29th Nov 2022


This WEEK to see EU foreign relations summit

  • Herman Van Rompuy - searching for the EU's strategic objectives (Photo: Council of the European Union)

In what is to be his first major foray in the foreign policy arena, EU council president Herman Van Rompuy will on Thursday (16 September) preside over a meeting of EU leaders and foreign ministers to examine the bloc's relations with its strategic partners.

The one-day and single-themed meeting is an attempt by an Mr Van Rompuy to ringfence where the EU's strategic priorities lie, with the 27-nation Union more often in the news for its divisions on external issues and many larger states still content to view certain regions as having particular importance.

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Mr Van Rompuy, for his part, has to date been more associated with economic issues - he is currently chairing a taskforce looking into tightening the EU's economic governance rules. However, his post, which he formally took up at the beginning of the year, also puts him in charge of representing the EU on foreign policy at leader level.

The summit comes as the EU is increasingly worrying about its global role. Top politicians regularly warn that the EU risks being marginalised as other more cohesive regional powers rise.

On Wednesday, the European Commission is due to publish a series of proposals related to the financial markets as part of a general aim to rein-in the actions of market speculators, thought to have contributed to the financial crisis.

The three proposals will tackle derivatives, short-selling and credit default swaps (CDS). Short-selling involves a trader 'borrowing' underlying assets such as shares and selling them to a buyer. Sometime later the trader then buys an equivalent amount of shares back, hopefully at a lower price, thereby pocketing the difference. Naked short-selling is a type of short selling without first arranging to borrow the asset. CDSs are insurance-like products. They have received criticism for exacerbating Greece's debt crisis.

The commission has been stung by accusations that it is not acting quickly enough to regulate in the area. Before the summer break, France and Germany sent a letter to president Jose Manuel Barroso asking him to move more quickly. The EU executive had originally planned to table such proposals in October.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of the week, monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn will take the economic temperature of the EU when he publishes the commission's interim economic forecasts.

Mr Rehn will also be in the European Parliament on Wednesday to speak at a public hearing on economic governance in the eurozone. The hearing will be attended by Lorenzo Bini Smaghi of the European Central Bank and Carlo Cottarelli from the International Monetary Fund.

The European Parliament will spend the week preparing for the month's second plenary session in Strasbourg, beginning 20 September. But MEPs have made time for a two-day conference with MPs from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US to discuss the effect of the melting Arctic as well as the EU's intended ban on seal products.

In a surprise move, the EU's court in August suspended the seal product ban just before it was to go into place. The court injunction was obtained by the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a Canadian Inuit organisation. The Canadian authorities, meanwhile, want to have the law struck down by the World Trade Organisation in Geneva.

At the beginning of the week, Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych will meet Mr Barroso to discuss a forthcoming EU-Ukraine summit. The visit comes amid media reports of an increasingly repressive climate in the country under the pro-Russian leader.

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In the European Parliament, MEPs will hear from ECB president Christina Lagarde, Kyiv's Vitali Klitschko, and from the three candidates proposed by the EU Commission to be the new boss of EU border agency Frontex.

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The European Parliament will proceed with allowing the recovery fund to be used for energy transition, and EU Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans will set out proposals on zero pollution.

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The EU Commission on Tuesday is expected to put forward emergency measures on energy — but it is not clear if it will include price-caps, before leaders discuss the plans at a summit in the second half of the week.

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Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a leader of the democratic forces in Belarus, is expected to address MEPs, while lawmakers will narrow down the finalists for this year's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

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