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By SUZANNE LYNCH
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DRIVING THE DAY: ENERGY COUNCIL
D-DAY (AGAIN): It’s yet another crunch meeting for EU energy ministers who gather in Brussels this morning. On the agenda? How to address high energy prices. But don’t expect any breakthrough. Instead, countries are fuming that the European Commission has yet to come forward with a detailed plan on a gas price cap — despite being asked to do so three weeks ago at the last emergency council.
DIGGING IN: As America Hernandez reports, 15 of the bloc’s 27 energy ministers urged the Commission to prepare a detailed menu of gas cap options before Friday, “followed by a legislative proposal as soon as possible.” But instead, a much-awaited Brussels policy paper meant to guide Friday’s discussion consists mainly of warnings against capping the price of all gas imports, and encourages countries to consume less and renegotiate better supply contracts with “reliable” suppliers like Norway and Algeria.
It also re-proposes Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s widely panned idea to only cap the price of Russian gas imports.
BIG BAZOOKA: Today’s meeting comes as Germany unveiled a colossal €200 billion energy package for consumers and businesses Thursday — but as Hans von der Burchard reports, Germany’s court of auditors has slammed the plan, implicitly accusing the government of bypassing debt rules.
**A message from Martens Centre: The Ukraine war marked a turning point for Europe and changed much of what we thought we knew on energy, security and defence. How has the conflict impacted the EU and its future? Visit our website and check our dedicated section for all our related research and activities!**
Whodunnit: Meanwhile, the blame-game continued about the possible perpetrators of the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines, with Sweden reporting a fourth leak. Climate experts are assessing the damage from the leaks, with Denmark estimating that methane emissions from the leaks will account for about a third of the country’s entire annual emissions.
Just in case you weren’t worried enough: If major national gas pipelines have been attacked, what could be next? Well, there are fears that the labyrinthine network of undersea cables that power the global internet could be an inviting target. Mark Scott has more. Meanwhile, Lili Bayer looks at what countries are doing to protect their critical infrastructure — a near-impossible task.
DOUBLE WHAMMY: As energy ministers meet in Brussels, a different drama will be unfolding in Russia, where President Vladimir Putin is expected to officially annex four regions of Ukraine at a ceremony in the Kremlin. It follows sham votes in the regions this week in parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy promised a “tough” response to the annexations, and Joe Biden said the U.S. will “never, never, never” recognize Russia’s attempt to annex territory in Ukraine.
DOUBLE WHAMMY 2: Also today, eurozone inflation figures for September are due to be published, with markets and governments braced for some more bad news. It comes a day after Germany posted head-spinning inflation of 10 percent last month.
Look away now: As Europe slides into recession, the question is just how bad will it be? Johanna Treeck and Paola Tamma take a look.
PARALLEL TALKS: Separately, EU ambassadors will also meet today to debate the latest round of sanctions proposed by the Commission this week. While no major hiccups are expected, detailed technical discussion is expected on how the proposed oil price cap would work. All eyes will be on Greece and Cyprus for any reaction to plans to ban shipping companies and insurance firms from transporting or insuring Russian oil.
Not enough: Meanwhile, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba gave his reaction to the EU’s latest sanctions package last night, stating that it does “not correspond to the scale of Putin’s escalation and the threat he poses to Europe and the whole world.”
Summitry plans: Today’s energy discussion will inform next week’s leaders’ meeting at Friday’s informal summit in Prague. It is also expected to feature heavily in Monday’s planned working dinner between French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, first reported by POLITICO.
**Registrations are still open for POLITICO Live’s Health Care Summit! Join us online on October 27-28 to take full advantage of the many policy files we’ll be covering with our expert reporters and a fascinating lineup of speakers. Interested in discussing all things pharma, digital health, and more? Register today.**
PRAGUE SUMMIT LATEST
TRUSS INTENTIONS: With less than a week to go to the inaugural meeting of the European Political Community in Prague, Playbook’s own Jakob Hanke Vela scooped that British Prime Minister Liz Truss has indicated she will attend the pow-wow.
Details: The British told a meeting of political representatives from national capitals on Thursday that not only was Truss minded to attend, but also that she wanted Britain to host the second meeting of the new forum, which is likely to take place in six months or a year’s time. Moldova also offered to host the second meeting, officials told Playbook.
Recap: The EPC — yes, yet another EU acronym, which is not to be confused with the European Policy Center — is the brainchild of Emmanuel Macron, who first announced the idea of a forum to include non-EU countries like Ukraine and the U.K. in a speech to the European Parliament in May. European Council President Charles Michel has embraced the idea with gusto, and his staff have been busy sending out invites to the event, which begins next Thursday lunchtime in Prague, ahead of an EU-only summit on Friday.
UK’S CALCULATION: Truss discussed Britain’s possible participation with Macron during their bilateral meeting at the fringes of the U.N. General Assembly last week in New York. In particular, the U.K. wants to put migration on the agenda of the forum. What remains to be seen is if Britain’s request to host the second summit is a clever gambit to ensure Britain’s participation — on its own terms; or whether the EU 27 really care enough to have Britain participate, particularly as the vexed issue of the Northern Ireland protocol has yet to be resolved.
The consensus in the room … was that the next EPC council will take place in a non-EU country, officials said.
Reading Truss: With British politics currently undergoing enormous upheaval, Truss may find a trip to Prague a welcome escape from the economic and political meltdown happening at home, where the Bank of England has had to intervene on the back of the government’s much-maligned “mini-budget” last week. A new YouGov poll last night put the opposition Labour party 33 points ahead of the Conservatives as voters balk at the new economic plan. Check out the latest on POLITICO’s Poll of Polls aggregate.
SCHADENFREUDE, WHAT SCHADENFREUDE … Though EU Council and Commission officials have stayed schtum about Britain’s economic woes, others across Europe have been more blunt. Spain’s Economy Minister Nadia Calviño branded the U.K.’s policy a “disaster.” Asked about the result of the Italian election, France’s Bruno Le Maire said that Britain, not Italy, was the real economic concern.
GUEST LIST: While confirmation that Truss intends to attend has been the main focus of discussion ahead of the meeting, it remains to be seen if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will attend. EU officials have confirmed that no stand-ins are allowed — like EU summits, only heads of state and government are permitted to attend. Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address the group virtually.
In total, 44 leaders are on the list and there will be no formal communiqué — instead, leaders will be divided into four discussion groups where they’ll discuss the themes of peace and stability, and energy, climate and economy.
IN OTHER NEWS
WOMEN’S POWER (NOT): So much for the European Parliament’s commitment to women’s rights and gender equality. A meeting of the Parliament’s FEMM committee (the committee on women’s rights and gender equality) had to be abandoned yesterday — after the majority of MEPs failed to show. Only committee Chair Robert Biedroń and Margarita de la Pisa Carrión turned up, Playbook hears.
BRETON WARNING: EU Commissioner Thierry Breton took a swipe at America’s Inflation Reduction Act — the landmark legislation signed by U.S. President Joe Biden this summer. The French commissioner said the EU “urgently” needs a coordinated response. The package encourages U.S. consumers to “Buy American” when purchasing a greener car — a measure that has raised the ire of EU trade officials. Interestingly, Playbook couldn’t help but notice that Ursula von der Leyen rushed to congratulate Biden on signing the act — despite the misgivings of EU officials.
LITHUANIA SECURES TELECOM ROLE: After almost two years of diplomatic campaigning, Lithuania managed on Thursday to bag a coveted job at the United Nations’ telecom agency, a body that shapes global rules for the internet. As Clothilde Goujard reports, Tomas Lamanauskas was elected deputy secretary general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) after securing the backing of 105 countries. He’ll form a transatlantic duo with the newly elected head, Doreen Bogdan-Martin of the United States.
Success story: “It’s a success story for Lithuania but also for the European Union,” Lithuania’s Minister for Transport and Communications Marius Skuodis told Playbook, pointing out that an EU official will now be at the center of work on global telecoms rules (more here).
CATALAN SECESSION PUSH, 5 YEARS ON: Saturday marks 5 years since Catalan nationalists staged a referendum on secession. Now, Guy Hedgecoe reports, Catalan separatism is in disarray, riven by infighting and with proponents unable even to agree on how to go about achieving secession. Right on cue, yesterday the Catalan government narrowly avoided collapse in the wake of the regional president sacking his deputy.
UBER DATE: Mark MacGann, the lobbyist-turned-whistleblower behind the Uber Files, is planning to attend a hearing hosted by the European Parliament’s employment committee next month to examine issues arising from his disclosures, POLITICO hears. He will be one of five speakers expected to show up — including a representative from the Commission.
Kroes (not in) control: The hearing on October 25 takes place as OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud body, announced it is investigating former European Commissioner Neelie Kroes for her role in lobbying for Uber. According to the Uber Files investigation, Kroes lobbied on behalf of the ride-hailing company by offering to set up meetings between EU officials and company executives during her “cooling period” after leaving the European Commission, Pieter Haeck reports.
WHAT MOTIVATES VOTERS: European citizens still believe in democracy — but are willing to put their respect for democratic norms to the side once identity policies come into play. That’s one of the findings of new research from German political foundation Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and presented at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna this week.
Democracy with caveats: The research, which was undertaken in countries as diverse as Germany, Sweden and Ukraine, found that issues like same-sex marriage and immigration top the poll when it comes to voters’ concerns, with citizens more likely to accept a flouting of democratic norms if their preferred identity-politics issues are addressed by politicians. Supporters of far-right parties are the least willing to punish undemocratic behavior by their elected representatives, according to the data. You can read more here.
WEEKEND LISTENING: The latest episode of EU Confidential is out! This week, Suzanne and the POLITICO team break down Sunday’s Italian election, plus Lili Bayer interviews the EU’s ambassador in Washington, Stavros Lambrinidis. Listen here. And on this week’s Westminster Insider podcast, Ailbhe Rea meets Laura Kuenssberg, until recently the BBC’s political editor and the new host of the BBC’s flagship Sunday politics show.
FRIDAY FUN: Paul Dallison looks at Liz Truss’ disastrous start as U.K. prime minister in his latest Declassified column.
**On October 12 at 4:30 p.m. CEST, POLITICO Green 28 unveiling event will take place. This online event will also feature a one-to-one interview with the European Parliament’s chair of the ENVI Committee MEP Pascal Canfin and a joint interview with T&E Executive Director William Todts and ACEA Director–General Sigrid de Vries. Register here.**
— EU energy ministers meet for an energy council. Arrivals from 8:15 a.m.
— Eurostat flash estimate for eurozone inflation, September.
— Commissioner Janez Lenarčič in Berlin: meets Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Minister of the Interior and Community Nancy Faeser.
— Commissioner Věra Jourová attends the Athens Democracy Forum.
— Commissioner Margaritis Schinas in Crete — Commissioner Dubravka Šuica in Cyprus.
— Commissioner Nicolas Schmit in Estonia, meeting with Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.
— Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in Dublin. Delivers speech at the Institute of International & European Affairs and at business group IBEC.
— Commissioner Mariya Gabriel on visit to Japan.
— EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly continues visit to Washington.
BRAVO! Playbook is pleased to bring you the news that POLITICO has been named as the most influential EU media for EU decision-makers, according to the 2022 EU Media Poll by BCW Brussels and Savanta ComRes.
Responding to the news, POLITICO EUROPE’s editor-in-chief Jamil Anderlini said: “I’m glad that POLITICO is being recognized as a dominant voice in political journalism on the European Continent. This is down to the fantastic work this team of exceptionally talented journalists have been doing day-in day-out and I am thrilled by the opportunity to help them grow this publication further.” Hear, hear!
50 YEARS OF EU MEMBERSHIP: Denmark and Ireland will come together today to mark the 50th anniversary of their entry into the EU. While their formal entry into the European Communities (EC) as it was then known occurred on January 1, 1973, both countries voted in 1972 to join.
Today’s event at Bibliothèque Solvay, in the Schuman district will bring together figures like former Irish Prime Minister and EU Ambassador to the United States John Bruton and former EU Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, as well as several senior Irish and Danish officials and diplomats.
Empty seat: One country that won’t be at the table will be the United Kingdom. Britain joined along with Denmark and Ireland in 1973, but we all know how that worked out …
STEP IT OUT: The Brussels Marathon and Half-Marathon take place on Sunday, with events kicking off at the Atomium in the north of the city. Better bring your rain gear though — the weather forecast predicts plenty of rain.
BIRTHDAYS: MEPs Radan Kanev, Younous Omarjee and Ivan Štefanec; Former MEP Iveta Grigule-Pēterse; Washington Post’s David Herszenhorn.
Celebrating Saturday: MEPs Andrus Ansip and Anne Sander; Former MEPs Dominique Martin and Vladimir Urutchev; Former ECB executive board member Yves Mersch; ThyssenKrupp Steel’s Julian Schorpp; Former British Prime Minister Theresa May; Tania Latici; Journalist Teri Schultz; George Weah, president of Liberia.
Celebrating Sunday: Former European Commissioner and Estonian PM Siim Kallas; MEP Stasys Jakeliūnas; BlackRock’s Antony Manchester; European Commission’s Andreana Stankova, Madalina Mocanu and Franck Arrii; POLITICO’s Eddy Wax and Pieter Haeck; Orfeo’s Anne Deltour; Charles Savarin, president of Dominica.
Thanks to Carlo Martuscelli, Jakob Hanke Vela, Leonie Kijewski, Sarah Wheaton, editor Paul Dallison and producer Grace Stranger.
**A message from Martens Centre: How should a federation be designed? And to what extent can the crises the European federation has faced be linked to our understanding and implementation of subsidiarity? The Martens Centre’s latest publication ‘EU Subsidiarity as an Antidote to Centralisation and Inefficiency’ explores the challenges of multilevel governance and proposes an organisational approach to subsidiarity that will safeguard the integrity of all member states while removing inefficiencies in the EU’s governance model. With the EU lacking an administrative model, this paper examines how subsidiarity can help fill that gap! Head to our website to find out more!**
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