EU and Canada preparing show of friendship at joint summit

EU and Canada preparing show of friendship at joint summit

Stay informed with free updatesSimply sign up to the EU trade myFT Digest — delivered directly to your inbox.This article is an on-site version of our Europe Express newsletter. Sign up here to get the newsletter sent straight to your inbox every weekday and Saturday morningGood morning. Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders and his Freedom party are set to win the most votes in the Netherlands’ parliamentary elections yesterday, according to exit polls. Though Wilders could struggle to find coalition partners to govern, the victory of the anti-Islam campaigner will send shockwaves through the EU.Today, our climate correspondent explains why a summit between the EU and Canada is expected to run more smoothly than a similar meeting with the US earlier this year. And our Europe editor speaks to Austria’s foreign minister, who wants Ukraine to finally set an election date.Boring but niceEU leaders are jetting off to Newfoundland today to meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the first EU-Canada summit since the Covid-19 pandemic, writes Alice Hancock.Context: The 19th such meeting will be attended by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel. While temperatures in St John’s are hovering around freezing, diplomatic relations between the two partners appear to be warm.“Co-operation between the EU and Canada is probably at unrivalled historic levels,” one EU official said. Trudeau said in a statement that the relationship was “more important than ever”.Canada, which the EU has signed a free trade agreement with, is among the bloc’s closest allies, offering support to Ukrainian refugees and co-ordinating on sanctions. As part of the G7, Canada has also played a “vital role” in working with Brussels on using the proceeds of Russian frozen assets, the official said.One EU diplomat noted that “everybody is happy that things run much smoother” for the Canadian meeting than for an EU-US summit in October. It ended in disappointment, as the parties failed to agree on steel tariffs or an alliance on minerals which are critical to the green transition. The EU now hopes to announce such a raw materials partnership with Canada, which is home to more than half of the world’s listed mineral exploration companies and has ample deposits of magnesium and zinc.Officials say they also hope to launch a “Green Alliance” that will promote collaboration on clean technologies, and discuss working more closely on digital matters including quantum technology and online platforms, as well as Canada’s accession to the EU’s Horizon research programme. The wars in Ukraine and between Israel and Hamas will also feature.“In times of global turmoil it’s nice to have a boring summit with a close ally,” another EU diplomat observed.But amid the cordiality, there is a possible fly in the ointment: Seven years after it was signed, 10 EU member states still have not ratified the free trade agreement, largely because of farming and food safety concerns.Chart du jour: Danger signsThe European Central Bank has warned that balance sheets of eurozone banks are showing “early signs of stress” after a rise in loan defaults and late repayments from historic lows. It also cautioned that losses in the real estate sector have been rising and could impact the wider financial system.Set a datePresident Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s predicament over whether to hold presidential elections next year never quite goes away.“Now is not the time,” Zelenskyy said earlier this month, as he tried to quash speculation he was preparing for a ballot.Now Austria is wading into the debate, writes Ben Hall.Context: Ukraine was supposed to hold a parliamentary election last month and a presidential one in March next year, but Russia’s war of aggression, martial law, media censorship and millions of internally displaced voters and refugees abroad mean fair elections would be hard to organise.Until now, Zelenskyy has faced little overt pressure from EU officials to hold a vote, although the issue was reportedly raised during a visit by EU foreign ministers to Kyiv last month.Polls suggest Zelenskyy would likely win a second term, but also that a wartime vote would be massively unpopular with the Ukrainian public.“We cannot have elections postponed forever,” Austrian foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg told the FT in an interview. “It is a candidate country and we have been asking for elections from countries like Libya or the Palestinians.”Schallenberg said there should be no favourable treatment for Ukraine over the western Balkans when it comes to a decision on starting accession negotiations. The same, he says, should apply to the rules of democracy.“We have been asking for elections to be held in Libya, and it’s a war-torn [country]. So let’s not have double standards,” Schallenberg said.“It is absolutely acceptable to postpone them but you have to give a date. It has to have a limit. It shouldn’t be [that] we come back to it once we deem it right. Postpone it by 12 months, OK. But not indefinitely.” What to watch today Two-day EU-Canada summit kicks off.Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Spain’s Pedro Sánchez visit Israel and Palestine.Now read theseRecommended newsletters for you Free lunch — Your guide to the global economic policy debate. Sign up hereTrade Secrets — A must-read on the changing face of international trade and globalisation. Sign up hereAre you enjoying Europe Express? Sign up here to have it delivered straight to your inbox every workday at 7am CET and on Saturdays at noon CET. Do tell us what you think, we love to hear from you: [email protected]. Keep up with the latest European stories @FT Europe

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