After a week’s delay, foreign affairs is still set to take centre stage at Thursday and Friday’s EU summit, convened by European Council President Charles Michel in response to a
flare-up in a spat over energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. But there are other topics too:
TURKEY – TO SANCTION OR NOT TO SANCTION?
The European Union is divided as ever on how to handle one of its most important but – in recent times –
more vexing partners: Turkey. Greece and Cyprus are demanding the EU take a tougher line on Turkish gas exploration activities in contested waters they claim, meaning further sanctions.
Vienna and Paris have backed them, but with the EU as a whole dependent on Ankara for curbing the arrival of migrants into the bloc, and aware of its central role in regional politics, other member states are reluctant
to stir the pot.
The EU committed itself to looking into further punitive measures earlier this summer, but most are
pinning their hopes on defusing the tensions with talks. BELARUS BLOCKADE
Not directly linked to Turkey, but now intertwined, is the question of already-agreed but deadlocked
sanctions targeting repression in Belarus following a disputed presidential election in August. Cyprus has
vetoed the adoption of the punitive measures, insisting the EU move on Turkey first.
The issue is more likely to be resolved at the next EU foreign ministers meeting, but foreign policy chief
Josep Borrell said that leaders could provide political guidance at the summit.
The EU is under pressure to show it can flex its muscles on the world stage, and the results of the summit
could either smooth or hinder the passage of the measures.
RELATIONS WITH CHINA
The EU is also to hold a strategic discussion on how to deal with major trading partner Beijing in light of
growing concerns about China’s human rights records. Following mid-September summit talks, leaders are to take stock on the slow progress towards a major investment deal.
A legislative proposal in London that would override parts of Britain’s withdrawal agreement from the EU is
also up for discussion.
Michel will debrief the leaders, but according to diplomatic sources, debate on the matter won’t be too
extensive. The latest round of negotiations for post-Brexit relations is ongoing in Brussels, and the issue is to be
discussed more thoroughly at a summit in two weeks’ time.
RESILIENCE OF EU SINGLE MARKET
Michel also wants to talk about how to make the bloc’s single market even stronger than before the
coronavirus pandemic hit, particularly with regard to increased strategic autonomy.
The focus will be on rebooting the bloc’s industrial policy and how to make the most of new digital