2. Brussels Playbook
BSSB.BE politico.eu 4/02/2019
* The European Commission is expected to today conclude that U.S. soybeans meet the technical requirements to be used in biofuels in the EU, and to “formally recognize the scheme until July 2021,” EU officials told Playbook.
That means American soybeans are now eligible for public procurement and count as an energy source compatible with the EU’s renewable energy targets (assuming U.S. authorities continue to fulfill certain requirements, such as submitting yearly reports on certification procedures).
There might have been EU consensus “on all relevant issues related to the Iran file,” as one diplomat told Playbook — “but Madrid had the nerve to take the Council conclusions hostage for nothing more than symbolic reasons.” Those reasons: Injured pride — at least that’s what EU partners reckon — about not being part of a forum of the EU’s Big 4 (including Italy), tasked with conducting a “structured dialogue” with Tehran. Next chance to get the Iran sign off from ministers at a formal meeting is an Ecofin Council February 12.
Coalition of the willing … EU countries including Germany, the U.K. and France are about to set up a so-called Special Purpose Vehicle, or SPV, to circumvent U.S. sanctions against Iran. The mechanism is “on the verge of implementation,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in Brussels on Monday. Watch out for news today. AFP has more.
BACK TO THE POLLS
LEFT PICKS SPITZEN: The European Left Party named Violeta Tomič, a member of the Slovenian parliament from the Levica party, and trade unionist Nico Cue, a former secretary general of the Metalworkers’ Union of Belgium, their top candidates for the European election. Party leader Gregor Gysi welcomed the fact the Left’s ticket contains “a representative of an Eastern European country that has come through a difficult period of transformation” and a “fighting voice for the workers and their unions.”
Gysi, in Brussels, offered a glimpse of the Left’s campaign: In addition to the classic themes of pacifism and redistribution of wealth “to the benefit of the poorer classes,” the Left is going to fish in a green pond: “The new youth movement against [climate] change … is for us a central point,” he said.
Party on: Judging from the lingua franca at the European Left’s New Year’s reception at a fancy Brussels restaurant just around the corner from my private study, it must have taken quite an effort to rustle up some non-German candidates. Bodo Ramelow, the minister-president of Germany’s Thuringia, traveled all the way to town from Erfurt by car. Also present: Left group leader Gabi Zimmer, other MEPs, and the party’s now lead candidate Cue.
News du soir: Greek Prime Minister and Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras has promised to stay with his leftist GUE/NGL group in the European Parliament after the EU election — and hence not to heed the chants of the Social Democratic sirens, Zimmer told Playbook. Actually, all the group’s current member parties will return to the fold after the ballot, their representatives said during a meeting late last year, according to party officials.
BEEF DU JOUR: Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser fired off a Twitter broadside against Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager Monday. “Those who love Europe, should shape its future instead of losing themselves in backward formulas. It has to be bitter to be technically correct but yet do everything wrong for Europe,” Kaeser wrote in response to a Vestager campaign tweet that included a quote from a German FDP party conference on the theme of what liberal love for Europe may or may not entail.
The Siemens-Alstom merger is getting political: Kaeser also addressed his tweet to the economy ministers of France and Germany, Bruno Le Maire and Peter Altmaier. The tweet served as a cry for help — or at least a search for allies who might help his company’s attempts to merge with Alstom to create a European (rail) champion. The move would on the one hand perhaps help EU industry compete against Chinese competition globally — but it would also mean allowing the newly merged company to hold a dominant position in the home market. It looked much like a ras-le-bol moment for Kaeser, and those who believe in a European industrial policy.
OVER AND OUT
CORRUPTION INDEX: Transparency International releases its annual Corruption Perceptions Index this morning, and Playbook got a sneak peek. Denmark remains top of the list, and the highest scoring region globally is Western Europe and the EU. But Hungary is in the bad books, having fallen by 8 points on the CPI since 2014. Hungary was also the 54th most corrupt country in 2013, but was the 46th most corrupt in 2018, registering its lowest score for political rights since the fall of communism in 1989.
HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE DMITRY? What to do about Dmitry? That’s the question facing Russian President Vladimir Putin as public approval of his government — led by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev — drops to unprecedented lows and public frustration with economic conditions and out-of-touch officials soars. Marc Bennetts has the story.
about 4,000 votes, with around three-quarters so far saying they would. “NATO’s flag dates back to 1953, and thousands of women and men serve under it from Kosovo to Afghanistan and Iraq. There are black and white flag emojis, one for Antarctica … and since last year, even a pirate flag,” White told Playbook. “When is it NATO’s turn?” The poll is open for three more days.
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