EU summit, Gaza, Ukraine, reforms in focus this WEEK – 24 Global News | Latest International Breaking News Today

EU summit, Gaza, Ukraine, reforms in focus this WEEK – Latest International Breaking News Today

This week, EU leaders come together in Brussels for their usual two-day summit on Thursday and Friday (21 and 22 March) to discuss defence, enlargement, migration and foreign affairs.

On Thursday, the EU heads of state and government will have lunch with UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres who is expected to meet with commission president Ursula von der Leyen the day before.

With hundreds of thousands of Gazans on the brink of starvation, EU leaders are expected to call for an “immediate humanitarian pause leading to a sustainable cease-fire,” according to draft conclusions seen by EUobserver.

The draft text also addresses the “catastrophic” humanitarian situation, highlighting “the imminent risk of famine” and the risk of regional escalation.

Leaders are also expected to urge Israel to refrain from its plans to invade Rafah in southern Gaza, where about 1.5 million people are sheltering.

They will also condemn again the Hamas attacks on 7 October, calling for the release of hostages.

However, references in the text to UNRWA are tricky for some member states that have withdrawn their funding in response to allegations that 12 staff members at UNRWA were involved in the 7 October terror attacks.

Ahead of the European Council, ministers in charge of EU affairs will meet on Tuesday (19 March) in Brussels to discuss draft conclusions of the European Council, the European Semester and the future internal reforms for enlargement.

Tuesday’s discussions among the ministers will touch on “the semantics when it comes to the qualification of a ceasefire,” an EU diplomat said.

“A discussion about the right qualifiers of a ceasefire is still going on … minds have converged quite a lot, but it’s still controversial, the diplomat said.

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After more than two years of war in Ukraine, EU leaders will be calling to step up military support, either through the European Peace Facility or through bilateral deals between EU countries and Kyiv, which urgently needs air defence systems, ammunition and missiles.

EU countries agreed last week on the reform of the European Peace Facility, including an injection of €5bn extra military aid.

Also last Friday, French president Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Olaf Scholz and Poland’s Donald Tusk met in Berlin to discuss EU support for Ukraine — after weeks of frictions, following Macron’s taboo-shattering words about sending Western troops to Ukraine.

“True solidarity with Ukraine? Less words, more ammunition”, Tusk said on X, formerly Twitter, last Friday ahead of the meeting in Berlin.

As defence talks will focus on the need to reduce the EU’s dependence on the US, giving attention to the strategy and investment programme unveiled by the commission, EU leaders are expected to commit to “substantially” increasing defence expenditure and improving access to finance.

However, a divisive issue is whether to use windfall profits from frozen Russian assets — initially foreseen for Ukraine’s reconstruction — to jointly purchase military equipment for Ukraine.

While Germany is now in favour of using windfall profits and frozen assets to support Ukraine with arms and ammunition, a few members remain reluctant to support the idea.

EU leaders are also expected to revise the issue of offshoring migration, following the deal agreed with Egypt on Sunday, farmers’ protests, Alexei Navalny’s death, and the commission’s proposal of opening EU accession negotiation with Bosnia. Talks on economy and competitiveness are to be left for the informal summit in April.

Russia, Belarus, Ukraine

Following last week’s approval of the so-called negotiating framework for Ukraine’s membership bid to the EU, there will be a meeting on Wednesday (20 March) to discuss further cooperation.

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The framework, which sets the guidelines for enlargement negotiations, will require unanimous agreement among all 27 EU leaders. The Belgian presidency aims to reach an agreement before the June European elections but the text can still be subjected to adaptations by EU member states.

Elsewhere, EU foreign affairs ministers are meeting on Monday (18 March) to discuss the Israeli-Gaza war, the latest developments in Belarus and Russia, as well as the situation in Armenia, the EU mission in Niger and gang violence in Haiti.

Ministers are expected to adopt the so-called Navalny sanctions, and discuss a “new Russia-specific human rights sanction regime” and the outcome of the presidential election.

While Hungary is still blocking EU sanctions on 12 violent Israeli settlers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, a diplomat said last week that “this is a living issue” gaining momentum that might be solved in time for the EU summit.

They will also hold a videoconference with US secretary of state Antony Blinken and Ukraine’s foreign affairs minister Dmytro Kuleba.

On Tuesday, co-legislators will try to agree on the commission’s proposal to extend its duty-free trade policy with beleaguered Ukraine, which includes potential restrictions on certain imports and safeguard mechanisms, designed to address concerns from neighbouring countries.

Enlargement reforms

On Wednesday, the European Commission is expected to outline the reforms the EU needs to undertake to enlarge to a bloc of more than 30 states.

EU leaders previously agreed to adopt a roadmap for future enlargement reforms by this summer.

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Last year, a group of German-French experts proposed a list of institutional reforms to make the EU ready for enlargement by 2030 — including ending unanimity voting in the council, securing the harmonisation of EU electoral laws and reducing the size of the college of commissioners.

Also on Wednesday, MEPs on the foreign affairs committee will discuss EU-UK foreign policy cooperation after Brexit.

On the same day, lawmakers in the internal market committee will discuss the implementation of the Digital Service Act, with a focus on enforcement.

A discussion with the budget committee of the Ukrainian Parliament will also take place on Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, MEPs in the foreign affairs committee will debate the way forward for EU enlargement with the foreign affairs ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia, Denmark, Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia and Austria.

Plus, lawmakers in the environment committee will have an exchange of views with EU climate commissioner Wopke Hoekstra on the same day.

Meanwhile, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell is expected to deliver a speech at the European Humanitarian Forum on Monday.

-24 Global News | Latest International Breaking News Today
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