Auteur: Honor Mahony
BRUSSELS - EU leaders gather in Brussels at the end of this week to, the European Commission hopes, give a "strong political endorsement" to the investment fund proposed by President Jean-Claude Juncker.
The fund, unveiled last month, is supposed to result in €315bn investment in the EU economy over the coming years, using a guarantee of €16 billion from the EU budget and €5 billion from the European Investment Bank (EIB).
It has come in for criticism for relying on high leverage premises (€1 is to yield €15) and no new money - but the commission has argued that it was hemmed in by member states, particularly Germany, not wanting to create new debt.
A spokesperson Friday (12 December) said that the commission was expecting the endorsement of the fund to be "so loud and clear that it will be understood by all concerned".
Jyrki Katainen, the EU commissioner in charge of the fund, will travel to Romania, the first country in a tour to persuade investors to put their hands in their pockets to support a series of projects meant to boost growth in Europe. His tour continues in January when he heads to Germany.
2015 work programme
The commission is also due to present its to-do list for 2015 to MEPs next week. The work programme is expected to include plans for legislation to clamp down on tax avoidance and further economic integration.
It is also expected to improve transparency in the institutions; overhaul its controversial way of dealing with GM product approvals and bring the EU closer to being an energy union.
A series of laws are also up for the scrap heap, as part of the commission's new drive to get rid of obsolete legislation, and cull laws that are unlikely to ever see the light of day.
Among those being binned are a maternity leave proposal; one on labelling of organic goods; a proposal on loans to nuclear power states and a law on recycling waste - the inclusion of the waste law has drawn criticism that the commission is abandoning green initiatives to fit a deregulation agenda.
Commission president Juncker as well as Frans Timmermans, commissioner in charge of cutting down red tape, will discuss both this and the 2015 work programme with MEPs on Tuesday. Deputies from the left, in particular, are set to ask Juncker in detail about plans to ensure fairer tax regimes in the EU.
Juncker will face MEPs once more on Wednesday when they hold a debate on the EU's economy and the planned investment fund.
Later that day, MEPs will debate the US Senate's report on the CIA's use of torture on detainees in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Several member states having been accused over the years of aiding the CIA by hosting secret facilities on their territory.
Former Polish leader Aleksander Kwasniewski admitted last week that his country hosted one of these US cites, but other countries have also been implicated in the past, including Lithuania and Romania.
MEPs will also vote on a resolution on whether Palestine should be recognised as a state. The vote follows similar moves in several member states. Assemblies in Ireland and France have voted in favour of state recognition while Sweden recently recognised Palestine.
On Tuesday, EU ombudsman Emily O'Reilly will find out if her term in office is to be renewed. MEPs will hold a secret ballot on handing the post for five more years.
O'Reilly, who is the only candidate, has over the past year shaken up the position, making it much more high-profile and pro-active. She has made transparency her key issue, pushing for light to be shed on the ongoing EU-US trade talk and lately opening an investigation into the EU's handling of corruption allegations at Eulex, its rule of law mission in Kosovo.
EU foreign ministers will meet Monday with Iraq, Syria and IS the main topics on the agenda - how to deal with EU-based fighters heading to Syria and Iraq to fight for Islamic State has proved a huge political challenge for governments.
Ministers will also discuss the situation in Ukraine amid reports that Moscow is lobbying some member states to oppose a renewal of sanctions against Russia next year.
Fish ministers will also gather in Brussels for their traditional end-of-year gathering to discuss fishing quotas and stocks for the coming year.