John Doe

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Mary Taylor

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At the EU summit, the spotlight is on the budget and Ukraine. 10 billion locked for Orban

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There are several points of conflict that EU leaders will have to resolve at Thursday’s summit. The accession of Ukraine, Moldova and the Balkans increases the multi-year budget, with funds allocated to Kiev and immigration. President Giorgia Meloni and EU leaders arrived in Brussels to participate in the summit with the six Balkan countries. The focus is entirely on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his veto against the start of EU negotiations and economic and military support for Kiev. The European Commission, with suspicious timing, released $10.2 billion of cohesion funds to Hungary, for reforms achieved in the judicial sector, but decided to maintain the rule-of-law budget conditional mechanism and keep the other $21 billion of cohesion funds frozen. PNRR and $6.3 billion from other cohesion programs. Although the leaders of the majority groups in the European Parliament called on the Commission President not to concede anything to the Hungarian leader, the first signal has been sent. It will be a complex and difficult summit and we will work day and night to protect European unity, says European Council President Charles Michel, who is also preparing negotiating drafts to review the budget. In the final text, the funds allocated to immigration will rise from 12.5 to 8.2, but this measure will in any case be satisfactory for Italy.

The Commission’s initial proposal to increase the 2021-2027 budget by $66 billion would have increased Italy’s contribution by about $2 billion additional annually compared to what the country already pays. In light of the findings of the General Accounting Office, Italy, on the eve of the return of the Stability Pact rules, whether new, if an agreement is reached in the next few days, or old, also has an interest in reducing the initially expected numbers. On the other hand, with regard to migration, the government benefits from the results achieved by the European Commission, which, as in every European Council, reports to the leaders on the actions taken. In the letter sent by President von der Leyen, there is “support” for the agreement between Italy and Albania, which is an example of thinking outside the box. However, a few hours later, the Albanian Constitutional Court suspended the ratification proceedings in Parliament, accepted the two appeals submitted by 30 opposition parliamentarians and set the hearing for 18 January. Upon accession, the front of lukewarm countries could expand beyond Hungary and Austria. Some like to promote the principle that if there is no funding for national needs, there should be no funding for Ukraine either. On the other hand, Italy aims to move forward in starting accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina as well. “The European Council is ready to begin accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina, as soon as the necessary degree of compliance with the accession criteria has been achieved,” we read in the latest draft of the conclusions, which also speaks of accelerating the entire process in the Balkans. At the summit, Donald Tusk, who led the EU leaders’ meeting from 2014 to 2019, made a grand return as the new Polish prime minister. “Poland has returned to Europe, it is the most important moment in our history.” Upon his arrival at the summit of the European Union and the Western Balkan countries, he said: “My political life was not easy.” He added: “My role is to strengthen Europe’s resolve and convince allies that the most important thing in Europe is to effectively support Ukraine.” Another battleground may be the Middle East. In the morning, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, in his speech before the plenary session of Parliament, called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Here too the situations are very different. This is evidenced by the European Union countries voting in the UN General Assembly on the resolution calling for an immediate truce in the fighting: Austria, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Romania opposed it. Slovakia spoke against the resolution, abstained from voting and others voted in favour.

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