Council President Michel To Vacate Post As the EU Enters Election Year

Democratic Security Outlook 2024: 8 January - 14 January 

8 January 2024

EU Council President Charles Michel, a Belgian liberal, announced plans to step down and run for European Parliament in June, opening a race to find his successor before Hungary assumes the rotating presidency of the bloc from 1 July.

Upcoming on Visegrad Insight:

  • Martin Ehl breaks down the current state of European defence capabilities and highlights avenues for cooperation.
  • Albin Sybera analyses the recent protests and their potential impact on Slovakia over PM Fico’s judicial overhaul.

EU/REGIONAL

  • Charles Michel’s surprise announcement that he would step down as EU Council President to run for member of the European Parliament made a symbolic start to an intensive electoral year in the European Union, which will test its ability to maintain course on supporting Ukraine and get the bloc ready for enlargement.
  • The search for Michel’s replacement is made urgent by the prospect, dreaded by most EU leaders, that should the post remain vacant after the June EP elections, EU summits would be chaired by Viktor Orbán, whose country assumes the rotating presidency in the second half of 2024.
  • Belgium assumed the EU Presidency on 1 January as the bloc entered the run-up to elections to the European Parliament in June. Apart from ongoing files such as the rule of law, enlargement and migration, Belgium’s priorities include tackling the growing drug abuse problem across the bloc. Belgium’s Antwerp is a major hub for cocaine smuggling from Latin America.
  • Democracy’s share in global governance has slipped back to 1986 levels over the past three decades, resulting in the ascendancy of autocratic rule, according to an annual report by V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg. The report said, however, that there were signs of democratic resilience, quoting the examples of Brazil and Poland as countries where autocratic tendencies were stopped by voters before their democracy broke down.
  • A serious cold snap swept over Russia, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, with temperatures dropping close to minus 40 degrees. European gas prices, which had been falling for much of the last quarter of 2023, spiked in response but remained below December levels.
  • NATO’s Support and Procurement Agency will support a coalition of Allies, including Germany, the Netherlands, Romania and Spain, to procure up to 1,000 Patriot missiles to strengthen their air defences. The contract will expand the European production of the missiles.
  • Gas operators in the Baltic countries, Poland, Finland, Norway and Germany are conducting a feasibility study for a hydrogen pipeline around the shores of the Baltic Sea, Polish website BiznesAlert reported.
  • A potential new template for future relationships between media companies and Big Tech firms driving the Artificial Intelligence revolution emerged in a deal between Axel Springer and OpenAI, FT reports.

Ukraine weighs mobilisation as war enters third year 

UKRAINE

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