Sunday, 25 Feb 2018 - 10 of Adar, 5778

European Parliament’s first session of 2018: results of December’s EU summit, Bulgaria presidency program

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STRASBOURG—The results of December’s European Summit will be debated Tuesday in Strasbourg’s plenary session of the European Parliament with EU Council President Donald Tusk and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker .

During the summit, EU leaders agreed that “sufficient progress” has been made in the Brexit negotiations to move on to phase two, which includes talks on the future relations between the EU and the United Kingdom.

They also welcomed the launch of permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) to enhance defence cooperation and debated social issues, migration and eurozone reform.

Opening the first European Parliament session of 2018, its president, Antonio Tajani, expressed concern over repeated human rights violations in Turkey which target not only the political opposition, but also representatives of civil society, including journalists and academics.

Having mentioned several of those currently being persecuted, he affirmed that the European Parliament will continue to support them in their struggle for freedom and justice.

After an over half century accession bid, Turkey and the European Union are moving into a new period of relations where tighter cooperation in specific areas will be prioritised over Ankara’s drive for full membership, according to analysts.

Ties between Turkey and the EU reached a low point in 2017 following the failed coup in Turkey with the membership process grinding to a halt.

But Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan  begun 2018 in a different spirit, bounding off in the first week of January on a visit to Paris.

Meanwhile, EU leaders have urged a new spirit of realism, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying during Erdogan’s January 5 trip it was time to end the “hypocrisy” that progress could be made on Turkish membership.

“There is an understanding on both sides that the accession process is dead and won’t go anywhere soon,” said Asli Aydintasbas, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

On Wednesday, after the presentation of the Bulgarian six-month presidency of the Council of the EU, the first in a series of debates on the future of Europe will take place in the EU parliament, kicking off with Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar.

A new format will allow for a more interactive debate, putting the Parliament at the heart of the discussion on the future of the EU. President Tajani confirmed that he will try to be as balanced as possible during the debate, to reflect the diversity of the House.

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