Ukraine gets good signs for its Euro-Atlantic future, reforms continue to be priority
Ukraine received last week several good news about its Euro-Atlantic future. At the meeting between Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Kiev on Monday, the two leaders stated that they would begin a discussion about a membership action plan, a move deeply opposed by Russia. On Tuesday the EU formally approved the Association Agreement with Ukraine, which will take effect on 1 September. The next two days Kiev hosted EU leaders at the 19th EU-Ukraine summit.
Finance ministers outlined measures to address the problem
European Union finance ministers have backed proposals to jointly address the issue of non-performing loans in the banking sector, which has been an economic problem particularly in Italy and Spain.
 
LIBE calls for a robust EU solution for preventing people from drowning at sea
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Search-and-rescue operations, fighting human smugglers, and the cooperation with Libyan authorities were the main topics of the hearing conducted on 12 July by the EP Civil Liberties Committee.
 
EU citizens' rights row threatens Brexit
A group of MEPs last Monday threatened to veto Brexit agreement unless the UK improves its offer to protect EU citizens, news wires reported.
Solidarity Corps gets jobs and traineeships on track
Half a year after the European Commission launched the European Solidarity Corps and following the matching of voluntary placements which started in March 2017, thousands of job and traineeship placements are now also kicking off, the EU press service reported.
Access to funds to be further simplified
Although the achievements of the EU Cohesion Policy are undeniably positive, the current volume of rules does not always make life easy for local authorities managing EU funds or businesses looking to apply for EU funding.
Curbing CO2 from forests
Maria Koleva, Brussels
As forests have an immense potential for alleviation of climate change, at their sitting last Tuesday the Environment committee (ENVI) MEPs backed with huge majority measures to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and raise absorptions from woodlands.
EU-Russia ties remain at odds
Differences with Russia remain but dialogue will intensify, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini said after her talks with Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergei Lavrov last Tuesday.
France plans asylum system revamp, Sweden evicts illegals
France will move to systematically deport failed asylum seekers while improving conditions for refugees and those awaiting a decision on asylum applications, PM Edouard Philippe said last Wednesday.
EP future composition debated
Exchange of views on the draft report authored by Danuta Maria Huebner (EPP, PL) and Pedro Silva Pereira (S&D, PT) on the composition of the European Parliament post-Brexit took place on 12 July at a sitting of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO).
French government aims at €4.5bn spending cut in 2017
France is working to generate €4.5bn in spending cuts in 2017 as it wants to tame the public deficit to 3% of economic output by the end of this year, Gerald Darmanin, minister of action and public accounts said on 11 July.
EC recommends closing Greece deficit procedure
The Commission decided to recommend to the Council to close the Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) for Greece, the EU press service reported.
Cracking down on illegal import of cultural goods
The Commission tabled last Thursday new rules to clamp down on the illegal import and trafficking of cultural goods from outside the EU, often linked to terrorist financing and other criminal activity, the EU press service reported.
How to make EU finances sustainable
The High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance published last Thursday its first report setting out concrete steps to create a financial system that supports sustainable investments, the EU press service reported.
Money laundering and tax evasion cannot be tolerated
Zero-rate jurisdictions like the Bahamas and Bermuda should be, in Germany’s view, pressured into not allowing companies to avoid paying tax, and we are in favour of transparency and improving the code of conduct to prevent unfair tax competition.
ETS exemption for international flights extended
Pending a worldwide scheme to offset CO2 emissions in air transport, Environment MEPs extended last Tuesday an exemption from paying for emissions in international flights, the EP press service reported.
In Brief
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Sweden, Denmark consider joining Banking Union
 
Sweden is looking at whether to join the EU Banking union amid threats by its largest bank Nordea Bank AB to leave for a country with less strict regulation. Financial Markets Minister Per Bolund said last week that the government plans a “thorough” analysis, in part because of the UK’s planned exit from the European Union. The review could lead to Sweden joining the union, he said.  Denmark indicated also last week it would decide in 2019 on its participation in the banking union after lawmakers concluded in 2015 that it would be in the country's interests to participate but postponed making a decision.

Human Rights Court backs Belgium ban on niqab veil
 
The European Court of Human Rights last Tuesday upheld Belgium’s ban on wearing the full-face niqab veil in public. The court ruled that the restriction sought to guarantee social cohesion, the "protection of the rights and freedoms of others" and that it was "necessary in a democratic society", a statement said. The Belgian case was brought by two Muslim women, a Belgian national, and a Moroccan. The Court had already ruled on a challenge to the French law in 2014 when it also rejected arguments that the restriction breached religious freedom and individual human rights.

Patriot missiles stationed in Lithuania for exercises
 
The US military has stationed for the first time Patriot anti-aircraft missiles in Lithuania for military exercises, the Defence Ministry in Vilnius announced last Monday. The weapons system was sent to the small Baltic NATO member for the Tobruq Legacy 2017 air defence military exercises, which will run from 11 to 22 July. “The deployment demonstrates the steadfast US commitment to the security of Lithuania and its high readiness to send strategic capabilities to the region,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement. The former Soviet republic had repeatedly called for assistance on air defence amid concerns for its own security.

Poland's lower house votes controversial judicial reforms
 
Poland's lower house of parliament last Wednesday approved judicial reforms that have been criticised as weakening the rule of law in the country. The main concern is focused on changes of the constitutional tribunal functioning. The bill, which still needs approval from the Senate, would allow the 25 members of the National Council of the Judiciary to be selected by parliament, rather than elected by judges. The Council is tasked with safeguarding the independence of Polish courts. Critics of the bill fear the changes will erode the Council's powers and the separation of powers.

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