The Brussels Brief

Energy crisis looming  

As winter approaches, Europe is bracing itself for energy price hikes. This is a result of a sharp rise in economic activity as the global economy picks up following the COVID19 slowdown, and Russia’s decision to decrease gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine, effectively reducing Europe’s gas reserves. The Emissions Trading System, an EU system of payments based on the polluter pays principle is also affecting energy prices. Spain, Portugal, UK, and France are already scrambling to identify ways how to protect the most vulnerable. The EU Commission is feeling the pressure from Member States and both Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni and Frans Timmermans warned Member States not to rush into short-term decisions which might affect the EU climate objectives.

Meanwhile, analysts are warning that the EU and UK have been left at Russia’s mercy as Europe is over dependent on Russia for its gas imports.

More on this here.

Do you remember the term Polexit?

Back in July we wrote about the possibility of a Polish exit from the EU. Back then, the possibility was still remote, but now the Poles seem to have taken it too far. Its Constitutional Tribunal has declared that some parts of the Treaties of the Union are not compatible with EU, thereby rejecting the notion of EU law primacy, to which all Member States sign upon before acceding to the EU. Will this be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?

Well, not yet, but the Poles must brace themselves for some tough repercussions. While, Hungary’s Orban has already come to Poland’s rescue, in Brussels there is already talk of some measures to punish Poland if it opts to ignore EU Court rulings. At stake are the billion of Euros Poland is set to receive from the Next Generation EU Funds, the Recovery and Resilience Funds. These national plans are approved by Member States, and Poland’s has not been tabled for approval as yet.

Read more here.

Kurz out!

Austrian right-wing Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has resigned yesterday evening after investigators closed-in on allegations of bribery and corruption which also include his inner circle. It is being alleged that Kurz and his inner circle were involved in a drive to embezzle public funds to corrupt media figures and pollsters in return for positive coverage. Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has been designated Chancellor. Kurz is also being accused of perjury in a testimony he has given to Parliament.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

CDU/CSU Chancellor contender Armin Laschet seems to have signalled his departure as party leader, by calling a party conference in the coming weeks over ‘personnel questions’ which would effectively terminate his leadership of the party, and his chances of becoming a Chancellor. While Laschet declared his party’s openness to form a governing coalition, Socialist election winner Olaf Scholz, the FPD and the Greens started official talks to form a coalition agreement. More developments are expected in the coming days.

More here.

Slovenia Summit – Western Balkan countries left out in the cold, again!

This week, Slovenia hosted the Western Balkans Summit in which the EU reaffirmed its commitment to the region. Albania and the Republic of North Macedonia were however, left out in the cold as to when they might start their accession negotiations. Negotiations with these two countries are being held up by Bulgaria over the Macedonian language and over other historical issues. The problem for Albania is that talks with both countries were packaged together, meaning that both countries will start their negotiations together. This was done to overcome some resistance, mostly by France who was reluctant to accept the accession of Albania into the EU fold. But now it is Albania that is being held up by Bulgaria’s intransigence. And ironically this is being done after Macedonia, as it was known previously had to change its name into the Republic of North Macedonia to appease the Greeks!  

Further reading here.

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