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Week Ahead (7 March)

Monday, 7 March – UK government to table amendments to Economic Crime Bill to target Russian money

Later today, on behalf of the UK government, UK foreign secretary Liz Truss will table amendments to the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill in order to address criticisms that it was weak on illicit Russian money.

One amendment will allow the UK to fast-track sanctions on anyone who is already sanctioned by the EU, US or Canada. Another will cut the minimum time allowed to declare the true owners of British properties from 18 months to six – amid fears that the current regime can allow assets to be laundered before they are declared.

A further change will be the removal of an appropriateness test for sanctions which aims to remove one avenue for lawyers to delay the imposition of sanctions. Conservative backbenchers will also propose an amendment that would allow the UK to seize oligarchs’ assets even before the formal sanctions process had been completed.

The Bill is expected to be expedited through the House of Commons and Lords and become law in the next fortnight.

W/C Monday, 7 March - Commission to propose measures to shield Europe from effect of counter sanctions

The European Commission is likely to adopt a package of measures designed to protect the EU economy from the worst effects of counter sanctions from Russia this week. It has been reported that among the options discussed are the repurposing of existing loans, the issuance of fresh debt to assist with payments for surging energy bills and a fast-tracking of state subsidies to struggling companies under a state aid revamp.

Alongside protective measures, member states are also likely to agree further sanctions on Russia in the coming week. Options include removing more Russian banks from the SWIFT payments system and further sanctions on individuals within Russia. Some member states have advocated a ban on Russian companies from tendering for public contracts in the EU, as well as measures to combat attempts to dodge sanctions via the use of cyber-currencies. The biggest debate revolves around the targeting of Russian oil and gas, which would have a significant impact on the Russian and European economies. Eastern and central European states have already called for such measures, but western Europe is hesitant about introducing a measure that would harm its access to essential energy supplies.

Monday, 7 March - ECON and BUDG to hold joint meeting to discuss recovery and resilience

The European Parliament's committees on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) and Budgets (BUDG) will meet on Monday, with the progress of the roll-out of the recovery and resilience facility on the agenda. The European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, and the Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, will address the committees in the fifth such recovery and resilience dialogue to be held since the inception of the RRF.

The dialogue will cover the implementation of the RRF across member states, the status of the member state recovery plans, progress made by member states towards achieving agreed reforms and spending milestones, and the mechanism for requesting payments from the fund.

Thursday, 10 March - ECB Governing Council to meet as asset purchases under PEPP end

The European Central 's Governing Council will meet on Thursday to discuss monetary policy. The meeting will be the first since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and comes after flash estimates for February, released last week, indicate that inflation hit record levels through the month. The reading of 5.8% was markedly higher than industry expectations of 5.4% and substantially above the ECB's target of 2%.

The ECB had been expected to signify that it would speed its exit from asset purchases; indeed, the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme, or PEPP, will expire this month. However, it is understood that the central bank will now signify that exiting its existing asset purchase programme will not necessarily be accompanied by an increase in interest rates.

The ECB may also discuss a request from members of the European Parliament to open an emergency liquidity line with Ukraine to allow its central bank to convert their currency into euro. Twenty-two parliamentarians signed a letter to ECB President Christine Lagarde last week requesting such a move, pointing out that Ukrainian people fleeing the war are travelling with cash which they are unable to exchange or spend in their host countries.

While officials are sceptical around whether taking on assets based on a risky currency such as the Ukrainian hryvnia is justifiable, a liquidity line from the ECB would prompt central banks in jurisdictions which are experiencing an influx of Ukrainian refugees to take similar action and potentially ease humanitarian concerns.

Thursday, 10 March - Irish Central Statistics Office to publish consumer price index for February

On Thursday, Ireland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) will publish details of the consumer price index for February 2022. Flash Eurostat data released on Wednesday suggested that Irish prices rose 5.7% in February – equalling December 2021’s record level.

According to Eurostat’s figures for February, energy prices in the Eurozone were up 31.7% in the month. As one of the most energy import dependent countries in the EU (67% in 2018), Ireland’s overall inflation levels can be expected to remain elevated amid the turmoil in international energy markets.

Ireland is still one of the most import dependent countries in the EU. Oil makes up by far the largest share of energy imports: in 2018, oil accounted for 73% of total energy imports, natural gas 17%, coal 8.2% and renewables 1.4%.

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