Saturday

2nd Mar 2024

Agenda

This WEEK in the European Union

This week in the EU will see discussions on two of the main pending policy dossiers – the bloc’s budget for 2007-2013 and trade talks in the WTO. Meanwhile, the European Court of Justice will rule on air passenger data and UK emission trading rights.

Budget and WTO talks

Foreign ministers will meet in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday, with the thorny issue of the bloc’s future spending as one of the key items on the agenda for Monday. The UK presidency will brief member states on its strategy to arrive at a deal in December, when EU leaders will meet, amid strong blame on London that its efforts have so far been insufficient.

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  • Sugar and the WTO are set to raise passions in Brussels this week (Photo: EUobserver)

The budget dossier will also be topping finance ministers’ agenda on Thursday, meeting in the Ecofin council.

On Monday evening, the commission will report to foreign ministers on latest developments in the current round of trade negotiations under the World Trade Organisation’s Doha Development Agenda, in the run-up to the WTO ministerial conference in Hong Kong in December.

Pressure on EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson is severe, both from WTO partners like the US and Australia that wish to see further Brussels concessions, and from EU member states, who are not toeing the same line regarding the commission’s mandate in the talks.

The WTO trade talks top the agenda of trade ministers on Monday as well, during an informal dinner with commissioner Mandelson.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday agriculture ministers will seek agreement on controversial EU plans to cut sugar prices and export subsidies.

Failure to reach agreement on sugar could throw a spanner in the Doha works.

External relations and enlargement

During their Brussels meeting on Monday and Tuesday, foreign ministers will also address a range of defence, external relations and enlargement issues.

The EU’s military capability, development, Iraq, Iran, Bosnia and the Middle East are all figuring on the long timetable.

Meanwhile, the fight against human trafficking and other forms of organised crime will dominate talks in the "EU-Western Balkans Justice and Home Affairs Forum," hosted by the UK presidency and upcoming Austrian presidency and attended by EU justice and home affairs commissioner Frattini.

At the very end of the week, on Sunday (27 November), commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner as well as justice commissioner Franco Frattini will jet off to Barcelona to attend the Euro-Mediterranean summit.

This year's conference marks the 10th anniversary of the so-called "Barcelona process," a partnership between the EU and its Mediterranean neighbours – including both Israel and the Palestinian authority.

Soros, Merkel and Marcinkiewicz visits

On the commission’s weekly meeting agenda are the adoption of a maritime safety package, as well as communications on "enhanced security concerning information systems used in combating terrorism," criminal penalties and neighbourhood policy.

The commission’s Berlaymont headquarters is set to receive high-level visits from Warsaw and Berlin, with the new leaders of both countries having scheduled a first encounter with the EU executive.

German media report that German chancellor designate Angela Merkel will visit the commission on Wednesday on her first trip abroad, but this has not been confirmed yet.

The move would mean a symbolic gesture of EU commitment after relations between the commission and the previous German government soured.

Already on the commission’s official agenda for Wednesday is a visit by the Polish prime minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, who is set to be quizzed by Brussels on the fact that his minority government relies on the support of two eurosceptic parties.

A more unusual guest heading for the Berlaymont on Monday is the American multi-billionaire George Soros, whose Open Society Institute shares Brussels’ interest for spreading democracy and human rights in eastern Europe.

Parliament: services and data retention.

Several committees in the European Parliament face contentious dossiers this week.

After several months of debate, the Internal Market committee votes on Tuesday (or possibly Wednesday) on the controversial services directive, meant to liberalise services in the single market.

Another key vote is scheduled in the Transport Committee, on contentious proposals to inject greater competition into the port services industry.

An earlier attempt to legislate on this subject fell at the last hurdle two years ago when parliament rejected a compromise hammered out in conciliation with member states.

The Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday votes on progress made by Bulgaria and Romania towards meeting the EU membership criteria.

The votes take place after discussions by the committee with the foreign ministers of the two countries.

The Civil Liberties Committee will try to reach agreement at first reading on Thursday on EU legislation which requires telecom operators to store data such as phone calls and emails to aid the fight against terrorism, known as "data retention".

ECJ rulings

Finally, important decisions are on the cards this week in the legal sphere, with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling on privacy and climate change.

On Tuesday, the court will decide whether or not to annul the decision about the EU’s transfer of air passenger data to US authorities.

The case was brought by members of the European Parliament, who regard the EU’s decision to provide data from air passengers to the US, taken in May 2004 as a disproportionate breach of citizens' privacy.

On Wednesday, judges will rule over a case brought by the UK, which has challenged the commission over greenhouse gas emission rights.

This is the first time that the court will rule on this issue.

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.

EU's 2040 climate target and farmers in focus This WEEK

This week, the EU commission will present a proposal to cut net emissions by 90 percent by 2040, while MEPs discuss the demands of farmers' protests across Europe. Romanian president Klaus Iohannis will also address the EU parliament in Strasbourg.

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

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.

Middle East, Egypt, Nato exercise in focus This WEEK

EU foreign ministers will discuss Gaza and Israeli sanctions on Monday, as well as frozen assets and Russian sanctions. Nato will launch military exercises. Meanwhile, migration talks with Egypt and the future of agriculture are also planned for this week.

'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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