Brussels Playbook: Ammo for Ukraine — EU in Beijing — Trump indicted

Brussels Playbook: Ammo for Ukraine — EU in Beijing — Trump indicted
Опубликовано: Wednesday, 05 April 2023 05:10

What’s driving the day in Brussels.



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HAPPENING TODAY — ZELENSKYY IN POLAND: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is due to arrive in Poland for his first official visit since Russia’s full-scale invasion began last year. Zelenskyy’s visit “should be taken as a sign of trust and of thanking Poland and Poles,” Poland’s presidential foreign policy adviser Marcin Przydacz said on Tuesday.

DRIVING THE DAY: AMMO FOR UKRAINE Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share on Handclap

EU AMBASSADORS SEEK TO END IMPASSE OVER AMMO FOR UKRAINE: EU countries’ permanent representatives in Brussels are meeting today in another effort to iron out differences on plans to finance ammo for Ukraine and jointly resupply their own dwindling stocks.

Reminder: The EU wants to spend some €2 billion — €1 billion to partially reimburse countries that can immediately donate ammunition to Ukraine and another €1 billion to purchase new ammo. The idea is that together they can negotiate bigger contracts at a lower price per shell.

Still no agreement: But weeks after EU countries said they had struck a preliminary deal to supply Kyiv with a total of 1 million 155-millimeter shells over the next year, capitals are still fighting over the details of the plan — delaying the purchase of much-needed supplies for Ukraine.

Relexing: A meeting of officials representing EU countries on Monday (in the so-called Relex working party) failed to agree on whether the money should be used to buy ammo from around the world, or from EU suppliers only — France favors the latter; Germany says time is short and stocks should be bought from wherever they’re available in this first stage.

AGAINST THAT BACKDROP, NATO foreign ministers continue their meeting in Brussels today. On the agenda: talks between the North Atlantic Council and Sweden and Indo-Pacific partners.

Ahead of that: Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi writes in an op-ed for POLITICO that his country “is determined to take the lead in maintaining and strengthening the free and open international order.” Japan plans to offer allies money to help bolster their defenses — a big departure from its policy of not using international aid for military purposes, as Reuters writes.

But things got awkward on Tuesday, Lili Bayer reports. Arriving at NATO headquarters in Brussels on the day Finland formally became a member of the alliance, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country “is aiming at reaching the same goal.” But even some of Kyiv’s closest partners are hesitant about letting the country into the club, Lili reveals.

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT — NATO AFTER JENS: Who will be NATO’s next chief, after Jens Stoltenberg hangs up his combat boots in September? Some whisper that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen could return to her defense roots. But Lili reports that’s unlikely — there’s no indication von der Leyen is interested in the role, and she’s not expected to quit before her first term ends in 2024. Von der Leyen’s isn’t the only unlikely name being floated, Lili adds, concluding that the chatter seems to be people manifesting their ideal candidates and testing ideas.

COMING NEXT — MORE SANCTIONS AFTER EASTER: Brussels is planning a new round of discussions between the European Commission and EU ambassadors on the 11th sanctions package against Russia over its brutal invasion of Ukraine. The talks are expected just after the Easter holiday, three EU diplomats told POLITICO’s Barbara Moens. Von der Leyen has previously said the next package will focus on tackling sanctions circumvention and tackle loopholes.

CHINA-EU Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share on Handclap

VDL AND MACRON ARRIVE IN BEIJING: Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron arrive in Beijing today for a key visit, as they try to engage China and prevent a new global proxy war.

Looping in Biden: Around 5:30 p.m. Paris time, just a few hours before he left for Beijing, Macron spoke on the phone with U.S. President Joe Biden. A person briefed on the call said the two leaders emphasized their common will to engage China to end Russia’s war and bring stable and lasting peace to Europe. They agreed they wanted China to contribute more to “north-south solidarity” and to financing the poorest countries in the world, and that they wanted to work with China to tackle challenges around climate and biodiversity.

Von der Leyen spoke with Zelenskyy. “Ukraine will be an important topic of my meetings with President Xi and Premier Li,” the Commission chief tweeted. “The EU wants a just peace that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” More here.

Separate agendas: Macron and von der Leyen have separate agendas in Beijing, report my colleagues Suzanne Lynch and Stuart Lau in this top curtain-raiser. And the differences go beyond the people they’re meeting, as the two leaders engaged in different rhetoric ahead of their trip. While Macron brings with him 50-odd business executives, and his team is finalizing deals with China, von der Leyen made it clear last week that her main focus will center on de-risking Europe’s dependency on an increasingly “assertive” Beijing.

Balancing act: As Suzanne and Stuart put it, the trip will be a “delicate diplomatic dance playing out over the next three days,” with von der Leyen and Macron seeking to present a united European face despite differing plans on the ground.

VDL’s moment of truth: The Commission president will have a first-hand chance to practice what she preached in her hawkish speech last week, when she said the EU needed to get “bolder” on China. At the same time, the EU’s executive is well aware of the different approaches EU countries have to China.

Easy for Beijing to divide and rule: Hungary has welcomed Chinese investment with open arms and refrained from criticizing its human rights violations — as has Spain. Germany’s leaders have also mostly seen their relationship with China through a business lens and so far remained open to companies such as Huawei.

Macron has also sought to help French businesses strike deals in China, but at the same time insisted Europe needs to be able to assert its interests and not let Beijing divide and rule the EU. Macron’s invitation to von der Leyen to join him on his trip is a prime example of that approach.

On the other end of the spectrum is Lithuania, which has played a much more hawkish role. Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis questioned von der Leyen’s mantra that the EU should de-risk but not decouple its relationship with China, warning that “we are woefully unprepared for the possibility that Xi’s trajectory might ultimately leave us no choice but to decouple.”

More Thursday: The key meeting of the trip — a trilateral between Xi, von der Leyen and Macron — is on Thursday. The Europeans will seek to convince Xi to play a more constructive role on Ukraine and discourage him from supporting Russia with lethal aid — which would be illegal under international law and, EU senior officials and diplomats fear, would escalate the conflict.

LULA SNUBS VDL FOR XI: Meanwhile, von der Leyen’s visit to Brazil and other Latin American countries slated to start on April 11 is on hold, my colleague Sarah Anne Aarup reports. Why? Here’s a hint: Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has rescheduled a planned trip to China and will visit from April 11 to 15, according to Brazilian news portal G1.

NOW READ THIS: The foreign business community in China should be worried about the recent raid against American due diligence firm Mintz in Beijing, and the arrest of all five of its Chinese employees there, argues Peter Humphrey, who worked as a fraud investigator in China for Western firms. The move carries echoes of the past, he writes in this opinion piece.

**Nadia Calviño will open the fifth edition of POLITICO Live’s Europe Tech Summit on April 26-27. With two days centered around the EU regulatory framework for AI, digital infrastructure and the shaping of internet, you won’t want to miss our flagship tech event, featuring top speakers from across the globe! Register today.**

TRUMP INDICTED Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share on Handclap

IT’S OFFICIAL: Former U.S. President Donald Trump was charged (and pleaded not guilty) in a Manhattan court with 34 criminal counts of falsifying business records, with a trial expected next year. Prosecutors allege Trump concealed hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels — you can see the full indictment here.

What happens next: The charges carry a max sentence of four years in prison (though Trump’s much more likely to be fined). Being convicted won’t stop Trump running for president again. My U.S. Josh Gerstein goes through the revelations in the indictment and answers the key questions raised.

Preaching to the choir: Trump returned to Florida right after being arraigned in New York, and addressed hundreds of supporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate. He said the charges proved “we have to save our country,” and claimed he was being persecuted by his political opponents, Kelly Garrity reports. But while Trump rallied his base, the Republican Party is fracturing, writes Sally Goldenberg.

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

US SET TO REMAIN EUROPE’S BIGGEST LNG SUPPLIER: The 10th EU-U.S. Energy Council on Tuesday resulted in Washington promising to keep sending vast amounts of liquefied natural gas to its energy-hungry ally as the Continent prepares for next winter and fears rising prices. “I believe this is not a temporary situation, but marks a structural change in Europe’s energy outlook and trade orientation,” the EU’s Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said. More from Federica di Sario and Antonia Zimmermann.

BELGIAN POLICE RAID EPP HQ: Belgian and German police raided EPP headquarters on Tuesday in a search related to an ongoing corruption case in Germany. Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk reported the raid is connected to Mario Voigt — leader of the state parliament group in Thuringia for Germany’s center-right Christian Democratic Union — and his involvement in the EPP’s 2019 election campaign. Read more.

TAX SCANDAL RETURNS TO HAUNT SCHOLZ: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is facing a new probe over a tax fraud scandal that dates back to when he was mayor of the Hamburg city-state. The political fallout could be serious, report my colleagues Gabriel Rinaldi and Hans von der Burchard.

As Lindner faces Watchgate: Meanwhile, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner was caught putting his luxury wristwatch back on at the end of a TV talk show appearance, leading to accusations from political rivals that he was trying to disguise his wealth. Read more.

ANKARA-ATHENS RAPPROCHEMENT: Turkey and Greece can solve their difference peacefully with dialogue, Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Tuesday, following a meeting with his Greek counterpart Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos. It’s the latest sign of easing tensions between the two traditional foes as both countries head to elections in May, Nektaria Stamouli reports.

Speaking of the Greek election: Main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras promised to legalize same-sex marriage if he wins. If that happens, Greece would be the first predominantly Orthodox Christian country to do so.

POOP POLITICS: My colleague Esther Webber reports on how sewage-strewn beaches became Britain’s new election battleground.

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

— Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron begin trip to Beijing.

— Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expected in Poland.

— NATO foreign affairs ministers continue meeting in Brussels. Arrivals and doorstep statements from 7 a.m.; Meeting of the North Atlantic Council in foreign ministers session with Sweden at 8:15 a.m.; NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg delivers statement with representatives of Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea at 10:20 a.m.; Meeting of the North Atlantic Council in foreign ministers session with partners at 11 a.m.; Stoltenberg press conference at 2:15 p.m. Watch.

— Commissioner Johannes Hahn receives Pierre Heilbronn, Emmanuel Macron’s special envoy for Ukraine’s relief and reconstruction.

— Commissioner Thierry Breton in Lille, France, delivers speech at the International Cybersecurity Forum.

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

NO CHEERS BEERS: The EP Beer Club, an unofficial group at the European Parliament, has booted MEP Marc Tarabella out after his arrest in connection with the Qatargate corruption scandal, my colleague Eddy Wax reports.

E-SCOOTERS ON NOTICE: While Brussels doesn’t plan to ban shared e-scooters, it is closely following developments elsewhere, the city’s Minister for Mobility Elke Van den Brandt said, after Parisians voted to nix them in the French capital. “If there is no improvement within one year in terms of road safety and respect for other users, we will consider stronger measures,” she told Playbook’s Ketrin Jochecová.

Fewer scooters, more parking for them: The Brussels regional government plans to implement new rules for e-scooters, starting with introducing more parking areas (called drop zones) and harmonizing parking policies. “We should have about 1,000 drop zones before the summer,” the minister said. The city also wants to reduce the number of shared e-scooters in town to 13,000 from 21,000. (There are 15,000 in Paris.)

Backdrop: The Belgian government tightened rules on e-scooters to deal with a high number of accidents and to prevent them from dominating sidewalks. The rules, which came into force last July, set 16 as the minimum age for riding e-scooters and banned passengers and driving on sidewalks — and the number of injuries dropped almost in half.

Reactions: Uccle Mayor Boris Dilliès, who banned e-scooters from parking in his commune, argued the government is moving too slowly. “The majority of users behave like cowboys and don’t care about public space … E-scooters providers or the users, they just don’t care,” he said in an interview with LN24.

STROMAE CANCELS TOUR DATES: Singer Stromae canceled many of his concerts around Europe, saying in a statement that he needed to focus on his health — though his Brussels, Lille and Paris shows appear to be going ahead. If you’ve got tickets to one of the canceled shows, you can get a refund.

HORS PISTES: The Hors Pistes circus festival is on now in Halles de Schaerbeek.

NEW JOB: New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has appointed his predecessor Jacinda Ardern as special envoy for the Christchurch Call anti-terror initiative. More here.

AWARDED: POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein and Alex Ward were on Tuesday awarded the first-ever Katherine Graham Award for Courage and Accountability from the White House Correspondents’ Association for their groundbreaking reporting on the U.S. Supreme Court last year. Congratulations!

BIRTHDAYS: European Commission’s Mina Andreeva; Current British MP and former MEP Afzal Khan; Former MEP Richard Howitt; BBC Russia editor Steve Rosenberg.

THANKS to Suzanne Lynch, Jamil Anderlini, Barbara Moens, Stuart Lau, Jacopo Barigazzi, Gregorio Sorgi, Playbook reporter Ketrin Jochecová and producer Grace Stranger.

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