27th Feb 2024


Aid for Kyiv EU summit and Nato defence in focus This WEEK

  • Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is set to join EU leaders via videoconference on Thursday (Photo: European Union)
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EU leaders will gather in Brussels for an extraordinary council on Thursday (1 February) to try to agree on the €50bn four-year aid package to Ukraine, after Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán blocked all compromises in December.

The meeting also follows weeks of intense negotiations over potential avenues to bypass Orbán's veto — including concessions for a potential 2025 mid-term review on the Ukrainian funding.

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The current impasse has triggered bitter criticism against the European Council for letting the situation unfold. Article 7 could theoretically result in the suspension of voting rights for Hungary, but EU countries have been shy about moving forward — and any new attempt to revive the process could be blocked by Orbán's friend, Slovakia's prime minister Robert Fico.

It would actually be "inappropriate" to try to advance on the Article 7 procedure ahead of the extraordinary council since efforts are focused on finding an acceptable solution for the 27 EU countries, an EU diplomat said.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is set to join EU leaders via videoconference before they start discussing fresh money to Kyiv, as part of wider negotiations about the EU long-term budget.

Heads of state and government will also discuss military support to Ukraine, but no decision is expected to come out of the meeting.

Following the International Court Justice (ICJ) ruling calling on Israel to take all possible measures to prevent genocide in Palestine, the Israel-Hamas war is also expected to be part of the leaders' agenda.

On Monday (29 January), EU ministers for European affairs will hold a debate on internal reforms linked to enlargement and the commission's proposal to tackle the threat of foreign interference in the run-up to the European elections.

They will also discuss the latest rule of law report for Spain, France, Croatia and Italy.

Security concerns

Ahead of the extraordinary council, French president Emmanuel Macron is expected to visit Sweden on Tuesday and Wednesday (30 and 31 January) to discuss European defence issues.

This follows Turkey's approval of Sweden's bid to join Nato last week — leaving Hungary as the only one in the alliance who has yet to ratify Sweden's membership.

In Brussels, EU ministers responsible for defence policy will also meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss informally joint military operations and potential security threats.

Another informal meeting with EU ministers for foreign affairs will take place on Friday and Saturday (2 and 3 February).

Talks come in the wake of remarks from several countries, including Lithuania and Germany, suggesting that there is a risk of Russia launching attacks on Nato countries if preventive measures are not taken in Ukraine.

It also comes ahead of the presentation of a new European defence investment programme, expected on 27 February.

Italy-Africa summit and others

EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen will travel to Rome on Monday to participate in the Italy-Africa Summit, where ultra-nationalist prime minister Giorgia Meloni is expected to unveil a new partnership, with a focus on energy investments.

On Tuesday, during a hearing with representatives from the European Parliament, Commission and Council, nine cities will present their bids to host the future Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA).

And a proposal on cancer prevention, including recommendations for smoke-free environments and vaccines, is expected to be announced by the European Commission on Wednesday.

In the European Parliament, meanwhile, MEPs will continue with committee activities and prepare for the first plenary session of February.

Following a recent report from the EU climate advisory board about the need to speed up policies to ensure the bloc's 2030 targets are met, MEPs in the environment committee will discuss the progress towards such goals with commission officials on Monday.

Also on Monday, MEPs in the liberties affairs committee will discuss the implementation of a recent overhaul of EU asylum laws files with the Belgian minister of interior, Annelies Verlinden and the migration minister Nicole de Moor — amid internal abuse claims in Belgium.

On Wednesday, they will adopt the parliament's position on combating online child sexual abuse to enter into inter-institutional negotiations with member states.

EU ambassadors are expected to greenlight the deal reached on the AI Act on Friday.

On Tuesday evening, MEPs and the EU member states are expected to reach an agreement on the so-called Breakfast Directive dealing with honey, jam and fruit-juice labels.

EUobserver update

Our journalist Nikolaj Nielsen is on the ground in Ukraine this week, reporting firsthand on the impact of the war. Stay tuned for his exclusive stories from the ground.


Why concessions to Orbán will come back to bite EU

As the EU hopes to agree on further financial aid for Ukraine, fears are emerging over offering concessions to Hungary, which risk setting a dangerous precedent and the threats of legal challenges.


Hungary vs Ukraine: how do you deal with Orbán?

Viktor Orban insists EU membership is merit-based — which indeed it should be — but his own government has bluntly flouted the norms and values upon which the EU is founded, writes the central Europe director of Human Rights Watch.


Ukraine's EU accession will be tricky - but start with defence

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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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