Brussels Edition: Go green or else

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

At nearly 400 billion euros, the EU’s agricultural subsidies for the next seven years are about as much money as the grants from its much-touted 

recovery fund. But the marathon meetings over how to spend it, continuing in Luxembourg today, rarely make headlines, largely because the world’s largest farm program is taken for granted. Not this time. As part of the European Green Deal, much of these payments must now be tied to so-called eco-schemes (that means to sustainable, precision, organic or carbon farming). Or else? That’s the question that agriculture ministers need to answer. The risk of losing the cash that can’t be put to sustainable use is too much for some governments. After all, those that stand to lose are a very loud community (just ask Brexit negotiators being held hostage by fishing demands). 

What’s Happening
Brexit Drama |
The U.K. rebuffed the EU’s effort to restart deadlocked trade negotiations, holding out for more concessions from the bloc before it is prepared to restart talks. Still, there are some signs at least that things are moving. 

Double Whammy | The EU is set to kick off a deluge of sustainable debt issuance as soon as today with a double-sale of social bonds to fund the SURE job-support program. Investor demand is likely to be strong given the bloc’s stellar credit rating and the lack of other safe assets like German bonds thanks to the ECB’s robust asset buying during the pandemic.

ECB Review | The ECB takes the crusade to revive faith in its inflation-fighting credentials to members of the public tomorrow. Regular folks will get to share their views with President Christine Lagarde and Philip Lane, the central bank’s chief economist. When she started her term just under a year ago, Lagarde vowed to make the ECB better understood. This is what they’ll talk about.

Indian Aspirations | India’s Ambassador to the EU Santosh Jha told us that while we are waiting for talks for a free trade deal to unblock, New Delhi has proposed pursuing miniature accords to remove non-tariff barriers between two of the world’s biggest economies. India is eager to help the EU reduce its dependence on a single supplier, he said (that’s China of course). They’re waiting for an answer.

Virus Update | Global coronavirus cases exceeded 40 million, with record numbers of infections across Europe. Meanwhile, Ireland’s government imposed some of the most sweeping restrictions in the continent, closing non-essential stores, bars and restaurants for at least six weeks. Here’s the latest.

In Case You Missed It
Russian Victims |
A former employee of the Kremlin’s statistics agency says Russia’s daily coronavirus mortality rate is being kept artificially low and the real numbers show excess deaths could soon be the highest in Europe. Here’s what Alexey Raksha told us.

Hungarian Justice | Hungary’s parliament elected a new chief justice opposed by the nation’s top judges, reviving rule-of-law concerns in Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government. The nominee had served as the deputy of Orban’s chief prosecutor, who has been criticized by the EU for a failure to investigate corruption among the ruling elite.

Permanent Tool | EU leaders should consider whether the region’s 750 billion-euro recovery fund could be made a permanent tool, according to the ECB’s Lagarde. The package, which is backed by joint-debt issuance, is supposed to be a one-off, but as the Greek saying goes, “nothing is more permanent than what is temporary.”

Veggie Burgers | “Veggie discs” and “plant-based tubes” could end up on EU supermarket shelves under a proposal to ban vegetarian food producers from using “meaty” words on packaging. So is this the end of veggie burgers? 

Clean Air | Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Brussels-Capital Region Government and Brussels Environment launched a new initiative to tackle air pollution in the Belgian city. The partnership supports the EU’s ambitious goals set out in the European Green Deal to cut urban pollution. Here’s what you need to know about the Brussels Clean Air Partnership.

Chart of the Day

International migration plummeted to an unprecedented degree during the Covid crisis, the OECD said, raising concerns over the longer-term outlook for a key driver of the global economy. The OECD warned that prolonged restrictions and more remote working and studying mean mobility will not return to pre-crisis levels for “some time.”

Today’s Agenda
All times CET.

  • 3 p.m. The Commission will present its work program for 2021 to EU lawmakers, rolling out its plans to boost recovery from the coronavirus crisis and “build a resilient, carbon-neutral and digitally advanced EU economy” 
  • EU agriculture ministers meet in Luxembourg
Nikos Chrysoloras