MEPs urged member states to start EU accession negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia before July in a resolution on the country's 2012 progress report on Thursday 23 May. However, in another resolution they expressed regret that Bosnia and Herzegovina was still far from meeting the necessary conditions for a prospective membership and that it was falling behind other countries in the region.
The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate and the violence threatens to spread to neighbouring countries. MEPs will debate what can be done for the millions of refugees during next week's plenary session on 22 May. We spoke to Elmar Brok, a German member of the EPP group who is the chair of the foreign affairs committee, about the risks facing the region.
Mali's acting president Dioncounda Traoré will visit the EP on 16 May to discuss the military situation in his country and the elections scheduled for July 2013. The meeting is organised by Parliament's foreign affairs and development committees and the security and defence subcommittee and can be followed live on our website.
From maintaining the peace in Afghanistan and Kosovo to countering pirates off the Somali coast, NATO and the EU regularly work closely together. This cooperation is set to become even more intense. NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen visited EP on 6 May to discuss the future of European defence with the foreign affairs committee and security and defence subcommittee. We took the opportunity to ask him about what is next for the partnership between the two organisations.
The international trade committee will vote this Thursday on the EP's position on the EU-US free trade agreement, which will be followed by a press conference. The resolution also highlights the advantages and disadvantages a possible deal would have for people and companies in the EU. Vital Moreira, a Portuguese member of the S&D group who wrote the draft resolution, will explain Parliament's position during the press conference. Follow the vote and the press conference live on our website.
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius discussed the situation in Syria and the Sahel with members of the EP's foreign affairs committee in Strasbourg on 18 April. We met him after the debate to ask him what the EU should do to help in these conflict areas.
The EU is set to welcome Croatia as its newest member on 1 July, 40 years after the UK, Ireland and Denmark joined in the first-ever enlargement. This week MEPs will debate and vote not only on Croatia's last-ever monitoring report, but also on progress reports for Turkey, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo, which could be next in line to join the EU. Find out more in our multimedia infographic about 40 years of EU enlargement.
Croatia, set to become the EU's 28th member state, will hold its first elections for the European Parliament on Sunday 14 April. The country with a population of 4.3 million people will elect 12 new MEPs who will take their seats after the formal accession on 1July. EP president Martin Schulz urged Croats to vote: " Parliament carries a lot of responsibility for the European Union and its member states. On election day, go to the ballot box and choose the best."
Strengthening democracy, the role of parliaments and civil society as well as empowering women were the main issues discussed at the Union for the Mediterranean's parliamentarian assembly hosted by the EP on 11 and 12 April. The debate focused on the way forward in the wake of the Arab Spring. Security, environment and boosting cooperation between both shores of the Mediterranean were also on the agenda.
Military action in Mali was necessary according to Romano Prodi. "I always looked towards peace, but the French intervention has proved to be absolutely crucial since [Mali] was on the verge of collapse," the UN special envoy for the Sahel told the EP's foreign affairs and development committees and security and defence sub-committee on Monday 8 April. Mr Prodi was at the Parliament to discuss the situation in the Sahel, an African region blighted by poverty, food scarcity and terrorism.