The Brief: European Parliament, bring out your dead!

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


When Europe was in the grips of the Black Death, men would pull carts through stricken villages, ringing a bell and crying, “Bring out your dead!”

The bell is ringing and it is time for MEPs to take the festering corpse of the Grand Coalition out of their hut and send it off to be burnt and buried.

Martin Schulz’s decision to step down as European Parliament president to run in the German elections is a chance to break the cosy duopoly between the European People’s Party (EPP) and Socialists and Democrats (S&D).

The cartel that has force-fed MEPs pre-cooked legislation for years is a major factor in why only the most deluded euro-zealots think the Parliament is really democratic.

It’s only through the conflict of adversarial politics that credible consensus can be wrought.

Gianni Pittella is the S&D candidate. In today’s interview with EURACTIV, he seems to get it.

“The legislative cooperation is over. Regardless of the outcome of this election, there is no chance of restoring it.

“Debating, questioning and political confrontation are the pillars of democracy and the only way to reach shared compromises and concrete solutions to improve people’s lives.”

Fine words but Pittella, leader of the S&D group, was part of the Grand Coalition and did nothing to stop its beige machinery from clanking through the motions.

Then there’s the EPP’s candidate, the uniquely uninspiring Antonio Tajani, a former Commissioner and pal of Silvio Berlusconi.

“There is no collapse of the grand coalition. We have a clear power-sharing agreement,” he told EURACTIV.

Tajani reminds me of a Monty Python sketch where a supposed plague victim protests “I’m not dead” as he is carried out to the cart by a relative. In the end, the cartman clubs the victim to death in return for a tip from the family member.

The only way to dispatch the grubby alliance and make sure it stays dead is to ensure the next president is not from the EPP or S&D.

There is another man, who if he stands, has impeccable euro-credentials, heft and profile. He gets over-excited from time to time but has a neat turn of phrase. He is also not part of the Grand Coalition.

If Pittella is so desperate to deal the killer blow to the coalition, he should stand down and tell his supporters to back Guy Verhofstadt instead.


Check out our wrap-up of yesterday’s European Council summit for details on defence, asylum policy, the EU-Turkey deal and Ukraine.

EU leaders insisted that any Brexit deal will be based on “rights and obligations”, meaning they won’t cave into UK demands for access to the single market without guarantees on free movement.

The European Commission was relieved that at least Switzerland isn’t giving up on free movement. The Swiss parliament approved a law today that will give locals first pick at jobs – a way of getting around the tricky referendum result that called for immigration quotas.

The controversial deal with Turkey to stop refugees from coming to Europe is going to stay high on the EU agenda. Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker are planning a summit with Turkish President Erdogan next year.

The compromise on the EU’s association agreement with Ukraine still needs to be approved by the Dutch parliament. Ukrainian President Poroshenko is keeping his fingers crossed.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg will meet with Russian leaders on Monday to talk Ukraine.

Angela Merkel and Alexis Tsipras are meeting today in Berlin after the Greek leader announced he’s given pensioners an unexpected Christmas bonus. Italy’s ailing banks are also getting a Christmas gift, a last-minute cash injection.

Merkel wasn’t feeling too festive yesterday. She stopped leaders at the summit from making progress on the deadlocked Banking Union.


EU environment ministers will look at the revisions to the Emission Trading System, the world’s largest carbon market. MEPs in the Environment Committee have already backed their version of the text.


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