Brussels Edition: How to Spend It

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

A contentious euro-area budget will be the topic du jour when the bloc’s finance ministers meet in Brussels today, with debate set to focus on how the pot of money should be spent. While euro-zone leaders agreed in December to set up a tool for “convergence and competitiveness,” disagreements persist over whether this means the money could also be used to help support economies in a downturn. That’s not the only issue. Questions on how the budget will be funded and governed also loom, and need to be resolved in time for an agreement in June.

What’s Happening

Greek Debt | Finance ministers are unlikely today to approve a scheduled aid payment of some 1 billion euros to help Greece ease its debt load, as the country hasn’t yet completed a set of economic overhauls attached to the disbursement. While the delay isn’t a good sign, it hasn’t majorly spooked investors, who bought 10-year Greek debt last week for the first time in nine years.

Money Laundering | Ministers may also face uncomfortable questions about inertia in the face of a dirty-money scandal engulfing the region’s financial system. It’s slowly dawning on legislators in Europe that the money-laundering crisis they thought was limited to the Baltic and Nordic countries has spilled into the rest of the EU.

Brexit Debacle | The U.K. Parliament is headed for a key vote on Tuesday on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, with expectations it will be rejected again, despite calls for one last heave to get it through. “And then what?” is the big question that EU officials have been asking their British counterparts over the past few weeks, without getting anything resembling a clear answer.

Finnish Presidency | The surprise resignation of Finland’s government has an unfortunate side-effect: it throws a spanner in the works of preparations for the Nordic nation’s EU presidency starting in July. Our Helsinki bureau chief Kati Pohjanpalo explains why.

In Case You Missed It

German Slowdown | Germany’s export-focused industrial base is becoming a disadvantage. Faced with the challenges posed by Donald Trump’s America First protectionism and China’s slowdown, the country is at greater risk because of Germany’s reliance on selling manufactured goods. Longer-term challenges may be even more vexing, Chris Reiter and Catherine Bosley report.

AKK’s Vision | German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s likely successor rejected “European centralism,” reining in French ambitions for joint action against debt and economic inequality. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s sweeping plans for strengthening the EU is the latest sign that leaders of the bloc’s two biggest powers differ in tone and substance on how to remedy the continent’s gloom.

Populist Woes | From the corridors of the Rome parliament to Milan trading floors, the war of words between rivals-turned-partners Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio has ignited speculation that Italy’s populist experiment could collapse, triggering an early election this year. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is blowing hot and cold on a controversial rail link between France and Italy to try to keep his squabbling governing coalition from blowing apart.

Franco’s Remains | Pedro Sanchez’s hopes of leaving a mark on Spain by removing the remains of former dictator Francisco Franco from his mountainside mausoleum are grinding to a halt in the courts. The exhumation of the dictator will probably be shelved if an election on April 28 confirms polls showing that the prime minister will fall short of a majority and a coalition of right-wing parties will form the next government.

Chart of the Day

Brussels Edition: How to Spend It

Environmental activists recoil for a reason when the super rich fly private jets to forums that preach carbon neutrality. Airplane pollution levels really are going through the stratosphere and nobody seems to have a viable plan to rein them in. Pollution, which has risen by about two-thirds since 2005, is forecast to jump as much as sevenfold by 2050 as incomes in developing economies advance, making flying more affordable, William Wilkes reports.

Today’s Agenda

All times CET.

  • 1:30 p.m. Euro-area finance ministers meet in Brussels to discuss whether Greece is eligible for a post-bailout aid payment, euro-area budget
  • 5 p.m. European Affairs ministers meet in Bucharest to discuss bloc’s multiannual budget, meet with ministers of candidate countries
  • EU Parliament plenary begins in Strasbourg. MEP Sandra Kalniete will present her report on EU-Russia relations, which will be put to a vote on Tuesday
  • French President Emmanuel Macron starts four-day Africa trip
  • EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini speaks at Princeton University
  • EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager in Austin, Texas, attends South by Southwest conference and participates in roundtable “Women in leadership”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.