Daily Briefing France flips on Gazprom, leaving Germany in lone support

“Non” on Gazprom; Hell’s bells, Tusk; hot and bothered Earth; and the 69th Berlin International Film Festival. Here's our Daily Briefing on February 7, 2019.
Quelle: Nord Stream 2 / Axel Schmidt
Pipeline power play.
(Source: Nord Stream 2 / Axel Schmidt)

In a ruffling about-face for Berlin, Paris has decided it will back Brussels' demands to separate Nord Stream 2 gas distribution and supply in an EU vote on Friday. The current plans foresee Gazprom being responsible for both areas when the pipeline is completed next year. France now feels it would be better not to depend more on Putin and at the same time, harm eastern European interests. That’s good news for Poland and Slovakia, and less so for Germany, which backs the divisive pipeline. So much for the cooperative spirit of Élysée.

The pipeline will be on the agenda today for Merkel as she heads to Bratislava for a Visegrad summit. Together with Polish, Hungarian, Czech and Slovakian leaders, she will address refugee policy and Nord Stream 2. The chancellor’s policy is at odds on both with those of her counterparts; one German paper slated her meetings as heading into the lions’ den.

No muscles in Brussels?

That may be Theresa May’s feeling as she heads to Brussels today, conflating mileage with progress. It would help if beyond knowing what she doesn’t want, she knew what she wanted, is the feeling in Berlin. There’s heightened worry she wants Brussels to come up with a solution to fix Brexit, and perhaps agree to a new solution to the Irish border. Yesterday, European leaders promised their full support to Ireland. Let’s hope they stand by their words, come what may.

Frustration abounds and European Council President Donald Tusk imagined “a special place in hell” for those who promised Brexit but had no plans for how to realize it. German pundits were horrified, suggesting “silence is golden” and Tusk’s musing indeed drew trolling about “Brussels bully boys.” Who’s the bully here? Watching the conservatives reminds me of a teacher I had in school, who was powerless to instruct, cowering instead at the mockery coming from the back of the class.

Not-so-rare earth

In the meanwhile, it seems we are cooking up the earth into its own kind of inferno. The World Meteorological Organization says global warming has made the past four years the hottest the world has known. Forest fires and droughts are becoming increasingly common in Germany, fueled by extreme weather that is driven by climate change. It is time to make limiting global warming something all politicians focus on, all of the time. Future generations will judge us on how far we make this a priority. European elections, here we come.

Let’s draw succor from the Berlinale, those who can. It’s one of Europe’s main film festivals, besides Venice and Cannes, and is the most politically minded. Today marks the start of an eleven-day celluloid bonanza, with 400 feisty films from around the world. Timely indeed, given that cinema visits have hit a record low in Germany. There’s a lot to look forward to this year, with a record number of female directors attending in a signal of support given the sexism in the entertainment industry.

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