27th Feb 2024


Belgian PM in Strasbourg, fiscal rules, and Davos This WEEK

  • MEPs will hold discussions on neo-fascism, media freedom, and Hungary's veto of Ukraine aid during the first plenary of 2024 (Photo: European Parliament)
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The first plenary of the year will see Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo speaking to MEPs on Tuesday (16 January), when he will present the programme for Belgium's incoming EU Council presidency.

Ahead of the EU elections in June, a bunch of legislation will need to be finalised. This includes, for example, new debt and spending rules which will be debated on Wednesday (17 January) by MEPs.

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After MEPs in the economic committee agreed on their position on new fiscal rules in December, the parliament's draft mandate will have to be confirmed by the plenary to kick off inter-institutional negotiations. The Greens are expected to vote against it.

The European Parliament is expected to call on EU leaders to honour its commitments and provide more military aid to Ukraine during a debate on Tuesday.

And on Wednesday, MEPs will discuss the outcome of the last December European Council and the upcoming special summit in February with outgoing EU Council president Charles Michel and EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.

During the last EU Council meeting, leaders agreed to grant open accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova and grant candidate status to Georgia but they failed to grant a €50bn financial aid package for Ukraine for the period 2024-2027 — after Hungary's Viktor Orbán veto.

After calling on the commission to unblock all funds frozen due to rule of law concerns, Orbán now wants a 2025 check-in before he lifts his veto. While the commission seems open to the concessions, this would let him block any more aid for Ukraine at a later stage.

"We want to see an agreement … but it's unacceptable that one member states blackmails the others," a Socialists & Democrats spokesperson said last Friday.

Liberal MEPs, for their part, have threatened the commission with legal challenges if they decide to unblock any more EU money to Hungary. "We need to show that values are not for sale," a Renew Europe spokesperson also said.

A resolution on the European Council meetings and the Hungarian situation will be voted on Thursday.

Green files

A final vote on votes tackling greenwashing will take place to allow negotiations with EU member states on Wednesday.

And the day after the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change is set to release a report assessing the alignment of EU policies with the EU's 2050 climate neutrality goal.

Also on Thursday, MEPs will hold a debate on microplastic pollution in the ocean and coastal areas — after 25 tonnes of plastic pellets spilled off the Galician coast.

In Brussels, an informal meeting of EU environment ministers will take place on Monday and Tuesday. Ministers will discuss the outcome of COP28, the Fit-for-55 legislation, and the EU's circular economy action plan.

Neo-fascism and the rule of law

MEPs will discuss the rule of law in Greece and the state of media freedom, including allegations of illegal wiretapping of journalists and political intervention in investigations on Wednesday. EU lawmakers are also expected to raise concerns about the lack of progress in the investigation into the killing of journalist Giorgos Karaivaz in 2021.

On the same day, the parliament will vote on a resolution about anti-corruption reforms in Slovakia and their impact on the country's rule of law.

In the wake of fascist salute images in Italy, MEPs will discuss on Tuesday with representatives of the Belgian presidency and the commission the risks of neo-fascism resurfacing in Europe and how to prevent it.

On the same day, the commission will present in Strasbourg a revision of the rules governing European Works Councils — which was last revised in 2009, leaving some loopholes now.

European Works Councils, the only European bodies representing workers in enterprises, inform and consult employees in companies operating in at least two countries.

MEPs will debate the situation in Gaza and call for a ceasefire during a debate scheduled on Tuesday.

Davos and Eurogroup

As the global elite gathers in the Swiss Alps, campaigners are calling for the implementation of a wealth tax to tackle inequalities.

Ursula von der Leyen, along with nearly a dozen commissioners, will participate in the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos — with "Rebuilding Trust" as its main theme.

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky are also expected to attend the event, alongside 60 heads of state and members of government.

The finance ministers of the euro area countries will meet on Monday to discuss draft recommendations under the macroeconomic situation and external competitiveness of energy prices.

On Tuesday, they expected to approve economic policy recommendations for the eurozone. They will also discuss the priorities of the Belgian presidency and guidance for the next G20 meeting of finance ministers in February.

Rule-of-law rallies in Slovakia test Fico's new regime

After fewer than 100 days in power, Slovak prime minister Robert Fico is facing protests over attempts to halt prosecutions of his allies, under a bill set to also delay the iconic Kuciak case.

EU fears as microplastics spill hits French/Spanish coastlines

As the coastline of Galicia in northern Spain wakes up to another day with hundreds of volunteers cleaning microplastics from the beach, the EU has sounded the alarm about the impacts of plastic pellets on the environment and human health.

MEPs approve new 'suicidal' EU debt and spending rules

MEPs approved a negotiating text on new EU debt-and-spending rules during a plenary vote in Strasbourg, despite warnings from the leader of the Greens it was "economic, environmental, geopolitical and democratic suicide."

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.

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