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Brussels Brief | 27th Edition

6–12 October 2017

· EU,Politics,Europe,Brexit,Brussels
It’s the 27th Edition of Brussels Brief 📝 and whilst we keep feeling the love from the publication of our first feature length guide, the EU Trainee Bible 📘 we are back with another edition full of sedition, mistrust and...puppies.

In what has thus far been an uninspiring, overhyped and unproductive Brexit process there has been one constant: the cynicism or perceived cynicism of the British side of the negotiating table. It has always been the EU who has seemed like the adult in the room, much like the older brother allowing a younger brother to throw a tantrum or two in order for him to see the big picture. However, this picture is looking less and less the case sincereports of EU mistrust of the current British administration’s ability is beginning to show, and reports that the EU may be meeting withUK opposition members, shows a mutual lack of bona fide which may ultimately deteriorate into a catastrophic ‘no deal’ scenario. Brexit feels less like a ‘ball game’ and more of a tandem game of Russian roulette.

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Cordiali saluti, (as our Italian friends would say)

- The Brussels Brief Team 👨‍👩‍👦 ✌️ 🇪🇺

*Collated and Curated over “ Lefto - 2017 #13 ”, by Studio Brussel on Soundcloud and ceylan tea ☕ in Brussels Brief HQ.

❝“Elections change nothing”❞
- Wolfgang Schäuble
Retiring German finance minister, and troll of the Greeks, in 2014 the midst of the eurozone crisis.
🔝 FRONT PAGE - Top News This Week

Republicus interruptus. The Catalan standoff, much like its Mexican counterpart has both the potential of extreme consequences and immediate lack of action. A little more than a week after the Catalan government organised a vote on independence where millions turned out, hundreds of thousands were prevented from voting and scores were injured in clashes with police, the momentum of the independence movement seemed to be fizzling out. None less than last Sunday, when hundreds of thousands of Spaniardsprotested the illegality of said vote and against the splitting of the Spanish state in Barcelona and elsewhere. Accompanied by the reportedfleeing of some companiesfrom the region, the protests were held in anticipation of the independence declaration that Catalan president was due to give on Tuesday. Under theses pressure and the threat of direct rule, suggested by Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy, Carles Puigdemont addressed the Catalan parliament. He was unequivocal in his condemnation of the Spanish state but ultimately equivocal in his declaration of independence. In an appeal towards de-escalation and international mediation, Puigdemont announced a‘suspended’ independence until major issues with the Spanish state could be resolved. No doubt influenced by a direct appeal from Donald Tusk and a vote of no confidence from France, questions remain whether it was indeed aformal declaration of independence and what exactly the strategy of the Catalan government is going forward. [BBC News, Euronews, CNN, EUobserver, CBS News, Deutsche Welle, Eurotopics]

WIFI 4EU & 4ME. In a vanilla, uncontroversial yet spectacularly functional action, the EU has delivered again. The victim this time will be 6000 European town halls, libraries, parks and other public places that will benefit from EU sponsored (€120 million) Wifi. After being adopted by the Council on Monday, the WIFI4EU initiative stemmed from JCJ’s 2016 State of the Union speech and will likely follow the ‘eduroam’model which provides instant connectivity to academics and students in 6000 institutions in 89 countries around the world. [Luxemburger Wort, EU News, The Next Web]


💸 ITS THE ECONOMY, STUPID - Top Economic, Trade and Innovation News

We will never see his like again. German über-austerity champion and man who makes the IMF look like a group of tax and spend crazies, Wolfgang Schäuble, bid auf wiedersehen and received a few personalised gifts from fellow Eurozone finance ministers. He is set to move out of the powerful finance ministry to become the new speaker of the German Bundestag. As the principal architect of the German response to the Eurozone crisis, he has faced fierce criticism for his strict adherence to budget rules and his departure will evokequite different emotions around Europe with countries who have been under Schäuble’s fiscal zeal and strict adherence to rules likely to give a sigh of relief. But hiscritics might soon miss him as the new German finance minister could be even more attuned to fiscal conservatism andreluctant to engage in eurozone reform, something President Macron is pushing for vigorously. You truly never know how much will you miss someone until they are gone. [Bloomberg, Euronews, Financial Times, Politico Europe]

Namasdeal? The world’s largest and second largest democracies, India and the EU, held the 14th bilateral summit on Friday where both sides reaffirmed commitments to continue negotiations for a new free trade agreement. Talks began in 2007 andnegotiators have complained that not enough progress has been made, but many spectators are eyeing a possible boon in deepening ties. The EU has an annual export of above €100 billion to India and, with the country set to become a major global economy, both sides have an interest in deepening ties. In these tumultuous times of Trump, India has come to see the EU as a bastion of stability and both sides look todeepen ties beyond economics into counter terrorism, sustainable development and democracy. [First Post, The Hindu, Hindustan Times, DailyO]

🇬🇧 STATE OF THE (DIS)UNION - Brexit Stories

Ping pong. Who’s in the wrong? As the 5th round of Brexit negotiations wrap up this week, its seems that both sides have thrown in the towel of any meaningful progress being made in the short-term. In the blue and yellow corner, European Council President Donald Tusk, dispelled any hopeon the British side of concluding the current phase of negotiations by the end of this month and starting to talk about trade (aka the money maker) until December at the very earliest. Only then will the EU be able to assess the regress progress made thus far. In the red, white and blue corner, the outlook is much more pessimistic optimistic with Theresa May affirming that any Brexit deal negotiated will be agreed at the eleventh hour, or closer to the end of the two year negotiation. This comes off the back of some ping pong talkwhere each party accused each other of not playing until ‘King Margaritas’ reminded everyone thatthis is not a ball game. At least a no-deal scenario, although flirted with by the UK side, is not seen as an option from the EU side…yet. [Voice of America, Reuters, EUobserver, The Independent, Newhub]

Pay to play. Under the threat of a €4.5 billion cost to British small business in leaving the customs union, the UK is preparing a VAT and excise regime if no trade deal is reached with the EU on any future trade deal. A measure that will no doubt not do any favours to an alreadyunder fire customs regime and negotiating position with the market that provides half of the UK’s exports. [Business Insider, CNBC, New Europe]

BONUS: The Puppy Smugglers. According to Brexiteers, Brexit i not onyl going to put the ‘Great’ back into Britian. Apparently, Brexit is also an opportunity to save the most adorable amongst us as well. It turns out not even puppies are sacrosanct in the world of Leave. [The Telegraph]

€ 30 billion
The fall in the amount of EU exports to Russia from 2014–2016.
🏢 BRUXELLES MA BELLE - News about the city

Hipsters of Molenbeek. Since 2015 Brussels' neighbourhood, Molenbeek, has grabbed international attention as the reported breeding ground for Islamic extremism. After a series of attacks that found the concerned terrorists residing in this area of the Belgian capital, there has been an increase in efforts to integrate the Muslim community into society. Most recently, a Belgian painter known as Samuel Vanderveken launched an initiative called "Hipster/Muslim: The New West" to remind the public that prejudice is often mistaken and wrong, anyone can be a Muslim, not just the dark and bearded. Still, Sarah Turine, Molenbeek's youth and integration representative, claims "the attacks were a real catalyst [and] we are at the start of our journey in the fight against radicalisation." [Deutsche Welle]

Holy beer. In an effort to raise money so as to avoid closing its doors, a Brussels church has launched a new beer. Saint Catherine's church, in the city's canalside docks, has brilliantly paired up with a local brewery to create a strong, fruity pale ale beer called 'Ste Kat'. The Roman Catholic Priest, Father Jeremie Schaub claimed it was "an image of the church, effervescent and full of life." The beer is made with the traditional methods of Trappist brewers, a process based on the yeast used by monks in the 1800s. Proceeds will be used to renovate the 19th century religious structure, that is if they aren’t consumed by the clergy. [Reuters]

Girl power. ‘Women Leading the Way in Brussels’ is a book which tells the stories of 14 bright women leaders who have made it in the Belgian capital in all fields from journalism, to law, to politics. It aims to inspire other females and promote a gender-inclusive society. The co-authors, Claudia Caldeirinha, a university professor and founder of Redscope consultancy and Corinna Hörst, deputy director of the German Marshall Fund and president of Women in International Security, intended to ignite conversation over career successes and failures for aspiring female professionals. [The Bulletin]

✂️ EXTRA - From The Cutting Room Floor

Flying in the face of La France. Brussels bureaucrats aren't the only ones finding outspoken critics, now so too is the European Union flag. French far-left leader, and arcade video game hero, Jean-Luc Melenchon has complained about the flying of the European flag in the French National Assembly, on equal footing with the French Tricolour echoing criticism previously reserved espoused by Marine Le Pen and the far right. Melenchon and other politicians tabled amendments aiming to have the flag removed permanently, but President Macron has other ideas and will sign an agreement next week, making theEuropean flag an official symbol in France, undoubtedly to Melenchon’s (and Le Pen’s) dismay. [Euractiv, Yahoo News]


Regional rebellion. Catalonia is not alone in its pursuit of autonomy. Bank of America Merrill Lynch, (with a view of saving their investors some cash) havemapped all regions in Europe with an independence or autonomy seeking party and, should this map one day become a reality, the way we think about Europe will be markedly different with countries like Spain, UK, France and Italy completely reconfigured. For now maybe just look out for these 9 regionsthat are most likely to go the Catalan way. [Business Insider, WalesOnline]

💡 OPINION - Top minds muse on the European project

See through me. The EU is often accused of being an opaque and secretive club unresponsive to citizens with no rules to guard against corporate lobbyists. But this is a mischaracterisation according to the German MEP Jo Leinen. In fact, the EU has one of the most open regimes compared to other countries when it comes to allowing citizens access to information. Similarly the European Parliament and the Commission has since 2011 managed a Transparency Register, which today counts more than 11.500 registrations. It is up to the Member States to now join the system and ensure public trust and accountability. Those are after all European values. [Euractiv]

What’s the point of it all? On 7 October as a range of European conservative thinkers issued the Paris Statement, an attempt atreinvigorating a conservative political debateon what it means to be European was launched. Not surprisingly, the central role of western Christianity along with some anti-muslim sentiment, became cornerstone of the new manifesto, but this only describes the Europe of a past time, so argues Matthew Walther. Instead of describing what Europe is today, the conservative manifesto fails by only striving for a romanticised past of Europe and seem to neglect all the achievement that give Europe value today, notably the liberal values of tolerance and reciprocal rights. Worst of all the authors fail to realise that to outsiders Europe is becoming a continent sized museum full of pretty sights, only worth a tourist visit. [The Week]

🎧 PRESS PLAY - Media Corner

🔊 Podcast of the Week. Poilitico’s EU Confidential Podcast explores their in-house journalistic project, Global Policy Lab which is all about making Europe grow again (industrially). Much like our own MEUGA, it has certain a ring to it. [Politico Europe]

🎥 Video(s) of the Week. Second amend-what? The epidemic of gun violence is showing no signs of subsiding after the Las Vegas shooting that left scores dead and hundreds injured. This very European take on Americans’ seemingly illogical infatuation with guns is both hilarious and poignant at the same time. [Zondag met Lubach]

✏️ Cartoon(s) of the Week. Food brands cheat eastern Europe, Unwelcome Welcome, Union by Force. []

📺 GIF of the Week
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