The Brief: More EU money for Turkey’s civil society

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The toughest discussions EU leaders had during the two-day summit that just ended was on Turkey, multiple sources said.

Against the background of deteriorating human rights and rule of law, some countries like Austria wanted a final end to the accession negotiations. Others, like Germany, wanted to cut the pre-accession funds. And Bulgaria, Turkey’s neighbour, insisted that relations should be maintained, fearing that Erdoğan may otherwise respond by flooding it with migrants.

In the end, Council President Donald Tusk said that leaders have “tasked the Commission to reflect on whether to cut and re-orient pre-accession funds”. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was asked twice to elaborate on the issue.  He said one-third of the EU pre-accession money for Turkey went to the Turkish civil society, and that this aid was going to increase.

An EU source explained to a small group of journalists after the summit ended that the idea was to “spend more on civil society and less on pathology”, meaning Erdoğan’s regime.

“It’s a signal that when you have part of the administration that is heavy-handed with the journalists, with the judges, they cannot get EU money,” the source said and explained that, while the amounts were not huge, this was “a leadership gesture” to pass an important message. This is “more elegant” than the radical calls to stop everything, he went further.

The Commission is due to come up with its proposal in a matter of few weeks.

The question I asked Juncker, and which he didn’t answer, is how the EU imagines they can rile Erdoğan so much and yet expect him to continue abiding by the EU-Turkey migration deal.

Regarding the €3+3 billion for the EU-Turkey deal, Juncker explained that €2.9 were “strongly committed” and €900.000 were already disbursed, and that the EU would respect its commitments and “Turkey will respect its, of course”.  Good luck with that.

The Roundup

Belgium breaks the ranks in EU unity with Spain, choosing to support dialogue with Catalonia instead:  PM  Charles Michel gets the cold shoulder from Spain’s Rajoy at the EU Council, while Belgian ambassador to Madrid receives a fiery note.

Farage’s outlandish analyses are, one must say, quite entertaining (if inaccurate): EU leaders support Madrid because Catalan separatists dislike the EU.

Taxing digital companies is the EU’s new pet project, but will member states use the momentum to also agree on a common tax base, or will they miss both trains?

Face recognition is taking a foothold in Europe, in the UK, Germany and France pilot projects test its potential against terrorism. But the right to privacy is under threat, as citizens fear becoming “walking ID cards.”

After awarding her the highest honour bestowed by the European Parliament, MEPs should bring back sanctions on Aung San Suu Kyi, writes Neena Gill.

First 100 days in office show that “Serbia is moving forward” according to Serbian PM Ana Brnabic. Higher pensions and salaries and progress on EU accession bid make the young female PM want to celebrate.

Warsaw keeps an eye on upcoming Czech elections, as favoured eurosceptic candidate has “unclear position on Russia.”

EU sends anti-trust officials to Germany to check out cartel concerns.

Macron, leading the campaign on posted workers, will not like the Czech authorities’ recent finding that Western European truckers are breaking the rules, as East-West divide grows.

Reforming the EU’s carbon market might not matter much (the price is too low to achieve emission cuts, according to experts) – but MEPs won’t let this fight go.

Greece has more than 200 inhabited island, that would see their coast move inland with rising sea level. Tourist hotspots like Mykonos could lose their beaches – and Greece, its GDP.

MEPs call for a total glyphosate ban by 2020, citing the “collusion between European agencies and Monsanto” as a serious threat to democracy.

Landmark medical study attributes one in six deaths to pollution globally – dirty air being the most gruesome killer.  

For the latest updates and pressers from the Council’s summit, which is beginning to wrap up, just check in to our live blog.

Council sources told our reporters an investigation is ongoing to exclude malicious poisoning of Europa building’s airways

And for coverage from our network – spanning from Madrid to Turkey, catch the Trans-Europe Express.

Look out for…

The Czech go to the poll this weekend, and Slovenians elect their president on Sunday.

Views are the author’s

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