The Brussels Brief

More harmonised travel rules  

EU Ambassadors signed off this week on a Council Recommendation on harmonised EU travel rules. While, this is purely a recommendation, there is a keen interest from all EU Member States to have harmonised rules in a bid to save summer and the tourism industries across the bloc. The new rules allow for an emergency break in case the epidemiological situation deteriorates, thereby allowing Member States to introduce ad-hoc restrictions should the need, (hopefully not, fingers crossed) arise. In a nutshell, vaccinated individuals can travel freely as can those who have immunity following a COVID-19 infection during the last 180 days. Additionally, travel can resume from all coloured zones subject to a PCR test obtained in the last 72 hours prior to arriving in the destination. The Council recommendation will be formally approved tomorrow.

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Parliament returns to Strasbourg but can French become the EU’s lingua franca

In another sign of returning to normality, MEPs travelled to Strasbourg for the European Parliament plenary. Amongst all the happy faces, France was by far the happiest as it breathed a sigh of relief as fresh calls to scrap the Strasbourg seat will not likely subside.

And speaking of France, the French Government will be working on replacing the English language as the EU’s lingua franca during its Presidency of the Council next year, by providing free French courses. In diplomatic circles one can notice frustration as the French do not seem to have learnt any lessons at all and are imposing something on other Member States without even leveraging their willingness. They might be discounting the difficulty they might have in steering forward EU files, ouch!

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Migration: a ray of hope?

This week Interior Ministers met in Luxembourg and amongst the items on the agenda was a report on the status of the migration issue in the EU. In a sign of compromise the Med5 countries, including Malta co-signed a letter stating their willingness to compromise on the de-coupling of migration files, particularly the establishment of EASO as a fully-fledged agency subject to some conditions, mainly to exclude those articles that are still being negotiated in other files, i.e. solidarity.

Interested more on migration? We promise to publish a thorough analysis on the topic soon.

EU-US summit – Talking China

US President Joe Biden is expected in Brussels over Monday and Tuesday to attend a NATO summit and an EU-US summit with EU officials. On the table we can expect the EU to extend its hands of friendship following the tumultuous relationship with the Trump Administration. China is expected to be high on the agenda, both on COVID-19 and on trade, according to Reuters. Talks are also expected to focus on trade tariffs which were imposed by Trump and the EU. Bottom line is that the US is seeking to enrol the EU as its ally on China, aimed at controlling its expansion across the globe. The EU and the US are expected to announce a technological partnership with the creation of a Trade and Technology Council.

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