Brussels Edition: Push Back

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

Money managers are poised to score a resounding victory in their battle against tighter oversight by European Union watchdogs. The bloc’s finance ministers meeting today will approve a dramatically scaled-down version of the original European Commission proposal. The EU’s executive arm will also be pushed back on its controversial proposal to relinquish national vetoes in taxation matters. The plan to abolish unanimity — backed by France, whose push for an EU levy on tech giants faltered — will be strongly opposed by members who see it encroaching on national sovereignty.

What’s Happening

Polish Hearing | The EU’s fight with Poland over a controversial law that attempted to lower the retirement age for the country’s Supreme Court justices is set for its final episode as the case moves to a hearing at the European Court of Justice today. A ruling won’t be known for another few months. EU judges in December ordered Poland to suspend the sweeping overhaul, which could force out nearly two-fifths of the top court in what critics have called a political “purge.”

Trucking Deal | EU negotiators will seek a deal today to cap carbon-dioxide emissions from trucks for the first time as part of a stepped-up fight against climate change. Negotiators for EU governments and the European Parliament will huddle in Strasbourg in a bid to fix CO2-reduction targets for 2025 and 2030. For 2030, EU governments want a 30 percent cut, while the European assembly is pushing for a 35 percent reduction.

Pipeline Politics | The EU dash to wrap up legislative business before European Parliament elections in May will also include an effort today for a final accord on new natural-gas market rules that have implications for the controversial Nord Stream 2 project. Negotiators for the EU Parliament and national governments have a chance to strike a deal after a French-German compromise on Friday ended a deadlock among member countries over the draft law.

May Speaks | U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will speak at the House of Commons today, as she seeks to buy time to renegotiate her Brexit agreement with the EU. The British premier’s statement comes as her opponents in Parliament plot to stop the country plunging out of the bloc with no deal and follow economic data that showed Brexit uncertainty dragged U.K. investment to its worst slump since the financial crisis. But May might just have found a path to getting her Brexit deal approved. 

In Case You Missed It

Chinese Hacking | Pressure is piling up on China amid growing concerns in the EU about state-sponsored cyber attacks. We’re told U.K. and Czech experts briefed their EU colleagues at a technical meeting last month, providing evidence of both software and hardware incidents. The bloc is now considering a joint response

Italian Prayers | Italy’s promise to meet ambitious budget targets faces growing skepticism after the country slipped into recession, with some suggesting  divine intervention might be needed. The renewed criticism comes as the populists opened a new front in their clash with the country’s central bank, calling on lawmakers to pass legislation stating that its $103 billion in gold holdings belong to the state.

Italian Controversy | Italian politicians have a talent for provoking neighbors. This time, it wasn’t the populist government taking a dig at French President Emmanuel Macron, but European Parliament President Antonio Tajani. He infuriated Croatia and Slovenia by referring to “Italian Istria” and “Italian Dalmatia.” 

Spanish Polls | Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s budget plans are threatening to unravel amid reports that he’s considering calling a snap election for April after his conservative rivals staged a show of strength by bringing tens of thousands of demonstrators into the streets of Madrid. Sanchez is heading into a critical week that could shape the rest of his premiership.

Chart of the Day

Brussels Edition: Push Back

Ireland is on track to win a seat on the European Central Bank’s Executive Board, becoming the last of the common currency’s founding members to  obtain a position on the six-member body that runs the institution’s daily business. Euro-area finance ministers agreed to back Philip Lane’s bid at a meeting in Brussels yesterday. The 49-year-old head of the Irish central bank is now poised to succeed Peter Praet as ECB chief economist in June.

Today’s Agenda

All times CET.

  • 9 a.m. EU finance ministers meet in Brussels to discuss unanimity on tax matters and reform of EU financial supervisors 
  • 11 a.m. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds a press conference in Brussels to preview a Feb. 13-14 meeting of the alliance’s defense ministers 
  • 11 a.m. Telephone press briefing with Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. permanent representative to NATO
  • 3 p.m. Negotiators for EU governments and the European Parliament will seek an accord on a draft law to update rules on the natural-gas market
  • 5 p.m. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte speaks to the European Parliament in Strasbourg as part of the assembly’s series of debates on the “Future of Europe”
  • Negotiators for EU governments and the European Parliament will be going for a final deal on draft legislation to cap carbon-dioxide from trucks for the first time
  • EU top court hears arguments in challenge by European Commission against Poland over their overhaul of Supreme Court judges

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