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The Au Revoir Edition

12 December 2019

1. Story of the Week

What happened?

All good and great things must come to an end. The story this week is to announce that the Brussels Brief project, after three years of operation, will be ending the circulation of our weekly newsletter. Brussels Brief was conceived as a media experiment where we fused our love for EU and interest for EU politics with the novel media model already employed by newsletter only media entities such as 'The Skimm', 'The Hustle' and the 'Daily Pnut' to name a few. We also thought that EU politics needed a pro-EU commentary but with a critical and irreverent take. Employing at times irony and satire when appropriate but without compromising our love for the European project. Finally, our focus was on the much-hyped but underserved millennial generation to which we belong. Our generation and those that follow us need new media models based on reducing the noise of online media and the race for breaking news which is exploited in social media by careless actors spreading misinformation and, of course, bad faith actors spreading disinformation. We may still be around on social media (decision to be taken) and our flagship side project, the 'EU Trainee Bible' is something we will happily pass along to whoever is willing, able and capable of doing so.

Why it matters

It doesn't but it is a lesson is to be taken is that EU politics is still a very niche area of interest. This is oft-forgotten in the notoriously bubbly Brussels Bubble. The short-lived success of the excellent Raw Politics is a case in point. We didn't reach as many people as we had hoped but European Union political coverage has still a lot of potential and with a new Commission and Parliament even more so. However, during our time we like to think that we have been the uncompromising midwife of the von der Leyen Commission, championed the cause of climate change in the European political conversation which culminated in yesterday's announcement of the European Green Deal and have been unflinching in our commitment to reporting on gender equality highlighting the work that still needs to be done. We have also lived through no less than three Brexit deadlines (could soon be four depending on tomorrow's result) and are convinced that the Brexit process is bad not only for the UK and the EU but for the 'West' as we know it and the values of democracy and cooperation.

The takeaway

We live in an age where we all can become broadcasters and this comes with risks as much as with opportunities. If you are pro-EU, like to write and share thoughtful opinions, the world needs more of you as we step aside. God knows that those who wish to counter the narrative of European integration run amok in powerful national media outlets and European union media doesn't get much attention outside of political elites in Brussels or elsewhere. As US founding father Thomas Jefferson put it, "A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both". More people need to do more to report freely and fairly on the EU and its successes as well as its failures if it is to succeed in the long run. We have had the privilege of having the audience of high-level functionaries, MEPs, and politicians as well as beloved EU trainees amongst our audience. All are doing their best to make the best of making a success the historical task of European construction. We are thankful to all for your attention and your faith in us. In the words of outgoing Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. "I have to stop, I'm hungry". Our sign out will be, "We're thirsty, see you at Plux".

2. Tweets of the Week

3. Numbers of the Week

34

The age of Sanna Marin, the newly appointed prime minister of Finland and the youngest person heading a country. With Marin, three of four Nordic countries are now headed by women. Notably, Marin isn’t the only woman in power in Finnish politics where all leaders of the 5-party governing coalition are headed by women, three of whom are below the age of 35. Marin is the latest in a wave of young leaders storming forward these days in addition to Austrian Sebastian Kurz who had the title of Chancellor earlier this year before resigning and French President Macron who was elected at the ripe old age of 39.

200

The number in billions of euros funneled through a single Estonian branch of Danish Danske Bank between 2007 and 2015. While one can wonder how the bank’s management didn’t notice that a single branch seemed to have an abnormal appetite for money, the fault also lies with national regulators who failed to properly react to what was obviously illicit money flows. Last week, Finance ministers agreed to take the first step towards a new anti-money laundering rules and possibly giving more power to an EU-level anti-money laundering authority. With flashy new projects to fund it’s no surprise Member States are suddenly asking, where’s the money?!

28

The majority that Boris Johnson will gain in the UK’s general election today if the latest polls have it right. Although the Conservative lead has shrunk in the last few days, the double-digit predictions would give him enough of a majority push through the Withdrawal Agreement and take the UK officially out of the EU. However, the drama will continue until the end as the UK’s first-past-the-post electoral system means that marginal changes can cause huge shifts in the final outcome. While you wait for the election results why not read some Brexit poetry and ponder the meaning of democracy.

4. Quotes of the Week

"This is Europe’s man on the moon moment

The words chosen by VDL to describe the European Green Deal which will contain 50 climate-friendly initiatives touching on all aspects of European life. While the big numbers such as achieving at least 50% CO2 reduction by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050 were well known, many other important aspects of the Green Deal were presented yesterday. These include the ambition to have a pollution-free environment by 2050 and raise up to €100 billion to support vulnerable regions who will feel the impact of the green transition hardest. With Europe looking to miss its 2030 targets as things stand the measures are needed more than ever.

"We expect the European Union to live up to its own values

In an open letter to European Council President Charles Michel, the NGO Occupy Justice calls for the EU to put pressure on Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat whose aides have been linked to the investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017. Public protests have gripped the small island nation as the investigation is unraveling large scale corruption running deep in Maltese public life. While the EU should be a banner of rule of law, conflicts with Member States have put the union under pressure with the Commission already involved in rows with two other Member States. But as the NGO puts it, the risk of not acting could be people losing faith in the Union itself.

"We very often describe ourselves as a European family, and you definitely do not do something like that to the family members"

As if thecrisis in Malta wasn't enough, Member States had a dress down behind closed doors on the deteriorating situation of civil rights and the rule of law in Hungary. That, however, did not stop the Hungarian delegation from reportedly leaking information thereby breaking diplomatic protocol and infuriating the other Member States. Add to that an anti-Semitic tweet launched at Commissioner Vera Jourova by the chief spokesperson of the Orban government and it is hard to see an end in sight for the new Commission who will likely spend its mandate dealing with rebellious Member States.

5. Video of the Week

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