Brussels Brief | 28th Edition
13–19 October 2017
It’s the 28th Edition of Brussels Brief* and we are back with an edition full of populist angst and trepidation for the future of Europe.
This week’s top stories are a sobering reminder that even though the EU can be deemed a beacon of progressivism in many aspects, its constituent member states still have a long way to go to shake off the vestiges of the retrograde. For most millennials, the world’s first elected millennial leader of a country will represent a platform of policies that will be alien to most of his generation and brings some of the darkest aspects of Austria’s history back to life. In another EU country, shocking news came out of an investigative journalist’s murder.In the words of Antonio Tajani, a former journalist himself, if a journalist is killed it’s probably “because the journalist was close to one important point”. The fact that this is even a possibility in a 21st century European Union suggests that there is a brutal criminal underworld with potential ties to rotten political circles in the heart of EU member states. This should be the reddest of red lines. Populism can be defeated, but if journalists are silenced by death, there is no turning back. We dedicate this edition of Brussels Brief to Daphne and the brave journalists that speak truth to power.
Parimate soovidega, (as our Estonian friends would say)
The Brussels Brief Team 👨👩👦 ✌️ 🇪🇺
*Collated and Curated over “Staycore w/ Dinamarca”, by Rinse FM on Soundcloud and Greek coffee ☕ in Brussels Brief HQ.
- Antonio Tajani
President of the European Parliament, on the proposed financial settlement between the UK and the EU.
🔝 FRONT PAGE — Top News This Week
Millennial Woes. Much like Michael Corleone in The Godfather, just when Europe thought it was out of the populist surge, they pull it back in. This time it wasn’t at the hands of disenchanted baby boomers, however, but at the hands of a millennial. Sebastian Kurz, the 31-year-old ‘Wunderwhizz’, leader of the Austrian conservative People’s party and former Foreign Minister, won the country’s parliamentary elections last Sunday. Still, the extreme right Freedom Party (FPO) swooped in in second place. This marks a radical shift in the country that elected a green party president just last year. Although Kurz and the FPO do not have a majority on their own, the fact that Kurz, who has adopted many of the FPO policies, will be forming a government is deemed a nightmare for the EU as populism and anti-immigration are the new normal. Many questions have arisen including what this result means for Europe and who is the man who is set to become Europe’s youngest leader. However, the most baffling question is how a millennial, a generation that is notorious for its rejection of populism has risen to power on a platform of seeming intolerance. The answer could lie in the young ‘identitarian’ movement, the media savvy and powerful European version of the ‘alt-Right’. [Reuters, EUobserver, Newsweek, Euractiv, Eurotopics, Al Jazeera, The Daily Beast]
A car bomb…in Malta. In what was a dark day for journalism and freedom of speech in Europe, a car bomb ended the life of a journalist known for being a ‘one-woman Wikileaks’. Daphne Caruana Galizia was hot on the trail of Malta’s alleged corruption scandal, one that forced early elections that re-elected the incumbent Partit Laburista under Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. Said Prime Minister tweeted that ‘he will not rest’until they get to the bottom of the car bomb.Galizia’s son, himself a journalist at the ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists), made a stern rebuke of the current powers at be, falling short of making them directly responsible for the heinous act that killed his mother. To see the type of journalism that made Daphne Galizia, one of Politico’s 28 figures to watch in Europe, read this ominous final blog post that she wrote on her website that warned, “there are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate”. The situation is truly desperate if journalists are killed, all across EU countries. RIP Daphne. [Euractiv, Euronews, Politico Europe, Running Commentary]
💸 ITS THE ECONOMY, STUPID — Top Economic, Trade and Innovation News
Incoherent cohesion. The EU’s Regional and Cohesion policy, counting one-third of the total EU budget, has been crucial in raising investments in poorer regions of the Union. However, demands are rising that core EU values, like the rule of law, be respected or the flow of money could be cut off. The initiative comes, not surprisingly, from the paying countries like Germany and France, who have found a way to squeeze the Eastern ‘Enfants Terribles’ governments in Warsaw and Budapest. Both receive large sums to their poorest regions and thus are particularly susceptible to this new pressure point. Poland, however, is aiming to soon contribute more than it takes, but regional support could end up being just the beginning with EU super champion Emmanuel Macron pushing for the Eurozone countries to have a proper EU budget, something Eurofinance minister are discussing. The only sure thing in life seems to be death and EU-taxes. [Euractiv, EUobserver, Reuters]
Oppan sanctions style. The EU decided to toughen up on North Korea with new sanctions banning investments and sale of oil to the hermit kingdom after the North Korean regime violated international law with new missile tests. The sanctions are mostly symbolic (demonstrated by this emotive video) as the EU doesn’t export any oil to the country. A new ban on visa renewals and a limit on the remittances North Koreans living in Europe can send home, reduced from €15.000 to €5000, might be more acutely felt by the affected North Korean families. [Voice of America, Reuters, Council of the European Union]
I, Job-loss. The robots are coming to take our jobs, but for the moment they seem to be taking our equality first and foremost. Germany is the country in Europe with the highest level of robots but so far they haven’t caused massive job-loss but have led to increasing levels of income disparity. Though with great workforce comes great responsibility and German engineers are developing a set of robot-ethics. Just hope your future robo-boss will be sympathetic to your sick-day excuses. [Quartz, World Economic Forum]
🇬🇧 STATE OF THE (DIS)UNION — Brexit Stories
Need for speed. Or laying on the brakes? Amidst the contrast of accusations ofSoviet-style propaganda from some Tory MPs and affective bear hugs from David Davis, Prime Minister Theresa May turned up in Brussels on Monday for a last minute dinner with President Juncker (JCJ). In a veritable ‘hail Mary’ to save any face before the EU Council summit this week, May came out with little more than common sense after five rounds of negotiations without anything to show for it. In a joint statement, earlierdubbed as “the autopsy” of the dinner by JCJ, the message was that the Brexit process should “accelerate over the months to come”. A spectacularly uncontroversial statement that became the subject of yet another spat the day after between David Davis, who accused the EU of stalling in order to gain leverage and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier basically saying it takes two to accelerate…and to tango. [Politico Europe, Euractiv, Associated Press, Yahoo Finance, EUobserver]
Deal or no deal? As time piles on and the ‘deadlock’ in negotiations is frustrating Brexiteers and Remainers alike, the UK conservative government seems to be splitting as the seams between the ‘Dealers’ and the ‘No Dealers’. On the deal side, Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced a no deal scenario as ‘unthinkable’ on Tuesday. Her remarks followed a cross party group initiative forming in the British parliament to deal their way into a soft-Brexit. In the no-deal camp is Chancellor Philip Hammond, who finds almost any absurdity to be ‘theoretically conceivable’ (video). What is certainly conceivable is that the prospect of a no deal will hit the most vulnerable the hardest. What is even more certainly conceivable is that no progress can be made until Theresa May resigns, or fires her entire cabinet…zero-sum indeed. [Evening Standard, The Guardian, BBC News, Euronews, The Economist]
BONUS: If you’re British and are just tired of the uncertainty, why not get yourself another passport to avoid the heartache. Here are the easiest countries to obtain European Union residency. In a timely irony, it seems like Austria is the place to go… [Business Insider]
- Number of journalists killed worldwide since 1992.
🏢 BRUXELLES MA BELLE — News about the city
Get to know it like you should. Brussels is a precious little place; key word being little. Even for those of you that have been here only a few weeks, it can quickly look like Brussels has very few, distinct places to hang out at Plux, Place Jourdan and Flagey to name a few. Should you be looking to expand your horizons, keep your eyes open for a variety of different activities launched in the course of the next 12 months, courtesy of The Brussels Times. This month’s tips? Bike riding, partying in medieval cellars and taking rambles in the woods. [Brussels Times]
The old is new again. In the age of smartphones, e-books and tablets, libraries are losing their way, or so it only seems? BBC claims that some of the most beautiful libraries are actually built in the new millennium. Among its finalists, the BBC mentioned the De Krook library, becoming among the newest of Ghent’s attractions, is home to experimental labs, radio studios and a study room and more. This building, clashing in modernity with the medieval context around it, made it into the top 10 libraries in the world for its innovation and style. For a full list of the finalists, click here. [BBC News, Expatica]
✂️ EXTRA — From The Cutting Room Floor
Those who risk, win. In recent years, the EU has been an inspiration for political and social progress, unity, even peace. Now, courtesy of Austrian-native author, Robert Menasse, the EU has become the inspiration for a novel, the first of its kind. Menasse, who has in the past claimed a European Republic with autonomous, administrative power to the regions would be a winning strategy, has been inspired by Brussels and its growing identity. After numerous trips, talks with officials, and researching the memoirs and speeches of the greatest Europeanists (Jean Monnet and Walter Hallstein to name a couple), he has come up with a plot-twisting book entitled, ‘The Capital’. Aimed at providing some insightful information, it brings light to the EU and its inner dynamics with a mix of Commission and Council officials, an old detective and a high profile murder mystery all in one. [Politico Europe]
Bitfinger. Cold Room, man trap, nuclear blast proof doors, hidden bunkers. Enter the world of Swiss cryptocurrency banking. In order to protect bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies from terrorists and hackers this new line of banking has taken form in the last few years. In this 21st century bank , clients can’t deposit their hard earned cash or jewellery but cryptographic keys used to access virtual currency. Given the extraordinary security measures taken you need to store a few million to become a customer. If you’ve got the stomach and hardware for it then go look in the Swiss mountain ranges for the local branch office. [Quartz]
💡 OPINION — Top minds muse on the European project
Drinking the kool-aid. Between the UK Tory party’s unhealthy infatuation with Brexit at-any-cost and Donald Trump’s worldview which rejects basic facts a common denominator is found; both are grounded in reactionary attempt at controlling a world which continuous to move further away from reality, writes Andrew Sullivan. The effect is becoming more obvious with each passing day. Both the US and UK are moving into predictable catastrophes but neither Theresa May nor Trump are willing or capable of speaking up against the forces of destructive nihilism that have taken over the conservative parties in both countries, making them into perversions of the Reagan and Thatcher periods of yore. Real conservatives like Edmund Burke are turning in their graves. [New York Magazine]
Looking at EU. Following a controversial deal with the EU aimed at managing (or effectively stopping) the flow of refugees into European borders, Turkey now claims to have done its part. Spending 3.5% of its GDP, it has now accepted the presence of 3.2 million Syrians, 300,000 Iraqis and Afghans. This intake has now classified Turkey as one of the countries hosting the highest numbers of refugees. In an effort to show support, the international community (excluding the EU) has donated $526 million to Turkey. The EU alone had promised 3 billion euro of which only 838 million euro has been provided. So the question for Faruk Kaymakci is, where are you, EU, and where are all those promised efforts? [Politico Europe]
🎧 PRESS PLAY — Media Corner
🔊 Podcast of the Week. Nick Clegg, College of Europe alumnus, former deputy prime minister of the UK, and now full time Brexit saboteur, talks to Esharp! about his new book ‘How to Stop Brexit’. [Esharp!]
🎥 Video(s) of the Week. Food apartheid. “One wafer brand was less crunchy in Hungary than those in Austrian supermarkets”. If you want to understand the ‘Great European Food Divide’ in under two minutes look no further than this piece made by the EP. [European Parliament]
📺 GIF of the Week
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