Brussels Edition: Energy pow-wow

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

EU energy and environment ministers meeting today in the city where President Emmanuel Macron was born will discuss how to ensure record-high energy prices don’t slow the transition to a climate neutral economy and penalize society’s poorest. And that’s not going to be the only thing on their minds during lunch in Amiens. The Commission’s hastily arranged consultation on a proposal to provide some gas and nuclear projects with a green label for investments ends today. One of the two groups consulted is planning on slamming the plan, as are key lawmakers who argue that it may not be legal. That’s on top of investors who say the EU’s ambition to set the “gold standard” in environmental finance is under threat. If the Commission sticks to its guns, it could make or break plans for the bloc to become climate neutral by the middle of the century — its contribution to keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

— John Ainger and Lyubov Pronina

What’s Happening
Russia Warnings |
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said a move by Russian military forces across the Ukrainian border would trigger a severe response, in a warning delivered after a meeting in Berlin with U.K. and French ministers. Continuing efforts to avert conflict, Blinken heads to Geneva today for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Google Plea | Google asked the EU’s top court to strike down a 2.4 billion-euro antitrust fine that bolstered regulators’ crackdown on big tech. The U.S. search giant wants the EU’s top court to overturn a November ruling that backed antitrust enforcers’ 2017 finding that it breached competition rules.

Polish Banker | Polish central bank Governor Adam Glapinski has faced criticism for not doing enough to curb inflation and controversy over U-turns on monetary policy. Glapinski, 71, appears on track to stay on as the governor for another six years after his term expires in June, though the final decision hasn’t been taken yet.

Climate Stress Test | European banks are finally getting a look at the unprecedented climate stress test their trading operations will face this year, and it’s not as stark as some had anticipated. This month, the ECB sent banks details of the landmark assessment, including on how their trading books would handle a 50% drop in mining stocks over three years and a surge in fossil-fuel companies’ credit spreads.

Interest Rates | A sharp increase in worker compensation will help the ECB justify raising interest rates in early 2023, according to economists at ING Group. While there are no signs soaring inflation has fed through to pay, labor shortages, robust corporate profits and higher minimum wages will contribute to growth of about 3.5% this year and next, they said.

In Case You Missed It
Polish Fine |
Poland faces a 45-day ultimatum to pay 69 million euros in cumulative fines racked up since the EU’s top court ordered it to pay the highest price yet for a nation’s failure to comply with the bloc’s rules. The EU Court of Justice last year slapped Poland with a record fine of 1 million euros for each day it ignores an order to halt a controversial chamber to discipline judges.

Doors Closing | The EU’s Brexit negotiator told lawmakers behind closed doors that a window of opportunity to strike a deal with the U.K. will close next month, also cautioning he has yet to see a fundamental change in London’s stance despite a positive shift in tone. Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said talks aim to reach a deal ahead of campaigning for Northern Ireland Assembly elections in May.

Not As Fast | The ECB has “every reason” not to respond as forcefully as the Federal Reserve to soaring consumer prices, according to President Christine Lagarde. Inflation is “clearly weaker” in the euro area, while the region’s economic recovery is also not as advanced as in the U.S., she told France Inter radio station Thursday.

Chips Plan | The EU will publish proposed legislation in early February to make the continent a leader in chip production, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced yesterday. The bloc wants to become more involved in chip manufacturing, with a target of producing 20% of the world’s value of semiconductors by 2030, up from 10%.

Poultry Cull | French poultry farmers face a mass cull of their flocks for a second straight year as a bird flu crisis deepens across Europe. The government on Thursday ordered poultry and waterfowl in parts of the southwest — home to France’s famed foie gras industry — to be killed to help stop the spread of the disease. That follows a severe outbreak that claimed about 3.5 million poultry between autumn 2020 and spring 2021.


Chart of the Day

KDS

For all the talk of gender equality in Europe, only 7% of listed companies in the region’s richest nations are led by women. According to a report by the non-profit organization European Women on Boards, which tracked 668 companies in 19 countries, the proportion of women chief executive officers inched up by a meager 1 percentage point in 2021 compared with the previous year. Europe overall is in the same league as the U.S., where only about 6% of the S&P500 CEOs are women. In Europe, Norway and the Czech Republic lead the pack with the biggest proportion of female CEOs while Luxembourg, Switzerland, Italy and Germany fare poorly.

Today’s Agenda
EU energy ministers meet in Amiens, France

  • European health ministers meet via videoconference to discuss omicron and fourth vaccine doses
  • Commission President von der Leyen chairs meeting with Advisory Panel on Covid-19
  • Eurostat releases third-quarter data on government debt
  • EU Vice President Dombrovskis participates in the informal meeting of ministers responsible for the WTO
 
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