Week ahead: Versailles
Last week’s events were truly remarkable, the EU has set the toughest sanctions it has ever set, businesses, sporting and cultural organisations across the world have condemned the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine in the strongest possible terms. On Wednesday (2 March) the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour for a resolution demanding that Russia immediately ceases use of force against Ukraine and withdraws its military forces. Only four countries voted with Russia: Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea and Syria.
Today (7 March) the International Court of Justice will hold public hearings on allegations of genocide by Ukraine against Russia in the Hague.
At a meeting of allies that took place at the European Council on Friday. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said: “What the European Union has done over the space of a couple of weeks is quite simply remarkable. The speed with which it acted, the actions that it took, both with regard to sanctions and also support for Ukraine are, I think it’s not an exaggeration to say, historic.”
With the most draconian sanctions the EU has ever agreed to, both the EU and US will also consider a ban on the import of oil and gas. This will be a further challenge to the economies of both, but without the ability to land forces or implement a no-fly zone against what remains a nuclear power, it may be the best alternative.
Voices in favour of Ukraine accesssion the EU, in the Parliament and elsewhere became louder. Following an informal meeting of Europe ministers in Arles Slovak Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič said: “It’s time for signalling that Ukrainian people are a European people and we want them in as soon as possible.”
Russia continues its attacks and many cities in Ukraine are under siege with limited if any access to electricity, food and water. Humanitarian corridors that were negotiated between both parties have collapsed in chaos. And yet, Ukraine has withstood this invasion with remarkable bravery and some signs of success.
EU heads of government will meet informally in Versaille at the end of this week, a location now infamous for the punishing terms meted out by the victors in World War One to the German aggressor. EU countries will have to brace themselves for the economic strain that the invasion will impose, continued solidarity for refugees and the need to provide Ukraine with military and humanitarian assistance. It is already recognised that the EU member states, which have dragged their feet in the field of defence co-operation have been caught unprepared – there is a new drive to ensure that this must never happen again.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has announced (6 March) that Denmark will hold a referendum on whether the country’s opt-out from the European Union’s common defence policy should be abolished. The referendum will be held on 1 June 2022. The decision follows hot on the heels of Germany’s decision to up its defence spending by €100 billion in 2022 and more than 2% of GDP in coming years.
Polling suggest that there is overwhelming public support for cancelling the opt out.
The Commission will present two proposals next week: European Green Deal Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans is tabled to present a “Joint European Action for more affordable, secure and sustainable energy.” Never was a proposal more timely…
Věra Jourová will present a proposal to prevent and combat specific forms of gender-based violence. The proposal should be proposed on 8 March which falls – probably by design – on International Women’s Day.
European Parliament – Plenary session, Strasbourg
Banning ‘Golden passports’: MEPs are set to call for a ban on ‘citizenship by investment’ and EU-wide rules for ‘residence by investment’ schemes, which would strictly limit the role of intermediaries. (debate Monday, vote results Wednesday).
Fighting off foreign interference and disinformation: MEPs will vote on the final report by the Special Committee on Foreign Interference and Disinformation. They are set to say that a lack of EU measures and awareness allow malign foreign actors to interfere in EU democracy, and propose countermeasures such as sanctions or revoking the licenses of organisations that distribute foreign state propaganda. A press conference is scheduled for 14:30 on Tuesday. (debate Tuesday, vote Wednesday)
Russian invasion of Ukraine: In two debates, MEPs will discuss how to handle the increasing number of refugees fleeing from the war in Ukraine and look into the EU’s role in a changing world as well as Europe’s security situation in the wake of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. (Tuesday, Wednesday)
International Women’s Day: To mark International Women’s Day, Ukrainian writer Oksana Zaboujko will address MEPs during a solemn sitting, followed by debates on the EU’s Gender Action Plan and gender mainstreaming (Tuesday).
Rule of law: Following last session’s debate, MEPs will vote on a resolution assessing the implications of the recent decision by the European Court of Justice to uphold the Rule of Law conditionality regulation and dismiss the appeals brought by Hungary and Poland. (vote Wednesday, results Thursday)
New EU rules for batteries: Parliament will debate and vote on new EU measures on the design, production and disposal of batteries, ahead of negotiations with EU governments. (debate Wednesday, vote Thursday)
Special Committees and committee of inquiry: Parliament will vote on a second mandate of the Special Committee on Foreign Interference and Disinformation and decide whether to set up a special committee looking into the COVID-19 pandemic and a committee of inquiry on the Pegasus spyware affair. (Wednesday)
Informal Development Ministers (Foreign Affairs Council), will meet in Montpelier (6-7 March), the ministers and ministers of state for development of the 27 Member States are tabled to discuss the challenges of co-operation in the field of development in a context of heightened competition in the priority regions of the EU and post-COVID-19 recovery.
This informal meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in its development format will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
An informal meeting of ministers of culture will take place in Angers (7-8 March). Ministers will discuss linguistic diversity, measures to strengthen European cultural sovereignty in the digital age and how to develop a shared European cultural space bolstered by a heritage policy developed at European level and by the construction of a European citizenship based on the shared awareness of a common heritage.
On 8-9 March the French Presidency will also hold an informal meeting of the 27 telecommunications ministers in Nevers, to discuss the outlook for digital policy in Europe.