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The EU summit kicks off in Brussels today, here's everything that's happening

Turkey, budgets and enlargement… it’s not just about Brexit, you know.

shutterstock_1410634223 Source: Shutterstock/Alexandros Michailidis

THE EUROPEAN UNION summit, which has served as a Brexit milestone for months, kicks off in Brussels today, but there’s more than just the latest Withdrawal Deal wranglings on the agenda.

The UK’s continuing efforts to leave the EU grabbed all the headlines ahead of the European Council meeting and indeed the regularly shifting status of whether or not there would be a deal even affected the summit’s timetable, with a European Council spokesperson telling TheJournal.ie that yesterday’s dash for a deal left organisers unable to settle on a running order for the important meeting.

When is it happening and who will be there?

The two-day council meeting kicks off when leaders start arriving at the Europa Building in Brussels at 1:30pm Irish time (2:30pm local time) today.

The roundtable meeting will start at 2:30pm and it will be attended by the leaders of all 28 European Union member states, the council’s president, Donald Tusk, and the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.

This will be one of the final EU meetings attended by both, with Juncker due to step down at the end of this month and Tusk finishing his term in November.

Federica Mogherini, who serves as the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, will also take part when foreign affairs issues are being discussed.

So, what’s on the agenda?

The meeting has been circled in the calendar as a crucial Brexit deadline for the past few months so, needless to say, the latest on the UK’s bid to leave looms large over proceedings. 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will have to leave the room when discussions turn to Brexit, as the leaders of the other 27 EU nations discuss how they’d like things to proceed.

eu-2 Source: Shutterstock/Alexandros Michailidis

When that small matter’s out-of-the-way, Boris will rejoin the party and all 28 leaders will move onto discussing the union’s long-term budget and a range of other issues.

Budgets, priorities and appointments

The budget is of enormous significance as it will run from 2021 to 2027. It has been the focus of a huge amount of behind the scenes work and, reports indicate, that it is expected to be signed off early next year.

With Brexit and the budget all thrashed out, the summit will move on to discussing the EU priorities for the next five years. The union’s strategic agenda outlines that the priorities include sustainability, developing its economic base and protecting citizens and freedoms.

European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, who officially takes over from Tusk on 1 November, will be invited to outline the priorities of the new commission and the council is also expected to rubber stamp the appointment of Christine Lagarde as President of the European Central Bank.

EU enlargement and foreign policy

It’s not an issue that has grabbed a huge amount of attention since the prospect of Turkey joining became a talking point in the run-up to the Brexit referendum, but the potential for enlargement of the union has been quietly ticking along in the background.

There are currently two candidates for accession negotiations, Albania and the Republic of North Macedonia, and the leaders will get an update on their status during the summit.

Once negotiations start it can still be a long road until countries are granted membership and it’s far from a guarantee that it will ever comes to pass. Turkey started negotiations in 2005 and it becoming a member looks as far away as ever.

The Turkish military’s operation in north-eastern Syria is also expected to be discussed over the course of the two-day summit, when matters turn to foreign policy issues.

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Ceimin Burke

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