By Ata Ufuk ┼×eker
Brussel letter, Feb. 13


NATO member states defense ministers will gather in Brussels this week. Meetings of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) at defense minister level will be held at NATO Headquarters on Wednesday and Thursday. The U.S.’s new Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will attend the meeting for the first time where he is expected to give signals on Trump administration’s security strategy. The NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, will chair the meetings and Defense Minister Fikri Isik will represent Turkey.

-EU’s economic forecast

Member of the EC in charge of Economic and Financial Affairs, Pierre Moscovici, will present the EU's Winter Economic Forecast on Monday. The economic forecast will concentrate on the EU, its individual member states and the euro area, but will also include outlooks for some of the world's other major economies, and countries that are candidates for EU membership.

On his first international trip, the newly elected President of Austria, Alexander Van der Bellen will visit Brussels on Monday. Bellen will meet with European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk and he will also address European Parliament on Tuesday in Strasbourg.

-European Parliament

The European Parliament’s plenary session and committee meetings will take place in Strasbourg this week.

-CETA final vote

Parliament will vote on the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) on Wednesday. CETA aims to boost goods and services trade and investment flows. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will address the full parliament on Thursday.

-Counter terrorism

 Members of European parliament will vote on Thursday on a new counter-terrorism law, which will add to the EU list of terrorism crimes acts such as “foreign fighters” travelling to conflict zones to join terrorist groups and returning to the EU as well as “lone wolves” preparing attacks.

 New rules to tighten the screening of EU citizens and third country nationals entering the EU are up for debate and final vote on Thursday. The amended Schengen Border Code will allow for systematic data checks at external borders to identify travelers returning from battlefields or using false or stolen documents.

-Last week

The European Commission has endorsed three French schemes to support solar and hydropower energy generators in France under EU state aid rules. The schemes will allow France to develop around 2,600 megawatts of additional solar capacity and 60 megawatts of additional hydropower capacity. The two solar schemes together have a provisional budget of €439 million per year (or a total of €8.8 billion over 20 years) and the hydropower scheme has a provisional budget of €25 million per year (or a total of €500 million over 20 years). These measures will help France achieve its 2020 target of producing 23 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced that Ukrainian citizens would have visa liberalization before summer.

A new European report says Turkey stepped up efforts to offer lists of resettlement candidates. A European Commission report on Wednesday said “further efforts” were needed by member states to relocate refugees and asylum seekers across the bloc. The progress report also said the number of resettlements from Turkey under the EU-Turkey Statement continued to increase. However, European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, speaking to reporters in Brussels, criticized the bloc for only admitting around 12,000 Syrians from the 160,000 that were promised.

The European Commission has fined Campine, Eco-Bat Technologies and Recylex a total of €68 million for fixing prices for purchasing scrap automotive batteries, in breach of EU antitrust rules. A fourth company, Johnson Controls, was not fined because it revealed the existence of the cartel to the Commission.

EU and Azerbaijan are to boost energy cooperation.  Azerbaijani president and the chief of the European Council in Brussels agreed to renew a partnership deal. The European Union and Azerbaijan have agreed to renew a partnership deal aimed at closer cooperation in energy issues, including reducing dependency on Russia. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Donald Tusk, the head of the European Council, made a joint press appearance Monday in Brussels, announcing a "new framework" updating the 1996 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Baku and the EU.

13 Feb,2017