This December is a hot month for the European agenda. We will have several fronts and many moments of action, with a European Council on December 10 and 11 and a plenary session of the European Parliament that will begin on 14. What are the fronts?
Hungary and Poland decided last week to cast their veto on the budget package, which includes the € 750 billion Recovery Fund from which Spain could get up to 140 billion. It is in retaliation for the agreement on a rule of law mechanism that could cut off their access to European funds for their attack on judicial independence.
The safest thing is that this matter is pending until the summit of December 10 and 11. Charles Michel, President of the European Council, intends to hold this meeting in person in Brussels, because the videoconference format has proven to be of little use in solving serious problems.
When Hungary and Poland formalized their veto two weeks ago, it was thought that a change in the wording could be enough, but Budapest and Warsaw are directly opposed, and the rest of the Member States and the European Parliament do not feel like making concessions. That is why many voices in Brussels believe that it is only a matter of waiting for them to continue seeing each other alone and without the possibility of obtaining concessions so that they end up withdrawing their bluff in exchange for some minimum transfer.
The agony of Brexit
After Michel Barnier, chief negotiator of the European Commission, traveled to London on Friday after a difficult week, this past weekend has been one of intense negotiations. Many assume that the Frenchman’s trip is due to a good signal from the British side.
The three pending issues are those already known to all: governance of the agreement, fishing and ‘level-playing field’ or equal conditions. With 95% of the agreement completed in its technical aspects, as they have assured from the European Commission, these three issues are linked to an ideological element. That is precisely what is making them especially difficult to negotiate.
Once an agreement is reached, if at all, the job is not done. The ratification process will not be straightforward either, and Brexit will surely have to continue to be paid attention to well into December. The European Parliament has been willing to ratify the agreement as late as is December the 28th.
If it is not possible to close a deal, it goes without saying that the matter will gain importance as Member States have to prepare for an unknown scenario in their trade with the United Kingdom. as of January 1, 2021. Again, deal or no deal, Brexit will be one of the main issues at this month’s summit and will keep diplomats busy for weeks to come.
Turkey continues to give problems
European leaders promised Cyprus, which was calling for sanctions against Turkey for its oil and gas exploration in Cypriot and Greek waters, that they would take up the issue in December. In the meantime, Ankara would be offered the possibility of building a “positive agenda”. Despite strong friction between Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and French President Emmanuel Macron, the dialogue between Berlin, Brussels and Ankara has not ceased.
But the tensions between the Hellenic, Cypriot and Turkish governments have not abated either. “Europe cannot pretend that Turkey is acting as an acceptable player in the regionNikolaos Dendias, the Greek foreign minister, complained last week, calling Ankara’s behavior “delinquent and provocative.” Last week, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy, the Spanish Josep Borrell, explained to the European Parliament that the EU bloc is at a “critical moment” in its relationship with Turkey.
The European Parliament called in a non-binding resolution addressed to the meeting of leaders on December 10 and 11, that the European Union “act and impose harsh sanctions in response to the illegal actions of Turkey.” The atmosphere will heat up in the coming days, especially if there is any kind of tension in the Aegean Sea.
This coming week, the one prior to the key dates of December, it will also come loaded, with meeting of finance ministers of the Eurozone and the European Union this Monday and Tuesday, with a review of the national budget plans, including the Spanish one, which have received the general approval of the European Commission.
Also on Monday there will be a videoconference of ministers of Education and also of Youth. It will be the turn of those of Culture and Sports on Tuesday, and on Wednesday that of the Ministers of Justice, who will discuss the launch of the European prosecutor’s office, and also of those of Health, who in an informal meeting will address the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in the European Union. Also on Thursday Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, will have a meeting with Ken Hu, CEO of Huawei, and also with Abraham Liu, CEO of Huawei in Europe.