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By RYAN HEATH with ZOYA SHEFTALOVICH
Early voting in Swedish election has started: Some 165,000 registered overseas Swedes may now stream into 248 embassies and consulates to cast votes ahead of the September 9 ballot. They make up 2.2 percent of the electorate, and around a third of those registered are expected to cast a vote.
Happy Friday! Ryan Heath with you for the last time at the Playbook wheel while Florian’s away. You’ll be shepherded through next week by five special guest authors, filing Playbook from all corners of the world. First up on Monday is a familiar face — Zoya will report from Sydney. Get in touch via email or Twitter.
AROUND THE EU INSTITUTIONS
POLAND’S JUDICIARY SET TO BE SUSPENDED FROM EUROPEAN NETWORK: The board of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary recommended Poland’s judiciary be suspended from the body on the grounds that it is politicized, lacks legitimacy and no longer meets European standards. A special assembly on September 17 will decide whether to confirm the suspension.
GREECE’S ENDLESS BAILOUT SET TO END: Eight years and three bailouts later, Greece will soon pull free from the direct clutches of the EU and the International Monetary Fund. Whatever its progress, the country is deeply scarred and barely growing. European leaders must wear the blame: They saved their currency but made life harder for everyone, including themselves, by avoiding the difficult decisions. How much more prosperous would we all now be if some of Greece’s debt had simply been written down in the first place? The Economist ponders this and other existential EU questions.
BREXIT ROUNDUP: There’s a “March for the Future” planned by anti-Brexiteers on October 20 (timed to coincide with a critical EU leaders’ summit). The organizers demand another referendum, explains the front page of the Independent (which backs the campaign). Meanwhile, the “Leave Means Leave” group has threatened to re-run the Brexit campaign, so worried is it that politicians will wimp out in the end.
UK pharma chief warns EU stance ‘puts patients at risk’ after Brexit: The EU will be “putting patients at risk” unless it authorizes the U.K. to participate fully in drug safety and infectious disease databases after Brexit, Mike Thompson, the head of the U.K. pharmaceutical industry association, tells Charlie Cooper.
£14,000 a day for trade rescue training. That’s what the U.K. government is paying Deloitte for crash courses in handling trade disputes to guarantee the Trade Remedies Authority can function the day after Brexit. The contract runs from June until the end of February 2019 and is worth £2.6 million total, according to a new listing on the government’s online contracts archive. Charlie has the details for POLITICO Brexit and Trade Pros.
Parliament sees red: European Parliament legislators are “deeply concerned” at reports the U.K. may seek to process EU citizens applying for post-Brexit settled status in alphabetical order. Guy Verhofstadt branded the approach worthy of a “budget airline.” In a joint statement, the European Parliament’s Brexit steering group said it would be “complicated, arbitrary and could create unnecessary confusion and uncertainty for millions.”
COMMISSION FINDS ITS VOICE ON GENOA BRIDGE DISASTER: “We think the time has come to make a few things clear,” spokesman Christian Spahr said Thursday, before going on to repeat many of the points we made in Thursday’s Playbook. EU budget chief Günther Oettinger tweeted: “It is very human to look for somebody to blame, when terrible accident happens as #Genova. Still, good to look at facts: In past 7y, @EU_Regional paid €2.5 billion for roads&trains in Italy + €12 billion from #EUinvest + EU gave green light to national funding for €8.5 bn.”
Bridge manager under fire: The Italian government gave the Benetton family-owned company Autostrade, which manages the bridge, 15 days to demonstrate that it met all contractual obligations regarding its maintenance. It also wants the company to quickly rebuild the bridge at its own expense. Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said the state would take over the country’s motorways if their private managers fail in their duties.
Crisis management: Autostrade announced on Thursday that ambulances would no longer have to pay tolls on its network.
The man who clung to wires for hours waiting for rescue.
LATEST FEEDBACK ON ENFORCEMENT OF EU LAW: EAEPC, which represents parallel distributors of medicines, is unhappy that the Commission has acknowledged in correspondence (seen by Playbook) that Slovakia is probably breaching EU law by refusing to authorize distribution of certain exported medicines. But Brussels tells the industry to complain to national courts, despite the fact that by its nature, the issue involves a cross-border problem.
Companies that place temporary staff are also unhappy and say their biggest problem is EU enforcement of the EU Agency Work Directive. Getting that law on the EU books was a difficult compromise, but in exchange for better protections for agency workers, national governments agreed to remove all “unjustified restrictions” on agency work from 2011. Adecco Group’s Bettina Schaller, who wrote to Playbook in her capacity as president of the World Employment Confederation — Europe, said industry has upheld its end of the bargain but national governments continue to ban or limit agency work in some sectors. Schaller’s overall assessment: The Commission has turned a blind eye because it’s politically easy for it to do so, with the effect of “laying chains onto a sector that provides millions of jobs and contributes heavily to the competitiveness agenda of the union.”
NEW EU CONFIDENTIAL PODCAST: This week we mix up the format by talking to five POLITICO journalists about how they wrote their best stories of the summer. If you want to get under the skin of the tattoo industry, feel the heat in the frites supply chain, visit a fragile Romanian village or a dodgy Greek-Russian-Syrian import scene, listen on SoundCloud | Apple iTunes | Stitcher.
Don’t forget POLITICO Summer Sessions: Kait Bolongaro and Ryan Heath dissect the morning’s top stories in a video chat at 11 a.m. Brussels time.
POLAND — PRESIDENT VETOES NEW EU ELECTION SYSTEM: Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, a former member of the European Parliament, Thursday vetoed a new system for electing MEPs proposed by the Polish government. The system would divide Poland into 13 regions (instead of a single national electorate) and lock out any party with less than 16.5 percent of the vote. If current polling levels played out in the 2019 election, only the ruling Law and Justice party and the center-right Civic Platform would win seats. Latest Polish national opinion poll.
“The proposed law goes too far from the required rule of proportionality,” Duda said. “Its introduction would result in a large part of citizens not having their representatives in the European Parliament [and] would result in a low turnout due to citizens’ discouragement.”
Reading between the lines: Political scientist Marek Migalski told news channel TVN24 that he believes Duda deployed his rare veto in coordination with his political mentor Jarosław Kaczyński, the chairman of PiS. “They realized that the new rules may prompt opposition parties to create a large coalition, which would be able to crush PiS in the vote,” Migalski said.
FRANCE — MACRONOMICS HITS A SPEED BUMP: It will be years before we see the full effects of the French president’s economic agenda. That’s also set to be his political problem in 2019. In May next year, two years after they elected Emmanuel Macron, French voters join other Europeans at the polls for the EU election. Unemployment sits stubbornly around 9 percent, growth will be an unremarkable 1.8 percent in 2018 and strikes show no sign of abating. Macron needs some good economic news, and there’s no obvious place to conjure it, writes Zachary Young.
POLAND — HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE EXPELLED FOR CRITICIZING GOVERNMENT: Lyudmyla Kozlovska, president of the Open Dialog Foundation, was deported to Ukraine from the Schengen zone late Monday night at the request of the Polish government. Warsaw isn’t talking — neither the foreign office nor interior ministry — but what we do know is that Kozlovska and her husband Bartosz Kramek, the operational head of Open Dialog, have called for civil disobedience against the PiS government.
Onet reports that the Polish government put out the highest level of alert in the Schengen Information System on Kozlowska, who said she was prevented from entering Brussels late Monday. Polish authorities confirmed her expulsion in the early hours of Tuesday morning, requiring that Belgium immediately return her to Kiev. Kozlovska said Belgian authorities “reacted with extreme sympathy” and “performed their duties as painlessly as possible.” She said “we are filing all possible complaints, appeals, but the decision will be issued by the same body that put me on the blacklist.” Belgium’s interior ministry said it was unable to reply to POLITICO’s request for comment due to low summer staff levels.
CZECH REPUBLIC — NGO TO COMPLAIN TO EU OVER BABIŠ’ CONTINUED BUSINESS ACTIVITIES: Transparency International is drawing up a complaint directed to Brussels over concerns about EU subsidy payments to Agrofert. The NGO says it has proof — and has lodged a related complaint in the Czech Republic — that Czech PM Andrej Babiš controls the Agrofert conglomerate. The complaint will call on the European Commission “to clearly state whether politicians and their companies can draw EU subsidies,” David Ondráčka, director of Transparency International Czech Republic, said in a written statement.
EUROPE’S FREAK WEATHER EXPLAINED: Stefan Rahmstorf is professor of physics of the oceans and head of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He writes in an op-ed for POLITICO: “Climate change does not just mean that everything is gradually getting warmer: It is also changing the major circulations of our atmosphere and ocean. This is making the weather increasingly weird and unpredictable. The reality of global warming is catching up with us fast, and no longer an issue for future generations.”
GERMANY — MERKEL VOWS TO ACT ON REJECTED ASYLUM SEEKERS: Germany will step up its efforts to deport failed asylum seekers faster, Chancellor Angela Merkel promised on Thursday. More from Reuters.
SEAN SPICER DOES IRELAND: The IIEA is hosting a moderated discussion with Sean Spicer, former White House press secretary, who’s in town to hawk his book. It’s taking place on Monday at 1:15 p.m. at the Gresham Hotel, Dublin. More info here.
INCOMING: The Atlantic is expanding in Europe and has hired Prashant Rao from the New York Times to lead it, the Guardian’s Jim Waterson reports.
CHEMICAL WARS LATEST: Seed sellers in the United States are pushing for limits on Monsanto and BASF weed killers, Reuters reports. Meanwhile, legal experts warn that Bayer Monsanto faces long odds in any appeal over the $289-million judgement against it over the health effects of its Roundup weedkiller.
US IN CHINA: CIA’S COVER BLOWN. Zac Dorfman with an extraordinary tale for Foreign Policy.
US — BIN LADEN RAID DIRECTOR TELLS TRUMP TO REVOKE HIS SECURITY CLEARANCE: Bill McRaven’s damning statement against President Trump was an act of solidarity with John Brennan, the former CIA director, whose security clearance U.S. President Donald Trump revoked this week. In a rare move, a dozen former top intelligence officials, representing previous Republican and Democratic administrations, issued a letter late Thursday supporting Brennan and lambasting Trump’s move.
US — TRUMP WAGES WAR AGAINST NEW YORK: For the longtime Manhattanite, running against New York’s political leaders is a mix of opportunity, muscle memory and method, writes Annie Karni.
US VS. TURKEY — SIGNS OF FROST THAWING? Turkey doesn’t want to have issues with the U.S., and the two could “very easily” overcome their differences if America takes a different approach, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday.
RIP, ARETHA FRANKLIN: The acclaimed singer filled hearts, minds and dance floors for more than five decades before her death on Thursday morning at 76. Is there anyone out there who didn’t hear R-E-S-P-E-C-T and think of it as their anthem, or at least something they deserved? Incredible pictures from an incredible life.
ANTIQUE NON-ROADSHOW: Panic on Rue Haute! Shop owners received a letter this week saying that from October 15 — the day after local elections — the famous antique shopping street could be closed for four months to allow for the replacement of gas, electricity and water connections. Only the Lidl and Delhaize supermarkets would receive deliveries, Bruzz reports. Shop owners meet today at Chez Alex to discuss the issue, ahead of a final commune decision.
BRUSSELS FLOWER CARPET REVEALED: This year a Mexican-themed carpet featuring 1,800 square meters filled with over 500,000 flowers has taken over the historic Grand Place.
PROMOTED: Anna Kowalczyk, who has been head of regional communications at the Open Society Foundations for the last year, will become head of strategic insight.
BIRTHDAYS: MEP Christian Ehler; Romania’s EU Affairs Minister Victor Negrescu; Italian politician and Timmermans adviser Enzo Moavero Milanesi; Mental Health Europe’s Akiko Hart; Estonian Defense Minister Jüri Luik; FTI Consulting’s John Clancy; Ixelles Councillor Maite Morren; European Commission’s Enrico Forti; and former Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
Celebrating Saturday August 18: Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová; Ava Lloyd from AmCham; ECOS’ Mathilde Crêpy; Tim Nuthall, communications director at the European Climate Foundation; Stanley Johnson, former MEP, Eurocrat and father of Boris; European Commission’s Isabelle Krauss; Political Intelligence’s Thomas Baynes; Zbigniew Ziobro, Polish justice minister and No. 14 of the 2018 POLITICO 28.
Sunday August 19: Former Austrian Ambassador to the EU Walter Grahammer; former French MEP and current National Assembly member Jean-Luc Mélenchon; MEPs Javier Nart and Bernd Lucke; former MEP Stephen Hughes; CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella; Austrian journalist and No. 11 of the 2018 POLITICO 28 Armin Wolf; former U.S. President Bill Clinton turns 72.
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