EUROPEAN COUNCIL SUMMIT
The European Council will convene on Thursday after a week of meetings by the EU’s Foreign and General Affairs Councils.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has been conspicuously left off the invitation list to an EU27 dinner on Thursday evening. Informal discussions between Council President Donald Tusk and EU member states over the viability of establishing a Brexit working group have intensified over the past month.
The Council will also discuss relations with Turkey, including visa liberalisation and its potential accession to the EU.
Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed that Europe would not have a repeat of last year’s migrant influx. This pledge may signal a winding back of liberal refugee policies across the continent. Such a shift would reduce the EU’s reliance on a migrant exchange deal with Turkey, which in turn hinges on the stalled visa liberalisation deal.
Meanwhile, Austria has declared it will veto further membership talks with Ankara, a sign of an increasingly strained relationship between continental Europe and its southeastern neighbour.
UN DISCUSSES SYRIA
On Friday, the UN Security Council will discuss the situation in the Middle East; forging a lasting ceasefire in Syria is likely to feature highly on the agenda. This comes days after a ceasefire was reached between Russia and rebels, allowing for the evacuation of civilians and remaining fighters besieged in eastern Aleppo.
But Russia objects to general truces, vetoing one put to the Security Council on Dec. 5. While the current deal is limited to Aleppo only, Moscow argues a general ceasefire would allow rebels to regroup, and insists that larger ceasefires be preceded by the discrimination of ‘terrorists’ from other opposition groups. Other countries, including America, maintain that Moscow uses counterterrorism operations to justify attacks on all rebels and civilians.
If these issues are not resolved – as is likely to be the case – a divided Security Council cannot implement a lasting ceasefire. What’s worse, the ongoing evacuation of rebels to their last stronghold in Idlib – still connected to the Turkish border (for now) – will create a new hotbed of fighting.