The Brief, powered by EUSALT – Trump ain’t stupid

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

The Brussels bubble assumes many things, and one of them is that Donald Trump is some sort of a clumsy idiot. This edition of The Brief begs to differ…

The latest episode was his series of tweets in which he appeared to be trolling Emmanuel Macron as soon as he got off the plane from Paris. Seen from Brussels, this appeared as a brutish attitude toward his host.

But let’s have a second look. Trump wrote:

“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the US, China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the US came along. Pay for NATO or not!”

As if Trump had known that only a couple of hours later, Angela Merkel would deliver her speech in the European Parliament, calling for a “real, true European army”, the US President hit out both at Macron and Merkel, at the idea of having a European army, which is quite divisive for the EU as a whole.

Let’s be blunt. Half of Europe, especially in the east, opposes the idea of EU defence duplicating NATO. Surprise-surprise, who does like the idea? None other than Vladimir Putin.

Another big foreign policy issue in the EU transatlantic agenda is the divide over the Iran nuclear deal. Here, Trump imposed sanctions on companies doing business with Tehran, and the EU responded by trying to put in place a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to be able to circumvent them.

Basically, an EU intermediary is supposed to handle the European companies trade with Iran. This could ensure, for example, that Iranian oil bought by Europeans could be paid for with EU goods and services of the same value.

However, no EU country is willing to host the SPV and run the risk of exposing itself to US wrath and sanctions. Moreover, as a US official recently said, the bigger news in Europe is that companies are withdrawing from Iran in droves.

To make things look worse for the EU, recent developments show that Iran is indeed harbouring terrorism, with two foiled attacks on EU soil – one in Denmark and another one in France.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said in Sofia that the Israeli secret services had prevented the attacks from happening.

Too bad for the European secret services if Mossad is better on European soil. But is the EU soft line on Iran better than Trump’s pressure for a new Iran agreement, one which would include restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme, but also on its ballistic missiles and support for militant groups across the Middle East?

So who is stupid here?

Currently, there is a lack of harmonisation throughout the EU, with different thresholds & varying access to fortified salt within the single market. Harmonising legislation will enable better competitiveness & contribute to a healthier nutritional diet for those Europeans who lack key nutrients. Fularticle bAliénor Poher, Eusalt, here.

The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

In Strasbourg, German Chancellor Merkel brought the European army one step further. The plenary session was accompanied by jeers and cheers. Full speech here, cheers and jeers here.

MEPs also laid down funding priorities for the next long-term EU budget and urged the Council to agree on a common position so that talks be completed before next May.

Czech MEP Jan Zahradil is the chosen one for the Spitzenkandidat race on behalf of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.

European lawmakers also voted on CO2 rules for heavy vehicles, the EU’s first attempt to regulate trucks and buses. It’s one of the few areas where Europe lags completely behind the likes of China and the US, both of which already have rules in place.

Right ideas matter, not parties, S&D leader Udo Bullman told Greek socialists, angry at their ‘flirt’ with leftist Greek PM Tsipras.

Sweden’s opposition leader Ulf Kristersson failed to secure enough votes to form a minority government, prolonging the political deadlock in place since the election in September.

It’s all kicking off with Brexit. MPs had just 10 hours to read nearly 500 pages of ‘the deal’ before Theresa May’s cabinet met earlier this afternoon. Ireland’s government suggested that the much vaunted November summit could actually go ahead.

Meanwhile, Macedonia’s former PM Nikola Gruevski, who has been sentenced to jail for abuse of power, is in Hungary where he has requested political asylum.

SAM, the Commission’s scientific body, calls for revising the existing GMO directive to “reflect current knowledge and scientific evidence” – especially when it comes to gene engineering.

For the first time, a state – the Seychelles – has issued a ‘Blue Bond’, which will finance the protection of marine ecosystems and the development of sustainable fishing.

Look out for…

The last day of the Strasbourg plenary. Check out the agenda here.

Views are the author’s

Subscribe to our newsletters


Want to know what's going on in the EU Capitals daily? Subscribe now to our new 9am newsletter.