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08/12/2016

The Brief: Europe’s elites rush to hide behind Mutti’s skirts

The Brief: Europe’s elites rush to hide behind Mutti’s skirts

The Brief is EurActiv.com's evening newsletter.

EUROPE’S ELITES RUSH TO HIDE BEHIND MUTTI’S SKIRTS

Europe’s “liberal elites” are running scared to hide behind Mutti Merkel’s skirt.

Yesterday’s news that Angela Merkel, the EU’s only leader with international credibility, would stand for a fourth term was met with undisguised relief by Brussels Bubblers bruised by Brexit, Trump and the possibility of President Le Pen.

The championing of Merkel as the defender of “European values”, and even the “new leader of the free world”, exposes the lack of leadership in Europe.

What other EU head of state or government is influential or talented enough to stand alongside her and face the spreading revolution against the establishment elites?

Theresa May and François Hollande are not options. Hollande is a lame duck and May can’t credibly discuss the future of the EU.

Spain’s Mariano Rajoy barely has a mandate. Italy’s Matteo Renzi faces the Russian roulette of his reforms referendum. The Netherlands’ Mark Rutte couldn’t convince his voters to back the EU-Ukraine association agreement.

Poland has elected a bunch of nutters. Scandinavia, the Baltics and Central and Eastern Europe are racked with fears over immigration or Russia.

Whatever you thought of Tony Blair and Nicolas Sarkozy, they were international statesmen. With Merkel, there was once a genuine triumvirate at the centre of the EU.

Sarkozy will not be coming back. He crashed out of the first round of the primaries to decide the centre-right’s candidate for president, making François Fillon the favourite to face Marine Le Pen in May.

The pollsters tip Fillon to win. Here’s Le Figaro’s three reasons to believe that he will triumph in the second round. But I am far from convinced.

There is no leader across the 28 member states who can deal with the likes of Trump and Putin as equals, or who can function as a lightning rod for defenders of the status quo.

For now, Mutti stands alone. No wonder so many are so desperate to cling to her. She is their only hope.

THE ROUNDUP

Jean-Claude Juncker will not resign, a Commission spokesman insisted. An article in Der Spiegel quoted Juncker saying in internal meetings that he would quit if Martin Schulz is blocked from staying on for another term as European Parliament president.

The Commission was tight-lipped when asked if there’s a decision coming Wednesday on state aid given to the Paks nuclear plant in Hungary. That’s the project the Commission approved last week after Hungary awarded the deal to Russian firm Rosatom.

Commissioner Günther Oettinger has come under fire for accepting a plane ride from a businessman who is working on the Paks project. But the European Parliament is leaning towards letting Oettinger off the hook. Don’t miss Jorge Valero’s exclusive.

China, believe it or not, is the world’s new champion of free trade and the fight against climate change.

The EU has been asked by many to step up on climate after Trump’s election. But the leaked winter package reveals that the Commission is not backing up its calls for higher climate ambition with action.

The Commission is not alone. Many countries and private companies are reluctant to increase their climate objectives in the short term.

British PM Theresa May will promise business leaders she will match Donald Trump’s plans to slash corporation tax. Hungary’s Viktor Orbán is planning to do the same.

The president of the European Court of Justice said there are “many, many ways” that Brexit could land before the EU’s top judges in Luxembourg.

Here is a somewhat weird interview with the man tipped to be Trump’s ambassador to the UK. “Britain and America belong together, not in Europe,” he says.

Women hunters are on the rise in Europe. Not people hunting women but hunters who are women.

LOOK OUT FOR…

The European Parliament is in plenary in Strasbourg tomorrow. Debates are planned on access to anti-money laundering info for tax authorities, Syria and the implementation of a common security and defence policy. The College of Commissioners is also meeting.

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