May is public holiday season in Brussels and this week saw two holidays, Europe Day on the 9th and a Belgian bank holiday the following day. Together with unusually fine spring weather, they created a pretty empty EU quarter and a week where events outside of Brussels dominated discussions.
The last Europe Day with Britain as a member state provoked the now frequent ‘I’m so sorry’ refrain towards those who still hold onto their British passports in the EU’s capital. Though one now struggles to understand whether this is sympathy towards the UK for its act of economic and political self-harm, or the fact that the UK government seems incapable of coming to a position on the basics of its future relationship; instead insisting on negotiating in public between itself on options already ruled out by the people it has to actually negotiate with. From a Brussels perspective, it seems to be both farce and tragedy on an epic scale.
Events in Washington, as President Trump pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal, failed to surprise but still shocked the EU and its foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, who while standing firm on the EU’s support for the current deal, called for a meeting with France, Germany and the UK early next week to discuss the EU’s response.
In the meantime, the economic impact of US measures on European companies led the Commission to examine how to protect the EU’s economic as well as geo-political interests. Brussels bubble commentators now view President Trump as either the biggest single threat to the prosperity and peace in Europe or the biggest single opportunity to bring Europeans together.
With the end of the current legislature approaching, next week the focus shall return to legislative grind with the Commission rushing to deliver the last of its legislative proposals in time for the Parliament to complete first readings by May 2019. In particular, the middle of the week sees the adoption of the proposals from third mobility package, which includes CO2 targets for heavy duty vehicles, measures in the field of road safety and multi-modality.
At the institutions, the General Affairs Council meets, while Parliament is a Committee week, with a timely public hearing on EU-US trade relations in the International Trade Committee and the digitalisation of the economy and automation on the agenda in the Employment and Social Affairs Committee. The Environment Committee discusses legislative proposals on CO2 for cars and the Circular Economy package and the Energy Committee discusses Brexit and Energy.