Brussels Edition: The Outside Favorite

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

He’ll play Schubert on a public piano in a train station, but unlike French President Emmanuel Macron, his knowledge of high culture hasn’t created a barrier with voters. He lives alone but in the same building with his mother, and he teaches civics at a public high school. These are just some of the things you need to know about Mark Rutte, who’s not officially running for one of the EU’s top jobs this year but could very well end up getting one anyway. Read the rest here

What’s Happening

Time to Go | As Theresa May moves closer to leaving office, Nigel Farage is benefiting from his uncompromising stance, with polls showing that his newly founded Brexit party will win next week’s European elections by a landslide. Part of the problem that other parties have in dealing with Farage is that complex compromises are harder to sell than easy absolutes, Robert Hutton reports

High Notes | The contest Europe has been waiting for is here. It could test geographic and political alliances and mark an important display of soft power on the global stage. No, we’re not talking about the European Parliament elections. What you should really be following tomorrow is the Eurovision song contest. To prepare, make sure to listen to this: it’s a Eurovision song written by Oracle AI in Israel and sung by a pink robot

Booze Tax | Forget about Brexit, the demise of Iran’s nuclear deal, or Europe’s looming fight with populist firebrands. EU 28 finance chiefs gathering in Brussels today are poised to fight over moonshine, as the bloc’s  governments are at loggerheads on whether and how to tax liquor made at home. We’re told that over a lively debate among EU ambassadors on Wednesday, one of them cited Greece’s old Eurovision hit “Alcohol is Free.”

Bêtes Noires | The good news for the euro area is that Italy doesn’t want to become the “New Greece,” at least if you believe one of its deputy premiers — the other, meanwhile, wants a “Trump cure.” The not-so-good news is that Greece risks sliding back into old, bad habits. Here’s why.

In Case You Missed It

Forex Fines | Citigroup, the Royal Bank of Scotland Group and JPMorgan Chase are among five banks that agreed to pay EU fines totaling 1.07 billion euros for colluding on foreign-exchange trading strategies. Traders ran two cartels on online chat rooms — swapping sensitive information and trading plans that allowed them make informed decisions to buy or sell currencies. Elsewhere, you only need to look at Geneva to realize that the good old days for bankers are over. 

Bonfires of Vanities | Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton and other elite French brands will be forced to stop destroying their unsold items, the country’s government said. Believe it or not, luxury labels have long preferred to burn or bury excess bags and apparel rather than risk their image by dumping them in discount bins. Now French President Emmanuel Macron is enlisting haute couture in the fight against climate change. 

Monaco Properties | In other first-world problems, it’s not easy to buy a house in Monaco. First of all, it’s eyewateringly expensive. Secondly, the process is rather complicated. But as the unpredictable twists of Brexit have created a wave of interest in properties in the sunny principality, Fabio Benedetti Valentini has a handy guide for those who can afford it.

Quiz Answers | Here’s the answers to our quiz from yesterday about the EU Commission press people who also have lifestyle blogs. Anna-Kaisa Itkonen juggles a busy job as the European Commission’s spokesperson for climate action and energy with writing KassandraKomplex, a thoughtful and witty blog on books, beauty, feminism and “occasional knitting.” Annikky Lamp, one of the most stylish women in the EU quarter and European Commission press officer for the European semester and social dialog, writes about fashion, beauty and books at Life In A Cold Climate.

Chart of the Day

Brussels Edition: The Outside Favorite

German 10-year government bond yields exceeded Japanese notes by well over 3 percentage points at the start of the 2000s, when Europe was raising rates to contain mounting price pressures and Japan was mired in deflation. Fast forward to today and their yields are roughly equal — the consequence of the European debt crisis and a slide in trend growth and inflation rates similar to Japan’s experience.

Today’s Agenda

All times CET.

  • EU finance ministers meet in Brussels to discuss digital taxation and update blacklist of tax havens
  • 9:30 a.m. ESM Secretary General Kalin Anev Janse speaks at the Global Digital Banking Conference in Barcelona
  • 11 a.m. Eurostat to release euro-area inflation (final reading) for April 
  • 7:30 p.m. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker participates in a Citizens’ Dialogue in Echternach, Luxembourg
  • EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom delivers a keynote address at the 2nd EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement in Milan

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