The Brief: A Space Oddity

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.


The European Commission served up a Space Oddity at today’s midday press briefing.

Like everyone else, it was surprised by NASA’s announcement of the discovery of seven planets outside of our solar system.

There may not be Life on Mars but these exoplanets are earth-sized and could support living beings. This is not some Moonage Daydream, it is reality.

Who knows? In the next Five Years, we could be saying Hallo Spaceboy or even Loving the Alien. Unless they turn out to be Scary Monsters.

Unfortunately, it appeared that Ground Control at NASA forgot to mention that the EU provided €1.9 million in funding to the project.

Little Wonder then that the Commission was scrambling to snare some of the Ziggy Stardust from the amazing discovery.

Under Pressure from a neatly barbed question, chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas conceded that the EU communications effort had been made to look like Absolute Beginners.

“I agree with you entirely. I am taking advantage of the fact that NASA is asleep now to advance this [Europe’s role],” he joked, suggesting things were Hunky Dory.

But you know who the real Heroes of this story are? Belgians.

It may stick in the craw of the Belgium Bashers, who live in and loathe Brussels, but it was Belgians who led the research and deserve the Fame.

Bashers, next time you think of whining about metro escalators that don’t work or post office opening hours ask yourself – have I discovered seven new planets or even looked Across the Universe?

The true Starman of the story is University of Liege astrophysist Michaël Gillon. Not least for naming the exoplanet system TRAPPIST-1 and proving that space really is the final front-beer.

*With sincere apologies to David Bowie.


French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron might have bagged himself a crucial ally yesterday but rival Benoît Hamon was unable to do the same. His difference of opinion with Jean-Luc Mélenchon about the future of Europe proved too great.

The EU’s rule of law dispute with Poland continues after the Commission said it will consult with the rest of the member states on the issue.

France and Germany are gearing up for elections and have secured approval from the EU executive to tighten security. Their proposals include more power to monitor internal EU borders.

EU member states are dragging their feet in implementing reforms, particularly when it comes to education, and they have also been urged to target childhood obesity in schools. But France is leading the way by adopting a law on multinational companies’ duty of care. The idea has stalled at European level, though.

One group of experts has ranked the countries of the world by their toxicity. Saudi Arabia earned the dubious title of most toxic country in the world, while Eastern Europe also performed poorly.

Malta is approaching the third month of its stint holding the rotating EU Presidency. Check out the latest video in our ongoing series that is examining its priorities.

The Commission, as expected, warned Italy that it must cut its deficit or risk being fined. Rome has previously argued it has had to spend more because of the recent lethal earthquakes and refugee crisis.

The Brexit vote is already having an impact on immigration, as the number of international students choosing to study in the UK has fallen by 41,000 to 134,000 since June. Banking giant HSBC might also relocate 1,000 staff from its London base to Paris over the next two years.

If the UK has a change of heart, could it revoke Article 50? Andrew Duff doubts it.

Spaniards sleep 53 minutes less than the European average and it’s all Francisco Franco’s fault, because he decided Spain should stick to Central European Time, despite Madrid being further west than London.

Yesterday it was eagles, now it’s tigers taking on the drone menace. China has upped the ante and unleashed a pack of the Siberian beasts on the autonomous machines.

Sam Morgan contributed to this Brief. 


Enda Kenny on Brexit and the Irish border. Coming soon on EURACTIV.

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