29th Feb 2024


This WEEK in the European Union

This week's agenda will be dominated by a long-awaited parliament vote on the disputed services directive, as well as debates about the Mohammed cartoon row and Iran’s nuclear plans.

MEPs will debate on Tuesday and vote on Thursday on the services directive with the two biggest parliamentary groups having agreed last week on a compromise version of the law aimed at opening the bloc's market for services.

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The compromise removes a controversial "country of origin" principle which would have allowed companies to offer services across borders according to their home country rules.

But the centre-right EPP-ED which clinched the deal with the Socialists faces dissent among MEPs from Sweden, Germany and the new member states who favour a more liberal version of the blueprint.

Meanwhile, concerns have been raised that MEPs might bow to pressure by trade union activists expected to demonstrate in Strasbourg against the directive.

CIA activities in Europe

EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini will on Monday (13 February) in Strasbourg address a new, temporary parliamentary committee assigned to investigate allegations of CIA illegal "extraordinary rendition" and European governments' complicity.

The temporary committee was set up following accusations from a Council of Europe (CoE) special investigator, Swiss lawyer Dick Marty, saying it was "highly credible" that European governments condoned CIA abduction of suspected terrorists for transportation from European airports to countries in which torture is used.

The Marty report also stated that governments in Eastern European countries may have let the CIA use camps in to interrogate terrorist suspects.

Justice commissioner Frattini has earlier indicated that EU member states as well as candidate countries such as Romania could face sanctions if the allegations are found to be true.

Iran nuclear dossier

MEPs will also vote on a resolution on how to deal with Iran's nuclear programme, with Iran having resumed full nuclear research activities despite criticism from the international community which suspects suspecting the country is aiming at building up a nuclear arm arsenal.

The European Council and Commission this week will also make joint statement on the ongoing dispute between Iran and the international community.

Danish caricatures of Mohammed

In response to incidents in several Muslim countries following the publication of caricatures of Muhammad, MEPs will hold a debate on freedom of expression and respect for religious faith.

The presidents of the parliament’s political groups have, however, decided to only allow one person from each group to speak on the sensitive issue, as MEPs do not want to take a firm stance on the matter before next month’s Euro-Mediterranean summit, including several Muslim states.

MEPs will also discuss the past weeks’ burning issue of whether there any limits to freedom of expression and if a European code of conduct regarding the freedom of expression could be applied to sensitive matters such as personal faith.

Barroso and Rehn on Balkan tour

Not expected in Strasbourg this week are European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn who will instead kick off a tour around the Balkans.

The two top commission officials will visit Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Albania, in a bid to promote European integration of the region.

Another goal of the tour is to promote last week's proposal by the European Commission for forming a free trade zone in the West Balkans, which has been opposed by Croatia.

VAT deal and Lisbon agenda

Meanwhile, in Brussels, European finance ministers are set to adopt a compromise directive ending with an earlier EU scheme on reduced rates of value-added tax on so called "labour intensive" services, like house renovations, bike repairs or hair dressing.

The deal was struck at the end of last month, after intense diplomatic work by the Austrian presidency.

Finance ministers will also debate a progress report by the commission regarding the economic reform strategy aimed at strengthening the contribution to growth and employment in the union, which was laid down by the European Council at Lisbon in 2000.

Finally, ministers will hold an exchange of views on public expenditure on age-related measures in the member states, such as health care, pension schemes, education and unemployment.

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.

EU supply chain law fails, with 14 states failing to back it

Member states failed on Wednesday to agree to the EU's long-awaited Corporate Sustainable Due Diligence Directive, after 13 EU ambassadors declared abstention and one, Sweden, expressed opposition (there was no formal vote), EUobserver has learned.


Joined-up EU defence procurement on the horizon?

Disputes between member states, notably Germany, highlight the lack of coordination among national industrial capabilities for a European Defence Industrial Strategy — which may include the EU's first ever defence commissioner.

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