POLITICO Brussels Playbook, presented by Iberdrola: Renzi quits over No — Austria goes Green
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ITALY — NO WINS, RENZI QUITS, GOVERNMENT FUTURE UNCERTAIN…
The No campaign against constitutional reforms won close to 60 percent of the vote and 17 of 20 regions; turnout was about 68 percent. POLITICO has the full details; also of note, La Stampa’s live blog.
What eurozone crisis? There’s a great deal of talk about a fresh eurozone crisis (“Europe in turmoil as Italian PM is defeated,” writes the Times of London), but it is, at least for now, all talk. It’s nearly impossible for a solvent country to leave the euro, and the number of savers with more than €100,000 in fragile banks is very small indeed. While the euro dipped (before rallying) to $1.05 when No emerged victorious, it borders on voodoo-economics to equate small currency movements with fundamental economic strength or weakness.
Reality check: Italians voted to reject change. Leaving the eurozone is the biggest change imaginable and wasn’t on the ballot. Renzi’s resignation is no earthquake: Italy will have its 65th government since 1945 — it’ll likely manage. Not that the future looks pretty: The country’s inability to reform and move forward has seen it grow at an average of just 0.6 percent each year since 1960.
Analysis from Stefano Stefanini: The former diplomat and current La Stampa columnist advises Playbook readers that while Europe is concerned about Italy this morning, Italy is anxious about the post-Renzi government, not the euro. In the medium term, Italy now joins France at the top of the list of 2017 electoral worries. That doesn’t leave Angela Merkel in the clear: she’ll be called upon to help save the EU by helping to save Italy’s political center.
The options now Renzi has quit — 3 scenarios emerge. 1) The Italian president asks Renzi to reshuffle and form a new government. 2) A caretaker government, possibly led by Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan, is installed. 3) Mainstream parties race to undo a new electoral law, which rewards parties that win more than 40 percent of the vote with a parliamentary majority, out of fear the populist 5Star movement will win snap elections.
The true winner is Donald Trump: Jacopo Barigazzi highlighted the Trump-ed politics of the Italian referendum campaign. “Anywhere you look these past few months, there’s rhetoric that claims to reject politics, the propagation of fake stories (bufala in Italian) and the wide airing of insults.”
**A message from Iberdrola: In Marrakech last month, European member states acknowledged the importance of technology to fight climate change, and the European Commission announced €12 million to scale-up its support for technology to help countries achieve their commitments under the Paris agreement. Technology can be used in a smarter way to make the transition to a low-carbon economy a reality. Learn more.**
REMINDER — EUROGROUP TODAY, BUDGETS AND GREECE TOP THE BILL: It will be a fun meeting for the Italian finance minister, if he hasn’t been installed as Italy’s caretaker prime minister, that is.
As for the official meeting agenda, European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici has called for a Europe-wide fiscal stimulus, while the Greek government spokesperson is trading off political uncertainty from Italy to France to say “comprehensive and permanent” debt relief is needed. Pre-empting that line of attack, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble ruled out any debt relief for Greece, telling Bild am Sonntag: “Athens must finally implement the needed reforms … in fact completely regardless of the debt level,” or face being thrown out of the euro. POLITICO’s preview here.
AUSTRIA — FAR-RIGHT TRUMPED FOR PRESIDENT BY INDEPENDENT GREEN …
Independent Green Alexander Van der Bellen has a comfortable lead against the far-right candidate Norbert Hofer in the re-run of Austria’s presidential election. His lead is expected to grow today with the counting of absentee ballots. Here’s a profile of Van der Bellen by The Local. The top quote: “I have made my way from being an arrogant anti-capitalist to a generous left liberal.” AP live blog.
The election win came after a last-minute reversal of fortunes, wrote FAZ.
Martin Schulz said Van der Bellen’s victory “is a heavy defeat of nationalism and anti-European, backward-looking populism.” Donald Tusk dashed off a congratulations letter in record time.
Is Hofer a neo-Nazi or the great Right hope? You decide, with the Mirror’s help.
MEET MELD, THE NON-EXISTENT EUROPEAN PARTY THAT’S A WELL OF FRAUD: The Polish edition of Newsweek and the Danish paper Ekstra Bladet have unearthed a new layer of evidence of fraud by the minor right-wing European political party MELD (Movement for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy).
Head of Polish public broadcaster and right-wing senator implicated in EU fraud: Jacek Włosowicz (a senator for the ruling Law and Justice party) and Jacek Kurski (head of broadcaster TVP), the two outlets report, transferred MELD funds to their friends in Poland, who funneled the money to Solidarna Polska, now one of the ruling Polish coalition parties.
“MELD paid for a climate conference for 800 people to be organized in Poland. The document states a precise date and place: Kraków, 30th of June 2013. There’s just one problem: no climate conference took place in Kraków on that day.” Nor did 10,000 pens get made for €11,500, and an unemployed student didn’t donate €10,000 to the party. They were merely other fronts for laundering EU funds into the hands of the Polish party, according to this story. Read the English translation, provided for Playbook readers by Newsweek Poland.
ALDE CONGRESS WRAP-UP … (See Tuesday Playbook for a Greens congress wrap)
Check out the new Liberal logo. It’s magenta, not pink. Don’t get it wrong!
2019 election goal: Win more than 100 seats in the European Parliament by breaking out of northern Europe heartlands.
Liberals have a new poster child: Poland’s Ryszard Petru. He’s telegenic and a hardline, pro-EU economic liberal. Read Playbook’s profile.
Top commissioner speeches: Margrethe Vestager sounded less a competition technocrat and very much more like her former deputy prime minister self, in a speech emphasizing “values-based” policies. She argued: “As long as peace is a responsibility of humans, it is not a given thing. It is something that we have to work for each and every day.” Cecilia Malmström was bullish on trade, saying she’d “fill the gap” left by Trump in world trade circles, and sending this message to the U.S. president-elect: “We do good deals in Europe.”
The ex-files: Taavi Rõivas, Estonia’s recently deposed prime minister, was full of energy, occasionally lamenting that it was other politicians, not voters, who rejected him.
Anti-populist strategy: Dutch MEP Sophie In ‘t Veld was caustic about those wanting to loosen Europe’s bonds. “When people are worried about losing their identity, you don’t solve it by losing a few directives.”
Xavier Bettel’s definition of liberalism is “giving complicated answers to the simplest questions. Populism is giving simplistic answers to the most complex questions.”
IMF CATCH-UP READ — LAGARDE’S BLOOMBERG INTERVIEW: John Micklethwait talked with IMF Director Christine Lagarde about global trade, the Italian referendum, the need for structural reforms in France and women’s rights.
PARLIAMENT — CAMPAIGNING WITH SWEETS: Candidate for European Parliament president Mairead McGuinness has some plum jam for you.
Green bonds: First issued in 2007, these bonds have experienced rising popularity. Global issues of green bonds amounted to $74.3 billion so far in 2016, up from $41.8 billion in 2015, and just $2.6 billion in 2012. The European Commission says €177 billion is needed annually from 2021 onwards to reach the 2030 climate and energy goals.
No deal on trade deals: Yesterday the 18 World Trade Organization members working to scrap tariffs on environmentally friendly goods left Geneva without an agreement (link for Trade Pro subscribers).
A new ‘European vocational skills week.’ The campaign starts today, part of a wider movement to boost skills outside the university system, and includes six unusually cool — this is the EU — ambassadors. There’s wedding planner extraordinaire Enzo Miccio (a TV star in Italy), the fabulously named Boudoir Sisters from Croatia (fashion designers) and Gun-Britt Zeller (a hairdresser). Full list here.
WHAT FINNS ARE TALKING ABOUT — POLITICIAN AND JOURNALISTS SHOT DEAD: One of the victims, Tiina Wilén-Jäppinen, was chairwoman of Imatra city council, while the other two were journalists, police said, adding that it appeared they had been selected at random.
FRANCE — THE POST-HOLLANDE VACUUM …
Fillon’s Russophilia heads for a reality check. Pierre Briançon writes, “At best, Fillon’s utterances on foreign policy have sounded like a throwback to France’s Gaullist 1960s tradition of trying to maintain a balance between the alliance with the United States, friendly relations with Russia and forging a foreign policy strictly based on French interests … At worst, seeing Fillon quoting straight from the Putin playbook reinforced the view of critics who say he is too close to large segments of the conservative French electorate who traditionally tend to have a mystic vision of modern Russia.”
A divided left: The president is out of the way, but the French Left is just as divided.
Moscovici on Hollande: The European commissioner and campaign director of François Hollande’s successful 2012 presidential run was profiled by Libération. Key quote: “Hollande has a European DNA but he never affirmed it. He was too tactical.”
HUNGARY-ROMANIA DISPUTE REVIVED: A Hungarian snub of Romania’s National Day has breathed new life into an old dispute, reports Balkan Insight.
BULGARIA — NEW ELECTIONS COMING SOON: Bulgarians could be heading to the polls early spring for parliamentary elections after outgoing Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on Friday refused to form a government.
UZBEKISTAN VOTES FOR NEW PRESIDENT: Shivkat Mirziyoyev, the former prime minister and successor to deceased longtime leader Islam Karimov, is expected to win official mandate.
NEW ZEALAND PM JOHN KEY HAS RESIGNED, citing the strain his job had placed on his family. He is expected to be replaced by Bill English.
BREXIT — GUESS WHO’S NOT COMING TO DINNER? Theresa May won’t join the EU’s 27 other heads of state at their “informal working dinner” following the last European Council of the year on December 15.
Council President Donald Tusk is attempting to condense the usual two-day summit format into one day, with the meeting due to start before lunchtime and to be wrapped up at 6:30 p.m. A Christmas gift to ambassadors and reporters?
LONG READ — THE FOREIGN POLICY OF THE NATIONAL FRONT: A progressive view by Pervenche Berès, Jean-Yves Camus, Alexis Lacroix.
US 2016 …
THE BIG RECAP: Catch up on what the campaigns thought about the election in their bare-knuckle post-match brawl at Harvard. POLITICO summary … Audio of all of this year’s sessions, which have been taking place every four years since 1972.
TRUMP’S EUROPEAN FIXER LIVES DOWNSTAIRS: Guido Lombardi is the American president-elect’s neighbor, a Facebook organizer and his self-professed contact to Europe’s far-right parties.
BRUSSELS CORNER …
APPOINTED: Pablo García-Berdoy, the Spanish ambassador in Berlin, is the new permanent representative to the EU, replacing Alfonso Dastis, who has been named Spain’s foreign minister.
SEND HIM TO THE ARCTIC! BEUC’s Kostas Rossoglou is competing for a spot in Fjällräven Polar, a 300-kilometer winter adventure across the Arctic tundra. The participants will steer a dogsled all the way from Signaldalen, Norway, to the forests around Jukkasjärvi, Swedish Lappland, in April 2017. Participants are chosen via online vote. Rossoglou’s pitch: “Until six years ago I was a fat lazy heavy smoker, and I am now running marathons. Also being Greek, it will be ‘fun’ to survive in the Arctic.” Click here to vote.
WHERE REFUGEES CAN COME HOME: A lot of things work in Mechelen, just outside of Brussels, including refugee integration. Charlotte Macdonald Gibson reports in the New York Times.
COFFEE TIP: Fika (Rue de la Paix 17), a Swedish-style cafe. “The filter coffee is some of the best you’ll find in town, and there is always an assortment of Swedish pastries. Absolutely worth a visit!” h/t Mike Littlehale.
RESTAURANT TIP: Palo Alto, “Pasta & GTs! It’s run by a Spanish and Italian couple,” reports Playbook reader Monica Rivas Smits.
BIRTHDAYS: POLITICO Europe’s managing editor Stephen Brown; Eva Joly MEP; Ismail Ertug MEP; Manuel dos Santos MEP.
BELATED BIRTHDAY WISHES: Tjade Stroband celebrated Saturday, as did Google’s Sara Elnusairi, the Local’s James Savage; and POLITICO alum Meg Hilling. END FGM’s Natalie Kontoulis and POLITICO alum Christina McSween celebrated Friday.
PLAYBOOK COULDN’T HAPPEN WITHOUT Harry Cooper, Quentin Ariès and Zoya Sheftalovich.
THANKS to Stefano Stefanini.
**A message from Iberdrola: Iberdrola is committed to achieving what was promised in Paris. To do that, we need the right investment signals to attract more renewable energy and use technology in a smarter way. In 2001, we set out a vision, which recognized that the world needs more energy and it needs it to be cleaner and more sustainable. As number one wind energy producer among European utilities, Iberdrola has been leading the way in renewables since. We are now one of the largest European energy utilities by market capitalization, with a presence on both sides of the Atlantic. We produce and provide clean energy to over 100 million people around the world, with 66 percent of our installed capacity emissions-free. Learn more about our commitment to clean and affordable energy here.**