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Dr2 Consultants appoints new Junior Partner

Dr2 Consultants is pleased to announce the appointment of Viktoria Vajnai as Junior Partner.

Dr2 Consultants is a well-established consultancy firm situated at the heart of the Brussels’ European Quarter. The consultancy specialises in areas of transport, digital & tech and sustainability. An international team of 20 consultants provide guidance, support and strategic advice to clients in the fields of EU and Belgian Public Affairs, association management, training and coaching, policy monitoring and management consulting. Dr2 Consultants’ network spans across three continents with offices in Brussels, The Hague, Copenhagen, New York City and Shanghai.

We are thrilled about the new role of Viktoria, which will contribute to our ongoing success and growth ambition” said Marlene ten Ham and Margreet Lommerts, Managing Partners of Dr2 Consultants.

Viktoria joined the company in 2017 and has been working as senior consultant advising clients on transport and sustainability. She has 15 years of experience in EU Public Affairs, communication and strategic management. As Junior Partner, Viktoria will work together with the Managing Partners to further expand Dr2 Consultants’ business and service its clients.

New Commissioner for Transport strives for decarbonization and multimodality

With the confirmation of the Romanian Adina-Ioana Vălean as Commissioner-designate for Transport, the new College of Commissioners is now complete and awaits final confirmation of the European Parliament’s plenary on 27 November. The soon-to-be Commissioner for Transport reiterated during her parliamentary hearing that the transport sector needs to become more sustainable and cut back CO2 emissions. According to Vălean, the European Commission will have to strike a balance between applying the polluter pays principle while maintaining the competitiveness of the industry. What is the outlook for transport according to Vălean?

Reducing emissions in most polluting sectors

Both the maritime and aviation sectors will need to cut CO2 emissions significantly in the next decades to comply with the climate objectives as set out in the Paris Agreement. According to Vălean, there are good reasons to include the maritime sector in the EU Emission Trading System (EU ETS). Moreover, she mentioned plans to reduce the free allowances in the EU ETS for aviation and ensuring the sector’s compliance with the global system for offsetting emission CORSIA. The Single European Sky legislative file, which is currently blocked in the Council of the EU, was mentioned as important to move forward with as it can reduce congestion and emissions in aviation.

The Transport Commissioner will cooperate closely together with Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President and coordinator of the EU Green Deal, to work out the details for various upcoming initiatives. Moreover, the European Commission will closely follow developments at global level, most notably the International Maritime Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization, to pursue global solutions. However, Vălean stressed that the European Commission is not afraid to bypass international organizations in order to maintain leadership in climate change.

Focusing on sustainable transport modes

According to the Commissioner, multimodality is a key instrument for accelerating decarbonization of transport. She stated that railways are at the centre of multimodality and sustainable transport. She urged for more investments and the completion of the Trans-European Transport core Network by 2030. Moreover, she will use opportunities in the field of digitalization to further deploy the European Rail Traffic Management System, improve multimodal ticketing and exploit the potential of Mobility as a Service. On road transport, the Commissioner hopes to attain more investments in e-mobility and recharging points for electric vehicles.

What’s next

The proposed College of Commissioner is still subject to a plenary vote by the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 27 November. Moreover, the United Kingdom is also expected to nominate a Commissioner, but up until this moment they have refused to do so. Following a positive result, the European Council will formally appoint the Commission through Qualified Majority Voting in order to take office on 1 December 2019. New legislative initiatives are expected to be published early 2020 and are expected to have significant impact on stakeholders across the transport sector. Do you want to know more about how the policy agenda of the European Commission will impact your business and daily operations? Please get in touch with us to know more.

Click here to download the 5 key takeaways from Adina-Ioana Vălean’s hearing.

What will be the digital agenda of the next European Commission?

Between early leaks from DG CONNECT to the individual grilling of Commissioners-designate, the digital agenda of the next European Commission is slowly taking shape – even if key questions remain.

 Digital policies: who does what?

The cross-checking of somewhat blurry portfolio titles, mission letters, the Commission’s new organizational chart, the attribution of DGs and finally the Commissioners-designate hearings shed some light on who will do what to set the digital agenda in motion.

Margrethe Vestager’s hearing set the tone, with a number of questions and declarations on expected digital files (a chance Sylvie Goulard, Commissioner-designate for the Internal Market, did not get). The Vice-President for Digital and Commissioner for Competition also used this occasion to clarify (though without going into details) that the execution of the digital portfolio will be in the hands of her colleagues – allowing her to keep separate her two jobs – and avoid any clash between possible conflicting objectives.

So, who are the Commissioners in charge of digital policies?

Goulard’s rejection today by the European Parliament might lead to some reshuffling, but as it stands, the following Commissioners will contribute to the EU’s digital agenda:

  • Didier Reynders, Commissioner-designate for Justice, on topics such as GDPR and Artificial Intelligence;
  • Věra Jourová, Vice President-designate for Values and Transparency, on issues like illegal content and disinformation – possibly contributing as well to the Digital Services Act;
  • Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner-designate for Innovation and Youth, who also mentioned AI in her hearing, in addition to the importance of investing in education, research and innovation, and ensuring synergies between the three;
  • Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner-designate for the Economy, that will inherit the work on the Digital Tax;
  • Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President for “An Economy that works for people”, that will continue the work on Fintech, cryptoassets, cybersecurity…;
  • And of course, now, there’s a big question mark on who will take on the files assigned to Goulard, including the groundwork on the Digital Services Act, Artificial Intelligence, cybersecurity, digital education and so on.

On what topics?

The new Digital Services Act – which will include a revision of the 2000 Ecommerce Directive, has been high on the agenda of the tech sector, and is clearly high on the Commission’s agenda as well. For anyone that has been closely following these developments, the hearings did not reveal anything. The new act will “upgrade” the existing liability rules for platforms and try to find the right balance to avoid hindering a growing European platform economy. Jourová added to the discussion by focusing on the fight against illegal content and disinformation and the responsibility of platforms.

Artificial Intelligence has been mentioned many times, but not in great details. Vestager highlighted again what should be the EU’s approach to AI, and Reynders argued in favor of a very horizontal, “ethics-by-design” approach. Vestager also confirmed that something will come in the first 100 days, without concretely saying what will come and under which form – since a legislative proposal seems relatively improbable under such deadline.

Access to data was briefly mentioned, with Vestager highlighting that the EU might need to regulate the way that companies collect, use and share data, so it can benefit the entire society.

Digital Tax remains on the agenda, with Gentiloni supporting an international solution, but not excluding a European one if an agreement cannot be reached.

On competition, Vestager highlighted that competition rules needed to adapt to digitalization, especially with the development of the platform economy and technologies such as AI, where access to data is crucial. Vestager also declared, after her hearing, that “she will move beyond fines in her second term […] to look at other measures to ensure a fair playing field”.

Remaining on the topic of Big Tech, Valdis Dombrovskis also announced that the Commission was looking into Facebook’s Libra, and that a legislative proposal on such cryptoassets was to be expected.

Beyond policy, the hearings confirmed that the European Commission will have to deal with a fragmented and vocal European Parliament, especially on digital matters.

Download our infographic on Margrethe Vestager’s hearing here.

Johan Goossens joins Dr2 Consultants

Mr. Johan Goossens, who holds a master’s degree in business administration from Vlerick Business School and an engineering degree from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, has joined Dr2 Consultants as a Senior Consultant.

Mr. Goossens, who has a strong track record in circular economy and sustainability issues, will head Dr2 Consultants’ Sustainability and Circular Economy sector. He will support and guide our clients in their Public Affairs activities at both European and Belgian level.

Mr. Goossens has sound experience in strategy, stakeholder management, communication and public relations, Public Affairs (both national and European), finance, human resources and operations. He is also involved in the work of several non-for-profit organisations where he holds positions as a member of the board of directors. He was also the chairman of the Regulatory Affairs Committee of the European umbrella association Expra (Extended Producer Responsibility Alliance).

Mr. Goossens speaks Dutch, French and English.

To visit Johan Goossens’ profile on our website please click here.

To learn more about our Sustainability and Circular Economy sector please click here.

Meet the new European Commission

Today, Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen announced her proposed team of European Commissioners. If approved by the European Parliament, starting from 1 November 2019, the new Commission will have a more complex structure, including eight Vice-Presidents. Among them is also the High-Representative of the Union for Foreign Policy and Security Policy, Josep Borrel (Spain). The Vice-Presidents will be responsible for the top priorities in the Political Guidelines: by coordinating the Commission’s work on several overarching issues such as the European Green Deal, a Europe fit for the Digital Age, an Economy that Works for People, Protecting our European Way of Life, a Stronger Europe in the World and a New Push for European Democracy.

Executive Vice-Presidents

Out of the eight Vice-Presidents, three Executive Vice-Presidents will serve a double function. If confirmed by the European Parliament, they will be both Vice-Presidents responsible for one of key priorities as well as Commissioners. The first Executive Vice-President is Frans Timmermans (The Netherlands). He is charge of the European Green Deal, meaning that he will coordinate climate policies. In light of the strong results of Green parties across Europe, it can be expected that “Green” policies will play a substantial role in the next term. For Frans Timmermans, who will be supported by DG CLIMA, this means he also has to cooperate with many different Directorate-Generals (DGs), as climate policies interact with policy areas ranging from Transport to Agriculture.

The second Executive Vice-President is Margrethe Verstager (Denmark). She will be overseeing the whole agenda on “a Europe fit for the Digital Age” and at the same time serve as Commissioner for Competition. During the current mandate, Verstager has also been the Competition Commissioner and recently she already paid considerable attention to the digital aspects of competition policy. According to Von der Leyen, this Commission will aim to “make our single market fit for the digital age, we need to make the most of artificial intelligence and big data, we have to improve on cybersecurity and we have to work hard for our technological sovereignty”. A focus on these topics can thus be expected from the new Commissioner.

The third Executive Vice-President is Valdis Dombrovskis (Latvia). He will be in charge of an “Economy that Works for People” and he will also serve as Commissioner for Financial Services, supported by DG FISMA. In his role as Executive Vice-President, Dombrovskis is expected to focus on sustainable finance, but potentially also on creating a regulatory framework on cyber-security for financial services. According to the mission letter sent by Von der Leyen, Dombrovskis will work to “bring together the social and the market in our economy”.  He will also lead the work on strengthening the role of the euro as a strategic asset for the EU and this will include increasing the global use of the euro for payments.

The additional five Vice-Presidents are:

  • Josep Borell (Spain) – High-Representative of the Union for Foreign Policy and Security Policy and Vice-President for “a stronger Europe in the world”
  • Věra Jourová (Czech Republic) – Vice-President for “Values and Transparency”
  • Margaritis Schinas (Greece) – Vice-President for “Protecting our European Way of Life”
  • Maroš Šefčovič (Slovakia) – Vice-President for “Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight”
  • Dubravka Šuica (Croatia) – Vice-President for “Democracy and Demography”

Commissioners

Sylvie Goulard (France) has been appointed as the new Commissioner-candidate for the Internal Market. Her work will be supported by DG CNECT and DG GROW, which will from this mandate on be overseen by the same Commissioner. Goulard will be focusing on several digital issues, such as enhancing Europe’s technological sovereignty, developing a European approach on artificial intelligence, the new Digital Services Act and a Single market for cybersecurity. Didier Reynders (Belgium) has been appointed as the new Commissioner-candidate for Justice. In this role he will lead the Commission’s work on the comprehensive European Rule of Law Mechanism. Furthermore, he will focus on consumer protection, implementation of the GDPR and contribute to “a coordinated approach on the human and ethical implications of artificial intelligence, ensuring that fundamental rights are fully protected in the digital age”.  Paolo Gentiloni (Italy) is the candidate to become the new Commissioner for Economy. He will be supported in his work by DG ECFIN and DG TAXUD. In this mandate, he will work on international efforts to find an approach on digital taxation and focus on full implementation of the Union Customs Code. Furthermore, he will aim to turn the European Semester cycle of economic governance into an instrument that integrated the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Rovana Plumb (Romania) has been appointed as the new Commissioner-designate for Transport, supported by DG MOVE. As part of her mission, she will work towards a strategy for sustainable and smart mobility, on extending the Emissions Trading System to the maritime sector and reducing fee allowances for airlines. In addition, she will focus on the review of the Energy Taxation Directive, automated mobility and digital innovation and completing the Trans-European Transport network.

The other Commissioner-candidates are:

  • Mariya Gabriel (Bulgaria) – Innovation and Youth
  • Johannes Hahn (Austria) – Budget and Administration
  • Stella Kyriakides (Cyprus) – Health
  • Kadri Simson (Estonia) – Energy
  • Jutta Urpilainen (Finland) – International Partnerships
  • László Trócsányi (Hungary) – Neighbourhood and Enlargement
  • Phil Hogan (Ireland) – Trade
  • Virginijus Sinkevičius (Lithuania) – Environment and Oceans
  • Nicolas Schmit (Luxembourg) – Jobs
  • Helena Dalli (Malta) – Equality
  • Janusz Wojciechowski (Poland) – Agriculture
  • Elisa Ferreira (Portugal) – Cohesion and Reforms
  • Janez Lenarčič (Slovenia) – Crisis Management
  • Ylva Johansson (Sweden) – Home Affairs

Conclusion

Overall, the socialists bring a small majority of Commissioners to the College and have most of the economic portfolios. The liberals in Renew Europe also managed to obtain key positions, such as the Executive Vice-Presidency on Digital and Commissioner of Competition, as well as Energy and Values and Transparency. The structure of the new European Commission has changed considerably since the last mandate. There are now Vice-Presidents with double functions and Commissioners overseeing two Directorate-Generals. Furthermore, as Von der Leyen intended, there is indeed a gender-balance in the college of Commissioners; there are 14 men and 13 women. Compared to the previous Commission, there is a vast number of newcomers (19), while eight Commissioners maintain a position in the new configuration.

The next step is for the European parliament to test the entire College of Commissioners. Between 30 September and 8 October, parliamentary hearings will take place with the Commissioner-designates, each Commissioner will be heard by the respective parliamentary committees. The European Parliament cannot reject individual candidates, but they can request a second hearing in case of doubt or exert pressure to replace or re-position a specific candidate. The European Parliament can ultimately reject or accept the entire College of Commissioners. The Plenary vote is scheduled to take place on 21 October. In case of no delays with the decision, the new Commission will take office on 1 November.

New offices in NYC and Copenhagen

DR2 Consultants opens offices in Copenhagen and New York, in addition to the existing offices in The Hague, Brussels and Shanghai. With this, DR2 Consultants expands its worldwide network even further.

During the late summer drinks in The Hague, DR2 Consultants presented its annual trend report, which this year is dedicated to global public affairs. Founder and senior partner Frans van Drimmelen indicated in his presentation that he sees a clear increase in the importance of global public affairs, in which policy areas and companies extend across borders.

DR2 Consultants Copenhagen

Your key to the Nordics
From Copenhagen DR2 Consultants focuses on public affairs and corporate communications in the Nordic region and the Baltic States. The new office is managed by Jeroen Lammers. He has extensive experience, including in Denmark, the EU, the OECD, and in the Netherlands, in assisting companies and organizations with substantive analyses and impact strategies.

DR2 Consultants New York

Your key to the world
From New York, DR2 Consultants focuses on global politics and developments, with a special focus on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The new office will develop public affairs strategies towards international organisations, including the UN and the IMF. DR2 Consultants New York is led by Eelco Keij, who has long-standing experience at the United Nations in international politics, lobbying and fundraising.

Learn why global Public Affairs is on the rise here.

Brexit: No deal becomes even more likely

By electing Boris Johnson as their new leaders, the Conservatives have made a clear choice: the UK will leave the European Union on 31 October, with or without a deal. At least, that was Johnson’s commitment in the campaign.

To avoid a no-deal scenario, the European Commission therefore indicated this week that it is willing to discuss its position on Brexit with the UK over the coming weeks, but UK Prime Minister Johnson made it again clear that he has no intention of renegotiating the Withdrawal Agreement and therefore a no-deal Brexit seems to be his default plan. Senior EU diplomats confirmed that after exploratory talks between both parties, the UK does not have another plan and that it has no intention to negotiate. However, the official government stance is still that the UK is “ready and willing” to agree on the Brexit terms with the European Union. But the reality is that Johnson currently has no Brexit talks scheduled with European leaders. Furthermore, his unilateral condition is that the EU must first give up on the backstop insurance clause for the Irish border, something Brussels has long insisted as impossible.

Instead, the UK is increasing the preparations for a no-deal Brexit. The new government has announced an extra £2.1 billion of funding to prepare for such scenario. The extra budget will be used for more border force officers and upgrades to transport infrastructure at ports, easing traffic congestion and tackling queues created by delays at the borders, stockpiling medicines to ensure continued supplies and a national program to help businesses in their preparations.

By doubling the amount of money the government has set aside this year, it seems more and more plausible that the UK government is preparing itself for a no-deal scenario. Chancellor Sajid Javid said: “This additional £2.1bn will ensure we are ready to leave on 31 October, deal or no-deal.” In addition, Javid has ordered HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to make preparations for a no-deal Brexit on 31 October its absolute top priority. Consequently, HMRC needs to give weekly delivery focused updates to check that preparations are being put in place and to ensure exports are not held up at the border after 31 October. In addition, Javid instructed to put in place the necessary technology and transit infrastructure to cope with a completely new customs regime for EU trade and to recruit the extra staff needed to deal with the increased number of customs declarations.

On the side of the EU, big businesses are preparing themselves for a no-deal scenario by hiring consultants, shifting headquarters, preparing alternate transport methods, etc.. Governments also aim to increase Brexit awareness among smaller and mid-size enterprises amongst growing doubts about the EU’s readiness for a no-deal Brexit. An example is the Eurotunnel, connecting UK and France (and the EU). About 30% of all cargo crossing the tunnel under the English Channel is expected to face customs and veterinary checks or be held up because shippers have not pre-registered them. But also delays due to missing paperwork can upend supply chains. Roughly 32 km of additional queues are expected for each extra minute a truck spends at customs in Dover.

 

What’s next?

The UK Parliament will return on 3 September from summer recess. Together with the organization of the Labour and Conservative Party conferences this will surely increase again the debate between Remain or Leave on whether to leave with or without a deal, this with less than 2 months to go.

 

 

Formation du gouvernement : la politique des petits pas ?

Dimanche le 28 juillet, plus de deux mois après les élections, les plus grands partis politiques belges se sont réunis afin de poursuivre les négociations relatives à la formation d’un gouvernement fédéral. Cette réunion n’était pourtant pas gagnée, comme en témoigne la récente annulation de la rencontre « secrète » entre le PS et la N-VA. Aussi, le refus d’Ecolo de participer aux négociations fédérales avec la N-VA a fait beaucoup de bruit. Il semble que les partis politiques soient toujours en campagne.

Une majorité au fédéral autour d’un couple PS-N-VA (à laquelle se joindraient le MR, l’Open Vld, et le sp.a) apparait comme la forme de coopération la plus logique, les deux partis étant les plus importants de chaque côté du pays. La N-VA, devenue un véritable parti de gouvernement, se maintiendrait de cette manière au pouvoir. De son côté, le PS aurait également beaucoup à gagner d’une participation au gouvernement, notamment après une cure d’opposition de cinq ans au fédéral et son éviction du gouvernement wallon par le MR en 2017. Cependant, il ne sera pas aisé de réunir autour de la table ces deux partis, très éloignés idéologiquement.

Dans ce contexte, le MR et le sp.a feraient office de pont entre le PS et la N-VA. Néanmoins, toute médiation au niveau fédéral aura un impact au niveau régional. En effet, et bien que cela existe, il serait mal vu qu’un parti soit présent dans une majorité fédérale mais soit absent d’une majorité régionale (et inversement).

Du côté flamand, le sp.a, qui a désormais la possibilité de coopérer tant au niveau fédéral que régional, a soudainement changé de stratégie : alors qu’après les élections, les membres du conseil d’administration du parti avaient indiqué qu’ils préféraient l’opposition (tant au régional qu’au fédéral), ceux-ci ont le 31 juillet officiellement mandaté John Crombez, président du sp.a, afin qu’il puisse s’asseoir à la table des négociations flamandes avec l’informateur Bart De Wever (N-VA). Cette coalition « bourguignonne » (N-VA, Open Vld, sp.a) a déjà un précédent : la ville d’Anvers, fief de De Wever. Si un certain nombre de socialistes semblent s’opposer à toute forme de coopération avec la N-VA, cela pourrait également faire partie d’une stratégie visant à ne pas participer à un gouvernement à n’importe quel prix.

Du côté francophone, c’est le MR qui servirait de passerelle entre les socialistes francophones et les nationalistes flamands, notamment grâce à la présence du parti libéral francophone au gouvernement fédéral aux côtés de la N-VA au cours de la législature précédente (bien que cela ne fut pas sans encombre). Aussi, depuis la mort dans l’œuf de la coalition « coquelicot » qui avait pour but de réunir le PS et Ecolo au niveau wallon, le MR est désormais impliqué dans les négociations en Région wallonne. Ecolo semble désormais en mauvaise posture : en dépit de leur très net succès électoral, les écologistes ne semblent pas en mesure d’en tirer réellement profit tant au niveau fédéral qu’au niveau régional. De plus, le parti n’est pas mathématiquement nécessaire pour former une majorité au niveau wallon.

Parce que tout en politique belge semble étroitement lié, une coalition fédérale violet-jaune pourrait donc induire un gouvernement « bourguignon » en Flandre, assurant de la sorte un parallélisme quasi-parfait entre ces deux niveaux de pouvoir. En Wallonie, si la formation d’un gouvernement violet-vert est très probable, il est toujours possible que les écologistes sortent de la majorité en cours de route.

Evidemment, tout reste envisageable et aucune hypothèse n’est pour l’instant vérifiée. Dans le cas d’une majorité fédérale violet-vert, celle-ci n’atteindrait que 76 sièges. La question serait alors de savoir à quel point le MR et l’Open Vld se sentiraient à l’aise dans un gouvernement de gauche. Au vu des relations entre la section bruxelloise de l’Open Vld et l’administration du parti au niveau national n’étant pas au beau fixe, cela parait en effet d’autant plus compliqué. Il est frappant de constater que les démocrates-chrétiens jouent à peine un rôle dans chacune de ces hypothèses : le CD&V et le cdH semblent panser leurs blessures après leurs résultats décevants aux élections.

Les négociateurs fédéraux Didier Reynders (MR) et Johan Vande Lanotte (sp.a) poursuivront leur mission jusqu’au 9 septembre, puis rendront leur rapport au Roi.

Avant le 26 août, la Belgique doit également désigner son commissaire européen. Etant donné qu’un commissaire européen est considéré en Belgique comme aussi important qu’un ministre, sa désignation pourrait induire une accélération des négociations au niveau belge.

België: regeringsvorming: kleine stappen vooruit?

We zijn meer dan twee maanden na de verkiezingen, maar pas op zondag 28 juli zaten de grootste partijen samen om de federale regeringsonderhandelingen te bespreken. Dat het samenbrengen van de partijen moeizaam verloopt, was al duidelijk want een geheime ontmoeting tussen PS en N-VA sprong eerder al af. Ecolo weigerde eveneens samen te zitten in één ruimte met N-VA. De campagnemodus lijkt daarmee nog steeds aan te staan.

Een federale meerderheid rondom PS-N-VA (aangevuld met MR, Open Vld en sp.a) lijkt op het eerste zicht de meest logische samenwerking omdat de grootste partijen van beide landsdelen aan zet komen. N-VA, die zich profileert als een echte machtspartij, vermijdt hiermee een personeelsprobleem en er is sprake van een Vlaamse meerderheid waarvan de partij zelf herhaaldelijk heeft aangegeven dat deze cruciaal is. De PS heeft als machtspartij ook veel te winnen bij een regeringsdeelname na 5 jaar oppositie, zeker nadat het ook in de Waalse regering werd vervangen door de MR in 2017. Maar de ideologische kloof tussen beide partijen zorgt ervoor dat het dus niet evident is om deze aan een tafel samen te brengen.

Een mogelijke brug tussen beide partijen vormen de MR en sp.a, maar federale bemiddeling door deze partijen heeft een regionale prijs. Het is namelijk niet wenselijk dat een van de partijen wel in de meerderheid zit op het federale niveau, maar niet op het regionale niveau (of andersom), nochtans het bestaat.

Aan Vlaamse zijde heeft sp.a plots de kans om federaal én regionaal mee te besturen, waardoor de partij verandert van strategie. Het partijbestuur van sp.a gaf na de verkiezingen aan oppositie te verkiezen, maar op 31 juli  bleek dat voorzitter John Crombez het mandaat had gekregen verder in te gaan op de uitnodigingen van Vlaams informateur Bart De Wever (N-VA). Deze Bourgondische coalitie (N-VA, Open Vld en sp.a) heeft trouwens al een precedent in het Antwerpen van De Wever. Een aantal socialisten lijken tegen samenwerking met N-VA gekant, maar dit kan ook al onderdeel zijn van hun strategie om hun huid zo duur mogelijk te verkopen.

Op het Waalse niveau is MR de brug tussen PS en N-VA omdat de MR in de vorige legislatuur al samen heeft bestuurd met N-VA, hoewel dit niet vlekkeloos is verlopen. MR probeert daarom zich ook in de Waalse regeringsvorming te mengen, zeker nu de ‘klaprooscoalitie’, de minderheidsregering van PS en Ecolo is afgesprongen. Dit heeft ervoor gezorgd dat Ecolo in een zeer vervelende positie zit. Ondanks hun electorale succes lijken ze dit niet op federaal vlak én niet op het regionale vlak te kunnen verzilveren. De partij is bovendien mathematisch niet nodig voor een meerderheid in het Waals Gewest.

Omdat in de Belgische politiek alles met elkaar verweven lijkt, zou een federale paars-gele coalitie dus een Bourgondische regering kunnen betekenen voor Vlaanderen wat meteen voor parallelliteit in deze regeringen zou zorgen. In Wallonië zou er in dit scenario sprake kunnen zijn van een paars-groene regering of vallen de groenen en route af?

Natuurlijk zijn er nog steeds alternatieven mogelijk, maar deze zijn ook alles behalve evident. In het geval van een paars-groene meerderheid op het federale niveau zou er maar een nipte meerderheid zijn van 76 zetels en de vraag is maar hoe comfortabel MR en Open Vld zich zouden voelen in een linkse regering. De verzuurde relaties tussen de Open Vld afdeling van Brussel en het nationale partijbestuur lijken deze stelling te bevestigen. Opvallend is dat de christendemocraten in deze hypotheses amper een rol spelen en lijken daarmee vooral hun wonden te likken na het tegenvallend verkiezingsresultaat.

De federale onderhandelaars Didier Reynders (MR) en Johan Vande Lanotte (sp.a) gaan nu verder met hun opdracht tot 9 september om dan opnieuw verslag uit te brengen bij de Koning.

Bovendien moet België voor 26 augustus aangeven welke man of vrouw het als Commissaris van de Europese Commissie wenst. Omdat een Europees Commissaris even zwaar wordt geacht in België als een Minister zou dit ook wel eens voor een versnelling in de onderhandelingen kunnen zorgen.

Brexit: with the battle of the backstop

In his first statement as new UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson repeated on 26 July that the UK shall leave the EU by 31 October, but that he is also prepared to renegotiate with the EU. However, he called the existing Withdrawal Agreement (WA) unacceptable. Especially the arrangements to the backstop in the agreement are intolerable, according to Johnson. He said: “A time limit is not enough. If an agreement is to be reached, it must be clearly understood that the way to the deal goes by way of the abolition of the backstop.” Therefore, Johnson pleaded again for alternative agreements to the backstop compatible with the Good Friday Agreement. On 30 July Johnson even indicated he refuses to meet EU leaders unless they scrap the backstop despite the invitations of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the French President Emmanuel Macron.

As a reaction on Johnson’s wish to abolish backstop, Leo Varadkar, Prime Minister of Ireland, spoke on the phone with the new British Prime Minister. It was the first contact since Johnson became Prime Minister. Varadkar told him that “Alternative arrangements could replace the backstop in the future, but thus far satisfactory options have yet to be identified and demonstrated.” Varadkar invited Johnson to Dublin for talks on Brexit, but for the Taoiseach it is clear that the WA cannot be re-opened.

For the moment it still looks that Johnson’s main goal is to replace the Northern Ireland backstop in May’s Withdrawal Agreement (WA) with “alternative arrangements” to take effect at the end of the transition period. But neither Ireland, nor the EU seems eager to do so which seems to increase a no-deal scenario on 31 October. However, Boris Johnson has contradicted this week his no-deal Brexit planning minister, Michael Gove, by claiming that the government is not working on the basis that a no-deal Brexit is the most likely outcome. Johnson’s sincerity will become clear in the coming weeks and months.

In any case, Johnson has pledged to speed up preparations for a no-deal departure. This is necessary, as a new report published by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) made clear that neither the UK, nor the EU and the Member States are ready for a no-deal scenario. Preparations can have a material impact. Therefore, the CBI has compiled over 200 recommendations for reducing the harm of no deal. In addition, the report concluded that many no-deal mitigations rely on actions by and negotiations with the EU, which will hold all the political difficulties experienced in talks so far.

 

What’s next?

The UK Parliament went into recess this week until 3 September. Then the battle between Remain and Leave MPs is expected to intensify again with the 31 October deadline fast approaching. At the end of September, the Labour Party and the Conservative Party will both hold a conference where the parties could make important announcements.