The Brief – Holy COW!

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

The EU is moving more and more toward inter-governmental formats. Unable to decide at 28, individual member countries are seeking solutions to problems such as rescue operations at sea, patrolling in the Strait of Hormuz, or even inside the Eurozone, on new budgetary instruments.

A “Coalition of the willing” or COW has bad connotations. The administration of George W. Bush used “coalition of the willing” to refer to the countries who supported, militarily or politically, the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent military presence in post-invasion Iraq.

Bush even used the term “posse”, taken from the cowboy vocabulary, to describe the Coalition of the willing.

And we remember that Bush’s COW had badly divided Europe: a pro-American East and a much less bellicose West.

It must, however, be accepted that the times of Jacques Delors when the “communautaire” was taking over the “inter-governmental” are over, and that at time of rising nationalisms, EU heads of state and government prefer to decide by unanimity, instead of granting leadership to the Commission to propose and implement.

And since a decision by unanimity is extremely difficult, the only way to move forward is to identify like-minded countries willing to go forward.

But the question will arise, and possibly very soon, because the EU long-term budget is yet to be agreed: if countries stay away from core EU policies, can they profit from the common finances just the same?

That’s probably the most important subject the Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen will have to deal with. There is a risk of aggravating antagonisms and at a second stage, of the EU disintegrating.

The divide is not necessarily East-West, or new vs old members, because, for its reasons, Italy is turning its back on the other five founding countries. In the EU core, we find these five: France, the Benelux, but not always Germany. With the Sanchez government, Spain sticks to this core, but the Spanish government is fragile.

On the eastern side, the Visegrad Four are not united, and Slovakia is a country that is the most eager to take part in common EU policies, which is a great sign. Bulgaria and Romania, on the other hand, wish to be part of many common EU policies (Schengen, ERM 2) but are not allowed.

The other Visegrad countries, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, should, however, realise that if they stay out of the COWs, it will not be possible to milk the EU cow.

If we could venture into giving any individual EU country a piece of advice, it would be to join as many coalitions of the willing as possible. Von der Leyen is possibly already passing this message as she tours EU capitals.

The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

No one can accuse Boris Johnson, only a few hours in the job, of playing it safe as he purges the no-deal non-believers.

Commission posts, sustainable development, prosperity and security were the main topics during European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen’s charm offensive visit to Warsaw.

It’s now almost official. Luminita Odobescu, Permanent Representative of Romania to the European Union is very likely to be nominated by Prime Minister Viorica Dancila to be the next Romanian Commissioner.

What is indeed official is that Martin Selmayr, whose ‘coup-like’ rise earned him a few enemies in Brussels, will resign from his post at the end of this week, though he stays on as an hors classe adviser to Jean-Claude Juncker until he leaves for Austria.

Prosecutors have charged two workers at a cybersecurity company with terrorism as part of an investigation into Bulgaria’s biggest-ever data breach.

Europe needs more competences to fight money laundering effectively, Vice-President for the Euro Valdis Dombrovskis and Commissioner for Justice Věra Jourová told reporters.

Questions are arising whether the EU-Mercosur deal is being highjacked by premature criticism from farmers, environmentalists, national politicians and MEPs.

Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, meanwhile, rapped Bulgaria for failing to act against swine fever.

Revenue sharing among member states appears to be the main outstanding issue in efforts to reach an agreement on the financial transaction tax, as Spain still opposes the redistribution of resources.

The Turkish government has announced its suspension of the readmission agreement concluded with the EU in 2016, the so-called ‘EU-Turkey deal’.

Look out for…

…a cooler day in Europe after the recent heatwave smashed European records.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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