Belgium may gain additional MEP

Brussels (Belga) – Belgium may gain an extra seat in the European Parliament in the 2024 elections. On Wednesday, EU ambassadors agreed on the composition of the parliament between 2024 and 2029, the Spanish presidency announced on Twitter.

The European treaty stipulates that the European Parliament should have a maximum of 750 members and a president. There are currently 705 seats, including 21 for Belgium, but the European Parliament wants to increase the total number of seats to 716 after the June 2024 elections, to take into account the latest population figures.

In the Parliament’s proposal, Belgium would remain at 21 seats, but the member states themselves were also given a say. Belgium had announced earlier that it would demand one to two more seats.

The EU ambassadors of the member states have now agreed on their suggestion for the composition of the Parliament after 2024. According to the Dutch news agency ANP, Belgium, along with Poland, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Slovakia, Ireland, Slovenia and Latvia, would be allowed to elect an extra MEP – if the Council’s proposal were to be implemented. The Netherlands would get two more, as would Spain and France. This would expand the European Parliament to 720 seats.

EU diplomats expect that the Parliament will accept these adjustments to its proposal. Either way, time is pressing: European elections will be held in June of next year, and many member states will soon begin preparations. (26 July)

EU Ombudsman questions Frontex

Brussels (dpa) – Following the shipwreck in Greece, in which several hundred people died, the European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly wants to investigate the role of the EU border agency Frontex. “It has been reported that in this instance Frontex alerted the Greek authorities to the ship’s presence and offered assistance, but it is not clear what else it could or should have done,” O’Reilly announced in Brussels on Wednesday. While the role of the Greek authorities was being investigated at national level, the role of Frontex also needed to be clarified, she said.

According to the statement, the ombudsman has asked for the formal report on what happened and details of how information on search and rescue operations is shared between Frontex and national authorities. Other questions include the use of boat-mounted cameras during joint operations.

Many migrants attempt life-threatening crossings to Europe on boats that are often not seaworthy. There have been a number of serious boat accidents. In mid-June, for example, hundreds of migrants attempting to cross from Libya to Italy drowned when an overcrowded fishing boat sank about 50 nautical miles off the Greek coast. Frontex has repeatedly been accused by NGOs of failing to adequately protect the rights of refugees. (26 July)

France and Austria to prepare EU for enlargement

Vienna (APA) – France and Austria want to prepare the European Union for the accession of new members. “The real question is the ‘how’ of enlargement, the changes we have to aim for in the EU budget as well as in the institutions,” French Secretary of State for Europe Laurence Boone said after a meeting with Austrian European Affairs Minister Karoline Edtstadler in Vienna on Tuesday.

“These issues will set the course for the political agenda after the European Parliament elections in 2024,” Edtstadler said, according to a statement published by the Austrian chancellery. “We need a new vision for the enlargement process,” the minister stated. “Given the geopolitical realities, we need to adapt the process. It is important to maintain a merit-based approach to EU accession,” Edtstadler urged.

Boone stressed that it was important for her to exchange views ahead of important meetings at European level in late 2023 and 2024. “We agree that we need to prepare the EU to welcome new members. We also need answers to the current challenges, both in terms of strategic autonomy and economic security. For France, it’s not a question of if or when the EU should be enlarged – it should happen as soon as possible.”

The EU is currently negotiating accession with Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and North Macedonia. EU membership negotiations with Turkey have been stalling for years, and Ankara has called for talks to be resumed. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ukraine and Moldova also have official EU candidate status. Kosovo and Georgia are considered potential EU candidates. (25 July)

Bulgarian yoghurt in the European register of protected designations of origin

Brussels (BTA) – Bulgaria has registered the origin of its yoghurt with the EU.

This traditional Bulgarian product was known worldwide for its beneficial properties and its inclusion in the register as a protected designation of origin created further opportunities for its promotion, said Minister of Agriculture and Food Kiril Vatev.

The registration will give producers a competitive advantage on the market and consumers an additional guarantee of the product’s origin and quality. 

Bulgarian yoghurt is the second Bulgarian product to be registered as a protected designation of origin at European level. (25 July)

This is a compilation of the European coverage of enr news agencies. It is published Tuesdays and Fridays. The content is an editorial selection based on news by the respective agency.