The Brief: Juncker orders Oettinger to apologise

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


Well it took a week but he got there in the end.

Günther Oettinger, Germany’s Commissioner, finally apologised today for calling the Chinese “slitty eyes” and mocking women and gay marriage.

Yesterday, we exclusively revealed that Oettinger didn’t think he had anything to say sorry for.

But 24 hours later, the stubborn Swabian caved. So what changed? Was it the angry Chinese response? Was it our story?

The Commission’s chief spokesman hinted heavily that the reason was that Jean-Claude Juncker told Oettinger to apologise. See the video here.

Considering Juncker had Oettinger earmarked for promotion until recently, this is quite the volte-face, especially as the executive tried to ride out the outrage on Monday.

Worryingly for Oettinger, he has another call with Juncker scheduled for tomorrow.

The climbdown is welcome but overdue. An apology on Monday would have killed the story stone-dead.

The Commission holidays on Tuesday and Wednesday are no excuse. What the hell took them so long?

We promised we would not have another Oettinger piece leading The Brief this week. We are very, very sorry (not that hard to apologise is it?).

But if Oettinger – memorably described here as the “wet dream of every industry lobbyist in Brussels” –  can change his mind in 24 hours, why can’t we?

Don’t miss our exclusive interview with the man of the moment. Well, almost.


The UK government suffered a setback in the High Court, which ruled that parliamentary approval is needed to trigger Article 50. The decision could have devastating consequences for the prime minister’s plans for Brexit. Read this piece in FT Alphaville on what it means, and here’s Andrew Duff on how to trigger Article 50.

Here is how The Sun, Daily Mail, think tank Open Europe, The Guardian, and Eurosceptic MEP Daniel Hannan reacted.

Angela Merkel, who is refusing to intervene in a climate dispute, has insisted there is no link between any Swiss-EU free movement deal and a future Brexit agreement.

More on those tricky referendums here, as the Commission offers to help the Dutch sort out the pesky democratic decision to reject the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. Meanwhile there are more referendums in the works, including one on CETA.

Former Commissioners are still trousering EU allowances even though they have got jobs in the private sector.

Google has hit out at the European Commission over the executive’s antitrust investigation into the search engine.

Amnesty International has accused Italian police of using beatings and electric shocks to force migrants into being fingerprinted.

More than 240 people have drowned in shipwrecks off Libya. This despicable Belgian minister is mocking migrants.

François Hollande’s presidency has been a catastrophe for development.

Have EU regulators forgotten about vans when it comes to Europe’s transport policy? Germany’s image as an environmental trailblazer is not all it seems.

The world’s current climate commitments are not enough to stop dangerous levels of global warming.

Austria has sent troops to the Hungary-Serbia border. Ankara has lashed out at Germany. The EU-US Privacy Shield pact is facing a second legal challenge.

And Vladimir Putin has thrown in his two cents on how Europe is handling the migration crisis…


Spain will wake up to a brand spanking new government. Well, almost brand spanking new. It is still being run by Mariano Rajoy. Don’t miss the debut of Catherine Stupp at the helm of The Brief tomorrow. Crisp is taking a day off.

This Brief is powered by Google. Last year, the world’s five most downloaded mobile games all came from European developers. Linda Griffin of King, the company behind the sweet success of Candy Crush Saga is speaking at Brussels Mobile Innovation Day. Register here and hear her and other European innovators discuss the mobile economy on 14 November.


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