Movers and Shakers | 21 August 2020

Keep track of developments in the European institutions and public affairs with our Movers and Shakers column.

By Mia Bartoloni

Mia Bartoloni is the Editor of Dods People EU and the European Public Affairs Directory (EPAD)

21 Aug 2020

Today’s Movers & Shakers are about: A look ahead to what MEPs will work on after summer recess, two Polish ministers resign, Bulgarian PM proposes changes to the constitution, the latest Commission appointments, and more!


European Parliament

The European Parliament is in recess over the summer holidays from 27 July to 23 August 2020.

While MEPs will be enjoying a well-deserved break over the summer, September’s legislative agenda is set to be packed. We look at some issues Parliament will deal with in the second half of 2020 and who will be the key players amongst these.

Talks are ongoing to reach an agreement on the future relationship between the EU and the UK. Under the current withdrawal agreement, the transition period comes to an end on 31 December 2020. Whilst progress was made at the most recent round of negotiations (round six) that took place in London from 20-23 July, key issues such as fisheries and level playing field continue to be a sticking point. These two issues along with law enforcement and judicial cooperation dominated round seven of negotiations that took place this week from 18-21 August. David Frost, the UK’s Chief Brexit Negotiator has said that he aims to have a deal with the EU by the end of September so we can expect Brexit discussions to feature prominently over the next few weeks.

Key player: David McAllister (EPP, DE) is the Chair of the Parliament’s UK Coordination Group. McAllister has warned about the real possibility of a No-Deal scenario, but has recently told German newspaper Börsen-Zeitung the EU had made “a unique and highly attractive offer to the UK that has never been made to a third country: quota-free and duty-free access for goods to the single market”. He has highlighted that the UK must accept the level-playing field to progress in negotiations.

EU climate discussions have entered a crucial stage as the Commission is set to raise the EU’s climate target for 2030. Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety committee (ENVI) will vote on the EU’s climate law in September and will discuss how the EU can achieve climate neutrality by 2050. It is likely that all MEPs will vote on the matter at October’s plenary session.

Key player: Pascal Canfin (RE, FR) chairs the ENVI committee. He pushed for the Green Deal to be at the heart of the post-COVID recovery plan during negotiations that took place in July and he reacted positively to the Council’s decision to secure 30% of the budget for climate policies. He will be a leading voice in climate negotiations after summer recess.

The Commission has announced it is putting forward a new proposal under its fifth priority ‘Promoting our European Way of Life’ - the Pact on Asylum and Migration. The pact will be presented in September and will acknowledge that internal and external aspects of migration are interconnected as well as strive for a more effective and humane migration system.  Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) is currently working on a report on new legal pathways for labour migration to the EU.

Key player: Miriam Dalli (S&D, MT) is the LIBE rapporteur the Parliament’s report on ‘New Avenues for Legal Labour Migration’ and also vice-president of the S&D group. Back in April, Dalli voted in favour of an amendment urging states to rescue migrants in distress and provide disembarkation facilities for them.

Long-term budget and recovery plan
One of the main goals of the German Presidency of the Council of the EU is to push the Commission’s proposed €750 billion recovery fund though the Brussels’ legislative process by the end of the year. The €750 billion recovery fund together with a revised proposal for the EU’s 2021-27 budget of €1.1 trillion will be subject to negotiations between Parliament and Member States and Parliament has demanded a bigger role in policing how the money is spent.

Key players: Dragoș Pîslaru (RE, RO) is one such MEP who strongly defends that “Parliament should be involved in the process” and will usher the Resilience and Recovery Fund (RRF) worth €560 billion through the EU legislature alongside co-rapporteurs Siegfried Mureşan (EPP, RO) and Eider Gardiazabal (S&D, ES). The three MEPs aim to reveal Parliament’s first draft next week.

Agricultural policy
Part of the marathon seven-year budget negotiations that took place on 21 July included a deal on €344 billion worth of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) spending. Parliament has yet to approve the deal but President David Sassoli has said that a final vote could be scheduled between the end of September and October. Once this Parliamentary procedure takes place, MEPs and the rotating EU Council presidency will settle the other pending issues in trialogue negotiations.

In the second half of the year the EU will embark on a range of ambitious initiatives in the digital arena including the Commission’s proposed Digital Services Act package, The Digital Services Act aims to strengthen the single market for digital services and to regulate the online ecosystem through a series of measures spanning online safety, liability, market dominance, online advertising and smart contracts as well as issues surrounding self-employment online. Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO), Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) Committee and Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) have all published their draft reports. The committees are expected to vote on their reports in September.

Key player: Alex Agius Saliba (S&D, MT) is the IMCO rapporteur on the report Digital Services Act: Improving the functioning of the Single Market’. Back in May, Agius Saliba said that the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed serious shortcomings in the way platforms such as Google and Facebook are regulated in Europe. The rapporteur considers that the main principles of the current E-Commerce Directive, such as the internal market clause, freedom of establishment and the prohibition on imposing a general monitoring obligation, should be maintained.

European Commission

Directorates-General and Services

Economic and Financial Affairs (ECFIN)
Géraldine Mahieu replaces Declan Costello as Director of Directorate B (Investment, growth and structural reforms) in an acting capacity.

Joint Research Centre (JRC)
Thomas Fanghänel has left his position as Principal Adviser for Generation IV.
Josephina Pijls has left her position as Adviser site coordination and external relations in Directorate C (Energy, Transport & Climate (Petten)).

Taxation and Customs Union (TAXUD)
Benjamin Angel replaces Maria Teresa Fabregas Fernandez as Director of Directorate C (Indirect Taxation and Tax Administration) in an acting capacity as the latter moves to a new role in the Secretariat-General's Recovery and Resilience Task Force.
Gerassimos Thomas has now taken over as Director-General after his appointment was announced in mid-July. An economist, Thomas has worked in several senior roles within the Commission including as Director, Treasury and Financial Operations in DG Economic and Financial Affairs (ECFIN) between 2009-14 and most recently as Deputy Director-General in DG Energy (ENER) from 2014-19.

Public Affairs

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Other EU Institutions and Agencies

European External Action Service (EEAS)
EU Ambassador to Montenegro, Aivo Orav concluded his mandate on Friday after four years in the role. He is to be replaced by Oana Cristina Popa, current Ambassador of Romania to the Republic of Serbia. Oana Popa has been Romania’s Ambassador to Serbia since 2016 and, in the period from 2005 until 2009 held the position of Romanian Ambassador to Croatia.

European Council

Cabinet of the President
Nanda Kellij leaves her roles as adviser on external aspects of migration, external aspects of counterterrorism and as adviser on justice, home affairs and migration.

National News

Despite expectations that prime minister Boyko Borissov would announce his resignation in the face of widespread protests across the country, Borissov has instead decided to propose changes to the country’s constitution. After announcing his intention to resign at the beginning of August, Borrisov changed his mind saying that his junior coalition partners, the United Patriots, want him to stay until the end of the mandate.

Key proposed changes to the constitution include reducing the number of deputies, a reduction in the term of the president’s mandate and termination of the powers of the Supreme Judicial Council.

Minister for agriculture, Dara Calleary has resigned after attending a golf dinner with more than 80 people, a number in excess of the COVID-19 public health guidelines in the country. Calleary replaced Barry Cowen last month after Cowen was sacked over controversy around a drink-driving ban. Taoiseach Micheál Martin is expected to announce the third replacement for the role soon.

Minister for health Łukasz Szumowski announced his resignation Tuesday amidst allegations that his brother profited from government grants during the COVID-19 crisis. Szumowski, a cardiologist and doctor, will return to practicing medicine whilst remaining a member of the parliament. His resignation comes a day after deputy minister for health, Janusz Cieszynski, handed in his resignation.

In the week’s second resignation, minister for foreign affairs Jacek Czaputowicz also stepped down on Thursday amidst attempts of the Polish government to position itself in a leading role in the European Union response to the Belarus crisis.

Prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki has announced that Adam Niedzielski will become the new minister for health and that Zbigniew Rau willreplace Jacek Czaputowicz as the new foreign minister. Niedzielski, who holds a doctorate in economics has worked in the Finance Ministry, the Supreme Audit Office (NIK) and the state social insurance company ZUS. He was appointed head of the National Health Fund two years ago. Rau currently heads the Sejm's (lower house) Foreign Affairs Committee. He is a lawyer and former provincial governor in the Lodz province, and became an MP after the last parliamentary elections. He also served a term as a senator.

A major cabinet reshuffle is expected.

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Read the most recent articles written by Mia Bartoloni - Movers and Shakers | 11 September 2020


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