Category Archives: EU

Merkel predicts “difficult” EU budget Summit

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that talks to set the European Union’s budget for the coming seven years will be “very difficult” at an extraordinary summit beginning February 20 in Brussels.

We think our concerns are not sufficiently addressed on many points, and I therefore see very tough and difficult negotiations ahead,” Merkel told reporters at a Berlin press conference with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin (pictured).

Germany and Finland belong to the circle of mainly northern European EU members that pay more into the EU budget than they get out, known as net contributors“.

EU heads of state or government will discuss the EU’s long-term budget for 2021-2027 during a special meeting of the European Council on 20 February 2020.

In his invitation letter, the President of the European Council Charles Michel said: “The time has come to reach an agreement at our level on the multiannual financial framework.”

EU diplomatic appointments

Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy announced today three senior appointments in the European External Action Service (EEAS):

Enrique MORA BENAVENTE as Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs, Political Director. He is currently Political Director at the Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and previously Head of Cabinet of High Representative / Secretary General of the Council of the European Union Javier Solana.

Stefano SANNINO as Deputy Secretary General for Economic and Global Issues. He is currently Ambassador of Italy to Spain and was previously Permanent Representative of Italy to the European Union and Director General for Enlargement in the European Commission.

Charles FRIES as Deputy Secretary General for Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and crisis response. He is currently the Ambassador of France to Turkey and was previously Ambassador of France to Morroco and Secretary General for European Affairs in Paris.

The three Deputy Secretary General will work under the guidance of Secretary General Helga Schmid.

Josep Borrell announced he “wants to further strengthen the European External Action Service to address changing international realities effectively“.

With the appointments announced today, the EEAS will have a strong and experienced management team to advance the work in implementing the political priorities set by the High Representative”.

Image: illustration

Borrell on W.Balkans European perspective

At aprrival to the Euorpean Council for the EU-Western Balkans informal meeting the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said he hoped that some of Western Balkans countries could become members of the EU before the end of his mandate.

Today is another step on the European perspective for the Balkan countries. We are going to talk about it also tomorrow at the Foreign Affairs Council.

“I am coming from Munich where I had the opportunity of meeting all the Heads of State or Government of the Balkan countries. I have been flying in the plane with the Foreign Minister of North Macedonia and I learnt that they have [taken] a new important step on the reforms, about the law of the public prosecutor, which shows their will of doing anything they have to do in order to have a European perspective. So we are going to work today and tomorrow for the next European Council to open the door to the European perspective of the Balkan countries.”

EU-Vietnam free trade approved

The EU-Vietnam trade agreement, the “most modern and ambitious agreement ever concluded between the EU and a developing country”, got Parliament’s support on February 12. (Image: illustration)

These state-of-the-art agreements just adopted present a unique opportunity to further the EU’s goal to become a geopolitical player that defends multilateral trade, rejects protectionism, and raises labour, environmental and human rights standards worldwide. The deals will boost prosperity, create new and better paid jobs, cut costs for companies big and small, and give them better access to each other’s markets” rapporteur Geert Bourgeois (ECR, BE) said.

MEPs gave their consent to the free trade agreement by 401 votes, 192 votes against and 40 abstentions. The “most modern, comprehensive and ambitious agreement ever concluded between the EU and a developing country” will contribute to setting high standards in the region, and could lead to a future region-to-region trade and investment agreement, said the Parliament, in an accompanying resolution adopted by 416 votes for, 187 against and 44 abstentions. The agreement is “a strong signal in favour of free, fair and reciprocal trade, in times of growing protectionist tendencies and serious challenges to multilateral rules-based trade”, MEPs stressed.

The agreement will remove virtually all customs duties between the two parties over the next ten years, including on Europe’s main export products to Vietnam: machinery, cars, and chemicals. It extends to services such as banking, maritime transport and postal, where EU companies will have better access. Companies will also be able to bid on public tenders put out by the Vietnamese government and several cities, including Hanoi. The deal also safeguards 169 emblematic European products.

In addition, the agreement is an instrument to protect the environment and to sustain social progress in Vietnam, including labour rights. It commits Vietnam to apply the Paris Agreement. Vietnam committed to ratify two bills as requested by Parliament, one on the abolition of forced labour, the other on freedom of association, by 2020 and 2023, respectively.

The trade deal can be suspended in case of breaches of human rights.

Ansip: Artificial intelligence challenges

Ahead of the publication of the Commission’s White Paper on Artificial Intelligence, Renew Europe is the first political group to present a comprehensive vision about the use of AI in Europe, considering the key political implications for the current legislative period. The position paper published today will be presented at our Group meeting to European Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager and Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton, who are overseeing the continent’s digital transition and enhancing Europe’s technological sovereignty.

Defining a common European approach to AI is necessary to avoid that Member States take national measures that will result in a fragmented European framework instead of a single market. As we know, AI is all about data. The availability of data is essential for training AI systems. Making more data available and improving the way in which data is used is crucial for tackling societal challenges, contributing to greener, healthier and more prosperous societies” Andrus ANSIP (pictured), Member of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection said.

New group firmly believes that AI can make a huge contribution to help improving the lives of European citizens and fostering prosperity within the EU. Nevertheless, differing national legislations would prevent us from reaching this goal. Therefore MEPs propose investment capacities, data infrastructure, research, and the definition of common ethical norms to be regulated on the European level. Their goal is to establish a framework, which enables the development of trustworthy, ethically responsible and technically robust AI. This should include legislative actions where needed, starting with mandatory measures to prevent practices that could undermine fundamental rights and freedoms.

RENEW EUROPE position: https://reneweuropegroup.eu/en/news/1427-renew-europe-position-paper-on-artificial-intelligence/

New EU enlargement “methodology”

On 5 February, Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi has presented proposals for a revised enlargement “methodology” to the foreign affairs MEPs. The new “methodology” surfaced after the Council’s reluctance to agree on opening accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania and is expected to “enhance credibility” and give ‘”new impetus” to the enlargement process.

The European Commission put forward a proposal to drive forward the EU accession process, by making it more credible, with a stronger political steer, more dynamic and predictableVárhelyi announced.

The European Union enlargement to the Western Balkans is a top priority for the Commission“, – Olivér Várhelyi continued. “We are working on three tracks: Firstly, today we propose concrete steps on how to enhance the accession process. While we are strengthening and improving the process, the goal remains accession and full EU membership. Secondly, and in parallel, the Commission stands firmly by its recommendations to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania and will soon provide an update on the progress made by these two countries. Thirdly, in preparation of the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb in May, the Commission will come forward with an economic and investment development plan for the region.”

“A more credible process: The accession process needs to build on trust, mutual confidence and clear commitments by the European Union and the Western Balkans. Credibility should be reinforced through an even stronger focus on fundamental reforms, starting with the rule of law, the functioning of democratic institutions and public administration as well as the economy of the candidate countries. When partner countries meet the objective criteria, the Member States shall agree to move forward to the next stage of the process, respecting the merits-based approach.

“A stronger political steer: The political nature of the accession process requires a stronger political steer and engagement at the highest levels. The Commission proposes to increase the opportunities for high level political and policy dialogue, through regular EU-Western Balkans summits and intensified ministerial contacts. Moreover, Member States should be involved more systematically in monitoring and reviewing the process. All bodies under Stabilisation and Association Agreement will focus much more on the key political issues and reforms, while Inter-Governmental Conferences will provide stronger political steering for the negotiations.

“A more dynamic process: To inject further dynamism into the negotiating process, the Commission proposes to group the negotiating chapters in six thematic clusters: fundamentals; internal market; competitiveness and inclusive growth; green agenda and sustainable connectivity; resources, agriculture and cohesion; external relations. Negotiations on each cluster will be open as a whole – after fulfilling the opening benchmarks – rather than on an individual chapter basis. Negotiations on the fundamentals will be open first and closed last and the progress on these will determine the overall pace of negotiations. The timeframe between opening a cluster and closing the individual chapters should be limited, preferably within a year fully dependant on the progress of the reforms.

“A more predictable process: The Commission will provide greater clarity on what the EU expects of enlargement countries at the different stages of the process. It will make clearer what the positive consequences progress on reforms can bring, and what will the negative consequences will be when there is no progress.

“To encourage demanding reforms, the Commission will better define the conditions set for candidates to progress and will provide clear and tangible incentives of direct interest to citizens. Incentives could include accelerated integration and “phasing-in” to individual EU policies, the EU market and EU programmes – while ensuring a level playing field – as well as increased funding and investments. The more candidates advance in their reforms, the more they will advance in the process. Equally, the Commission proposes more decisive measures proportionally sanctioning any serious or prolonged stagnation or backsliding in reform implementation and meeting the requirements of accession process. Negotiations could be put on hold in certain areas, or in the most serious cases, suspended overall, and already closed chapters could be re-opened; benefits of closer integration, like access to EU programmes, could be paused or withdrawn, and the scope and intensity of EU funding could be adjusted downward.

https://twitter.com/vonderleyen/status/1225009804323819522?s=21

“The Commission hopes the Member States will endorse the proposal, in parallel with the opening of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, ahead of the European Union-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb on 6-7 May. For the summit the Commission will consider how to bring forward investment, socio- economic integration and the rule of law for the Western Balkans region.

https://twitter.com/reneweurope/status/1225059189187321863?s=21

Michel invites to EU Council

*Following the meetings held at Sherpa level, I have decided to call a special meeting of the European Council that will begin on 20 February 2020″ reads letter of the EU president Charles Michel, inviting the EU leaders to the Council.

https://twitter.com/eucopresident/status/1221101581971730434?s=21

*The time has come to reach an agreement at our level on the Multiannual Financial Framework.

*Any postponement would create serious practical and political problems and jeopardise the continuation of current programs and policies as well as the launch of new ones.

*I am fully aware that these negotiations are among the most difficult ones we have to face. But I am also convinced that with common sense and determination we can strike a deal that will benefit all Europeans.

*To achieve this, all sides will need to demonstrate a spirit of compromise. I count on your support in this respect.

*In the coming days I will consult with you before tabling an overall proposal in view of the February meeting, which will be prepared in the usual fashion.*

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