The Brief – Games without frontiers

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter. [STEPHANIE LECOCQ/EPA]

Contrary to what we may believe, European political parties are no different than the ones we have at home. They are just as prone to tactical games, diversions, manipulation and pointing the finger at someone else.

Take the latest example. The European People’s Party, Europe’s largest political family, came out strongly on Thursday against the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, whose less than impeccable business dealings and a suspected conflict of interest have been the subject of an investigation.

“The role of Andrej Babiš as head of the Czech government and his business dealings obviously create this conflict, as also concluded by the European Commission’s legal service”, the chairwoman of the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee, German MEP Inge Gräßle said in a statement.

The statement sent from the EPP Group then recalled that the Agrofert Group, founded by Babiš, received €82 million in EU funding last year and tens of millions of euros annually since 2013.

“We insist that the Commission suspends all EU funding to Agrofert until the conflict of interest is fully investigated and resolved”, said Gräßle. “The Commission should also recover all funds that have been illegally or irregularly paid out.”

All fair and square, in line with European values, with one small side-note:

Babiš’s ANO party is a member of ALDE, the European alliance of liberal parties. EPP, meanwhile, has its own ‘bad boy’ in the shape of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, who has defied European values for years and has brought his country on the verge of the Article 7 procedure (a punitive but rather toothless process, but that’s another story).

Most EPP officials have been restrained on the Orbán issue and – as far as we know – have never really considered the possibility of expelling his Fidesz from its ranks. Some of them have entertained the notion that by highlighting Hungary, some socialists and liberals are trying to divert attention from their own problems (Romania and Babiš, respectively).

Indeed, ALDE leader, Belgian Guy Verhofstadt, is one of the most outspoken European politicians, yet to date, he has not once commented on the Babiš case.

All the while, he has been a fierce critic of the ‘illiberal’ course the rule of Viktor Orbán has taken in Hungary, and has dispensed the following advice to the EPP: “Cut Orban loose“.

It would be nice if every political group would clean up its own backyard and then look over the fence, at least in time for the European elections next May.

They all have their bad boys and skeletons in the closet and the way they are carrying on now only provides more ammunition for the populists.

The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

We (nearly) made it! It is the last summit of the year grappling with one more crack at the Brexit puzzle, budget and migration. You can follow our live coverage here.

A doomed Theresa May won the no confidence vote yesterday, but at heavy cost as she lost the support of nearly 40% of her Conservative MPs.

She is by far not the only one crumbling these days. Poland’s PM Morawiecki also came to the two-day summit after having won a confidence vote the previous day.

European parties are in a last-ditch attempt to raise rates and narrow the scope of the digital tax proposals.

Italy has admitted defeat and agreed to change its “beautiful” budget plan to avoid the opening of a EU disciplinary procedure against Rome.

After almost five years of negotiations, MEPs ratified the EU-Japan trade deal, sealing the biggest ever trade agreement negotiated by the EU.

Rare scenes of chaos gripped the Hungarian parliament as it passed a controversial judicial reform, as well as labour legislation that critics call a “slave law”.

Mussels, health, and Baltic tourism. What do they have in common? A lot, when you listen to this Polish minister.

Our COP24 diary #11 brings you climate ambition at last, UN Secretary-General pounding on the table, Portugal getting carbon neutral, 630 brackets, and more. The conference also witnessed the return of king coal.

Norway is getting closer to building the world’s first carbon-free cement plant, a move that could reverberate across the globe.

Look out for…

Day 2 of the EUCO summit in Brussels.

Views are the author’s

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