quarta-feira, 14 de dezembro de 2016
5 things to watch at the EU summit
5 things to watch at the EU summit
The last European Council of 2016 will be a one-day affair, with plenty of talking points.
By JACOPO BARIGAZZI 12/15/16, 5:36 AM CET
The more problems pile up for the European Union — migration crisis, economic troubles, the rise of Euroskeptic parties — the shorter the regular meetings of EU leaders become.
And so it is when leaders meet for their summit Thursday and President of the European Council Donald Tusk will have to deliver on his promise to free prime ministers after only a one-day session.
But one senior EU official described the summit as “a minefield” where “many things could still go wrong,” despite extensive preparation.
One of the most interesting things to watch will not be on the agenda but rather on the sidelines. Some diplomats expect leaders to start discussing the EU institutional framework in the wake of European Parliament President Martin Schulz’s decision to leave his position and in sight of the expiration of Tusk’s mandate in spring.
Here are five other things to watch for:
There are new sanctions against the Syrian regime on the table. The draft of the final statement, the Council conclusions, states clearly: “Those responsible for breaches of international law, some of which may amount to war crimes, must be held accountable. The EU is considering all available options.”
As long as the statement refers only to sanctions against the Syrian regime, everybody is on board. Should the U.K. or other countries try to push for new sanctions against Russia, it is likely to end in failure as it did at the October summit, when Italy’s then-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi managed to block new sanctions.
Since Russia was debated then, no big discussions are expected this time around. Instead, the rollover of economic sanctions against Moscow, introduced in connection with the conflict in Ukraine, will likely be smooth.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte put forward a legally binding text Sunday intended to ensure an association agreement with Ukraine will not create a defense guarantee or become a step toward membership of the bloc for the country.
Rutte, who lost an April referendum on ratification of the trade and security deal with Ukraine, has warned that if he doesn’t get such assurances at the summit, his country “will not ratify the association agreement.”
Diplomats say it’s almost done but wording that explicitly rules out any future Ukraine accession could see countries such as Poland reject it. The Council conclusions say that “completing the ratification process [of the deal with Ukraine] remains a crucial EU objective.”
A failure to ratify the agreement would be a huge defeat for the EU and Ukraine and a significant victory for Russia.
The EU27 leaders will issue a statement basically designed to tell the Brits: We are ready for our impending separation; please speed up divorce proceedings.
Finding an agreement on asylum reform at this stage of the game is going to be hard, if not impossible. Slovakia, which holds the rotating presidency, put forward its own proposal last month on “effective solidarity” which is basically a list of financial and logistic alternatives for countries that don’t want to take in refugees.
The Mediterranean countries — Italy, Greece and Malta — don’t like it because they are afraid they will be left with all the arrivals. Hungary doesn’t like it because the country wants all migrants’ cases to be processed outside the EU in identification centers in North Africa. The Germans are mediating but the road to a deal is long.
For the French, this will be the most important item on the agenda. Leaders are expected to bless further integration of EU defense, more military research and the creation of a real European defense market. “Only a few years ago, this would have been unthinkable,” said a senior official. “It’s a process that has got a strong push after Brexit,” led by France, Germany and Italy.
Leaders are also expected to endorse a two-speed Europe, allowing some countries to start without waiting for the consensus of the others.
Against such integration are the U.K., the Baltic countries and Poland. They fear anything that sounds like a duplication of NATO.
After the end of the meeting of the 28, there will be a dinner for 27. At the end of the dinner, the 27 leaders will issue a statement basically designed to tell the Brits: We are ready for our impending separation; please speed up divorce proceedings.
The statement will spell out that the first steps after notification will be the adoption, by a leaders’ summit, of guidelines that will define the framework for negotiations, said a diplomat. It does not explicitly say that there’ll be an extraordinary summit. Everything depends on the date of the notification. The guidelines can be adopted at the March summit if London makes the notification early enough.
The statement will also spell out the dynamic among the key EU institutions included in the decision-making process and will mention the involvement of Coreper, the regular meetings of EU ambassadors. The goal? To strike the right balance between the Commission and the member countries, and between efficiency and inclusiveness, explained the senior diplomat.