The Brief: Oettinger the ostrich

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


I spotted Günther Oettinger outside the European Commission this morning. He was alone and about to get into his car.

Oettinger is under pressure after a speech in which he called the Chinese “slitty eyes” and mocked women and gay marriage.
This is the last Brief to lead on the German Commissioner this week, unless he resigns. Judging by our conversation, there seems little prospect of that happening.

I asked Oettinger if he had anything to say about the outrage. “Everything has been said,” he answered.

But did he want to apologise for the scandal? “There is no scandal,” he said.

There is most definitely a scandal. “Oettigate” has made headlines across Europe and in the US. China’s foreign ministry today said the remarks revealed “a baffling sense of superiority entrenched in some Western politicians”.

Oettinger continued, “It is you who has made the scandal. It is EURACTIV that caused the scandal.”

Then he drove off. My impression was of a man who genuinely thinks he has said nothing wrong or offensive.

Oettinger believes he is the victim of a vindictive press or, maybe, political correctness gone mad.

Perhaps it is asking too much of a 63-year-old career politician to reflect the views and values of younger, tolerant (or “politically correct”) Europeans.

But Oettinger (and the Commission) should at least recognise there is an issue and start dealing with it.

Instead of burying his head in the sand like an ostrich.


Right now (5PM), the offices of Burson-Marsteller are being invaded by anti-TTIP demonstrators. You heard it here first. Protestors are setting up a pirate radio station. Radio Panik (105.4FM) will broadcast on lobbying, until, presumably, the cops show up.

Energy Union Commissioner Maros Sefcovic told a conference that the EU had to be careful to ensure that it did not build more gas infrastructure than it needed, as it tries to lessen its dependence on Russian gas.

Sefcovic has heard repeated warnings that too many new pipelines could lead to stranded assets in the future. We asked the Commission if it knew how much gas infrastructure it had and how much it needed.

Leaked documents suggest that wind and solar power could lose preferential treatment on Europe’s electricity grids. Meanwhile, Putin is losing his grip on pipeline politics and Ukraine has launched an anti-corruption crackdown.

Amnesty International has accused Sudan of using chemical weapons, but Berlin said the claims are “implausible”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, though, has branded Turkey’s media crackdown “highly alarming”. If Turkey does bring back the death penalty, it will kill EU accession talks stone dead. There are growing fears over the EU’s migrant deal with Turkey.

Ireland’s prime minister has warned that the Brexit negotiations could turn vicious. Prime Minister Theresa May will meet Hungary’s Viktor Orbán next week.

The UK government lost a court battle over its failure to tackle air pollution. “Enjoy” one of the weirdest speeches about transport ever here (h/t Lewis Crofts).

Nigel Farage may have scuppered the revival of one of the world’s greatest ever bands. Heaven knows we’re miserable now


The High Court in London will on Thursday rule on whether the UK can trigger Article 50, the legal process taking Britain out of the EU, without a parliamentary vote. In Brussels, expect a week of stunts and demonstrations against the TTIP trade deal.

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