Tuesday, February 27

Tuesday, February 27

POLAND-EU TENSIONS European Affairs Council to be briefed on Art. 7 disciplinary action against Poland Today ministers for European affairs will

POLAND-EU TENSIONS

European Affairs Council to be briefed on Art. 7 disciplinary action against Poland

Article 7 poland

Photo: European Commission

Today ministers for European affairs will meet at a session of the European Union General Affairs Council, where disciplinary action against Poland is expected.

Warsaw and the European Commission have been at odds over Poland overhauling its judiciary that critics claim has eroded the rule of law by giving the government too much power over judges.

The EU’s Article Seven sets up an infringement procedure against member states that have committed fundamental rights violations. The Council can first give a formal warning to the accused member state. If the state does not comply, the Council can then impose sanctions or even suspend voting rights.

Given that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has adopted a more conciliatory stance toward the EU – namely by reshuffling his cabinet last month – expect the Commission to stop short of fully invoking Article Seven. However, expect the formal warning to be issued to push Warsaw into compromising with EC negotiators. From there, Poland could either provide concrete reassurances it will reform its judiciary, which is likely, or chance the EU proceeding with the full invocation of Article Seven.

Delve deeper: The EU, Hungary and Poland: The good, the bad and the ugly

THE US-CHINA RELATIONSHIP

Top Chinese economic official visits Washington in a bid to soothe trade ties

China steel US trade ties

Photo: Getty

The man expected to head China’s central bank and clinch the top economic post next week, Liu He, will hold talks in Washington DC today in a bid to smooth over the testy economic ties between the world’s two largest economies.

The US has long criticised China for dumping excess steel into the US at rock bottom prices, heavily subsidising Chinese companies and devaluing the Renminbi to make Chinese products cheaper in the US market and US products dearer in China. President Trump has cited these reasons to explain America’s $375 billion trade deficit with the Middle Kingdom. In response, he has threatened to significantly increase tariffs on steel imports using a Cold War-era law citing national security.

These tariffs would only have a minor impact on Beijing because Chinese steel — heavily restricted already — only accounted for 2% of US imports in 2015. Mr Liu will likely use today’s talks to open up lines of communication between Beijing and Trump administration officials in an attempt to steer emphasis back to the ongoing bilateral trade talks.

WAR IN SYRIA

France’s top diplomat in Moscow to discuss Damascus suburb siege

Syria eastern ghouta

Photo: AFP/Amer Almohibany

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian travels to Moscow today for talks with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on the Syrian Civil War.

In recent weeks, Bashar al-Assad’s regime has intensified its bombardment of the last rebel enclave in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta. On Saturday, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a 30-day humanitarian truce in the district, which has been besieged since 2013 and remains home to some 400,000.

In the weeks to come, observers will be keeping an eye on three things: to what extent the 30-day ceasefire is adhered to in Eastern Ghouta, if Turkish military involvement against the Kurds continues in northwest Syria and how the foreign powers involved in the conflict respond to recent developments.

Take note especially of the humanitarian outrage directed at the Assad regime for its actions against these last rebel forces. With the Islamic State in Syria almost destroyed, the rebels taking a final stand in Damascus and the Turks actively engaging the Kurds, Assad — while not defeating all his adversaries himself per se — appears to be nearing the point of being the last major domestic force in the war-torn country left standing.