This week ended with Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal (pretty much a lackey of the PiS-led government), pushing the nuclear button on the primacy of EU law. Unlike Brexit, this is an existential issue for the EU and requires a severe and unequivocal response. It will be the number-one issue for heads of government when they meet in two week’s time, if there is not a miraculous U-turn between now and the European Council on 21-22 October.

When it was just Hungary – formerly loyal members of the European People’s Party – there wasn’t the same sense of urgency among leaders. Orban also liked to take things to the brink but then take one step back. Poland followed Hungary’s lead but has followed its logic to the end by questioning the primacy of the Treaties over the Polish constitution.

Bye bye Babiš?

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This might be a moment of truth, we see others looking towards Orban, like Slovenia’s Janša and the Czech Prime Minister Babiš taking similar ‘strong man’ positions. The dangers of inaction are becoming more worrying than action. Parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic today and tomorrow, will show whether Babiš has been damaged by the revelations in the Pandora Papers that he has bought a $22 million French property through shell companies and didn’t declare it, which he is legally obliged to do as a member of parliament. 

EU-Ukraine Summit

Another name that popped out of Pandora’s box was Ukrainian Presdient Volodymyr Zelenskyy. On Tuesday (12 October), the EU-Ukraine Summit will take place in Brussels and might be an opportunity to ask about what the papers reveal about his relationship with the head of Ukraine’s intelligence agency, Ivan Bakanov.

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Energy prices

On Wednesday (13 October) the Commission will announce a toolbox of measures that states can take to help citizens and businesses deal with the recent hike in energy prices. The Commission proposal will lay out measures that can be taken swiftly – and that are compliant with EU law – include allowing direct payments to those most at risk of energy poverty, cutting energy taxes, shifting charges to general taxation. Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said: “The immediate priority should be to mitigate social impacts and protect vulnerable households, ensuring that energy poverty is not aggravated. Higher than expected ETS revenues provide space for doing so.”

An end to the sausage wars? 

Proposals from the UK  to reply to the UK’s threat to introduce safeguard measures will be proposed on Wednesday. Šefčovič will put forward four non-papers that he says will bring big changes. The  papers concern medicines, sanitary and phyto-sanitary surveillance, customs and a way to enhance democratic governance of the Northern Ireland Protocol.  

But Brexit is a multi-headed hydra, no sooner has one head been sliced off than another appears. Negotiations on Gibraltar to formalize the current framework agreement agreed between Spain and the UK on the Rock, since the UK left, will be laid down in a more formal legal basis, negotiations between the EU and the UK start on Monday. 

Add to this a fisheries council where quotas will be discussed and the impasse between France and Jersey (UK Crown Dependency) over licenses and it’s easy to see that this one will run and run – accompanied by bellicose headlines in the British press no doubt.

We also have ‘European Week of Regions and Cities’: The four-day event for cities and regions strut their European funded projects to create jobs, growth, more sustainable transport, a cleaner environment and end world poverty (well, not the last one).

European Parliament (courtesy of the European Parliament)

Climate change/COP26. Ahead of the November UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26), the Environment Committee will vote on their input to the EU position. MEPs are expected to call for more ambitious 2030 emissions reduction targets and more climate finance for developing countries. The COP26 will be the first opportunity to take stock of the implementation of the Paris Agreement (Tuesday).

Media Freedom/SLAPPs. The Civil Liberties and the Legal Affairs committees will propose measures to strengthen media freedom and pluralism in the EU by curbing the phenomenon of vexatious lawsuits designed to silence journalists, NGOs and civil society. Parliament’s proposals will feed into the upcoming Commission initiatives against SLAPPs (Thursday (14 October)).

Rule of law/Slovenia. A Civil Liberties Committee delegation will travel to Ljubljana to assess the situation regarding the rule of law and media freedom in the country. MEPs will meet NGOs, academia representatives, the government Ombudsman, journalists, state prosecutors and high-level government officials. The delegation will hold a press conference at the end of the mission (Wednesday to Friday).

Roaming. A proposal to extend by ten years current EU rules on the end of roaming charges, due to expire in 2022, will be voted on by the Industry Committee. The renewed legislation would also provide travellers with the same mobile network quality and speed as at home and better mobile access to emergency services for people with disabilities (Thursday).

European Critical Infrastructure. The Civil Liberties Committee will vote on a legislative proposal to better protect EU critical infrastructure for essential services such as energy, transport and drinking water. The rules would help EU countries prevent, resist and recover from disruptive incidents, such as natural disasters, terrorism or public health emergencies (Monday).

2021 Sakharov Prize. The three final candidates for the 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought will be selected by the Foreign Affairs and Development Committees in a joint vote (Thursday). Alexei Navalny, nominated by the EPP and Renew Europe, is the currently the bookie’s favourite. 

2021 Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism. Parliament will award the 1st Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for outstanding journalism work based on the principles and values of the EU. EP President David Sassoli will open the award ceremony (Thursday).

Plenary preparations. Political groups will prepare for the 18-21 October plenary session, where MEPs will outline their expectations for the European Council (21-22 October) and vote on resolutions on the Pandora Papers and transparency in the development, purchase and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. They will debate and vote on the UN COP26 in Glasgow, 2022 EU budget, Farm to Fork Strategy and the economic and social policies of the eurozone.