The Brief: Juncker dresses down Commission’s Davos dozen

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

JUNCKER DRESSES DOWN COMMISSION’S DAVOS DOZEN

Jean-Claude Juncker is “not a great fan” of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the European Commission said today.

And no wonder. Every year, the halls of the Berlaymont are deserted as Commissioners scurry for their moment in the sun in Switzerland.

No fewer than 12 Commissioners – a dozen, including five vice-presidents – attended the 17-20 January get-together for the global elites this year.

Juncker, who hasn’t attended since 1997, was not impressed. He told the Commissioners he was unhappy with how many of the currently 27-strong college made the trip.

And he fired a warning shot across their bows, telling them not to get involved in any “political upmanship” while they hobnobbed in Davos.

Naturally the Commissioners, career politicians to a man and woman, would never dream of boosting their own profile once away from the watchful eyes of EU officials.

Juncker’s scolding was revealed in minutes of the 17 January meeting of the College of Commissioners, which were published today.

They give a teasing glimpse of how Juncker handles his team. Perhaps his cabinet chief Martin Selmayr was telling the unvarnished truth when he said that Juncker had no time for “cry-baby” Commissioners.

“The brutal guy in this house is the president – as he has to be,” Selmayr memorably told Helsingen Sanomat.

The executive has faced criticism in the past for being secretive over trade negotiations and transparency on lobbying by former Commissioners.

When asked, the Commission will piously point out it is more transparent than the majority of world governments and institutions.

And it is thanks to this admirable commitment to openness that we can learn about the dressing down of the Davos dozen.

So hats off to the Commission for publishing the minutes of every meeting of the College of Commissioners, even if the link isn’t that easy to find on the website.

We at the Brief are always ready to help our friends at the Commission. So readers, in the interests of full openness and transparency, you can find all the minutes of all the college meetings here.

THE ROUNDUP

A UKIP MEP lashed out at Labour’s Seb Dance yesterday, after the London MEP held up a sign accusing Nigel Farage of lying in the European Parliament. But the Eurosceptics-turned-snowflakes have a patchy record on parliamentary etiquette. Remember when they turned their backs during the EU anthem? Or the Strasbourg punch-up?

Green MEPs are furious at the Commission for blocking their investigation into the Panama Papers scandal. The EU executive has refused to supply documents on the member states’ implementation of the anti-money laundering directive.

Molly Scott Cato called for the scandal’s “big fish”, such as disgraced former-Commissioner Neelie Kroes, to be “embarrassed, in front of TV cameras”. Meanwhile, the Commission appears to have quietly shelved a corruption report.

Just a week after the EU praised Romania for its anti-corruption reforms, Bucharest’s decision to decriminalise some “abuse of power” offences sparked the country’s biggest protests since the fall of Communism in 1989.

Some British MPs yesterday held their noses and backed Theresa May’s Brexit bill, putting the government on track to meet its March deadline for invoking Article 50. This afternoon, the UK government published its Brexit white paper.

Seeking support for his post-Brexit vision for Gibraltar in Brussels this week, the Rock’s chief minister told Spanish MEPs where to stick their “generous offer” of co-sovereignty. “Gibraltar will never be Spanish,” Fabian Picardo said.

Spain’s top notary told EURACTIV that European integration would continue “with or without Brexit”.

Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has just arrived in Washington to meet freshly-sworn in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. With Berlin on edge over the Trump administration’s foreign policy and NATO commitments, Gabriel said he is keen to build “friendship and trust” with the former oil executive.

Vladimir Putin travelled to Hungary today for talks with Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The Russian strongman is seeking to divide the EU allies in a bid to end the bloc’s sanctions on Moscow.

Angela Merkel is believed to be top of the Kremlin’s propaganda hit-list ahead of the German elections later this year. Here is our cartoonist Berco’s take…

LOOK OUT FOR…

EU leaders will meet in Valletta, Malta tomorrow for an informal summit. The morning is for all 28 member states and will focus on migration. The Libyan prime minister was in Brussels today, asking for more EU money. In the afternoon in Malta, the EU-27, without Britain, will discuss preparation for the sixtieth anniversary of the Rome treaties and Brexit.

Views are the author’s.

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