Tuesday

21st Sep 2021

Agenda

This WEEK in the European Union

European leaders gathered in Germany on Monday (9 November) for the 20 anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall will use the occasion to hold informal talks on the shortlist for the EU's newly created top positions and decide a date for a special institutional summit.

German chancellor Angela Merkel will host the Berlin event near the Brandenburg Gate where the wall used to separate the Soviet-controlled part from the free part of the city. Swedish Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt, British premier Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, as well as the heads of the EU commission and parliament, will be among those attending the ceremony.

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and US secretary of state Hillary Clinton will also participate in the event.

The Europeans will use the opportunity to try and pin down the names for the first permanent president of the European council and the high representative for foreign affairs - posts created by the Lisbon Treaty which comes into force on 1 December. Following these talks, the Swedish EU presidency is expected to call for an extraordinary summit next week or even as soon as this Thursday (12 November).

Frontrunners for the duo of jobs are Belgian Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy for the presidency and British foreign secretary David Miliband for the foreign minister job. At the special summit, EU leaders will also discuss the composition and job descriptions for Jose Manuel Barroso's new team of commissioners.

On the economic front, finance and economy ministers will gather on Tuesday (10 November) to further discuss the impact of stimulus packages on the public finances, as most EU countries have seen their deficits spinning out of control. Norway, which is not an EU member but participates in the bloc's internal market, will see its finance minister Sigbjorn Johnsen also attending the meeting.

The talks are one day ahead of the commission's assessments of the national measures undertaken by France, Greece, Ireland, Spain and the UK to curb their deficits. A further nine countries will get clear deadlines for bringing their budget gaps under EU's three percent threshold - Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Ministers will also try to agree on administrative co-operation in the field of taxation and on political guidelines regarding VAT treatment of postal services.

Meanwhile, the European Court of Auditors will on Tuesday present its report on the way the EU budget was managed in 2008. For 14 years in a row, the Court refused give a clean bill of health to the EU accounts, because of the high number of errors. The trend of the error rate is decreasing, but last year the auditors still found "disproportionately large error rates" in rural development programmes managed by member states.

The European Parliament will convene for a mini-plenary session starting on Wednesday (11 November) with former Czech President Vaclav Havel speaking on the 20 years of free and democratic eastern European countries. A discussion between the President of the EU legislature, Jerzy Buzek, and an audience of 89 people born in November 1989 is also scheduled that day.

On the same day, the EU executive is to table proposals on how member states can better share criminal evidence and on introducing common standards in gathering them. The existing rules in this field are overlapping and confusing for police and prosecutors. Cross-border co-operation in this field is still minimal, as there are no common standards or clear deadlines to submitting criminal evidence to another member state.

Opinion

See where the EU millions end up

Errors found by EU auditors in the community accounts do not mean 'billions lost', as any undue payments are clawed back by the commission, but they reflect a lack of vigilance from national authorities, says Siim Kallas, EU commissioner responsible for administrative affairs, audit and anti-fraud.

UN annual meeting plus Poland in focus This WEEK

The Polish Constitutional Tribunal is holding a hearing on the issue of whether EU law has primacy in the country. It is not clear whether the tribunal will deliver a ruling.

All eyes on von der Leyen's state of the EU This WEEK

MEPs expect the EU Commission president to also address issues such as the economy, climate change, digital transformation, the EU's role in the world, migration policy, and the Conference on the Future of Europe.

EU bubble prepares for state of the union This WEEK

One of the topics for the keynote speech will certainly be the Covid-19 recovery fund - with Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Spain, and Portugal having already received their pre-financing.

Recovery and rule of law are back This WEEK

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will continue to travel to member states to "personally hand over the assessment" of the EU executive on national Covid-19 recovery plans.

Fraud against EU dropped 20% last year

There were a total of 1,056 fraudulent irregularities in 2020, with a combined financial impact of €371m. Currently, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain do not have domestic anti-fraud plans.

Auditors slam EU Commission on green investments

The European Court of Auditors called for more consistent EU action on sustainable finance. The European Commission, by its own estimation, will need to invest €1 trillion a year to transition to a zero-carbon economy by 2050.

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