Monday

16th Jul 2018

Tusk summits to create new-model EU

  • Tusk also met with Czech, Hungarian, Slovak, and Polish leaders in Bratislava last week (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

European Council president Donald Tusk has proposed a series of 13 top-level meetings to take forward European reform in the wake of Brexit.

Most of the talks, called the Leader's Agenda, are to take place in the margins of regular EU summits, starting on Thursday (19 October), and to last until mid-2019.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

  • EU Council head looking unhappy after Bratislava meeting (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

A handful of them will also take place at special events, such as a summit on the Western Balkans in Sofia in May, one on internal security in Austria next September, and one to take stock of discussions so far in Sibiu, Romania, in May 2019.

Tusk laid out his plan in an invitation letter for Thursday's EU summit.

He said each of the sessions would be based on "decision notes" circulated by his office that laid out "our differences, precisely describing the scope of conflict".

They would also be based on "implementation reports" that detailed what had been achieved so far, with Tusk already publishing one such report on Tuesday which looked back at progress on issues raised at a Brexit summit in Bratislava last year.

His Bratislava paper noted there were "efforts still needed" or "insufficient progress" on showing "solidarity" on asylum seekers and on reforms of EU asylum laws.

That nodded to a rebellion against EU migrant-sharing quotas by the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland.

East vs. West

The eastern EU bloc is also opposed to deeper EU integration, for instance in the eurozone, but Tusk's letter noted, in line with French ideas on a multi-speed Europe, that coalitions of willing member states should be able to press on anyway.

"The aim [of the Leaders' Agenda] will be to break any deadlock. If the first discussion does not succeed, we will need to decide whether to make another attempt at solving the issue, or if the only way forward is enhanced cooperation among the willing countries, as provided for by the treaties," he said.

Tusk spoke of a "new energy" in the EU that was generated by the UK's decision to leave.

But he said this must be harnessed in a way that "does not divide, but strengthens us".

He added that his recent "consultations" with national leaders had "reassured [him] that we are capable of accelerating our work, without disrupting our unity".

The European Commission head, Jean-Claude Juncker, is also doing his bit for unity.

Juncker is to host a pre-summit dinner with the Czech, Hungarian, Polish, and Slovak leaders in Brussels on Wednesday that could end in a joint communique.

His initiative comes amid concern that the incoming Austrian government of Sebastian Kurz could ally itself with the anti-immigration hardliners in eastern Europe.

Kurz is currently in coalition talks with both the centre-left SPO party and the far-right and anti-EU FPO party, whose leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, used to do combat training with neo-Nazi paramilitary groups in Austrian forests when he was a young man.

The concern on EU unity also comes amid a drift toward authoritarian rule in Hungary and Poland.

Experts from the Council of Europe in Strasbourg warned on Tuesday that Polish president Andrzej Duda's amendments to new Polish laws on judicial reform would do little to stop them from handing control of courts and judges to the ruling PiS party.

Turkey talks

Duda himself met with Turkish autocrat Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Warsaw the same day.

He said Poland supported Turkey's EU bid, but said nothing in public on Erdogan's human rights abuses.

Polish media were not allowed to ask questions at the Duda-Erdogan briefing, but Erdogan's security detail was allowed to confiscate protesters' placards outside his hotel while Polish police stood by.

Poland also continued to swerve from EU norms in Luxembourg on Tuesday when Polish environment minister Jan Szyszko challenged an EU court injunction to stop logging in a primeval forest.

He alleged the Commission had used fake data, which, he speculated, might have come from a cyberattack, in its anti-logging case, and claimed that EU intervention had helped a 3,500-hectare large swamp to gobble up rare plants in the conservation area.

Article 7 not mentioned in Poland probe update

While Polish president Andrzej Duda proposes amendments to further increase political control over the judiciary, EU ministers voice support for the rule of law, but make no mention of the Article 7 sanctions.

EU countries praise Tusk's new summit plans

EU capitals voice support for more summits, tackling divisive issues and sometimes deciding by majority - not consensus - as outlined in the European Council president's plan.

Analysis

Will Austria's presidency give EU a populist push?

As Sebastian Kurz's government takes over the helm of EU-policy making for the next six months, Austrian MEPs from opposing sides weigh in on the EU's youngest prime minister's possible influence on the continent's future.

Interview

EU populists not actually that 'popular', says global activist

"The populists are not popular. It's 14 percent of the vote in Germany and smaller percentages in other countries," says global campaigner Ricken Patel, considering to use his organisation, Avaaz, to raise turnout in next year's European parliament elections.

Opinion

Rutte - from 'Mr No' to 'next Tusk'?

Make no mistake – Rutte, sometimes considered as a potential candidate to succeed Donald Tusk, is one of the toughest of the EU's current heads of state.

News in Brief

  1. EU sees no China free-trade talks
  2. Italy accepts migrant boat after help promises
  3. EU opens case on Siemens' Alstom buyout
  4. Trump: May found my Brexit advice 'too brutal'
  5. Italy will reject EU-Canada trade deal, says deputy PM
  6. Commission: Juncker suffered from sciatica attack at Nato
  7. EU free wifi plan struck by IT error
  8. Europol launches 'World Cup game' to catch criminals

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Latest News

  1. EU is 'foe', as Trump seeks to make friends with Putin
  2. Let's not be 'naive' with Chinese partner, says senior MEP
  3. Trump, trade, and Brexit in EU headlines This WEEK
  4. EU and China edge closer in Trump's 'America First' world
  5. How the World Cup exposed Russian chauvinism
  6. Stage set for Trump-Putin finale
  7. Trump scuppers trade deal with UK under May's Brexit
  8. Trump wades into Brexit after Nato fiasco

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us