Journalists complained of a barrage of press conferences and briefings crowded into a single day last week – incidentally, taking place on the same day they crowd on to the TGV and return to Brussels from the Strasbourg plenary. This was on top of Commission President von der Leyen’s State of the EU address to the European Parliament on the preceding day (15 September), writes Catherine Feoe in EU Reporter.
This week promises to be a more sedate affair with parliamentarians heading off on delegation work, or to their constituencies, and the HRVP, European Commission and Council presidents popping over to New York for the UN General Assembly. The timing comes as “The West” – US, NATO and EU – relations are in a state of disarray.
The precipitous exit from Afghanistan and last week’s decision by Australia to overturn an agreement with France on submarines without notice, in favour of a deal with the US and UK, mean that tensions are running high, with France even taking the extraordinary move of recalling ambassadors from Australia and the US, as well as cancelling a gala to mark the 1781 Battle of the Virginia Capes when the French Navy helped the US deliver a decisive blow to the British Royal Navy. So much for the Macron/Biden bromance at the G7 in Cornwall.
The results of another rigged Russian election will emerge this week, but all eyes will be on next weekend’s German elections (26 September). Angela Merkel will finally be stepping down after 16 years as German Chancellor; some are very critical of her reign, but to most – including a high proportion of the German population – she is a reassuringly solid figure who kept her head when the rest of the world was losing theirs.
The good people of Deutsche Welle kindly laid on interpretation to English for one of the 90 minute debates between the main candidates for Chancellor: Laschet (EPP), Scholz (S&D) and Baerbock (Green). Given the importance of Germany to the rest of the EU, I gave the debate a full 15 minutes before I decided I couldn’t stand it anymore. While Scholz appears to be doing well in the polls, it looks very much like some sort of coalition will be needed, so get out your atlas of the “Flags of the World” and start looking as far afield as Jamaica, Kenya, Senegal – so that you know what everyone is wittering on about.
Valdis Dombrovskis, the executive vice president who covers trade, will announce a new general agreement on preferences to developing countries on Wednesday (22 September).
It is anticipated that Borrell – despite seemingly endless meetings in NYC – will also announce an EU strategic approach to support disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants.
There will be informal councils on energy and transport (21-23 September), on consumer affairs (23 September) and a General Affairs Council on Tuesday (21 September) which will address the draft agenda for the European Council on 21-22 October; the current situation regarding EU COVID-19 co-ordination; EU-UK relations; the draft work programme for 2022; and, the Conference on the Future of Europe.
For the Parliament, a Civil Liberties Committee delegation will travel to Slovakia and Bulgaria to look into developments on media freedom and protection of journalists as well as respect of rule of law. In Bratislava, MEPs are expected to meet with civil society representatives and top government officials. MEPs will also meet the family of murdered journalist Jan Kuciak’s and his partner Martina Kusnirova and a group of journalists. In Sofia, MEPs will meet a group of journalists. Both visits will be wound up by a press conference (Bratislava – 21 September, Sofia – 23 September).
The Foreign Affairs Committee will visit Denmark, Greenland and Iceland to discuss the various aspects of Arctic policy with, among others, ministers and MPs as well as researchers and scientists working on EU-funded projects.
The Committee of Inquiry on the Protection of Animals during Transport (ANIT) will travel to Bulgaria to see first-hand the main difficulties EU countries are facing in enforcing current rules on animal welfare, including on the export of animals to non-EU countries. They will meet the minister of agriculture, some of Bulgaria’s veterinary experts, and visit the Bulgaria-Turkey border.