Brussels Edition: A showdown over sanctions

Brussels Edition

Welcome to the Brussels Edition, Bloomberg's daily briefing on what matters most in the heart of the European Union.

A meeting of EU foreign ministers today will highlight why calls are growing to scrap a requirement for unanimity on sanctioning other countries. The gathering will also show why it's so difficult for any EU government — not least a small state — to accept such a change. Cyprus is holding up EU asset freezes and travel bans against around 40 Belarusian authorities implicated in election fraud and a crackdown on protesters until all other member nations agree to expand the list of Turks blacklisted over Ankara's energy exploration in Cypriot waters. Cyprus is standing firm, saying Turkish provocations have persisted, and its demand to sanction more Turks predates the EU push for penalties against Belarus. With Turkey more geopolitically important to the EU, and some governments sensitive about irking Ankara, the sanctions deadlock may well be taken to the bloc's leaders when they meet on Thursday.

Jonathan Stearns and Nikos Chrysoloras

What's Happening

Steel Skirmish | EU trade ministers meeting today in Berlin will begin deliberations on the bloc's steel industry as it faces global oversupply and braces for the scheduled end in mid-2021 of special EU import curbs. Expect a political tussle in coming months as key EU steel-producing countries including Germany and France look for ways to prolong trade protection.

Capital Markets | The EU will this week consider new efforts to grow its capital markets now that London is outside the bloc. The European Commission will propose removing roadblocks that have hampered the development of a pan-European market. Here's the draft of the proposals to be unveiled.

Lethal Fall | As vacations and parties fed a late-summer surge of Covid-19 in Europe, there's been one reassuring constant: a lower death toll. But the latest numbers out of the continent's hardest-hit countries show the relief may only be temporary.

Italian Polls | Italian voters are going to the polls in regional elections that could weaken the year-old coalition of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte as it struggles to pull the country out of the worst recession in living memory. Exit polls are due when polling stations close at 3 p.m. today, with regional results and the outcome of a referendum on reducing the number of lawmakers in parliament expected in the afternoon and evening.

Green Test | The EU is set to unleash as many green bonds as the world issued last year, testing the level of investor interest in financing a shift toward cleaner economies. Its efforts will gauge whether such assets can attract mainstream funds outside Europe, or find demand limited to an enthusiastic but specialized group of investors.

In Case You Missed It

Vestager's Dilemma | Apple's court triumph over a massive EU back-tax order is forcing antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager to make a tough choice: Challenge a ruling that faulted the EU investigation or accept judges' criticisms and re-examine a case started more than six years ago. So what will Vestager do?

Iranian Sanctions | The U.S. said international sanctions on Iran are automatically "snapping back," in a move that most nations say the Trump administration doesn't have the authority to demand since quitting a 2015 nuclear deal two years ago. The U.S. gambit is unlikely to succeed, with key European powers stressing their commitment to the nuclear agreement.

Brexit Chaos | Boris Johnson is engulfed by chaos over his plan to renege on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. Many Conservatives already feared their leader was losing his grip even before the blunder over the controversial Internal Market bill. Now Johnson's strategy for a free-trade pact with the EU before the end of the year is in tatters.

Wet Bulbs | Just how hot can the Earth get before our ongoing mass-extinction event hammers humans in unbearable ways? Readings of heat and humidity at a level which is quickly fatal to humans weren't supposed to occur with regularity until around 2050. But some weather stations are hitting the so-called "wet bulb 35" right now.

Chart of the Day

Talks between EU governments and the European Parliament over the bloc's long-term budget and recovery funds continue this week and the aim is to finalize the accord by the beginning of next month. Governments are increasingly exasperated with the assembly's demands for changes to a deal that was so painstakingly negotiated between leaders and they say any further delay would jeopardize the timely flow of much-needed funds. 

Today's Agenda

All times CET.

  • 9 a.m. EU foreign ministers meeting to discuss the situation in Lebanon, China, Belarus, Turkey and Russia 
  • 1:45 p.m. MEPs in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament will meet with exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, to discuss the latest developments in the country. They will also adopt recommendations on how the EU should reassess its relations with Belarus
  • 3 p.m. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg speaks at CEPA virtual forum 
  • 5 p.m. Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs will hold a debate with China's EU Ambassador Ming Zhang 
  • Informal meeting of EU trade ministers 
  • EU agriculture ministers meet in Brussels
  • EU Climate chief Timmermans participates in Climate Leadership Group event on Business support for a stronger EU 2030 target in the framework of the Climate Week NYC virtual event
  • ECB's Lagarde in discussion with Franco-German parliamentary assembly
  • Results due in seven Italian regional votes and referendum on cutting the number of lawmakers in parliament
  • UN nuclear watchdog IAEA holds annual general conference

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