Author: ESZTER ZALAN
European leaders are digesting the result of the first round of French elections with cautious optimism, as centrist and pro-European Emmanuel Macron takes the lead ahead of far-right leader Marine Le Pen with the second round taking place in two weeks time.
Macron promised to be a «path of hope» for a stronger and reformed Europe.
Attention will quickly turn back from France to Britain in Brussels as leaders gather on Saturday (29 April) afternoon to agree on the Brexit negotiating guidelines, which represent the priorities and the red lines of the EU-27 countries.
The guidelines foresee a phased negotiation after first achieving «sufficient progress» on the divorce settlement, which would focus on citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and the border with the Republic of Ireland, before talks on the future relationship can begin.
Before the summit, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, will travel to London to meet with UK prime minister Theresa May on Wednesday (26 April).
Turkey will also be in the spotlight this week as EU foreign ministers discuss the future of the accession talks and the relationship with Turkey on Friday (28 April) in Malta.
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is to be granted more extensive powers following his narrow majority in a referendum on 16 April, which observers say did not meet international standards.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, will also discuss Turkey in a debate with MEPs on Wednesday (26 April).
The Hungarian government’s latest measures to stifle the Budapest-based Central European University (CEU), founded by billionaire George Soros, and its planned legislation to target civil groups supported by Soros’ foundation have yet again caused alarm in Brussels about the country’s increasingly illiberal democracy.
The European Parliament will debate the situation in Hungary on Wednesday (26 April). CEU’s rector, Michael Ignatieff, will also be at the EP on Tuesday (25 April).
George Soros will travel to Brussels to discuss the situation in Hungary with several EU commissioners, he will then meet with Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday (27 April).
On the same day, the EU commission is expected to launch several infringement procedures against Hungary.
Leaders of the European People’s Party (EPP), before the Brexit summit on Saturday, will be weighing in on whether Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party (an EPP member) should remain part of the centre-right political family.
Cecilia Malmstroem, the EU’s trade commissioner, is in Washington on Monday (24 April) for the first meeting with US officials on how to proceed with talks over the planned US-EU trade deal that was thrown into doubt since Donald Trump has become president who favours protectionist policies.
The deal is known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP.
Talks for it were launched in 2013, but have been hampered by opposition from various NGOs, consumer and environmentalist groups.