That’s one not-so-mysterious enigma cleared up. Eric Zemmour, the French TV pundit who’s been sanctioned for inciting racial hatred, has finally thrown his hat into the ring to fight Emmanuel Macron in April’s presidential election. Zemour pitched his widely expected candidacy with a pledge to prevent “the disappearance of our civilization.” At stake is also France’s turn as EU council president in the first half of next year. Read our profile of Zemmour, who has described the children of Muslim migrants as murderers, rapists and thieves pushing France toward civil war. At first sight, he stands no chance as rivals have long rallied to prevent a far-right presidential win. He’s also down in opinion polls. But he could regain momentum, end up in the second round instead of Marine Le Pen, or split the far-right vote enough to allow a center-right figure to make it to the run-off. Zemmour’s next task? Prove by February that he has the backing of 500 elected officials, a legal requirement to run for president.
— John Follain
Faster Vaccine | The EMA would use expedited procedures to approve new versions of Covid-19 vaccines to address the omicron variant should the current ones prove insufficient. Emer Cooke, the agency’s director, told the European Parliament that regulatory approval could be completed in three to four months from when the companies are ready to move forward. The EU has so far found only asymptomatic or mild omicron cases, the ECDC reported separately.
No Panic | EU economies have “no reason to panic” over the omicron variant, Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said on Bloomberg TV, even as governments are rushing to introduce travel restrictions and markets are tumbling because of renewed uncertainty. Overall, our economies “are adapted to these kind of crises because of the vaccines,” he said.
Covid Hotspot | The explosive growth in Covid-19 cases in Belgium, which has one of the highest infection rates in Western Europe, appears to be easing, but government experts say that some restrictive measures imposed recently will likely need to be extended. Meanwhile, as European firms try to skirt vaccine mandates, U.S. companies are requiring employees to get inoculated or risk losing their jobs.
China Challenge | The EU will seek to mobilize 300 billion euros in public and private infrastructure investments by 2027 to offer developing countries an alternative to China’s Belt and Road program. The bloc’s “Global Gateway,” which will be unveiled today, outlines spending on digital, transport, energy and health projects, according to the final draft of the strategy we’ve seen.
Green Label | The Commission is considering allowing some natural-gas and nuclear energy projects to be labeled green investments temporarily, a move that could help the shift to net zero but will also upset environmentalists. We're told this would concern investment in gas plants that replace coal and emit no more than 270 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour. Projects would have to be finalized by 2030.
In Case You Missed It
Putin Warning | President Vladimir Putin warned the West not to cross the Kremlin’s security “red line” as the U.S. and the U.K. said any Russian incursion into Ukraine would trigger serious diplomatic and economic responses. Expansion of western military infrastructure into Ukraine would leave Moscow exposed to the risk of attack in as little as five minutes “if supersonic weapons are placed there,” Putin said yesterday, threatening retaliation.
Blackouts Risk | Italian Economic Development Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti warned of the risk of blackouts across Europe as Mario Draghi reaffirmed the government’s readiness to counter the effect of rising energy prices on consumers. Italy has asked the Commission to study medium-term responses to the trend of higher power bills.
Unsustainable Dependence | Financial Services Commissioner Mairead McGuinness said the EU’s reliance on London’s clearing infrastructure isn’t feasible in the medium term, underlining the bloc’s ambitions to attract more of the business. She said the Commission would continue to work to encourage migrating that activity to the continent.
Trans Minister | Sweden appointed the first minister to have gone through a gender transition, as Magdalena Andersson announced her new Social Democrat government. Lina Axelsson Kihlblom, 51, who was born a man and transitioned in the 1990s, was named school minister in Andersson’s new government, which consists of 12 women and 11 men.
Immunity Limit | The criminal immunity of ECB Governing Council members doesn’t stretch to alleged acts committed outside their formal role, the ECJ ruled in a case linked to the bribery scandal involving Latvia’s Ilmars Rimsevics. It’s the first time EU judges in Luxembourg considered the question of the scope of the immunity of ECB officials.
Chart of the Day
Euro-area inflation surged to a record for the era of the single currency and exceeded all forecasts, adding to the ECB’s challenge before a crucial meeting next month on the future of monetary stimulus. Consumer prices rose an annual 4.9% in November. ECB officials have redoubled efforts in recent days to reassure citizens that they are facing a once-in-a-generation cost-of-living squeeze that won’t endure, driven by energy and a series of one-time factors.
All times CET.
- 7:30 a.m. NATO foreign ministers conclude two-day meeting in Riga. NATO’s Stoltenberg holds press conference at 2:15 p.m.
- 10:30 a.m. Weekly meeting of the Commission College, followed by press conference
- 12 p.m. Energy Commissioner Simson delivers speech at European Hydrogen Week
- CEPS think tank hosts cybersecurity conference