The EU's report card: Ukraine, Moldova and other aspiring members
The EU made important steps this week toward bringing new members into the bloc — our POLITICO team explains in this episode of EU Confidential.
Host Suzanne Lynch is joined by POLITICO's Barbara Moens and Jakob Hanke Vela in Brussels, as well as Sam Greene from the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington to discuss the European Commission's annual report card on the ten countries hoping to join the 27 EU members. The report recommends the start of formal accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova, but what exactly does that mean? And where does that leave others in the Western Balkans, for example, who've been waiting in the wings for years?
Also in this episode, POLITICO's Aitor Hernández-Morales explains what's behind the shock resignation this week of Portugal's Prime Minister António Costa amid a corruption probe.
And finally, POLITICO's Anne McElvoy brings us details of her conversation with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on our Power Play podcast, out this week. The PM has some "hard truths" for Israel, and sheds light on relations with nearby Turkey, as well as his country's approach to migration and climate change; and he addresses rule of law concerns. Listen to the Power Play interview here.
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359. VDL 2.0 — How Europe and Ukraine have changed, two years into Russia's all-out war39:05As we mark two years of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, we take stock of how the war has changed Europe's political landscape and identity — as well as life for Ukrainians under siege. Also, we look at Ursula von der Leyen's campaign to remain European Commission chief.Von der Leyen finally announced her intention this week to officially seek another term at the helm following the European Parliament election in June. Host Sarah Wheaton is joined by POLITICO's Hans von der Burchard about the not-so-surprising announcement and what we can expect from von der Leyen's campaign over the coming months. And as mentioned, Hans is part of POLITICO's new Berlin Playbook team — you can subscribe here.Then we turn our focus to Ukraine. Executive Producer Cristina Gonzalez sits down with renowned Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev at the recent Munich Security Conference to unpack how the war in Ukraine has fundamentally changed Europe.And finally, Sarah is joined by our reporter in Kyiv, Veronika Melkozerova, for a poignant personal account of how the war has impacted her and her fellow Ukrainian citizens. You can read Veronika's full story here: "Being Ukrainian in 2024: 'People look at me as if I'm terminally ill'".
358. Europe responds to Donald Trump29:54Donald Trump has again sent shockwaves across Europe with comments suggesting that he would encourage Russia to invade NATO countries that do not spend enough on defense.In this episode, we discuss reactions in European capitals. Host Sarah Wheaton and her colleagues — senior Paris correspondent Clea Caulcutt, chief Europe correspondent Matthew Karnitschnig and Stuart Lau who covers China and NATO — check whether Trump's criticism of NATO could effectively prompt EU leaders to enhance the bloc's defense capabilities. They also zoom into Budapest where an unexpected political scandal toppled two of Viktor Orbán's biggest loyalists.Later, to mark Valentine's Day, we also talk love. Our guest is Marjorie Libourel, a professional matchmaker based in Brussels. She discusses the challenges of dating and relationships in the Bubble, as well as making connections in an era of political polarization and changing gender roles.Further reading:"Brussels power couples 2024" by Sarah Wheaton and Eddy Wax"Donald Trump just did Europe a favor" by Matthew Karnitschnig"Hungary President Novak quits under pressure over sex-abuse pardon case" by Aitor Hernández-Morales and Stuart Lau
357. Can the EU defend Ukraine (and itself)?29:40Europe is waking up to the urgent need to strengthen its own defenses — especially as Donald Trump seems poised to capture the Republican nomination and possibly even the White House in November presidential elections.In this episode, host Sarah Wheaton is joined by Florence Gaub, director of research at the NATO Defence College in Rome and a futurist, along with Ivo Daalder, former U.S. ambassador to NATO and president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (and a fellow podcaster: World Review with Ivo Daalder). They discuss the "Europeanization of NATO" and other tools that Europe has (or lacks) to support Ukraine and defend itself — with or without Washington.Later, some of POLITICO's in-house defense experts, Laura Kayali and Jan Cienski, discuss the brass-tacks realities of whether Europe can fend off a Russian attack on its own, and outline where it remains most vulnerable.Further reading:"Europe’s Trump challenge: Is it ready to fight Vladimir Putin alone?" by Laura Kayali"What another Trump presidency would mean for NATO" by Ivo Daalder
356. Europe's angry farmers and EU funds for Ukraine (finally)31:20As farmer protests continue around Europe, we unpack their various concerns and analyze their impact on the European election. We also take you to an extraordinary meeting of EU leaders in Brussels where crucial cash for Ukraine hung in the balance.Host Sarah Wheaton speaks to POLITICO's Parliament reporter Eddy Wax among the thousands of tractors and angry farmers in the heart of Brussels. Later in the episode, our in-house experts explain what's behind the farmers' uprising and what impact the protests could have on the EU's ambitious green agenda and the upcoming EU election. We're joined by Clea Caulcutt in Paris, Matthew Karnitschnig in Berlin, senior climate correspondent Karl Mathiesen, and agriculture reporter Bartosz Brzezinski. And we hear from a protesting farmer in France, who spoke to our colleague Victor Goury-Laffont about his top concerns.Also in the episode, we head across town to an extraordinary meeting of EU leaders. POLITICO's chief Brussels correspondent Barbara Moens and senior diplomatic correspondent Jacopo Barigazzi explain the successful outcome after weeks of intense negotiations on financial aid for Ukraine.
355. 'Rent is too damn high!' Europe’s growing housing crisis37:35In this episode we look at a crisis that is affecting many Europeans in most EU countries: skyrocketing rents and house prices, a shortage of flats, long waiting lists for social or affordable housing — commonplace problems from Greece to Luxembourg to Portugal. Host Sarah Wheaton talks to POLITICO's Aitor Hernández-Morales and Sorcha Edwards, secretary general of Housing Europe, about the causes of the crisis, its impact across the bloc (including far-right parties using it as an election platform), and solutions at the EU level. Are there any, given that housing is not an EU competence?Then we hear from Dutch Green MEP Kim Van Sparrentak about housing challenges in her native Netherlands and her efforts to get the European Parliament and the Commission to get more involved in tackling the crisis. And Sarah speaks to Ans Persoons, secretary of state for the Brussels-Capital Region, who explains how the EU's defacto capital is struggling to keep up with affordable housing demands.And as mentioned in the show, here's where you can read the article written by our guest Aitor Hernández-Morales, together with colleagues Jacopo Barigazzi, Barbara Moens and Giovanna Coi: How do you stop the rise of the far right? Build houses.
354. Can the EU manage migration?25:50After seven years of bitter wrangling, the EU has finally reached an agreement on how to handle migration — one of its most challenging and divisive issues.In this episode of EU Confidential we look at what's in the deal, which has been hailed as a success by Brussels but criticized by NGOs and human rights groups.Host Sarah Wheaton and Jacopo Barigazzi, POLITICO's senior diplomatic correspondent, talk to Catherine Woolard — director of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles — about the details of the new agreement and how effective it might be.Later our guest is Professor Florian Trauner, an expert on migration at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He explains how migration has become the central issue ahead of the European election in June, and how far-right parties are co-opting it for political gain.
353. EU top jobs kickoff — finding compromise with Viktor Orbán39:20In this episode we look at the ongoing tug-of-war between Budapest and Brussels in the context of a rather shocking development that could pave the way for Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán — who has won a reputation as the bloc's biggest troublemaker — to chair meetings of EU leaders and set the EU agenda.It follows a surprising decision by European Council President Charles Michel to step down and run for a seat in the European Parliament.Host Sarah Wheaton and colleagues Barbara Moens and Hans von der Burchard delve into the quibbles and clashes Viktor Orbán has had with Brussels over the years, and how the EU has tried to play ball with the Hungarian leader. And yes — they also report on the infamous "toilet break" Viktor Orbán took at the last EU summit in December, which paved the way for accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova.Then Sarah and Nick Vinocur, POLITICO's editor-at-large, talk to Professor Alberto Alemanno, an expert on EU law who has taken a hard line on Hungary, and who has even suggested Budapest be stripped of the EU's rotating presidency. Finally, we bring you a Hungarian perspective from our guest Frank Füredi, executive director of the Brussels office of Hungary's government-backed MCC think tank.We also recommend you listen to the latest episode of our sister podcast, Power Play. Host Anne McElvoy talks to Latvian Foreign Minister Krišjānis Kariņš (a contender for the job of NATO's next secretary-general) and gets his reaction to Michel's shocking decision.Here is the link: Taking on Russia: Krišjānis Kariņš’ pitch to lead NATO and defend Ukraine – POLITICO.
352. What's in store for Europe in 2024?36:19This isn't just any new year — 2024 in the political calendar means mega elections in Europe, the U.S., the U.K. and beyond. Our EU Confidential crew predicts how these elections could impact pressing issues around the European Union.Bringing together the collective knowledge of some of POLITICO's best and brightest reporters — Barbara Moens, Clea Caulcutt and Hans von der Burchard — we discuss the June vote that could see 400 million Europeans take part, the top EU jobs up for grabs, the Belgian presidency of the Council of the EU which started on January 1 and the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris.Later, host Sarah Wheaton is joined by POLITICO's senior policy editor and defense expert Jan Cienski to talk about the future of the war in Ukraine, Kyiv's fears over the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, the ongoing conflict in Gaza, as well as Prime Minister Donald Tusk's Herculean tasks after Poland's recent elections.
351. Top EU stories of 2023 — POLITICO's guide41:52Our last episode of 2023 is a bumper edition, reviewing some of the key stories that drove the conversations in Brussels and throughout Europe this year.Host Sarah Wheaton is joined by a roundtable of POLITICO's policy editors including Joanna Roberts, Aoife White and Jan Cienski to discuss everything from the AI Act to pharmaceutical rules and the EU's bolstered defense capabilities. Also, Opinion Editor Jamie Dettmer brings us up to speed on Europe's response to the Israel-Hamas war and the war in Ukraine — the EU's unity in the face of fatigue, as well as the debate over Ukraine's future in the bloc.Finally, we're joined by Senior France Correspondent Clea Caulcutt who reveals POLITICO's most-read story of 2023.And as mentioned in the show, do be sure to check out our POLITICO Tech podcast, which takes listeners inside the EU’s tense AI negotiations with MEP Dragos Tudorache.That's it from us for this year — the EU Confidential team will be back in your podcast feed on January 5. See you then!