Welcome to the revamped, relaunched, re-edited Brussels Brief! After much self-reflection, iteration and deliberation we present you with our 2.0 offering with the same goal of explaining the EU with a touch of irreverence and much infotainment. .
We dedicate the relaunch of Brussels Brief to the memory of Samya Stumo. A dear friend, a supporter of our project and an intelligent, fearless world changer we lost suddenly and far too early. This one and all the rest are for you Samya.
See you next week,
The Brussels Brief Team
1. Story of the Week
The debate over Chinese influence in the West has reached fever pitch. The US under Donald Trump has of late escalated a trade war against the Middle Kingdom amid controversy that Chinese technology exports can been used to spy on Western countries. The allegations surround Huawei and their bids for public procurement (see 5G networks), a €2.4 trillion-per-year market in the EU has seen EU member states scramble to restrict China’s access. Much will be seen in the European Council summit today and tomorrow, where Federica Mogherini will try to sew the discord between EU member states thus far has been exacerbated by individual development interests.
Why it matters
It so happens that just as the EU Council summit is underway, Chinese President Xi Jinping (sometimes confused with a certain loveable bear) will embark on a European tour this week visiting two strategic capitals; Paris, which is generally allergic to Chinese advances and represents the resistance within the EU, and Rome, whose populist government has no qualms in distressing their Brussels counterparts by recently indicating that they will join the Chinese flagship Belt and Road Initiative. Xi’s visit is part of a diplomatic onslaught from Beijing onto an EU it knows has been more recently preoccupied with Russian influence than that of China.
China knows that it is a good moment to assert its influence on the EU amidst US pressure on them. European worries that they are not competitive enoughin technology are well known and there is a pressure for them to develop quickly, inevitably with Chinese infrastructure. Then there is the fact that the EU has a trade deficit with China. Last but not least, there are already major infrastructure developments underway built by China, such as the EU-funded Peljesac Bridge in Croatia and other projects in Eastern Europe in the 16+1 initiative which involves eleven EU member states and billions in trade. In other words, Europe is already under the Chinese development hold whether they like it or not. A reality that will ultimately, and unfortunately, have to managed with careful diplomacy rather than reactionary trade policy ‘a la Trump’.
2. Tweets of the Week
3. Numbers of the Week
The number of days since 23 March 2016 or the day of the Brexit referendum vote. Since then everything and nothing has happened. With 8 days left until B-day Theresa May asked for an extension to the exit date until 30 June. Like a bad homework assignment, the EU (teacher) has tentatively agreed but with a condition that the UK parliament actually vote for the Withdrawal Agreement which has been deemed not fit for vote by its Speaker without substantial change that the EU has said will not happen. Confused? Switch off and watch this instead.
The percentage of EU Member state government websites that are riddled with cookies. Not the delicious chocolate chip kind but those that advertisers use to track activity online. The technology was found on 25 of the 28 member states’ official government websites after a an analysis of 184,683 EU government webpages. Public health websites were also included in the analysis where people searched for sensitive information and then had ‘Are you an alcoholic?’ and other revealing ads run on other websites. No assumptions.
The percentage drop in illegal migration to the EU in the past four years. Its not all good news, however, as one of the main transit countries, Niger, has responded to pressure from the EU (and a sweet 1billion aid deal) in order to tackle migration with unintended and unsavoury effects. The imprisonment of refugees is rife and organised crime has shot up as smugglers take advantage of the situation. Did the nativists in Europe win? To see the current migratory situation in the EU check out this interactive map from Frontex.
Trainees of the EU unite! If you are a young Eurocrat looking to get your groove on in Brussels look no further than the EU Trainee Bible as your one stop shop for career and beer advice as well as a big brotherly intro to the European institutions so you never get caught off guard at a trialogue.
4. Quotes of the Week
“Orbán’s self-image is that he is the big prime minister of a small country who earns the ire of the small leaders of bigger countries because he dares to speak the truth”
The words of András Vágvölgyi, Hungarian writer and fanboy of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. the statement comes as he battles back against the threat of being expelled from the centre-right European People’s Party with his own threat of setting up a far right European grouping after the European elections later this year.
“…We don’t simply put money on the table. We create a whole innovation system to place Europe at the forefront in strategic technologies and innovationand innovation that will shape our futures such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology and zero-emission energy.”
“If the UK leaves then we are just tolerated as an anachronism that will slowly fade and die away.”
A British civil servant working in the European institutions as the Brexit process becomes ever more uncertain and their limbo continues. The same applies to British officials all over Brussels in a series of positions. Used to being part of the club, it will take some adjusting to settle into a new reality.
5. Video of the Week
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