The five DGs lobbyists love most

VOL. 1 NO. 4
The five DGs lobbyists love most
People who want to influence legislation are heading right to the policy wonks
It’s a move right out of EU Lobbying for Dummies: If you need
to influence a piece of legislation,
you set up face-time with the European Commission directorgeneral in charge of the issue.
The Commission’s 32 directors-general have the full skill
set: They are policy wonks with
strong political instincts who are
in charge of important dossiers,
manage large bureaucracies and
have the ear of their commissioners.
But these top staffers are not
allowed to meet with just anyone. Under new transparency
rules introduced by Commission
President Jean-Claude Juncker
in December, departmental
chiefs have to follow the same
rules that commissioners do
when it comes to lobbyists: They
can meet only with people and
organizations listed on the EU
Transparency Register.
The new rules also require
that directors-general disclose
publicly the meetings they have
with lobbyists — just as commissioners and their staff must do.
It is now possible, by checking
the public websites of the various departments, to see who is
meeting with which lobbyists
and when.
“I have a better conscience,”
said Jos Delbeke, the directorgeneral for climate action, of the
new accountability. “We need
order in the lobbying business
in this town.”
The openness means lobbyists have to consider the strategic value of a sit-down with a top
director-general when the disclosure will let everyone in town
know about it. But hundreds of
Europe’s most influential lobby-
A girl named Courage
Migrants rescued from Mediterranean waters arrive at the
Sicilian port of Augusta. POLITICO profiles one young woman,
17-year-old Courage Odafeh Loren, who survived the journey
from Libya to European shores. MARE NOSTRUM: PAGE 12
ists, industry groups and NGOs
are still choosing to meet with
the EU’s top public servants, despite the new scrutiny.
Here, we look at five influential directors-general who are
taking the most meetings with
lobbyists, according to their websites. The list is ranked in order
of most lobbyists met since December 1, 2014.
A lot of
noise on the
eastern front
Russian threat
forces Poland and
Baltics to rearm
TALLINN — At Estonia’s Tapa
military base, Lieutenant Colonel Aron Kalmus spends much
of his time dealing with the
rotation of US troops bringing
tanks, armored personnel carriers and training skills to boost
his country’s tiny army. The Baltic countries, with no proper air
forces of their own, also rely on
their NATO allies to patrol their
skies. But trusting in foreign
military muscle is being seen as
increasingly dangerous in an era
of hybrid warfare, and countries
across the region are beefing up
their own defense spending.
With western Europe reluctant to permanently base troops
in the region, the Baltic countries, and even regional powers
like Poland, are increasingly relying on their own resources —
Europe’s chief operating officer
Kristalina Georgieva wants to change how the EU works — or doesn’t work
Kristalina Georgieva is changing
the way the EU functions EPA
years of cynicism about how the
EU spends money.
She is shaping a new role focused on changing the way the
EU functions internally rather
than the legislation it adopts. She
is effectively the EU’s chief operating officer.
In a career spanning low-paid
academic work behind the Iron
Curtain in her native Bulgaria,
to managing 186 national interests as vice president of the
World Bank, to running the EU’s
humanitarian aid agency in the
last Commission, Georgieva has
built a reputation as a tough administrator.
“Every job I took I would revamp it, restructure it and leave,”
Georgieva told POLITICO in an
interview. “Fifteen years later it
is still running pretty much the
That one of the most capable
and reform-minded members of
the current Commission comes
from one of Europe’s most notoriously corrupt states is especially notable.
Who’s up and who’s down on
the continent? Ryan Heath and
Tara Palmeri have the answer
Why competition commissioner
Margrethe Vestager gives telecoms
deals a close look PAGE 7
British elections: Why the Queen
is less inclined to retire than ever
before PAGE 14
ISSN 2406-5250
The six-month-old Juncker Commission has promised a new way
of running the EU — one more
accountable to voters and more
streamlined in its approach to
regulation. Everything is supposed to be “smarter and better.”
But while conventional Brussels wisdom is preoccupied with
the European Commission’s allpowerful first vice president,
Frans Timmermans, as the point
man in the war on over-regulation and over-reach, there’s
another person working a more
nuts-and-bolts approach to reform. Vice President Kristalina
Georgieva is hoping to reverse
A yearlong series examining the politics and issues driving
today’s energy and climate conversation in Europe.
European Commission
Vice President for Energy Union
Downstream Director and Member
of the Executive Committee, Royal Dutch Shell
MEP, Member of the Environment, Public Health
and Food Safety Committee
Secretary of State, Ministry of the Environment, Poland
Presented by
By Ryan Heath and Tara Palmeri
COIN of the EU realm +++ Parliament’s LOGO rhythm +++ COMMISSIONER (low talker)
ing without a Parliamentary
Pass if you don’t have some other
pass or invitation AND your
passport or ID card. At the Commission, just bring your pass. At
the Council, just get someone to
vouch for you if you forget it all
or never registered in the first
“COMMON PEOPLE”? Tantalizing facts match. Like the character in the song, Danae Stratou is Greek, rich, and studied
sculpture at Central Saint Martins college … at the same time
as Jarvis Cocker, the musician who wrote the song about a rich
student who disdained him. But another Greek artist claims to
be the real inspiration.
WE HEAR: Party groups at the
Parliament are getting around
the strict new rules on organizing events. The idea was to
reduce the security risk; the
effect was just to annoy everyone. Now that individual MEPs
have been told they can’t organize events, they just do exactly
what they intended but under
their party’s name instead.
stock” — a personal favorite of 12
finance ministers at this week’s
Eurogroup meeting in Brussels.
Commissioner Pierre Moscovici
is especially keen. He wants to
“take stock” of even “substantial
The Parliament’s directorgeneral of communication,
Juana Lahousse, explained to
MEP Christofer Fjellner (in an
email seen by Playbook) that
“the new logo of the European
Parliament, together with the
accompanying graphical rules
for its use, was designed and developed entirely using internal
resources, with the help of the
Publications Office of the European Union. No specific budget
was therefore needed for this
process.” What she means is no
extra budget was needed. When
the Commission changed its logo
in 2012 it spent around €125,000
on the design alone.
concede that the Parliament’s
officials authorized spending
€120,000 “specifically for the
physical replacement of the logo
in places of high public visibility,
essentially buildings, the plenary chambers and press conference rooms.” Look out for that
Inspired by Conchita Wurst,
2014 Eurovision winner and
boundary breaker, Vienna’s traffic lights are getting a makeover
ahead of the annual Eurovision Song Contest. They now
feature same-sex couples, and
love hearts, instead of red and
green men.
WE SEE: That despite having a
shared accreditation system and
being under the same level of
security alert, the three big EU
institutions all apply different
conditions for gaining access to
their buildings. At the Parliament don’t even think of enter-
WE SEE: The suspiciously
wrinkle-free forehead of David
Cameron splashed everywhere
after a sleepless night. Why all
the crow’s feet but perfectly flat
WHICH DISH: Which commissioner in Brussels is such a “low
talker” that some of his staff
are worried they will misunderstand his mumbling? (Was that
millions or billions you said,
Mr. Commissioner?). They’re
David Cameron (pictured)
and Nicola Sturgeon — they’ve
won their election battles, but
now they’ll have to win their
constitutional wars
Election pollsters — they all got
it wrong in the UK, sparking a
collective global depression
amongst psephologists.
Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage.
Peace — this week we’ve
celebrated 70 years since the
end of World War II in Europe,
and 65 years since the Schuman
Declaration, which led to creation
of the EU.
Russell Brand (pictured) — for
first announcing that he wouldn’t
be endorsing a candidate in the
UK elections and then putting his
money on Miliband, who then lost.
Greece — who made good on its
promise and actually paid the
International Monetary Fund back
€750 million back on Monday, one
day early. Only about €25 billion
more to go. Step by
European policymakers love
to defend the “European
Social Model” — often billed as
the world’s best social safety
net. Not for everyone it seems.
Médecins du Monde (Doctors
of the World) says 95 percent of
pregnant women who presented
to a Doctors of the World clinic
in Belgium had no health care
coverage. The European average
is 81.1 percent.
COIN COMPETITION: Yes, citizens, while you may not have any
control over whether you pay
for a Greek bailout, don’t worry!
Instead, you get the chance to
vote for which design you want
on the next €1 coin. Surf to:
Hungary — which may have to
take in refugees who cross the
Mediterranean from Africa under
the Commission’s new migration
plan after prime minister Viktor
Orbán said he would fiercely
defend its
EVERY VOTE COUNTS: Conservative Glyn Davies, from Montgomeryshire in Wales, is pleased
to have won re-election to the
UK House of Commons — with
the help of some phallic graffiti by a voter. The MP wrote on
Facebook: “One voter decided
to draw a detailed representation of a penis instead of a cross
in my box on one ballot paper.
Amazingly, because it was neatly
drawn within the confines of
the box, the returning officer
deemed it a valid vote. Not sure
the artist meant it to count, but I
am grateful.”
too shy to confront him, but
with the stakes in his portfolio this high, Playbook wonders
what’s the price of a little
smell has been wafting through
floor 70 of the Justus Lipsius building and some say it’s
coming from the old rugs in the
British offices. “The building as a
whole just always has and probably always will have a slight reek
of cigars and whiskey from the
really old days,” a spry observer
noted. It’s time for some spring
cleaning UK. New government,
new rugs!
to Commission spokesperson
Natasha Bertaud for not missing a beat on the migration crisis while sporting a conspicuous pink cast on her left wrist.
She broke the bone in a nasty
fall while roller-blading. Commission President Jean-Claude
Juncker is the only person who
has signed the cast. He scribbled
his name with a big heart.
PRICEY DIGS: The EU’s foreign
service arm leases one of the
most expensive properties in the
EU zone, according to market
research data. The European
External Action Service recently leased a property at RondPoint Schuman 6 for €275
per square meter, higher than
others are paying in the
BRILLIANCE: “I wonder why
@pierremoscovici decides to
speak about Greece in French
and Cyprus in English, but
#Eurogroup famously lacks
transparency” — James Kanter
of the International New York
Times @jameskanter
work for Tesla? Well, don’t think
the birth of your first-born is a
good enough excuse to get the
day off. Tesla founder Elon Musk
sassed an employee for skipping
a work day to see the birth of his
child. According to an upcoming
biography of the entrepreneur,
Musk said: “That is no excuse. I
am extremely disappointed. You
need to figure out where your
priorities are. We’re changing
the world and changing history,
and you either commit or you
[email protected] +++ @POLITICORyan +++++++++ [email protected] +++ @tarapalmeri
Go to to sign up for Ryan’s must-read daily briefing on what’s driving the day in Brussels
4 News
Greece pays IMF but gets no bailout cash
A repayment has
been made, but
the question now
is just how much
time is left before
Greece runs out
of money
The cash-strapped Greek government made a €750 million repayment to the International Monetary Fund this week, but the big
question now is just how much
money Greece has left to stave off
a default that would throw both
the heavily indebted country
and the broader eurozone into
The IMF payment didn’t signal
a broader breakthrough in talks
with creditors; Greece made little headway this week in getting
finance ministers from the eurozone area to release a final €7.2
billion tranche of a second bailout
Eurozone finance ministers
issued a tepid joint statement
after the meeting citing a “more
substantial discussion” but added
that still “more time and effort
are needed to bridge the gaps on
the remaining issues.”
Changes to Greece’s pension system and reform to the
country’s labor market haven’t
reached sufficient clarity for the
country to propose a concrete
A return to the
drachma hangs
over Greece.
reform package, said eurozone
Those key reforms are exactly
the issue. Greece is being pressed
to tackle them, but the anti-austerity Syriza government in Athens seems ideologically incapable
of making the required movement. That yawning gap was underlined by Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who made
nice by saying that differences
between Greece and its creditors
“have been narrowing consider-
ably,” but then pointed out his
government has issues of social
fairness it will not touch despite
outside pressure. “Red lines
by necessity are inflexible,” he
Those red lines come from
Syriza’s overwhelming electoral
victory four months ago based on
a desire to overturn the austerity
policies agreed to by past Greek
But so far Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Varou-
fakis have failed to finesse the
Polls now show that Greeks
are becoming increasingly worried about their government’s
hardball negotiating tactics, with
only 54 percent backing the government’s strategy, down from 82
percent in February.
But while Tsipras weaves between domestic and foreign political pressure, time is running
out. Greece has until the end of
June to get the remainder of the
bailout and avoid a catastrophe.
“There is no time to be lost,”
Pierre Moscovici, the European
commissioner for economic and
financial affairs, said after the
eurozone meeting.
The problem is that the political and financial calendars
aren’t meshing. “I don’t think
it’s realistic to expect a deal on a
new program for the end of June,
not only because time is running
out but also because there’s an
intellectual divide between what
the creditors want and what the
Syriza government wants,” said
Miranda Xafa, a Greek economist
formerly on staff at the IMF and
a senior scholar at the Center for
International Governance Innovation. “I just cannot imagine
the radical left Syriza government restarting privatizations
and making a dedicated push to
make Greece an attractive place
to invest.”
That’s not good news. The
government has squeezed local
authorities and state firms for
cash, and there are questions
over how it will handle the payment of increasingly overdue
invoices as well as salaries and
pensions. Greece owes the IMF
a further €6.9 billion and must
roll over more than €11 billion of
short-term debt before mid-July.
The country faces further repayments, including €3 billion to the
European Central Bank in July
and August.
One estimate of just how much
time is left comes from Varoufakis, who guessed Greece has “a
couple of weeks” before facing a
liquidity crunch.
Some online traffic may be more equal than others
Dispute over
net neutrality
jeopardizes a deal
on mobile roaming
The European Parliament’s latest
compromise on Internet traffic
rules shows there is still a chasm
between their negotiators and
those in the Council and Commission, according to a leaked
draft obtained by POLITICO.
As the three sides gathered for
meetings in Brussels this week,
the debate over so-called net neutrality threatened to erode their
progress on mobile phone roaming charges.
MEPs from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe,
the European Conservatives and
Reformists, and the Socialists
& Democrats groups are threatening to walk away from talks
on the telecoms single market.
Those on the political left in
the Parliament want all Internet traffic to be treated equally,
barring exceptional circumstances. The conservatives, on the
other side, want to revert to an
earlier Council proposal that
would allow “reasonable” discrimination based on service
type (video versus e-mail, for
example). The Commission sits
in the middle of these warring
If the left wins the fight,
telecoms companies say there
will be disastrous consequences, with Europe’s competitiveness held back in areas such as
connected cars, e-health and
other “smart” devices and
“It would jeopardize a wellfunctioning Internet with all the
prescription and limitation,” said
a top executive for a telecom company, who was not authorized to
speak to the media.
“The Parliament doesn’t
understand how the Internet
works … When I talk to my engineers they say it’s simply not in
line with reality.”
If the Conservatives win, telecoms operators could have more
freedom to govern Internet
access. “Telcos do not want
transparency into their traffic
management practices,” said
Marietje Schaake, a Dutch MEP
and ALDE member. “They want
more freedom to manage traffic
how they want to, but it becomes
a slippery slope.”
Neither side seems willing to
budge. “The last group consensus was that maybe it is better
to walk away than agree to a bad
compromise. We don’t want net
neutrality to be watered down,”
said an ALDE insider, who was
not authorized to talk to the press
and requested anonymity.
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The five DGs lobbyists love most
DG Energy
DG Communications Networks,
Content and Technology
With 51 meetings with external
stakeholders logged since the
new transparency measures
were adopted, Robert Madelin
is the most popular directorgeneral in Brussels.
This is hardly surprising.
The 58-year-old Briton’s department is responsible for the
digital single market strategy,
one of the most heavily lobbied
legislative packages in the EU’s
The department also did well
in the reshuffling of portfolios
that came with the launch of
the Juncker Commission last
November. Madelin picked up
copyright reforms, online services and media issues as well
as the fight against pirating.
Madelin told POLITICO that
his popularity has more to do
with his desire to be accessible
than his portfolio. “My personal approach is that if I am free
and in Brussels and there are
appropriate interlocutors who
want to meet me, then I find
time for them,” he said.
That determination to be
available may not have served
Madelin well last month, when
he sat down with Sir Martin
Sorrell, the high-profile British
businessman who is the CEO of
WPP, a multinational advertising and public relations company. Madelin disclosed meeting
Sorrell and two WPP lobbyists
on April 21 to discuss the digital
single market, even though his
guests were not listed on the
transparency register.
Asked by POLITICO about
the encounter, Madelin said
it was a “lean back, what’s the
world looking like at this moment” kind of meeting, rather
than something relating to the
nuts and bolts of policy settings.
But Madelin’s office conceded
that Sorrell’s failure to sign up
to the register was an oversight.
When contacted by POLITICO, WPP said that “individual
WPP operating companies
that provide public affairs services are already listed on the
EU Transparency Register”
but that it would now “register
WPP itself.”
French veteran Eurocrat Dominique Ristori is another of the
most accessible directors-general in town, logging 45 meetings with lobbyists since December 1, 2014.
Ristori started working at
the Commission in 1978 and
joined the energy department
in 1996, developing expertise
in an area that has become one
of the most politically sensitive
around, taking in geopolitics
and energy security.
Not surprisingly, energy
companies and associations
top Ristori’s guest list, with
BusinessEurope — which represents energy companies indirectly through its national associations — also getting some
of the director-general’s time.
One organization on Ristori’s list of meetings was the
American-European Community Association (AECA), which
counts among its members a
number of prominent energy
companies (those listed on the
Association’s website are also
listed separately on the EU’s
lobby register).
AECA’s CEO, Erik ter Hark,
says such meetings are mainly
a chance to invite policymakers to speak at their members’
gatherings, as well as an opportunity to gather information.
“Our members can read
about big policy statements in
the press,” ter Hark says. “It is
the technical details which are
of interest” — which is why a
meeting with the director-general was seen as the right move.
EPA (4), EC
DG Mobility and Transport
DG Internal Market, Industry,
Entrepreneurship and SMEs
Not many senior public servants can claim to have met
representatives from RollsRoyce the day after sitting
down with a delegation from
the European Cyclists’ Federation. Yet that’s what João
Aguiar Machado, a Portuguese
national, did in April with just
two of the 42 groups and lobbyists he has met during the past
five months.
A College of Europe graduate, the 56-year-old Aguiar
Machado was formerly at the
World Trade Organization before joining the Commission’s
trade department, where he
was deputy director-general
from 2008 to 2014.
The main reasons for his
popularity with lobbyists in recent months: first, he is new in
the job — which inevitably creates a flurry of activity among
those who had established links
with his predecessor; second,
this is a portfolio that covers a
wide range of policy areas, from
infrastructure to safety regulation.
One of the organizations
lobbying the director-general
was German vehicle-safety
inspection company DEKRA,
which met with Aguiar Machado in February. DEKRA is the
largest company of its kind in
Germany; the third largest in
the world. It spent between
€500,000 and €600,000 on
lobbying in 2016, with seven
full-time lobbying positions.
“Firstly, we wanted to introduce ourselves,” said the head
of DEKRA’s office in Brussels,
Oliver Deiters. “Of course, we
do not only talk with the director-general — there are many
Now known as DG GROWTH,
this is one of the largest departments in the Commission
because it has aggregated all
internal market competences
of the institutions. Spaniard
Daniel Calleja Crespo has been
the director-general since 2012
and is well known to industry
The sprawling portfolio
means Calleja Crespo’s 34
meetings with lobbyists covered a wide range of interests.
Société Générale had a meeting to discuss the banking sector; Italian electricity company
ENEL, which reported spending over €2 million on lobbying in 2014, also met with the
director-general on internal
market strategy.
Some of the lobbyists who
met with the DG were reluctant
to talk — and some only found
out that the details had been
made public when contacted
DigitalEurope, representing
the digital technology industry
and national trade associations,
met Calleja Crespo to discuss
the “digitalization and interoperability of chargers for mobile
electronic devices” — a plan to
standardize charges that the
Commission has been working
on since 2010. DigitalEurope
declined a request for comment
about the meeting.
Cosmetics Europe, the “personal care association” of Europe, said its February meeting with the director-general
was part of its “normal” lobbying efforts in Brussels. “Why
do we meet? Simple: we talk to
everyone who can help our organization,” said the association’s president, Loïc Armand,
a former French public servant
who is now president of L’Oréal
Data retrieved on May 5, 2015
DG Climate Action
It’s hard to find a stronger supporter of the new transparency rules than Jos Delbeke,
the Belgian director-general of
the department responsible for
managing the EU’s response to
climate change.
Delbeke, who reported having 16 meetings with lobbyists
over the past five months, says
the new system makes his position much easier to defend.
“In the past, I would meet
many lobbyists and sometimes
I would get questions about
those meetings,” he said. “This
kind of suspicion has now largely disappeared.”
Delbeke, who has led the department since it was created
in 2010, met with environmental NGOs and industry organizations. For example, he spoke
with the Polish Electricity Association in December. He also
met with Ford Motor Company,
which in 2014 spent between
€500,000 and €560,000 on EU
“Lobbyists want to meet me
for two reasons,” Delbeke says.
“For them, it is both a fishing
expedition and a chance to
plant their story. They want
to find out policy details while
also explaining what matters to
them the most.”
Delbeke also says that outsiders often underestimate how
important these meetings can
be for the Commission to glean
information from the lobbyists.
“We see this as an opportunity
to press information out of
them,” Delbeke says. “We push
them for data — hard data. If
they are clever, they can still
make their point.”
But could Delbeke, like Madelin, run the risk of meeting
with unregistered lobbyists?
“No,” he says. “My secretary
has an instruction to check. If
they are not on the register, we
do not meet with them.”
James Panichi and Quentin Ariès
6 News
The power
George Osborne is now the UK’s
chief diplomat
Osborne’s grip over the cabinet,
and the lack of certainty over
Johnson’s role in parliament,
will leave many of his supporters wondering if he has for now
missed his chance. Many of them
fear that after stepping down as
Mayor, Boris Johnson may see
his popularity wane. Osborne’s
party men are emerging as stars.
Three of Osborne’s last four
permanent private secretaries
are now in the cabinet.
Robert Halfon, the Tory MP
for Harlow, emerged as an unexpected media star in the election
by sitting by the roadside into
London and waving at commuting drivers. Halfon, who walks
on crutches, promotes a working
class, not public school kind of
George Osborne has been victorious in the cabinet reshuffle. EPA
Conservatism, has now been
promoted to deputy chairman
of the party. Halfon, perhaps not
entirely seriously, says he wants
to rebrand the Conservatives as
the “Workers Party” because it
rewards work.
He is not the only Osborne
minister emerging. Sajid Javid,
a former banker, is another new
kind of Tory that Osborne has
promoted. Javid is the new business secretary, and is the state-
school educated son of a penniless Pakistani immigrant. He
looks set to slowly emerge as a big
player in the government, and is
already widely seen as a future
Tory leader.
By leading on London’s most
important foreign policy objective,
EU renegotiation, Osborne is now
the country’s chief diplomat.
Many Tories are already talking as if the reshuffle crowns
Osborne as prime minister
LONDON — Welcome to the
Osborne ascendancy.
David Cameron may have won
the election, but George Osborne,
his chancellor and partner in
power, won the cabinet reshuffle.
Osborne is now in position to
be the most powerful chancellor
in modern British history. He is
already more influential in government than Gordon Brown was
as chancellor under Tony Blair.
Where Brown was Blair’s frenemy, Osborne is Cameron’s confidante. The reshuffle leaves him
with octopus-like control over
the cabinet, in which six of his
close allies are now sitting.
Cameron is letting Osborne
lead the new government’s approach to its most pressing issue:
the chancellor will be in charge
of the UK’s renegotiation with
the EU.
Osborne hopes that delivering
in the EU renegotiation will earn
him the respect of the Tories’
Euroskeptic right, and help win
Cameron’s promised referendum
to stay in Europe.
Cameron and Osborne sense
momentum, which is why they
are talking about moving the
referendum forward to 2016. The
scale of their election victory has
already brought the Euroskeptic
and Europhile wings of the party
closer together.
The Euroskeptics have long
argued that the reason the Tories had not won a majority since
1992, when the party divided over
Europe under John Major, was
because it was too soft on Europe. That theory has now been
After Cameron’s entry to parliament on Monday, accompanied
by rapturous applause and table
banging, Bill Cash, a Euroskeptic icon, pledged him “undying
loyalty.” Bill Cash is more than a
backbencher: he was the leader of
the 1992 anti-Maastricht Treaty
rebels that first split the Tories
over Europe. This means that
when Osborne eventually comes
back from Brussels, renegotiation in hand, he should be able to
unite the Tory party.
Beyond Europe, Cameron is
also empowering Osborne to actualize his vision of a “Northern
The boldest promise in the
Tory manifesto is a radical plan
to decentralize power to Britain’s
northern cities and link them together via high-speed rail.
Osborne’s pet project now has
its own minister.
David Cameron is not standing for a third term. He made
this clear during the election
campaign, singling out Boris
Johnson, the charismatic mayor
of London, and Theresa May, the
home secretary with a Thatcheresque demeanor, as potential
successors, along with Osborne.
Cameron has empowered Osborne at the expense of his rivals.
Theresa May will remain home
secretary, but her archrival Michael Gove has been promoted to
the cabinet as minister of justice.
Boris Johnson, who was
widely touted as a potential successor to David Cameron if the
Conservative party failed to win
a majority in the elections, finds
himself allowed to attend the
“political cabinet,” but with no
role as he wraps up his term as
Mayor of London.
This is not what Boris Johnson wanted. He is alleged to have
hoped to play a major role in the
EU renegotiation – a task now in
Osborne’s hands. Johnson had
also dreamed of running, and
at times is alleged to have demanded, a super-ministry of infrastructure that would have allowed him to brand new “Boris”
airports and “Boris” highways.
“If you think back to 2010 — we could have been
Greece. Our deficit was almost as big as Greece’s, our
banking crisis was a whole lot worse.”
“The Australians have not only stopped the boats
from coming, they have also stopped people from
During the Leaders’ Election Special Question Time on
Sky News, Nick Clegg justified his party’s choice to join
David Cameron’s Conservative Party in government in
2010 with a reminder of what — he claimed — could have
been. Is it true, as the former deputy prime minister
claimed, that the UK was in the same dire straits as
Greece in 2010?
Greek and British deficit levels were indeed relatively
similar in 2010 (11.1 percent of GDP vs 9.7 percent). The
second part of Mr. Clegg’s statement — that the banking
crisis was worse in the UK — is less straightforward to
verify. Research by economists Laeven and Valencia
indicates that both Greece and the UK were experiencing
a systemic banking crisis in 2010. “Our banking crisis was a
whole lot worse” is, however, somewhat of an exaggeration. “Almost” for Clegg.
Europe’s migration policies have remained in the headlines since the deadly boat tragedy off the coast of Libya.
While officials in Brussels and across Europe discussed
the issue, UKIP Leader Nigel Farage suggested to colleagues in the European Parliament that we should learn
from the Australian migration policy implemented at the
end of 2013, known as “No Way.” Is Farage right?
While Australia received fewer boats in 2014 compared
to 2013, the boats did not exactly “stop coming.” Instead,
they were halted by Australian authorities and redirected
to other countries or offshore processing centers. When
it comes to drownings, there is not much data, especially
since the Australian government has stopped updating its
own numbers. However, the Monash University database
does indicate a decrease between 2013 and 2014. The first
part of Farage’s statement is seriously flawed, while the
second presents some caveats. That’s “50/50” overall.
apparent: but he remains
unpopular as the driver of
austerity. This is why he is staking new ground. Success in the
EU renegotiation, or in laying
the groundwork for the “Northern Powerhouse,” would give him
a new narrative.
The Osborne ascendancy now
looks as complete as it is unexpected. Wildly inaccurate polling predicted a hung parliament
with both Tory and Labour neckand-neck right up to the exit
poll on May 7. These polls were
already eating into the chancellor’s credibility and the party’s
choice to campaign not on a big
vision for Britain but on its economic record. There was talk of
the weakened liberal wing of the
Conservative Party, from which
Cameron and Osborne both hail,
being forced to put up their own
leadership candidate in the case
of a hung parliament.
Osborne’s emergence following the election now puts
Britain back on course of an
emerging historical trend. The
centrality of finance to power
in the twenty-first century has
seen a seepage of power from
prime ministers to chancellors. While Margaret Thatcher
ruled with dispensable chancellors, both Tony Blair and David
Cameron have ruled in tandem
with Gordon Brown and George
Osborne, who may now follow
Brown as his prime minister’s
natural successor.
The reshuffle confirms Britain
is also following another historical trend: the eclipse of foreign
ministers in the EU. The eurozone crisis and the G20 finance
ministers meeting have pushed
foreign ministers to the sidelines,
from Germany to Greece.
The United Kingdom is no
Vestager gives telecoms deals a close look
Antitrust regulator
has dashed hopes
she will go easy on
telecoms mergers
— a stand that
may spark tensions
with her boss
the European
for competition.
Just six months into the job, Europe’s top antitrust regulator has
dashed hopes she will go easy on
telecoms acquisitions, a stand
that may spark tensions with
her boss European Commission
President Jean-Claude Juncker.
As telecoms companies take
advantage of their high stock
prices and low interest rates to
snap up rivals, they should prepare to appease Margrethe Vestager, the European commissioner for competition. She has
already put a Danish deal on ice,
pending an in-depth investigation, and will soon review a mammoth merger in the UK.
In an interview with POLITICO, Vestager said she wants a
more unified regulatory structure for the industry under the
European Commission’s digital single market, unveiled last
week. She is reviewing deals on a
country-by-country basis, rather
than pan-Europe, because she
has seen how less competition
locally can lead to price hikes for
“Where you have 28 regulators, you have 28 markets,” she
The region’s fragmented telecom sector is the result of a “lack
of regulation,” not over-zealous
competition enforcement, she
said, disputing the idea that Europe’s telecoms firms are too
In December, TeliaSonera and
Telenor forged a joint-venture
partnership to combine their
Danish units to create a market
leader, but the companies are still
waiting for Vestager to sign off.
Next in her sights: a £10.3 billion
(€14.3 billion) hook-up in the UK
between leading operators Three
and O2 announced in March.
Europe’s 507 million citizens
spend some €240 billion annually on telecoms, about half of
which comes from mobile devices, according to ETNO, an industry association that represents
the largest telcos. Europe has
more than 100 telecoms firms,
compared to four major players
in the US, which has a market
roughly the same size.
Intense competition and divided markets constrict the industry’s ability to generate profits
and spend on new infrastructure,
operators say. Europe’s telecoms
sector will need as much as €170
billion of additional investment
by 2020, ETNO estimates.
Of course there is a risk that
Vestager could be overruled by
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission.
On the election trail last year,
he argued for relaxing antitrust
rules for Europe’s telecoms operators.
“If we ask companies to offer
their networks and services no
longer only nationally but on a
continental scale, we should in
my view also apply EU competi-
tion law with a continental spirit,” Juncker said during an April
2014 speech in Finland.
He declined this week to expand on his comments.
A spokeswoman for the Commission denied there was any
contradiction between Juncker
and Vestager’s remarks.
“It is the role of EU merger
control to make sure that company tie-ups do not lead to higher
prices or reduced choice for consumers and do not restrict competition in the internal market,”
said Mina Andreeva, the Commission’s deputy spokesperson.
“At the same time, we want to
encourage all companies to develop, invest and make the most
out of a market… by offering their
networks and services no longer
only nationally, but on a European scale,” she added.
Juncker’s remarks were
echoed in October by Günther
Oettinger, the European commissioner for the digital economy and society, who argued that
European telecom companies
should be more profitable and allowed to consolidate.
Taken together, those statements created a bubble of expectation among telecoms investors
late last year.
Vestager is a walking pin prick
to those hopes. She explained
that a wholesale overhaul of Europe’s telecoms rules is a prerequisite to her approach.
“We react to regulation made
in other [arms of the Commission], when we see the effects on
the markets,” she said.
The country-by-country review was championed by her predecessor, Joaquín Almunia.
Although he approved mergers
that reduced the number of mobile network operators in Austria in 2012, and in Ireland and
Germany in 2014, he demanded
tough conditions that galled top
Nevertheless, research emerging from Austria, where Almunia
allowed Three to buy Orange’s local business, indicates customers
have suffered.
Following the merger, “all [mobile] providers in a single month
raised their prices,” says Daniel
Zimmer, a consumer policy expert at the Vienna Chamber of
Labour, who said customer bills
increased between 29 percent
and 78 percent, depending on the
package of services.
“The lowest offers disappeared,” she said. “Consumers
were concerned and angry that
changes were being made to their
existing contracts.”
Austria’s competition authority opened an investigation last
year into the “significant price
increases” in the wake of the
merger. A spokesperson for the
agency declined to comment on
the ongoing probe, but said its
conclusions will be published after the summer.
Three operators are not
enough to ensure vigorous competition and low prices, argues
Antonios Drossos, managing
partner of telecoms consultancy
Rewheel. He warned that “political influence was key” to all three
decisions that were approved under Almunia. “Will there be again
someone who will again put pressure?” he asked.
That analysis is hotly contested
by the Commission, which maintains it reviews mergers in an “impartial and objective way,” as well
as by the large telecom operators.
“We were the first country in
Europe to experience consolidation from four to three operators.
We can see that we now deliver
better products to customers,”
Hannes Ametsreiter, the chief
executive officer of Telekom Austria, said in a speech last week.
“Furthermore, we almost tripled
the level of investment after consolidation.”
He renewed calls on the Commission to revise the way it reviews telecoms mergers. Vestager
is likely to turn a deaf ear.
“If the digital single market
can bring the member states
on-board to make pan-European or EU-wide regulation, well
that makes room for companies
which can be more trans-border
because then the market will enlarge itself,” Vestager said.
The Commission’s new digital
strategy aims to overhaul Europe’s telecoms regulations. The
Commission wants to harmonize
Europe’s spectrum auctions,
which are held nationally, as well
as take other measures to reduce
market fragmentation.
Digital markets, Vestager continued, “will slowly but surely
grow due to changes in consumer behavior, business behavior,
regulatory issues and new regulation.”
Seven EU countries put brakes on blind book treaty
Commission and
European Blind
Union decry
procedural delays
in Marrakesh
Germany, Italy and the UK are
among seven countries that have
formed a minority voting bloc to
stop the European Union from
ratifying an international treaty
to help the blind and visually impaired get access to books, POLITICO has learned.
Those countries, plus another
four whose identities remain
unknown, don’t want the EU to
ratify the Marrakesh Treaty on
behalf of all 28 member states,
despite the fact that 15 EU countries — including Germany and
the UK — signed it. A total of 20
signing countries must ratify the
agreement for it to be enforced
across all the signatories.
If the 2013 United Nations
treaty goes into effect, signatories
would have to make exceptions
within their national copyright
laws for the reproduction and
distribution of published works
in braille and audio. Less than 10
percent of the books published
each year are available in such
formats, according to the World
Blind Union.
The countries also would
have to allow cross-border exchange of published material in
these formats for educational
institutions and associations
for the blind.
“The main impact is, of course,
for countries that belong to the
developing world. They have
down to two percent of books
that might be in some way accessible,” said Wolfgang Angermann,
president of the European Blind
Union (EBU). “You have vast lingual areas for English, Spanish,
Portuguese and French. All these
countries are dependent on an international treaty.”
He said the Germans in particular are concerned that “the
EU might claim more and more
exclusive competence in terms
of dealing with international
However, advisers to the European Commission, Parliament
and Council have all weighed in
with legal opinions that support the EU’s exclusive right
to ratify the treaty. But formal
negotiations within the Council
are stalled and there is no debate scheduled before the current Latvian presidency ends in
In addition, internal legal
advice at the German justice
ministry, which is handling the
Marrakesh Treaty in the Council, says the treaty’s ratification
“falls into the exclusive competence of the European Union,”
according to information seen
“I hope that the member states
blocking the compromise will
review their position as soon as
possible in the interest of the
common cause,” Andrus Ansip,
Commission vice president, said
in an interview.
Germany, Italy and the UK
have taken the public position
that the EU governs cross-border
trade, but the copyright aspects
are for member states to decide.
Julia Reda, an MP for Germany’s
Pirate party, said her country’s position made little sense because the
EU has already claimed exclusive
competence over copyright exceptions. She cited, for example, the
exception for temporary copies
included in the Information Society Directive, a 2001 attempt to
harmonize parts of copyright law
across the EU, and exemptions
for libraries, museums and educational institutions added in the
2012 orphan works directive.
The Latvian presidency, however, is still optimistic of reaching
a deal.
“This proposal is still open,”
said a person with first-hand
knowledge of the talks, who requested anonymity because of
the sensitivity of the discussions.
“We still hope that the blocking
member states will come back to
unblock this.”
8 Energy
To appease
GE weighs
on Alstom
largest coal miner, the stateowned Kompania Węglowa (KW),
is being accused of dumping its
coal surplus in a frantic attempt
to improve its cash flow. Two rival
coal miners — Bogdanka and Katowicki Holding Węglowy — have
accused KW of selling coal at below
the cost of mining it, something
that Kompania Węglowa management denies. Bogdanka, a rare privately owned coal mine, has seen
its share price fall by a quarter in
the last half year.
The Commission had stopped its
review of the bid for Alstom because it was missing information
from the parties, said Ricardo Cardoso, a Commission spokesperson.
Fourteen years ago, the Commission scuttled GE’s plans to
acquire Honeywell International,
even though US regulators had
given the green light.
Jeff Immelt, GE’s chief executive, was in Brussels on Tuesday
and met with Vestager. He described the talks as “constructive.”
GE contends that the market for
heavy-duty gas turbines is global,
with the same firms from Europe,
the US, Japan and China competing for contracts worldwide. The
company also argues any supposed
European market for gas turbines
is effectively dormant, with many
power plants sitting idle.
The review may now turn on
whether GE can offer remedies
that would resolve the Commission’s concerns.
Philippe Nogues, a lawyer at the
firm of O’Melveny & Myers, said
the pause was probably positive
for the parties: “The Commission
is saying we need to stop the clock
and give you more time to think
about where this case is going.”
Yet GE is concerned that the
slow process is taking a toll. Alstom reported fiscal year earnings Tuesday, showing the businesses being sold to GE reported
net income of €104 million ($116.8
million), down from €396 million
in the prior 12-month period.
“All sides need to get through
this process and get the thing
closed as soon as possible,” said
A miner, happily laughing, on a conveyor belt in the Murcki Staszic coal mine in Katowice. EPA/ANDRZEJ GRYGIEL
Poland fights for coal,
but Russia may benefit
The measure of energy independence might actually be an
asset to the Kremlin’s influence
WARSAW — When he was Poland’s prime minister, European
Council President Donald Tusk
called coal “the strategic foundation” of his country’s energy security, and Polish diplomats have
acquired a reputation as some of
the EU’s toughest negotiators,
doing battle in summit after
summit to minimize restrictions
on its use.
But paradoxically, Poland’s
dogged defense of coal, which
generates almost 90 percent of its
electricity, may now end up benefiting Russia. That is because
cheap Russian coal is grabbing a
growing share of Poland’s market, while local coal producers
bleed red ink thanks to high production costs and very low prices.
“Individual mines can still be
saved, but what cannot be saved
is the state-owned coal mining
sector,” says Jerzy Markowski, a
former deputy minister of economy and coal mining executive.
Poland’s coal sector has long
been a mainstay of the economy. In communist times, when
Poland’s decrepit factories produced little that the West wanted
to buy, coal was one of the country’s few “profitable exports”
— even if it was sold abroad for
precious hard currency at less
than it cost to mine. The mines
employed almost half a million
people, and the power of the
brawny miners prompted the
communist regime to treat them
with kid gloves.
A quarter century and €25 billion in restructuring costs later,
not all that much has changed.
The mines now employ only
about 100,000 workers, but
their unions are still some of
the toughest in the country. In
2005, angry miners wielding
ax handles threatened to storm
parliament, and the spooked
politicians inside quickly voted
through a generous pension program for them.
The unions have also fought hard
to retain a gilt-edged pay package
that has miners earning some of
the highest salaries in the country. A recent report by the Adam
Smith Center, a Polish economic
policy think tank, finds that
the average miner earns about
€1740 a month, 90 percent higher
than the average Pole; retires at
the age of 48 instead of 60 on a
pension subsidized by the government; and benefits from an
overall government subsidy of
€16,000, while the average Pole
gets nothing.
Those fat checks and early
pensions mean that labor accounts for about two-thirds of
a mine’s operating cost. It costs
about €77 to mine a tonne of hard
coal, according to the Economy
Ministry. However, last year the
average sale price in Poland was
only €69 a tonne. The cost of
buying foreign coal, sold in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, is only
about €60 a tonne. Global coal
prices, battered by falling demand thanks to sluggish growth
worldwide, by China’s lackluster
expansion and falling oil and gas
prices, are unlikely to rebound
any time soon.
As a result, exports of Polish
coal have plummeted and imports steadily risen. Poland imported 10 million tonnes of coal,
about 6.5 million tonnes coming from Russia. A decade ago,
Poland imported only 3 million
tonnes but exported 20 million.
In all, last year the country’s coal
companies sold 70 million tonnes
of coal, but dug up 72.5 million
tonnes. That has added to growing coal mountains — at last
count holding more than 8 million tonnes of unsold coal.
In an echo of the self-defeating
economic policies of communist
times, Poland’s (and Europe’s)
Age of retirement
59,5 48,3
Average worker
Monthly salary
Benefit *
€0 € 16.000
Average Miner *average government subsidy per workplace
The European Commission on
Tuesday extended its review of
GE’s €12.4 billion bid for Alstom
after GE signaled it was prepared
to make concessions to allay regulators’ concerns.
“We still believe in the merits
of the case and we continue to argue them,” said Jim Healy, a GE
spokesman. “We are willing to
explore remedies to get the deal
done, but only remedies that preserve the economics of the deal
and the strategic value.”
However, he said it was too
early to speculate on what kind
of remedies the company would
offer to regulators who are worried about the loss of competition
in Europe’s gas turbine industry.
GE announced its bid for Alstom’s energy business in April
2014. The deal was met with
an immediate backlash from
France’s socialist government,
which rushed through a law to
block a takeover and played an
active role in later negotiations.
It eventually gave its blessing after GE committed to bolstering
Alstom’s rail business and hiring
more employees in France.
But Paris’s blessing offered no
guarantee the deal would be approved in Brussels. The Commission has extended its deadline to
August 21, after a pause of almost
three weeks.
“They are ruining the coal market,” Markowski says of Kompania Węglowa. “They’ve also ruined
the coal market for themselves,
because buyers are going to insist
on these below market prices in
the future.”
Hit by falling demand, lower
prices and high costs, Poland’s
coal mines are losing a fortune.
The government estimates that
the sector as a whole lost a net
€325 million last year.
The main problem is that in
the mines in Silesia, where coal
has been extracted since the
Middle Ages, the cheapest layers
of deposits have been tapped out.
Miners have to dig ever deeper
to get at geologically complex
seams, something that demands
enormous investments the companies are too cash-strapped to
afford. In some mines, the coalfaces are so far from the shafts
down which miners travel that
they must spend two hours getting there and two hours getting
back, leaving only three hours a
day for actual mining.
The sector’s funk is becoming a political problem for Ewa
Kopacz, Donald Tusk’s successor
as prime minister, who is trying
to lead the ruling Civic Platform
Party to its third consecutive victory in parliamentary elections
slated for this fall. Kompania
Węglowa ran into such deep trouble at the beginning of this year
that the government was forced
to cobble together a rescue plan.
The idea was to close four of the
company’s costliest mines, which
would have reduced production
costs and cut overproduction.
Instead, unions went on strike
and Kopacz balked at becoming Poland’s Maggie Thatcher.
Rather than confront the miners,
she gave way, agreeing to sell the
four worst mines to private investors (who have yet to be found)
and put the rest into a new, and
hopefully profitable, company.
The whole operation is expected
to cost at least €575 million and
still needs to be approved by the
European Commission.
Despite coal’s problems, the
Polish government continues to
battle in Brussels against measures that would reduce its use.
After a recent EU summit
dedicated to constructing the
energy union, Kopacz declared
that despite pledges to decarbonize Europe’s economy “Poland is
not retreating from coal.”
One of the reasons Poland is
such a strong advocate of coal is
that it provides a measure of energy independence from Russia,
its old imperial master. Russia
supplies two-thirds of Poland’s
natural gas and almost all of its
crude oil. But if the country cannot figure out a way to rebuild a
competitive coal sector, those
hard-won victories in EU energy
talks may end up with Polish
power stations being fueled at
least in part with Russian coal.
Health care
Drug buying plan
may disappoint
Limits of joint EU system are laid
bare in Luxembourg: a far cry from
enthusiasm when scheme was launched
Hard-pressed state health systems hoping to cut their drug
bills through new bulk-buying
arrangements may see their
hopes dashed.
European Commission officials now publicly acknowledge
that limits to the so-called joint
procurement pact — touted as a
way for authorities to stand up to
big pharma — may not lead to a
much better deal.
Twenty member states have
signed up and most others are
set to join, but the scope is
restricted to health care assets
to counter cross-border threats.
Only Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus,
and Malta have tried to use the
process so far, with plans to buy
protective clothing for handling
infectious patients.
It’s a far cry from the ambitions of some health ministers,
MEPs and officials when the deal
was ratified in July 2014.
“The Commission can further
explore the use of the joint procurement mechanism to obtain
better prices from the pharmaceutical industry,” said the
European health commissioner
at the time, Tonio Borg.
Vytenis Andriukaitis, the current health commissioner, has
also talked up making wider use
of the scheme for medicines as
well as vaccines: “This is a good
opportunity to move forward
using enhanced cooperation,
encouraging member states to
use procurement in all fields,”
he said on taking up his post last
November. But Dirk Van Steen,
an official in the Commission’s
Estonia has been an exception, and its
president wants EU neighbors to do more
Tiny Estonia is not above some
boasting to the rest of Europe
when it comes to e-health.
President Toomas Hendrik
Ilves used a European summit
on e-health in Riga this week to
attack his neighbors over their
failure to seize opportunities in
information technology to improve health care.
Estonia has been a frontrunner
in e-health: nearly all prescriptions
are issued electronically, and twothirds of hospitals use e-health
technologies in some way.
Spending is on the increase:
EU governments and health care
providers will spend more than
€12 billion a year on health IT by
related health issues (anti-microbial resistance and healthcareassociated infections related to
communicable diseases), and
biotoxins or other harmful biological agents not related to communicable diseases.”
It makes no mention of treatments for chronic conditions
such as hepatitis C or diseases
such as cancer — the categories
currently posing the toughest
financial challenges to states
paying for health care.
Some non-governmental advocates say the MEPs may have
oversold the idea. Yannis Natsis
of campaigning group TransAtlantic Consumer Dialogue
told POLITICO that the meet-
ing, which he attended, had confirmed the limitations of the system. “We didn’t have very high
expectations of this scheme from
the outset,” he said.
But he still believes in the
value of such initiatives and the
recent Belgian-Dutch plan for
joint negotiation of drug prices.
“They are steps towards
breaking through the secrecy
about what prices are being paid
in each member state.”
Richard Bergström, directorgeneral of Europe’s main drug
industry body, EFPIA, said
companies are ready to consider
a “fundamental rethinking of
pricing.” But he insisted that the
focus should be on getting medi-
They also claim that it could be
valuable for the pharmaceutical
industry by reducing administrative burdens and costs, providing
predictability of turnover and
revenues, and improved planning
of capacity. Right now, the only
other moves beyond procuring
protective equipment relate to
Croatia and Lithuania face
imminent shortages of pertussis
vaccines and have sought help
in procurement, Jean-Luc Sion,
an official in the Commission’s
health department, told the Luxembourg meeting. He said clarification was needed as to whether
the problem lay in production or
in difficulties seeking offers of
The Commission is mulling
whether the joint procurement
mechanism can be used for these
Similarly, Latvia, Lithuania,
Cyprus and Estonia face difficulties in acquiring the BCG
vaccine, which treats a type of
tuberculosis and of which the
World Health Organization says
there is a shortage of 65 million
tons. The Commission has been
asked to consider using the joint
procurement mechanism here
The agreement has generated
its own complex bureaucracy,
with a cascade of steering committees to oversee each stage
of a procurement procedure,
down to the detailed technical
specifications and the criteria for
selection — for instance whether
to choose on the basis of the lowest price or the best value for
“We must seize these market opportunities to fulfill a vision for
healthcare in the 21st century.”
The Commission has been
struggling for years to bring
greater coherence to EU development of health IT — to potentially drive economic growth, as
well as improve individual health
and ease strained health care
Greater use of e-health services was pegged as central to
the EU’s 2011 directive on crossborder care, helping free movement of patients, and improve
access to quality care in remote
or underserved areas. The conference is addressing many
obstacles identified in recent
Commission consultations —
notably privacy and security,
safety and transparency, interoperability of systems, and web
entrepreneurs’ access to the market. It is also exploring how far
large-scale deployments could
be supported by EU funds from
its Connecting Europe Facility that backs new cross-border
infrastructure and services.
Pēteris Zilgalvis, a senior
Commission official with direct
responsibility for health IT, who
is also in Riga, told POLITICO:
“Digital solutions can increase
the dynamism of the European
economy and deliver benefits to
EU citizens.” For him, the conference promises the chance to
explore how mobile health and
e-health can help EU citizens
manage their own health by empowering them, as well “ensuring
the sustainability of our health
care systems.”
But the challenges also
emerged clearly from other
speakers at the meeting, particularly from health professionals,
patient groups and companies.
Walter Azori of the European
Patients Forum said he backed
patient empowerment through
IT, but questioned whether Europe was yet able to achieve that.
The concept “is still not clearly
understood across Europe,” and
is even perceived as a threat by
some doctors, he said. He said the
EU needs a strategy to promote
greater commitment from health
professionals, education and support for patients, and quality of
data to help patients to make informed choices.
Paul De Raeve, secretarygeneral of the European Nurses’
Federation, warned against a
simplistic top-down approach.
There is a role for IT in health,
he said, and particularly in ensuring continuity of care. But
he added: “The Commission and
member states need to talk with
stakeholders ... and not about
Discussions on clearing the way
for more mobile health applications in Europe provoked concerns
in some industry participants.
Martin Wrigley of the Application Developers Alliance said progress on agreeing on a data privacy
code of conduct was too slow.
A Commission working group
began last month, but the timeline
set is too leisurely for an industry
that moves so fast, and risks holding up innovation, he said.
Dee O’Sullivan, director of
myhealthapps, may have been
the most pessimistic. She said
the meeting revealed “a disconnect between all stakeholders
— patients, doctors, app developers, industry” on mobile health,
with disagreements over how
and where health apps should be
certified or regulated, and “a lack
of understanding of each group’s
key needs and problems.”
E-health success elusive
in most of Europe
health department, noted the
limits at a closed-door meeting in
Luxembourg of government and
industry officials late last month,
according to documents and officials who attended the meeting.
He pointed to questions that
still need to be answered over
how even the current limited
scheme might deal with pricing.
“Can there be several joint
purchase agreements for a given product, clustering member
states by purchasing capacity?”
he asked, illustrating his question with slides seen by POLITICO, which underline the wide
variations between purchasing
power across the member states.
The practical challenges temper
the earlier enthusiasm, typified by Italian Health Minister
Beatrice Lorenzini’s proposal,
when she was president of the EU
health council last September.
She called for joint procurement to play a role in “cooperation on prices of health technologies,” amid repeated calls from
MEPs for leveraging drug prices
downwards using joint procurement.
Officials in Luxembourg
outlined the pact’s limits, with
detailed references to the underlying legislation.
Joint procurement must relate
to the advance purchase of medical countermeasures for serious
cross-border threats to health —
and these must be hazards that
can spread across national borders, said officials.
specifies “communicable diseases,
2018, according to industry estimates. But the benefits outside a
few countries are hard to find.
Ilves touted Estonia as a model
of how IT in preventive and treatment services can “improve both
the welfare of patients and the
health care system in general.”
But more widely across Europe,
“health care is lagging ten years
behind when compared to other
industries,” he said.
The conference comes a week
after the EU released its digital
single market strategy, which
stressed that “digital technologies for health and care offer opportunities for citizens, health
and care providers and industry.”
Health commissioner Vytenis
Andriukaitis told the meeting:
cines to patients, and that cutting
prices should not be an end in
itself. Pharmaceutical companies
want to retain the right to negotiate prices in confidence, he said.
Commission officials still
defend the agreement as progress. They suggest that participating member states might gain
better access to the market, more
equitable access to pandemic
vaccines and some treatments,
improved security of supply, and
more balanced prices.
10 DC Digest
Waiting for Jeb
Bush to jump
By the end of last week, almost
everyone had jumped into the
pool. Almost everyone except
John Ellis Bush, who still sits at
the water’s edge of the 2016 presidential campaign, suit dry except
for the stray splash thrown his
way by his jostling Republican
rivals Mike Huckabee, Marco
Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.
It wasn’t clear at the time,
but is increasingly so now, that
Jeb Bush’s decision last December to signal, but not formally
announce, his candidacy was a
short-term logistical masterstroke befitting his family’s reputation for mastering the mechanics of elections. His undeclared
status has freed him to raise what
aides are saying will be as much
as $100 million from rich patrons
and outside groups (the second he
files presidential paperwork, he’s
prevented from requesting big
super political action committee
checks), and it has temporarily
shielded him from being the target of shots many of his would-be
opponents are leveling at Hillary
Clinton. (Aside, that is, from lots
of hand-wringing about the increasingly hereditary nature of
American politics, and mockery
of his insistence that he’ll be his
“own man” on foreign policy.)
This inversion — building a
campaign on the back of a super
PAC instead of vice versa — is
novel and could be a model for
the future, but it also puts a lot
of pressure on an opaque candidate who publicly has done little
more than a set of sporadic, lowoctane speeches with few specifics to offer. Given his fundraising
focus, he’s already dogged by the
notion, eagerly pushed by his enemies among the party’s tea party
hard-liners, that he’s a bankroll
in search of a soul.
Which is why we’ll see the media coverage of the Republican
presidential race coalesce, and
soon, around a single question: Is
Bush actually the front-runner,
or just a guy with a lot of money
trying to buy the nomination?
A dozen or so Republican operatives and donors I spoke with
last week, most of them open to
a Bush candidacy, didn’t have
a clue how that question will
ultimately be answered, but it’s a
decisive one, and they are antsy
to find out. The early polls, which
show Jeb getting clobbered in
Iowa, barely ahead — if at all —
in New Hampshire, and trading
a narrow lead nationally with
his fellow Floridian Marco Rubio, are predicting a ferociously
competitive campaign. But who
knows how it will play out when
Bush actually announces? “A
month ago, the whole story was
that Hillary was rusty, that she
hadn’t been out there doing anything,” said a veteran GOP operative who worked on one of George
W. Bush’s campaigns. “Well, she’s
been out there taking hits for a
month. Jeb hasn’t. It’s time to get
this thing going.”
“Bush’s campaign
is slowly, inevitably
pushing him into
the water, nudging
him into more highstakes situations”
Nicolle Wallace, a White House
communications director to
George W. Bush who started her
political life as a 25-year-old adviser to Jeb Bush in Florida, also
sees undeniable parallels with the
Democrats’ presumptive nominee,
Hillary Clinton. “I think some of
their strengths are parallel. Some
of their strengths are on the policy
side, not the retail political side. I
think some of their strengths are
in a room, not on a stage,” she told
me during a taping of last week’s
POLITICO podcast.
“I think they have some of the
same weaknesses, too. They’re
both in a constituent-free zone.
Neither of them represents anybody right now. Neither of them
is advocating on anyone’s behalf,
except their own campaigns. And
I think it’s awkward, frankly, for
both of them.”
Bush’s campaign is slowly, inevitably pushing him into the
water, nudging him into more
Jeb Bush leaps on
stage at the First In
The Nation Republican
Leadership Summit.
high-stakes situations ahead of a
formal announcement that could
come as early as mid-June. People
close to the campaign tell me he
plans to do some press-the-flesh
retail campaigning on a trip to
New Hampshire in late May — and
his Liberty University commencement address on Saturday was a
risky operation, considering the
rock-star reception conservative
fire breather Ted Cruz received at
the Jerry Falwell-founded school
when he announced his candidacy
there in March.
Bush, a midlife convert to
Roman Catholicism, used the
speech to emphasize that he is a
man of deep belief — a key signifier in a party that values faith.
But he also sought to differentiate
himself from other candidates
who more explicitly bring their
religious fervor to their politics,
namely Huckabee and Cruz,
warning against feeding into
Democratic arguments that the
GOP is turning into a party of
religious rigidity. “The mistake
is to confuse points of theology
with moral principles that are
knowable to reason as well as
by faith,” Bush said, pointedly
refusing to bash the move toward legalizing same-sex marriage that Cruz has embraced as
an affront to his faith. “And this
confusion is all part of a false
narrative that casts religious
Americans as intolerant scolds,
running around trying to impose
their views on everyone.”
That Bush is increasingly, inevitably, becoming a focal point
of 2016 came as welcome news in
the utilitarian, poorly air-conditioned warren of re-purposed
bank back offices that serves as
Hillary Clinton’s headquarters
in Brooklyn. There was a clear
feeling, for the first time, among
Clinton’s inner circle last week
that she won’t be alone in the firing line for long. “The whole dynamic of the race changes when
the Republicans start attacking
each other, when Jeb gets in,”
Tom Nides, a former Clinton
State Department aide close to
the campaign, told me.
This article was first published on
New Hampshire poll shows muddled GOP field
A new poll portrays the Republican presidential primary field as
a muddled mess in the first-inthe-nation primary state of New
Hampshire, with the four leading
candidates separated by only one
percentage point.
The survey, conducted by the
bipartisan, DC-based firm Purple
Insights for Saint Anselm College
and Bloomberg News, shows Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker atop the field,
each with 12 percent. Right on
their heels are former Florida Gov.
Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco
Rubio, who are at 11 percent.
While the top four candidates
are the only ones to earn doubledigit support, a number of other
contenders (and possible contenders) follow close behind. Selfpromoting real-estate magnate
Donald Trump, who is again toying with a presidential bid, earns
8 percent of the vote. Embattled
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is
at seven percent, and Texas Sen.
Ted Cruz is at six percent.
Rounding out the bottom,
retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is at five percent, former
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee
is backed by four percent, and
former Hewlett-Packard CEO
Carly Fiorina is at three percent.
A handful of other candidates —
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, South
Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham,
former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick
Santorum and Ohio Gov. John
Kasich — each got one percent.
There is greater clarity in the
Democratic primary, where former Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton remains the prohibitive
favorite. But Vermont Sen. Bernie
Sanders is far and away the leading
Clinton alternative, earning more
than three times the support of
any other potential rival to Clinton, including Vice President Joe
The poll shows Clinton with
an overwhelming 62 percent of
the vote. But Sanders earns 18
percent, outpacing Biden, who’s
at five percent; former Maryland
Gov. Martin O’Malley, at three
percent; and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and
former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb,
both at one percent.
New Hampshire will also be
a contested, if small-haul, swing
state. In the battle for the Granite
State’s four electoral votes, Clinton posts 2-point leads over Bush
and Rubio, three points over Paul
and six points over Walker.
The poll was conducted May 2-6.
For the general election, 500 likely
voters were surveyed, for a margin
of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. There were oversamples
of 400 likely voters for both primary
fields; results for each party carry
margins of error of plus or minus
4.9 percentage points.
This article was first published on
The staggering challenge migrants
face begins in the scorching depths of
the Sahel. 17-year-old Courage Odafeh
Loren, who fled fighting in Nigeria
and Libya, tells her story
SIRACUSA, Sicily — Sometimes
the name says it all, and 17-yearold Courage Odafeh Loren from
the Edo state in Nigeria couldn’t
have a more appropriate one.
Indeed, you’d have to look far
and wide to find a braver, more
courageous human being — or a
clearer example of the human toll
that Europe’s immigration crisis
has taken on desperate refugees
from Africa.
Two years ago, Courage
decided to join her mother, who
had migrated to Libya a few years
before the outbreak of first the
civil war — and before the international military intervention
that turned the country into a
failed state. Just fifteen at the
time, Courage was living in Nigeria with her aunt, who had taken
her out of school, imprisoned her
in her house and made her a virtual slave. She couldn’t take that
any more, so she decided to contact her mother in Tripoli. She
could not rely on her father, since
she had grown up without one.
With some savings at her disposal, Courage’s mother hired a
Nigerian woman to serve as her
daughter’s protector on the long
and arduous smuggler’s route
leading from Nigeria through
Niger and eventually into southern Libya, where borders are virtually non-existent. Both in the
Libyan desert and in the no man’s
land of Niger, there is no such
thing as federal authority. These
dark and perilous places are controlled by rival militias, and the
organized criminal alliances that
specialize in smuggling people,
drugs and guns through the
Sahel, one of the hottest and driest places on the globe.
For some time, smuggling people has been the most profitable
venture of all — and little wonder,
since the entire region has been
consumed by chaos, while legions
of desperate men and women are
also fleeing north from countries
like Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea in the Sub-Sahara and the
Horn of Africa.
It took Courage a month and a
half to get from Edo to the Libyan
capital. The woman her mother
hired proved a resourceful and
steadfast ally. Yet on a journey
as rough and hazardous as this,
women are always a weak and
open target. On a daily basis, the
deserts of the Sahel still produce
gruesome tales of mass rape,
torture and people disappearing
without a trace. This part of the
refugees’ odyssey is often over-
looked, yet the staggering challenge faced by the refugees — so
callously abetted by the European Union’s inaction — normally
begins in the scorching depths
of the Sahel.
Courage was lucky. All the
potential sexual predators she
encountered on her journey
somehow opted to leave her
alone. Her protector, A Nigerian
compatriot named Vivian proved
to be a very powerful, influential one. In the end, Courage’s
safe passage was the exception
that proves the rule — a minor
“I was not afraid — not at all,”
she told me in Siracusa, on the
island of Sicily, where she is now
living under the twin protections
of Italian immigration law — and
Vivian. “Yes, it was hard. It was
so hot! But I was looking forward
to seeing my mother after such a
long time. It was all I could think
of. It was what kept me going.
I couldn’t wait to leave Nigeria
When Courage reached
Tripoli, the city was in turmoil.
Powerless Libyan authorities
had little control over a country
that had been taken over by tribal
militias and crime syndicates in
the wake of Colonel Muammar
Gaddafi’s demise. For four years,
these groups had been grappling
for control of practically everything, from oil to water, from
gun-running to people trafficking. Today the center of some of
the most sordid forms of disaster
It didn’t take long for Courage
to grasp the full precariousness
of her situation. “When I got to
Libya, I was very happy,” she said.
“All I cared about was getting together with my mother again. But
the situation was far from safe…
My mother was worried about
me, so very worried.”
Sitting next to me, drinking a cup
of coffee that had been sweetened
several times, Courage spoke
haltingly. At times, just when I
got the impression she was about
to open up, something seemed to
force her to cut herself off again,
barricading herself behind a
brave smile.
Courage knew all too well that
in Tripoli, sexual violence against
women — especially against
dark-skinned refugees and immigrants — was the norm. So she
wisely spent all her time behind
the four walls of her mother’s
rented flat. The fighting in the
streets was only getting worse.
Her mother decided to send her
teenage daughter off to Europe,
A girl
Italian officials greet incoming coast guard vessels carrying
rescued migrants. JURE ERŽEN/DELO
no matter the cost. Their first
choice destination was Italy,
so they got in touch with some
seemingly reliable traffickers. In
Libya, this was far from difficult,
since the traffickers’ lavish lifestyle made them all but impossible to miss.
And so it was that on April 9,
2014, after a little less than seven
months of hiding in her mother’s
apartment, the sixteen-year-old
Courage embarked on a supposedly sturdy old boat manned
by several supposedly reliable
characters. The destination was
Lampedusa — the Italian islet
that, due to its proximity to North
Africa, has become the traffickers’ favourite point of entry.
Courage, who even now looks
at least three years younger than
her actual age, was the only female passenger among the 150
souls bound for Europe, all making their last desperate bid for a
better life. This time, she cast off
without a protector, alone and
chillingly vulnerable. This time,
she recalled wistfully during our
conversation, she had only God to
turn to in times of trouble.
“We sailed off around two in
the morning,” she remembered.
“Apart from the Nigerians, there
were many people from Somalia and Eritrea on the boat, and
some Egyptians as well. I remember it was very dark. I was
so terribly afraid … I prayed all
the time. This was my first time
on a boat — my first time at sea,
actually. And it was such a small
boat, you know. We were pressed
against each other, it was like
being stuffed inside a can of sardines. We were out in the open,
but it was still so hard, trying to
get some air.”
Courage’s ocean crossing was
typical of the brutal passage
that has claimed over a thou-
Odafeh Loren.
shy and reserved girl instantly
gave way to someone very different. Her thespian aspirations, it
turned out, were far from pure
fancy. On May 15, she is to make
her debut at the local theatre in
Siracusa, which is staging a production on the vagaries of the
immigrant life. The very mention
of the play made Courage’s eyes
dance with glee.
The small ship that brought
Courage to Europe — hardly bigger than a boat, really — soon
got into trouble. The traffickers
didn’t find it necessary to furnish the ship with a captain, only
with someone able to man the engine and keep an eye on the basic
course. First the compass broke
down, then the engine developed
an ominous cough. For refugees
like Courage, who book passage
through the black market, this
is far from an uncommon occurrence, and when the engine sputters out for good, the passengers
are usually left at the mercy of the
Italian or Maltese coast guard.
Yet those organizations are so
strapped and understaffed that,
despite their best efforts, they are
unable to save everyone in need.
Refugees arrive at the Sicilian port of Augusta.
sand lives in the last four weeks
alone — and nearly 23,000 since
the turn of the century. Hers is a
tale of bitter struggle, yet as I sat
talking with her, her tone never
wavered. She spoke quietly, dispassionately, and at times seemed
almost unable to finish her sentences. Every word was an effort,
and sometimes she had to take
in an extra lungful of air just to
muster the will to keep going. At
a certain point, she simply decided to leave the rest of the tale
to Vivian, her Nigerian-Italian
guardian angel who had arrived
in Europe in the 1990s.
As Vivian summed up the
unending bureaucratic battle
her young ward had faced upon
reaching the European Union,
Courage kept fiddling with her
fashionable sunglasses. At such
moments, the glaze of utter alienation in her eyes could still give
way to flashes of childish vivacity,
even if only for a moment or two.
“Someday I am going to be an
actress,” she said at one point
when I pressed for details of her
ordeal. “In movies or in the theatre, I don’t really care. Oh, and
I’m also very much into music.”
The moment Courage got talking about her future acting career, she was transformed. The
This has been especially true over
the last few months, following
the demise of the Mare Nostrum
operation — an efficient rescues
program that should have been
a beacon for EU bureaucrats. But
since continuing the program
would cost more money, EU officials simply scrapped it, effectively turning the Mediterranean
into a mass grave, with hardly a
flicker of hope for real change
anytime soon.
The situation is worsening. At the moment, as many as
200, 000 men and women are
waiting along the shores of North
Africa and the Middle East —
waiting for safe passage to the
ever more elusive European fortress. Most of the would-be refugees are in Libya. While these
poor desperate souls are drowning en masse, an increasingly
racist and xenophobic Europe
is putting up more barriers and
spouting “us v. them” rhetoric.
“For some time, we sailed in a circle,” Courage said “No one knew
where we were or where we needed to be. They told us we got lost.
That someone was bound to come
pick us up. This was after we’d already spent two days at sea. We
had no food or water. I was badly
afraid for my life. I couldn’t stop
thinking about death. All I could
do was pray.”
After another day of waiting,
the 150 despairing souls were
rescued by an Italian coast guard
vessel, part of the Mare Nostrum
operation. But instead of taking
the refugees to their original destination on Lampedusa, the Italian sailors took them to Augusta,
on the eastern shore of Sicily. Before they reached shore, Courage
spent another three days on the
military ship, as it scoured the
sea in search of other refugees.
“They treated us well,” she
remembered. “They gave us both
food and water. And I was finally
able to get some sleep. When we
landed in Sicily, they put us on
a bus and took us to some abandoned old building in Augusta. I
spent about a week there. All the
time I wanted to call my mother,
but they wouldn’t let me. Not
even once. They never told me
After a week, Vivian — who is
employed by one of the immigration centres in Siracusa — arrived
at the facility, accompanied by a
couple of Italian humanitarian
workers and activists, who had
learned that an underage Nigerian girl was also residing at the
center. One of the humanitar-
should be, Vivian told me. Then
Courage’s life was upended by a
single phone call. Last August,
word came from Libya that her
mother had died in bomb blast so
powerful that no body remained
for identification. Fighting
between militas smashed Courage’s world was to pieces, and she
was utterly alone. According to
Vivian, she became hopelessly
alienated. And so Vivian decided
to take her under her wing.
“There was no other way,” Vivian explained. Together with her
husband, who works as a lighting technician in Siracusa’s renowned Greek theatre, they did
everything they could to help
their ward get back on her feet.
This June, when Courage celebrates her 18th birthday, she will
be granted official permission
to stay in Italy with all the ben-
The European Commission will
unveil Wednesday the details of its
long awaited agenda on migration.
Expectations are high after the
death last month of 800 migrants
in a boat disaster off the coast of
Sicily. Commission President JeanClaude Juncker has made clear,
during a debate in the European
Parliament, his ambitions: “If we
don’t open the door, even partly,
you can’t act surprised when
the unfortunate from across
the planet break in through the
window” — and he has the backing
of the German government.
These are the main points on the
migration policy as debated so far:
A quota system: Juncker
suggested binding quota for
taking in refugees across all 28
EU member countries. Under
the proposal, the distribution
ian workers, Carla Trommino,
made sure the Italian authorities
placed Courage under so-called
humanitarian protection, since
she had entered the country underage and unaccompanied, and
her repatriation was not possible.
As soon as she was permitted,
Courage let her mother know she
was alive and “safe”. For a while
she lived with some nuns in one
of Siracusa’s many churches,
where refugees and immigrants
can still get help. Then she took
up residence with an Italian family back in Augusta in a sort of informal foster care arrangement.
She started going to the local
school. She was quick to learn basic Italian, and she is now proud
to report she can also speak some
English, French and Spanish. She
says she only has problems with
But Courage’s stay with the
Italian foster family lasted just
two months. They argued and
fought, and nothing was as it
of migrants among EU states
would use a formula that takes
into account, the strength of the
economy and unemployment rates
in each country, the size of the
population as well as the number
of refugees they have taken in so
A resettlement program:
According to the drafts that
POLITICO has seen, the
Commission will propose also an
EU-wide resettlement program to
take up to 20,000 refugees a year
from camps outside the Union (for
example in Lebanon or Turkey). The
exact target should be proposed
by the end of May and be funded
with €50 million in 2015-2016.
A Blue Card: for highly skilled
migrants, similar to the US Green
Card program.
Jacopo Barigazzi
efits that entails, beginning with
health and social insurance.
“It’s hard,” Courage told me. “My
wish is to stay living here in Italy.
I have nowhere else to go. There
is no one for me back in Nigeria.
I don’t want to go back. I barely
even follow the news about what’s
going on there. I want to make
friends here in Italy. But I find it
very hard to make a connection.
I go to school in Augusta, while I
live all the way back in Siracusa.
I don’t get to meet many new people. I hope things get better once I
join the drama class. I hear some
people there are older than me.
“But then so what,” she said. “ I
did say I wanted to be an actress,
didn’t I?”
Boštjan Videmšek is a foreign
correspondent at the Slovenian daily
DELO and author of 21st Century
Conflicts: Remnants of War(s).
14 Forum
One’s never been less inclined to retire
Never was there a
person more
wedded to the
duties of her office
than Her Majesty
the Queen. She is
even more so after
the hurricane of the
general elections
It was Shakespeare who reminded us what could happen in the
lovely month of May when all
our senses turn to blossom and
beauty, growth and glory. “Rough
winds do shake the darling buds
of May,” he averred in one of his
most famous sonnets, reminding
us of what unexpected weather
nature might have in store when
we are least prepared for it.
On May 7 Great Britain’s
“rough winds” turned into a
gale force of change. The general
election was a tornado that all
but devoured the Labour party
in Scotland and reduced the Liberal Democrats to a rump party
of no more than eight MPs. Out
of the destruction emerged a new
political force to reckon with, the
Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP).
Having grown almost overnight
into the Incredible Hulk of the
British polity, the SNP is now the
third-largest party in the House
of Commons, with 56 members —
50 more than it had in the previous government.
But wait a minute, was there
not another major event preceding May 7 — didn’t something
happen on May 3? Indeed it did,
and what a welcome antidote it
provided to the gloom and doom
of the election campaign. Another royal baby was born, the second child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the fifth
great-grandchild of Her Majesty,
the Queen. Baby Charlotte held
Great Britain spellbound, causing
uniform excitement. In a country
ridden with centrifugal forces
that call into question the very
foundation of the United Kingdom, the monarchy holds the divers members of the British Isles
together. In her 90th year the
Queen is at the pinnacle of her
reputation. Love, respect and awe
envelop this most iconic of public figures. Come September 10,
she will have surpassed Queen
Victoria as the longest-reigning
monarch in the history of Great
Britain, with exactly 63 years,
seven months and four days on
the throne.
One of the most astonishing
phenomena of contemporary
Britain is the resurgence of the
monarchic idea. Twenty-five
Queen Elizabeth II will become the longest-reigning monarch in British history on September 10, 2015. EPA
years ago, when the appeal of the
House of Windsor languished at an
historic low following an apparently endless series of scandals,
who would have put their money
on the safe future of the British
monarchy? Today you would have
to be a fool or an unreconstructed
anti-monarchist to harbor such
doubts. What turned it around for
the Windsors was the luck of the
order of succession falling to the
Queen’s grandchild William. By
marrying a commoner from an unsullied middle-class background
the Duke of Cambridge added an
element of normalcy to an almost
dysfunctional royal family. In addition, Catherine (“Kate”) Middleton delighted everybody with her
charm and good looks. Here was
and unforeseeable in the Queen’s
“annus horribilis” of 1992. Now
she is reaping the reward for her
longevity and constancy of service.
Nothing has ever occupied English
kings and queens more than making sure that the institution they
embody is made immune against
the slings and arrows of outrageous
At a time when public confidence in many traditional pillars of society — in banks, media,
politicians, and the church — has
dramatically eroded, the Crown
emerges as an island of calm in
stormy waters. It is no surprise
that since her diamond jubilee
Elizabeth II, while visibly older
today, exudes almost preternatural
serenity and composure. The same
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge present baby Charlotte
Elizabeth Diana to the world. EPA
a young couple with the ability
to kindle a new sense of affection
amongst their contemporaries for
royals and the monarchy.
More importantly, since the
birth of Prince George, the Queen
has been able to look forward to a
stable succession of three generations — Charles, William, George.
It’s almost as if posterity has appeared in the here and now. Such
prospects were totally unforeseen
goes for her husband, the Duke of
Edinburgh, who will be 94 in June.
British doggedness and the
“keep calm and carry on” attitude may stand the Queen in
good stead as she surveys her
realm today. In Scotland, the
allure of nationalism has raised
its head: “The lion has roared,”
ex-First Minister Alex Salmond
asserted when the final tally of
56 SNP members of the House
of Commons emerged. Elizabeth
II did not originally warm to the
idea of devolution. In the year
of her Silver Jubilee, 1977, when
this issue was muted she received
a group of parliamentarians and
reminded them confidentially
— a confidentiality soon broken
— that she was crowned “queen
of the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland.”
Never mind that the Scots keep
repeating that even as a sovereign country they would prefer
the Queen as their head of state.
That would be no consolation for
losing them as part of the United
Given so much uncertainty it is
even more unlikely that the Queen
will ever abdicate. Abdication is
an absolute anathema to her ever
since she lived through the turmoil caused by the abdication of
her uncle, King Edward VIII, in
1936. Never was there a person
more wedded to the duties of her
office than the current queen, who
has been “current” since 1952. Nor
is there any thought of letting her
retire, allowing Charles to take
over as “Regent.” The Queen’s programme of engagements ahead
of her 90th birthday in April next
year will undoubtedly be cut back
so that Charles and Camilla can
share more of the daily burden.
After the end-of-June state visit
to Germany the new softer regime
will undoubtedly kick in. But she
will not let go of the reins in the
business of reigning.
Scotland, so she will tell David
Cameron, must continue to be
part of the realm. Try your best.
She breathed a sigh of relief when
the referendum for Scottish independence failed last year. She
would be even more relieved if the
threat of a break-up of the Union
could be lifted once and for all.
But panic she will not. Panic is not
part of the Elizabeth II the world
knows and holds dear. Besides, if
longevity teaches you anything it is
calmness in adversity, and the conviction that things rarely turn out
as predicted. The change she has
witnessed in public perception of
the monarchy has been dramatic,
making her appear unruffled
amidst all the doomsayers. She
probably doesn’t see the end of the
United Kingdom heralded by the
simple advent of 56 SNP members
of parliament in Westminster. As
one former Tory leader told me,
the SNP’s bluff will be called — they
have to be careful not to overplay
their hand. Could a federal solution
for Britain be the answer?
Compared to Scotland, the
question of UK-EU relations
ranks somewhat lower down the
ladder of the Queen’s priorities.
Not because she is not intrinsically aware of the dynastic ties
between herself and Prince Philip
with the continent, or of the value
of a functioning European Union.
Rather, like many of her subjects
she is likely to suspend judgment
about what the future might
hold for Britain inside or outside
the community. She has visited
the European Commission in
Brussels only once. Closer to her
heart is the Commonwealth and,
of course, the unity of her realm
at home.
The monarchy has long been
part of Britain’s constitutional reality. As a symbol of constitutional
permanence above the ebb and
flow of party politics it allows the
British to rest assured that not all
is lost in their country. The Queen
admirably personifies continuity
and stability. Let the new government begin its arduous journey,
while the Queen, in the words of
the national anthem, may “reign
happy and glorious” for many a
month yet.
Thomas Kielinger has been a London
correspondent for Die Welt since
1998 and is the author of the biography
“Elizabeth II: das Leben der Queen.”
16 Forum
An aerial view of the
landscape of Svalbard.
The tip of the iceberg
Arctic island Svalbard is at the center of a new global
power race – for influence, and oil
Svalbard isn’t a convenient
location. With its 2,500-odd residents, living in towns accessible
only by plane, boat or snowmobile, this Arctic archipelago is
Norway’s northernmost outpost
of human habitation — halfway
between the mainland and the
North Pole. But when Deputy
Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin
of Russia provocatively defied the
EU’s travel ban on Russian officials by descending on Svalbard
last month, he didn’t choose his
destination at random. In fact,
Svalbard is at the center of a new
global power race — for influence,
and oil.
“The Russians are trying to
find ways of increasing their
presence on Svalbard,” says
Katarzyna Zysk, an associate
professor at the Norwegian Defense University College. Officially, some 500 Russians live in
Barentsburg, the predominantly
Russian town that’s also home
to a Russian-owned coal mine,
but observers say it looks deserted. Besides, the mine is highly
Moscow’s unorthodox solution is tourism. Last month the
coal company Trust Arktikugol,
which operates the mine, registered itself as a tourism company. And Russia opened a tourist
camp in Longyearbyen, Svalbard’s capital, last year. “Russia
has plenty of Arctic towns to
promote as a tourist destination, so in focusing specifically
on Svalbard it’s making a political point,” notes Pavel Baev, an
ex-Soviet defense expert who
now serves as research professor
at the Peace Research Institute
Oslo. Some 100 Russian tourists
visited Svalbard last year.
But in this unlikely arena of
international power politics,
Russia has a new competitor:
China, which first opened an
Arctic research station on Svalbard eleven years ago. Now, Norwegian media report, a Chinese
buyer is interested in purchasing a large swath of land outside
Longyearbyen currently owned
by a local family.
With over 99 percent of Svalbard owned by Norwegian government companies or organisations in which it has a controlling stake, this is an exceptional
opportunity to park oneself in a
strategic location.
“Nobody is sure what’s going on,”
reports Arild Moe, a senior research fellow at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, which specialises
in Arctic affairs. “Is the buyer a
private investor? Is it the Chinese
government? Or is it just a ploy by
the owner to raise the price?” In
any event, China’s new attention
to Svalbard isn’t sitting well with
Russia. “Its position is that the
Arctic belongs to the Arctic nations, but China feels it’s open to
everyone,” notes Baev.
China’s keen interest makes
perfect sense.
The breathtakingly beautiful
archipelago’s unique legal status has made it a perfect stage
for global power-wrangling. In
1920 Norway, Sweden, Denmark,
the United Kingdom, Japan, the
Netherlands, Italy, France and
the United States signed a treaty
that gave Norway sovereignty
over the islands but granted
every country that signed the
treaty unfettered access to them.
A colourful mix — currently 42
nations, including Russia and
Monaco — have signed the trea-
ty, and for the past nine decades,
Norwegians, Russians and a
scattering of Swedes and other
nationals have lived in civil coexistence here.
The Norwegians mostly work
for the state-owned mining company or in research or tourism,
while Russia operates its own
loss-leading coal mine. Germany,
Britain, Poland, Japan and Italy,
too, have research stations in
the shelf, the shelf’s ownership
has taken on sudden significance.
“There are many areas around
Svalbard that are ice-free year
round, and climate change will
increase that,” notes Moe. Norway claims it owns Svalbard’s
continental shelf, while Russia
argues that Svalbard as a unique
legal entity has its own continental shelf. “Sweden prefers to back
Norway’s interpretation because
imagine what would happen if every one of the signatories would
send ships to drill for oil off Svalbard,” observes Bo Theutenberg,
a retired Swedish diplomat who
served as the Swedish foreign
ministry’s top legal official. “It
would be complete chaos.”
The World War I-era diplomats who signed the Svalbard
Treaty had no way of predicting
that climate change would cause
the Arctic ice to start melting,
thereby making the Arctic Ocean
more attractive for shipping and
oil exploration, or indeed that
there was oil off the Norwegian
coast at all.
According to US government
estimates, the Arctic holds 20
percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas resources. But
the otherwise meticulous Svalbard Treaty predates such knowledge, and makes no mention of
the continental shelf, the seabed
protruding from any country.
With oil available underneath
But while China’s presence on
Svalbard irks Russia, Moscow’s
main adversary right now is Norway itself. The Svalbard Treaty
forbids a permanent military
presence on the archipelago, but
according to Russia, Norway,
a NATO member, has secretly
placed equipment suitable for
military use on the islands.
According to research by
Zysk of the Norwegian Defense
University, Russia has made a
host of claims: that satellites
belonging to Norway’s stateowned
company, Telenor, can be used
to transmit military signals;
that Norway’s atmospheretracking radar station Eisat
and the weather rocket test site
“Svalbard is extremely vulnerable,
and Putin’s Russia is very good at
exploiting any vulnerability it can find.”
Pavel Baev
Peace Research Institute Oslo
SvalRak can be used to track
ballistic missiles from Russia’s
Northern Fleet; and that the
communications line between
Longyearbyen and the town of
Ny-Ålesund is compatible with
NATO systems.
A spokesman for Norway’s
Foreign Ministry calls the claims
unfounded, and Niklas Granholm, an Arctic expert at FOI,
says he’s seen no evidence supporting them. “In the past, Russia has used claims of this nature
in order to justify its own actions:
‘Look what the others are doing.
We have a right to do the same,’”
he explains.
Until now, Norway has been
reluctant to stand up to its Svalbard challengers. But faced with
Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin’s
outspoken scorn, shared via
Twitter, the Norwegian foreign
ministry had no choice but to
register its displeasure to Russia’s ambassador to Oslo.
But Rogozin’s mission (conducted by charter plane, perhaps
in a nod to potential tourists)
may have had the opposite effect
from the one he intended. “Svalbard is extremely vulnerable,
and Putin’s Russia is very good
at exploiting any vulnerability
it can find”, says Baev. “Rogozin
has brought Svalbard’s situation
to the attention of the general
public in Norway.”
That’s putting it mildly. “The
Norwegian public was quite
surprised, and even shocked,
when they realised that the Russians were using Svalbard as a
part of their hostile rhetoric toward neighbouring countries,”
explains Trine Eilertsen, news
editor at the daily Aftenposten.
“This is an arena where we’ve developed a fairly good relationship
and cooperation with Russia.”
Elisabeth Braw is a correspondent for
Newsweek, which she joined following
a fellowship at the University of
18 Opinion
Lessons to learn from the US on cyber security
Europe would
be foolish not
to follow the
example of
the world’s
cyberspace leader
he United States
Department of Defense released a new
cyber strategy on April 23,
revealing how the US views
cybersecurity in the postSnowden era. One trend
is immediately clear: The
strategic use of cyberspace
to pursue political goals and
seek geostrategic advantage is rapidly increasing in
today’s world.
The new cyberstrategy
represents a big step forward
in the global cyber policy and
military debate. It is far more
comprehensive and transparent than its predecessor,
which debuted in 2011. The
world’s most technologically advanced nation wants
to be more transparent
about its military doctrine,
policy, roles, and missions in
cyberspace, which makes the
strategy interesting to read
and evaluate — outside of the
The US is ahead of Europe
when it comes to integrating cybersecurity into its
foreign and security policies. Europe would be foolish not to follow and learn
from its example. As with
most security issues, there
are signs that in cybersecurity the default behavior
for most European countries seems to be to follow
Hard drives can be vulnerable to low and moderate level cyber attacks. ISTOCK
cybersecurity is more holistic and strategic than ever
before. The US intelligence
community’s annual threat
assessment once again
identified cyberattacks as
the most serious threat to
national security. The same
New episodes of IN THE
LOOP in English are available
on every Friday
POLITICO’s weekly podcast covers the
latest news and debates shaping politics
in the European Union. This Wednesday’s
Italian language version features POLITICO
reporters James Panichi, Sara Stefanini
and Florian Eder, managing editor of
expansion, on migration, energy and
the US approach. For the
US, the biggest challenges
at the moment are: updating all legal frameworks,
strengthening cyber rules of
engagement for the military,
building cyber deterrents,
and clarifying the roles and
cooperation of the government and private sector.
Europeans can learn from
five main take-aways from
the US’s new cyber strategy.
1) Cybersecurity must be
taken more seriously and
planned strategically in
Europe. The US’s strategy
emphasis is not present in
European countries, even
though US Director of
National Intelligence James
Clapper has estimated that
the Russian cyber threat is
more severe than was previously thought.
2) Europeans have been
aware for many years that the
US is worried about a “cyber
Pearl Harbor” or “cyber 9/11”
that would cause physical
destruction and loss of life.
But cybersecurity is rarely
discussed in those terms on
the Continent.
The new US cyber strategy contains no “cyber
9/11” alarmism. Europeans should take heed of
US estimations that cyber
attacks will focus on low
and moderate levels. These
consist primarily of cyber
espionage, information operations, denial of services
and degradation of information integrity. These are not
dramatic attacks, but rather
longer-term threats that
aim to influence the target
country’s economic competitiveness or social mood.
3) The digital domain has
become an arena where
strategic advantage can be
won or lost, the latter being
more likely without serious
indigenous cyber capabilities.
The new US strategy is the
first public indicator that the
US plans to use cyberwarfare in conflict. This means
that Europe must also place
more emphasis on offensive
cyber capabilities, which are
increasingly becoming the
In most European countries, it is not popular to publicly discuss offensive cyber
weaponry. But it is necessary
to explain the necessity of
offensive cyber capabilities
to the general public. Increased transparency with
regard to offensive weapons
requires that cyber command
structures must be made
clear; the US strategy clearly
stipulates when and by whom
they should be used. The
guidelines also mean that the
speed and significance of the
digital arms race will accelerate.
4) US cyber strategy can be
understood as a strategy of
cyber deterrence. It emphasizes the US’s capability to
identify cyber attackers, the
creation of well-resourced
cyber force, and readiness to
punish attackers in cyberspace. The US hopes to send
a clear message: Don’t mess
with us in the digital domain.
Historically deterrence has
required three elements:
attribution, signaling, and
credibility. These are at the
should pay
attention to US
estimations that
cyber attacks
will be focused
more at low and
moderate levels.
heart of the new US cyber
5) But even though the US is
the most advanced country
in the world when it comes
to cyber, its new cyber
strategy emphasizes that
cybersecurity is ultimately
a team sport.
No one can succeed by
themselves. Governments
need to cooperate with the
private sector and to practice
basic cyber-hygiene, the most
cost-effective way to increase
cyber security. International
cooperation is essential, and
Europe is a key partner for
the US.
Most importantly, the new
US cyber strategy emphasizes
that we have to stay alert to
activity in the digital domain.
Nation-states, non-state
actors, as well as skilled terrorist groups and individuals
are all players in the digital
domain, and their operations
are becoming increasingly
sophisticated. European
nations should take a queue
from US Defense Secretary
Ashton Carter, who, when
presenting the new cyber
strategy, cautioned, “In cyber
I worry about what we don’t
Jarno Limnéll is a professor of cybersecurity at Finland’s Aalto University and
VP of cybersecurity in Insta DefSec Ltd.
ost-Maidan Ukraine is
at war. Not only against
Russian invaders, but
more generally against sovietism. This war has a military front in the East, but as
important is the political,
economic, social frontline
in the rest of the country.
Resisting the invaders and
reforming the nation are two
fronts of a same fight: the
struggle for the emergence of
a new, democratic, European
While receiving the chairmen of the Council of the EU
Ukraine has huge human
potential, but who would
invest in a war torn country
that does everything to discourage you from investing?
Licenses and permits
are going to be erased and
reshaped according to European standards.
First steps had already
been taken by the government, with the ministries
of economy and justice
scrapping a number of required licenses and permits,
but it is only the beginning
of the process and a vast
amount of work still needs to
be done.
of Ukrainian bureaucrats
will be replaced by a young,
dynamic, well-paid and
clean public service. “Public service” is the key word
here and implies a mental
revolution: Bureaucrats have
to serve the public and not
enslave it.
Oligarchs are the pleas of a
post-Soviet system. Oligarchy is the main enemy of
democracy, liberalism, and
pro-market reforms. In a
nutshell, why did Poland succeed in the 90s and Ukraine
for 20 years and this time
has come to an end. New laws
will be passed to separate
business interests from politics and anti-monopolistic
regulations will be enforced.
Independence from Moscow
and integration into the Euro-Atlantic space will never
be achieved unless there
is a radical change in the
socio-economic structures
in Ukraine. Western decision makers should have no
illusions about it: No matter
how much an oligarch spends
on PR to convince them that
he is pro-European, he will
never gracefully accept the
tremendous opportunity
rather than a threat. The
emergence of Ukrainian
national identity during the
Maidan protests and the war
should translate into a less
centralized system rather
than a more centralized
one. A common European
and patriotic vision should
unite every region, but every
region should be allowed
to rule itself without having to rely on Kiev to build a
road or change the roof on a
school premises. From Lviv
to Donbass or Odessa, the
rule of law is non-negotiable,
but local self-governance is
the key to economic success
and political stability. Every
Ukrainian should finally
feel they have a stake in the
future of their nation.
and the Commission, Donald
Tusk and Jean-Claude
Juncker, for a key summit in
Kiev, President Poroshenko
announced an ambitious
plan, which he summed up as
the Four Ds of a new Ukraine:
deregulation, debureaucratization, deoligarchization,
Overregulation is an essential characteristic of Soviet
legacy, a powerful killer for
investors and a perpetual
generator of corruption.
Today, getting a construction permit is an impossible
challenge unless you bribe
half a dozen useless agencies. According to World
Bank Ease of Doing Business Ranking, you need a
minimum of 21 days to open
a company, you have to go
through one of the longest
custom procedures in the
world and you’re expected
to wait an average of 270
days to get electricity to your
The Ukrainian president outlines the roadmap
to “a new, democratic, European Ukraine”
One of the main features of
post-soviet societies is the
inability of a plutocratic bureaucracy to take decisions.
Built to implement orders
coming from Moscow, the
Ukrainian bureaucracy was
left purposeless in 1991 and
started to serve a local elite
behaving as if it owned the
state. Bureaucracy used to
be an instrument to colonize
the people. It is built according to the logics of feudalism.
Every agency is a separate
fiefdom that refuses to share
its information with the
others. There is no common
database or decision-making
The fiefdoms will be
destroyed and the services
merged. The Mexican Army
did not? Poland had no
oligarchs, and Ukraine has
plenty of them. Poland built
stable, transparent institutions and a booming market
economy while Ukraine
has an unstable political
landscape and a shrinking
economy. Oligarchs have
turned elections into a
farce by dividing candidates
among themselves. The very
idea of statehood has also
become a joke since public
servants are on their payroll
rather than a budget. Maidan
was a revolution for Europe,
but also — first and foremost
— an anti-oligarchic uprising. Nobody should forget it,
or history might repeat itself.
Oligarchs have taken advantage of ministers, parliamentarians, policemen, journalists, and tax inspectors
Putin’s primary target in invading Ukraine is to prevent
the Maidan revolution from
turning into a successful
experience of democratic, social and economic reforms on
his doorstep. The only way to
defeat his neo-imperialistic
ambitions is precisely to
make sure it happens. President Poroshenko understood
it very well, which is why he
keeps stressing that the war
in the East cannot be a pretext to postpone reforms.
Radical changes are the
best way to counter Russian
aggression. On this front too,
Ukraine and its leadership
needs Europe’s full support.
Ukraine is a very diverse
country consisting of many
different groups. We should
look at this diversity as a
Mikheil Saakashvili, the president of
Georgia from 2004 to 2013, is chair of
the International Advisory Council on
Reforms for the president of Ukraine.
radical changes involved in
European integration, first
of which is the equality of all
citizens under the law.
Recently, Poroshenko
started to take realistic steps
towards diminishing the
influence of oligarchs in the
energy sector, the largest
black hole of the Ukrainian
economy. This has traditionally been a sector, divided
between several oligarchs
who controlled government
subsidies with their political
leverage, and refused to pay
taxes or allow any competition in the field.
Poland and the
Baltics rearm
although a NATO base with German, American and other allied
troops permanently located in
the region remains the goal.
Because Poland has by far the
largest military in central Europe — and has a well-justified
historic wariness of Russia — in
the event of a crisis the hope is
that Polish tanks and APCs will
rumble north to protect the
Baltics. “There are contingency
plans. It’s clearly spelled out who
does what,” says a Polish foreign
ministry official. “These plans
will be carried out.”
The danger is there. Russian
warplanes aggressively approach
the airspace of the Baltic countries and are a frequent presence
over the Baltic Sea. Russian forces stage war games in the area.
Eston Kohver, an Estonian intelligence officer, was kidnapped by
the Russians last year and is being held in Moscow despite EU
In Russia’s Kaliningrad region,
sandwiched between Lithuania
and Poland, forces have more
than doubled in recent years.
There are reports that Russia is
again putting nuclear capable
Iskander missiles, which have a
500 km range, into the district.
The Estonians, for one, are
realistic about what kind of firepower a military budget of €412
million (a tiny fraction of Russia’s annual spend of 3.2 trillion
rubles, or about €55 billion) can
“The deterrence force really
needs to be long-term — no one
wants to say the p-word, ‘permanent,’ but we can use whatever
euphemisms we can find,” said
Sven Sakkov, undersecretary for
defense policy in Estonia’s Defense Ministry. “I have openly
joked that we would like allied
forces to be stationed in Estonia
eternally, but if that is not possible, permanently is alright.”
Until that happens, Estonia
is taking matters into its own
hands. It is one of a handful of
NATO countries to actually follow through on its commitment
and spend 2 percent of its GDP
PANIC: It’s a topsy-turvy world
in which even French regional
public servants need to start
worrying about job security. Yet
from January 1, 2016, France is
undertaking a regional purge
which will reduce the governments from the current 22 to
13. This is creating restlessness
among staff of the regions’ offices in Brussels — it goes without
saying that all 22 currently have
delegations to the EU. Brussels
Influence is told that RhôneAlpes and Auvergne are already
merging into one office but there
is uncertainty about what will
become of the rest — and staff are
getting worried.
regional offices are able to lobby
for local industries without having to appear on the EU Transparency Register (governments
are exempt from the transpar-
in selected EU and NATO states
5,9 %
— 5,4 %
Czech Republic
3,7 %
on defense. Neighboring Latvia,
just as exposed to the Russians
and also harboring a large ethnic
Russian minority, spends an alliance record low of 0.9 percent,
although it recently made a commitment to reach 1 percent this
year. “Boosting national defense
capabilities is our priority,” said
Raimonds Vejonis, the defense
— 5,5 %
50 %
“Unfortunately, the Baltic states
are militarily the weakest part of
NATO, because we have a small
population, flat terrain, we’re
exposed, with very long lines of
communication with our allies,”
said Sakkov. “Our defense forces
are not very strong, for objective
reasons, because we started to
build up just 20 years ago.”
The Estonians are increasing
their defense spending by 7.5 percent this year, according to the
Stockholm International Peace
Research Institute, the Latvians
are up by 15 percent, the Lithuanians by 50 percent and the Poles
are ramping up their spending on
helicopters, tanks, rockets and
rifles by 20 percent.
“The political and military crisis in Ukraine has led to a major
reassessment of threat perceptions and military strategies in
much of Europe,” notes SIPRI.
The Poles have started a €32
billion modernization program,
and the bulk of new weapons systems — from anti-missile systems
to helicopters and tanks — will be
deployed by 2018.
The Poles have even formulated a defense policy called the
“Komorowski Doctrine” after
President Bronisław Komorowski, which calls on the country to
be able to defend itself without
immediate allied assistance.
“The longer we observe NATO’s
reluctance to support Ukraine —
a country that was recently considered likely to integrate with
the alliance — the more we are
aware that we have to count on
ourselves,” said Zbigniew Pisarski, head of the Casimir Pulaski
Foundation, a Warsaw-based
security think tank. But until
the Poles get rid of their rusting
7,3 %
— 2,3 %
— 3,4 %
— 0,5 %
2,7 %
— 4,9 %
15 %
1,4 %
5,6 %
20 %
— 11 %
4,9 %
Slovak Republic
0,5 %
5,3 %
7,8 %
$ 9.900.000.00
$ 450.000.000
$ 436.000.000
$ 269.000.000
Source: SIPRI / Infographic: POLITICO
Soviet-era equipment, and with
western Europe reluctant to
permanently base troops in the
region, the three Baltic republics are pressing hard for support
from the US.
Originally built as a Red Army
air base, Tapa is now a central
training ground for Estonia’s
armed forces — which need all
the help they can get to strengthen their militaries.
Tapa has hosted American
soldiers as part of NATO’s Operation Atlantic Resolve, which
brought battle tanks and Stryker
armored personnel carriers to
Estonia, part of a broader mission involving Latvia, Lithuania
and Poland. Tapa was also the
starting point of Operation Dragoon Ride, which sent a column
ency regime), there is no shortage of them. According to Germany’s official representation to
the EU, there are 15 delegations
in Brussels for 16 Bundesländer
(states) — the only two states
who are prepared to share facilities are Hamburg and SchleswigHolstein (it’s called the “HanseOffice”). Italian regions are also
immune to cost-cutting, with all
20 regions lobby-ready.
decision by the EU’s anti-fraud
office OLAF to open an investigation into the case of Romanian
whistleblower Cornelia Trentea
is hardly surprising. It is not
the first investigation OLAF has
opened into what has become
of US APCs wending through six
central European countries in
a bid to reassure them that the
NATO alliance and the US would
protect them in the event of a
Russian attack. “Until last year,
Estonia and Poland were known
as the annoying Russophobic nations in NATO,” says Lieutenant
Colonel Jaak Tarien, commander
of the Estonian Air Force. “Now,
everybody is saying, ‘oh, that’s
what you meant.’”
But after decades in which war
seemed to disappear as a realistic
threat and the countries of central Europe allowed their defense
potential to atrophy, the scramble to rebuild military muscle is
going to be long and very expensive. Tarien commands a force
of only four helicopters and two
By James Panichi and Quentin Ariès
a sprawling, logic-defying legal
case and it may not be the last.
Yet OLAF’s latest foray into the
matter (the office’s statement has
been seen by Brussels Influence)
indicates just how complex it has
all become. According to the documents, what started off as a runof-the-mill story of an EU institution clashing with an internal
auditor after she raised concerns
over a procurement process has
now descended into the plot of a
spy novel, with Trentea claiming
her home address was passed on
to a private eye who twice banged
on her door late at night demanding that she sign documents in a
language she did not speak.
The documents suggest that
when Trentea was fired from her
role with the Vienna-based Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA),
she took her case to the Civil
Service Tribunal (CST). There,
as she alleged in a subsequent
written submission to the European Court of Justice (ECJ),
her case was handled by a court
judge who was also being paid
by the FRA for legal advice. In
short: Trentea alleges (relying
on documents she has obtained)
that there was a conflict of interest. The response of the ECJ was
to say that its code of conduct did
not cover such an eventuality, so
its hands were tied.
European Commission usu-
cargo planes. The whole Estonian
military, with 6,400 APG (half of
them conscripts) doesn’t have a
single tank, although it can field
about 80 armored personnel carriers, enough for two battalions.
Estonia has ordered a battalion’s worth of CV90 tracked
fighting vehicles from Sweden,
said Andres Sang, a spokesman
for the Estonian Defense Ministry. Estonia is also buying Javelin
anti-tank missiles; both systems
are expected to come into service
next year. Estonia is also spending €113 million to buy 44 infantry fighting vehicles from the
Dutch. “If it’s war, so be it,” says
Brigadier General Meelis Kiili,
commander of Estonia’s volunteer defense league.
Lithuania reintroduced military conscription earlier this
year, something President Dalia
Grybauskaitė said was needed in
light of “new geopolitical circumstances.” Lithuania also recently
agreed to a deal to buy 12 German
PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers — giving the Lithuanian military a punch it currently lacks.
Latvia is the only Baltic country without conscription, and has
no plans to reintroduce mandatory military service. Last year, it
had only three ancient Soviet era
tanks as its armored forces, but
is buying 123 CVR
tracked combat vehicles from the UK,
as well as anti-tank missiles and
more vehicles from Norway.
Although the permanently
based NATO troops the region
wants are still a distant prospect,
the alliance has been beefing up
its presence, creating a “very
high readiness” spearhead force
that performed its first exercises
last month. The US sent a rotating crew of 3,000 soldiers to the
Baltic in March, along with 750
But the worry is that because
of the growing danger posed by
an aggressive and unpredictable
Russia, the new equipment being
brought into service across the
region may see use.
“No doubt there will be a
fight,” said Raivo Vare, an Estonian businessman and former
politician. “Estonians are stubborn people, and they’re still living through their traumatized
memories of 1939-40 (when the
country was incorporated into
the USSR). They can’t afford it a
second time.”
With reporting by Ben Judah
ally runs a mile from anything
resembling an unrecognized
state, fearing the ire of the EU’s
28 member countries who like to
pretend their separatist movements don’t exist. This reluctance to mingle with sub-state
actors will be put to the test
when lobbyists from the Confederation of Independent Football
Associations (CONIFA) start to
swan around the Berlaymont.
CONIFA, established in 2013, is
the grouping of football leagues
(football is what Americans call
soccer) from non-states. There’s
a Romani team; Padania (northern Italy) is represented; Occitania (southern France) is ready to
take to the pitch.
To sign up for a complimentary
trial of the weekly Brussels
Influence email newsletter, sent
on Mondays, go to
She wants to explain how every euro is spent
Georgieva is clearly proud of her
native country — she organizes
an annual folk-dancing event in
Brussels — but even she recently
joked that 96 percent of Bulgarians don’t trust their judiciary
and that the other 4 percent must
be judges. Her first appointment
to the Commission, in 2010, came
after an earlier Bulgarian candidate was accused of corruption.
Her fast-rising trajectory has
many wondering whether Georgieva might seek to lead the United Nations when Ban Ki-moon
leaves office at the end of 2016.
The job of secretary-general has
been expected to go to a candidate from Eastern Europe, but
a UN diplomatic source says the
eastern bloc countries have yet
to mount an efficient campaign
to secure the post.
“They aren’t ready for all the
necessary vote swaps” to win
approval in the UN assembly, a
second diplomatic source said.
“They couldn’t answer basic
questions about whether any
bipartisan consensus had been
reached internally, or across the
eastern bloc.”
Another obstacle: Bulgaria
already has a candidate for the
post in UNESCO head Irina Bokova. So Georgieva would have
to defeat an insider from her
own country. But the UN source
said an important consideration
was that a successful candidate
would have to be “amenable to
both Russia and the US.” Georgieva’s successful stint at the
World Bank included four years
in Moscow managing Russia’s
funding portfolio.
Georgieva herself refused to
comment on her future plans, focusing instead on the challenge of
reforming at EU level. But if she
succeeds in shaking up the Brussels bureaucracy, she will be well
placed for another big international role.
“You have no idea how big my
current job is,” Georgieva said.
Unlike the Commission’s six other vice presidents, who have only
small central teams supporting
them, Georgieva has thousands
of staff in 10 departments reporting to her.
Among the changes she’s trying to implement: end the attitude of entitlement to taxpayer
money that has gripped the
Commission and Parliament
for decades; subject officials to
tougher performance reviews;
and reorganize Commission departments so their structure and
goals match President Juncker’s
political priorities.
Scrutiny of EU spending is higher
than ever. National governments
facing their own tough economic
times continue to pressure Brussels — the UK’s David Cameron
recently called cutting the budget
his signature EU achievement,
and his re-election victory has
given his Brussels reform message new momentum.
Georgieva’s predecessor as
budget commissioner, Janusz
Lewandowski, called the job “extreme sports.” Former Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who visited
Georgieva last week, highlighted the unwieldy nature of EU
spending as another challenge.
“Not even Stalin had seven-year
Kristalina Georgieva opens the “Grand Horo Dance” at the Grand Place of Brussels. The event took place for a third year in a row at the
initiative of the vice president as part of the “Balkan Trafik!” Festival 2015 for music and arts. EC / AUDIOVISUAL SERVICES
plans,” she said.
Georgieva is betting that her
focus on discipline — rather than
making the traditional pleas for
“more Europe” and the money
that requires — will prove politically acceptable.
The approach won an early victory in December, when Georgieva successfully shepherded a €3.5
billion budget for 2015 through a
process that required agreement
from the European Parliament
and 28 member states.
“She didn’t ask for a euro she
didn’t need,” said one of the negotiators in the process. “She was
playing an honest broker role.”
A spokesperson from one of the
EU’s budget-hawk member states
said: “She doesn’t wag her finger
at countries like us. She listens
and that goes down well.” Adds
one director-general who reports
to Georgieva, “She is perceived
as a very serious partner for both
Parliament and Council. She’s
respected because she has a past
of authority based on discipline.”
She’ll need it. Georgieva,
among other goals, wants to
create an app that explains how
every euro is spent by the EU.
There is already concern that
such openness will only invite
more scrutiny.
One recipient of EU funding,
who requested anonymity, said
that EU processes are so complicated, and reviews of funding
reports so weak that “in the end
we completely lie” about how the
organization uses the EU money
it receives. A full-disclosure app
could simply make it easier to
spot the abuses throughout the
senior aide to President Juncker,
who likened the Commission’s
processes to the French civil
service of 30 years ago. Georgieva
said that first among her changes
is the rollout of “360 degree” performance reviews, in which Commission officials will be subject to
feedback from junior staff as well
as bosses.
Alongside this, all departments are undergoing rapid
macro-reviews that Georgieva
wants to complete by the end of
summer. The reviews are being
performed by a mix of in-house
and external consultants, and
closely resemble an overhaul
she managed during the last
Commission, when she ran the
humanitarian aid department.
“What I want to do is first look at
the horizontal services,” she said.
“Increase the ratio of staff to one
HR officer, same in IT. I want to
do it first with HR — I want [the
@SpiegelPeter: URGENT: @J_
Dijsselbloem speaks in Dutch.
Mid-sized country in northern
Europe listens.
@BBCJLandale: Politics can be so
brutal. Tory MPs have taken over the
Lib Dems’ table in the Commons tea
@Unnamedinsider: Lord Sugar has
quit Labour, he’s also deleted his
MySpace page and closed his
Blockbuster account.
@mark_johnston: :) #Gazprom
versus renewable energy. #eu2030
@JamesMelville: The Tories have
begun cleaning up the mess they
inherited from the last
@BrunoBrussels: After a weekend
‘festival of leaks,’ @MargSchinas
and @NatashaBertaud ‘advise
caution’ on texts
Along with changing the EU’s
spending culture, Georgieva is
intent on upending its management culture. “Change is now
permanent. We have to learn to
adjust,” Georgieva said, adding
that the Commission’s 33,000
staff will just have to live with
the consequences.
“If you want to reform the EU
you have to start with HR,” said a
@DanJamesReed: A new
candidate has come forward for the
#UKIP leadership #GE2015
@mvanhulten: I’m hereby starting
a campaign to replace the #Brexit
hashtag with #EUreform, because
despite what you may think IT’S
other] people to know I am not
after them.”
But official spokespeople
confirmed she is also guided by
Juncker’s all-consuming priority
of aligning departmental agendas
with the “10 political priorities”
he presented to the European
Parliament in 2014. That means
other departments are facing
cuts as early as June. Georgieva
has already won approval from
colleagues to move or effectively
demote seven directors at DG
GROW— the directorate-general
for internal market, industry,
entrepreneurship and small
businesses. Internal Commission
documents seen by POLITICO
indicate that DG GROW will end
up losing around 200 staff.
@NBCNewYork: Pope Francis
named an honorary Globetrotter
Georgieva’s spokesperson Alexander Winterstein said she
started with GROW because of
the “high potential for rationalization” — Commission code for a
bloated department. It’s a recurring problem that partly explains
why Georgieva has created the
post of “Chief Economic Analyst
of the Commission.”
While trade unions physically
blockaded Georgieva’s predecessor in 2013 for not doing more to
win them salary increases, none
of the three unions contacted by
POLITICO were willing to criticize the current plans.
The vice president herself
claims “everyone is ready for
change,” based on a listening
tour she conducted during her
first weeks in office.
Ultimately though, Georgieva
will need the College of Commissioners united behind her.
She is relying on their political
instincts rather than their affection to carry the day.
“I tell them and they know it,
I would only be credible and I
would only carry water for you
if you help me … help me to have
a story that is a sellable story to
the taxpayer,” she said. “If people
don’t know what we do with their
money, why would they support
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GE congratulates Jim McNerney on winning CEO of the Year. From
serving as CEO of GE Aviation to his current position as Chairman
and CEO of Boeing, Jim’s vision and leadership has allowed him to
reach incredible heights.