B is for: Bulgaria, Belarus and well… Brexit

COP26 didn’t end with a bang, but a whimper. Well, maybe whimper isn’t the right word, but Alok Sharma, the British minister in charge of the negotiations did appear to be choked up. He said in an interview on Sunday that he’d had about six hours sleep in 72 previous hours, “so it was an emotional moment”. Even the most hardened European Council veterans will sympathise, not even last year’s future budget negotiations took more than five days. 

1.5 degrees still within reach

Timmermans pleaded with all involved:


Von der Leyen summed the situation up neatly: “1.5 degrees Celsius remains within reach; but the work is far from done.” However, there was one great breakthrough, the Commission president did acknowledge the “crucial role” of the Executive Vice-President.

B is for Bulgaria, not Boyko Borissov

The people of Bulgaria (well, at least 40% of them) have spoken for the third time this year. Kiril Petkov of the “We Continue the Change” party, looks like the main winner, with the necessary votes to form a coalition.

R is for Rumen Radev

Radev who has been a fierce critic of Borissov and corruption had a stonking victory in the presidential vote with an estimated 50% of the vote.

I will leave experts on Bulgarian politics to comment on the differences between the different parties, but what is extremely clear is that this is a vote against corruption. Along with the recent vote against Andrej Babiš in the Czech elections, it feels like a tide is turning, albeit slowly.

Hungary next?

Last week also saw a whirlwind tour of Brussels by Hungary’s anti-corruption candidate Péter Márki-Zay, the leader of a broad alliance aimed at restoring the rule of law to Hungary, faces an uphill battle as Orban has done his best to rig the system in his favour. Elections take place in April next year.

In the meantime,  Viktor Orbán was re-elected as president of Fidesz yesterday. Péter Márki-Zay said in a presentation in the Brussels Press Club that he was a Fidesz voter in the past, but that the party that he had voted for originally had changed beyond recognition under Orban.

The European Court of Justice will have two further judgements this week on rule of law related questions in – you guessed it – Poland and Hungary.


The situation in Belarus has become not just one about migration, but geopolitical. The weaponization of migrants is the new tool in Putin’s hybrid attack on Western democracies. This, along with another manoeuvres, including the buildup of troops by Russian forces, will be exercising foreign ministers meeting today in Brussels to discuss Belarus, Eastern partners, the fameux Strategic Compass and other matters.

Poland and the Baltic countries are calling for NATO involvement, with an “article 4” meeting, which can be called for when a NATO member’s “territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened.” An agreement on further sanctions is likely to be approved today.


Trivial by comparison, but Vice President Maroš Šefčovič will be applying a “laser-like focus” on addressing the issues of medicines and customs checks in the ongoing talks between the UK and EU this week. Šefčovič welcomed the change in tone from the UK side on Friday, but in his statement following last week’s meetings Lord Frost continued to wave his Article 16 threat of unilateral safeguarding measures. Plus ça change.

European Commission announcements on Wednesday: No rest for Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans who will be presenting a new soil strategy, update on waste shipment and minimizing the risk of deforestation and forest degradation associated with products placed on the EU market. EU High Representative Josep Borrell will be on the stage again to present a Global Gateway initiative, a sort of EU “belt and road” project, looking at principally at European investment in Africa. Finally, but not yet confirmed Commissioner may present her review of competition policy: “fit for new challenges”.

The European Parliament will meet for committee and group meetings.

Monetary Dialogue with ECB President Lagarde. MEPs in the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee will meet with ECB President Christine Lagarde for their regular monetary dialogue. They are set to discuss the ECB’s revised inflation target as well as the consequences of a rapid increase in housing costs. (Monday)

EU Digital Covid Certificate/changes in some member states. MEPs in the Civil Liberties Committee will discuss with the Commission the application of the digital COVID certificate in EU member states, as well as recent changes in countries like Austria and France regarding the validity of vaccination certificates and their implications for the freedom of movement. (Thursday)

Golden passports and visas. MEPs on the Civil Liberties Committee will discuss a draft report calling on the Commission to propose rules on national schemes granting citizenship or residence rights to non-EU nationals in exchange for investment. Parliament has repeatedly asked for more stringent rules to avoid loopholes that benefit tax evaders and criminals. (Thursday)

Improving the EU’s response to the migration and asylum crisis. The legislative work on the proposal to set up a new instrument to tackle the migration and asylum crisis in one or several member states, to ensure they are given support rapidly when needed, will begin in the Civil Liberties Committee. The Commission’s proposal includes the possibility to grant immediate protection to displaced people fleeing armed conflicts in their home countries. (Thursday)

Rule of law missions to Hungary, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Slovakia. The Civil Liberties Committee will discuss the recent visits to Hungary, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Slovakia to assess the situation of the rule of law and fundamental rights in these member states. (Thursday) (tbc)

Stopping global deforestation. The Environment Committee will debate with Commissioner Sinkevičius the proposed new legislation that Parliament called for to stop EU-driven global deforestation and forest degradation by obliging companies placing products on the EU market to carry out due diligence.