Council of the EU and European Parliament
European Neighborhood Policy: Final wrap up
The Trilogues on the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) have ended today. It was a long process of negotiations, but finally the EU Council and European Parliament were able to reach a consensus on how the future of this policy will look like. Besides the usual power questions, a new approach, which is supposed to bring the policy closer to citizen, was adopted. This includes the re-launch of a website which offers detailed information on the nature and progress of the projects.
The Parliament voted with 16 in favour, 6 (mostly from S&D) against and a total of 2 MEP from the ENF abstaining. In the Council countries representing a total of 97% of the population voted in favour.
Throughout the entire session, both sides managed to maintain a united front, and internal divisions were kept to a minimum. Maybe this was due to the time pressure, but the entire Union could benefit if the Council managed to keep this front up in future trade negotiations with third countries! Here are the main take-aways from the discussion:
Monitoring and reporting:There was some discussion on whether annual monitoring would be sufficient or if bi-annual check-ups would be a more accurate form of control. Ultimately the parties settled on a bi-annual cycle, conducted by the Commission.
A social and environmentally friendly approach:As mentioned above, the Council proposed the amendment of introducing an informative website, which was later successfully adopted; which brings the policy closer to ordinary citizens. Moreover, the Green party of the parliament was able to include sections on the environment, which essentially mean that sustainable methods shall be applied in the neighborhood and beyond. Maybe more importantly, the legislation specifies that all actions “shall be guided by the principle of leaving no one behind” and a special focus is set on strengthening and supporting minorities and discriminated groups. Lastly, an extension of Erasmus+ in the Western Balkans was decided upon.
EU Playbook III
Wiebke Stimming reporting as POLITICO
Yesterday the first Trilogues took place between the European Parliament and the EU Council on the future of the European Neighbourhood. It was a classic showdown of the power struggle between the European Parliament and the Council, but besides inter-institutional tensions, some agreements were reached. The biggest one being the Budget, which was probably the most difficult aspect that had to be agreed upon. Finally, it was decided to increase the budget to roughly 86 million. The new framework for the ENP is designed to run for one multi-annual financial framework cycle, so 7 years. That would make ??? to spend on a multitude of projects in the direct European Neighbourhood but also in the regions of America’s and the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific. The main focus of the projects will be Human Rights, Democracy and Civil Society Organisations.
For today, another Trilogue is scheduled and not only will the Council and Parliament have to agree on the rest of the provisions on the ENP, as well as the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance.
The EU Playbook II:
Wiebke Stimming for POLITICO
A European Army for the Neighbourhood?As the two legislators of the EU are struggling to build a consensus on the future of the European Neighbourhood Policy, the Council of the European Union began discussing military options and support for this Policy Area. The future of the Policy remains unclear, since the limitations and competences of the Union on the aspect of security were a little unclear. One particular point of controversy which was raised were weapon exports of some Member States to crisis regions. But more on that below.
Human rights, but at what price?The budget for the European Neighborhood Policy has been discussed yesterday at the Council as well as the European Parliament. Nevertheless, only the former was able to reach a compromise in the form of cutting the budget from 10% to 8%. It still remains unclear which position the European Parliament will defend, let alone whether the Parliament is willing to agree to such a budget cut.
What to do with Turkey:while the European Parliament is strongly in favor of excluding Turkey from the IPA, there is some disagreement in the Council. Some ministers fear negative consequences for the migrant deal the EU has with Turkey. The current deal allows for refugees to be returned to Turkey, thereby effectively limiting the inflow of refugees into the EU. The green fraction pushed for Turkey to be excluded due to its missing respect for human rights, as well as their democracy crisis. Many Ministers fear such an exclusion could endanger the refugee deal which could in turn bring about another big wave of refugee influx into the Union. However, the Council has not yet adopted a clear stance on this issue and postponed discussions for tomorrow. It will be very interesting to see whether both the EP and Council will be able to reach an agreement on this issue.
ALDE and Greens form an alliance on the European Neighborhood Policy
On this week’s agenda of the European Parliament is the issue of the future of the European Neighbourhood Policy. MEPs discuss matters such as the budget or how to deal with the Balkans. Parties are likely to clash on increasing the budget for human rights, as proposed by the Greens. Another key concern has been raised by the right-wing ENF as one MEP questioned the Union’s ability to reconciliate and stabilize the Balkans, especially given the problems between Kosovo and Serbia or internal situation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“We have to think big” Ophelia Wach from the Greens exclaimed on the topic of the future shape and size of the Policy. Generally, the Greens have seen strong support by the ALDE group in favour of increasing the budget of the European Neighbourhood Policy in order to strengthen human rights in the member states to the Neighbourhood policy. The more conservative groups of the parliament questioned where the additional funds for the Neighborhood Policy were supposed to come from. The possible solution was raised by Mats-Ole Maretzke of the ALDE group in the form of prioritising the Balkans by decreasing the budget spent on the Americas and Caribbean’s, as this region is “not that important to us right now”. This is likely to cause serious criticism of NGO’s and activists in the region.
A Member of the European Parliament of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) went so far as to claim: “We are more for Human Rights than any other Party in the European Parliament” after having voted down a motion to discuss human rights in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The right-wing ECR party quickly criticized the EPP for pushing the issue of human rights to the side-lines. This is good news given that some national parties of the EPP group is facing serious criticism regarding the lack of respect for human rights in their countries where they are the/ one of the governing parties. Bulgaria and Romania in particular were recently called the ‘worst offenders’ when it comes to human rights protection.
Wiebke Stimming reporting for POLITICO
Council meeting about to turn violent
There was a clash between the Ministers on the budgetary issue for the European Neighborhood Policy. This policy would include opening a special pantry for the neighbors of the European Union (EU), to have a variety of ingredients available in case a neighbor spontaneously decides to make a cake but unfortunately does not have all the needed ingredients at home. “We deeply believe many of our problems would be resolved if we had better neighborly relations. This is vital for the entire Union and frankly we do not understand why some delegations refuse to cooperate. If no compromise can be reached soon, we will have to consider other, more convincing measures. And yes that includes military actions!” said one diplomat in favor of expanding the Neighborhood Policy. According to a study published last year, everyday a neighboring country is missing one key edible and human rights activists have been very active lobbying to end this mismatched reality.
Wiebke Stimming for The Onion
THE EU PLAYBOOK I
Full House Plenary session: Yesterday afternoon the European Parliament and Council of the EU for the first time held a plenary session together, and it was a full house. What did they discuss? More on that below.
Good Friday Morning, today the Council and EP will meet to discuss important policy business. As this hits your inboxes, the delegates and MEPs are arriving at the conference rooms. Interestingly, multiple delegates and MEPs were spotted last night at the ‘Complex’ which is located close to the iconic St. Servatius bridge, right next to the Maas river. Let’s see whether their vibrant social life will have any impact on their negotiation today.
Russian election rigging or an internal mishap? Some of the MEPs of various political groups rather spontaneously left their political groups to join the conservative EPP fraction. The EP presidency played it off as a “procedural mistake”. Apparently, during the registration process the results of the last elections were not taken into account. A pretty substantial mishap for the only EU institution which is directly electable. And that even without any Russian interference. Let’s just hope something like this does not occur during the next elections in May!
Schengen vs. the Neighborhood: Before holding separate meetings, both the European Parliament and the Councel voted on which policy to discuss. They were able to choose between reforming Schengen and the future of the European Neighborhood. The vast majority of MEPs and delegates chose the Neighborhood Policy over Schengen. Seems like the migration crisis has worn out everybody and made Schengen a taboo word.
EU: only Brexit? One diplomat who does not have a European background admitted “I don’t know anything about the EU apart from Brexit”. Maybe it should be a little worrying that the main news item from European Politics which has spread to the rest of the world is Brexit. It appears that the US has Trump, and the EU has Brexit to keep everybody busy.
Wiebke Stimming reporting as POLITICO