The Brief: Commission fails Trump’s challenge

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


Donald Trump has predicted the crumbling of and eventual collapse of the EU. His damaging assertion was met with a depressingly limp response by the European Commission.

“I believe others will leave. I do think keeping it together is not gonna be as easy as a lot of people think,” Trump told The Times and Bild newspapers.

Trump followed this up by saying the EU was “basically a vehicle for Germany. That’s why I thought the UK was so smart in getting out.”

If the future of the EU is your business, this demands a swift rebuttal – to shore up diminishing confidence if nothing else. But we didn’t get that from the European Commission today.

Chief Spokesman Margaritis Schinas said the executive “had read the interview with interest”.  Asked if that was all the Commission had to say, Schinas said, “Yes”.

This is hardly an inspirational call to arms or passionate defence of the European project.

That was left to Commissioner Pierre Moscovici in Paris. He had obviously not been told about the communications strategy.

Trump is the antithesis of the Commission in many ways. He is passionate and instinctive, while the Commission is bloodless and cautious. He speaks in everyday language, it speaks jargon.

People voted for Trump, they didn’t for the Commission. The Commission attracts some public-spirited people, and Donald Trump is, well, Donald Trump.

There are still some citizens who look to the Commission for some kind of leadership on matters European. They will rightly see today’s response as woefully inadequate.

It’s possible that the executive considers itself above something as “populist” as fighting its corner.

But if the European Commission won’t defend the EU, why would anyone else bother?


The European Parliament will attempt to elect a new president tomorrow, but the result is anything but certain, as a complex voting procedure and lack of consensus muddy the waters. Current favourite Antonio Tajani also can’t shake the Dieselgate scandal, which has followed him from his time as Industry Commissioner.

Brexit still means Brexit, but the UK is threatening to undercut the EU if it doesn’t get what it wants, which might be a transitional deal. But Brussels might not be in a mood to grant Westminister one anymore…

Moscow has refuted claims that it undermined efforts to scupper the Cyprus reunification deal. Lithuania is fencing off a small part of Russia and Brussels appears to be footing the bill for it.

Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda warned that the Oettinger-helmed copyright reform currently in the works would only benefit fake news sites, to the detriment of genuine journalism.

Did somebody mention Eurocrats in Space? Europe’s GPS competitor, Galileo, is online and is supposed to be more accurate than its American competitor.

Oxfam have warned that eight people now control as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population, in research timed to coincide with the World Economic Forum.

Our coverage of the WEF17 has kicked off.’s Daniela Vincenti and Jorge Valero are in Davos for the entire week and we’ll be bringing you all the big stories.


The European Parliament will pick its new president tomorrow in Strasbourg. Here is a handy explainer. Theresa May will also make a long-awaited speech in which she is likely to back a hard Brexit.


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