The Brief: Spy behind Trump scandal probed Georgieva

The Brief is EURACTIV.com's evening newsletter.

SPY BEHIND TRUMP SCANDAL PROBED GEORGIEVA

Brussels is one of the spy capitals of the world. That bloke you saw in Schuman holding the Financial Times, wearing a trilby with a rose in his buttonhole? He is probably a dandified eurocrat but he could also be a spy.

This town doesn’t have much of the fun, James Bond kind of spies, sadly.

It’s not that often that someone sidles up to you on the metro and tells you the brass monkey is howling at the full moon, and it’s very rare that someone orders a vodka martini when “pluxing”.

Instead, the so-called capital of Europe has a lot of the boring, grey, beige spooks who trundle round hoovering up snippets of info and gossip like overcoated anteaters.

Of course much of this is the thing of rumour, idle chat and speculation.  It’s a favourite pub game of many hacks to discuss and even bet on who in the press corps is really a spy.

Chinese, Russian and Turkish journalists frequently come under half-serious suspicion. Power cuts, blocked phones or ponderous websites are all jokingly blamed on hacks or cyber-attacks.

But the spies are out there, as EURACTIV exclusively revealed today.

Christopher Steele is the British spy behind the very controversial and extremely hilarious Trump leaks scandal.

Steele has gone to ground, fearing for his life, in the wake of the controversy that brought the world one of the most insane press conferences ever seen in the western world.

But before he was unwillingly thrust into the limelight, Steele was active in Brussels and he was investigating none other than Bulgaria’s former Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.

Don’t miss this jaw-dropping scoop from Georgi Gotev.  And people say that Brussels is boring…

THE ROUNDUP

Robots. We all know they’re planning to kill or enslave us. The question is how will they manage it in the end and what can we do about it?  Some clues can be found in Jorge Valero’s story here.

Ever wondered whether the regulation of robot sex workers and soldiers would be an EU or national competence? We asked the Commission. As we are talking robots, enjoy this video from Flight of the Conchords.

Regular watchers of the Commission midday press briefing will have heard spokespeople insist they do not comment on comments.  Asked if the Commission had ever commented on comments, Alexander Winterstein gamely answered, “I couldn’t possibly comment.”

Commissioner Günther Oettinger’s appointment to the budget portfolio has been approved by the committees that “grilled” him.

The French senate has been looking at how Brexit will affect France and the EU. Is Brexit a chance to do more with the EU budget?

A British junior minister suggested an annual levy could be raised on companies for every skilled EU worker employed after the UK leaves. Downing Street has since distanced itself from the comments.

A speech given by British Home Secretary Amber Rudd in October when she said it should be more difficult for UK companies to hire foreign workers was officially recorded as a hate incident, police confirmed.

The Welsh government also passed a motion that would see it retain access to the single market through EEA/EFTA membership.

Austria’s chancellor is looking to claw votes back from the far-right Freedom Party. Beppe Grillo is frantically trying to plug the leaks in his party following its first defections.

Following mass protests last month, Poland’s parliament has reconvened amid real fears about democracy in the country.

The World Economic Forum kicks off next week and its founder insists that globalisation isn’t the only thing provoking social anxiety. That will be food for thought for the Maltese presidency of the EU, which is going for a pragmatic approach to its six month stint at the helm.

Auditors have criticised the EU’s aid programme in Honduras for “lacking expertise”.

The European Parliament’s Environment Committee has voted in favour of CETA. Health and environmental organisations were left “disappointed”. A final vote on the EU-Canada trade deal is expected in February.

LOOK OUT FOR…

Snow. This weekend. It’s a silent killer.

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