Thursday

20th Feb 2020

Tusk deplores 'too many leaks' in Brussels

  • The question "is more for Jean-Claude of course," said Tusk (r) after the latest leaks on Trump's comments. (Photo: Consilium)

Leaked comments by Donald Trump, from his meeting with the European Council and Commission leaders on Thursday (25 May), have again raised the question of who in Brussels gives too much sensitive information to the media.

“I don’t want to be part of this new political culture of permanent leaks,” European Council president Donald Tusk told reporters on Friday morning, after being asked to confirm Trump’s comments published by the Spiegel. The German magazine’s website reported on Thursday evening that the US president said Germany was “bad” because it sells “millions of cars” to the US and has a trade surplus.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Tusk said that there are “too many leaks” about EU leaders’ conversations with other leaders.

“Today’s diplomacy needs professional plumbers rather than indiscreet diplomats,” he added.

The European Council chief seemed to put the blame on the EU commission.

“It’s more for Jean-Claude [Juncker] of course,” he first said, referring to the EU commission president, which triggered a puzzled reaction on Juncker’s face.

Juncker, who was next to Tusk, acknowledged that Trump mentioned Germany’s trade surplus with the US, but he did not confirm or deny that the leak came from his institution.

He said that it was “not true that the president [Trump] took an aggressive approach when it came to the German trade surplus”, and that there was a translation problem.

“If someone says the Germans are bad, that doesn’t mean it can be translated literally,” he noted.

“Das war nicht böse [it was not evil],” he added in German, referring to the headline of the Spiegel’s article, which used the word “böse", a stronger translation of “bad”, rather than the weaker “schlecht”.

Tusk and Juncker were speaking at a press conference in Taormina, Sicily, ahead of a G7 summit for wealthy nations on Friday and Saturday.

Commission sources told EUobserver on Friday that the leak did not come from their side, while Council sources said they did not know where it came from.

Tusk and Juncker, alongside their closest aides, were not the only two EU leaders in the meeting. They were also accompanied by European Parliament president Antonio Tajani and EU diplomacy chief Federica Mogherini and their aides – all of whom also took part in Thursday’s meeting at some point.

The controversy over the Trump leak comes less than a month after another leaked story was published by another German media outlet.

After a dinner in London – between UK prime minister Theresa May, Juncker, EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, as well as May and Juncker’s cabinet chiefs – the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published an account saying that the meeting had been a “disaster”.

As only five people were in the room, Juncker’s powerful German head of cabinet, Martin Selmayr, was widely suspected of being the source for the leak, which May described as “Brussels gossip”.

Discretion needed

Asked about the source of the London dinner leak, the EU commission's spokesman said at the time that the EU executive “never comments on reports, comments, leaks or alleged leaks”.

In a comment that was considered to be directed at the commission, Tusk said that “discretion, moderation, mutual respect and a maximum of good will” were needed to make Brexit negotiations a success.

He noted that “negotiations are difficult enough … If we start arguing before they even begin, they will become impossible.”

Thursday’s leak about Germany's trade surplus comes amid the increasingly sensitive issue of trade relations between the EU and the US.

Trump, Tusk and Juncker agreed at their meeting to start a working group to discuss bilateral and global trade issues. Meanwhile, the EU is calling on the Trump administration to respect multilateral trade rules.

Merkel: Europe cannot rely on its allies anymore

The German chancellor said Europe must take its fate into its own hands in the era of Brexit and Trump, in a speech aimed at rallying support in Germany for her re-election.

Exclusive

EU commissioner lobbied by energy firm he owns shares in

EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn owns 2,200 shares in Austria's largest electricity provider. Those shares have tripled in value since he first declared them in 2014. In January, the firm met his head of cabinet to discuss climate policy.

EU transparency on lobbyist meetings still piecemeal

Small steps are being made to reveal who is lobbying who within the EU. But the approach is basically haphazard and piecemeal - meaning the public remains largely in the dark and unable to truly scrutinise the influencers.

'Top-down' future of Europe conference 'will fail' warning

The new president of the Committee of the Regions has warned the EU Commission that a top-down, centralised, Brussels-driven conference will fail to rebuild trust in Europe. Instead, he proposes a stronger say for local and regional authorities.

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us