28th Feb 2024


New Belgian presidency, Red Sea tensions This WEEK

  • Belgium, which now holds the EU Council presidency until the end of June, will host its first informal council this week (Photo: European Union)
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Returning from the Christmas holidays, the new Belgian EU Council presidency will host its first informal council this week, and the European Parliament's committees will resume their work in Brussels.

This week, attention will remain on ongoing tension in the Red Sea, where the EU is considering launching a new mission, after several attacks on cargo ships by Yemen's Houthi rebels. Israel's war in Gaza is also expected to be on the agenda, following the visit of EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

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EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will meet on Monday (8 January) with fellow German economy and climate minister Robert Habeck. Habeck is also expected to meet with EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders later that day.

One month after resuming her job, EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager is expected to travel to the US to meet with representatives of Apple, Google's Alphabet, semiconductor company Broadcom, and Nvidia on Thursday (11 January) and Friday (12 January). Discussions will focus on new European digital regulation and competition policy.

On Wednesday (10 January), EU Commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas is expected to unveil a communication about the 2022 European Year of Youth, reflecting on the achievements and a roadmap for upcoming initiatives and programmes.

EU Green Deal commissioner Maroš Šefčovič is expected to attend an event about sustainable agriculture and young farmers in Lennik, Belgium, on Tuesday (9 January).

And von der Leyen will end the week chairing the college of commissioners seminar in Jodoigne, Belgium, on Friday.

In Namur, Belgium, EU employment and social affairs ministers will gather for an informal meeting from Wednesday to Friday.

Meanwhile, MEPs will prepare for the next plenary session later this month and resume their committee activities with meetings scheduled for Thursday.

EU economy commissioner Paolo Gentiloni and EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis will have an exchange of views with MEP in the parliament's committee on economic affairs about the fiscal part of the 2024 European semester.

On the same day, MEPs from the environment committee will debate how to prevent plastic pellet losses, to reduce microplastic pollution — a topic recently covered by EUobserver in a two-part investigation.

Likewise, MEPs in the transport committee will discuss a report on the accounting of greenhouse gas emissions from transport.

The EU parliament's committee of employment and social affairs will adopt its position on the European disability card.

Also on Thursday, Flemish first minister Jan Jambon and Belgian youth minister Benjamin Dalle will brief MEPs in the cultural committee about the priorities of the Belgian EU presidency.

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.

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.

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