The Brussels Brief

Crunch time for Iran’s negotiations in Vienna

After a hiatus of several months, negotiations resumed today in Vienna on the resumption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), after the US had imploded it in 2018. Former President Trump deemed the JCPoA ineffective back then and unilaterally withdrew from the agreement signed by his predecessors and imposed a raft of sanctions on Iran instead. However, this case is a classic example of ‘biting your nose to spite your face’ as following the US withdrawal, in the absence of any form a framework, Iran worked even harder on its uranium enrichment programme. The EU’s HRVP Josep Borrell, who is coordinating the efforts, has engaged with all sides to resume these negotiations. Yet, many analysts fear that should all efforts fail, then it would be too late to contain the ‘Iranian’ threat. Such a scenario would trigger an arms race in the Middle East, an already volatile region. Countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE are looking at any hints of developments rather closely. But Iran has already made it clear that it wants the West to lift sanctions before any agreement is reached. On the other hand, Israel is quite pessimistic about these negotiations and it believes that Iran will drag its feet to a point of no return. What will the consequences be of such a scenario?

Read more here.

Another warning to Poland & Hungary!

Last week the European Commission warned Poland and Hungary on corruption and the judiciary. The letters stated that the lack of prosecution of corruption cases, the lack of independence of the judiciary and public procurement pose risks to the EU’s financial interests. The EU now has a mechanism by which such cases are dealt with. This year, the ‘rule of law’ mechanism came into force, and effectively the EU can cut funds to Member States should rule of law principles are not adhered to.

Read more on this here.

COVID19 – Back to square one?

The emergence of the new COVID19 variant – Omicron threatens to reverse all the achievements we have secured so far through the vaccinations. In the next two weeks, Pfizer is expected to publish results on the new variant, mainly whether it can escape vaccination immunity. Should that be the case, then new measures across the EU might have to be introduced to curb the virus once again, as hospitalisations in Europe are increasing dramatically. Meanwhile, the EU has triggered the’ emergency brake’ and banned travel into the bloc from South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, among others, where the virus seems to have originated from. 

More information here.

New COVID19 rules

In efforts to contain the haphazard implementation of COVID19 rules, the European Commission issued new travel rules last week. The rules move away from the rules imposed based on the country of origin but are more personalised depending on the level of vaccination. The validity of the COVID19 vaccination certificate has also been extended to nine months. Additionally, the new traffic light system will also be adapted to include vaccine uptake.

More about the rule here.

White smoke announced in Berlin

Last week Berlin announced the formation of a new coalition government led by the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz. This new development is expected to shift political dynamics in Brussels, particularly in the European Parliament. While the EPP is preparing to take over the Presidency of the European Parliament, based on a rotation agreement with the Socialists, the President of the European Parliament was reported to have said to his Socialist counterparts that he does not intend to cede the presidency to the EPP.

Read our story on the EPP candidature for the post here

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