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Politico Europe – April 12, 2018

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Call for an
end to job
The practice has
damaged the EU’s
credibility, MEPs
claim. PAGE 5
APRIL 12-18, 2018
the world’s
top tech
plagues EU
body meant
to fight it
His zeal for digital privacy
is shaping worldwide
data protection efforts
Multiple complaints show
difficulty of putting ‘zero
tolerance’ into practice
As tech companies across the globe
scramble to adapt to the EU’s new
digital privacy law, they have one person they should thank. The regulation is the brainchild of one of the
most controversial officials in Brussels: the European Commission’s recently appointed secretary-general,
Martin Selmayr.
When the General Data Protection
Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect
on May 25, it will be the most radical update of privacy protections in
more than a generation. Companies
will have to allow EU consumers to
migrate their information to rival services or withdraw their data at any
time. They will also have to alert privacy authorities within three days if
their data is hacked. Failure to comply could result in fines of €20 million or 4 percent of global revenue,
whichever is higher.
The impact will be global, as companies craft their policies to avoid
being shut out of a market of 500
million rich consumers. Already,
Facebook has announced it intends
to apply the EU’s standards across
the globe.
Experts agree the law will impact
the global digital landscape for decades to come. The Harvard Business
Review has called it a “radical” law for
its impact on any company across the
world that handles European users’
data. That’s the kind version. “People
thought we were loony,” admits one
EU official involved in drafting the
law, for proposing to replace the puny
fines once applied to data breaches
with multibillion-euro wallops.
While the European Commission
claims GDPR could boost business activity across the EU by €2.3 billion
per year, Goldman Sachs predicts it
could slash more than that off Facebook’s annual revenue alone. Selmayr
himself insists the new privacy rules
A F R I C A’ S
Sexual harassment was the last thing
Emma expected to experience while
working for an EU institution dedicated to gender equality.
And yet, it started on her very
first day.
She had just begun a traineeship,
and found it strange that her supervisor insisted on accompanying her
to run errands. Over the following
weeks, he asked her to lunch and dinner, invited her on a road trip, and
kept inquiring about her sleeping arrangements, always with a smile she
registered as flirty, bordering on malicious: “How was the bed?”
She always answered professionally, according to a formal complaint
she filed later, and tried to change
the subject.
One night about two months in, he
started to get drunk at a work dinner,
she said in her complaint, and “lost
any kind of filter” when colleagues
moved to a bar. He flirted with her
explicitly, in front of two other managers, and asked if she was a lesbian.
When she was with another female
trainee, he asked if they both were.
As soon as the other trainee left,
he “begged” her to walk him home.
She refused, and as she walked away
at 3:30 a.m. down a dark street in Vilnius, Lithuania, she heard him calling
after her: “Are you refusing me? Are
you refusing me?”
Such persistent sexual harassment
would be uncomfortable anywhere,
but Emma (who asked to be identified by a pseudonym) didn’t work just
anywhere: Her employer was the European Institute for Gender Equality
(EIGE), an EU body charged with promoting equality between the sexes
across the Continent.
Emma’s case, filed in 2014, is not
the only one of its kind at the agency.
A POLITICO investigation found that
European multinationals are aggressively
pursuing one of milk’s few growth markets,
where locals say they can’t compete
‘Get ready,’ Russia;
missiles are coming
The U.S. president fired off an earlymorning missive seemingly setting up
a second missile strike on Syria. PAGE 5
European milk is pouring into Africa, with disastrous effects for local herders and farmers.
Multibillion-euro dairy multinationals are
exploiting rock-bottom European milk prices
to expand aggressively into West Africa. Over
five years, they have nearly tripled their exports to the region, shipping milk powder
produced by heavily subsidized European
farmers to be transformed into liquid milk
for the region’s booming middle class.
This milk rush is ratcheting up long-standSEE MILK ON PAGE 23
Populist playbook:
Lessons for Trump
Viktor Orbán leveraged Hungary’s deep
cultural divide into a landslide victory. It’s
possible Trump will do the same. PAGE 21
ISSN 2406-5250
APRIL 12, 2018
to the dead-tree
version of EU
Confidential, the
No. 1 EU news and
politics podcast.
Your guide to the
good, the bad
and the absurd in
European politics.
Talk of the town
Albrecht looks for
a transformation
Fishy formula: Is there anything Miriam
Gonzalez Durantez can’t do? The former
Brussels denizen, high-powered polyglot
lawyer and ex-second lady of Britain,
runs a food blog (there’s already a recipe
book) with her two sons. A recent entry
serves up Brexit realness with a pinch of
love: “This week we saw the Brexiteers
throwing haddock into the river Thames,
a sin worthy of ex-communication to any
Spaniard. Most of the fish from U.K. waters
is actually sold to Europeans, so when
Brexit kicks in the Brexiteers are going to
have a hell of a lot of fish to eat. Since deep
down I am a good girl (very-very-extremely
deep down as far as Brexiteers are
concerned), I thought I would give them a
fish recipe so that they can start practising.”
Know your audience: The Dutch Friesland
province will after only one week remove
a new road. Yes, indeed. The road comes
complete with a service that plays the
Frisian anthem to drivers, thanks to
carefully placed ribbing in the asphalt.
Dutch public broadcaster NOS reported
the road was meant to reward drivers who
stick to the speed limit with a tune, but
residents complained the noise was akin to
“mental torture.”
Digi day divide: The European
Commission this week held a digital day.
They were very pleased to show off 25
countries supporting cooperation on
artificial intelligence. The audience was less
excited about 13 of them feeling the need
to debate the idea together on the same
Third time lucky: POLITICO won the
Brussels Bubble Football Cup on our
third attempt Monday evening, defeating
defending champion H+K Strategies in the
final by 5 goals to 1. FleishmanHillard were
very lucky to win third place: The biggest
consultancy in town showed up with only
two players and had to rely on other teams
offering them substitutes to make it on the
We spy ...
Ryan Heath
Steering the world’s most radical privacy legislation through the
European Parliament would be the
career peak of most 30-year-olds.
After plenty of lost sleep on that
file, MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht, now
35, has a new dream job: minister
for digitization, agriculture, energy
and the environment in the northern German state of SchleswigHolstein.
For Albrecht, the new role is a
chance to transform not only his
own career and image, but the way
governments treat his respective
He told EU Confidential that having each government department
deal with digitization in its own
haphazard way is “completely the
wrong approach” and that instead
“we need to bring horizontal competencies together.”
“With this new ministry, everything is in one house, so I can actually do that. I can bring together
farmers with those working on
robotics, or energy producers with
those working on data protection.”
“Especially in the field of energy
and agriculture, there is a lot of
new developments that will completely change the way we produce
agriculture, food and energy and
how we live together. For a Green,
all of these issues are very important, but for someone who is also
into digitization it’s also a huge
transformation happening and
bringing that all together is somehow a dream job.”
Albrecht isn’t planning on dis-
Listen to the podcast
appearing from the EU scene: not
when there’s a German commissioner drafting the next long-term
EU budget, or a European Parliament election in 2019 that demands awareness-raising.
“One of the ideas which I had after nine years now in the European
Parliament is that people, especially young politicians, they need
to go with the European mind and
knowledge into national governments. And here of course it’s one
of the 16 German states. I would
certainly like to bring forward a
change in agriculture financing in
the MFF; that is one of the big angles where we can have an impact
on, together with others in Europe.
And I’d really like to change the
way we talk and debate about the
national impact on EU policy. Because I’m really almost a little bit
fed up by national governments
not talking about their role on the
EU level.”
While he’s proud of his work
stopping ACTA, the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement, and establishing the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, Albrecht remains
most proud of the EU’s General
Data Protection Legislation (GDPR)
as the countdown begins to its
implementation on May 25.
“In a democracy it’s almost
impossible to create something
perfect, but I would say that we are
very near to it. This piece of legislation will in the future turn out to
be better than many people think
right now,” Albrecht said.
Coyote ugly: Les Aviateurs, a bar in Strasbourg notorious
as a place where MEPs and their staff go to play while away
from home, has a new Tuesday theme night. The text
claims the idea behind the evening is “women take control.”
We’ll let you be the judge of that based on the promotional
poster for the evening, at right.
Concerns have been signaled since 2011 about media freedom and diversity in Hungary. This
week, with the Lajos Simicska-owned Magyar Nemzet being shut down, all of Hungary’s daily
print newspapers are now either under government control or have informal agreements
on content with Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz government. Lanchid Radio, also owned by the antiFidesz Simicska, will cease operations from this week. Hungary’s chief rabbi also resigned and
Budapest’s Central European University is opening a branch in Vienna.
Separated at birth
“Saturday Night Live” cast member Kate McKinnon and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė.
New episode every Friday | Soundcloud: | Apple devices: Search podcasts for EU Confidential
While a clear glass ceiling persists in gender balance, be it in political powerhouses or corporate
boardrooms, Europe is long overdue for its very own Women Rule Community to foster
new discussions on women’s leadership, accomplishments and challenges. Join us for the first
Women Rule Summit in Brussels on June 21. This full day event will inform, empower and
connect women – and men – through inspirational interviews, thought-provoking debates,
unique networking opportunities, and will dive into questions such as:
„How do women calling the shots view the challenges facing our world today?
„What difference, if any, do women make when they are at the table?
„What is the role of government leveling the playing field?
„Male Leadership: how can men in power engage gender equality?
„How can we foster women’s empowerment in energy, tech, finance and law?
For sponsorship opportunities, please contact
Thursday: EU
Energy Summit
conference at the
Egmont Palace
in Brussels, with
speeches by
Miguel Arias
and Karmenu
Monday: EU
Foreign Affairs
Council meets in
Monday to
plenary session in
APRIL 12, 2018
tightens rules
on political ads
Criteria for
picking the
next president
Campaigners, take note: Facebook
is making a number of moves in
the election space, hot on the heels
of the Cambridge Analytica scandal
and the congressional grilling CEO
Mark Zuckerberg faced this week
in Washington. The social network
will soon require verified identities for political ads, Zuckerberg
announced in — you guessed it —
a Facebook post. Facebook also
unveiled a new tool — funded by a
group of foundations — to help academics study the impact of social
media on elections. “Our teams
have made good progress since
then. By working with the academic community, we can help people
better understand the broader impact of social media on democracy
— as well as improve our work to
protect the integrity of elections,”
Facebook said.
The criteria for the most important
new hire in Brussels have been set
out. The European People’s Party
has settled on the selection process
for its Spitzenkadidat — its nominee
for the post of European Commission president. As the EPP is widely
expected to come first in next year’s
European Parliament election, its
candidate will be in pole position to
take over at the Berlaymont. “Only
presidents and secretaries-general
of ordinary member parties are entitled to nominate and/or endorse
a candidate,” according to internal
EPP documents seen by POLITICO. Curiously, the plan would exclude Lithuanian President Dalia
Grybauskaitė because her party is
not an “ordinary member” of the
EPP. Candidates also need the backing of their prime minister and two
other EPP party members.
In front of the European Parliament in Brussels, a man walks past a wall of waste
recovered from an uninhabited island near Hawaii, as part of the Ocean Plastics Lab
exhibition “Science vs. Plastic waste.” STEPHANIE LECOCQ/EPA
POLITICO is committed to correcting errors that appear in its print edition. To contact the newsroom
regarding a correction request, please email or call (+32) 02 540 9090.
— Ryan Heath
Career track
PEOPLE POWER: Gareth Gregan has
joined the European People’s Party press
team, and Hela Slim is now a campaign
Assistant at the EPP.
HEARTY ADVOCATE: Florence Berteletti
has stepped down as director of Smoke Free
Partnership to become the World Heart
Federation’s advocacy director. Anca Toma
Friedlander will serve as SFP acting director.
is now working as an information specialist
in security and defense and Russia at the
European Parliament.
moved up to senior director and Zachary
Burnside to senior consultant at FTI
is now an adviser on the European space
sector at Capgemini.
STRATEGIC MOVE: Ben Krasa has joined
EU Strategy as public affairs manager.
PROMOTED: Emmanouil Patavos has
GOING DIGITAL: Marc du Moulin has
joined Europe Analytica’s digital team as a
copyright expert. Nathan Stewart now leads
client communications strategies.
John F. Harris
Matthew Kaminski
Sheherazade Semsar-de Boisséson
Stephen Brown
Kate Day
Nirvi Shah
Florian Eder
Tim Ball
Stephan Faris
SENIOR POLICY EDITOR.................................................................JAN CIENSKI
PRODUCTION EDITOR ....................................................... JEANETTE MINNS
SLOT NEWS EDITOR ................................................................ PAUL DALLISON
SENIOR POLICY EDITOR................................................. CHRISTIAN OLIVER
NEWS EDITOR............................................................................... ANDREW GRAY
NEWS EDITOR....................................................................JAMES RANDERSON
NEWS EDITOR/FINANCIAL SERVICES ................................. CHARLES LEE
NEWS EDITOR/TECHNOLOGY .................................NICHOLAS VINOCUR
Guillaume Blandet
Johannes Boege
Dari Gessner
(+32) 02 540 9068
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APRIL 12, 2018
MEPs call for end to Parliament job stitch-ups
The practice has
‘seriously damaged the
credibility of the EU,’
lawmakers claim
A group of MEPs are calling on EU
institutions to stop parachuting handpicked appointees into top jobs. The
move follows the controversial appointment of Martin Selmayr to a
top Commission post and claims of
similar practices at the European
Socialists Georgi Pirinski from
Bulgaria and Inés Ayala Sender from
Spain have tabled amendments to a
draft resolution on Selmayr’s flash
promotion to secretary-general of the
European Commission. The aim is to
bolster the Parliament’s response to
the practice across EU institutions.
Selmayr’s surprise appointment
last month was criticised by MEPs
from across the political spectrum,
who say it bent recruitment rules to
the breaking point. MEPs are also unhappy about how senior administra-
The president also scolds Russia for
being allies with a ‘Gas Killing Animal’
tive roles in the European Parliament
are filled.
Last month, POLITICO reported that a group of hand-picked individuals have been pre-ordained for
nine director-level positions (with salaries of at least €14,000 a month) in
the Parliament’s civil service, even
before a recruitment process has
taken place.
Ayala’s amendment claims that
parachuting staff has “seriously
damaged the credibility of the EU”
and “negatively affects the career
development of staff based on their
professional capacities and job per-
formance.” The resolution will be submitted to a vote on Monday in the
Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee and in plenary on Wednesday.
But some staff and MEPs have gone
further, calling on the Parliament to
withdraw these director-level appointments to show its willingness
to change internal practices. They argue that the process is tainted and
the favored candidates are being engineered into the roles for political
reasons rather than on merit.
The Parliament’s staff committee
U.S. response to the chemical attack.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded quickly Wednesday, according
to the Associated Press, writing on
Facebook that a missile strike like
the one Trump said is coming would
destroy any evidence of a chemical
weapon attack.
A retaliatory strike against Syria
would be the second of Trump’s administration. A reported use of chemical weapons last year by Assad’s regime was met with 59 Tomahawk
cruise missiles launched at the Syrian airfield where that chemical attack was believed to have originated,
although the effectiveness of that U.S.
strike was called into question when
aircraft began using the airfield again
soon after the U.S. missiles stopped.
The Syrian government has denied
responsibility for the chemical weapons attack and Russia, its close ally,
blocked a United Nations Security
Council resolution Tuesday that called
President Donald Trump declared on
Twitter on Wednesday that he intends
to launch missiles against the Syrian
regime of Bashar al-Assad, warning
Russia that the strike will come even
though Moscow has threatened to
shoot down any American missiles
launched at the war-torn country.
“Russia vows to shoot down any
and all missiles fired at Syria. Get
ready Russia, because they will be
coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’”
Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday
morning. “You shouldn’t be partners
with a Gas Killing Animal who kills
his people and enjoys it!”
Trump said earlier this week that
the U.S. has “a lot of options militarily” to respond to what has been
identified as a chemical weapons
attack in the suburbs of Damascus
by Assad’s government. The White
House announced Tuesday that
Trump would not make a planned
trip to South America at the end of
this week so that he can coordinate a
U.S. President
Donald Trump
warned Moscow
that a strike on
Syria — a regime
backed by the
Kremlin — is
APRIL 12, 2018
“When a
like ‘I was
one of
two things
They say
she kind of
asked for it,
or they say
she was
to me.”
“Emma,” who
asked to be
identified by
a pseudonym,
on filing a
claim when she
was a trainee
formal sexual harassment complaints
were made against three male staff
at the Vilnius-based organization that
year. Two were upheld and resulted
in departures from the agency. The
man accused in the third case was
found to have misused work time to
try to pursue a colleague.
EIGE has had a policy of “zero tolerance” of sexual harassment since
2012, and is leading an effort to put
such a policy in place across EU agencies.
But an examination of how the
agency handled the crisis in its own
ranks — based on interviews with
14 former and current employees
— shows how difficult it is to follow
such a policy in practice, even in an
organization dedicated to promoting
gender equality.
The three formal cases, which have
not previously been made public,
are not the only instances of concern about sexual harassment at
the agency.
A female employee told a human
resources officer in 2012 that she had
witnessed and experienced sexual harassment there.
In a 2014 survey, 54 percent of staff
said they did not agree that reports
of inappropriate behavior would be
taken seriously by the agency. And an
audit of the agency’s gender equality
record the following year — which the
institute declined to release but POLITICO obtained from another source
— found that the issue of sexual harassment was “a source of animosity
and discomfort among staff.”
In short, Europe’s gender equality
agency had a sexual harassment problem. But the nature of the problem
was and remains bitterly disputed.
Multiple female employees allege that male colleagues routinely
engaged in sexist behavior. The accused men angrily rejected the allegations and claimed they came from
colleagues who were overly sensitive
to gender issues.
According to the institute’s director, Virginija Langbakk, the institute
went beyond its legal obligation to
handle each complaint. And yet no
one — not the victims, the accused or
even other employees in the agency
— was satisfied with the process.
2006, gender equality experts flocked
there with high expectations. “When
the institute called me I dropped everything,” said Kristaps Petermanis,
one such expert. “It was the EU citadel.”
But not all the 50 or so positions
there were for gender experts; administration and communication postings
proved more difficult to fill. The director said qualified candidates often
weren’t willing to move to Lithuania.
Many hires were local, and some were
not exactly versed in feminist theory.
“I was surprised when I came to
EIGE,” said a current employee, who
asked not to be identified out of fear
for her job. “I saw a bunch of feminist
female colleagues, and then a lot of
flirty and cheesy guys.”
According to six former employees
— most of them specialized in gender research — who worked at the
institute in 2013 and 2014, sexist comments and actions were common in
the office, mostly from a small group
of men who “had a lot of contempt
for feminism,” according to Anne, a
former employee who asked to be
identified only by her first name.
“It was very bad, particularly for
trainees,” she said. “The institute is
chronically understaffed so it relies
a lot on trainees, and this group of
men were preying on them.”
Anne cited as an example a game
she said the group used to play.
“We had a colleague, she was very
good at her job, and she would very
often wear skirts,” Anne said. “They
had a game ... if she sits in a certain
position, see what you can spot.”
Another former employee, Judith (not her real name), said she
was once eating lunch alone at a
restaurant when several men from
the office came in. One made a sexist comment, she said, and she told
him his behavior was disrespectful.
According to her, the man responded, “You behave all the time as if we
were trying to rape you.” (The man,
who still works at the agency, denies
making this comment).
Four other former employees told
POLITICO they complained about
sexism in the office both with managers and in staff meetings, but that
the reaction was tepid.
Petermanis, who left in 2017 after three years at the institute, said
working there “felt like Alice in Wonderland.”
“Like, is this really true? Is this really going on at the European Institute
for Gender Equality?”
In an interview, Director Langbakk acknowledged that the office
atmosphere was tense in 2014 but
attributed it mostly to women who
were making men in the office feel
“We are working not just for women’s empowerment but for gender
equality,” she said. “We cannot have
militant feminism groups.”
FORMAL harassment complaints
against male colleagues. Emma accused her supervisor of sexual and
psychological harassment. And Katherine, whose name has also been
changed, made allegations against
two men, accusing one of sexual
harassment and the other of sexual
harassment and stalking.
In documents seen by POLITICO,
the women gave detailed accounts
of the men making suggestive comments and asking them out repeatedly. In one case Katherine accused
a man of touching her inappropriately in and outside the office. Both
trainees said they refused the advances repeatedly, and felt the men
subsequently punished them for this
at work.
“I wanted to manage the situation
by myself, I thought I could handle
it,” Emma’s formal complaint reads.
“[But] the situation was unbearable.”
This was not the first time an employee had raised concerns about
sexual harassment. When Judith
was applying internally for a different position in 2012, she says her
head of section, who was in charge
of hiring, asked her one evening to
a stakeholder dinner.
When she arrived, she says, she
found the meeting was in a club and
the only people there from EIGE were
the manager and another woman
who was applying for the same job.
She remembers feeling “paralyzed”
as he asked them to sit next to each
other and took photos of them. Then
she says he told her she could get
the job, “you just have to invite me
to dinner … and then to breakfast.”
She says she left and texted him
that his behavior was unacceptable.
She did not get the job.
A few months after the incident,
she emailed the agency’s human resources officer. “I feel obligated to
write to you regarding some inappropriate behaviors which I’ve noticed
in EIGE,” the email, dated August 29,
2012, reads. It goes on to say that she
had seen and experienced “behaviors
which can be classified as sexual ha-
rassment” from colleagues.
Marc Jaccarini, the human resources officer, sent a brief reply. “The implications of your email can be serious,” he wrote. “I’m sure that you
appreciate how delicate this topic can
be especially since there is sometimes
a fine line as to what constitutes harassment and what doesn’t.”
Judith says she met with Jaccarini
but didn’t discuss specific incidents
or colleagues. The incident was reported later to an investigator who
was looking into a harassment complaint in the agency, by a colleague
Judith confided in at the time. When
asked about the email and the meeting recently, Jaccarini said he did not
remember either. He did not pass on
Judith’s concerns to management,
both he and Director Langbakk said.
Two years later, Judith’s old head
of section was the subject of one of
Katherine’s formal sexual harassment
has experienced sexual harassment,
according to a survey of 42,000 women by the EU’s Fundamental Rights
Agency. But the nature of the cases —
personal relationships, innuendo and
ambiguity, often in private settings —
means legally admissible evidence is
often scarce or nonexistent. If they
are reported at all, complaints of such
behavior are most often handled not
in the courts but in the workplace.
In dealing with the 2014 complaints, managers at EIGE faced the
same difficulties that confront many
employers trying to adjudicate in
such cases. They had to try to balance the rights of the complainant
and the accused, and sort through
evidence that often comes down to
two people’s conflicting accounts of
their relationship.
EU institutions have a process to
deal with complaints that’s more
developed than at most workplaces. There are trained “confidential
counselors” who field complaints
and can try to mediate. If the situation can’t be resolved informally,
or if a complainant doesn’t want it
to be, a formal complaint is filed to
the institution.
If an investigation is carried out
and finds that the accused’s actions
qualify as sexual harassment under
EU staff regulations, new questions
arise — about proportionate punishment, and what merits a fireable offense. And on those questions, the
guidelines are not clear cut. It’s up
to each institution.
said she took each report of harassment seriously. To avoid the rigidity of the formal procedure, she first
encouraged complainants to try and
resolve their cases informally, via mediation and confidential counselors.
When that didn’t work, the trainees
filed official complaints.
After Emma took that step, she
says, the atmosphere around her
“When a woman says something
like ‘I was sexually harassed,’ one of
two things usually happens. They say
she kind of asked for it, or they say
she was psychologically unstable,’”
she said in an interview. “The second
thing happened to me.”
The day after she presented her
formal complaint, she stayed home.
She then received a message from the
agency’s head of operations, saying
that she needed to present a medical
certificate saying she was fit to work
before she could return, according to
a second formal complaint she filed.
Then Emma was told that her harasser filed an informal counter-complaint against her, for “gender-based
violence” and “mocking his heterosexuality.” She complained to human
resources that this was victim-blaming but was told it was his right to
defend himself.
“The worst time for me came
since the moment I started to talk,”
she wrote in her follow-up complaint.
Emma’s complaint and one of
Katherine’s were investigated independently — and thoroughly. Seventeen employees were interviewed
in one case. The investigator upheld them both.
The accused men, who no longer
work at the institute, could not be
contacted for this story, but documents make clear they denied the
allegations against them.
One of the perpetrators (the one
who also allegedly offered Judith
the job in exchange for sex) had his
contract terminated eight months
before it was set to end. The other,
the man accused by Emma, also left
the agency around six months before
the end of his contract, although it
was technically not terminated. The
case took a toll on him as well. He
filed a complaint with the European
Ombudsman, and colleagues said his
demeanor changed dramatically.
“He was a wreck psychologically,” Langbakk said. “He felt nobody
wanted to speak to him. This kind of
a social punishment was much stronger than anybody would imagine.”
For Katherine’s other complaint,
she said she turned over emails showing that she’d told her colleague she
was uncomfortable with his advances
and asking him to leave her alone.
An excerpt from one reads, “I don’t
know how to make it more clear, I am
not interested in a relationship with
you. It is making me feel uncomfortable. You need to respect that but
you don’t appear to ... I have said it
over and over.”
Langbakk said the institute “gathered all the proof and there wasn’t
evidence” to merit a formal investigation. It was instead examined by
a disciplinary board, which decided
there was reason to believe it was a
friendship gone bad rather than a
case of sexual harassment. The case
was ruled a “breach of good conduct”
and “significant misuse of work time”
instead of harassment by the board,
and the man’s eligibility for promotion was suspended.
The man, in an interview with POLITICO, said he submitted to the disciplinary procedure, but did not feel
he deserved the punishment.
“I went through the whole process
with an open heart,” he said, insisting
that the allegations were unfounded.
“This is the end of the story.”
When Katherine was told this
complaint wasn’t ruled sexual harassment, her traineeship was over
and she had already left Lithuania.
She considered filing a complaint
with the Ombudsman, but decided
to move on.
“That guy made my life hell,” she
said. “I drafted all these things I wanted to say back to them, and I just did
not have the energy, or faith in the
AS A RESULT OF THE TWO EXHAUSTIVE investigations, many
employees knew about the harassment allegations. But privacy laws
protecting the accused meant others — even the victims — were not
told about their colleagues’ punishment. Since the men weren’t fired
immediately, to some it seemed that
management let them off scot-free,
which deepened divisions between
the gender equality experts and other
staff. Langbakk acknowledged the atmosphere was “boiling” at the time.
“A few people wanted blood,” she
said. “And I have the duty of care for
both sides.”
The tension culminated in a staff
meeting in September 2014, after
Emma sent an email to colleagues
informing them her case had been
upheld. “I was discredited and I think
that it’s your right to be informed but
also mine,” she wrote.
In the meeting, the director said
Emma’s email broke confidentiality
rules and amounted to “attacking
The man who had sexually harassed Emma was still working at
the agency and was at the meeting.
According to unofficial minutes of
the meeting sent to POLITICO by two
different sources and corroborated
by four people who were there, he
stormed out.
The minutes say another man, the
one Katherine said made her life hell,
defended him, saying: “What [Emma]
did to us and to this institution is an
act of terror.” He denies making this
complaints still work at EIGE. But
their time there left scars.
“I don’t want to send the message
that EIGE is a unique case; harassment
of women happens everywhere,”
Emma said. “But the thing about EIGE
is the way they handled it ... Not that
they should have taken sides, but they
should have protected me.”
Emma also filed a complaint with
the European Ombudsman, who mediated between her and EIGE to agree
how much she should be compensated for the harassment she experienced. “I didn’t want people to think
I did it for the money,” she said. “But
I’m still taking psychiatric drugs. I
spent one year with my parents, not
working, just trying to recover.
“The whole experience really
broke me.”
Many of the gender equality experts who were working there at
the time have since left the agency.
Some were sick of the atmosphere
or the workload, and some got better jobs. Several believe they were
pushed out by management because
the director thought they were too
Langbakk denies leveraging turnover to get rid of the most outspoken employees, and says the institute learned valuable lessons from
the tension and the harassment cases
in 2014. A staff survey in 2016 showed
that 15 percent of staff did not agree
that reports of inappropriate behavior would be taken seriously, down
from 54 percent in 2014. She said of
the current environment: “We’ve
cleaned the atmosphere completely, and people are not afraid to talk
to each other.”
But not everyone agrees. Three
current employees said rumors still
circulate around the office about how
the most outspoken feminist employees were “kicked out,” creating a chilling effect for some employees who
wish speak up about problems. “At
EIGE the attitude is that you don’t go
against the management,” one said.
And four current employees told
POLITICO the sexual harassment
cases impact how they behave now
around coworkers of the opposite sex.
“I came to EIGE and I found out
about these cases, and I was so angry
and disappointed,” one of them said.
“That’s why, since the beginning, I do
not even have close small talk with
male colleagues.
“I just ... I know what happened.”
above, at
an interparliamentary
seminar in
2015. Langbakk
is director of
the European
Institute for
Gender Equality
in Vilnius, whose
offices are
pictured at left.
*Analysis by Google on the basis of an independent survey conducted by Ipsos that started in September 2016, in Europe.
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APRIL 12, 2018
Dressed to face Congress
Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is mobbed by photographers as he prepares to testify to Congress about data protection on his platform.
Identity crisis
in Lithuania’s
Gentrification threatens artists’ colony
where ‘a dog has the right to be a dog’
In Užupis, Lithuania, a gate is not
just a gate.
A gate, you see, is a symbol — of
barriers, of impossibilities, of divisions between people and of outdated
ideas about property. A symbol that
might belong in old Lithuania, but is
unwelcome in Užupis, a bohemian
self-proclaimed republic in the center
of the former Soviet country’s capital.
Not that Užupis doesn’t like its
symbols — when your country is
basically one big symbolic gesture,
symbolism is quite important. In fact,
there are symbols everywhere: The
crowd-funded angel statue watching
over the main square represents artistic freedom in Eastern Europe;
the trout that were released into
the Vilnelė River last spring are the
city’s “border guards”; Užupis’ independence day is on April 1 (April
Fools’ Day).
both welcome and unwelcome, is
Žymantas Morkvėnas, who is “kind
of” the republic’s environment minister. It’s a freezing March day, and we
are strolling along the banks of the
sparkling U-shaped river that separates Užupis from the rest of Vilnius,
Lithuania’s capital. Although in reality, they’re separated by far more
than that.
Užupis was founded 20 years ago
by a group of artists who moved to
a high-crime neighborhood of Vilnius that had been a lively Jewish
area until the Holocaust, and fell into
disrepair in the Soviet era. Artists
and intellectuals took over and in
the late ’90s, declared independence
and promptly set about creating a
utopian society. Think Freetown
Christiania in Denmark, or Montmartre in Paris.
“A republic of values,” says
When I ask how they declared
independence, and to whom,
Morkvėnas laughs like I’m missing
the point. “I don’t know. We just
declared it.”
A government was formed, spearheaded by poet and filmmaker Romas
Lileikis, who became the president.
An army was established (of 11 men),
and a flag, currency and anthem were
“It is unclear whether the state-
hood of the Republic, recognized by
no government, is intended to be
serious, tongue-in-cheek, or a combination of both,” Užupis’ website
Morkvėnas, because he is “kind
of” the republic’s environment minister, was tasked with drafting an environmental declaration for the country. (How can anyone be “kind of”
an environment minister? “Well, I
was named it once,” Morkvėnas answers.) He sat down with Lithuania’s
actual environment minister, Kęstutis
Navickas, at the pub that doubles as
Užupis’ parliament and hammered
out a statement.
“It’s in the form of monologue,”
he says. “Like, ‘Meadow: I want to be
trampled by cattle and be the home
of birds.’ Things like that.”
The constitution of the Republic of Užupis is equally unique — it
is printed on the street, in 22 languages, on mirror-like steel tablets
so you’re forced to look at your reflection while reading (more symbolism). The constitution itself is either
a joke, or a marvel of postmodern
philosophy, or both.
Some of its 41 points are practical,
bordering on political: “Everyone has
the right to hot water, heating in winter and a tiled roof,” and “everyone
has the right to die, but this is not an
Some are more abstract: “Everyone shall remember their name,” and
“no one has the right to have a design
on eternity.”
And some are downright absurdist, as well as remarkably attentive to animals’ rights: “A dog has the
right to be a dog,” and “a cat is not
obliged to love its owner, but must
help in time of need.”
Despite the republic’s bohemian
constitution and spirit, something
may be rotten in the state of Užupis.
The characteristics that make it so interesting have made it an attractive
place to live — so much so that real
estate prices have risen, and the type
of inhabitants that can afford them
has changed.
Hence, the conversation about
“These would never be here before,” Morkvėnas says ruefully as he
punches a code into the wrought-iron
beauty that guards the office of his
environmental NGO, the Baltic Environmental Forum.
Citizens tried to protest the construction of gates and new, expensive housing, Morkvėnas says. But
the problem with scorning the government is not knowing how to use
it when you need it. “To respond to
this kind of intervention, you have to
learn legal communication and bureaucracy and procedures, and you
have to know the ways to complain,”
he says. “Which makes everything
more complicated.”
That means being sucked back
into the world on the other side of
the river. “And then there’s a crisis
of the whole idea,” Morkvėnas adds.
But he isn’t too worried. Look at
Christiania, he reassures me. Look
at Montmartre. Those places are
still around. Not like they were initially, sure, but still standing. And
anyway, look at the rest of the Continent, with its governments and its
problems and its paperwork. Užupis
may not be perfect, but it beats the
When I ask Morkvėnas what the
rest of the city thinks of the republic,
he grins. “They think we’re all crazy.”
But within the confines of the River
Vilnelė, all’s well.
“Most stable government in Europe,” he says.
Presented by Coca-Cola in Europe
Why we’re working towards a World
Without Waste
The Coca-Cola Company recently introduced its new “World Without Waste” global packaging
vision. Tim Brett, president of Coca-Cola Western Europe, outlines how the company aims to lead
the way in helping tackle the world’s packaging problem and how he believes this better future
is possible
approaches are already proving effective. Collection models have to
make it simple for consumers, while
also being sustainable for governments and industry.
It’s quite clear the world has a serious packaging problem. Some of
the statistics are staggering. It is
estimated that every hour 900 metric tons of plastic waste enters our
oceans and the U.N. Environment
agency fears that by 2050 there will
Some may question the exact data,
but you don’t need to be a marine
biologist to realize the current situation will have grave long-term consequences. Anyone who has seen bottles on beaches or images of marine
life suffering will instinctively understand that we need to act. We’re very
conscious that, like many companies,
we use plastic packaging and therefore we contribute to this challenge.
We are committing to measurable,
meaningful action.
We’ve been working in these areas for years and have momentum.
For more than two decades, we’ve
been working with The Ocean Conservancy on International Coastal
Cleanups and we support Ellen
MacArthur Foundation and others.
We’ve also made real progress in
making packaging lighter, 100 percent recyclable, and introduced innovations such as PlantBottle™, as
well as increased use of rPET. These
new strategy is a step-change in
the scope and scale of our ambitions.
We have a global goal to collect and
recycle the equivalent of 100 percent
of our packaging by 2030. We’re also
renewing our plans to both make all
packaging 100 percent recyclable
by 2025, and make bottles with 50
percent recycled content by 2030. In
Western Europe we aim to achieve
these targets by 2025. These are two
sides of the same coin that will see
us investing in our packaging and
investing in our planet. Food and
beverage containers are an important part of modern lives, but we recognize that we must do more to help
build a circular economy.
Tim Brett, president of Coca-Cola Western Europe| via Coca-Cola Western Europe
ample, on average 72 percent of all
PET packages used in Europe are
collected and recycled. However,
the recovery and recycling picture
and we must not be complacent. We
have work to do in some countries to
bring them up to the recovery percentage of the top performers. Furthermore, we have the opportunity
in Europe to lead by example. By
improving the situation in Europe,
we can prove what can be achieved
elsewhere. Our franchise partners
in Europe, Coca-Cola Hellenic and
Coca-Cola European Partners have
made tremendous progress in environmental areas. For example just
a few months ago The Coca-Cola
Company and Coca-Cola European
Partners co-developed a sustainability action plan called “This Is Forward”, details of which can be found
In some aspects, Europe is ahead
of some other geographies. For ex-
These targets are achievable, but not
easy. It’s a complex problem. Our
strategy has three core elements —
design, collect, and partner. Design
better packages and explore package-free options for our beverages.
Collect by working with communities
recycling packaging. We will support
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where we can work better with all
stakeholders, new organizations, to
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We’re encouraged by the Commission’s push to reduce waste and increase the recycling of plastics, and
we believe we’re largely aligned
with its ambitions, such as the need
to build a more circular economy.
We also share similar views on improving the economics of recycling
so that more material is re-used. No
single company or organization can
solve this problem alone and we
of partnerships across the triangle
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civil society.
There is no single solution. Looking
across Europe we see a variety of
current approaches ranging from
bottle deposit return systems in
Germany or Scandinavia, through
to kerbside collection in Belgium.
We are not starting from scratch
anywhere and it’s important to design and enhance whatever local
I understand why people look for
simple solutions. However, the
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problem. Even within “plastics”
there are multiple types. Beverage
companies mainly use PET. PET is
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APRIL 12, 2018
Legacy of the Troubles still
haunts Northern Ireland
Paul Gallagher is lucky to be alive.
His family was sitting down to dinner one evening when loyalist paramilitaries knocked on the door of
their house in a Catholic neighborhood in West Belfast. Gallagher was
shot six times at point-blank range.
He lost his spleen, part of his lung
and the use of his legs. He was 21.
“I was told ‘you’ll never walk
again.’ That was possibly harder than
being shot,” said Gallagher, now 45,
who still lives in the same house in
which he was attacked.
The Good Friday Agreement,
which was signed 20 years ago, could
never have restored the life that Gallagher might have lived, but the relative peace it has brought to Northern
Ireland has undoubtedly prevented
countless others from suffering the
same fate.
The agreement — between the British and Irish governments as well as
all the main Northern Irish parties,
except the Democratic Unionists
— was also meant to help the rival
communities of this nation within the
United Kingdom to move on. In that
respect it has been less successful.
The power-sharing government
that the agreement created is currently suspended and Brexit threatens to
tear apart a key thread that binds the
deal — the invisible border facilitated
by the U.K. and Ireland’s membership
of the European Union. True reconciliation looks further away than ever.
Outside Gallagher’s window, the
Irish flag hangs limply from a rusttinged lamppost. He has spent years
campaigning for what sounds like the
most basic demand — a state pension — but the discordant politics that
gave rise to his injuries continues to
stand in his way.
“I don’t want to see anyone go to
jail for what happened to me. I just
want the government to recognize
our situation,” said Gallagher, who
recently travelled to the House of
Commons to lobby the British government to grant pensions to those
permanently disabled during the
Troubles, the euphemism for three
decades of violence that left more
than 3,500 dead.
“There are members of our group
who had their legs blown off in 1972.
There is no quality of life for these
people. All they are looking for is a
pension,” he said.
It was not supposed to be like this.
Gallagher was shot in 1994. A few
months later, loyalists announced
a cease-fire. The Irish Republican
Army had already done so. Eventually, on April 10, 1998, the Good Friday Agreement was signed. Northern
Ireland’s Troubles were over. And
yet, two decades on, the unresolved
legacy of the conflict still hangs over
the region.
Rival versions of the past are endlessly debated on popular talk shows
and in newspaper columns. Disagreements over so-called legacy issues are
widely seen as a factor in the recent
breakdown in talks to restore the devolved power-sharing government
that collapsed last year.
The failure to agree on how to deal
with the past has left many victims
— and even perpetrators — frustrated
and marginalized.
“After the peace agreement it
should have been about looking after those most affected and moving
on,” said Gallagher. “But the politics
has been driven by the argument over
the morality of the Troubles.”
on from
the Good
the wounds
of conflict
are still
Victims are a case in point. Legislation exists to give pensions to those
permanently disabled by violence
(around 500 people), but it has not
been enacted. The problem is not
cost — at an estimated £3 million a
year, the policy is relatively inexpensive — but politics. Some unionists,
particularly in the Democratic Unionist Party, oppose the current definition of a victim, which includes those
injured while engaging in violence as
well as unwitting “innocent” victims.
“This is one small discrete issue
but it is a reflection of a much wider
debate. There is a battle going on to
try to capture a narrative of what happened,” said Stephen Farry, a member of the devolved assembly for the
cross-community Alliance party.
The Good Friday Agreement ended the conflict but the 35-page long
text has little to say on peace and reconciliation or how to resolve the difficult issues of the past. Farry believes
that Brexit in particular has exposed
divisions that still stratify Northern
“The Good Friday Agreement was
managed through joint membership
[of the U.K. and Ireland] in the EU. It
was a sticking plaster. Now it’s been
ripped away and we can see that the
wound is still there,” he said.
Northern Ireland is still a society
in trauma. The region has the highest
suicide rate in the U.K. The legacy of
the Troubles is often cited as a factor.
Alcohol and prescription drug abuse
are persistent problems. The scars
of a divided society are still obvious:
corrugated iron “peace lines,” barbed
wire fences, tribal murals.
“We have a population that has
been traumatized,” said Alan McBride
when we meet in the Wave Trauma
Centre in North Belfast. Wave was set
up in the early 1990s to support those
bereaved by violence. Since then it
has expanded to five centers across
Northern Ireland, working with an
estimated 25,000 people. “There
are a number who have just moved
on. There are others who are stuck
where they were when the trauma
McBride speaks from experience.
He was 29 when his wife, Sharon,
was one of 10 people killed by an IRA
bomb on Belfast’s Shankill Road in
1993. The word “victim” has become
“a contested term” in Northern Ireland, he said. Some people have
struggled to move on, demanding
that perpetrators be brought to trial.
Others just want to know what happened to their loved ones.
“The reality is if you want [to
move] on you have to deal with the
past. That comes with a cost. And
that cost can be turning a blind eye
to questions of justice,” said McBride.
From left:
Alan McBride,
whose wife was
killed by an IRA
bomb in 1993;
Loyalist graffiti
in Belfast; and
Paul Gallagher,
wheelchairbound after
being shot six
times at pointblank range.
It is not just victims of violence that
have struggled to move on. Under
the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, thousands of convicted terrorists were released early. Some went
on to become elected representatives and even government ministers — most notably former Deputy
First Minister Martin McGuinness,
who died last year. But ex-prisoners
still face many barriers: they cannot
get public sector jobs, insurance or
even travel to many foreign countries.
“We are not legally entitled to the
same rights to goods and services as
other citizens,” said Michael Culbert,
a former IRA prisoner and coordinator of Coiste, an association for former republican prisoners in West
Belfast. “We are in the exact same
position as we were when the Good
Friday Agreement was signed. Nothing has changed.”
After he was released from prison
in 1990, Robert Henry started work-
ing in bars and clubs. “Nobody else
would employ an IRA man,” he said.
After 20 years of late nights, Henry
applied to become a kitchen porter.
He got the job, but a few months later
was dismissed after he failed new security checks introduced by the then
DUP First Minister Peter Robinson to
prevent former prisoners being employed on public contracts.
“They took my keys and escorted
me off the premises,” Henry said with
a shrug. “There are all sorts of hidden
barriers. Until you come up against
them you don’t know they are there.”
An estimated 30,000 people were
imprisoned for paramilitary offenses.
Most came from working-class neighborhoods like West Belfast where even
the children, and sometimes grandchildren, of former prisoners can find
themselves barred from certain jobs.
The problems faced by former
prisoners span Northern Ireland’s
sectarian divide but they are also
trapped by it. Many unionist politicians have opposed any change in
the status of ex-prisoners. In 2013,
controversial new legislation was
introduced that prevented former
paramilitaries becoming special advisers in the devolved government in
Stormont, even though a number of
ministers had served time in prison.
“To address the problems around
ex-prisoners properly required legislative change — and the biggest barrier to that has been unionism,” said
Tom Roberts, a former prisoner and
now director of Epic, a loyalist exprisoners center in Belfast..
A former member of the loyalist
Ulster Defence Association was more
blunt. “Some in the DUP would still
see ex-loyalist prisoners as terrorists.
[In their eyes] they are heathens,
they are not good Christians,” he
said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Nevertheless most loyalists
vote DUP. Ahead of the 2017 general
election, a group representing loyalist paramilitary groupings endorsed
a number of DUP candidates.
John McCallister, former Ulster
Unionist Party deputy leader, believes the time has come for Northern
Irish politicians to accept that there
is no agreed version of the past, and
to introduce legislation to allow both
victims and perpetrators to move on.
“We have been stuck for 20 years
with ‘all my side were heroes, all your
side were terrorists.’ We are not going
to agree the narrative, so why pretend we can?”
APRIL 12, 2018
Anti-corruption body slams Romania’s Hungarian
justice and criminal law reforms
to justice
would fall
foul of
of Europe
shuts down
The Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body has warned Romania that
several planned changes to judicial
laws and the criminal code would
violate European anti-corruption
The Romanian parliament’s plan
to create a new special prosecutor
function to investigate offenses committed by magistrates could easily be
misused, the body says in a report
released Wednesday.
The Group of State against Corruption of the Council of Europe (GRECO) also criticize a plan to introduce
a new offense for “abuse of judicial
powers” with penalties of up to seven
years in jail.
“Not only does this convey the
wrong message about Romania’s
current priorities, but it could have
an excessively intimidating effect on
the work of judges and prosecutors,”
it says in its report.
The changes, which include
amendments to three justice laws,
were adopted by the Romanian parliament at the end of last year and
seen — both in Romania and in Brussels — as an attempt by the ruling coalition to allow political corruption
to go unpunished. The process was
rushed and not sufficiently transparent, according to the report.
Representatives of the ruling Social-Democrat Party (PSD) and its liberal-democrat partner ALDE have said
the changes are aimed at reforming
a justice system that functions using
Protesters at the Romanian parliament in Bucharest. DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
old rules and has cracked down too
hard on corruption cases in the past.
The Constitutional Court struck
down several of the planned changes earlier this year. The laws are now
being examined by the Romanian
Senate. However, GRECO says in its
report it doesn’t expect this will significantly change the direction of the
The anti-corruption body also
issued stern warnings about draft
amendments to criminal legislation
currently being considered in the
parliament. If applied, the changes
would “clearly contradict some of Romania’s international commitments,
including the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption,” it said, adding
that the proposals “are perceived
by foreign countries as a threat for
the effectiveness of mutual legal assistance.”
Minister of Energy, Republic of Bulgaria
Deputy Minister of Energy, Republic of Bulgaria
Fellow of the European Climate Foundation
Director, Directorate General for Energy, European Commission
23(1,1*5(0$5.6%<DAVID HONE,
Join the conversation now on @EventsPOLITICO using #cleanenergyBG
The report also took aim at plans
to effectively decriminalize abuse of
office offenses involving damages under €200,000 “in a country where
the average monthly wages are in the
range of €600 to €800.”
An emergency decree with a similar goal, but involving a lower threshold — €45,000 — last year triggered
the biggest protests Romania has seen
since the fall of communism. The government was forced to withdraw the
PSD leader Liviu Dragnea, the
head of the parliament’s lower chamber, told MPs the changes to criminal
laws were a legislative priority for his
party, according to local TV channel
Dragnea has been indicted in several corruption cases and received a
suspended jail sentence for attempting to rig a referendum in 2012.
Hungary’s opposition-supporting
newspaper Magyar Nemzet shut
down Wednesday after 80 years in
print, the publisher said in a statement cited by the news website Hvg.
Its sister radio station Lánchíd
Rádió, which belongs to the same
media group, is also to shut, while
the Hír TV news channel will implement significant cost cuts, according
to the online news website
The closures follow the landslide
election victory of Prime Minister
Viktor Orbán in Sunday’s general
election. The media companies are
controlled by oligarch Lajos Simiscka — former best friend-turned-nemesis of the prime minister. Simiscka
had poured a lot of resources into
supporting the far-right Jobbik opposition party in the election campaign. But the party’s poor showing and Orbán’s landslide win have
prompted speculation that Simicska
would cut his losses and sell his media holding.
The publisher’s statement cited
financial problems as the reason for
the shutdown. Following the quarrel
between Orbán and Simicska, state
advertisements in media owned by
the tycoon disappeared and subscriptions dropped rapidly, resulting in
significant losses, according to the
Budapest Business Journal.
APRIL 12, 2018
EU import restrictions
expected by May
Energy-intensive industries
profit from pollution: report
The European Commission’s investigation
into a surge in steel imports may lead to
restrictions within two months, two officials
familiar with the probe said. U.S. President
Donald Trump’s decision to slap tariffs on
steel have diverted trade flows into the
EU, with European producers warning
prices are falling. Imports rose as much as
75 percent in the first two months of the
year for goods such as rebars, said Director
General of the European Steel Association
Axel Eggert. The Commission declined to
confirm a timeframe for restrictions.
Europe’s energy-intensive industries have
little incentive to innovate and decarbonize
thanks to subsidies such as tax breaks,
free emission allowances and insufficient
emission reduction targets, said an April 9
report from NGO Climate Action Network
Europe. Industries such as cement or steel
are seen as key in driving the European
economy and have access to free emission
permits under the EU’s Emissions Trading
System. As a result, EU governments
missed out on €143 billion in potential
carbon tax revenue from 2008 to 2015,
the report says.
French government targets
autism care
Slovenian car owners lodge
Dieselgate case
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe
promised to improve the diagnosis and
care for people with autism under a
five-year strategy released April 6. Among
20 measures included, the government
promised to fund research into the
mechanisms of the condition and learning
technologies, and increase training for
carers. Only one in five children with autism
goes to school in France and many adults
remain undiagnosed, with many traveling
abroad for health care. A total €344 million
was allocated to implement the plan.
Some 6,000 Slovenian motorists filed a
compensation claim against Volkswagen
over the Dieselgate emissions cheating
scandal, the country’s consumer rights
agency said April 9. The complaint was
filed at a court in Braunschweig near VW’s
Wolfsburg base and covers vehicles from
the Audi, Seat, Škoda and Volkswagen
brands built between 2007 and 2015. VW
has refused to pay damages to European
consumers, the Association of Consumers
of Slovenia (ZPS) said in a statement. The
carmaker did not respond to a request for
Construction work on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Michael Gove
Commission in compromise
proposal for telecoms reform
Bulgaria submits revised Gas
Directive text
VW boss in talks over
management changes
EU court deals defeat to Uber
over French criminal charges
The European Commission floated a
compromise proposal to broker a deal in
the EU’s planned reform of the telecoms
sector ahead of a key meeting on April
25. The outcome of talks between EU
institutions will determine how Europe
approaches the rollout of innovations. The
Commission dismissed requests to further
define how regulators could address
“duopolies” where two dominant players
share control over a market. The new
text defines how telecoms players would
be exempt from regulation if they invest
jointly in new networks.
The Bulgarian Council presidency
has proposed tightening a European
Commission plan to apply the EU’s gas
liberalization rules to offshore gas pipelines
from third countries, according to an
internal Council document. The revision
shrinks the applicability of EU gas rules to
EU territory, excluding offshore maritime
exclusive economic zones (EEZ) after
the Council’s legal service said any such
provision would break U.N. laws. Brussels
proposed the plans in November amid an
effort to regulate the Nord Stream 2 gas
pipeline spearheaded by Russia’s Gazprom.
The Volkswagen Group said April 10 the
company is considering changes to senior
management and that CEO Matthias
Müller has “showed his general willingness
to contribute.” The company said its
supervisory board chairman, Hans Dieter
Pötsch, is in talks with the board about
switching roles at the carmaker, including
that of CEO and chairman. Despite
reporting rising car sales and profits over
recent years, VW has been in the spotlight
over a series of scandals related to
emissions from its diesel cars.
The European Court of Justice on April
10 upheld a French law that holds the
ride hailing app’s French subsidiary
criminally liable for arranging illegal taxi
services. Uber had argued that the 2014
law is void because France failed to notify
policymakers in Brussels and other national
capitals about the law, which Uber said
concerned the digital economy. In 2016,
a French court hit the company with an
€800,000 fine. Uber closed its UberPOP
service for non-licensed drivers in France
in 2015.
UK mulls banning live animal
ECB launches consultation
on cybersecurity
British Environment Secretary Michael
Gove is contemplating placing a total
ban on live animal exports from the U.K.
once the country leaves the EU. On April
10, the government launched a call for
evidence to look into the impact of a full
ban on the agriculture sector. In 2016,
more than 4,000 sheep were transported
from the U.K. to continental Europe for
slaughter. Animal rights groups have been
lobbying the government for years to stop
transporting animals long distances.
Major financial institutions like clearing
houses should set up contingency and
recovery plans that would mitigate the
fallout of an online attack, according to
a European Central Bank consultation
launched April 10. The ECB said it wants to
strengthen the online defenses of financial
market infrastructures vital for financial
services. The consultation suggests
infrastructures should prepare for a range
of “cyber scenarios” and develop impact
analyses for them on a regular basis.
Comments can be submitted until June 5.
More than 3,500 bankers in the U.K. earned €1 million or more between 2015 and
2016, according to new EBA figures. LEON NEAL/GETTY IMAGES
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EDF detects more problems
at Flamanville reactor
EBA: ‘High-earner’ bankers
on the decline in 2016
Commission launches
genomes data project
Commission lays out bill on
pesticide approval process
French energy company EDF said April 10
it had “detected quality deviations on the
welding of the pipes” of a major system in
its troubled European Pressurized Reactor
at Flamanville, France. The announcement
adds to the long list of problems for the
novel EPR reactors, which have been
plagued by billions in cost overruns, delays
and other technical issues. EDF put the
project’s construction costs at €10.5 billion
plus interest. The company said it has
notified the French nuclear safety authority
The number of bankers earning more
than €1 million decreased by 10 percent
between 2015 and 2016, the European
Banking Authority said April 10. This was
mostly driven by changes in the exchange
rate between the euro and the pound.
The U.K. had the largest number of high
earners, with 3,529 people earning €1
million or more. Following the introduction
of the EU’s bonus cap, the average ratio of
variable-to-fixed remuneration continued
to decrease in 2016.
Thirteen countries on April 10 signed
a declaration pledging to share data
on genomes, conduct joint research
and incorporate new findings into
clinical trials and medical practices. The
declaration, “Towards access to at least
1 Million Sequenced Genomes in the
European Union,” is part of the European
Commission’s plan to support wide-scale
personalized medicine. The idea has
been backed by the European Alliance for
Personalised Medicine following initiatives
in the U.S. and China.
The European Commission on April
11 proposed new legislation aimed
at enhancing the transparency and
independence of scientific assessments
used to decide which chemicals are safe for
the food supply chain. The bill will oblige
agrichemical companies such as Bayer and
DowDupont to increase the amount of
data they reveal to the public. The proposal
follows public outrage last year over the
studies underpinning the EU’s decision
to reauthorize the controversial pesticide
APRIL 12, 2018
for an independent investigation to
establish whether or not the Assad
regime had deployed such weapons
against a civilian population.
Trump’s announcement of his
intention to launch a missile strike
against Syria broke sharply with his
longstanding policy of refusing to
telegraph military maneuvers in advance, a practice he has accused his
predecessors of. Trump complained
about prior disclosure of military
action as far back as 2013, when he
wrote on Twitter: “Why do we keep
broadcasting when we are going to
attack Syria. Why can’t we just be
quiet and, if we attack at all, catch
them by surprise?”
Trump’s Wednesday morning
warning to Russia seemed a response
to remarks from Alexander Zasypkin,
the Kremlin’s ambassador to Lebanon, who said Tuesday, according to
Reuters, that “if there is a strike by the
Americans, then ... the missiles will be
downed and even the sources from
which the missiles were fired.” Zasypkin said his comments about a U.S.
missile strike echoed remarks from
Russian President Vladimir Putin and
the Russian military chief of staff.
The president followed his warning of an impending missile strike
with a more conciliatory message
toward Moscow, lamenting that the
U.S.-Russia relationship is worse now
than it was during the Cold War and
that the two nations are once again
engaged in an arms race, one Trump
has previously said he will not allow
the U.S. to lose.
“Our relationship with Russia is
worse now than it has ever been, and
that includes the Cold War,” the president tweeted. “There is no reason
for this. Russia needs us to help with
their economy, something that would
be very easy to do, and we need all
nations to work together. Stop the
arms race?”
He followed up with another message, partly blaming the tense relationship on special counsel Robert
Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign
and Russians attempting to meddle in
the 2016 U.S. election. “Much of the
bad blood with Russia is caused by
the Fake & Corrupt Russia Investigation, headed up by the all Democrat
loyalists, or people that worked for
Obama,” Trump wrote. “Mueller is
most conflicted of all (except Rosenstein who signed FISA & Comey letter). No Collusion, so they go crazy!”
Last month, Putin warned that his
nation was in possession of weapons
capable of evading any defense system, including intercontinental missiles, underwater drones and a hypersonic weapon that “heads for its
target like a meteorite.”
“Efforts to contain Russia have
failed, face it,” Putin said. “Nobody
listened to us. Listen now.”
EU hopes Brexit will help
deliver an India trade deal
Britain was a traditional
obstacle to a pact
because of immigration
and Scotch whisky
Some European Parliament staff and MEPs have complained that the director-level
hiring process is tainted in the institution. EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AUDIOVISUAL
met with Parliament President Antonio Tajani and Secretary-General
Klaus Welle on March 28 to discuss
the coming appointments. In a letter
to Tajani following that meeting, obtained by POLITICO, the chair of the
committee, Pilar Antelo, wrote that it
would be a “strong sign ... to cancel
all current procedures and to restart
the whole recruitment process from
the beginning.”
She added that “only [a] few internal candidates have applied, because competent and experienced
staff [are] demotivated as they feel
the final decision is already taken.”
According to the letter, Tajani
pledged at the meeting to publish
three more posts externally; to submit at least two candidates for each
post for approval by the Parliament’s
governing body, the Bureau; and not
to participate in the vote himself. Separately, the appointment of the nine
directors has been removed from the
agenda of the Bureau meeting next
week, according to an official from
the European People’s Party (EPP).
Dennis de Jong, a Dutch member
of the far-left GUE party, also tabled
an amendment to the Selmayr resolution calling on Tajani to withdraw
the proposed package of director-level appointments “in light of the uproar.” In another amendment, he requested Welle draw up an action plan
to “prevent political appointments”
and “parachuting” in the European
“I want to change the situation inside the Parliament,” de Jong said.
“Parachuting is demotivating for
someone who wants to take on more
But officials say the EPP, the largest group in the chamber, is unlikely
to support de Jong’s call for drastic
change. “[His amendments] will never pass ... How can you end parachuting if you put several [vice presidents]
in charge of staff matters?” said the
EPP official. “It is easy to count the
number of former VP assistants who
are now civil servants at the Parliament.”
In an email to Parliament staffers,
a group of eight trade unions wrote
that the moves by Tajani were not
enough. After “Selmayrgate,” MEPs
have demanded transparency in recruitment to Commission posts, they
wrote. “We insist on the same in Parliament.”
The EU is betting that Brexit will make
a trade deal with India a little easier.
Chief negotiators from the EU and
India will meet in Brussels on Thursday in an attempt to revive talks that
stalled five years ago.
No one reckons that it will be easy
for the European Commission to revive dialogue with the fast-growing
economy of 1.3 billion people. India has long proved to be one of the
toughest nuts to crack in global trade,
particularly because of its highly defensive positions on domestic champions ranging from cotton farming to
generic medicines.
While most of the challenges of
dealing with India look set to be longterm headaches, European officials
believe that Brexit will at least remove two traditional hurdles. First,
Britain has always wanted India to
drop its sky-high tariffs on Scotch
whisky. Second, Britain was deeply
concerned that a more liberal visa
regime — one of New Delhi’s priorities — would bring a wave of Indian
workers primarily to the U.K.
“It’s certainly not going to be easy
if you think of tariffs for cars and
dairy products, for example. But I
see much more room for compromises now,” said Sunil Prasad, secretary-general of the Europe-India
Chamber of Commerce in Brussels.
He stressed that Brexit has created
a sense of urgency in New Delhi that
talks with the EU should be revived,
primarily because Indian companies
had traditionally focused on the U.K.
as a launchpad into the single market.
“Most Indian companies used to go
to Britain as their point of entry into
Europe,” said Prasad. “It appeared
the obvious choice because of historical ties and the language. But with
the U.K. leaving, they now look to
Germany, to France, to Belgium. And
they hope for a trade deal to facilitate
investment and trade flows.”
The prospect of Brussels leading
the charge for a trade deal with New
Delhi is galling for Brexiteers, who
have long argued that Britain’s former
colonies would be its most natural
trade partners after the U.K. leaves
the EU.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May
made an early charm offensive to In-
dia a few months after the Brexit referendum in 2016 — but quickly realized
that New Delhi was attaching more
priority to Brussels, and that there
was still little room for a breakthrough
on the vexed issue of immigration.
“I don’t think India is in a rush”
to sign a post-Brexit trade deal with
Britain, Indian High Commissioner to
the U.K. Yashvardhan Sinha recently
told POLITICO, adding that “for us it
is very important that if we need to
step up our engagement ... the ease
of travel has to be looked into.”
In the meantime, Berlin and Paris
have doubled down in courting Indian business. French President Emmanuel Macron visited the country
in early March to ink €13 billion in
investment deals. German President
Frank-Walter Steinmeier followed two
weeks later with a similar message:
As Britain leaves the EU, it’s time to
strengthen business ties with the
other leading economies in the bloc.
For EU countries, the prospect of
revived trade talks is not only about
attracting foreign business but also
about opening up the Indian economy — which has grown at an average of 7 percent in recent years — to
European exports.
“There is a very clear logic for the
EU and India to engage intensively
in the coming months,” India’s EU
Ambassador Gaitri Issar Kumar told
the European Parliament in January. She added that the deal, if done
right, would be “a win-win situation”
for both sides, and that “our prime
minister is determined” to come to
a swift conclusion of talks.
To avoid running into the same
stalemate as before, Brussels and
New Delhi have resorted to a classic
trick in trade negotiations: reducing
the scope of talks.
“Basically the chief negotiators
plan to agree [during their Thursday meeting] which are the areas
where we can agree, and which are
the points we should better leave
aside,” said a senior EU official.
Trade lawyer Sharma agreed that
both sides “have no other option but
to be less ambitious.” While Brexit was
making the talks “without doubt much
easier,” he said that there are still difficulties on issues such as drug patents,
tariffs for second-hand cars, agriculture, services and rules of origin.
Christofer Fjellner, the European
Parliament’s shadow rapporteur on
the India deal, said he was “cautiously
optimistic” about the prospect of the
EU-India trade talks, and noted that
attempts to relaunch them in years
prior had repeatedly failed. “We’ve
been here before,” said Fjellner.
“There is a
very clear
logic for
the EU
and India
to engage
in the
Gaitri Issar
Kumar, India’s
EU ambassador
APRIL 12, 2018
The Italian
village that
makes the
world’s guns
A tiny valley in the Alps
produces 40 percent
of the world’s small firearms
ucked away in a picturesque valley in the Italian Alps is the birthplace
of most of Europe’s small
firearms — and Al Pacino’s
gun in “Scarface.”
Surrounded by greenery and — key
to its main industry — iron mines, Gardone Val Trompia, with around 10,000
inhabitants, is the Italian, European and
world capital of firearms, producing
70 percent of the small arms (used for
sport and hunting) used in the EU and
40 percent of those used worldwide.
In 2016, the valley’s gunmakers sent
395,000 firearms to the United States
At the center of it all is the Beretta
factory. The company got its start in
Gardone Val Trompia in 1526 and still
maintains its headquarters there. But
around the valley are 139 more gun
manufacturers, whose exports generate €7 billion a year. A full 90 percent
of the guns made there are destined for
export, of which 45 percent head for
the United States and 35 percent are
bound for the EU.
A steady water supply from the Mella
River combined with the ready availability of iron has drawn many to “Firearms Valley” — not just Pietro Beretta,
the man behind the area’s biggest guns
factory, but craftsmen who replicate vintage guns and gunmakers that produce
no more than 10 rifles a year.
At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de
Janeiro, 90 percent of the 133 athletes
in the shooting events used rifles made
in Val Trompia. Here’s a peek into the
workshops of Italy’s gunmakers.
Above, from
left to right:
An official at
the National
Proof House
in Gardone Val
Trompia, which
certifies that
firearms comply
with safety
drawings of
engravings; a
range at the
Italian Shooting
Federation of
Gardone; bullets
for firing tests
at the National
Proof House;
of over/under
shotguns at the
Rizzini factory.
In the middle of a small garden on a side street in Gardone stands a monument to Pietro Beretta, above; shotguns are entirely
handmade in the Perugini-Visini factory, below left; a Force 99 handgun, below right, gets a check on the production line. Force
pistols are popular across Europe and are imported to the United States, where they are widely used by special units of police.
A stock display, at
left, for shotguns
at F.A.I.R. Arms.
Vincenzo Perugini, below,
in the showroom of the
factory that bears his name.
A worker, below,
makes a final check
at a Rizzini factory.
The Mella River,
at the bottom
of this page,
actually runs
through the
Beretta factory,
whose buildings
stand on both
APRIL 12, 2018
A monument of
a Russian MiG
fighter jet stands
in Hargeisa,
the capital of
Somaliland. The
jet is a reminder
of atrocities
carried out by a
former dictator,
Mohamed Siyad
Barre, who
was toppled
in 1991. Today,
stands in
contrast to
its volatile
The Coming Wars
is a series on
in which Bruno
Maçães explores
the frontlines of
the future.
In the breakaway
republic, a strict clan
system keeps al-Shabab
in check
ow do you root out a ruthless terror group? How do
you anticipate its every
move, counter its indoctrination
campaigns, occupy its territory and
deprive it of the air it breathes?
I was contemplating these questions while standing in the inner
courtyard of the Presidential Palace in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, when the man who knew
the answers walked up to me and
introduced himself.
“I am Ali Waran Ade, the lionkeeper of Somaliland,” he said.
Waran Ade received that name
because of the lions he owns. He
keeps them in his farm by the dry
river bed in the east of the city. A
few years ago, one escaped and
killed a woman at the livestock
market in the capital.
Gray-haired and gray-bearded,
Waran Ade is a security adviser to
Muse Bihi Abdi — the recently elected president of the self-declared
independent republic that broke
away from Somalia in the early
1990s. But Waran Ade has also
served as interior minister under
three of Abdi’s predecessors.
No one knows better than him
the underworld in which the
terror group al-Shabab likes to
operate. The group has wreaked
terrible violence in neighboring
Somalia, where it basks in an aura
of invincibility that has eluded
al-Qaeda and ISIS. The United
States-led international contingent
in Somalia seems impotent against
them. After years of conflict, alShabab continues to operate with
impunity in Mogadishu, where the
government and foreign aid workers keep to a small cordoned-off
And yet, in Somaliland, al-Shabab has no presence — even though
part of its leadership originally
came from Hargeisa. So how has
this small, impoverished, internationally unrecognized state on the
Gulf of Aden succeeded where everyone else has failed? What does
it know that everyone else is unable to understand?
The old lionkeeper knows the
answer — but it’s not what you’d
think. Yes, his efforts and those of
the interior ministry are important. Security consumes almost
half the state budget, the borders
with Somalia are carefully guarded,
and more than a few dangerous
characters have disappeared into
state prisons.
But credit for Somaliland’s success doesn’t belong to the security
services, Waran Ade told me. It
belongs to the people. No security
service can know everything its
enemies are up to, but the people
are everywhere. They know everything, hear everything, spy on
everything. Only the people can
become one with the people.
I am told numerous stories to
illustrate the point. Once, two old
ladies near the Ethiopian border
spotted a group of young men carrying weapons; they immediately
reported them to the police. Even
mothers are not above reporting
their sons if they see a call from
Mogadishu registered on their cell
Thirty years ago, in a drawn out
civil war with Somalia, Hargeisa
was razed to the ground. Everyone
in the region is willing to pay any
price to preserve what has since
been built: an open democracy
and a thriving new landscape of
small businesses filling every street
in the capital.
Life feels so safe now that local merchants in the bazaar leave
their piles of shilling — inflation
is a problem — unattended when
they go to pray in the nearby grand
Democracy in Somaliland is a
living organism, not a system built
after foreign invasions, erected
according to the prescriptions of
think tanks and political consultants. It is old — much older than
its European cousins, lost in a distant past of nomadic freedom and
independence. And it is built on
the foundations of a clan system
which, far from subjugating the individual to archaic traditions, actually gives him or her the power to
stand up to the state and preserve
its limits.
Somaliland is the only place in
the Horn of Africa where the clans
have survived intact. The British
colonial presence was very light,
and for the past few decades the
country has lived in isolation. In
Somalia, the clans were uprooted
by the Italian occupiers and now
resemble political cliques.
A young man in Somalia is easy
prey for al-Shabab. His social status
is given an enormous boost if he
joins the group. He will be given a
cell phone, a monthly salary and a
pick of beautiful women, who are
coerced into marriage. If he says
no, he will have to pay a tax or offer his services for free. And if he
says no again, he is killed.
In Somaliland, a young man
who is found to have any connection to al-Shabab will have to run
away and remain a fugitive all his
life. His clan will make sure of that,
because the association will be a
stain on the honor of the whole
clan. To be a clan member is to be
able to recite one’s ancestors 20 or
30 generations back.
The system links everyone to
the past. As someone told me,
people in Somaliland feel sorry for
Europeans, who are alone in the
world and have to drag themselves
through life without present or
So picture this: two formidable
political creatures. One is a terror
group more than 10 years old, renowned for cruelty, indiscriminate
executions and the power to hold
an entire country in its grip. The
other is a small state, unrecognized
by the international community
and so impoverished that its capital is still unable to afford traffic
Remarkably, the latter has won
the war. Or to put it more prudently: It is winning the war.
Before I walked in to meet the
president, Waran Ade told me
that his successor in the ministry
has gone to the north to try to put
an end to a bloody clan dispute.
Regrettably, these things sometimes get out of control. One death
is avenged with another and the
cycle can go on forever.
So the government and the
House of Elders — a house of parliament representing the clans — have
sent delegations to mediate the
conflict. A written document will
be signed and peace may perhaps
And that, Waran Ade told me, is
the last part of the secret: Clans are
not social clubs, they are not tame
and gentle. They can be violent
and bloody and fierce. But this is
a land of blood and violence. You
don’t defeat the devil if you are not
fierce yourself, if your blood is not
of the same land.
Bruno Maçães, a former Europe minister
for Portugal, is a senior adviser at Flint
Global in London and a nonresident
senior fellow at the Hudson Institute
in Washington. His book “The Dawn of
Eurasia” was published by Penguin in
APRIL 12, 2018
The EU
the bloc
to move
with a
of faithful
world has
but Europe
has not
Valéry Giscard
Valéry Giscard d’Estaing wants to
restart Europe — and move forward
with fewer countries.
At 92, the former French president and a preeminent architect
of the European Union moves and
speaks more slowly than he used
to. But he’s still trying to shape the
future of the Continent.
“We created the European Economic Area under [former European Commission President] Jacques
Delors, and the single currency
under [former German Chancellor] Helmut Schmidt and myself,”
he said.
“We should have continued, but
we stopped,” he said. “We stopped
Under Giscard’s presidency,
France and Germany put in place
the European monetary system
that laid the ground for a single
EU currency, and established the
European Council, which is widely
considered the most powerful institution in Brussels. It was also under Giscard’s tenure that members
of the European Parliament were
directly elected for the first time.
He later presided over the drafting of a constitution for the European Union, which was discarded
after French voters rejected it in a
2005 referendum.
For Giscard, the EU’s last major
step forward took place in 1992,
with the Treaty of Maastricht, which
laid the foundations for the euro
and widely expanded cooperation
between European countries. The
lack of progress has left the Continent adrift in a world buffeted by
ever more rapid change.
“At the time of the signing of the
Treaty of Maastricht, China was not
as important as it is today and the
U.S. was very connected to Europe:
We had a common trade policy,” he
said. “Today all of this has changed;
the world has changed but Europe
has not moved forward.”
The bloc is now in a state of
“profound confusion,” he said, because it is weak, bureaucratic, and
“traditional methods are out of order and no longer produce satisfying and innovative results.”
In a 2014 book, “Europa: The
Last Chance for Europe,” Giscard
called for a rebooting of the European project, with the “urgent”
construction of a “strong and
federated” entity of 12 European
nations that would include the
six founding members (Germany,
France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) plus Spain,
Portugal, Ireland, Austria, Finland
and Poland.
The project calls for the creation
of specific institutions, and a single
budget and tax system, without
any treaty change.
Today, Giscard says it is not
about creating a multispeed Europe. “I am not talking about a
multispeed Europe. Europa is one
Europe at one speed that advances
along the historic trajectory of Europe.” He insists the EU needs new
ideas to encourage that trajectory
in a changing world. In order to
provide those, he launched a new
advocacy group called Re-imagine
Europa, on April 11.
According to its chief executive, Erika Widegren, Re-imagine
Europa — which includes OECD
head José Ángel Gurría and former
Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok
on its advisory board — will focus
on Giscard’s “clear-cut vision” of a
“stronger nucleus” of EU countries.
She added that the countries
Giscard thinks could work together
may no longer be the 12 from his
book since “things have changed
drastically since 2014.”
“Re-Imagine Europa is a modern
organization to prepare the next
steps to move towards Europa,”
Widegren said.
The think tank’s first proposal,
said Giscard, will be to modernize
the EU’s fiscal system.
“It is not about aligning existing
tax systems, but replacing them,”
Giscard said. “We must get back to
simpler and more comprehensible
concepts.” The EU’s tax systems
inherited from the 19th century
are “very complicated, and overwhelmed with debt,” he added.
He said one of the major threats
facing the EU is migration, as it
is linked to an overall increase of
global population. The number
of migrants will increase, he said,
while Europe “has reached its capacity to welcome them.”
The EU should also reconsider
some of the ideas that were included in his draft EU constitution, he
said, including reducing the number of commissioners, cutting back
on bureaucracy, and making better
use of the subsidiarity principle,
which reduces the authority of
Brussels over issues better handled
by national, regional or local governments.
What Giscard does not advocate
is giving more power to European
institutions. On the contrary, the
bloc’s problems lie in part in the
perception that Brussels has overreached in its attempts to wrest
power from national governments.
This has led to “a deformation of
the European system,” which is
“what makes it unpopular,” he said.
The EU has “let itself be caught
up by excessive ambition because
it saw itself as the government of
Europe,” he said. “It is not the
government of Europe. At the moment, Europe does not have a government.”
APRIL 12, 2018
Sweden’s violent
reality is undoing a
peaceful self-image
from top left:
An explosion
next to a police
station in Malmo
on January 17,
2018; another
outside a police
station in
Helsingborg in
October 2017;
the aftermath
of another
in Malmo
on January
21, 2018; a
memorial for
victims of an
attack in which
a truck drove
into a Stockholm
store in April
is the editorin-chief of the
online magazine
Shootings have become
so common that
they don’t make top
headlines anymore
weden may be known for its
popular music, IKEA and a
generous welfare state. It is
also increasingly associated with a
rising number of Islamic State recruits, bombings and hand grenade
In a period of two weeks earlier
this year, five explosions took place
in the country. It’s not unusual
these days — Swedes have grown
accustomed to headlines of violent
crime, witness intimidation and
gangland executions. In a country
long renowned for its safety, voters
cite “law and order” as the most
important issue ahead of the general election in September.
The topic of crime is sensitive,
however, and debate about the
issue in the consensus-oriented
Scandinavian society is restricted
by taboos.
To understand crime in Sweden,
it’s important to note that Sweden has benefited from the West’s
broad decline in deadly violence,
particularly when it comes to spontaneous violence and alcohol-related killings. The overall drop in
homicides has been, however, far
smaller in Sweden than in neighboring countries.
Gang-related gun murders, now
mainly a phenomenon among
men with immigrant backgrounds
in the country’s parallel societies,
increased from 4 per year in the
early 1990s to around 40 last year.
Because of this, Sweden has gone
from being a low-crime country to
having homicide rates significantly
above the Western European average. Social unrest, with car torchings, attacks on first responders
and even riots, is a recurring phenomenon.
Shootings in the country have
become so common that they
don’t make top headlines anymore, unless they are spectacular
or lead to fatalities. News of attacks
are quickly replaced with headlines about sports events and celebrities, as readers have become
desensitized to the violence. A generation ago, bombings against the
police and riots were extremely
rare events. Today, reading about
such incidents is considered part
of daily life.
The rising levels of violence have
not gone unnoticed by Sweden’s
Scandinavian neighbors. Norwegians commonly use the phrase
“Swedish conditions” to describe
crime and social unrest. The view
from Denmark was made clear
when former President of NATO
and Danish Prime Minister Anders
Fogh Rasmussen said in an interview on Swedish TV: “I often use
Sweden as a deterring example.”
In response, the Swedish government has launched an international campaign for “the image of
Sweden” playing down the rise in
crime, both in its media strategy
and through tax-funded PR campaigns. During a visit to the White
House in March, Sweden’s Prime
Minister Stefan Löfven admitted
that his country has problems with
crime and specifically shootings,
but denied the existence of no-go
zones. Sweden’s education minister, Gustav Fridolin, traveled to
Hungary last week with the same
But the reality is different for
those on the ground: The head of
the paramedics’ union Ambulansförbundet, Gordon Grattidge, and
his predecessor Henrik Johansson
recently told me in an interview
that some neighborhoods are definitely no-go for ambulance drivers
— at least without police protection.
Swedes are not prone to grandiose manifestations of national
pride, but the notion of a “Swedish Model” — that the country has
much to teach the world — is a vital
part of the national self image.
Since crime is intimately linked
to the country’s failure to integrate
its immigrants, the rise in violence
is a sensitive subject. When the
Swedish government and opposition refer to the country as a “humanitarian superpower” because it
opened its doors to more immigrants per capita during the migrant crisis than any other EU country, they mean it. This has resulted
in some impressive contortions.
In March, Labor Market Minister Ylva Johansson appeared on
the BBC, where she claimed that
the number of reported rapes and
sexual harassment cases “is going
down and going down and going
down.” In fact, the opposite is true,
which Johansson later admitted in
an apology.
Similarly, in an op-ed for the
Washington Post, former Prime
Minister Carl Bildt described the
country’s immigration policy as a
success story. He did not elaborate
on violent crime. After repeated
attacks against Jewish institutions
in December — including the firebombing of a synagogue in Gothenburg — Bildt took to the same
paper to claim that anti-Semitism is
not a major problem in Sweden.
“Historically, in Sweden it was
the Catholics that were seen as
the dangerous threat that had to
be fought and restricted,” Bildt
claimed, seemingly unaware that
the laws he cited also applied to
Jews. Intermarriage was illegal and
hostility was based on ideas of Jews
as racially inferior. Bildt’s attempt
to relativize current anti-Semitism
with odd and inaccurate historical
arguments reflects how nervously
Swedish elites react to negative
headlines about their country.
Another spectacular example is
an official government website on
“Facts about migration, integration and crime in Sweden,” which
alleges to debunk myths about the
country. One “false claim” listed by
the government is that “Not long
ago, Sweden saw its first Islamic
terrorist attack.”
This is surprising, since the Uzbek jihadist Rakhmat Akilov has
pleaded guilty to the truck ramming that killed five people in
Stockholm last April and swore allegiance to the Islamic State prior to
the attack. Akilov, who is currently
standing trial, has proudly repeated
his support for ISIS and stated that
his motive was to kill Swedish citizens. He also had documented contacts with international jihadis.
The government’s excuse for
denying the Islamic terrorist attack
in Sweden is that no Islamic group
has officially claimed responsibility. Given the importance these
days of fighting fake news, the
Swedish government’s tampering
with politically inconvenient facts
looks particularly irresponsible.
Sometimes it takes an outsider to put things in perspective. A
recent piece by Bojan Pancevski
in London’s Sunday Times put a
spotlight on immigration and violent crime. The article caused a
scandal in Sweden and was widely
seen as part of the reason why the
British and Canadian foreign ministries issued travel advice about
the country, citing gang crime and
explosions. “They make it sound
as if violence is out of control,” said
Stefan Sintéus, Malmö’s chief of
It didn’t seem to occur to the
police chief that both the travel
advice and the article could reflect
the same underlying reality. After
all, only a few days earlier, a police
station in Malmö was rocked by a
hand grenade attack. Earlier the
same month, a police car in the
city was destroyed in an explosion.
Officials may be resigned to the
situation. But in a Western European country in peacetime, it is
reasonable to view such levels of
violence as out of control.
for Trump
from the
Orbán leveraged a deep
cultural divide into a
landslide victory. It’s
possible Trump will do
the same in 2020.
divided country, where urbanites vote for progressive
candidates and rural areas
turn to extremism. Two separate
societies, each living in their own
media bubble. Cultural elites detached from the everyday realities
of the countryside. The result? A
crushing victory for a hard-line
conservative strongman. That’s
what happened in Hungary last
weekend, where Viktor Orbán won
a third consecutive term as prime
minister in a landslide victory. And
it’s what could happen in the U.S.
in 2020.
In the increasingly polarized
U.S. landscape, Orbán’s success
offers a useful blueprint in facing
down your critics that President
Donald Trump could heed as he
gears up for the likely fight for a
second term.
grassroots organizations from the
Hungarian countryside. These organizations are now only active in
Budapest and a few big city strongholds — and their work is only visible in liberal online media bubbles,
not to the wider population.
Trump enjoys the same advantage: Trump-bashing may entertain
the coastal, liberal, progressive
elites, but liberal media outlets have no real impact in rural
America, where Fox News and
conservative talk shows dominate.
As in Hungary, the cultural, economic and psychological division
between these parallel societies is
And while in Orbán’s case this
division is reinforced by a tailormade election system, Trump and
the Republican Party are supported by the special status of the Electoral College and decades of conscious gerrymandering efforts.
Trump doesn’t have to win over
the elites — he just has to keep talking to his supporters, while the liberal elites talk to themselves.
bullies only
language of
force. And
when it
works — as
it did for
Orbán in
— the best
strategy is
to double
down on
the power
grab, not
back away
Orbán’s victory proved the point
that fake news and bots work to
your advantage if you’re campaigning on an anti-immigrant platform. Over the past four years,
state-funded and Fidesz-friendly
media became the mouthpiece of
Russian-generated fake news about
the decline of the West and the
dangers of immigration. It’s also
becoming clear that Orbán’s inner
circle is closely intertwined with
the Kremlin on some issues, especially when it comes to economic
ties. The strong Russian connection
provides financial, political and
strategic support for Orbán, whom
Russian President Vladimir Putin
sees as an investment — a potential Trojan horse inside the EU that
could destabilize the bloc.
Trump’s presidential campaign
got a boost from various forms of
Russian interference and propaganda in 2016. And if Putin pursues
his ambition to knock the West
off balance, we can expect Russia could lend him a helping hand
The success of Orbán’s racist, fearmongering campaign shows that
you don’t need a large number of
immigrants for an anti-immigration
campaign to be effective.
Orbán and his ruling Fidesz party ran a super-focused, extremely
disciplined campaign with one simple, yet overwhelmingly effective
message: A vote for Orbán is a vote
for Hungary remaining Hungarian,
Christian and true to its traditional
values. A vote for an opposition
candidate, meanwhile, would open
the floodgates to uncontrolled migration from the Middle East and
At the height of the refugee crisis
in 2015, most migrants didn’t want
to stay in Hungary — they were trying to reach Western Europe. The
actual number of migrants and
refugees seeking asylum in Hungary
can be counted in dozens. And
paradoxically, the two big cities
— Budapest and Szeged, next to the
southern border — that experienced
the largest number of arrivals voted
overwhelmingly for the opposition.
Trump, too, received much of
his edge in areas where the share
of the immigrant population was
low and he can play on that fear of
the unknown again going into the
next election.
Political bullies only understand
the language of force. And when
it works — as it did for Orbán in
Hungary — the best strategy is to
double down on the power grab,
not back away.
When Orbán won his first supermajority in 2010, he set out to
build his illiberal democracy and
turned Hungary upside down in
the process. When he secured
his second big win in 2014, some
analysts predicted that, given his
strong position, he would take a
moderate turn. The opposite happened: Between 2014 and 2018,
Orbán’s regime became more right
wing, more corrupt and more
Russia-friendly. Crackdowns on
civil society, legislation against
NGOs, yearly meetings with Putin,
and the massive wealth accumulation of Orbán’s inner circle are all
testament to that. Two weeks before voters went to the polls, Orbán
had already promised “retaliation”
against the opposition once he secured another term.
Autocratic leaders like Orbán
and Trump don’t mellow over
time. Complacency about Trump’s
reelection in 2020 is entirely misplaced. He won once and can
win again — and if he does, his
infamously unstable ego is likely
to lead the party and the country
down an even more dangerous
Orbán’s anti-immigration cam-
former member
of the Hungarian
committee on
foreign affairs,
and COO and
at Webabstract.
paign was buttressed by the state’s
almost total control of public and
private media. All local newspapers, most online media organizations and all but one national TV
station are run by the government.
This media arsenal allowed Orbán
to influence the collective psyche
of the Hungarian countryside and
focus their attention on his narrow
message and control the narrative.
In countless villages and towns
around the country, the fear
that imagined hordes of foreigners would take over their homes
eclipsed every other issue, when
the abysmal state of public services
— the disrepair of hospitals and
schools and the rising level of child
poverty, for example — in these regions should have fueled anger at
the government.
One man, quoted by independent online portal 444, lost his
grandson because an ambulance
did not arrive in time to save his
life. But he would vote for Orbán,
he said, because keeping the country safe from migrants is the only
issue that matters.
An overwhelming number of
people in the Hungarian countryside agreed, with a staggering 70
percent of voters in the poorest villages voting for Orbán.
The upshot is that Trump can
get into as many policy blunders
as he likes, as long as he hammers
home a simple message come election time that appeals to voters’
pride and inclination to protect
their country from potentially dangerous outside influence.
The fact that Budapest — the country’s economic and cultural hub
— voted overwhelmingly for the opposition, while Fidesz scored big in
the countryside, is telling. Like in
the U.S., there is a deep divide between urban elites and rural populations, who diverge in their media consumption habits, cultural
norms and perceptions of facts.
But the two sides are far from
equal in size and strength. With
its strong control over the media
and deep pockets — not to mention its ability to manipulate with
simple messages — Fidesz eliminated almost all liberal, progressive
APRIL 12, 2018
will grow markets by simplifying the
legal regimes companies deal with in
Europe and driving trust — a commodity in short supply in Silicon Valley — across the Continent’s digital
single market.
who not
to irritate.
There are
jabs, and
but he is
and uses
charm and
to keep
the show
A Western
diplomat on
Selmayr’s deep
of the theater of
The EU’s new privacy regulation,
like many of Selmayr’s creations, was
born of missionary zeal, and subject
to both love and hate from its conception. While many can claim to be
the midwives and doting parents of
GDPR — from corporate lobbyists to
Green members of the European Parliament — only one person can claim
to be its father: Selmayr.
As a German, Selmayr shares his
country’s conservative approach to
privacy. His grandfather Josef Selmayr headed West Germany’s intelligence service from 1955 to 1964,
during the rise of the East German
Stasi, which ran against its citizens
one of the most invasive state surveillance operations in history, infiltrating nearly every aspect of life in the
German Democratic Republic.
His first public foray into data protection came in 2009, when the European Commission acted on complaints about U.K. telecoms provider
BT contracting a company called
Phorm in 2006 and 2007 to conduct
secret trials of behavioral advertising
on customers without their consent.
Selmayr was then spokesperson
for European Information Society
and Media Commissioner Viviane
Reding, who shared his privacy concerns. Reding had clear and practical
principles she wanted applied: Europeans should be able to sit at a computer and be certain their privacy was
protected, without too much hassle
and effort. Selmayr had a strategic
vision to implement those principles. (Full disclosure: From 2011-2014,
I served as European Commission
digital spokesperson, doing the job
Selmayr once did.)
They got the ball rolling with a
Commission consultation on how to
manage data protection in mid-2009,
and by taking the U.K. government
to court for failing to uphold EU data
laws in the Phorm case.
Selmayr’s interest in the relatively
low-profile Phorm case took many
by surprise. Junior Commission officials — including deputy Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva —
maintained a regularly updated set
of “lines to take” on various aspects
of the case.
Selmayr’s passion for the case was
clear, according to a political consultant who represented Phorm at the
time. The consultant, who requested anonymity, recalled phoning the
Commission spokespersons service to
register a concern that Commissioner
Reding had been quoted referring to
Phorm by name, when the company’s
identity was supposed have been protected at such an early stage of the
“Martin Selmayr gets on the phone
and starts screaming at me,” the consultant said. “He said ‘I will have you
written up for harassment,’ because I
was a non-journalist questioning the
Commission’s approach. I was 24. I
got off the phone and I was crying.
I had no idea what was going on.”
When POLITICO put the allegation to the European Commission,
a spokesperson said, “The story is
invented. It is false.”
As the Phorm case moved forward,
Reding and Selmayr were working
to introduce personal data protection into a Commission overhaul of
telecoms regulations. To do that, Selmayr deployed tactics more frequently seen in political campaigns than in
the Commission’s gray corridors — like
extensive opinion polls and telephone
banks — to get the message out that
consumers were being exploited and
the EU was arriving to save them.
The law, passed in 2009, introduced “mandatory notifications for
personal data breaches,” legal protection against spam and the EU’s infamous cookies law, which requires
internet users to say whether they
agree to their activity being tracked
while using a given website.
Selmayr’s efforts coincided with
a larger wave of privacy concerns,
most evident in the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, which when it came into effect at
the end of 2009, cemented privacy as
a fundamental right in European law.
Europe’s existing data protection
laws had been agreed in 1995, at a
time when less than 1 percent of Europeans used the internet. Selmayr
saw a political opportunity.
By 2010, Reding had become the
Commission vice president in charge
of EU fundamental rights, and Selmayr had been promoted to be her
chief of staff.
Selmayr set about promoting data
privacy as one of those fundamental
rights. With the support of a special
data protection team in the Commission’s justice department, the legislation that would eventually become
GDPR was born.
Testifying in 2010, Selmayr told
the European Parliament that the
Lisbon Treaty heralded “a new era”
that would mean “more privacy” and
a “fairer balance” between freedom
and privacy. In November 2010, the
Commission issued a “communication” — a set of policy preferences
that can later be turned into regulation — calling for a “comprehensive
approach” to data protection that at
the same time strengthened the EU’s
single market.
The Commission also carried out a
Eurobarometer survey of 28,000 Europeans that produced a statistic Selmayr has often since cited: 70 percent
of respondents said they worried that
companies would use data for purposes other than those for which it
was collected.
Some of Selmayr’s colleagues noted at the time that the survey had
been carried out only after the Commission released its policy preferences, joking that the process was an
example of “policy-based evidencemaking.”
Mina Andreeva, a Commission
spokesperson said: “The European
Commission uses [Eurobarometer
surveys] to take the pulse of citizens
on various topics. Since we want to
act in areas where the EU can have
an added value and not regulate areas that are best left to member states
and that people perceive as unnecessary interference in their daily lives,
they are indeed a helpful tool in guiding our policymaking.”
The Commission ploughed ahead
with EU action even though the survey revealed that while 44 percent of
respondents wanted the EU to act, a
similar 40 percent preferred national
protections, highlighting the public’s
wariness of granting Brussels greater
sway over their privacy rights.
By the time the results were published in June 2011, internal preparations on GDPR were underway. It fell
to Paul Nemitz, now principal adviser
at the Commission’s justice department, to wrestle the principles and
prose into a serviceable legal text.
Reding’s fellow commissioners approved the GDPR proposal in January 2012, sending it onto Parliament,
where it was subject to nearly 4,000
Jan Philipp Albrecht, a state minister for the German state of SchleswigHolstein who as an MEP steered the
regulation through four years of parliamentary amendments and negotiations with national governments,
said that GDPR is the result of “intense in-depth work on every word
and every paragraph.”
“There’s a lot of people who can
call this their baby,” he added. Selmayr, he said, largely chose not to
get involved in the details.
What Selmayr excelled at, said an
official from the Commission’s justice
department, was knitting together
a web of supportive activists, MEPs
and data regulators to support the
cause. “Our goal was always to raise
the boardroom’s attention to data
protection,” rather than simply push
through a set of technical rules, the
official said.
A Western European diplomat
said that Selmayr showed a ruthless
understanding of the theater of politics. “He knows who not to irritate.
There are aggressive jabs, and strategic leaks, but he is fawning around
leaders and uses charm and friendliness to keep the show together.”
Unlike successive U.S. administrations, which tried and failed twice
to deliver privacy legislation, Selmayr
built a bridge of trust between EPP
and Greens, between Commission,
Parliament and Council, and in cooperation with about 20 key activists.
Selmayr, working for Reding, sat
at the top of the chain. “On every
specific issue we made a detailed discussion paper that went up to him,”
Nemitz recalled. “Martin in this way
was deeply engaged in the work and
provided the political orientations
which paved the way for the successful adoption of the regulation.”
Meanwhile, Selmayr missed no
opportunity to promote the effort.
After Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing revealed the extent of U.S.
data collection in 2013, Reding embarked on a media tour to describe
the revelations as a “wake-up call”
that showed the need for tougher
data protection laws.
“Snowden made a huge difference
in the dynamic of the negotiations,”
said Nemitz, helping to win the support of MEPs in early 2014.
That year, Selmayr found an even
more useful vehicle for his digital ambitions, leaving Reding to become the
campaign manager of the favored
candidate for Commission President:
Jean-Claude Juncker.
Juncker was infamous for his digital ignorance, preferring old Nokias
and newspapers over smartphones
and social networks. And yet, within
weeks of Selmayr’s arrival, Juncker
officially declared that building a digital single market, with strong data
protection as its hallmark, was his
No. 1 priority.
Selmayr’s zeal has persisted even after
GDPR was finally sealed into EU law
in 2016. One example: he co-wrote a
1,200-page academic commentary on
the law in June 2017 while serving as
chief of staff to Commission President
Juncker. Selmayr, through a spokesperson, declined to provide comment
for this article, but referred POLITICO
to the document for his views.
Even as Selmayr promoted the upcoming privacy rules, lobbyists tried
to sway national data authorities over
how they would work in practice. In
September 2017, Selmayr took to the
stage at a conference in Brussels to
rail against those predicting “end-ofthe-world scenarios” over new rules
that would complement the GDPR
and warned opponents against years
of “huge lobbying” over a battle they
had already lost.
As GDPR rolls into action, there’s
no reason to believe that Selmayr —
whose surprise appointment as the
Commission’s top civil servant in February angered many in Brussels — will
let up on his push for privacy.
In 2017, Selmayr blocked an effort
by free-trade advocates to include
data flows in future trade agreements.
“For the EU, privacy is not a commodity to be traded,” Commission
spokesperson Andreeva said at the
time. “Data protection is a fundamental right in the EU.”
After months of wrangling, Selmayr reached an agreement with the
rest of the commission on including
data in trade deals. Once the Parliament and national governments back
his proposal, the EU will begin insisting on his vision on data protection
in free-trade deal negotiations.
Already, Selmayr has put privacy at
the center of the U.K.-EU Brexit negotiations. In a January 2018 letter, the
Commission warned “all stakeholders
processing personal data” operating
in the U.K. that they would be subject to the EU’s privacy rules in any
dealings with the bloc.
It need not have bothered. For
months, British government officials and watchdog bodies have made
clear that they like the way the EU
deals with the protection of online
privacy. Indeed, GDPR has already
served as the basis for a new British
data protection law.
Other countries are taking similar approaches. Since breaking commercial ties with the world’s largest
trading bloc is unthinkable, legislators worldwide are updating their
domestic legislation to bend to Europe’s privacy rules. When it comes
to making sure European privacy is
protected, Selmayr has only begun.
Laurens Cerulus contributed reporting.
APRIL 12, 2018
ing accusations that poor countries
pay the price for EU farm policies
crafted in Brussels. For years, the EU
has been in the crosshairs of critics
such as former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (himself a Ghanaian)
for its massive financial handouts to
farmers. They argue that Europe’s
largesse toward its farmers punishes
poor countries and is at odds with the
EU’s stated goals of promoting development in Africa, reducing migration
flows and combating radicalization.
European pressure on Africa’s
dairy producers intensified in 2015,
when the EU lifted its milk quotas.
Coinciding with a Russian embargo
on European food, it left the Continent awash in milk. With prices at
historic lows, EU dairy companies
desperately needed new markets to
rid themselves of their glut.
West Africa, with its growing population and demand for dairy, was
an obvious destination. Between 2011
and 2016, milk powder exports from
the EU to West Africa jumped from
12,900 metric tons to 36,700 tons —
most of it flowing to plants in Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria,
which re-export the product to their
neighboring countries.
As global players such as Danone,
Arla and FrieslandCampina set up
reconstitution plants to process imported European milk, West African
farmers are struggling to compete.
Although local production has never
fully met demand, experts warn that
the recent milk deluge risks smothering the local industry, miring the
region in dependency.
“People who live from milk are
struggling,” said Adama Ibrahim Diallo, the president of Burkina Faso’s
milk producers and mini-processors
union. He said farmers in his region
are gradually giving up, explaining
that his processor receives 200 liters
of milk a day where once it took 300.
Diallo warned that the problem is
aggravating the security situation in
the Sahel. “The sons of pastoralists
become jihadists — not out of conviction but because there are no jobs.”
“The problem ... is tied to overproduction,” he said. “The multinational companies’ strategy is to implant themselves in West Africa to
sink their milk in.”
Bacar Diaw of Senegal’s dairy association FENAFILS agrees. “When
large quantities of milk powder from
the EU ... are sent to West Africa, our
local milk producers have to shoulder
the burden,” he said.
Such accusations are delicate for
Brussels, which has for years nudged
its farmers toward more open competition. The bloc eliminated muchmaligned export subsidies in 2015,
for example. And in February, European Commissioner for Agriculture
Phil Hogan announced a task force for
rural Africa, meant to advise governments on agricultural policy and help
EU companies invest responsibly.
In response to a speech Diallo
gave in Brussels in February, Hogan
stressed that Burkina Faso could use
tariffs to slow imports if it wanted. “I
would encourage Mr. Diallo to make
this point to his government,” he said.
“However, I also understand that governments may choose to keep a low
import tariff for food security reasons. But that is their sovereign decision.”
A senior Commission official also
told POLITICO that less than 10 percent of EU skim milk powder exports
go to sub-Saharan Africa and that other companies would swoop in if European firms don’t.
European dairy companies say
European milk floods West Africa
Exports of skim milk powder to the region have swollen in the past decade.
1 kiloton equals 1,000 tons or 1,000,000 kilos. West Africa comprises 18 countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde,
Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Saint Helena, Senegal, Sierra
Leone, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Togo. Data for some countries is unavailable for certain years.
Source: European Commission
they need to sell milk outside of Europe to survive.
Although West Africa comprises
some of world’s poorest countries, it
also contains some of its fastest-growing economies. The World Bank estimates that the Ghanaian and Ivorian
economies will grow by 8.3 percent
and 7.2 percent respectively this year,
for example.
Agricultural trade analyst Paul
Goodison said that EU dairies ventured into West Africa in anticipation
of a post-quota price slump, hoping
to capture this growth market.
Arla Foods — a Danish dairy cooperative with €10 billion in annual revenue — established a plant in
Ivory Coast designed to handle its
milk powder in 2013, for example.
In 2015, it opened more facilities in
Nigeria and Senegal. Danone made an
even more muscular entrance in 2013
when it bought a 49 percent stake in
Fan Milk, with plants in six West African countries. The French company
took ownership in 2016.
Others such as Nestlé and
FrieslandCampina, a Dutch coop, have been in the region for decades. However, both also invested
more just before the end of quotas. FrieslandCampina added a powder plant in Ivory Coast in 2014, while
Nestlé opened a new Ghanaian plant
the same year.
Bottom-barrel prices driven by
Europe’s overproduction also have
encouraged exports, which grew a
Arnau Busquets Guàrdia/POLITICO
jumbo 38 percent in 2017 over the
previous year. The cost of skim milk
powder fell from about €3.30 per
kilo at the beginning of 2014 to about
€1.70 at the same time in 2016, for
example, before sliding to €1.30 in
The main buyers are in dairy-deficit countries such as China; however,
the outflow is reverberating in smaller markets such as West Africa too.
“It keeps growing,” said analyst Paul
Goodison, referring to milk imports
to the region. “This really does make
it difficult for local producers.”
Arla told investors in 2014 that it
needs to “maintain a stable base in
Europe” and “move milk to markets
with a high demand in order to create profitable growth.” It added that
it wants to increase its sub-Saharan
revenue to €240 million in 2017, from
€87 million in 2014.
Arla spokesman Theis Brøgger
said consumer potential drove the
company’s expansion, not low prices.
“Prices in Europe are volatile, and we
do not base our long-term strategy
on short-term price developments,”
he said. FrieslandCampina’s Jan-Willem ter
Avest didn’t respond to whether low
milk prices prompted the company’s
Africa expansion, but said oil prices,
the “economic situation” and import
rules factored in. He added that most
local milk isn’t up to standard.
Danone didn’t respond to requests
for comment.
Kevin Bellamy, a global dairy strategist at the Netherlands’ Rabobank,
agreed that low milk powder prices
allowed European companies to expand into West Africa. However, he
said the region’s climate is unsuitable
to industrial milk production on a par
with Europe and that it will likely remain a net importer.
It’s the ubiquity of cheap European
milk that makes buying what local
supply there is uneconomical.
Domestically produced milk in Senegal, for example, costs about $1 a liter,
according to a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization study published last
year. Milk made from reconstituted
imported SMP costs half as much.
The Food and Agriculture Organization advised the Economic Community of West African States to invest
in agricultural infrastructure — which
it suggested is a good bet since some
65 percent of the bloc’s population is
rural and owns livestock. It also urged
the West African bloc to protect local
farmers from “unfair competition.”
For example, the FAO said that
the region’s 5 percent external dairy
tariff is “weak in comparison with
the subsidies for Western countries’
producers.” It added that European
milk’s competitiveness in the region
is “thanks to a large measure to agricultural subsidy policies.”
Brussels insists that it’s helping
the region with its core issues such
as poor infrastructure or patchy energy supplies, while also instructing
companies how to invest responsibly.
It insists that subsidies aren’t the
“The milk powder exports from the
EU to Africa are responding to the African demand. They are concluded by
private operators, without any export
refund paid by the Union,” a Commission spokesperson said, adding that
subsidies to European farmers reward
them for stewarding the countryside
and guaranteeing food security, but
could “not be expressed as price support for any particular product.”
All EU dairies in West Africa say
they work with local partners. Danone finances a milk plant in Senegal
for local milk producers, for example,
while FrieslandCampina and Arla are
working with Nigerian dairy farmers.
Some locals dismiss such schemes
as window dressing, however.
“It’s a way to look good in the European Union,” said Diallo, the president of the Burkinabé milk union.
“They came for the business — they
did not come to help producers.”
A woman
approaches a
dairy vendor in
Dakar, Senegal.
“When large
quantities of
milk powder
from the EU
... are sent to
West Africa,
our local milk
producers have
to shoulder the
burden,” says
Bacar Diaw of
Senegal’s dairy
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