's killing in Gaza. The Palestinian ambassador also hit out at "Israeli lies" over the Al-Ahli hospital bombing on Tuesday night.

More farmers, Ukraine aid, Yulia Navalnaya in focus This WEEK

EU agriculture ministers meet in Brussels amid new farmers' protests. MEPs will hear from Alexei Navalny's widow and give the final green light to the €50bn Ukraine facility, while the CBAM proposal faces a formal challenge at a WTO meeting.

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.

'Outdated' rules bar MEP from entering plenary with child

During a plenary session in Strasbourg, an MEP was denied access to the chamber because he was carrying his young child, due to unforeseen circumstances. The episode shows parliament's rules need to be updated, several MEPs told EUobserver.

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