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The Brief: Oettinger has enough on his plate without Georgieva’s leftovers

The Brief: Oettinger has enough on his plate without Georgieva’s leftovers

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


Irina Bokova was today unceremoniously dumped from her saddle during the horse race to become the next UN Secretary-General.

Her sixth place finish in the latest leadership straw poll wasn’t enough to save her from being sent to the glue factory by Bulgaria’s burly leader Boyko Borrisov.

But Bulgaria’s horse wasn’t riderless for long. Commission Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva – who has long jockeyed for the job – was put firmly in the saddle.

The switcheroo created a problem for the European Commission, which has put Georgieva on leave.

What to do with Georgieva’s budget and human resources portfolio? She was about to face two major challenges, the mid-term review of the EU budget and the Commission push for more control over its own resources.

Somewhat surprisingly, the executive opted to hand over her responsibilities to Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger.

The Swabian has got a lot on his plate at the moment. His telecoms and copyright reforms are being fed into the legislative sausage machine. He has the ePrivacy Directive to bring forward and an initiative on the free flow of data scheduled for autumn.

Not every Commissioner is quite as busy as Günther. Corina Cretu is the Commissioner for Regional Policy, a job that involves her working on the EU budget.

She doesn’t have a single major legislative proposal to put forward this year. Her workload is limited to a staff working document, a flagship week-long event, and some visits.

The choice of Oettinger is a sign of Juncker’s trust in his German Commissioner. It also shows he doesn’t have the same level of confidence in every member of his college.

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International prosecutors said that the Malaysian airliner shot down over eastern Ukraine was hit by a Russian-made Buk missile. Russia claims the flight was brought down by the Ukrainian military. 298 people, mostly Dutch citizens, were killed.

The European Union looks set to break its promise to relocate 160,000 refugees across the bloc from Greece and Italy by September 2017, after figures revealed that just 5,651 asylum seekers were re-homed in the year since the pledge was made.

Commission First Vice-President Timmermans unveiled his new plan for a mandatory transparency register for all EU institutions. Don’t take my word for it that we are transparent, he told reporters, ask Transparency International. The NGO called the initiative “timid”.

The European Parliament’s Panama Papers Committee will extend its mandate to cover Bahamas Leaks and the disgraced Neelie Kroes.

Timmermans also dashed Danish hopes of a special deal that would effectively keep them in Europol after the referendum vote taking them out of the agency. “You’re either pregnant or you are not,” he said.

EU companies are about to get slapped with a new export control law on surveillance technologies.

But it is better news for Japan’s Nintendo – Pikachu is telecoms’ man of the year – and Spain, which is doing very well without an elected government.

MEPs are pushing for greater influence over pharma regulation and UKIP is claiming that the Budget Committee has backed a report asking for an extra €31,000 to cover the increased cost of coffee and snacks.

Green NGOs are not impressed with Germany’s 2050 climate protection plan. Six African countries threatened with the loss of access to the single market have backed down and will sign the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements.

And more and more women in Europe are finding it harder to access safe abortions.


Margrethe Vestager is speaking at this conference on big data. The Competition Commissioner has murmured about big data being the next happy hunting ground for her antitrust officials …