Constitution

EU Weekly Blog

18 January 2016

Article by Gregg Jones, Head of EU Office, National Assembly for Wales  

Welcome to the second in the new series of EU Weekly blogs by the Assembly’s Brussels Office, which provides a snapshot of key developments on the EU agenda (in Brussels and back at home) of most relevance to Wales.

This week the European Parliament holds its first plenary session of 2016, which takes place as usual in Strasbourg. Highlights on the agenda include a debate on the European Council conclusions (17-18 December), the Luxembourg and Dutch EU Presidencies, the Commission investigation into Poland (see below for more on this), and adoption of reports including one on skills to fight youth unemployment. A number of committee meetings also take place in Strasbourg, and EU Commissioner Phil Hogan will discuss CAP simplification at Agriculture Committee.

General Affairs Council meets this week and will discuss the draft agenda for next month’s European Council (18-19 February), which is of course the meeting where Cameron is hoping to secure an EU reform deal for the UK. Ministers will receive a presentation by the Dutch EU Presidency Work Programme.

The House of Lords EU Select Committee visited Brussels last week as part of the evidence gathering for its inquiry into the UKs EU reform. They met European Commission Vice President Timmermans in private, Jonathan Faull, Head of the European Commission’s Taskforce on the UK’s EU Referendum, and a number of MEPs including Manfred Weber MEP, Chair of the EPP Group who the Prime Minister met during his visit to Bavaria two weeks ago, and the Chairs of the Constitutional and Foreign Affairs Committees.

UK Government Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond answered questions on the EU reform negotiations and referendum in the Houses of Commons on 12 January, including a question from ex-Scottish First Minister Alex Sammond MP calling for a six-week delay between the devolved elections (6 May 2016) and the UK EU Referendum.

Remaining on this theme a number of new blogs have been added to the UK in a Changing EU web-site.

The European Commission held an orientation debate on the treatment of China in anti-dumping investigations. China is the subject of a number of ongoing investigation over allegations of dumping of steel in the context of the crisis facing the EU (and Welsh) steel industry. The Commission also last week launched a preliminary assessment of controversial new laws introduced by the Polish Government concerning appointments processes to the media and judiciary.

In the Assembly Enterprise and Business Committee agreed (in private session) the report from its inquiry into the Potential of the Maritime Economy in Wales. This will be published shortly.

In response to Recommendation 9 of the report from Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee’s inquiry into Wales’ role in EU decision-making the Welsh representatives to the Committee of the Regions (CoR) prepared a report on their recent activities on this EU body. The CoR update report was laid before the Assembly by Mick Antoniw AM (who stepped from the CoR in December 2015) and Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM last week.

Useful links:

Europa Newsroom (press releases; details of all new proposals)

European Parliament Committees (details of meetings, agendas etc)

European Parliament UK (representation based in London and Edinburgh)

European Commission Office in Wales

Council of the European Union (press releases etc.)

UK in a Changing EU (ESRC project to inform public in lead up to EU referendum – includes Cardiff Law School)

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