Brussels Playbook: Reading Scholz — Monti’s warning — Why you’re feeling SAD – POLITICO

WHY YOU’RE FEELING SAD: The Brussels-dwellers amongst us aren’t exaggerating once we complain concerning the grey, heavy, leaden skies that make this metropolis really feel just like the set of a movie noir: Brussels has solely had 28 hours and 4 minutes of daylight thus far this 12 months, in response to the climate service. On that cheery word …


EU WAITING FOR BERLIN’S GO: The row inside Germany’s coalition authorities on whether or not to ship Leopard tanks to Ukraine is spilling out into the open. While Olaf Scholz’s coalition companions, the Greens and Liberals, have been in favor of sending the heavy weapons and have been awaiting a choice since final week, the chancellor and his spokespeople stay cryptic.

Team Tank: A big majority of EU nations is hoping Scholz will quickly determine in favor of tank shipments — although they differ of their strategy on learn how to get there.

Poland … is in search of to construct a coalition of nations to formally request tank shipments in a transparent try to power Scholz’s hand — a method Warsaw claims German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock welcomes. Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau mentioned his German colleague had indicated at a overseas affairs summit in Brussels on Monday “that she is waiting for an application … for the delivery of Leopard 2 tanks. We will submit this application,” Gazeta Wyborcza reported. However, Poland has thus far not lodged an official export request, officers in Berlin level out.

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You will not be alone: There have been indicators in Brussels that many EU pals are involved Scholz would possibly really feel cornered and because of this dig in. Several overseas ministers confused Moscow, not Berlin, was the enemy, and expressed hope Scholz would finally do the appropriate factor if given ample time — and house.

At least it’s not a no: “I just want to say that around the table of the 27 [EU member countries], Germany is not as isolated as you might make it out to be in German media,” Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn mentioned on German TV final night time. “I don’t want to name them, but there are other countries — big countries, border countries — that are hesitating,” he added. “The step [to send battle tanks] has to be taken together.” Asselborn mentioned he was hopeful Scholz would come round, as a result of “he has not yet said yes, but neither has he said no.”

NOT CONTROLLING THE MESSAGE: Scholz and his communications crew have been terribly unwilling to clarify the chancellor’s place — and that’s not simply the impression of the worldwide press. In Germany on Monday night, each public TV channels opened their prime time information packages questioning concerning the chancellor’s indecipherable radio silence.

What they mentioned: “The more others push him in one direction, the more he digs in. That’s one possible interpretation … to explain something, that the chancellor himself unfortunately is barely explaining,” Christian Sievers from ZDF mentioned in his Heute Journal introduction. Caren Miosga from ARD opened Tagesthemen with these phrases: “Only one person knows whether tanks such as this Leopard will help Ukraine defend itself against Russia: Olaf Scholz.”

Interpretations abound. Is Scholz afraid NATO’s Article 5 received’t maintain and the U.S. received’t defend the EU except Washington has additionally despatched tanks? Is he too centered on his inner SPD occasion divisions? (Rolf Mützenich, chairman of the Social-Democrats, warned Monday of the danger of escalation if Germany despatched tanks quite than “defensive weapons.”)

Or is Scholz taking one other leaf out of Angela Merkel’s playbook and practising what medical doctors name “watchful waiting” — holding again till German public opinion shifts extra clearly in favor of Leopard shipments? (Polls present Germans shifting steadily in that route, with the newest exhibiting 46 p.c in favor and 43 p.c opposed).

INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY … is one other fascinating facet of the tank debate that politicians haven’t raised publicly however that could be taking part in a job within the deliberations in Washington, Berlin and Paris.

Consider this: The a whole lot of tanks the West could quickly ship to Ukraine — Asselborn talked about 300 to counter an awaited Russian spring offensive — should ultimately get replaced. But the German protection business might not be quick sufficient to provide ample autos to refill shares for all allies in time.

Offers to exchange these Leopards with American Abrams methods could subsequently not be completely selfless — the U.S. stands to win a dozen new European clients, whereas Germany will get only one: Ukraine.

Adapting isn’t simple: Military consultants level to the price of switching again to Leopards, as soon as EU nations change their coaching, provide chains and upkeep contracts to the Abrams. Markus Richter, a German military officer, warned on Twitter: “You don’t just buy the tanks, but also the whole logistical chain, spare parts, tools and maintenance. I could imagine that it would be easier for these countries to switch to the future Abrams X model,” in the event that they determine to exchange their Leopard shares with Abrams-1 tanks.

France has additionally supplied to exchange Leopards … nevertheless it’s discontinuing manufacturing of its Leclercs, betting as an alternative on a joint Franco-German tank.

FURTHER READING: More on Germany’s coalition rift by POLITICO’s Gabriel Rinaldi and Hans von der Burchard.

ONE REASON UKRAINE NEEDS THOSE TANKS: Kyiv’s forces are taking floor round a strategic metropolis within the jap Luhansk area, a senior U.S. army official mentioned Monday, forward of what’s anticipated to be Ukrainian’s personal counteroffensive to retake territory this spring.

ROAD RUNES: Russia is planning to make it obligatory for anybody leaving the nation by automobile from March 1 to e book a time and place at a border crossing, state-run TASS information company reported in a single day. Could this be an indication the Kremlin plans to stop military-aged males from leaving Russia?


CORRUPTION PROBES: Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov — one of the vital outstanding faces of Kyiv’s protection efforts — in addition to deputy infrastructure minister Vasyl Lozynskiy are below hearth as separate investigations into authorities corruption rocked the nation over the weekend.

Backstory: The allegations referring to Reznikov, which he vigorously denies, concerned purchases of army rations at inflated costs; Lozynskiy, in the meantime, was fired in a case linked to an overpriced public buy {of electrical} mills. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine mentioned it was investigating each issues. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday night time pledged quick motion.

Road to EU is filled with pace bumps: Ukrainian officers have been at pains over the course of the conflict to try to indicate that the nation is pulling collectively and cleansing up its act on corruption in a bid to chart a course towards the EU, so the revelations of two probes into top-level graft have come as a extreme blow. Colleague Veronika Melkozerova has the total particulars.


CONSERVATIVES SWING RIGHT: With the 2024 European election shortly approaching and the Socialists reeling over the Qatargate scandal, the Continent’s mainstream conservatives are plotting to hitch forces with hard-right politicians they hope will assist them maintain onto energy, report my colleagues Nicholas Vinocur and Jacopo Barigazzi.

The stakes: Most of the highest jobs on the EU’s key establishments shall be up for grabs after the election. So the EU’s conservatives — together with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European People’s Party chief Manfred Weber and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola — have been sweet-talking Italy’s new far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

ECR-EPP alliance? The aim for the EPP can be a right-wing tie-up that will have sufficient clout within the Parliament and European Council to weigh on the nomination of prime EU jobs. There’s precedent: An alliance made up of the ECR and EPP is already a actuality in Italy and, to a level, in Sweden. In the Czech Republic too, ECR-affiliated Prime Minister Petr Fiala governs with the assist of two EPP events.

AND SPEAKING OF CZECH POLITICS — BABIŠ SAYS ‘NO’ TO ARTICLE 5: Former Czech prime minister and present presidential candidate Andrej Babiš threw into doubt the Czech Republic’s help to NATO allies in a presidential debate on native TV on Sunday. “No, definitely not. I think we need to talk about peace,” he mentioned after a moderator requested whether or not he would ship troops to Poland or the Baltic nations ought to they be attacked by Russia. (The Czech president is the official commander-in-chief of the nation’s armed forces.)

U-turn: But after the talk, Babis backtracked, tweeting that “he by no means questioned NATO’s collective protection however wouldn’t need to think about a 3rd world conflict taking place.”

Project concern: Babiš will face Petr Pavel, previously a basic and NATO’s highest-ranking army official, within the second spherical of the Czech election on Friday and Saturday — and POLITICO’s Poll of Polls exhibits Pavel with a major lead. Staring down the barrel of defeat, Babiš is in search of to capitalize on concern of conflict and financial crises to swing votes.

Tale as previous as time: “Babiš knows that his electability is almost exhausted. He is trying to get maximum voters by using extreme rhetoric to attract non-voters, radicals and people supporting anti-systemic movements,” political analyst Ladislav Mrklas advised Playbook’s personal Ketrin Jochecová.

**The parliamentary committee for Industry, Research and Energy holds its closing assembly on the Chips Act immediately. Get the inside-outs of the committee’s work and what’s subsequent on the agenda with reference to regulating the semiconductor’s market utilizing POLITICO Pro, request a demo immediately.**


MONTI’S WARNING — DON’T GET ADDICTED TO STATE AID: Former European Competition and Single Market Commissioner Mario Monti has warned that additional enjoyable EU state help guidelines — as France is pushing for — can be a mistake. “It is important that rules come back, perhaps with some marginal variation if there are solid arguments for it. But the longer a drug addiction phase is allowed to last, the more difficult it will then be to deprive the subject of it,” Monti advised our competitors colleague Giorgio Leali in an interview.

Message to Breton — single market is at risk: “There is no point in keeping the single market free of anti-competitive encrustations by firms — such as cartels, abuses of dominant positions, anti-competitive mergers — if countries can then distort that single market,” the EU veteran mentioned. Brussels hasn’t proposed any main initiatives that will give the Commission extra energy because the guardian of the only market, Monti argued: “It doesn’t seem to be this caught the eye of the present inner market commissioner” — one Thierry Breton.

Transatlantic pitch: Monti, who has additionally served as Italy’s prime minister, mentioned Brussels and Washington ought to talk about widespread guidelines on state help as an alternative of participating in a subsidy race. Those talks might occur, as an illustration, within the framework of the Trade and Tech Council, Monti recommended. Read the interview in full.

CONTE IN TOWN: Meanwhile, one other former Italian prime minister is on the town immediately: 5Star Movement chief Giuseppe Conte will this afternoon meet along with his previous good friend, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her Jobs Commissioner Nicolas Schmit.

On the agenda: Conte’s assembly with Schmit will deal with a common revenue and the minimal wage — two flagship insurance policies of the M5S, which have been trashed by present PM Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing authorities. In his bilateral with von der Leyen, Conte will set out his views on the EU’s response to the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, the reform of the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact and Russia’s conflict in Ukraine, a celebration spokesperson advised POLITICO’s Gregorio Sorgi.

Putting on a present: The Commission dubbed these engagements nothing greater than “normal courtesy meetings” with a former head of presidency — however Conte is eager to make his presence recognized and can maintain a press level round 6 p.m.


TOP READ — FOLLOWING THE DARK MONEY: The Court of Justice of the EU’s current determination that struck down the 2015 anti-money-laundering regulation, which mandated all European nations arrange public databases on who actually owns corporations, opens the EU’s floodgates to darkish cash, argue Julia Wallace and Ilya Lozovsky from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project on this opinion piece for POLITICO.

Here’s a style of the op-ed: “High within the Austrian Alps sits the ultra-luxe Hotel Tannenhof. Staying in considered one of its seven suites — the most costly going for $6,000 an evening — has been described ‘as in case your closest billionaire good friend determined to create a fabulously luxurious and but private Alpine retreat.’ Until final summer time, nevertheless, there was no means of proving that this unique resort was tied to VTB — a state-controlled Russian financial institution that’s been dubbed President Vladimir Putin’s ‘piggy financial institution.’”

SWEDISH PRESIDENCY OFF TO A DICEY START AS PM GRILLED OVER EEL: Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson is in sizzling water over a political scandal involving unlawful eel fishing. Police caught Kristersson’s shut aide, Peter Magnus Nilsson, illegally fishing for endangered European eel with out the proper allow after which mendacity about it again in 2021. Now, the PM has admitted to realizing concerning the incident earlier than hiring Nilsson. The opposition Social Democrats have referred to as for Nilsson to resign. A parliamentary committee will now evaluation the case. The BBC has extra.

SWEDISH NATO BID ALSO LOOKING DICEY: Stockholm mustn’t count on Ankara’s assist for its NATO membership bid, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan mentioned Monday following tensions over anti-Islam protests over the weekend.

BAD INFLUENCE: The majority of French influencers fall foul of the nation’s shopper safety and promoting legal guidelines, in response to the nation’s Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control. Laura Kayali has extra.


— NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg meets with German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius in Berlin. Press statements at 9:15 a.m. Watch.

— Belgium’s King Philippe holds viewers with numerous EU politicians, then hosts New Year reception at 10:30 a.m. Expected to attend: Parliament President Roberta Metsola, Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and Commissioners Margrethe Vestager, Margaritis Schinas, Johannes Hahn, Dubravka Šuica, Nicolas Schmit, Janusz Wojciechowski, Kadri Simson, Virginijus Sinkevičius.

fifteenth Space Conference in Brussels; welcome addresses by EU High Representative Josep Borrell and Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton at 9 a.m. Watch.

— Western Balkans Conference, “Italy and Western Balkans: growth and integration” in Trieste, Italy. Neighborhood Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi and Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani ship addresses at 9:30 a.m. Watch.

— Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis and Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni at convention “Croatia, the 20th Member of the Euro Area” in Zagreb. Watch.

— Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson and EU Returns Coordinator Mari Juritsch maintain press level 1:15 p.m. Watch.

— Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius holds press convention on presentation of the revised EU Pollinators Initiative at 2 p.m. Watch.

— European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs holds change of views with International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi (4:30 p.m.). Press level at 5:30 p.m. Watch.

— European Council President Charles Michel attends summit of CELAC heads of state and authorities in Buenos Aires. Speech at 8:15 p.m. Watch.

— Commission President Ursula von der Leyen receives Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte; former Prime Minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte.

Roberta Metsola meets U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed at 9 a.m.

— Commission Vice President Věra Jourová, Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders and Budget and Administration chief Johannes Hahn obtain Minister of Justice of Hungary Judit Varga.

European Economic and Social Committee 575th Plenary session begins 3 p.m. Watch. Agenda.


NEW JOB: Gidon Feen is the brand new head of public affairs and regulatory technique, EMEA at Polymateria, having beforehand labored in Washington as chief of employees of SAFE Commanding Heights. 

PLAYBOOK MEA CULPA: In Friday’s Playbook, we incorrectly said that Riccardo Guariglia has beforehand served as Cabinet chief of former FMs Federica Mogherini, Paolo Gentiloni and Luigi Di Maio. Guariglia was the Cabinet chief of former FM Enzo Moavero Milanesi. Apologies for the error!

BIRTHDAYS: MEP Evelyn Regner; Former European Commissioner Violeta Bulc; Former MEP Neoklis Sylikiotis; Renew Europe’s Daniel Tanahatoe; Maria Elena Boschi, member of the Italian chamber of deputies and POLITICO 28 alum; Moon Jae-in, former president of South Korea.

PLAYBOOK COULDN’T HAPPEN WITHOUT: Playbook reporter Ketrin Jochecová and our producer Grace Stranger.

THANKS to Hans von der Burchard, Gregorio Sorgi, Giorgio Leali.

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