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Week Ahead (12 September)

Monday, 12 September – The seventh Resilience and Recovery Dialogue to take place

The seventh Resilience and Recovery Dialogue will take place later today, attended by the members of the Committee on Budgets, the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, the Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, and Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni.

The discussion will focus on the state of play of the Recovery plans across the bloc, including the impact of July’s partial recalculation of grants’ allocation, and the Commission’s assessment of the implementation of national recovery plans. Other sections are expected to deal with the RePowerEU, the 2022 Semester, and financing aspects of the facility.

Most member states have already received their first grants under the RRF. The Dutch recovery plan has been the most recent one to be endorsed by the European Commission, following its approval last week. Hungary is currently the only member state whose plan remains outstanding for approval by the European Commission. Poland has yet to submit a formal request for the first tranche, even though its development and technology minister pledged to do so in July, amid a continuous impasse on the country’s judicial reforms.

W/C Monday, 12 September – Sweden enters period of political uncertainty, as Sunday’s election results ‘’too close to call’’, pending official results this week

On Sunday, Sweden held general elections for the first time since September 2018. With 90% of the vote counted, the Swedish right-wing opposition parties seem to enjoy a narrow lead over the ruling centre-left bloc, led by the Social Democrats. Furthermore, early results suggest that the far-right Sweden Democrats will overtake the centre-right Moderates as Sweden’s second largest party, trailing only behind the Social Democrats, confirming the most recent polls.

As things currently stand, the Moderates leading the right-wing bloc will most likely need the support of the Sweden Democrats, either as a supporting party in a minority government or with a ministry in a broader coalition.

The ongoing energy crisis dominated the debate in the previous weeks. However, other domestic issues figuring high were gang-related violence and immigration policy, with the Sweden Democrats capitalising on increased security concerns. Meanwhile, two main competing blocs, led by the Social Democrats and the Moderates aimed to outbid each other by pledging generous measures to fight inflation. The ruling bloc has announced billions of euros of emergency liquidity guarantees to energy companies and pledged around 60 billion crowns ($5.8 billion) in subsidies to affected companies and households. The opposition has pledged to enforce income tax cuts and lower fuel prices through subsidies and announced plans to subsidise new nuclear power plants.

Nonetheless, the election authority stated that preliminary results would be available on Wednesday at the earliest. Regardless of the outcome, forming a government would most likely be a lengthy process, especially in an increasingly polarised political climate. The narrow lead that any of the two blocs would most likely enjoy could further complicate the formation of a government, granting Sweden’s far-right party unprecedented levels of influence.

Wednesday, 14 September – President von der Leyen to deliver State of the Union speech and unveil detailed proposals to tackle the energy price crisis

On Wednesday, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, will deliver her annual speech on the State of the European Union. Her speech will follow last Friday’s extraordinary meeting of energy ministers who reached a broad agreement on several of the Commission’s proposals, discussing what measures they are willing to collectively support and their current state of preparedness for the upcoming winter.

Earlier last week, von der Leyen outlined five immediate measures to help the bloc deal with the energy crisis. These include mandatory measures to reduce electricity demand, a windfall tax on excessive energy profits made by renewables and nuclear energy due to the price of electricity, a solidarity tax on fossil fuel companies making excessive profits, a state aid programme to inject extra liquidity to struggling utility companies and setting a price cap on Russian gas imports. The addition of capping Russian gas imports seems to take stock of Gazprom’s recent indefinite extension of the shutdown of gas flows to Europe through its Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

Capping the price of Russian gas and imposing mandatory energy savings remain the most divisive measures among member states, as certain Central European countries like Hungary and Slovakia are concerned about the possibility of a Russian retaliatory total shutdown of gas flows. Furthermore, the option of mandatory ‘’smart savings’’ has also prompted reactions.

Meanwhile, decoupling of gas and electricity prices remains off the table for the European Commission as a more radical option, despite the strong backing of certain member states.

Wednesday, 14 September – EU General Court to rule on a record €4.34 billion fine against Google

On Wednesday, the EU General Court will rule on whether to uphold a record €4.34 billion fine against Google, imposed by the European Commission’s antitrust decision in July 2018.

The fine was imposed over Google’s efforts to dominate the mobile phone market by imposing illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators, with antitrust officials concluding that these restrictions hampered competition and harmed consumers.

Last year the Court upheld the Commission’s first investigation into Google, however, the decision will come only a few months after the Court canceled fines of €997 million and €1.06 billion imposed by the European Commission on chip firms Qualcomm and Intel respectively.

Even though a potential overturn of its fine could deal a blow to the European Commission, the recent adoption of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) will ensure that similar abuses will be prohibited in the future.

Thursday, 15 September – Deadline expires for the EU to renew sanctions against individuals, with Hungary demanding changes

On Thursday, the deadline for the EU to decide on whether to renew measures for another six months against individuals who were sanctioned since the outbreak of war in Ukraine will expire.

However, this time Hungary threatens to block the renewal of some parts of the sanctions, demanding the removal of three Russian individuals from the list, causing outrage in several EU member states. This includes their de-listing from the visa ban and the asset freeze list. This will not be the first time Hungary will seek to leverage its vote on sanctions into tradeoffs, and it has already frustrated the process during previous rounds of sanctions. Since February, the EU has imposed restrictive measures against more than 1,000 individuals, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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