Brussels Playbook: China tests EU unity — Russia ‘dead end’ — Defensive union – POLITICO


ONE FOR ALL AND ALL FOR 1? Today can be a take a look at of the French Council presidency’s targets of delivering EU unity, sovereignty and strategic autonomy: At a gathering in Brest, the bloc’s overseas ministers will determine whether or not to again Lithuania in its battle with China.

Geopolitical battle: Beijing’s financial assault on the small Baltic nation has shortly risen up the EU agenda, with French President Emmanuel Macron this week vowing solidarity. “The targeted actions against Lithuania continue to worry us,” he stated.

David vs. Goliath: Ever since Lithuania left the 17+1 grouping (a discussion board wherein Beijing negotiates with Eastern EU international locations, circumventing Brussels), its firms have reported difficulties buying and selling with China. First, a customs system all of the sudden had an error that solely occurred with Lithuanian items, main them to be stopped on the border, officers inform us. Then, as Lithuania boosted relations with Taiwan, the commerce warfare intensified: French, German and U.S. merchandise that had Lithuanian elements had been all of the sudden additionally stopped by Chinese officers. While Beijing gave no official causes, EU firms stated they got fairly clear directions to cease sourcing from Lithuania.

Step too far: China’s actions had been an uneven financial assault, German and French officers instructed Playbook, as a result of formally Beijing had not adopted any sanctions, which made it troublesome for the EU to react in worldwide fora. While that’s Beijing’s regular playbook when it desires to remind international locations of its would possibly, this time could also be completely different.

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Don’t mess with the only market: For Berlin and Paris, China has gone one step too far, they usually’re planning to make that clear at present. One of the primary targets of the overseas ministers’ assembly can be to voice public help for Lithuania and ship a transparent signal to Beijing that the EU gained’t tolerate anybody messing with its single market and provide chains, diplomats stated.

In an indication Beijing could have overplayed its hand, Germany’s State Secretary on the Economy Ministry Franziska Brantner stated Berlin would push for a powerful EU response: “We [need] to send a signal to the Chinese government: our internal market is sacred. This is a core interest of our country,” she instructed our colleague Hans von der Burchard. Beijing’s financial warfare, Brantner stated, “doesn’t only affect Lithuania, it also affects Germany and other EU countries. The single market itself is being put to the test.”

Brussels getting concerned: The European Commission has been making ready a WTO lawsuit towards China’s commerce restrictions since December, however French officers instructed our colleague Giorgio Leali a case like that might take a very long time to bear fruit (consider the Airbus-Boeing saga), and would solely tackle breaches in WTO commitments, however not counteract the coercive nature of China’s measures.

Time for the hammer: For Paris, the episode is simply one other instance of why the EU must quickly approve the anti-coercion instrument — aka hammer — which might empower Brussels to swiftly impose counter-sanctions — ideally underneath the French Council presidency, senior authorities officers say.

What might be performed to assist Lithuania within the meantime? French commerce officers instructed Giorgio they had been in talks to assist Vilnius cushion the blow of China’s uneven actions by serving to to seek out completely different suppliers. “If Lithuanians tells us they can’t find this or that good because China blocked supply chains, we put them in contact with French or EU companies which can help,” one stated.

But don’t anticipate counter-sanctions simply but: In the tip, the EU will shrink back from hitting again with commerce sanctions, write Barbara Moens and Giorgio.

BEHIND THE SCENES: On Thursday, Macron’s diplomatic advisor Emmanuel Bonne was within the jap Chinese metropolis of Wuxi for an in-person assembly with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi. But the spotlight got here in a videoconference name, when Vice President Wang Qishan, a right-hand man of President Xi Jinping, dialed in from Beijing. The name made it onto the prime-time information in China’s state media.

The message: Wang was eager to remind his French counterpart that there was a lot to realize if the EU stayed away from America and maintained pleasant relations with Beijing, Stuart Lau writes in to report. “China would like to build ‘two-way streets’ for cooperation with EU based on mutual respect and openness,” Wang stated, praising the French emphasis on strategic autonomy, which to Beijing is a welcoming tone to maintain America, its essential nemesis, at bay.


RUSSIA SAYS NYET: At the tip of an intense week of diplomacy, it appears the West could also be again the place it began — with no clear solutions on the Kremlin’s intentions in Ukraine, as Russia stays as defiant as ever. Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy overseas minister, stated negotiations had been at a “dead end” and that Moscow noticed no use in persevering with talks with the West in the intervening time. Our colleague David Herszenhorn has the evaluation.

‘DRUMBEAT OF WAR’: The U.S. struck a downbeat word — “The drumbeat of war is sounding loud, and the rhetoric has gotten rather shrill,” Michael Carpenter, Washington’s consultant on the OSCE, stated after Thursday’s assembly. “At the present time, we’re facing a crisis in European security.”

Finnish optimism meets Estonian pragmatism: Finland gave a much less pessimistic view concerning the state of play in relations with Russia. “I don’t think we are close to war, said Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto in response to a question about Ryabkov’s comments, before adding: “But of course, the tensions are there.” Meanwhile, Estonia’s President Alar Karis referred to as for extra NATO troops.

WHO’S CALLING THE SHOTS? Nonetheless, the bodily and metaphorical distance between the EU protection and overseas ministers assembly on the western coast of France and the actual conferences of substance this week in Geneva, at NATO headquarters in Brussels and in Vienna was obvious.

We had been there too! EU High Representative Josep Borrell was at pains to level out that the U.S. and EU sides are in fixed contact — regardless of the very fact the EU was lacking from the important thing conferences on Russia this week. In his two press conferences in Brest on Thursday, Borrell stated there had been greater than 100 contacts between the 2 sides — “we have been in constant contact.” Putting a courageous face on it, in different phrases.

WILL BRUSSELS SNUFF OUT GAZPROM? EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager on Thursday gave the strongest indication to this point that Moscow’s gas-export monopoly Gazprom risked one other spherical of antitrust motion from Brussels — in remarks that can have been fastidiously watched within the Kremlin.

Vestager gained’t be gaslit: “It is indeed thought-provoking that a company, in view of increasing demand, limits supply,” Vestager instructed reporters. “That is quite rare behavior in the marketplace.” Antitrust investigations are one of many Commission’s sharpest weapons — if Vestager’s group can show Gazprom is abusing its dominant place out there, it will possibly impose wide-ranging treatments and obligations. Read the complete particulars from POLITICO’s Jacopo Barigazzi, America Hernandez and Simon Van Dorpe.

Meanwhile, within the US, Senate Democrats in a single day blocked a Republican-led effort to impose sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. More from our Stateside colleagues.

POROSHENKO IN BRUSSELS: Petro Poroshenko, the previous president of Ukraine, on Thursday insisted the “high treason” fees introduced towards him had been a politically motivated act of revenge being carried by his successor, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Poroshenko, in an interview with POLITICO’s David Herszenhorn, rejected criticism that he was airing his nation’s soiled laundry by visiting Brussels and highlighting home in-fighting on the identical day NATO allies had been linking arms to confront Russia over its army build-up on the Ukrainian border.

Petro non grata: Poroshenko insisted he was conducting “quiet diplomacy” in help of Ukraine, and he complained that some high-level EU conferences, together with with the European Commission and the workplace of European Council President Charles Michel, had been canceled after Brussels Playbook reported on his go to in Wednesday’s publication.


MINISTERS MOVE TOWARD JOINT EXERCISES AND EU BATTLE GROUP: EU international locations are painfully conscious that their protection forces usually are not ready to hold out evacuation missions resembling final yr’s in Afghanistan, not to mention prepared for open battle on European floor — they usually’re now slowly shifting to treatment that. Playbook talked to Austrian Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner after her summit together with her colleagues this week in Brest.

Focusing EU minds: “I imagine that the experiences final yr in Afghanistan, but in addition the present state of affairs at our jap neighborhood has helped focus minds,” Tanner instructed Playbook. “All EU countries agree that we need to increase our operational readiness,” she including, saying ministers “made a lot of progress on the Strategic Compass” throughout their assembly Wednesday and Thursday.

Marching forward: “That’s why we will probably have joint EU military exercises from 2023 onwards,” Tanner stated. “We have additionally made progress on the EU speedy deployment capability,” capable of deploy 5,000 troops to a battle zone to hold out missions resembling evacuations, which is seen as a primary step towards joint protection of the Union. EU leaders are anticipated to log out on the protection bundle — referred to as the Strategic Compass — in March. Once they do, “We will begin instantly engaged on the sensible procedures to make it operational,” overseas affairs chief Borrell instructed reporters Thursday.

COREPER STEALS THE SHOW: Meanwhile, a silent power-grab came about this week between the assorted ambassadorial codecs that meet weekly to organize EU selections. The French presidency has ensured essential safety information will first be mentioned by COREPER ambassadors, earlier than being handed all the way down to the Political and Security Committee (PSC), diplomats inform Playbook. On Wednesday, for instance, COREPER mentioned Libya and Syria, pre-empting a dialogue within the PSC on the identical topics.


MEPs TO ELECT PRESIDENT REMOTELY: The European Parliament will elect its president remotely subsequent Tuesday, amid an Omicron surge, as POLITICO’s Maïa de La Baume studies. That choice removes a symbolic second of the pandemic restoration that had been anticipated as just lately as December, when President David Sassoli determined to carry the upcoming election “in the hemicycle” to respect the “solemn nature” of the management vote.

Tina Turner tests the voting system: Parliament employees on Thursday ran a simulated vote to verify the digital system works — however as a substitute of getting the actual names of candidates for the highest jobs, they voted for pop stars resembling Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga, Ricky Martin, Ed Sheeran, Justin Timberlake and Selena Gomez.

SASSOLI FUNERAL: Meanwhile, senior political figures from throughout the EU can be in Rome at present for Sassoli’s funeral. Among these in attendance can be European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council chief Charles Michel. Sassoli was within the remaining weeks of his tenure as president when he died, and is predicted to be succeeded by Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola subsequent week in Strasbourg.

Now hear this: The POLITICO group displays on Sassoli’s legacy on this week’s EU Confidential podcast.

MAKING POLAND PAY SOON: The EU is making ready to imminently withhold greater than €100 million from Poland to cowl unpaid fines imposed by the European Court of Justice, the EU’s Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders instructed the FT.

RACE FOR THE ITALIAN PRESIDENCY: Italy is quickly approaching a January 24 deadline for its parliament to start voting for a brand new president — however the nation’s political class can’t agree on who that needs to be, writes Hannah Roberts for POLITICO.

SCHOLZ’S VACCINE MANDATE WOES: Germany’s vaccine mandate would possibly by no means see the sunshine of day, Hans von der Burchard studies. Chancellor Olaf Scholz promised Germans that “anyone who orders leadership from me will get it,” however now his first huge initiative because the nation’s chief — to make coronavirus vaccination obligatory — is in bother as a result of he left it to lawmakers to give you their very own concepts and hammer out a compromise, somewhat than danger divisions between the ruling events by placing ahead a authorities proposal.

More bother: Adding to Scholz’s woes, Thomas Mertens, the chairman of Germany’s Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO), on Thursday spoke out towards a vaccination mandate, Hans studies. “This divides society, too much pressure is built up,” Mertens instructed the Stuttgarter Nachrichten newspaper, elevating doubts about whether or not a mandate might be enforced.

BREXIT OOPS: Brexit talks between Maroš Šefčovič and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss bought off to a bumpy begin within the U.Ok. on Thursday when the European commissioner slipped on a step as they gathered for a bunch picture, earlier than shortly regaining his composure. Pun of the day goes to the Evening Standard, which declared Šefčovič had managed to “narrowly avoid landing on his backstop.”

Not so Frosty: There was a lot speak of “breaking the ice,” and Šefčovič and Truss outdid themselves, posting idyllic social media pics of them strolling facet by facet within the English countryside.

POLITICIANS BEHAVING BADLY: Here are 5 methods Boris Johnson’s Partygate scandal might play out, by POLITICO’s Esther Webber … and Paul Dallison considers why cleansing up politics is so arduous to do in his newest Declassified column.


State funeral of the late European Parliament President David Sassoli takes place at midday on the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs in Rome. Watch.

— EU overseas ministers in Brest for a casual assembly. Arrivals from 8 a.m., press convention anticipated 2:30 p.m. Watch.

— Commissioners’ conferences: Ylva Johansson in Berlin, meets with Federal Minister of Interior Nancy Faeser, Minister of the Federal Chancellery Wolfgang Schmidt and State Minister for European Affairs within the Foreign Office Anna Lührmann … Vice President Frans Timmermans is within the Netherlands to obtain an honorary doctorate from the University of Delft; on Saturday attends the International Renewable Energy Agency Assembly in Abu Dhabi … Helena Dalli meets nearly with representatives of the European Women’s Lobby and the Malta Women’s Lobby … Virginijus Sinkevičius meets nearly with new Dutch Agriculture Minister Henk Staghouwer.


BELGIAN COVID BAROMETER COMING: Belgian ministers will meet subsequent week in a consultative committee to develop a long-term technique to handle the pandemic, our colleague Camille Gijs writes in to report. The ministers will focus on the long-promised coronavirus barometer, designed to gauge the seriousness of the disaster. They’re additionally anticipated to speak about obligatory vaccination.

BIRTHDAYS: MEPs Markéta Gregorová, Ignazio Corrao, Dragoş Tudorache, Kosma Złotowski and Attila Ara-Kovács; POLITICO’s George McTaggart; The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser; Writer Toby Harnden.

Celebrating Saturday: MEP Markus Ferber; Former MEPs Michel Dantin, Fernando Ruas, Catherine Trautmann and Daciana Sârbu; Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès; Deputy Permanent Representative of Portugal to the EU Pedro Lourtie; Richard Hudson from Science|Business; Freelance journalist Robert Francis; Former U.S. Ambassador to the EU Stuart E. Eizenstat; European Commission’s Lorena Boix Alonso; Princess Michael of Kent; Former head of communications at IPCC Jonathan Lynn; VICE News’ Sarah Svoboda; Jelena Milić, founding father of the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies Serbia assume tank and POLITICO 28 alum; Amanda Sloat, former Robert Bosch senior fellow within the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings.

Celebrating Sunday: MEPs Tudor Ciuhodaru, Christian Sagartz and Helmut Geuking; European Commission’s João Aguiar Machado; Vice President of the European Central Bank Luis de Guindos; Portuguese diplomat Mónica Lisboa; Global Policy Institute’s Paolo Liebl von Schirach; OLAF’s Margarete Hofmann.

MANY THANKS: David Herszenhorn, Hans von der Burchard, Barbara Moens, Jacopo Barigazzi and our producer Grace Stranger.

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