THE 12 HEROES TO MAKE 2017 GREAT AGAIN: We can’t spend all day being depressed, and thanks to Tunku Varadarajan’s list of the 12 people and things that will make Europe great again, we don’t have to. The snazzily named Le Canard Enchaîné (the chained duck), Scotland’s self-described “tough old bird” Ruth Davidson and Europe’s competition darling Margrethe Vestager all make the cut.
MARINE LE PEN SUES … NEARLY EVERYONE: In a lawsuit filed by National Front leader Marine Le Pen, seen by Playbook, the French presidential aspirant is suing the European Parliament’s Secretary General Klaus Welle, the head of the EU anti-fraud office Giovanni Kessler, and Maria Beatriz Sanz Redrado, the OLAF civil servant who handled a recent investigation that found Le Pen misused €300,000 of EU money, which she refuses to repay. The FN leader also accuses former European Parliament President Martin Schulz of “German arrogance” in the suit.
Le Pen alleges the Brussels institutions have falsified evidence to launch a politically motivated investigation against her. Her lawyer Marcel Ceccaldi told POLITICO he plans to file another complaint in Luxembourg in coming days. POLITICO’s Giulia Paravicini has the full scoop here.
COMMISSION — JUNCKER’S RADICAL PLAN TO SAVE THE EU’S REPUTATION: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is sick of EU countries using Brussels as a scapegoat for their own failures. States have repeatedly undermined Juncker by passing the buck on toxic issues such as genetically modified food and pesticides. Next week, reports Simon Marks, he will hit back with a structural reform of the EU’s obscure and dysfunctional decision-making process known as “comitology.”
Exhibit A: There is a March deadline for EU governments to decide whether to clear genetically modified crops for cultivation. They are unlikely to reach a verdict and will push the decision back to a meeting of a body called the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals and Feed. The upshot is that Juncker will be left taking the blame for whatever is decided. It is these meetings Juncker wants to reform.
COMMISSION — MARGRETHE VESTAGER ADDS TO HER POLITICAL SPEECH PORTFOLIO: The Danish commissioner will speak about fairness in Europe March 8. You can register here
COMMISSION — WAITING FOR TIMMERMANS: First Vice President Frans Timmermans was outspoken after the readout of the college of commissioners, hoping to push reluctant countries to boost their efforts to meet refugee relocation targets. But when pressed by reporters on when he would take enforcement action, Timmermans wouldn’t commit.
COMMISSION CABINET CHANGES: Isabelle Magne has joined the private office of Cecilia Malmström, the European commissioner for trade. She replaces Cécile Billaux, who is now a deputy head of unit in the Directorate General for Trade. Aurora Mordonu has joined the Brexit task force as an economic data analyst.
COUNCIL — SHOWDOWN AT THE ROME CORRAL: Friends of Europe’s Giles Merritt says divisions over the eurozone will likely be laid bare in between toasts to Europe’s future at the March EU summit in Rome.
COUNCIL — EU AND CHILL, CONTENT PORTABILITY RULES AGREED. The European Commission finally got its wish Wednesday: a shot at coolness. The Commission’s vice president for the digital single market, Andrus Ansip, made his signature policy an effort to give users of online streaming services the right to use their subscriptions or purchases when they travel, instead of being blocked from doing so because of copyright restrictions. National governments have finally agreed and the new system will be in place from 2018.
PARLIAMENT — TAJANI’S FULL TEAM AND CONTACT DETAILS: European Parliament President Antonio Tajani wrote colleagues Wednesday to inform them he had “put together a cabinet that is gender and geographically balanced, with fourteen nationalities represented and its overall size reduced by 20 percent.” Tajani’s office has 32 staff members.
There’s only one innovation — Markus Warasin will advise on “peripheral regions and islands, as well as linguistic minorities,” an interesting assignment for someone from Austria, a landlocked monolingual country.
PARLIAMENT — COUNCIL REBUFFS PANAMA PAPERS INQUIRY: Both the current Maltese presidency and the forthcoming Estonian one have indicated they won’t show up at the Parliament’s inquiry into the Panama Papers scandal. A public hearing at the committee today should provide an opportunity for MEPs to vent their frustration. Bjarke Smith-Meyer again for POLITICO Financial Services Pro subscribers.
LOBBYING — THE AMERICAN INVASION: Four U.S. firms are about to start offering their services to lobbyists in Brussels, threatening to shake up the consultancy scene in Brussels. Quorum, RAP Index, FiscalNote and Beekeeper Group have used targeted data in particular to shape the Washington lobbying industry. The EU challenge: can systems designed for the basic two party, one country, one language American political system cope with the multi-party, 28 state, 24 language EU system.
More on the firms …
— RAP Index: A platform that identifies individuals in a given organization who can influence decision-makers who actually matter. Goodbye mass email campaigns, then.
— FiscalNote: A legislative tracker.
— Beekeeper Group: This outfit helps mobilize grassroots lobbying efforts.
— Quorum: A platform that tracks individuals who matter with draft laws as they progress through legislative systems.
ITALY — ANTI-ABORTION DOCTORS NOW THE MAJORTY: In Italy, women have the right to terminate a pregnancy. Enforcing that right is another matter altogether. “An unprecedented wave of so-called conscientious objectors — doctors declining to perform abortions for personal or religious reasons — is sweeping the country. Today, 70 percent of Italian gynecologists and 48.4 percent of anesthesiologists decline to perform terminations.” Giulia Paravicini investigates.
FRANCE — THE MANUFACTURING OF A RUMOR: Libération’s Quentin Girard on how to start a rumor about a politician’s sexual identity without really providing evidence or revealing your identity.
UK — PM WINS BREXIT BATTLE: MPs voted to approve British Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to trigger Britain’s exit from the EU March 31, quashing attempts by pro-EU lawmakers to attach conditions to it. The bill still needs to be approved by the upper chamber.
IRELAND — DUBLIN GETS REALISTIC BREXIT EFFECTS: Brexit is not going to be the end of the world, nor a bonanza, for Ireland. Bankers will not decamp to Dublin en masse, and that’s probably a good thing given the massive recession and bailout caused by the last Irish attempt at financial super-sizing. Instead, Ireland’s central bank has recently hired 28 more people to help deal with Brexit-related interest and its overall economic effects. The foreign ministry has people scouting opportunities in London. Overall, it’s a very English reaction: the Irish are keeping calm and carrying on, reports Silvia Sciorilli Borrelli.
MALTA — JOURNALIST’S ASSETS FROZEN IN LIBEL CASE: Normally a blogger on a small island wouldn’t attract much interest. But Daphne Caruana Galizia (a member of the POLITICO28 list) is different: she’s the most read journalist in the country by a long way. Galizia also happened to write recently that a Maltese minister slept with prostitutes in a German brothel on a work trip. On Wednesday, according to a statement by Galizia, the minister and an assistant succeeded in freezing around €47,000 of her assets pending the result of a lawsuit related to the story.
RUSSIA — OPPOSITION LEADER BARRED FROM 2018 ELECTIONS: Alexei Navalny, a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was found guilty of embezzlement on Wednesday. The verdict bars him from running in Russia’s presidential election in 2018. Navalny maintains the charges were politically motivated as the Russian politician came to prominence in 2008 when he began writing about high-level corruption in Putin’s close circles.
TRUMP WORLD …
PRESIDENT’S SUPREME COURT NOMINEE — TRUMP’S ATTACKS ON COURTS ‘DEMORALIZING’: Neil Gorsuch, nominated by U.S. President Donald Trump to fill the late Justice Scalia’s seat, told a Democratic senator that Trump’s comments were “disheartening.”
TRUMP BECOMES EUROPEAN TELEVISION LAUGHING STOCK: Major television networks throughout Europe have broadcast no-holds-barred Trump satire. The most shocking video is from ZDF, Germany’s national public broadcaster. In the four-minute video, presented by Jan Böhmermann (the comedian the Turkish government wanted to prosecute in 2016 for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) Trump and his strategist Steve Bannon are directly compared to Adolf Hitler. Watch here.
BRUSSELS CORNER …
THE GIN, THE BLONDES, PIERRE MARCOLINI AND THE HERMES NOTEBOOKS: Wednesday was an interesting night on the Brussels party circuit. The surprise performer was the ‘Milton Mingle.’ The mingle was a who’s who of the Brussels Finnish community, feasting on Kyro Gin (voted the world’s best recently). Huawei’s party took the honors for sheer scale and star power (though some patrons grumbled about the food queues), and surprised guests with a Hermès goodie bag filled with candy and this notepad.
RYANAIR NOT HAPPY WITH NEW BRUSSELS AIRPORT CURFEW: POLITICO’s Transport team reports (for Pro subscribers) Ryanair added six new routes to its Brussels South Charleroi Airport portfolio, but will not add destinations or flights at Brussels Airport in Zaventem. The airline is angry the airport’s curfew is to be lifted only at 7 a.m. each morning, starting February 22.
RADICAL WAHHABISM ON THE RISE IN BRUSSELS MOSQUES: Local media reports mosques preaching radical Islam are on the rise in Brussels, Mechelen and Antwerp.
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*YOUTUBE — The Netherlands welcomes Trump in his own words. The whole world was watching for the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States: Donald J. Trump. Because we realize it’s better for us to get along, we decided to introduce our tiny country to him. In a way that will probably appeal to him the most.
*YOUTUBE — Belgium welcomes Trump in his own words.After the Netherland’s Video, Belgium wanted to present itself to Donald Trump as well, so here we go.
*YOUTUBE —https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reuJ8yVCgSM —Switzerland Second (official) | DEVILLE LATE-NIGHT