13th Apr 2024


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

  • Some 1,500 tractors are expected in the European quarter on the same day EU ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss how to cut regulations for the sector (Photo: Paula Soler/EUobserver)
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EU agriculture ministers will meet in Brussels on Monday (26 February) to discuss a commisison proposal to cut red tape for the sector and simplify obligations that farmers must comply with to receive funds.

Some 1,500 tractors are expected in the European quarter on the same day of the agricultural council, as farmers demand ministers address their demands.

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  • Yulia Navalnaya, widow of Alexei Navalny, will address MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday, after having a roundtable with EU foreign affairs ministers last week in Brussels (Photo: European Union)

For weeks, farmers have been demonstrating all across Europe, calling for the end of the EU-Mercosur agreement and extra EU funds to help transition towards more sustainable practices.

But the end of the EU's attempt to deregulate new genomic techniques has also been included among Belgian farmers' demands. While MEPs have adopted their position on the file, the proposal still hasn't found common ground in the council since EU member states remain divided on the issue.

In Strasbourg, the European Parliament will cast a final vote on the now highly-politicised nature restoration law on Tuesday (27 February).

Despite the compromise reached between co-legislators last November, the proposal is facing new attacks from lawmakers from the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group.

Increasing food prices will also be discussed by MEPs on Monday evening. On the same day, they will also hold a debate with European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde about inflation and possible interest rate cuts.

Earlier this month, Lagarde warned against reducing interest rates too quickly — although rumours point to potential cuts by the summer.

Also on Monday, MEPs will be calling on EU member states to lift their blockade on the Platform Work Directive — after Germany, France, Greece, and Estonia opposed an agreement on the new rules aimed at improving conditions for gig workers in Europe earlier this month.

Ukraine's future and Yulia Navalnaya

Meanwhile, French president Emmanuel Macron is set to meet with some 20 European leaders in Paris on Monday to discuss the future of Ukraine, Polish president Andrzej Duda said last week.

This comes after the visit to Kyiv of EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo this weekend, marking the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

And it also follows the adoption of the 13th round of sanctions against Russia.

Following the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, MEPs will hear from his widow Yulia Navalnaya on Wednesday (28 February). Navalnaya has vowed to continue her husband's fight against the Russian regime.

During the plenary session, MEPs are expected to call to improve the European Peace Facility, keep sending extra military support to Kyiv and improve the union's own defence capabilities.

A resolution, which will be voted on Thursday, urges to strengthen Europe's defence industry in light of increasing geopolitical tensions — marked by the ongoing war in Ukraine and the possible return of Donald Trump to the White House.

"No matter who sits in the White House, Europe must be able to defend itself," said German MEP Manfred Weber, leader of the European People's Party (EPP). 

In this regard, the commission is due to present a proposal next week aiming to increase the production of defence equipment in the EU.

On Monday, MPs in the Hungarian parliament are expected to finally vote to ratify Sweden's Nato accession.

As part of the revision of the EU's long-term budget, the European Parliament is set to give the final green light to the €50bn Ukraine facility on Tuesday.

On the same day, MEPs will discuss the International Court Justice (ICJ) ruling on provisional measures to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and allegations against UNRWA staff as well as the impact of defunding of the UN agency on the ground. 

MEPs will voice concerns about the democratic backsliding in the 27-nation bloc on Wednesday, during a debate about the latest commission's assessment of the rule of law in EU member states.

Last week, von der Leyen said a decision to release €137bn frozen funds to Poland over rule of law concerns will be made this week in Brussels.

A plenary debate about the internal reforms the EU should undertake to enlarge to a group of more than 30 states in the face of enlargement will also take place on the same day, with a resolution due to be voted on Thursday (29 February).

Also on Wednesday, the European Commission is expected to unveil a new initiative aimed at boosting the competitiveness of industries manufacturing key materials for the green and digital transition.

It is estimated that the EU holds about one-fifth of the shares of patents in digital security, advanced materials and photonics. However, it is surpassed by the US and Japan in these respective fields.

CBAM opposition at WTO

A ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is also high on this week's agenda. The meeting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, will run from Monday to Thursday.

The EU's Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism is set to face a formal challenge from India and South Africa at next week's WTO ministerial conference in Abu Dhabi.

The two countries have led the international opposition to CBAM, arguing it could breach the WTO's non-discrimination principle.

"Any climate-justified measures [such as levies] that directly restrict market access by developing countries and LDCs (Less Developed Countries), where research shows the reduction of carbon emissions is minimal, should be avoided," the African Group at the WTO has said.

EU officials insist that the phase-out of free allowances for carbon emissions to EU firms means that it is WTO compliant.


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