The Year in Review: Challenges and Choices of 2019

EURACTIV put together for you the Best of 2019. [EPA]

It’s been a very busy European election year and most of us are heading for a well-deserved Christmas break. But if you do fire up your browser over the holidays, here are our 30 most-read stories that made a splash in 2019.

EURACTIV.com will keep ticking over the Christmas break and normal service will resume after 2 January, with the new European Commission’s first 100 days, Brexit (maybe?) and other fresh policy topics.

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New European leadership ahoy!

Groups are ready, EU Parliament is ready to play

Seven political groups have been formed in the new European Parliament and there are two major left-outs still looking for their place ahead of the Parliament’s inaugural plenary on 2 July. Piotr Kaczyński takes a look at the groups and their Polish members, as well as at the strategic agenda for the next five years.

Commissioners assemble: Class of 2019-2024

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s executive began work on the 1 December. Read here all the details and figures on the self-dubbed “geopolitical Commission”.

UPDATE: After Ireland’s Phil Hogan tendered his resignation, the government must now propose a new …

The quiet rise of Ursula von der Leyen

German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen, a compromise name for the next  European Commission President, is a non-divisive political figure on EU stage and quiet tactician hardly known outside Germany. But her career at home has often been marked by scandals.

Commissioner Hearings: Best Of

A compilation of some of the best moments of the 24 hearings.

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Green New Deal for Europe

LEAKED: Brussels’ draft proposal for a European Green Deal

The incoming European Commission of Ursula von der Leyen is preparing a raft of new climate and environmental laws as part of a European Green Deal due to be unveiled on 11 December. EURACTIV got hold of a first draft, which is still subject to change.

Greta Thunberg: ‘We just want politicians to listen to the scientists’

School kids are on climate strike “because we have done our homework” and listened to science, 16-year-old green activist Greta Thunberg told EU policymakers in Brussels today (21 February). “Just unite behind the science, that is our demand,” she said.

Europe’s largest floating solar plant opens in France

The most powerful floating solar PV plant in Europe was inaugurated in southern France on Friday (18 October), marking another milestone in the development of solar energy.

CO2-tracking satellites crucial for climate efforts, say space experts

Current Earth observation technologies are not accurate enough when it comes to monitoring carbon dioxide emissions, according to delegates at the EU’s space week in Helsinki. A new system set to launch in 2025 should change all that.

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Western Balkans and enlargement storm

Three countries agree mini Schengen in the Balkans

Three Western Balkan EU hopefuls, Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia, have decided to advance regional cooperation by forming the so-called “mini-Schengen” in order to improve life and the economy in the region until the EU opens its doors to them.

France halts EU enlargement

France blocked the opening of accession talks with North Macedonia on Tuesday (15 October), despite the promise made by the EU to Skopje that its historic name deal with Greece, the Prespa agreement, would earn it a ticket to EU membership negotiations.

Skopje on fire as MEPs slam EU leaders' failure to open accession talks

Postponing the start of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania was a “serious mistake” and “grave error”, European Council President Donald Tusk and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told MEPs on Tuesday, as negative effects already started showing in the Western Balkans.

15 countries, and counting, revoke recognition of Kosovo, Serbia says

With Togo becoming the fifteenth country to revoke its recognition of Kosovo, according to Serbia’s foreign minister, Belgrade has moved closer to its goal of having half of UN member states not recognising its former province’s independence.

EPP’s Weber comes out on Macedonia name change deal

Manfred Weber, the Spitzenkandidat of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), ended months of silence on the ongoing efforts to resolve the Greece-Macedonia name row with a couple of pithy comments on Tuesday (9 January) that appear to support the deal.

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Rule of law headaches

With new judiciary appointments, Poland further escalates row with Brussels

The Polish Sejm began its new parliamentary term with a controversial approval of three new members of the Constitutional Tribunal, including two members of the ruling party, drawing criticism from the opposition and raising the stakes in the stand-off with Brussels.

MEPs shut out of Hungary Council hearing as rule of law situation worsens

MEPs are reeling after being shut out of a Council hearing under the Article 7 procedure against Hungary for systemic breaches to the rule of law, as the situation in the country further deteriorates.

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Europe looks East, the East looks back

Normandy summit upholds 'Steinmeier formula' for Eastern Ukraine

Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in their first face-to-face meeting, took part in nine hours of talks in Paris on Monday (9 November), brokered by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Central Asia leaders meet again in sign of increased regional cooperation

A five-way summit hosted by Uzbekistan’s President Shavket Mirziyoyev took place in the Kuksaroy Palace in Tashkent, the country’s capital, on Friday (29 November). The second meeting of Central Asia leaders in as many years focused on geopolitics and stability, but also on environmental concerns.

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Brexit still not over (yet)

UK is 'wasting time', Tusk says as leaders express hostility to Brexit delay

EU leaders ruled out the prospect of a further Brexit extension as the European Council summit drew to a close on Friday (21 June), with Council boss Donald Tusk accusing the UK of wasting its six-month extension, which ends on 31 October.

EU approves Brexit ‘flextension’ until 31 January

The EU27 ambassadors agreed on Monday (28 October) to extend the Brexit negotiations for a further three months until 31 January although the UK will be able to leave as soon as the ratification of the withdrawal agreement is completed. 

The Irish Border and Brexit

The decision of the British people to leave the European Union will have important consequences both in Europe and in the UK, but Northern Ireland and the border counties of the Republic of Ireland will be the most heavily impacted by Brexit.

Airbus now wants to remain in UK regardless of Brexit outcome

European planemaker Airbus wants to stay in the UK whatever the outcome of Brexit, as the country is “a very important pillar” for the company, new CEO Guillaume Faury said on Tuesday (21 May), amending negative comments made by his predecessor.

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New wind in European security

With new focus on China, NATO patches up stormy summit

NATO leaders wrapped up their acrimonious 70th-anniversary meeting in relative harmony on Wednesday (4 December), bridging a series of intense internal divisions and agreeing to focus more on the challenge of China’s “growing international influence” and military might.

EDA chief: We need both, strategic autonomy and defence cooperation

With all the new types of challenges emerging in Europe, NATO can no longer do the job on its own, which is why Europe has to step up its defence cooperation, Jorge Domecq, who heads the European Defence Agency (EDA), told EURACTIV in his end-of-term interview.

Fault-lines surface in Arctic as region turns into geopolitical hotspot

As the ice melts, a new ocean with new trade routes and untapped natural resources opens up in Europe’s High North, leaving the Arctic region caught between cooperation and militarization.

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China and digital on the rise

EXCLUSIVE: Leaked memo reveals China’s detailed plans in Italy

China plans to cooperate with Italy in the development of “roads, railways, bridges, civil aviation, ports, energy, and telecommunications” as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, a confidential ‘memorandum of understanding’ obtained exclusively by EURACTIV reveals.

The Capitals Special: Europe's 5G dilemma

EU ministers adopted conclusions on Tuesday concerning the importance and security of 5G technology, which stress that an approach to 5G cybersecurity should be comprehensive and risk-based, while also taking into account ‘non-technical factors’.

European bloc not considering joining China’s Belt and Road plans

EU officials confirmed that the bloc is not considering joining China’s Belt and Road initiative on Friday (26 April), contrary to what German Economic minister Peter Altmaier has previously said. 

Censorship fears linger as copyright directive overcomes final hurdle

A “censorship of the internet” could be in store as a direct result of the EU’s new rules on Copyright protection, a Polish government minister said on Monday (15 April), as EU member states approved the controversial plans after more than two years.

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All about the money

Eurogroup fails to move forward on eurozone reform

EU finance ministers failed to reach an agreement on Wednesday (4 December) on the reform of the EU’s bailout fund and move to political discussions on the European Deposit Insurance Scheme ahead of the Euro summit next week.

MEPs ready to fight against member states on EU budget

The European Parliament will not accept a “take it or leave it” agreement on the EU’s next long term budget (2021-2027), co-rapporteurs Jan Olbrytch and Margarida Marques have told EURACTIV. 

LEAK: Finland’s EU budget proposal limits expenditure to 1.06% of GNI

Finland’s EU presidency proposed a budget equal to 1.06% of the region’s gross national income (GNI) for 2021- 2027, slightly increasing its past draft proposal but below the ambition of the European Commission and Parliament, according to the negotiating box  seen by EURACTIV.com.

EU tax haven blacklist triples to include 15 countries

EU finance ministers approved on Tuesday (12 March) the addition of 10 more countries to the EU’s blacklist of tax havens, which currently includes only five jurisdictions and aims to help prevent tax fraud or evasion.

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Stay tuned at EURACTIV and see you in 2020!

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