Brussels Brief | 17th Edition

19–25 May 2017

Welcome to the 17th edition of Brussels Brief, the EU’s weekly digest delivered to the comfort of your inbox. Brussels Brief is an executive summary so that Eurocrats, policy wonks, trainees, and students alike can stay in the loop with the ins and outs of the international media regarding the EU. 🇪🇺 If you like what you see please forward this to your friends and contacts.📤

⚡️ UPDATE: Check out Brussels Brief in a completely new format on your smartphone. Brussels Brief, adapted for the Snapchat generation… HERE.

The Brussels Brief Team ✉️

Reading Time: 8 min

🔝 FRONT PAGE — Top News this Week

Terror rears its ugly head…in the ugliest way. Manchester and the wider worldsaw itself united in grief this week as it mourned the 22 dead and up to 60 injured in a suicide bombing that hit an Arianna Grande concert in Manchester Arena on Monday. The young attacker, 22 year old Salman Abedi, hit an even younger crowd, many of which were children and make up a large part of the casualties. The fact that children were targeted is perhaps the only unique factor of this attack that comes after a string of deadly terror attacks in Europe (slideshow), signalling a new normal in the continent, according to some. Whether the perpetrators of such attacks are merely ‘evil losers’ as Donald Trump puts it, or come out of ‘miserable conditions’ as French president puts it, it is clear that the fight against terror is at the top of the agenda both on the right and the left of the political spectrum. It is worth nevertheless to remember the victims and their survivors to not forget their perspective in all of this (video). (CNN, New York Times, MSN, RealClearPolitics, Fox News, BBC News, Council of Europe)

Phillppinnot. The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, made a defiant (and costly) show of strongman resolve by rejecting more than 250 million euros in development funds from the EU. The move is said to be intended to prevent the EU in interfering with internal affairs, among which is the proposed plan to revive the death penalty. In the ‘roller coaster of relations’ between the two entities, there the EU has provided more than 2.3 billion euros to the country for a range of development programs since 1992. Such a generous relationship is not sufficient for Duterte’s government to go further by asking for the money, only with no strings attached. However, the alleged human rights violations in the country, underlined by Duterte’s war on drugs which has killed thousands since he took office last year, seems to be a deal breaker for the EU. (Washington Post, Reuters, Bloomberg, The Manila Times)

Ever closer (Defence) Union. Part of the EU mojo recovery is that of arming up together. A Cooperative Financial Mechanism that will be discussed next month, aims to pool money in order of increased military cooperation long forwarded by France and Germany and now a possibility after Brexit. With regard to the former, newly appointed French defence minister Sylvie Goulard, one of four female defence ministers in the EU, explicitly outlined this intention greater defence cooperation this week. With regard to the latter, Germany is already well on its way in building that EU army, albeit via different means. (Reuters, The Guardian, Politico Europe, Foreign Policy)

💸 IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID — Top Economic, Trade & Innovation News

Poster child Portugal. Things are changing in Southern Europe. While the people of Greece is on the brink after years of economic recession, pushing even German economic hard-liner Wolfgang Schäuble to deliver more debt relief, the positive story of economic recovery in Europe has turned to Portugal. After six years of crisis management Portugal is now on a sustainable path to economic recovery, EU jargon for being within the 3% deficit rule eurozone members are obliged to follow. But economic recovery is still unevenly spread with big players like France and Spain breaking the 3% rule while the German economy continues to rush ahead. (Ekathimerini, Bloomberg, EUobserver, New Europe, Euronews)

Facebook unfriended. The Commission made good on it’s word to sanction Facebook and poked the social media giant with a fine of €110 million for having misled its officials when it acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for the hefty sum of €19 billion, a sanction which even EU-sceptics found to be a good decision. Next in line is Facebook competitor Google which will see three anti-trust cases coming to a close soon and outside the digital world the Commission’s anti-trust eyes have turned to GE (General Electric) which is being investigated regarding the purchase of Danish wind turbine producer LM Wind Power last year. GE, like Facebook, now risks a fine of up to 1% of its aggregated global revenue. Maybe it’s time to send the Commission a friend request… (CNBC, Forbes, The Economic Times, Bloomberg)

🇬🇧 STATE OF THE (DIS)UNION — Brexit Stories

GAC is Back. First the political guidelines then the negotiation mandate now comes the action. On Monday, the EU 27 confirmed the Commissions negotiating mandate for Brexit and officially appointed Michel Barnier as the negotiator (video) by the newly revived General Affairs Council. Barrier has pencilled in the 19 of June as the start of the negotiations that will seek to find agreement on the first part of the mandate by the end of 2017 on citizens’ rights, the UK’s divorce bill and the border in Ireland. Deal or no deal the UK will definitely leave the EU by midnight on 30 March 2019. The threat of a no deal is being kept alive by the current UK government. (Council of the EU, Politico Europe, The Guardian, EU Observer, Reuters)

Another 100 billion euro bill. This time its not a price tag, but rather an opportunity cost for investors. Such is the assessment of London Stock Exchange boss, Xavier Rolet on the prospect of euro-clearing (explainer) being removed completely from London post-Brexit. Asking instead that the EU institutions have greater oversight of the clearing, his view that the efficiencies and global reach existing in the City of London, which currently handles over 70% of the daily euro-clearing business, is shared across the board in the London financial sector. (Financial News London, Investopedia, City AM)


Number of terror attacks in Europe since January 2015.

🏢 BRUXELLES MA BELLE — News about the city

Less is More. Every year, the EU accumulates a total of 88 million tonnes of food waste. That translates to 173 kg of food per citizen on average. While they are only runner up, Belgians waste a total of 345 kilos of food annually. Who does worse than that? The Dutch win first place in food waste ‘losers’. In an effort to change the course of action, a vast majority of members from the European Parliament passed a resolution set to decrease waste by 30% by 2025. Strategies include better labelling food products, awareness-raising campaigns and no VAT on unsold goods that are passed their ‘sell by’ date. (Expatica)

Home is where safety is. 57 refugees were discovered in the woods near the Groot-Bijgaarden motorway service area. An operation initiated at 2:30 a.m. after authorities were alerted by a suspicious truck driver who had noticed a rather large group of people. They were scattered close by in groups of 15 to 20 and were seeking temporary shelter in their long journey to the United Kingdom. A situation that highlights Belgian’s unresolved issue of transit migrants but perhaps, more urgently, a situation that highlights the EU’s ongoing management crisis concerning the continuous refugee flow. (Expatica)

À la Michael Phelps. If you’re feeling hot, hit the beaches this long weekend. Coincidentally, Belgian shores will be ready to host thousands as temperatures reach 25 degrees Celsius. Locations for you to explore include Knokke-Heist, Blankenberge and De Haan. But be warned, warm temperatures does not necessarily mean warm waters. In fact, it is expected that if you are daring enough to try a swim, temperatures in the water will reach 13 degrees Celsius. (The Bulletin)

✂️ EXTRA — From the Cutting Room Floor

The step-fathers of Europe. In the creation myth of the European Union lots of names and events pop up: Monnet, Schuman, Juncker, The Maastricht Treaty, Brexit. But history also had a set of different equally remarkable persons who advocated the idea of European Unity long before the Schuman Declaration in 1950. Among them Aristide Briand who argued for the creation of a European Federation in the 1920’s after the devastating experiences of World War I let him to believe that Europe either had to unite or face destruction. Dive into the historic account of the Europe that never was and wonder if the European Federation would have looked anything like the EU in existence today. (My Country? Europe)

The chicken or the egg? Is it religion that causes conflict or religion that amends it? Those who believe in its unparalleled potential claim conflicts have little to do with religious affiliation and more to do with territorial, nationalist or ethnic causes. However, it is in moments of conflict, or perceived threat rather, that human find comfort in their identity, which often, in one form or another, translates to their religion. It is Douglass Marshall who explores religion in three aspects: belonging, belief and behavior, claiming these are the defining aspects of religion’s crucial role in politics. (World Economic Forum)

💡 OPINION — Top minds muse on the European project

European citizenship wanted. Freedom of movement is the cornerstone of European Citizenship, but in recent years it has fuelled fears of abuse of national welfare systems by outsiders. Professor at the European University Institute (EUI) Rainer Bauböck believes that European citizenship can be a uniting factor if more is added than just freedom of movement such as a social dimension to protect individuals; a direct EU tax so citizens know to what they are contributing; and a stauncher defence of democracy by the Union when member states try to undermine fundamental democratic values and freedoms. Freedom of movement is contentious today but it might just have been the beginning for the European citizen. (Euractiv)

Macron and the supermodel. French President Emmanuel Macron is renowned for having an older spouse, but he has also set his eyes on a different model lately; the Nordic model. The 20th century tried everything from laissez-faire capitalism, to different kinds of communism, and everything in between and a winner emerged in what is today termed “the Nordic model”. Combining social safety and market dynamism this approach favoured in the Scandinavian countries has become the inspiration for Macron’s reform program. According to Bo Rothstein, professor at Oxford University, the so-called Nordic model is superior because it allows for the greatest degree of justice by securing citizens socially and promotes innovation and private competition for all. No wonder Macron got seduced by such a good outlook. (Social Europe)

🎧 PRESS PLAY — Media Corner

🔊 Podcast of the Week. ‘Merkron’ and the effect on the Eurozone and the EU and the future of the Franco-German relation is discussed in the latest edition of Mark Leonard’s podcast for the European Council of Foreign Relations. (ECFR)

🎥 Video(s) of the Week. Check out the ‘Avery Thing’, Youtube Channel and Facebook Page and enjoy all the cartoon video explainers to send to your friends and relatives on what this is all about. (Avery Thing)

✏️ Cartoon(s) of the Week. 1984, Populism in Expansion & Ephemeral Butterfly (

📺 GIF of the Week.