The Brief – Selmayr stays. What next?

Selmayr-smiles-BRIEF

Is the Selmayr affair closed? That, at least, is how the Commission reads the resolution adopted by the European Parliament today.

The amount of work deployed by the Commission to save Martin Selmayr has been astonishing. The hours of Q&A with journalists, the sleepless nights writing exhaustive answers to questions by MEPs, the time spent by MEPs drafting resolutions and amendments: it has been an epic effort.

Apparently, Commissioner Avramopoulos even cancelled a long-planned trip to Iran just to attend a College meeting where, humiliatingly, all Commissioners had to pledge allegiance to Jean-Claude Juncker’s chief bag-carrier.

Everybody knows that the EU Commission is normally a slow moving animal. But not this time.

If the Commission had put the same amount of effort into other difficult dossiers, it would have probably solved them. For the time and effort spent on protecting Selmayr, the EU executive could have fixed all its issues with Gazprom, Google, Microsoft, Starbucks, Apple and you name it, and opened infringements against all the others we dare not name.

It might have also opened accession negotiations with Albania and closed talks with Montenegro. It could have concluded free trade agreements with Japan and Mercosur, ended the rule of law dispute with Poland and opened another one with Hungary. But no, the Commission was too busy Saving Private Ryan, by presidential order, like in the Spielberg movie in which too many people died.

The Commission assumes that the only good thing about the Selmayr case so far is that it has only been of interest to EU buffs, while people outside the Brussels bubble go on with their lives. Wrong.

Our take is that the Selmayr case is far from over, and the smell it leaves will forever taint the Juncker commission.

In the absence of a spectacular turn of events or journalistic scoops, the scandal will stay on the back burner. In the end, it will provide ammunition ahead of the European election campaigns, not only to Eurosceptics, but to all who stand for democracy and oppose the diktats of the EPP and their armour-bearer, the socialists.

Because Selmayr’s ascent is also a symbol of this unholy alliance.

The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

Juncker’s former chief-of-staff Martin Selmayr once again proves to be bulletproof. He is set to keep his job despite a warning shot from MEPs who described his appointment “as a coup-like action.” Mysterious Martin, sinister Selmayr?, asks Denis MacShane in a guest blog post.

While the debate on Europe’s future gains momentum, EPP leader Manfred Weber calls on the German Christian Democrats to show more willingness to compromise on Eurozone reforms so Germany could find consensus with France.

The EU will not negotiate anything “under threat”, Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has fired back in the looming trade war with the US, ruling out any concession to avoid Trump’s tariffs.

There are mistakes you only make once. The EU is now pushing to approve its trade deal with Japan, hoping to avoid a repeat of the public protests that nearly derailed CETA with Canada and laid kicked an EU-US trade pact into the tall grass.

‘Insufficient’ is how Commission Vice chief Frans Timmermans described recent concessions made by Poland on its rule of law dispute. The Deadline for Warsaw to formulate its full proposal to solve the conflict with Brussels is mid-May.

The Tsarist and KGB mentality doesn’t change with time, says Ukraine’s Ambassador to the EU, Mykola Tochytskyi, explaining in an interview why Kyiv is against the planned Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

To achieve real progress in EU integration, Western Balkan countries need a clearly defined plan that includes a concrete timeframe for all six countries, argues Ilhan Kyuchyuk.

After a truly energetic day in Strasbourg, headlined by French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech, MEPs signed off on a number of energy laws with the EU taking a small step towards finalising the Clean Energy Package.

Without ambitious energy efficiency goals, the EU will fail to reach the targets of the Paris agreement, warn Jan Rosenow and Stefan Scheuer.

Meanwhile, researchers claim that energy use for cooling could jump to 90% due to a burgeoning middle class and a warming world.

Commissioner Phil Hogan lists three reasons EU farmers should take the risk and invest in agriculture. More on this in our Special Report on economic viability in the next CAP.

Through new forms of participatory debate, the new president of the European Economic and Social Committee, Luca Jahier, intends to boost participatory democracy in Europe and bring citizens closer to the European project.

Look out for…

The UK’s EU withdrawal bill returns to the House of Lords on Wednesday and Thursday, with Theresa May’s government bracing itself for a series of defeats.

Views are the author’s

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