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Week Ahead (15 April)

Tuesday, 16 April – Wednesday, 17 April – EDPB plenary likely to finalise opinion on Meta’s ‘’pay or ok’’ model 

This week, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) plenary session is likely finalise its opinion on whether Meta’s recently introduced subscription-based model complies with the GDPR.  This model has been labelled as 'pay or ok' by critics, implying that users are coerced into either paying for privacy or acquiescing to tracking and ads. It has generated considerable opposition from NGOs and some privacy regulators across the EU and the European Economic Area. Earlier this year, the data protection authorities of the Netherlands, Norway and Hamburg referred the matter to the EDPB. 


The EDPB had a provisional deadline of eight weeks to adopt an opinion — starting from January 25 (when it received the DPAs’ request). However, it opted to extend the deadline by a further six weeks giving a final deadline of 2 May.     

Per previous reports, even if the proposed “pay or ok” model provides a solution to the data processing requirements of GDPR, it is doubtful whether it will also adhere to the requirements of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) or/and the Digital Services Act (DSA). 

Wednesday, 17 April – Thursday, 18 April – European Council to call for a European Competitiveness Deal and discuss the situation in the Middle East following Iran’s strike against Israel 

This week, the European Council will focus on enhancing the single market and advancing the bloc's green and digital transitions in light of geopolitical tensions and aggressive international subsidy policies, particularly from global economic rivals like China.  


According to the draft conclusions, EU leaders are set to call for a European Competitiveness Deal and a horizontal single market strategy by June 2025, outlining specific measures to eliminate barriers, enforce rules more effectively, and support smaller companies. Former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta will present to the EU heads of state his much-anticipated report on the ‘’future of the single market’’, expected to argue for deeper integration. EU leaders will also stress the need for progress in creating a Capital Markets Union (CMU) to facilitate better access to funding for European businesses, particularly tech startups that have struggled to secure adequate capital within the EU. Finally, another item on the agenda is the state of bilateral relations with Turkey.  

The Summit will once again turn its focus on the ongoing situation in the Middle East, following Iran’s launch of missile and drone attacks on Saturday evening. Even though the attack was largely repelled by Israel and its allies, the Israeli government is currently mulling its response. EU leaders will discuss ways of supporting Israel while preventing further escalation that could lead to a wider regional war. 

Wednesday, 17 April – Croatian general elections to take place  

On Wednesday, Croatia will hold general elections in a tense political climate. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic is campaigning for a third term, however, his ruling centre-right HDZ party is at risk of losing its parliamentary majority following a series of scandals. The dynamics are further complicated by President Zoran Milanovic, who has previously expressed his intention to run for prime minister under the centre-left SDP, despite a Constitutional Court ruling that bars him from campaigning while holding presidential office. Latest polls suggest that Milanovic surpasses Plenkovic in popularity meaning that he could significantly influence the elections, especially given his critical views of the government’s military aid to Ukraine.  


However, domestic issues remain the main concern among Croatian voters. The HDZ has been credited with overseeing the country’s EU and eurozone accession and an economic boom, largely driven by tourism. In January, Croatia reported an 8.6% increase in average salaries compared to 2023 and a 2.8% economic growth 2023, surpassing the EU average.  Nonetheless, Plenkovic’s administration has been marred by accusations of corruption and nepotism. The most recent controversy was caused by the contentious appointment of Ivan Turudic, a figure close to HDZ, as prosecutor general. This move has sparked fears among opposition politicians and civil society groups that HDZ is attempting to shield itself from legal scrutiny. The opposition has capitalised on the government's corruption scandals, which include allegations of misuse of EU funds and losses in public companies, to challenge the HDZ’s long-standing rule. 


The latest poll forecasts that HDZ could drop to 60 seats in the 151-seat parliament, losing the slim majority it previously held through alliances with minority and diaspora lawmakers. The opposition SDP is projected to win 44 seats, an increase from the last election, with the right-wing anti-immigration Homeland Movement and the ecologist Mozemo party also set to make gains. These developments suggest that the formation of a new SDP-led coalition government, potentially including right-wing and green parties along with ethnic minority and diaspora representatives, could be a possibility, marking a significant political shift in Croatia. 

Wednesday, 17 April – ONS to release UK inflation data for March 

On Wednesday, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) will release the UK consumer price monthly inflation figures for March. The release will follow today’s announcement that UK GDP is estimated to have grown by 0.1% in February, driven by a 1.2% increase in manufacturing. This was the second consecutive month that the UK economy grew, suggesting that the UK may be moving out of the technical recession it entered at the end of 2023, following two quarters of contraction.  


In February, annual inflation softened to 3.4%, down from 4% in January, reaching its lowest level in over two years. This sharp drop was driven by declines in food prices, soft drinks, restaurants, and hotels. On 21 March, the Bank of England (BoE) decided to leave interest rates unchanged for a fourth time in a row, following 14 consecutive increases from December 2021 to August 2023. The key interest rate was kept at 5.25%, the highest level since the 2008 financial crisis.  


Last month, BoE Governor Andrew Bailey suggested that rate cuts were still "in play" for future Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meetings, indicating a possible easing of monetary policy in the coming months. However, traders have reduced their expectations for BoE interest rate cuts in 2024 following the release of unexpectedly high inflation data from the US earlier this week, which officials acknowledge could impact the UK's economy and electoral strategy.   


In an opinion article for the FT, Megan Greene, a prominent hawkish member of the BoE’s MPC stated that ‘’rate cuts in the UK should still be way off’’, arguing that inflation might remain higher for longer in Britain compared to other advanced economies due to unique challenges like a tight labour market and significant energy price shocks. Her caution is also shared by other MPC members like Jonathan Haskel, who also sees interest rate cuts as being "a long way off". Hence, the consensus has shifted, and the market now anticipates that the first rate cut might only occur in August. 


Thursday, 18 April – General Court hearing on Ryanair’s challenge to state aid granted to TAP airlines 

On Thursday, the General Court, the EU’s second highest court, is set to hear Ryanair’s legal challenge against the European Commission regarding state aid provided to a rival airline during the COVID-19 pandemic. 


In June 2020, the European Commission approved a €1.2 billion rescue loan for Portugal’s TAP airlines under its Guidelines on rescue and restructuring aid. However, this decision was annulled by the General Court in May 2021 (case T-465/20 Ryanair/Commission), citing the Commission's failure to clarify TAP’s status within a larger business group and the implications this had on its financial difficulties. Following the annulment, the Commission was given two months to rectify these issues and subsequently re-approved the aid in July 2021, this time providing detailed justifications related to TAP's structure and the status of its shareholders as of June 2020.  


In other words, the current legal action by Ryanair constitutes a second appeal against this re-approved decision. In its lawsuit, Ryanair is arguing that the Commission’s decision was flawed in its application of guidelines, assessment of aid compatibility, and consideration of EU principles like non-discrimination and free service provision. Ryanair also alleges procedural violations and a failure to adequately state reasons, requesting the court to annul the decision and have the Commission cover the case costs. 


In total, Ryanair has filed 16 lawsuits against the Commission for allowing state aid to airlines across Europe, including Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and LOT. Most recently, in February, Ryanair won its second challenge against a 3.4 billion Dutch state aid scheme in support of Air France-KLM's Dutch unit, after the General Court ruled that the Commission had not taken into account all beneficiaries within the airline group, annulling the approval of the state aid. 



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