The Brief: Is the EU now a dirty word?

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There was a debate last night between the seven candidates competing for the French right’s presidential nomination and Europe barely came up at all. That wouldn’t be so surprising if the EU hadn’t been touted as one of the main topics of the debate for weeks in advance.

Granted, there were four journalists asking the questions and none of them prodded the candidates for their thoughts on the European Union—not even once.

So, is the EU a dirty word?

Polls indicate that whoever wins from the right will likely succeed in the 2017 general elections and lead France for the next five years. Shouldn’t the candidates have something to say about the crisis-stricken EU?

It is a bit odd that none of the leading candidates wanted to mention France’s relationship with the EU seeing as Marine Le Pen has vowed to hold a referendum on EU membership if she’s elected president next year.

Only Jean-Frédéric Poisson, who is currently polling at around 1%, mentioned Europe at all—as a threat to France’s sovereignty.

And Le Pen is almost certain to face off against the winner of last night’s contest in the second round of elections next year.

Maybe the candidates vying for the right’s backing in the 20 November primary elections just think voters aren’t interested in Europe. There will be one more debate on 17 November.

Instead, the candidates focused on migration—remember, the Calais Jungle was cleared out just a few days ago—and slammed France’s 2003 Touquet agreement with the UK that set the border between the two countries in France.

Sarkozy negotiated the deal as then-minister of the interior, but that didn’t stop him from arguing that there should be a hotspot in the UK so British authorites can decide who they want to let into the country themselves—without help from France.

The day of reckoning for the seven right-wing candidates is 20 November. The first round of the general elections for France’s presidency aren’t until April next year. If you’re addicted to the elections horse race, there’s the first round Bulgarian presidential election this Sunday to get you warmed up. And we heard the Americans are electing a president next Tuesday.


While Theresa May was busy with her “rather short phone call” to Jean-Claude Juncker this morning, she was hit with a Brexit resignation. Stephen Phillips quit as an MP – despite being in favour of Brexit – over her handling of the negotiations and, in particular, May’s desire to shut parliament out of the process.

There has been a surprising breakthrough after a drawn-out fight between Germany’s transport minister, Alexander Dobrindt, and the European Commission over a controversial road toll bill that could charge a higher rate to cars registered in other EU countries. The Commission took Germany to court over those plans last month, but will now drop that complaint. In exchange, the executive wants Germany to introduce a tax break for German drivers that incentivises cleaner cars. It’s been a touchy issue for EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, who is expected to proposen overhaul of the EU’s road toll system next year.

Spain’s new government is EU-friendly. Alfonso Dastis, Madrid’s ambassador to the EU, has been picked to be the new minister of foreign affairs and Brussels is happy that Luis de Guindos is staying on as minister of economy.

Turkey arrested leaders of the pro-Kurdish party HDP and 11 MPs last night. Federica Mogherini said she is “extremely worried”.

We don’t hear a lot about people turning down power and money in Brussels. But telecoms regulators from EU member states are pushing back against the European Commission’s proposal to turn them into a full-fledged EU agency—with a fresh cash injection.

Volkswagen claimed that the emissions cheating software at the centre of the Dieselgate scandal don’t violate EU law, after all. And we were all so worried!

COP 21 went into effect today, 30 days after it was ratified by the EU. The Commission doesn’t appear to be in a rush to review EU law on organic farming.

ALDE President Hans van Baalen said his group can be the strongest European party.


COP22 starts Monday in Marrakesh and goes on until 18 November. Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete will represent the European Commission. On a related note, next week is EU Ocean Week. James Crisp will be back writing The Brief on Monday.

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