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Ukraine fears — Corona corruption — Ariane’s success – POLITICO

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By JAKOB HANKE VELA and SUZANNE LYNCH

with ZOYA SHEFTALOVICH

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UKRAINE LATEST       

US PREPARES FOR WAR WHILE EU SEEKS TO DE-ESCALATE: After one other day of talks between EU international locations and their U.S. allies looking for to take care of a joint entrance on Russia, there was one key message: It’s all about “European unity and transatlantic unity,” as Spain’s International Minister José Manuel Albares instructed Playbook. “There was an enormous show of unity amongst Europeans but additionally Europeans along with the Individuals,” his Dutch counterpart Wopke Hoekstra mentioned.

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The identical message was despatched out in readouts after U.S. President Joe Biden in a single day videocalled the leaders of the U.Ok., France, Germany, Poland and Italy, and the presidents of the European Council and Fee, from the White Home Scenario Room.

However from the EU’s and Washington’s actions, if not from their phrases, it’s turning into clear that either side are deviating of their evaluation of how imminent a Russian assault on Ukraine is.

Boots on: The Pentagon overnight put 8,500 troops on “heightened alert” to deploy to Jap Europe in case Russia assaults, following an order for the evacuation of the households of embassy employees in Ukraine.

**A message from Google: The pandemic has underlined the significance of know-how in all components of life. At Google, we have continuously tailored merchandise to enhance help and offered coaching to assist small companies take advantage of digital know-how. Having the proper abilities and instruments must be underpinned by the proper insurance policies.**

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EU staying put: In distinction, EU international locations have determined to not evacuate their embassies for the second, with ministers and the EU’s international affairs chief Josep Borrell stressing they didn’t see imminent hazard. “We’re not going to do the identical factor as a result of we don’t know any particular causes,” Borrell mentioned Monday.

Danger assessments: Requested after talks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken whether or not the U.S. had shared any data that pointed to an elevated danger of Russian aggression in comparison with final week, Borrell mentioned: “I don’t assume there’s something new or that may enhance the sensation of concern about a direct assault.”

No self-fulfilling prophesies: EU ministers and advisers additionally insisted they nonetheless believed a diplomatic resolution was potential. “In a disaster state of affairs, every part can evolve in a short time so we should be cautious to not write the tip of the state of affairs even earlier than different steps have been taken since you should clearly keep away from the self-fulfilling character of the disaster,” mentioned a French Elysée supply.

Concentrate on financial dangers: European international ministers at their assembly on Monday additionally pointed to the chance that sky-high power costs, inflation and the robust financial state of affairs in Ukraine may result in a revolt relatively than a navy coup — however in the end with the identical consequence of a pro-Russian authorities taking on in Kyiv. Ministers insisted the Fee’s help package deal of €1.2 billion within the type of an emergency monetary help package deal and €120 million in extra grants was subsequently crucial. Get the wrap-up of the International Affairs Council by way of this story from our colleagues David Herszenhorn and Lili Bayer.

HAPPENING TODAY: French President Emmanuel Macron is heading to Berlin to debate a standard place with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Officers mentioned the objective was to achieve the identical evaluation of the state of affairs, a joint place on which sanctions to take if Russia escalates, and in addition a standard reply to Russia’s calls for.

Occurring Wednesday: Russian and Ukrainian representatives are set to fulfill in Paris for a gathering within the Normandy format with German and French officers.

CORONA CORRUPTION       

CORRUPTION FLOURISHED UNDER COVID: The coronavirus pandemic has served as an ideal defend — and generally as an surprising enterprise boon — for corrupt politicians throughout the EU, Transparency Worldwide says in a new report out today. “Europe continues to make use of the disaster as an excuse for stagnating anti-corruption efforts and troubling choices. Accountability and transparency measures are additionally being uncared for or rolled again,” the report says.

The three least corrupt European international locations on TI’s Corruption Perceptions Index: Denmark, Finland, Norway.

The three most corrupt European international locations: Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania.

Slovenia backsliding: Whereas corruption notion was stagnant in most EU international locations, Slovenia reached a historic low. “The deterioration in Slovenia is worrisome however not shocking,” MEP Daniel Freund mentioned. The nation’s Prime Minister Janez Janša “has made no secret that he considers [Hungarian PM Viktor] Orbán a task mannequin,” he added.

Commissioner Věra Jourová tells Playbook: “Corruption is a most cancers for democracy. It undermines individuals’s belief, it creates a notion that some are extra equal than others,” the Fee’s VP for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová instructed us. “The Transparency Worldwide report reveals that in lots of member states there’s room for enchancment, and the Fee stands able to help them of their anti-corruption reforms.”

Rule of legislation suggestions coming: Jourová added: “Efficient struggle in opposition to corruption requires all components of the democratic system to be wholesome, together with impartial media and the judiciary. For this reason we’re all these facets in our annual rule of legislation report. Within the 2022 version, we may have suggestions for the primary time.”

Time for motion: However critics comparable to Freund aren’t satisfied the Fee suggestions will assist. “The EU’s struggle in opposition to corruption is stalling,” Freund instructed us. “Vital instruments just like the rule-of-law mechanism usually are not getting used. The problems with international locations like Hungary and Bulgaria have been recognized for years. But, the EU response didn’t go additional than emphasizing dialogue.”

Ready for justice: Fee officers say they’re ready for the Courtroom of Justice of the EU to concern its ruling on the legality of the mechanism — anticipated subsequent month — earlier than deciding whether or not to set off it.

Weak procurement guidelines: To hurry up purchases throughout the pandemic, governments throughout the EU, and certainly the Fee itself, “simplified” guidelines on public procurement, for instance by permitting administrations to make extra purchases with out the necessity for public tenders. Governments have nonetheless not restored transparency measures rolled again throughout the early days of the pandemic, Transparency Worldwide additionally says.

Driving the pandemic wave: That has opened the door to abuse, with politicians caught up in corruption scandals linked to contracts for face masks, ventilators or COVID checks in international locations together with Germany, the U.Ok., Spain and Hungary.

Germany, France, Italy, Spain amongst international locations that fail to guard whistleblowers: There’s been a lot give attention to the EU’s newer members within the east over rampant corruption and rule-of-law breaches. However large Western international locations have additionally did not make progress over the previous years. Last December, 22 out of the 27 EU countries missed the deadline for transposing the Fee’s directive to guard whistleblowers. 

Mammoth job forward: Because the EU begins disbursing a file €800 billion to nationwide governments in its pandemic restoration fund, which is to be spent by 2023, officers are already warning the sheer dimension of the contracts and the pace at which they should be awarded are a serious corruption danger.

FOCUS ON SERBIA       

BRNABIĆ IN TOWN: Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić meets the presidents of the Fee, Council and Parliament in the present day. Whereas the go to is formally for the EU-Serbia Stabilization and Affiliation Council, an ordinary assembly meant to take inventory of the place issues stand with the nation’s accession course of, it’s going down at a time of heightened concern concerning the area. 

Background: Threats by Bosnian Serbs to secede and inflammatory language and actions by leaders of Republika Srpska (RS) in Bosnia — the Serb-majority entity that kinds a part of Bosnia-Herzegovina — have alarmed policymakers in Brussels and Washington. As reported in Playbook, earlier this month the European Exterior Motion Service accused RS leaders of undermining stability within the nation and the Bosnian structure. 

Awkward questions for Fee: European Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi has additionally been caught up in a deepening scandal after he was accused of siding with Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of the tripartite Bosnian management. The Guardian reported final month that EU officers had been working behind the scenes to “appropriate” a proposed new legislation that criminalizes denial of the Srebrenica bloodbath.

MEPs’ letter: A bunch of 30 MEPs wrote final week to Fee President Ursula von der Leyen calling for an investigation into Hungarian Commissioner Várhelyi, who’s near Viktor Orbán. However the Fee has stood by its man, saying Várhelyi’s statements on Bosnia and Herzegovina have been “solely consultant of the place of the EU and the Fee.”

Some progress: Whereas Serbia’s function within the escalating tensions in Bosnia is more likely to be raised in the present day by EU leaders with Brnabić, there was some progress in Belgrade’s accession talks, which have been ongoing since 2012. Final month, Brussels opened a cluster of negotiating chapters, and the EU welcomed Belgrade’s choice to carry a long-delayed referendum on judicial reform this month.

Long run or lengthy shot? However the prospects of Serbia becoming a member of the EU any time quickly stay distant — and never simply due to relations with Kosovo and Bosnia. Rampant corruption, the erosion of rule of legislation and shut ties to Russia, as evidenced by Moscow’s latest provide of arms to Belgrade, will make its accession a political minefield. In the meantime, China can be increasing its foothold within the nation.

**Mairead McGuinness, EU commissioner for monetary providers, and Gabriele Galateri di Genola, chairman of the board, Generali, will participate in a joint interview at POLITICO Dwell’s Finance Summit on February 11. Don’t miss this dialogue amongst many others. Register today!**

 

IN OTHER NEWS       

NO WHITE SMOKE IN ITALIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: Italian lawmakers did not elect a brand new president in Monday’s first secret poll. Right here’s a reminder of how the race works.

SPIRALING BORIS TROUBLE: One other day, one other report of a celebration that’s upping the stress on Boris Johnson. ITV News reported on Monday {that a} celebration was thrown for the British PM throughout the first coronavirus lockdown within the U.Ok., regardless of a strict ban on socializing indoors. So as to add to the hypocrisy, Johnson tweeted on the time urging individuals to postpone their very own birthday dos. POLITICO’s Eleni Courea has the main points.

Concern Sue Grey: The official who’s investigating the lockdown events has Westminster on tenterhooks, as Johnson’s enemies are already circling. POLITICO’s Ryan Heath, who as soon as labored for Grey, has a warning for Johnson.

BREXIT UPDATE: Fee Vice President Maroš Šefčovič will replace European affairs ministers on the state of play of Brexit negotiations at in the present day’s Basic Affairs Council. It comes a day after the EU’s Brexit negotiator met U.Ok. International Secretary Liz Truss in Brussels. Regardless of discuss of a “constructive ambiance” between the 2, there have been few public indicators of any breakthrough. POLITICO’s Cristina Gallardo has a write-up.

MICROSOFT MAKES ANTITRUST COMEBACK: Microsoft may quickly be thrown again into the cruel glare of EU antitrust scrutiny, amid its $68.7 billion deal to purchase video-game agency Activision Blizzard, report POLITICO’s Pietro Lombardi and Samuel Stolton.

TURKISH DRONES IN ETHIOPIA ATTACK: Newly obtained pictures of missile fragments present the primary materials proof that Ethiopia used a Turkish drone this month in an assault that killed 58 civilians sheltering in a college, studies Simon Marks for POLITICO.

MACRON’S FREE TRADE PLAN: France is on a campaign to make Europe’s commerce coverage fairer and greener. As Eddy Wax and Barbara Moens write, one of many central pillars of France’s presidency of the Council of the European Union over the subsequent six months is a proposal to introduce “mirror clauses” — the concept that Europe’s commerce companions ought to mirror the EU’s manufacturing requirements. However whereas this will play properly with French farmers forward of April’s presidential election, the concept is going through resistance from the die-hard free merchants of the European Fee.

**Be a part of the POLITICO Professional Briefing Name “Les premières avancées de la Présidence française de l’UE” on February 1 at 2pm CET. POLITICO journalists will evaluation the continued negotiations on digital platform regulation (DSA/DMA), digital sovereignty points, and the European inexperienced taxonomy. Not a Professional but however eager about attending? E mail [email protected]. This name can be held in French.**

AGENDA       

— Basic Affairs Council begins at 10 a.m., press convention anticipated round 2:30 p.m. Watch.

— Casual assembly of ministers of upper training, analysis and innovation in Paris. Arrivals from 8 a.m. Details. Watch.

— Fee President Ursula von der Leyen meets with German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck (10:30 a.m.).

— EU-Serbia Stabilization and Affiliation Council. Arrivals from 1 p.m., with a press convention anticipated later within the afternoon.

— Prime Minister of Serbia Ana Brnabić in Brussels. Assembly with Council President Charles Michel at 2:30 p.m., Fee President Ursula von der Leyen at 3:30 p.m., then Parliament President Roberta Metsola at 7:30 p.m.

— EEAS chief Josep Borrell delivers keynote speech on the “Europe in Hazard: What subsequent for EU safety and protection?” occasion co-organized by the European Exterior Motion Service and the EU Institute for Safety Research (5:40 p.m.). Watch.

— European Parliament’s ECON and EMPL committees maintain joint alternate of views on the 2022 European Semester Autumn Bundle with Fee Government Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, Economic system Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni and Jobs Commissioner Nicolas Schmit.

— European House Convention 2022. Program.

BRUSSELS CORNER       

JAMES WEBB TELESCOPE REACHES FINAL ORBIT: In some stunningly excellent news, humanity’s strongest and complicated telescope reached its ultimate orbit, absolutely deployed on Monday. And in much more thrilling news, the telescope’s estimated lifetime has doubled, due to the superb efficiency of Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket. 

All hail Ariane 5: The lifetime of the telescope is restricted by the gasoline it carries on board, which it might want to stabilize its orbit. NASA had set a conservative minimal mission life baseline of 5 years, with a objective of 10. In line with NASA engineers, the Ariane 5 rocket delivered such a exact trajectory injection that the telescope used a lot much less gasoline than anticipated to achieve its ultimate vacation spot. The excess gasoline will enable Webb to final for about 20 years.

ICYMI: Right here’s every part it’s essential know concerning the weekend’s Brussels riots, by POLITICO’s new breaking information reporter Camille Gijs. Welcome to the staff!

BIRTHDAYS: MEP Ryszard Czarnecki; Finnish MP Merja Kyllönen, a former MEP; Former MEP Roger Helmer; Former French PM Jean-Marc Ayrault; Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

THANKS TO: Our producer Grace Stranger.

**A message from Google: Supporting new digital companies in addition to supporting conventional companies transition to a digital future in Europe has all the time been necessary to us. Google’s services allow European companies of all types to grow faster, export to new markets and innovate. For Antonio González, proprietor of the restaurant Casa Botín which started operations in 1725, entry to digital abilities was important to maintain seen with their neighborhood and develop their enterprise. Through the pandemic, the Spanish restaurant rapidly carried out a particular on-line supply service by means of its web site. “We could be the world’s oldest restaurant, however we see the worth of those next-generation instruments. I’ve little doubt that we are going to proceed to make use of extra of them heading into the longer term.”**

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