Brussels Playbook: Von der Leyen in DC — García vs. Weber, cont. — Europe comes for ChatGPT

Brussels Playbook: Von der Leyen in DC — García vs. Weber, cont. — Europe comes for ChatGPT
Опубликовано: Friday, 03 March 2023 08:59

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GOOD MORNING. This is Nick Vinocur, wishing you a happy weekend. Lots in store today — from Ursula von der Leyen’s North American tour to ChatGPT. Keep warm and enjoy.

DRIVING THE DAY: WHO’S LEADING EUROPE? Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share on Handclap

VON DER LEYEN ON TOUR: The secret is out: The Commission president is crossing the Atlantic next week to meet U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, POLITICO revealed on Thursday. Von der Leyen will be discussing everything from critical raw materials to Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act and the specter of Chinese arms supplies to Russia.

Stormy weather: As the leaders meet, Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is barreling into its second year, the cold conflict with China is heating up, and Brussels and Washington still haven’t found their way out of a dispute on Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. The European leader will be hard-pressed to project optimism.

Sanctions for China? Von der Leyen will be looking to project transatlantic unity, but a new test of friendship already looms: U.S. officials are preparing a big sanctions push against Beijing if China starts supplying lethal weapons to Russia.

Show us the receipts: But EU diplomats and officials speaking to POLITICO said they wanted to see proof for the claims advanced by U.S. administration officials before they agree to follow suit. “We have not seen on our side, any concrete evidence of [Chinese plans to deliver arms] so far,” one EU official said. Read the full story here by my colleagues.

**A message from McDonald’s: Quick service meal average cost: €4. The EU’s reusables plan would likely increase this. A study by consultancy Kearney highlights investment needed could be up to €20 billion, for dine-in and takeaway – four times Europe’s investment in improved waste management between 2014 and 2020. There’s no silver bullet:**

OTTAWA-BOUND: Von der Leyen heads to Canada first, to meet Trudeau on Tuesday, March 6. Almost six months after the visit was initially scheduled, Canada and the EU have lots to discuss — not least how Canada can help with the supply of raw materials.

CETA — are we there yet? Also up for discussion: trade. A number of EU countries are yet to ratify the EU-Canada trade deal, though significantly, Germany gave it the green light in December. The trade pact has been provisionally in place since 2017 and will come into full force once all EU member countries ratify it. (Ireland threw a spanner in the works last year when the Supreme Court ruled that efforts to ratify the trade deal are unconstitutional.)

Party time: Meanwhile, the Canadian Embassy in Brussels is hosting a party to mark the fifth anniversary of CETA this evening at Espace Canada. Ambassador Ailish Campbell will host the event; guests of honor are Sabine Weyand of DG Trade and Charlotte Andersdotter of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.

NEXT STOP, WASHINGTON: Then next Friday, von der Leyen will sit down with Biden to try to mend fences over his Inflation Reduction Act. The focus will be “collaboration” on clean innovation, supply chains for green technology and “rallying the world behind a global net zero emissions goal.” Europe and the U.S. have been at odds for months over Washington’s landmark green subsidies plan, which Brussels fears will drain the Continent of investment and green technology.

S&D-EPP SPAT Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share on Handclap

EPP RESPONDS TO S&D GROUP CHIEF’S CRITICISM: After reading Playbook’s interview with S&D chief Iratxe García on Thursday, the secretary-general of Europe’s conservative grouping, Thanasis Bakolas, got in touch to respond.

Clapping back: Calling in from an EPP gathering by Lake Como in Italy, Bakolas said: “For the Socialists to try to associate themselves with the Biden administration on the IRA [Inflation Reduction Act] is a joke. The Biden administration took very dynamic measures in favor of American companies. I doubt the Socialists would do the same.”

VDL shoutout: “There’s a tremendous amount of leadership from von der Leyen,” Bakolas said. “She’s really stepped up her game when it comes to the IRA response.”

ICYMI: Speaking to Jakob Hanke Vela from Washington, where she met with senior Democratic politicians including Nancy Pelosi, García earlier this week accused the EPP of drifting closer to the extreme right under its chief Manfred Weber. The conservatives’ talk of building fences at the EU’s external borders smacked of an “ultraconservative populist drift,” she had said, pitching Europe’s center-left as a natural ally for the Biden administration.

Couldn’t be us: Bakolas said: “García is misleading and misrepresenting what is happening. The question for us is simple: Are there political parties out there that can come to us? The EPP has always been a big tent.”

IS THE EPP’S TENT BIG ENOUGH FOR LE PEN? France’s far-right party, the National Rally, wants to make new friends among the country’s middle-ground conservatives. To that end, it’s touting a brand-new stance on Russia, after years of being one of President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal supporters in Europe. On BFMTV last week, Jordan Bardella, the party’s young president, said there had been a collective “naïveté” about Putin. But critics questioned how deep the change goes, as the party still isn’t backing calls for more arms deliveries to Ukraine.

Could this be the beginning of an EPP love-in? RN is testing the waters for a possible rapprochement with other parties. This isn’t new — it has attempted to forge alliances with other right-wing forces ahead of France’s last two presidential elections, with little to show for it. But is the EPP now more receptive to its overtures? The spokesperson for center-right party The Republicans’ youth wing, Guilhem Carayon, appeared on the cover of a magazine with RN members, saying he was willing to have an exchange of views with the far-right group.

Red lines: Asked about the apparent shift on its stance on Marine Le Pen’s party, Bakolas said he hadn’t seen Bardella’s interview and reiterated the EPP’s “red lines” — the grouping is “pro-Ukraine, pro-rule of law, pro-Europe.” RN members did not answer Playbook’s requests for comment.

ON QATARGATE, Bakolas urged the S&D to publish its own findings about the scandal. “If we are so adamant about cleaning up Parliament, why aren’t they transparent about what they are doing? What are they doing — what kind of investigation?” he said.

RUSSIA’S WAR Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share on Handclap

PUTIN WATCH: Vladimir Putin is convening his security council today, after claiming that a group affiliated with the Ukrainian military had crossed into Russia and launched a “terrorist attack” on Thursday. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak called it “a classic provocation” from Putin.

False flag danger: Close Kremlin-watchers have been warning about potential Russian false flag attacks since earlier in the week, when the Russian defense ministry claimed that the U.S. was preparing a provocation in Ukraine.

BLINKEN, LAVROV SPEAK AT G20: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke briefly with one another on Thursday during a meeting of top diplomats from the G20, a U.S. official told our colleague Kelly Hooper. The U.S. official said Blinken made three points to Lavrov: that the U.S. would continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes to end the war; that Russia should rejoin the New START nuclear treaty; and that Russia should release imprisoned American Paul Whelan.

ERASING UKRAINIAN IDENTITY: POLITICO’s Veronika Melkozerova has an essential piece out this morning, in which she speaks with Roman Baklazhov, a businessman and food-delivery volunteer from the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson who was imprisoned by the invading Russians for almost two months. “Besides torture, they forced us to learn the Russian anthem, read pro-Russian books,” the 41-year-old told told Veronika. The intent was clear: a desire to eradicate Ukrainian identity, Veronika writes.

SCHRÖDER STILL A SOCIAL DEMOCRAT: Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) have decided that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder will remain a party member, despite his personal ties to Putin and business links to Russian energy companies. More here.

LOVE IS BLIND: Valentine’s Day drove a spike in demand for rough diamonds from Russia, according to the most recent numbers from the Belgian economy ministry requested by my colleague Barbara Moens.

NATO CALL: It’s time for Austria to join NATO, argues Liam Hoare, author of “The Vienna Briefing” newsletter, in this opinion piece for POLITICO.

EUROPE COMES FOR CHATGPT Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share on Handclap

WHY ELON MUSK AGREES WITH EUROPE ON AI: Since it went viral a few months ago, ChatGPT and its cohort of generative AI models have prompted equal parts fascination and fear. The EU’s response is … regulation. In the midst of work on a broader AI rulebook, EU lawmakers are taking a detour to address the matter of generative AI models, according to Dragoș Tudorache, a Renew lawmaker who is the rapporteur on the AI file in the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

Reconfiguring: While the EU is producing the world’s first binding AI rulebook, ChatGPT has thrown a spanner in the works, my colleague on POLITICO’s tech team, Gian Volpicelli reports. “We are seeing just the beginning of what is going to be a massive explosion of the use of the technology behind ChatGPT in all sorts of applications and directions we can’t even think of right now,” Tudorache told Gian. “It’s like the invention of the [internet] browser back 20-30 years ago, or when Google first appeared. It’s that sort of quantum leap.”

Should we be worried? “It’s not judgment day in the Terminator, but it is a very powerful thing that is changing our lives as we speak. I’m looking at my kids and I’m wondering what’s going to stop them asking ChatGPT to write their essay,” Tudorache said.

Is the EU just regulating the shiny new thing? “You do hear those voices, where they would say, ‘yet again the Europeans are being Europeans. Others are innovating; we are regulating.” But, Tudorache said, “The EU has been smart: everyone says it. Even people who would not be big fans of this, who would have to support the consequences of being regulated, even those would say, ‘you guys are great because you thought of this and you saw the need and you were quicker to the gun than everyone else.’ They say, ‘we will have to follow your gold standard.’”

Elon Musk agrees. The head of Tesla and Twitter has repeatedly called for AI regulation.

QATARGATE Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share on Handclap

CRUNCH DAY IN CORRUPTION PROBE: Former European Parliament Vice President Eva Kaili and lawmaker Marc Tarabella will learn today whether they’re staying in prison for the foreseeable future. Kaili and Tarabella appealed against their detention last month, and the Brussels Court of Appeal will deliver its ruling today.

Background: Kaili’s legal team has argued that she should be able to leave prison with an electronic monitor — as her partner Francesco Giorgi did last week. At a court hearing mid-February, Kaili’s Brussels-based lawyer Sven Mary said she should be at home with her toddler. If Kaili’s appeal is rejected, her provisional detention will be prolonged by two months.

This morning’s must-read — The making and unmaking of Eva Kaili: In a long-read published this morning, your Playbook author, along with Nektaria Stamouli, Eddy Wax and Gian Volpicelli, take a deep-dive into how the Greek celebrity politician soared to the top of EU politics — and crashed into jail.

Flying close to the sun: From her modest beginnings in Thessaloniki, to national politics in Athens, then onto Brussels and the fateful weeks leading up to her arrest, what emerges is the portrait of a magnetic personality who strove relentlessly for higher positions, unconcerned about ideology or party loyalty or where she’d ultimately go, as long as it was up.

Among other exclusive details, our reporting shows how Kaili lobbied for and obtained academic degrees in Greece without completing the requisite coursework; how she and her sister Mantalena’s political and business interests in Brussels frequently overlapped; and how she lobbied, personally and forcefully, in Qatar’s favor in the weeks leading up to her arrest. Read the report in full here.

COMMISSION TIGHTENS ETHICS RULES: The European Commission is rewriting its rules on staff travel expenses after POLITICO revealed that the director general of the transport department, Henrik Hololei, accepted free flights with Qatar Airways while his team negotiated a major aviation deal with the Gulf state. Mari Eccles has more.

MEPs asking questions: In a letter addressed to Adina Vălean and dated Thursday, a group of Green MEPs probe the transport commissioner about POLITICO’s revelations. The MEPs ask: “Will the European Commission provide justification for its determination that it was not a conflict of interest for an official leading the Directorate-General responsible for negotiations on the EU-Qatar Open Skies Agreement to receive gifts or similar benefits from this country’s government?”

VÁRHELYI COZIES UP TO MOROCCO: Hungary’s EU Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi traveled to Morocco this week, where he lavished praise on the kingdom and handed out over €500 million in EU grants just as the major corruption scandal continues to buffet the European Parliament.

Ignore it and hope it’ll go away? During a 30-minute soft-ball “press point” on Thursday, no one mentioned the saga. Várhelyi pledged new “depth” in the EU-Morocco relationship, praised “ambitious” social and administrative reforms in the kingdom and promised to swiftly implement the removal of Morocco from an international money-laundering gray list. Morocco “is and will be a major beneficiary of everything we do,” Várhelyi said.

Nothing to see here: “Today, above all with the European Commission, there’s a positive evolution in our treatment and in friendly relations,” Moroccan Foreign Affairs Minister Nasser Bourita said.

Strange: Socialist MEP Andreas Schieder, who chairs the Western Sahara intergroup, told Playbook the trip was a “very strange move,” also because the European Court of Justice is poised to rule on whether two EU-Morocco trade deals were illegal because they ignored the people of the Western Sahara.

Where’s Moroccogate? Meanwhile, unlike with Qataris, the Parliament has not banned Moroccan lobbyists from Parliament.

**Verena Ross, chair, European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) will be discussing the future of digital finance live at POLITICO Live’s Finance Summit. Register today to secure your seat!**

IN OTHER NEWS Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share on Handclap

MEP ALLEGATIONS: German CDU MEP Karolin Braunsberger-Reinhold was accused of sexually harassing employees, but the European Parliament kept it quiet and decided not to sanction her, according to a BILD report.

NUCLEAR TALKS: The Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi is in Tehran today to hold high-level meetings. The visit comes after a recent report from the IAEA, seen by CNN, confirmed that uranium particles enriched to 83.7 percent purity, close to the 90 percent needed to make a nuclear bomb, have been found at an Iranian nuclear facility.

CHINA VS. CZECH REPUBLIC: The spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Prague called on the Czech Republic to adhere to the one-China principle. The statement comes after Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský met with Tibetan officials in India. “The so-called ‘Tibetan Government-in-Exile’ is a separatist political group and an illegal organisation in complete violation of China’s constitution and laws,” the statement said.

Speaking of China: The above notwithstanding, Beijing’s been trying to make nice with Europe of late, writes Grzegorz Stec, an analyst in the Brussels’ office of the Mercator Institute for China Studies. But this shouldn’t stall decisions about the bloc’s China policy, he argues.

IRAN-BELGIUM PRISONER SWAP UPDATE: The Belgian Constitutional Court will today deliver its final decision on the validity of a treaty on prisoner exchanges between Belgium and Iran, after suspending it in December. The treaty could see Belgium swap Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, who was convicted of attempted terrorism, for humanitarian worker Olivier Vandecasteele, whom Iran imprisoned over spying allegations in a case denounced as hostage diplomacy.

Political pressure: Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo spoke with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday and called for Vandecasteele’s immediate release.

FRIDAY FEATURES: Brexit was back this week, so our EU Confidential podcast features Britain’s final European commissioner, Julian King, who discusses this latest chapter in the saga. Paul Dallison’s latest Declassified humor column is all about Brexiteers — who “have no tomatoes but a great plan for the future.” And over on Westminster Insider, new podcast host Aggie Chambre takes us inside the world of TV news, and asks how the advent of 24-hour rolling coverage has shaped British politics.

AGENDA Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share on Handclap

— Commission Vice President Věra Jourová speaks via videoconference with President of the European Committee of the Regions Vasco Alves Cordeiro.

— Commissioner Stella Kyriakides holds a videoconference call with Ukrainian Health Minister Viktor Liashko.

— French President Emmanuel Macron visits Luanda, Angola.

— The German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the U.S.; meets President Joe Biden.

— HRVP Josep Borrell in India.

— International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi travels to Iran for high-level meetings. Press conference expected on Saturday late afternoon upon his return to Vienna.

BRUSSELS CORNER Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share on Handclap

FARMERS PROTEST: Flemish farmers are protesting in Brussels today, so traffic is expected to be heavy, according to the police. A large tractor convoy will head to Brussels to protest against the Flemish government’s proposal to reduce nitrogen emissions, per an EU directive. The disruption is expected from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — keep an eye on Twitter for updates. (Similar protests have been long taking place in the Netherlands.)

Background: Farmers argue that to comply with the rules, they would need to reduce emissions from livestock and crop fertilizers, making their work more expensive. They also say that the Flemish government has provided them with no certainty. The Flemish government struck a deal in principle last year, but some of the parties in the government have since changed their minds and are attempting to renegotiate. In the meantime, the EU has launched legal action against Belgium for not complying with the bloc’s limits.


Calling all manga fans: Fans of Asian pop culture, manga, anime, video games and cosplay can check out the “Made in Asia” festival, which kicks off today at Brussels Expo. Details here.

Music festival: The Kidzik music festival, focused on families and kids, kicks off on Saturday and runs through the entire month of March. Program.

Vintage markets: On Sunday, browse through vintage clothes and accessories from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at Rue de Ligne 8. More.

BIRTHDAYS: Xavier Bettel, PM of Luxembourg; MEPs Domènec Ruiz Devesa, Isabel García Muñoz, Valdemar Tomaševski and Vilija Blinkevičiūtė; Ada Colau, mayor of Barcelona; Salvatore Domenico Pogliese, former mayor of Catania; WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; European Parliament’s Monika Krasnecová. Bulgaria’s Liberation Day.

CELEBRATING SATURDAY: MEPs Karima Delli and Herbert Dorfmann; Former MEPs Josu Juaristi Abaunz, Nicola Caputo, Brian Crowley, Jakob von Weizsäcker and Glenis Willmott; Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis; Former French PM François Fillon; Political scientist Sabine Saurugger.

CELEBRATING SUNDAY: MEP Andris Ameriks; Felix Uedelhoven from GE Healthcare Europe; Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić; Former Hungarian PM Gordon Bajnai; Former British Minister Paul Drayson; AIOTI’s Simona Romeo; João Lourenço, president of Angola; Former Spanish PM Felipe González.

THANKS TO: Eddy Wax, Jakob Hanke Vela, Playbook’s reporter Ketrin Jochecová and our producer Grace Stranger.

**A message from McDonald’s: Under the EU’s PPWR proposal consumers’ experience of quick-service restaurants could change fundamentally – and for the worse. A new study by global management consultancy Kearney highlights both: the risk of longer waiting time from slowed-down operations; and the burden of locating returning stations to bring back reusable packaging. And it’s not just consumer convenience that will be impacted. Costs are likely to go up too. The study suggests that energy and material costs from washing would lead to significant cost increases, and potential deposit schemes may negatively impact consumer perceptions of affordability. Commissioned by McDonald’s the independent study was conducted by Kearney Read the report at**

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