The Brief: Trump to set foot in Brussels hellhole

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

When he was campaigning, Donald Trump called Brussels a “hellhole”. As president, he will make his first official visit to the Belgian capital on 25 May, before leaving for Sicily and the 43rd G7 summit.

Belgium will not be his first foreign destination. Before that he will visit Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican, where he will meet Pope Francis. He travels with his wife, Melania.

In Brussels, Trump will attend a NATO summit, where heads of state and government have reportedly been warned to limit their statements to four minutes, due to “the notorious limited attention span of the president of the US”.

As the NATO summit coincides with the inauguration of the Alliance’s new HQ, leaders are also reportedly advised to keep it simple and discuss issues Trump understands: buildings and money.

It’s not known where Trump will be staying but it will certainly not be “The Hotel”, the high-rise where Barack Obama used to stay. It looks like he will set up shop in the US embassy instead.

Trump is also going to meet with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Council President Donald Tusk (the first meeting of the two Donalds).

It is not 100% clear where this meeting will take place but the odds are that it will be in the US embassy as well.

This may not help Trump make the distinction between Tusk and Juncker. During one phone call he spoke to Tusk, thinking it was Juncker. If he went to their offices, he would surely notice that the buildings are different…

The European architecture matters but so does protocol. It would be extremely undignified for Juncker and Tusk to visit Trump in the US embassy. This may be a hellhole but it’s still the capital of Europe, for goodness sake.

A colleague asked the Commission this morning if Juncker and Tusk would also only be given four minutes of speaking time. The answer was: stay tuned.

How about a press conference, statements, Q&A? It’s unclear which journalists, if any, will even be invited.

A handout photo maybe? Not so sure about that either. When chief diplomat Sergey Lavrov met Trump at the White House, the Russians provided the photos.

And don’t forget that Erdogan is also coming to the NATO summit and word is out that he may mobilise his supporters in a demonstration of power.

I’m willing to bet I’m not the only Brussels hack to think Trump’s visit is a perfect opportunity to take some time off and get out of town.

The Roundup

The UK has blocked a revision of the EU’s long-term budget. Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier urged London to “work in the spirit of the agreement with the EU”.

33 MEPs called on the Romanian parliament to vote against organising a referendum on same-sex marriages. A citizens’ initiative wants to amend the constitution so that only marriages between a man and a woman are possible.

The Philippines has turned its nose up at EU aid. France’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs has been rechristened the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

Amazon’s artificial intelligence guru told Jorge Valero that the new generation of technology and robots doesn’t need a “kill switch”.

The Commission said it will fine Facebook €110 million for providing misleading information about its WhatsApp takeover.

Theresa May’s election manifesto pledges a crackdown on non-EU immigration and a vote on repealing the fox hunting ban. It also puts in writing that leaving the EU means leaving the single market and customs union.

Irish PM Enda Kenny announced his resignation and warned the rest of the EU that Ireland may need assistance dealing with the economic fallout of Brexit.

TIME magazine published this amazing front cover. Donald Trump, of German ancestry, will be pleased to know that all Europeans descend from Belgians.

Sam Morgan contributed to this Brief.

Look out for…

Commissioners Mogherini, Stylianides and Bulc will be in Jordan to attend the World Economic Forum meeting on implementing the UN’s Convention on rights for people with disabilities.

Views are the author’s.