EU's 'Defence of Democracy' debate on combatting foreign influence
This week, we debate the EU's latest attempt to combat foreign influence with its forthcoming "Defence of Democracy package," which some in Brussels claim could result in unintended consequences.
POLITICO's Suzanne Lynch speaks to the European Commission’s special adviser on foreign interference, Ivana Karásková, a Czech academic and expert on Chinese influence. She provides insight into the degree of foreign influence in the European Union. She also explains the rationale behind a specific piece of this package, which is causing concern, particularly among NGOs: potential rules that would subject civil society organizations to report if they receive funding from third-country donors.
Then we're joined by Sarah Wheaton, POLITICO's chief policy correspondent and author of our EU Influence newsletter, and Nicholas Aiossa, deputy director and head of policy and advocacy at Transparency International EU. They dig into the concerns that this package will have unintended consequences for European democracy — and discuss what better tools the Commission could consider with an eye on better transparency in EU advocacy and lobbying.
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339. From the UN General Assembly — world leaders gather in NY27:52EU Confidential is in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, where leaders from around the globe are gathering to hash out some of the most pressing issues. Those range from the climate catastrophe to reform of the UN itself and Russia's war in Ukraine — it's the most action-packed week on the international diplomatic agenda. To make sense of the big stories driving the talks at this year’s UNGA, host Suzanne Lynch is joined by Anne McElvoy – POLITICO’s executive editor and head of audio, who also hosts POLITICO’s brand new "Power Play" podcast. Don’t miss this week's inaugural episode featuring a wide-ranging interview on foreign policy with Keir Starmer, leader of the U.K. Labour Party and possibly the next British prime minister. Later in the show, Suzanne talks to Werner Hoyer, who is ending his 12-year term as head of the European Investment Bank. They focus on the EIB's support for green technologies in Europe and beyond, and discuss the future of an institution whose leadership position is up for grabs. Will the outgoing president reveal who he's rooting for?Finally, we bring you a conversation with European Commission Executive Vice President Maroš Šefčovič, currently serving as the EU's climate chief. He explains how the European Green Deal and its ambitious targets are faring here in New York.
338. State of the European Union — the big annual speech and MEPs debate37:39In this bumper episode, we bring you the main takeaways from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's annual State of the European Union address, as well as reactions from members of the European Parliament. The Commission president needed over an hour to highlight her key achievements and lay out plans for the coming months. Host Suzanne Lynch talks to POLITICO’s Chief Policy Correspondent Sarah Wheaton and together they break down the main points highlighted in the speech: the European Green Deal, the EU’s industrial plans, migration, enlargement and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. They also look for hidden messages and potential clues regarding von der Leyen's political future — did she hint she wants a second term as Commission chief? Later, our colleague Eddy Wax, who covers the European Parliament for POLITICO, chairs a lively debate about the Commission president’s address with members of the European Parliament: Karen Melchior from Renew Europe, Eva Maydell representing the European People’s Party and Marc Botenga from the Left.
337. It's back to school in Brussels — Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani24:31It's “back to school” week here in Brussels, so we're looking ahead to what policies will dominate the news in the coming months. Also, our special guest is Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani.Host Suzanne Lynch is joined by POLITICO’s Sarah Wheaton and Nick Vinocur to discuss big European issues and events to watch out for in coming weeks. And there are many: the State of the Union Address by President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, the race to get the top job at the European Investment Bank, elections in 2024, migration, and, of course, enlargement of the EU bloc. Then, we get the perspective from a leader of one the countries on the path to join the EU – Kosovo. We hear from its president, Vjosa Osmani, who unpacks the challenges Kosovo is facing, including tensions with neighbouring Serbia, enlargement fatigue and inertia on the side of Brussels. Finally, we welcome our new Senior Audio Producer Dionisios Sturis, who is joining the EU Confidential team.
336. Austrian Foreign Minister Schallenberg: EU needs to rethink its enlargement approach29:11EU Confidential returns from its summer break, bringing you this episode from the European Forum Alpbach in Austria where the theme of a "bold Europe" has prompted discussions about Europe's internal as well as geopolitical challenges.Host Suzanne Lynch sits down with Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg to discuss his suggestion that the EU needs to rethink how it expands its membership to countries like Ukraine, Moldova and hopefuls in the Western Balkans — a debate heating up this week, with both French President Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Charles Michel weighing in on the issue.Then, Suzanne gathers together an all-star panel on the sidelines of the forum to discuss whether Europe's approach to the so-called Global South has been misguided. She's joined by María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, an Ecuadorian diplomat, scientist, politician and former president of the United Nations General Assembly; Arancha González Laya, Spain's former foreign minister and now dean of the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po; and Oby Ezekwesili, former minister for education and minister of mineral resources of Nigeria, and senior economic adviser of the Africa Economic Development Policy Initiative.Remember that our episodes will now land in your podcast feeds at our new time early Friday mornings!
335. Brussels summer survival guide19:50In this episode, we unpack what to expect in Brussels this August as EU decision making grinds to a halt. Also, we explore how extreme weather in Europe is weighing against tourism demands, and how politicians are responding.Host Suzanne Lynch is joined by Nicholas Vinocur, POLITICO's editor at large, and EU politics reporter Gregorio Sorgi. They explain the European Commission's "designated survivor" concept, which keeps the legislative body afloat thanks to a few (unlucky) commissioners stuck in the Berlaymont. Also, with EU decision making largely on hold, we reveal the other stories that could bubble up this summer — and forecast the big issues we can expect to dominate headlines come September.Suzanne is then joined by Zia Weise, our reporter covering climate policy, and aviation reporter Mari Eccles to discuss the extreme weather experienced by parts of Europe in July and how this is shaping everything from policymaking to tourism.Programming note: We are taking a summer break and will return on September 1 — at a new day and time! EU Confidential is moving from our usual Thursday evenings to early Friday mornings. So do be sure to follow the podcast so that you never miss an episode. See you in September!
334. Spanish election aftermath and the watering down of the EU's anti-SLAPPs law32:16We analyze the outcome of the recent elections in Spain and what it means for the country and the EU going forward. Also, we discuss the EU's proposal targeting SLAPPs — strategic lawsuits against public participation, which often target journalists and civil society activists.Host Suzanne Lynch is joined by POLITICO's Aitor Hernández-Morales to discuss the outcome of the Spanish election on July 23. Aitor explains the fascinating forces that shaped the final days of the campaign, why the outcome isn't so clear cut, and where the government goes from here. You can read all of Aitor's reporting on the election here.Then, Suzanne speaks to Andrew Caruana Galizia, the son of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia who was killed in 2017 by a car bomb in an assassination that shocked Malta and the wider European community. At the time of her death, Daphne was facing dozens of so-called SLAPPs lawsuits. Andrew explains what the EU is trying to do to harmonize anti-SLAPPs legislation across the bloc, but why it's at risk of being watered down.
333. Why Ukraine overshadowed the EU's big summit with Latin America32:17In this packed episode, we explain the outcomes of this week's summit with Latin America, we debate whether Americans can hold key roles in EU institutions and discuss the power dynamics of the European Commission under Ursula von der Leyen.Host Suzanne Lynch is first joined by POLITICO's Nicholas Vinocur to discuss a story that's got everyone in Brussels talking this week: the controversy over the proposed appointment of a top U.S. anti-trust expert who's recently consulted for several Big Tech companies as the EU's chief economist. While the candidate, Fiona Scott Morton, has now said she won't take up the position, what does the pushback say about the EU and its institutions?Suzanne is then joined by POLITICO's Hans von der Burchard and Barbara Moens at the conclusion of this week's summit in Brussels with the leaders of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. The team unpacks the biggest sticking point — language condemning Russia's war in Ukraine — and explains where the two sides made progress on key goals when it comes to trade and investment. We also hear from Fredrik Persson, representing BusinessEurope, about how the EU has neglected the Latin American region and how the business community is handling sensitivities around Europe's colonial past.Finally, Suzanne speaks to Irish academic Desmond Dinan, Jean Monnet Professor at the George Mason School of Public Policy, about the power dynamics of the European Commission under its current president, Ursula von der Leyen.Also, be sure to listen to POLITICO's exclusive podcast interview this week with the head of MI6, Richard Moore — recorded for our new Power Play podcast, which launches in September! And while you're at it, follow Power Play on your favorite podcast app and sign up here to receive our email alerts when new episodes publish.
Ending an epidemic: innovations to eradicate HIV22:16Governments around the world have committed to end HIV by 2030. The target is known as the 95-95-95 goals — 95 percent of people living with HIV diagnosed and knowing their status, 95 percent of those linked to HIV treatment and care and 95 percent of those on treatment to be undetectable, therefore unable to pass the virus on.Innovative medications have already changed HIV infection from a deadly disease to a manageable chronic condition. But to end HIV entirely, we will need to invest in innovation, develop new treatment and prevention options focusing on the needs of individuals and their preferences, new healthcare policies and new approaches to fight the stigma that HIV still carries.Host David Baker speaks to Jared Baeten, Gilead Sciences’ HIV Clinical Development Vice President; Cristina Mussini, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy; Maria José Fuster, professor of psychology at Spain’s National University of Distance Education in Madrid and who has been living with HIV for 34 years; and Susana Solís Pérez, a member of the European Parliament from the Renew Europe group, to find out the practical steps that Europe needs to take to end the HIV epidemic for everyone, everywhere by the end of the decade.
332. NATO summit wrap-up and the EU's battle over biodiversity29:26This week, we bring you the latest from Vilnius as NATO leaders wrap up a crucial meeting of the defense alliance, plus all the news from Strasbourg as MEPs clash over an EU proposal to protect biodiversity.Joining our host Suzanne Lynch from the Lithuanian capital is Jan Cienski, who breaks down the outcomes of the summit — including the latest on Ukraine's membership ambitions and the thorny question of security guarantees. He also explains Turkey's crucial role in unblocking Sweden's bid to join the alliance and how the Turkish leader managed to link this decision to the country's bid for EU membership. Here's more from Suzanne and our colleague Jacopo Barigazzi.Then we turn to Strasbourg where POLITICO's Louise Guillot unpacks the outcome of one of the biggest legislative battles in recent memory over the EU's nature restoration law — pinning business and farming industries against environmentalists and conservationists. She explains how this vote was a political blow for MEP Manfred Weber, leader of the center-right EPP Group in the European Parliament who tried to block the legislation, and what it indicates about Europe's broader green ambitions.Finally, we discuss the optimum outcome from the war in Ukraine — both for Ukraine and Europe — with the authors of a new Chatham House report, Orysia Lutsevych and James Nixey. The report is called "How to end Russia’s war on Ukraine" and can be found here.