Zelenskyy jabs Lavrov at G20 — EU’s weapons plan — Trump day? – POLITICO

Zelenskyy jabs Lavrov at G20 — EU’s weapons plan — Trump day? – POLITICO

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POLITICO Brussels Playbook





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HOWDY. I’m Sarah Wheaton, POLITICO’s chief policy correspondent. I can usually be found over at the EU Influence newsletter, and I wish I could gloat about writing today’s Brussels Playbook from Bali or Sharm El-Sheikh. Alas, I am here in the Belgian capital with you, finally breaking down and turning on the heat.


G20? MAKE THAT THE G19! Overnight, Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed leaders attending the G20 summit in Bali — and pointedly snubbed Russia’s Sergey Lavrov, who was seen in the room shortly before the Ukrainian president beamed in via videolink, our man on the ground Stuart Lau reports. In comments he directed to the “dear G19,” Zelenskyy didn’t hide his joy over Ukraine’s liberation of Kherson from the Russian invaders.

D-Day: Comparing the recapture of Kherson to a key turning point that swung World War II to the allies, Zelenskyy said: “It is like, for example, D-Day — the landing of the allies in Normandy.”

Nuke warning: “There are and cannot be any excuses for nuclear blackmail,” Zelenskyy said, “and I thank you, dear G19, for making this clear.”

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NO BAD DEALS: Zelenskyy appeared anxious about potential plans to cook up some sort of negotiated peace with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a concern that flared up again after reports emerged that Bill Burns, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, met his Russian counterpart in Turkey this week. “I want this aggressive Russian war to end justly and on the basis of the U.N. Charter and international law,” Zelenskyy said. “Ukraine should not be offered to conclude compromises with its conscience, sovereignty, territory and independence. We respect the rules and we are people of our word.” Stuart’s full dispatch here.

MICHEL ON GRAIN: European Council President Charles Michel also addressed the G20, focusing on the need to keep exports of grain flowing through the Black Sea, as Moscow has threatened to torpedo the U.N.-brokered deal that reopened Ukraine’s ports. “It is important that this Black Sea initiative be continued,” Michel said during the closed-door session, according to a diplomat.

Michel on China: Speaking during a press conference, the Council chief lauded the fact that presidents Joe Biden of the U.S. and Xi Jinping of China met in Bali. “It’s always positive when there is a space for political dialogue, even if there are different opinions on many topics,” Michel said, reiterating the EU position on seeking to avoid over-dependence on China for technology.

Taking on the ‘Belt and Road’: Even as Biden tried to cool tensions with Beijing during his meeting with Xi on Monday, today is all about reasserting Western soft-power influence, with an assist from Europe. Biden, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Indonesian President Joko Widodo will co-host an event on the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment. The initiative, aimed at mobilizing investments of $600 billion in infrastructure over the next five years, is often seen as the bloc’s answer to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to build a global network of infrastructure for China to reach Africa, Europe and Latin America. Whether that event will identify concrete infrastructure projects remains to be seen.

ALSO ON TAP TODAY: French President Emmanuel Macron held a 43-minute meeting with Xi in the early hours of this morning (according to Parisian stopwatches anyway). Not quite the three-and-a-half hours the Chinese president gave Biden, but better than the 20 minutes originally scheduled.

Giorgia on their mind: Macron has no plans to meet Italian PM Giorgia Meloni, according to French officials, amid worsening bilateral ties over migration (more on that here). But Biden will have a bilat with the Italian, where they’ll discuss “our cooperation on shared global challenges,” including those posed by China, “and our ongoing efforts to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression,” per the White House.

Dad joke bingo: Points if Biden quips that everyone’s counting on Georgia.

SAY SOMETHING, ANYTHING: Because a summit is seen as a failure if there’s no communiqué, the G20 sherpas have managed to hash out a lowest-common-denominator statement. It says they “have witnessed the war in Ukraine,” a Western official told Stuart, and that they recall their own national positions.

The trick: The communiqué adds a little extra tension by quoting a U.N. resolution, the official said, which “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, and demands a complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine.” That’ll show Putin.

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JOINT ARMS PURCHASE PROPOSAL: During the coronavirus pandemic, the EU teamed up to buy vaccines, driving a hard bargain with drugmakers. Single Market Commissioner Thierry Breton and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell want to see it happen again — but this time with weapons, our colleague Jacopo Barigazzi writes in to report. They’ve pitched the plan in a letter ahead of today’s EU defense ministers’ meeting.

Preventing an internal arms race: After sending so much to Ukraine, member countries “need to immediately restore the readiness of their forces, address critical capability gaps, and replenish depleted stocks,” they write in the letter, dated November 9. Naturally, Breton and Borrell continue, Brussels is ready to help. The Defense Joint Procurement Task Force can assist capitals by coordinating short-term procurement needs “to avoid a race to secure orders which would result in spiraling prices, over concentration of demands in the same time frame, shortages of supplies and difficulties for the more exposed Member States to secure indispensable items.” 

Meeting the demand: CC’d on the letter are “all EU National Industry Associations relevant for Defence” as well as ministries of defense. That’s because there are big doubts that EU industry can actually get its act together to build all this stuff.

When you don’t want diversity and inclusion: Another worry: The possibility that a door dash for new weapons without a referee could make a highly fragmented market even more disjointed. It’s already messy — of the 2,500 helicopters in the EU, there are 44 different types, for example, and the 4,200 battle tanks are split among 12 models. 

It worked for medicine; let’s try it for war: “We collectively have managed to face the production ramp-up for vaccines, with the help of the Commission’s Task Force for Industrial Scale-up of COVID-19 vaccines,” the two top EU officials write. “In months, the EU has become the main producer and main exporter of such vaccines in the world. We are building on this experience,” they stressed. 

DWINDLING WARCHEST: Breton and Borrell are pushing their joint procurement proposal as defense ministers meet today to talk about how to refill the European Peace Facility, the off-budget fund being used to buy weapons for Ukraine. The €5.7 billion warchest has been drained by 80 percent. 

RUSSIA RESET: Jacopo also has the latest from Monday’s foreign affairs ministers’ meeting, where officials considered a draft document that would formalize the bloc’s approach of isolating Moscow.

NOW READ THIS: With his faltering war on Ukraine, Putin has made himself and his henchmen vulnerable to prosecution for war crimes — so there’s no doubt they’re considering exit strategies. We spoke to some experts to figure out where Putin could run to, and have this slightly tongue-in-cheek story on Putin’s potential boltholes.

Among our top picks: Saudi Arabia, Syria and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s mansion in the Turkish coastal village of Gümüşlük. Surely Schröder has room on his couch for an old friend?


IT’S A DEAL: The European Parliament, Council and Commission reached a deal on the EU budget for 2023 in an 11th-hour deal Monday night, settling for €186.6 billion in planned payouts. The three institutions settled for a budget increase that is over €1 billion more than originally proposed by the European Commission, €0.7 billion less than the European Parliament’s request, but around €2.7 billion more than EU countries were seeking.

What for? For war! The majority of the increase — equivalent to €280 million — was aimed at boosting resources for aiding Ukraine and neighboring countries such as Moldova, our colleague Paola Tamma reports. There’s also a boost to the EU “military mobility” budget, to upgrade transport infrastructure so that military assets can be moved swiftly around the bloc.

Next steps: The deal must be ratified within two weeks by both the Parliament and Council in order to go into effect. The Parliament will vote on it in next week’s plenary, one official told Paola. The threshold for clearing the deal in the Council is a qualified majority of countries, so it is expected to pass there.


EU CRACKS DOWN ON TEHRAN: The Council on Monday added 29 names to a growing list of Iranians sanctioned for human rights violations. It also added three entities to the list, including Iranian state broadcaster Press TV, citing “forced confessions of detainees,” as the state arrests thousands protesting the death of Mahsa Amini.

Still, it’s getting worse: Iran’s Revolutionary Court delivered its first death sentence to a protester over the weekend, according to reports. The crime: setting fire to a building.

DAVID VS. GOLIATH IN BUDAPEST: The new U.S. ambassador to Hungary, David Pressman, is a human rights lawyer, has a male partner and has worked closely with George Clooney. In Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, he has become a favorite attack target for the regime-boosting media. But just two months into the job, Pressman has also become a household name in Budapest for his willingness to call out — and even troll — the Orbán government’s overtly propagandistic and conspiratorial bombast. POLITICO’s Lili Bayer has this top profile.

LE BON MARCHÉ: Paris’ stock market edged out London’s in a Bloomberg index on Monday, making it Europe’s largest. 

WILL HE OR WON’T HE: Who knows if Donald Trump will follow through with announcing his 2024 White House run today. What we do know: Drones, e-cigs, guns and “packages” are banned from the event at Mar-a-Lago.

SHOT:Jeff Bezos says he will give most of his money to charity.”

Chaser: “Amazon is said to plan to lay off thousands of employees.”

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Central European Time/Brussels time.

— G20 in Bali, Indonesia: U.S. President Joe Biden, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Indonesian President Joko Widodo co-host an event on the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, 8:45 a.m. Watch. French President Emmanuel Macron hosts an informal discussion on fertilizers and food security. EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni also attends.

COP27 in Egypt: Commission Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans speaks at the opening plenary, delivers a keynote at an EU-Africa ministerial meeting and participates in a side event on the “Fit for 55” climate package. 

Foreign Affairs Council (Defense): Defense ministers will speak with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov (via videoconference). Arrivals from 7:30 a.m.; press conference expected at 4 p.m. Watch. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell chairs the meeting.

— European Parliament President Roberta Metsola meets with U.K. Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay Hoyle via videoconference at 10 a.m.

— Commission VP Maroš Šefčovič meets with Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala in Prague.

— Commission EVP Margrethe Vestager participates in the trilogue on the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles

— Research Commissioner Mariya Gabriel and Turkish Minister of Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank deliver a press statement on the EU-Türkiye High-Level Dialogue on Research and Innovation at 10:30 a.m. Watch

EU Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean and Ervin Ibrahimović, Montenegrin deputy prime minister for regional development and minister of investments, hold a press point at 1 p.m. 

— Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders participates in the high-level EU-China-U.S. trilateral Product Safety Summit in Brussels. 

— Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič participates in European Youth Debate political dialogue in Brussels. 

— Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi in Georgia.

— International Partnerships Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen in Budapest. 


POLICE DEATH ROCKS BELGIAN POLITICS: Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne is facing calls to resign in the wake of last week’s stabbing attack in Brussels, which left one police officer dead and another wounded, Ellen Boonen writes in to report. 

What happened: The suspect had supposedly made threats against the police earlier that day in a police station, but was not detained. Instead he was taken voluntarily to a psychiatric evaluation and was released later that day. After the incident, many questions arose about justice, violence against the police and the follow-up of terrorist suspects. Police unions are calling for Van Quickenborne to resign, and the Belgian parliament hauled him and Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden in for a scolding on Monday. 

Nationalists pounce: It’s a storyline tailor-made for the Flemish far right, which has a petition calling for Van Quickenborne’s ouster. Vlaams Belang leader Tom Van Grieken issued a blistering (and meandering) statement noting the “foreign origin” of the suspect. “Justice is limping, and Van Quickenborne only creates more handicaps,” Van Grieken said. 

Now read this: The EU’s focus on terrorist financing has faded — but the threat has not, argues Tom Keatinge, the founding director of the Center for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute, in this opinion piece for POLITICO.

TWITTER LOBBYISTS OUT: Stephen Turner, Twitter’s top advocate in Brussels, is among the thousands of employees laid off by the social media firm’s new owner Elon Musk. The EU office is down to two of six in-house lobbyists, Laura Kayali reports

DAMN YANKEES DEPT.: Apparently Americans don’t like Belgian beers anymore. Your substitute Playbook author assures you that she remains steadfastly devoted to a nice after-work ambrée. 

BIRTHDAYS: Former MEP Ashley Fox; FT’s Silvia Sciorilli Borrelli; Albert Rivera, former Ciudadanos leader and POLITICO 28 alum. Day of the German-speaking Community in Belgium.

THANKS TO: Jacopo Barigazzi, Ellen Boonen, Camille Gijs, Stuart Lau, Suzanne Lynch, Paola Tamma and our web producer Grace Stranger.

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