The Brussels Brief

Rocky start to the new Presidency of the Council

On Thursday, Slovenia took over the helm of the Council of the EU for the next six months. Holding the Presidency is quite a great responsibility, as you are in charge of steering forward the EU agenda. Slovenia’s Presidency focus will be mainly on the Western Balkans as these countries aspire to become full EU members. Negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia are deadlocked as Bulgaria wants to resolve a cultural issue over North Macedonia’s name, prior to initiate negotiations, i.e. holding the negotiations hostage. Member States on the other hand are refusing to de-package the negotiations with both countries. Other countries in the region, Serbia and Montenegro are moving forward in the negotiations process.

Slovenia’s Presidency will not lack any controversies due to its firebrand Prime Minster Janez Janša, who is a Trump supporter, an Orbán ally and a Twitter aficionado. Slovenia was already in the spotlight due to its handling of the media and some aspects of the rule of law. In his inaugural speech of the Presidency, Prime Minister Janša complained about what he termed as the European Commission’s double standards.

The EPPO Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruța Kövesi declared that Slovenia poses a risk to proper financial management of EU funds as it has not yet joined EPPO. This hampers its investigative processes as it would not be able to investigate properly any funds mismanagement in the country.

In his farewell letter, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said, “I take this opportunity to give Janez Janša this compass, so that he will never lose the north at the helm of our community of values ​​and shared prosperity”.

Expect more on this.

Is the EU’s future in jeopardy?

Sixteen far-right parties have joined forces to oppose any further EU integration, or to reverse its course as they say the EU has become a “tool for radical forces”. Matteo Salvini, Poland’s governing party Law and Justice Party, Hungary’s Orbán and France’s Le Pen are all signatories to this ‘alliance’. The declaration states that Europe is aiming to become a superstrate, thereby ignoring individual cultural and historical characteristics of its Member States. While, the EU is not in immediate danger of being thrown away into the dustbin of history, this far-right fervour, if not tackled wisely, could spell trouble for the EU as we know it.

More here.

Donald Tusk returns

Former Council President and Poland’s former Prime Minister, Donald Tusk made a return to Polish politics, by taking the leadership of the Civic Platform, (which he used to lead) aiming at dethroning the governing Law and Justice Party. If Tusk succeeds, then Hungary’s Orbán could lose an important ally, on whom he is relying in the Article 7 proceedings in the Council of the EU.

EU law supremacy threatened

Upon acceding to the EU, countries sign on to accept the European Union Courts of Justice supremacy over EU law. While for several years, this concept was taken for granted, or a given, it is no longer the case. The EU launched legal proceedings against Germany over its constitutional court ruling on the European Central Bank bond-buying. Another challenge is expected from Warsaw, where the Polish Constitutional Court is expected to give a ruling over whether some elements in the EU treaties are compatible with the Polish Constitution.

In an interview with the Financial Times, European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders stated that “When we have a problem in one Member State, the risk is a spillover effect, that you will have in all the Member States, or in some member states, a tendency to challenge the primacy of EU law and the exclusive competence of the Court of Justice”.

More here.

EASO becomes EUAA

The Malta-based EASO, European Asylum Support Office, is becoming a fully-fledged agency, the European Union Asylum Agency EUAA following an agreement between Member States to de-package this agreement from the rest of the Migration package proposals. This agreement is not conducive to an agreement on the other remaining issues, while the EUAA would not be able to exercise some of its powers until other elements contained in the other proposals are agreed.

More here

Is Hungary on the path to losing EU money?

That’s what the German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has floated this week over Hungary’s LGBTIQ law. While, Seehofer used to defend Orban when the former was Bavaria’s State Minister, he has distanced himself from Orbán following a string of disputes with the EU over the past years.

More here.

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