Tag Archives: EUCO

Michel postpones #EUCO Summit

On 1 and 2 October, the EU leaders will meet in Brussels to discuss the Single market, industrial policy and digital transformation, as well as external relations, in particular relations with Turkey and with China. The Summit, initially planned for 24 and 25 September, has been postponed as President Michel is in quarantine.

In July, the European Council agreed an unprecedented recovery package to counter the effects of COVID-19 on the economies and societies of the EU member states. The two pillars of such a recovery, the green transition and the digital transformation, coupled with a strong single market, will foster new forms of growth and strengthen the EU’s resilience.

“This agreement was a major step to our vital objective: European strategic autonomy. (…) The strategic independence of Europe is our new common project for this century. It’s in all our common interest” said Charles Michel, President of the European Council.
The European Council will look at ways of deepening and strengthening the single market, developing a more ambitious industrial policy, and pressing ahead with the digital transformation. EU leaders will focus on:
going back to a fully functioning single market as soon as possible; making the EU’s industries more competitive globally and increasing their autonomy; accelerating the digital transition.

The European Council will hold a strategic discussion on Turkey. During the EU leaders’ video conference of 19 August 2020, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and the relations with Turkey were raised by some member states. The leaders expressed their concern about the growing tensions and stressed the urgent need to de-escalate. The members of the European Council expressed their full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus and recalled and reaffirmed previous conclusions on the illegal drilling activities.

“We agreed to come back to these issues during our meeting in September. All options will be on the table”, president Michel said.
Following the EU-China summit on 22 June 2020 and the meeting with President Xi on 14 September 2020, both by video conference, the European Council will discuss EU-China relations.
In the light of events, the European Council may address other specific foreign policy issues.

COVID19: President Michel self-isolates

Brussels 22.09.2020 The president of the European Council Charles Michel has been informed today that one of security officers, with whom he had “close” contact early last week, tested positive for COVID-19. Respecting Belgian sanitary rules, he has to respect quarantine for two weeks from today onward, although the president has been passing tests regularity, and was tested negative yesterday, his spokesperson said.

The Belgium National Security Council is set to meet on September 23 to discuss the COVID-19 measures in the face of fast-rising infection rates. Infections are particularly noticeable in younger age groups than was registered in the spring. Last week an average 45 people a day were hospitalised due to complications from the virus. In the seven day period previous to that, the figure was 30 patients per day. It has been more than a month since the last Security Council meeting, which, according to Geert Meyfroidt, a professor in intensive care at KU Leuven, is too long. “You cannot go a month without meeting and taking decisions,” he told Radio 1. “The timing of measures is as crucial as the measures themselves.”

President Michel has decided to postpone the special European Council meeting that was scheduled for 24 and 25 September to 1 and 2 October #EUCO.

EU calls extraordinary Summit on Belarus crisis

The president of the European Union Council Charles Michel invites the heads of states and governments of the EU member-states to an extraordinary meeting on August 19 to discuss the recent political developments in the Republic of Belarus.

«The people of Belarus have the right to decide on their future and freely elect their leader» Michel wrote on his official Twitter micro blog. «Violence against protesters is unacceptable and cannot be allowed» he added.

According to the European diplomats, president Michel and the Council have been following events closely, and they were in permanent contact with the diplomatic missions in Minsk.

The situation there is evolving rapidly, and the negative developments caused attention and concerns of the EU leaders.

The EU is willing to send a message of solidarity and support to Belrrus people, claiming their Consitutuional and fundamental political rights.

The EU stands by the people of Belarus, insitsing that they are in their right to choose their leaderhip in free and fair elections, and decide upon their future.

On video below the workers chant «Leave-leave-leave!» to inumbent President of Belarus Lukashenko, who has claimed eleciton victory with 80% ballots, the result assessed by the EU as «falsified».

EU leaders reached recovery&budget deal

«We have reached a deal on the recovery package and the European budget. These were, of course, difficult negotiations in very difficult times for all Europeans. A marathon which ended in success for all 27 member states, but especially for the people. This is a good deal. This is a strong deal. And most importantly, this is the right deal for Europe, right now» said Charles Michel, the president of the European Counil.

«And the decision that is made is not a virtual decision. It is a concrete decision that will have and must have a positive impact to ensure that we can look to the future with the determination to be up to this challenge » Michel concluded.

According to Dutch Prime Minister Rutte, who was seen by many as “Mister No” of the meeting, imposing reforms in exchange of grants, the Netherlands ultimately does not have to pay extra for the entire package that European leaders have agreed on.
The Dutch taxpayers will contribute €1.9 billion in membership fees, which €500 million less than during the previous financial period.

The Netherlands is also allowed to retain more customs income. That amounts to about two billion euros. Due to its favorable location, many goods are shipped via the port of Rotterdam and Dutch customs collect money there, because it is the external border of the European Union. Initially, the European Commission wanted to keep all this money itself, but now the Netherlands is allowed to let a large part of it flow into its own treasury.

The East European countires from Visegrad Four group, namely Poland and Hungary, declared their victory, refusing the claims of Dutch Prime minister to conntect grants reception to reforms obligations. “…We have also protected our national pride. We have successfully refused all attempts that would have tied access to EU funds to “rule of law criteria” wrote press-person of Hungarian goverenment on his Twitter blog.

Following the tradition of the Council meetings all the leaders declared “victory” – French President Macron delcared the day of the deal “historical“.

A massive recovery plan is adopted: a common loan to respond to the crisis in a united manner and invest in our future. We never did! France has relentlessly carried this ambition” Macron wrote on his Twitter blog.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the European Union leaders had come to a “good conclusion” after a €1.8 trillion budget for next sever years and coronavirus recovery fund were finally agreed on after days of talks.

However not everyone was impressed by the results of the four days marathon talks. “A hardworking garbage collector is being cheated by Prime Minister Rutte. The Italians and Spaniards do get their money. Hundreds of billions in loans and gifts.
Paid by the garbage collector and the rest of the Netherlands. Vote #Rutte away!
” wrote Dutch Member of the Parliament Geert Wilders.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is “very satisfied”, because he gets €82 billion in “gifts – from our money – while Italians are three times richer than the Dutch“, Wilders continues, explaining they “hardly pay tax there”, and Dutch people are going to pay for them, because of Mark Rutte “weak knees“.

Next to political opponents the criticism of the deal came from the youth, who blamed the leaders the absence of ambition in support of Digital Europe, Horizon, Just Transition Fund (JTF) for vulnérable European. territories, suffering from climate change, European Neighbourhood policy (ENP ) and those who thought that with the Brexit the “era of rebates is finally over”.

EUCO: Michel scales down grants

In a search of compromise the president of the European Council Charles Michel came forward with the proposal to scales down the grants (subsidies) in recovery & resilience facility (RRF) fund €672.5bn, of which loans €360bn & grants €312.5bn, 70% of grants provided in 2021-2022, 30% in 2023. The proposal constitutes a significant change in comparasion to the original plan of €750bn, consisting from €500bn in grants and €250bn in loans, announced at the beginning of the Summit on July 17.

Since our last summit in June, we have worked intensively with all of you and taken due note of your concerns. On that basis I have put forward a proposal to address the key difficulties and to build bridges between the different positions. Finding agreement will require hard work and political will on the part of all. Now is the time. A deal is essential. We will need to find workable solutions and come to an agreement, for the greater benefit of our citizens” Charles Michel wrote in this invitation letter to the leaders ahead.

Sassoli: MEPs call for end to rebates

Statement by European Parliament President on the ongoing European Council meeting:
After days of discussions, European citizens expect an agreement that lives up to this historical moment. We are worried about a future where European solidarity and the Community method are lost. The European Parliament has set out its priorities and it expects them to be met.

The multiannual financial framework must be able to address the main challenges facing Europe in the medium term, such as the Green Deal, digitalisation, economic resilience, and the fight against inequalities. New own resources are needed immediately. We also need measures to ensure the effective defence of the rule of law.
“Furthermore, Parliament has repeatedly called for the end of rebates. If these conditions are not sufficiently met, the European Parliament will not give its consent. COVID-19 is still here and we are seeing new outbreaks in Europe. More than ever it is necessary to act quickly and courageously.”

EU budget Summit marathon

The European Union leaders continue the marathon negociation at Summit in Brussels on a coronavirus recovery package, and the seven year budget of the 27 members bloc.

The Leaders left the marathon summit early Monday morning hours and are plnanning to resume talks at 16:00 CET. The summit was originally planned as two-days event, ending on Saturday 19.

EU Summit have focussed on a proposed €1.68 trillion package, a seven-year budget and a coronavirus recovery fund.

Eastern Europe leaders have opposed attaching rule of law conditions, while southern European countries are rejecting demands from the so-called frugal four, now five, countries – Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Sweden and Denmark – for a great sum bound by economic reform requirements.

EU Council President Charles Michel urged leaders to set aside disagreements.

“Are the 27 EU leaders capable of building European unity and trust or, because of a deep rift, will we present ourselves as a weak Europe, undermined by distrust,” he said according to Euronews reports.

Early Monday morning, Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz tweeted that “tough negotiations had ended” but that leaders can be “very happy with today’s result.”

Prime Minister Rutte reacted at the the frustarions among some of the leaders: “I don’t really care” Dutch Prime Minister said during the pause in talks.
“I’m not distracted by background noise” he added. “I’m fighting for Dutch people and a strong Europe.”

Dutch Rutte is «not opitimistic»

«Hard work» lies ahead said the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the doorstep of the European Summit (#EUCO) on recovery and long-term budget. However he underlined that due to prepararty period the positions of everyone became clear, and it also became more visible where the «bridges can be built», but of paramount importance is the conducting reforms in the countries which are at utmost in need of the European subsides, to make sure that this kind of situation is the last one.

«If the [member-states in need] are willing to receve subsides above the borrowing, it is very important to be sure that the reforms are conducted there» Rutte has underlined.
Dutch head of government said that he is not «optimistic», but from the other hand «you never know», because nobody is interested to «come together again», but still there are very difficult issues to be agreed upon.

«Nobody is willing to bring to standstill Brussels traffic once again in two week time, however it is not about the speed but about the content», Rutte joked whiling continuing. “Yes” to solidarity, but everything should be done that the countries, which are suffering from the crisis the most, would be able to cope with it the next time. The answer lies in the reforms of the labour market, the pensions reforms, etc. Being against subsidies, the Dutch government sill finds they are possible step, in case there are reforms guarantees, which are crucial. Because the funds should go from the North to the South “in principle last time”.

The Prime Minister has also explained the significance of the consistency of his position on reforms as a condition for two major reasons: the profound need of the stability of Europe in the “unstable world”, with such authoritarian players as China, the U.S., the situation in the Middle East, and role Russia is playing, and the second reason is the EU internal market, which should recover. He also put the Netherlands as an example of a strong internal market, which allows the country the speedy recovery in crisis.

However, Rutte has underlined, that he does not consider the veto perspective, but the power of reasoning as his major advantage, making the point that he does not have any aces in the sleeves.

“We don’t believe in grants set system. It is crucial to maintain the rebates on the sufficient level, and we still need to negotiate what is the sufficient level, and we need the reforms. If the South is in need of help, in terms of coping with crisis we understand that, because they have limited scope of dealing with it financially themselves, it is reasonable for us to ask for the clear commitments to reforms. If the part of loans are converted to grants, then the reforms are absolutely crucial, and we need guarantees that they would take place” Rutte said at doorstep of the Summit. “The EU economies should come of the crisis more résiliant, we need a strong Europe in an unstable world” he said. “The countries who are lagging behind in terms of reforms should steep up” he added.

Rutte also rebuffed the rumours and insinuations, underlining that he works for “strong’ Europe, which is also in the interest of the Dutch citizens – the guarantees instead of “insurances”. Among issues significant for his country he named the rebates.

“A weak compromise will not take Europe further” Rutte said.

The first round of negotiation has started between Dutch Rutte and French President Macron.

Mark Rutte added that he had dinner with the Italian Prime Minister Conte in The Hague, and he is sure that under Conte leadership Italy will pursue further the way for reforms. He also underlined that the personal relationship between both politicians have been always marked by mutual respect.

EU Special recovery plan Council

Invitation letter by President Charles Michel to the members of the European Council ahead of their meeting on 17-18 July 2020 reads as follows:

«On Friday, for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, we will be able to meet again here in Brussels.

The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed many lives across Europe and dealt a serious blow to our economies and societies. It continues to impact our lives. All our efforts must focus on building a sustainable recovery. To that end, our meeting this week will be dedicated to the Multiannual Financial Framework and the Recovery Plan.

Since our last summit in June, we have worked intensively with all of you and taken due note of your concerns. On that basis I have put forward a proposal to address the key difficulties and to build bridges between the different positions. Finding agreement will require hard work and political will on the part of all. Now is the time. A deal is essential. We will need to find workable solutions and come to an agreement, for the greater benefit of our citizens.

Our meeting will start on Friday at 10.00 a.m. with the traditional exchange of views with the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli. We will then hold our first working session and take it from there.

I look forward to welcoming you again in Brussels!»

EU leaders will meet physically in Brussels to discuss the recovery plan to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and a new long-term EU budget.

President Michel has proposed €1 074 billion to fulfil the long-term objectives of the EU, and to preserve the full capacity of the recovery plan. This proposal is largely based on the February proposal, which reflected two years of discussions between member states.

Rebates

Lump sum rebates would be maintained for Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden.

Size of the recovery fund

The Commission would be empowered to borrow up to €750 billion through an own-resource decision. These funds may be used for back-to-back loans and for expenditure channelled through the MFF programmes.

President Michel has proposed to preserve the balance between loans, guarantees and grants to avoid over-burdening member states with high levels of debt. “This is also key for the future of the Single Market and to prevent more fragmentation and disparities,” he said.

Allocation of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF)

This proposal ensures the money goes to the countries and sectors most affected by the crisis: 70% of the Recovery and Resilience Facility would be committed in 2021 and 2022, according to the Commission’s allocation criteria. 30% would be committed in 2023, taking into account the drop in GDP in 2020 and 2021. The total envelope should be disbursed by 2026.

Governance and conditionality

Based on the proposal, member states will prepare national recovery and resilience plans for 2021-2023 in line with the European Semester, notably country-specific recommendations. The plans will be reviewed in 2022. The assessment of these plans will be approved by the Council by a qualified majority vote on a proposal by the Commission.

Secondly, 30% of funding will target climate-related projects. Expenses under the MFF and Next Generation EU will comply with the EU’s objective of climate neutrality by 2050, the EU’s 2030 climate targets and the Paris Agreement.

The third conditionality proposed by the President is linked to the rule of law and the European values.
“We are taking a key step to anchor the rule of law and values in our European project and this is why I propose a strong link between funding and respect for governance and rule of law,” said President Michel.

Image: Europa building, Brussels, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

EU committed to Western Balkans

Initially foreseen to happen in the capital of Croatia, the EU-Western Balkans Zagreb Summit has taken place on 6 May 2020 via video conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EU is the most important partner of the Western Balkans region and the video conference has underlined the significance of the unique EU-Western Balkans relations. The summit has provided an opportunity to highlight mutual solidarity and cooperation in these time of pandemic crisis. Partners in the region have contributed to help EU member states while the European Union has mobilised over €3.3 billion to help Western Balkans deal with the coronavirus outbreak consequences.

“We, the leaders of the European Union (EU) and its Member States, in consultation with Western Balkans leaders, and in the presence of regional and international stakeholders, today reiterate our strong solidarity with our partners in the context of the coronavirus crisis. In these unprecedented times, we have concluded the following:

“Recalling the 2000 Zagreb, the 2003 Thessaloniki and the 2018 Sofia Summits, the EU once again reaffirms its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans. The Western Balkans partners reiterated their commitment to the European perspective as their firm strategic choice. The credibility of this commitment depends also on clear public communication and the implementation of the necessary reforms”

“Summed up in Zagreb declaration, confirming European perspective for the Western Balkans and solidarity in the face of COVID-19 pandemic. Strong and important signal for the region. The European Commission will deliver robust economic & investment plan” the Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said.

The Renew Europe Group in the European Parliament welcomes the Zagreb declaration agreed today during EU – Western Balkans summit by the heads of state and government from EU Member States and the leaders of the six Western Balkans partners. The summit, which was supposed to be held in Zagreb, took place by video conference shortly after the EU mobilised a financial package of over EUR 3.3 billion for the Western Balkans in order to support the region in tackling COVID-19 and sustain the post-pandemic recovery.

President of the Renew Europe Group, Dacian Cioloş (PLUS, Romania), said:

The long-awaited summit is a clear confirmation that Western Balkan countries belong to the European family and that enlargement continues to be high on European Union’s agenda.

The meeting held today reconfirms the two-way commitment of the enlargement process: on one hand, the EU’s determination to further intensify its engagement at all levels to support the region’s political, economic and social transformation and on the other hand, the pledge of the Western Balkans to uphold European values and principles and to carry out the necessary reforms. The revised accession methodology will facilitate this two-way commitment and ensure concrete benefits faster for citizens of both sides.

The COVID-19 crisis brought to the strong need for solidarity and mutual support inside the European Union and with our neighbours and partners. Since the beginning of the crisis the EU ensured significant support for the Western Balkan countries and will continue to do so, proving to be the most helpful and reliable partner of the region.”

MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk (Movement for Rights and Freedom, Bulgaria), Renew Europe Vice-Coordinator of the Foreign Affairs Committee and EP standing rapporteur on North Macedonia, added:

“I welcome the Western Balkans summit and its conclusions. The decision to provide over €3.3 billion of EU financial support for the Western Balkan countries to fight COVID-19 is crucial and will help the region to overcome the health crisis. Despite the difficult times, Europe has once again shown that it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its Western Balkans partners and reaffirmed its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the region. After the European Council agreed in March to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, we have to continue backing the Western Balkans with the reforms needed on their EU path because their future lies in European Union. Our political, economic and social engagement and the expression of solidarity are a driving force of integration and demonstrate that EU enlargement can be a success story.”

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