Brussels Edition: Sharing is caring

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

EU leaders will be briefed today on a looming surge in vaccine supplies that will allow them to inoculate the bulk of their population by July, assuming the available shots are actually administered. But the bad news is that the rollout in the rest of the world remains painfully slow, and the virus continues to mutate unchecked. The Commission reluctantly agreed with a U.S. proposal to discuss waiving intellectual property rights to let the rest of the world manufacture patented vaccines, a move that Germany opposed. Big pharma shares tanked and the EU again appeared to be sending mixed messages. Officials and diplomats in Brussels caution that such discussions will take months, and will likely result in only partial waivers, as there’s little chance the West will agree to share the revolution of its mRNA technology with China. In any event, most poor countries in the world have neither the capacity nor the know-how to produce advanced treatments. A more immediate solution would be for the U.S., the U.K and others to follow the EU’s lead and start mass shipments to the rest of the world, including donations of spare shots to those who most need them.

What’s Happening
Social Summit | Today’s meeting in Porto, with some leaders attending in person and some dialing in, is supposed to be about social issues. There was some controversy in the discussions over the joint communique, with Poland and Hungary pushing for more “traditionalist” language on gender. That will come as no surprise to LGBTQ people and women living in those countries.

India Talks | The EU’s less-than enthusiastic reaction to the U.S. shift on IP may make for an awkward summit tomorrow between the bloc and India, which is reeling from the pandemic and is among the countries that pushed for the waiver in the first place. Still, according to a draft statement, the world’s two largest democracies are expected to agree to resume stalled free-trade negotiations, and pledge their commitment to address the challenges posed by climate change. The EU would want more Indian commitments on the latter.

Fish Row | We had our suspicions that post-Brexit ties between the EU and the U.K. would be difficult, but deploying military patrol ships and threatening to cut off electricity supply takes it all to a whole new level. The spat between Britain and France is over fish, a dramatic deja vu of last year’s separation talks. Here’s the latest.

Steep Cost | Another Brexit battleground now has a price tag: at least $2.4 million a day. That’s how much any move by the EU to cut off access to London’s dominant clearinghouses for derivatives could cost traders in euro interest-rate swaps, net of buying, according to an estimate from Albert Menkveld, professor of finance at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, who has sat on advisory panels to European regulatory authorities.

In Case You Missed It
Polish Blow |
Poland suffered a setback in yet another EU court clash over the government’s reforms to its judicial systems, focusing this time on a controversial disciplinary regime for judges. The legislation in question “is contrary to EU law,” an Advocate General of the ECJ said in a non-binding opinion yesterday, which came after the commission sued Poland in 2019 over concerns the nation’s new measures wouldn’t protect judges from political control.

Bee Killer | Bayer lost its fight to topple an EU ban on controversial insecticides that regulators blame for killing honeybees. The bloc’s top court dismissed the appeal, finding there were no legal errors in the Commission’s decision to impose restrictions, based on concerns that the chemicals posed high risks for the insects.

Green Atlanticist | The co-leader of Germany’s Green Party, Annalena Baerbock, highlighted her party’s common ground with the U.S. in areas ranging from human rights to climate change, drawing up her trans-Atlantic priorities in the event that she succeeds Angela Merkel as chancellor after September’s election. Under her leadership, Baerbock said Germany and the U.S. could move even closer together, and join forces to create a “transatlantic Green deal.”

Vaccine Perks | German residents who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus will be exempt from most lockdown rules under legislation approved yesterday in the lower house of parliament. The law, which also covers people who have recovered from Covid-19, is set to be voted on by the upper house today and will likely take effect this weekend.

Dark Spring | Europe experienced its coldest April in almost two decades last month, another sign that global warming is changing our climate in mysterious ways. And so far, May in Brussels doesn’t look any better.

Chart of the Day

Consumers are seeing little letup in surging food prices, with rallies in everything from grains to sugar. A UN gauge of world food costs climbed for an 11th month in April, extending its gain to the highest in seven years. Prices are in their longest advance in more than a decade amid weather worries and a crop-buying spree in China that’s tightening supplies, threatening faster inflation.

Today’s Agenda
All times CET.

  • 9:10 a.m. EU foreign policy chief Borrell delivers a speech at the European University Institute 
  • 9:40 a.m. EU climate chief Timmermans and Xie Zhenhua, China’s Special Representative on Climate Change speak at the European University Institute annual conference; Timmermans also speaks at the Petersberg Climate dialogue session on Climate Finance
  • 10:30 a.m. WTO chief Okonjo-Iweala participates in Q&A event at European University Institute annual conference
  • 11 a.m. Eurostat releases early estimates on 2020 CO2 emissions 
  • 12 p.m. ECB President Lagarde in Q&A event at European University Institute annual conference
  • EU leaders hold an informal summit in Porto to discuss social issues, the pandemic and Russia
Viktoria Dendrinou and Nikos Chrysoloras