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Outcome of the Zagreb EU-Western Balkans video-summit of 6 May 2020

11-05-2020

The EU-Western Balkans Summit, which normally would have been held in Zagreb, took place by video-conference on Wednesday 6 May 2020. The focus was on a joint response to the crisis and on the common commitment to support the political, economic and social transformation of the region. The EU and Western Balkan leaders adopted the Zagreb Declaration, confirming the region’s ‘European perspective’, albeit without mentioning enlargement as a process.

The EU-Western Balkans Summit, which normally would have been held in Zagreb, took place by video-conference on Wednesday 6 May 2020. The focus was on a joint response to the crisis and on the common commitment to support the political, economic and social transformation of the region. The EU and Western Balkan leaders adopted the Zagreb Declaration, confirming the region’s ‘European perspective’, albeit without mentioning enlargement as a process.

Western Balkans on the European Council agenda: Overview of discussions since the Lisbon Treaty

02-04-2020

The European Council to endorse the 24 March 2020 Council political agreement on the opening of negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.

The European Council to endorse the 24 March 2020 Council political agreement on the opening of negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.

Outcome of European Council video-conference of 26 March 2020

30-03-2020

On 26 March, EU Heads of State or Government continued their joint coordination efforts to address the COVID-19 outbreak and held a six hour long video conference on this subject, but failed to agree on the adequate financing instruments to help countries in fiscal difficulty due to the crisis, The President of the European Parliament President, David Sassoli, strongly criticised the results of the European Council and ‘the short-sightedness and selfishness of some governments’.EU leaders asked the ...

On 26 March, EU Heads of State or Government continued their joint coordination efforts to address the COVID-19 outbreak and held a six hour long video conference on this subject, but failed to agree on the adequate financing instruments to help countries in fiscal difficulty due to the crisis, The President of the European Parliament President, David Sassoli, strongly criticised the results of the European Council and ‘the short-sightedness and selfishness of some governments’.EU leaders asked the President of the Commission and the President of the European Council to start working on a Roadmap accompanied by an Action Plan to prepare an exit strategy and a comprehensive recovery plan, including unprecedented investment.

Balancing Integration and Autonomy. How EFTA countries reconcile EU-approximation and independence

27-02-2020

In 2020, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) celebrates its 60th anniversary. During this respectable lifetime, its composition has frequently changed, starting with seven founding members in 1960 and having four today. EFTA has turned out to be an ‘antechamber’ for the EU, as well as a distinct organisation with its own purpose. Since the foundation of the European Economic Area (EEA) in 1992, EFTA states Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein have joined this area, whereas Switzerland has chosen ...

In 2020, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) celebrates its 60th anniversary. During this respectable lifetime, its composition has frequently changed, starting with seven founding members in 1960 and having four today. EFTA has turned out to be an ‘antechamber’ for the EU, as well as a distinct organisation with its own purpose. Since the foundation of the European Economic Area (EEA) in 1992, EFTA states Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein have joined this area, whereas Switzerland has chosen a relationship with the EU based on a number of bilateral agreements. These four EFTA states have in common that they perform a delicate and dynamic balancing act between integration into the EU and preservation of their own autonomy. Reasons for the strong desire for autonomy can partly be found in geographic or historic factors, but these cannot explain their position entirely, as existing EU Member States may also have such particularities. That all EFTA countries have a strong economy based on specific sets of natural resources and/or financial legislation, certainly is another element that explains the desire to keep matters in their own hands as far as possible. Strong consensus oriented democratic systems with components of direct democracy complete the picture. External events, such as the creation of the Internal Market, EU enlargement or the 2008 financial crisis have regularly challenged the balance EFTA countries have built with the EU. Even though they have led to initiatives to integrate closer with the EU or apply for membership, in the end such steps have not been completed. Whereas the UK is an important partner of all EFTA countries, mostly of Norway, its withdrawal from the EU has created another challenge to the balance. In a larger perspective, balancing autonomy and integration is not unique to EFTA countries, but happens also within the EU in the form of opt outs or arrangements for enhanced cooperation. And in view of a large number of countries aspiring for future EU membership, concepts such as flexible arrangements or associate memberships are not likely to disappear from the EU agenda.

Commitments made at the hearing of Josep BORRELL FONTELLES, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President-designate of the European Commission

22-11-2019

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President designate of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, appeared before the European Parliament on 7 October 2019 to answer MEPs’ questions. During the hearing, he made a number of commitments which are highlighted in this document.

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President designate of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, appeared before the European Parliament on 7 October 2019 to answer MEPs’ questions. During the hearing, he made a number of commitments which are highlighted in this document.

Commitments made at the hearing of Olivér VÁRHELYI, Commissioner-designate - Neighbourhood and Enlargement

22-11-2019

Commissioner-designate Olivér Várhelyi appeared before the European Parliament on 14 November 2019 to answer questions from MEPs in the Committee on Foreign Affairs (the Committee on International Trade was invited). This document highlights a number of commitments which he made during the hearing. They refer to his portfolio, as described in the mission letter sent to him by Ursula von der Leyen, President-elect of the European Commission, including: Western Balkans and Turkey; Eastern Neighbourhood ...

Commissioner-designate Olivér Várhelyi appeared before the European Parliament on 14 November 2019 to answer questions from MEPs in the Committee on Foreign Affairs (the Committee on International Trade was invited). This document highlights a number of commitments which he made during the hearing. They refer to his portfolio, as described in the mission letter sent to him by Ursula von der Leyen, President-elect of the European Commission, including: Western Balkans and Turkey; Eastern Neighbourhood; Southern Neighbourhood.

Hearings of the Commissioners-designate: Olivér Várhelyi - Neighbourhood and Enlargement

11-11-2019

This briefing is one in a set looking at the Commissioners-designate and their portfolios as put forward by Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen. Each candidate faces a three-hour public hearing, organised by one or more parliamentary committees. After that process, those committees will judge the candidates' suitability for the role based on 'their general competence, European commitment and personal independence', as well as their 'knowledge of their prospective portfolio and their communication ...

This briefing is one in a set looking at the Commissioners-designate and their portfolios as put forward by Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen. Each candidate faces a three-hour public hearing, organised by one or more parliamentary committees. After that process, those committees will judge the candidates' suitability for the role based on 'their general competence, European commitment and personal independence', as well as their 'knowledge of their prospective portfolio and their communication skills'. At the end of the hearings process, Parliament votes on the proposed Commission as a bloc, and under the Treaties may only reject the entire College of Commissioners, rather than individual candidates. The Briefing provides an overview of key issues in the portfolio areas, as well as Parliament's activity in the last term in that field. It also includes a brief introduction to the candidate.

Outcome of the European Council of 17-18 October 2019

22-10-2019

After endorsing the revised UK withdrawal agreement, and approving a revised political declaration, in the European Council (Article 50) format, EU Heads of State or Government had to tackle a range of divisive issues at their 17-18 October meeting, including the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework, enlargement, climate change and Turkey. EU leaders were not able to find common ground on key elements of the MFF, nor to reach consensus on the opening of accession negotiations with Albania and ...

After endorsing the revised UK withdrawal agreement, and approving a revised political declaration, in the European Council (Article 50) format, EU Heads of State or Government had to tackle a range of divisive issues at their 17-18 October meeting, including the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework, enlargement, climate change and Turkey. EU leaders were not able to find common ground on key elements of the MFF, nor to reach consensus on the opening of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. On climate, the European Council only reiterated its June 2019 conclusions considering persistent lack of agreement on raising climate targets. With respect to Turkey, EU leaders did not go beyond the Foreign Affairs Council conclusions, either in the area of sanctions or in the area of arms exports control. In the presence of the European Commission President-elect, Ursula von der Leyen, EU leaders also discussed the political priorities of the EU for the coming years and the follow-up to the Strategic Agenda 2019-24.

Western Balkans: State of play in the European Council

17-10-2019

The Western Balkans have regularly featured on the agenda of the European Council since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in December 2009. Three dimensions – enlargement, counter-terrorism and migration – have been at the centre of the EU leaders' discussion of the subject. The European Commission recommended twice in the last two years the opening of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. In the absence of an agreement at the 15 October 2019 General Affairs Council, the ...

The Western Balkans have regularly featured on the agenda of the European Council since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in December 2009. Three dimensions – enlargement, counter-terrorism and migration – have been at the centre of the EU leaders' discussion of the subject. The European Commission recommended twice in the last two years the opening of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. In the absence of an agreement at the 15 October 2019 General Affairs Council, the decision on whether to open accession negotiations with the two countries now lies with the European Council.

EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Foreign policy

28-06-2019

European Union (EU) action beyond its borders often requires a combination of approaches. The EU Treaties differentiate between common foreign and security policy (CFSP), common security and defence policy (CSDP), external action, and the external dimension of internal policies, but in the field, issues are so intertwined that more often than not a single tool is not sufficient. For example, population displacement triggered by a conflict over natural resources has to be addressed by humanitarian ...

European Union (EU) action beyond its borders often requires a combination of approaches. The EU Treaties differentiate between common foreign and security policy (CFSP), common security and defence policy (CSDP), external action, and the external dimension of internal policies, but in the field, issues are so intertwined that more often than not a single tool is not sufficient. For example, population displacement triggered by a conflict over natural resources has to be addressed by humanitarian aid, itself secured by a CSDP mission, and its effects mitigated by adequate migration and development policies, while peace talks are conducted. Coordination between all stakeholders is challenging but vital, not only as a response but also for prevention. To address new challenges such as climate change, rising insecurity or new migration patterns, the EU has put forward concrete solutions to shape synergy between the actors, in order to use shared expertise more effectively, and to find new sources of funding. The new foreign policy framework (EU global strategy) is intended to map the tools and resources best designed to help society as a whole, in the EU and partner countries, to withstand natural and manmade shocks more effectively. This means making connections between actors and between traditionally separate policy areas. Budgetary constraints and the will to depart from a donor/recipient relationship have also resulted in innovative financing tools, using EU funds to leverage private investments. While, since its launch, the global strategy has proved to be a coherent vision, sturdy, comprehensive external action nevertheless requires coordination at all levels. In the years to come, global instability is expected to rise; the challenge for the EU will be to ensure security while upholding the core values of the Treaties – human rights, democracy and the fight against poverty – as its primary objectives on the global stage. This is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

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