An agreement on the European Union's seven-year budget, future relations with Great Britain, a months-long conference on Europe's future, a legislative framework for the fight against climate change are major tasks facing the EU bloc in 2020.
New EU leadership
The bloc of the 27 members-states that remain in the Union and Great Britain that is about to leave it is entering the new year with the new European Commission, following the May 2019 elections for the European Parliament which resulted in the most fragmented composition of the parliament.
This is the first time for the two largest groups - the European People's Party (EPP) and the Party of European Socialists (PES) group -- to be short of an absolute majority. Therefore, the influence of French President Emmanuel Macron's party and European Liberals' new group in the EP --Renew Europe -- has been rising.
Macron is perceived as the key figure that prevented the implementation of the spitzenkandidat model for the appointment of the new European Commission after the EP elections. As a result, Manfred Weber, who had been the EPP spitznekandidat, was not appointed the EC president. After weeks-long negotiations, Ursula von der Leyen of the German CDU party was elected for that position.
Her appointment was a part of a wide package of agreements on appointments: Belgian Liberal Charles Michel becomes the European Council President, French Christine Lagarde the president of the European Central Bank, while Spanish diplomat Josep Borrell succeeded Italian Federica Mogherini in the position of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, while the EP is presided now by Italian David Sassoli.
Beginning of end of Brexit
Brexit, the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU following a June 2016 referendum, in which 51.9% voted to leave, became a procrastinated process after in March 2017 the UK government formally announced the country's exit. All that has caused turbulence on the British political scenes, with Prime Ministers David Cameron and Theresa May having stepped down.
The current PM Boris Johnson clinched a convincing victory for his Conservatives in the 12 December snap elections. The UK is supposed to leave the EU on 1 February 2020.
The negotiations on the smooth and orderly departure are still on the agenda of the talks between London and Brussels.
Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) on agenda
The remaining 27 member-states are expected to reach agreement on the new Multiannual Financial Framework for the 2021-2027 period.
This crucial financial document is a subject matter of negotiations between big countries that are net contributors and others that are net recipients.
For instance, apart from the UK which is a net contributor some other contributors are Germany, France, The Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland.
On the other hand the members that are mainly net recipients have been united in the informal Friends of Cohesion group that comprises EU member states that are against slashing cohesion funds in the European MFF: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Italy, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Conference on Future of Europe
The Conference on the Future of Europe was announced in the end of 2019, and since then being prepared to determine new agreements, or amendments to the existing ones, on the European democracy during 2020–2022.
The heads of state or government of the EU member-states, who convened in Brussels in mid-December 2019, asked the Croatian presidency of the EU to start defining the European Council's position on a Conference on the Future of Europe and called on the Council President to take over negotiations on the Union's budget.
"The European Council considered the idea of a Conference on the Future of Europe starting in 2020 and ending in 2022. It asks the Croatian Council Presidency to work towards defining a Council position on the content, scope, composition and functioning of such a conference and to engage, on this basis, with the European Parliament and the Commission," reads one of the conclusions adopted by the Council on the first day of the two-day summit meeting.
"The European Council recalls that priority should be given to implementing the Strategic Agenda agreed in June, and to delivering concrete results for the benefit of our citizens. The Conference should contribute to the development of our policies in the medium and long term so that we can better tackle current and future challenges," the Council concludes.
The European Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission are supposed to be engaged on an equal footing in the conference. The Commission is also supposed to continue maintaining the dialogue with citizens. Also, all member-states are invited for equal participation.
Croatia assumes the rotating presidency on 1 January 2020.
Croatia's presidency over the EU
Upon the Finnish presidency in the second half of 2019, Croatia becomes the next chair of the EU in the first half of 2020.
After joining the Union six and a half years ago, this will be the first time for Zagreb to take over the rotating presidency of the EU under motto "A strong Europe in a world of challenges".
Croatian priorities are: A Europe that develops; A Europe that connects; A Europe that protects and; An influential Europe.
Apart from the fact that it holds the presidency of the Council of EU, from 1 January to 30 June, Croatia has also its representative among the executive Vice Presidents of the Commission, Dubravka Suica who is the Vice President of the Commission for Democracy and Demography. She is also tasked with the organisation of the above said two-year conference.
Germany will assume the rotating presidency in the second half of 2020.
In 219, the European Union continued to address the issues of irregular migrations, climate change and the rule of law, which are some of the topics that will also consume a lot of attention and require rounds of exhaustive talks in 2020.