Beppe Grillo arrives at a polling station near Genoa during last week's election
The only more interesting political spectator sport in Brussels these days other than the fight over the next European Commission president is the battle between the three euroceptic political groups in the European Parliament to secure allies from the sudden surge of anti-EU and anti-establishment parties that are coming to town.
On Tuesday, two of the most prominent potential kingmakers arrived in Brussels on the same plane: Beppe Grillo, the Italian comedian turned political insurgent who heads the Five Star Movement and its 17 newly-minted MEPs, and Matteo Salvini, leader of the Italian separatist Northern League, who arrived with 5 seats.
Both were being courted by the two new big eurosceptics on the block: Nigel Farage, the bombastic head of the UK Independence party, and Marine Le Pen, his counterpart for France’s Front National, who both are trying to form their own seven-country party groupings going into the new session. Read more
Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, David Cameron and 50 other world leaders are battling against the clock to protect the world from a “dirty bomb” attack by terrorists in the heart of a major financial centre.
Military officials briefing the leaders do not know exactly where the attack is going to be carried out and they have limited time to come up with a response to avoid mass destruction. Hundreds of thousands of people could die.
This might sound like the plot of a Hollywood action film.
In fact it is a “war games” scenario faced by the leaders this week when they took part in a role-playing exercise at a nuclear safety summit in The Hague. Read more
Brussels bureau chief Peter Spiegel reports on the upcoming summit of EU leaders on Crimea. Politicians are expected to decide on further sanctions on Russia and how the EU could help Ukraine progress economically and politically.
FT Brussels blog’s chief writer Peter Spiegel has some scoopy tweets after having spoken to a few EU officials ahead of the summit
EU's Füle, right, with Ukrainian president Viktor Yanikovich in Kiev earlier this year
Is Twitter the right place to announce major foreign policy changes?
That’s the question on the lips of several EU foreign ministers today after Stefan Füle, the EU Commissioner in charge of neighbourhood policy, put a landmark integration deal with Ukraine on hold via these two tweets Sunday morning.
On his way into to a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday Morning, Frans Timmermans, the Dutch foreign minister, attacked not only the medium, but the message as well.
“I think that making policy on the basis of a Twitter notice by Mr Füle is perhaps not the best way of approaching this is issue,” said Mr Timmermans. “I believe the best signal we can give Ukraine is simply that the door is still open.” Read more
David Cameron, UK prime minister, has been loudly campaigning for a crackdown on EU migration in an effort to curb the influx of workers from poorer member states to Britain.
But on Monday, the Tory-led government tried to block key amendments to EU legislation that seeks to do exactly that: reduce the inflow of workers from central and eastern Europe to wealthier member states.The so-called “posting of workers directive” was agreed by member states in 1996 to make it easier for EU workers to carry out work outside of their home country for a limited period of time.
But a number of countries led by France, Germany and Belgium have over the years complained that the directive was being used inappropriately to undercut local labour rules in richer countries. Essentially, workers from poorer countries offered their services at below market prices without asking for any social security contributions. Read more
Demonstrators in Berlin protest against alleged US spying activities in July.
In today’s dead-tree edition of the FT, we report on a draft of a stinging report the European Commission will issue Wednesday which could send shock waves through the US tech industry: unless the Obama administration changes the way it handles online data of European citizens, American companies like Google and Facebook will have to find another way to do business in the EU.
Given the importance of the Commission’s review of the 13-year-old “safe harbour” agreement with the US – which allows American firms to operate in Europe under US privacy rules because of an assumption that Washington treats the data similarly to European governments – and the fact we got our hands on it before its official release, we thought Brussels Blog readers might be interested in a bit more detail about the Commission’s findings. Read more
Viviane Reding, the EU’s justice commissioner, triumphantly claimed that “data protection is made in Europe” after a committee of European lawmakers reached a compromise agreement yesterday to overhaul the bloc’s pre-internet privacy rules.
But for those who have not been following the EU’s data protection process closely, particularly in the wake of the ongoing NSA spying scandal, Ms Reding’s declaration of victory may have seemed a little premature. Read more
Today’s EU summit is getting under way but Brussels’ blogger Joshua Chaffin and Peter Spiegel discuss how most of the big deals have been cut on the sidelines of the big event.
Reding, far left, and Orbán, second from right, during a 2011 Commission meeting in Budapest.
For Viviane Reding, it appears that any opportunity to step into a hornet’s nest is a good one. This time around, the media-savvy EU justice commissioner has seriously upset the Hungarian government after she questioned the independence of the judiciary in the EU member state.
In an interview in the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Reding said the recent moves by the government of prime minister Victor Orbán to amend the Hungarian constitution in ways Brussels finds questionable made it understandable that Ireland had refused to extradite an Irish citizen convicted of killing two Hungarian children in a 2000 car accident.
Budapest didn’t appreciate Reding’s remarks, prompting a tart letter from Tibor Navracsics, Hungary’s deputy prime minister in charge of justice affairs, which called her assertions “outrageous and absolutely unacceptable” and requesting she “kindly refrain from making public statements that lack sufficient grounds as well as general benevolence”.
Both Reding’s remarks and the full text of Navracsics’ letter after the jump… Read more
Brussels bloggers Peter Spiegel and Josh Chaffin sum up two days of summitry in Brussels in which EU leaders grappled with Europe’s ongoing economic malaise and its arms embargo in Syria.
Here is our main news story on FT.com
European leaders arrived in Brussels on Thursday for a summit where the intensifying debate over the austerity-led response to the eurozone crisis was moving to centre stage even though the gathering was not expected to change the EU’s economic policy course.
Finland’s prime minister Jyrki Katainen is standing firm. As he arrived in Brussels on Thursday the 41-year-old centre-right leader made it clear Europe had to maintain the tough austerity course if it wanted to survive.
In a thinly veiled jibe at Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who criticised the pro-austerity policies set by the European Commission’s economic chief and fellow Finn Olli Rehn, Katainen said that the debate around austerity versus growth might have academic value, but it has little value for common people.
“There are no shortcuts to creating new jobs and growth in a sustainable manner. Structural reforms might not bear fruit overnight, but are the best sustainable economic stimulus. Accumulating excessive debt is not,” said Katainen.
He added: “The future of our common currency can be guaranteed only if each member state keeps its fiscal house in order and takes the jointly agreed rules seriously.”
After the jump, you can find the Finnish leader’s full remarks: Read more
Olli Rehn seemed more relaxed and upbeat about the eurozone’s economy than usual at the pre-EU summit conference held by the European Liberal Democrats (ELDR).
The man in charge of the EU’s economic agenda said that the eurozone crisis could be approaching an end, as measures taken in the summer to bolster the recovery had started having an impact. Read more
José Manuel Barroso, president of the European commission, attacked EU member states for failing to implement growth measures that could balance the short term negative impact of harsh austerity policies imposed due to the eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis.
“Very frankly I am not happy with the progress made so far,” said Mr Barroso ahead of the EU summit. “Unfortunately we see little willingness on some of our governments to ensure appropriate funding for key instruments to help to offset the negative social impact of the crisis.”
Mr Barroso’s comments were followed by harsh criticism from the head of the EU’s largest trade union, who accused European governments of destroying the continent’s social welfare system. Read more
French finance minister Pierre Moscovici signed the letter to Viviane Reding from Paris.
Battlelines are being drawn between countries on a controversial European Commission draft legislation that would force public companies across the EU to reserve at least 40 per cent of their board seats for women.
As we reported yesterday, France became the first big country to come to the support of the proposal’s author, EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding, after a group of nine UK-led countries, which now includes Denmark, the Netherlands, Hungary and the Czech Republic, weighed in against.
There are also divisions within the European Commission itself, with several men who hold key economic porfolios – including Olli Rehn (economics and monetary affairs), Michel Barnier (internal market) and Joanquin Almunia (competition) – backing Reding, while most of her female counterparts – including Neelie Kroes (digital agenda), Catherine Ashton (foreign affairs) and Connie Hedegaard (climate) – are opposed.
As is our normal practice here at Brussels Blog, we wanted to give our readers a bit more detail of the French letter we obtained. A copy of the letter, and our translation, after the jump. Read more
Another day, another country opposing a nascent European Commission plan to impose a 40 per cent quota on women serving on corporate boards.
Last week, a UK-led letter to the proposal’s author, EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding, and her boss, commission president José Manuel Barroso, included nine countries, including the interior ministers of the Netherlands, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
This week, Denmark added its name to the list of opponents, sending its own letter to Reding. According to the letter, obtained by the Brussels Blog, Copenhagen believes more should be done to help women in business, but feels mandatory quotas are not the solution. Read more
Jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko showing what she called a bruise on her forearm
Anyone hoping that the ongoing standoff between the EU and Ukraine over the detention of one-time Orange Revolution leader Yulia Tymoshenko will end soon is likely to be disappointed. With national elections just three months away, there seems to be no interest in Kiev in releasing her during campaign season.
Kostyantyn Gryshchenko, Ukraine’s foreign minister, acknowledged to Brussels Blog that the former prime minister had become more of a problem for his government in jail than free, noting her imprisonment has made an “association agreement” with EU almost impossible to finalise. “We [see] this issue as a certain irritant which obviously is not helping to move ahead with a positive agenda with the European Union,” Gryshchenko said.
But Gryshchenko swiftly repeated the line that other senior Ukrainian officials have made about the Tymoshenko case: there was little he could do to overturn last year’s court ruling that sentenced the former prime minister to seven years in prison for abuse of office. Read more