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Today is Armistice Day in Europe — when we mark the end of the “war to end all wars.” Renewed rivalry between great powers combined with regional, intractable conflicts makes the likelihood of a wider conflagration greater than at any time since the end of the Cold War.
Our opinion editor, Jamie Dettmer, is a veteran war correspondent who has covered a score of conflicts in his career. Unfortunately, he is busier than ever and this week he brought us a series of coruscating reports from Israel, including interviews with two retired Israeli prime ministers.
I was also on the road, in London for our inaugural POLITICO Finance Summit, a great success and a unique event on the U.K. scene because of our expertise in analyzing the intersection of politics and finance. Watch out for much more in this space coming soon!
While I was there, the biggest headlines came from the indelicate words of the British Home Secretary, Suella Braverman. Timing is everything in the news business and on this occasion we were able to publish a brilliant long profile of the “most hated woman in British politics.”
Our Power Play podcast, hosted by POLITICO’s head of audio in Europe, Anne McElvoy, goes from strength to strength and this week features Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on his concerns about the war in the Middle East, relations with Turkey, tackling migration and economic revival.
That came after a fantastic interview the previous week with the U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Anne somehow managed to also fit in a chat with the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, Andrii Yermak.
Speaking of Stakhanovite journalists, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Aitor Hernández-Morales, the head of our Living Cities project who also happens to be the best and most prolific international reporter covering the Iberian peninsula. While still managing to publish his regular newsletter on European cities, he kept readers abreast of two hot political stories happening simultaneously in Portugal and Spain where the most handsome man in European politics managed to form a compromise government by offering amnesty to convicted Catalan separatists. Take a bow, Aitor!
One of the sadder developments for me personally was the death of the recently retired Chinese Premier Li Keqiang late last month. I met the premier on multiple occasions, including for a major on-the-record interview when I was Asia Editor for the Financial Times. He was a scholar and a gentleman in the finest Chinese tradition and I believe strongly that the fate of 1.4 billion Chinese people and relations between China and the West would look very different today if he had been in the top job in the Chinese Communist Party, instead of in the much weaker position of premier under Chairman Xi Jinping.
I don’t fully subscribe to the “great person of history” theory but I do think there are moments when the individual in power makes a much bigger difference than the social and economic forces swirling around them.
At just 68 years old, Premier Li supposedly died from a heart attack while swimming. Not many people I’ve spoken to in China seem to believe that explanation. The fact that official and nonofficial mourning has been mostly stamped out shows just how worried Chairman Xi is about his own popularity right now.
Speaking of bizarre personality cults, who knew that Giorgia Meloni and her Brothers of Italy party were such big hobbit fans?
As a student in Wellington, New Zealand in the late 1990s, I met most of the cast and crew of the Lord of the Rings films and an ex-girlfriend of mine even dated Frodo (Elijah Wood) for a while. Perhaps I should capitalize on my Italo-Kiwi-Hobbit heritage and become a right-wing Italian politician?
The possibilities are endless. Until next time, Bon Weekend!
**A message from Equinor: Equinor – one of the largest suppliers of energy to Europe. In an unpredictable world, Equinor’s reliable deliveries of natural gas and wind power provide a vital contribution to Europe’s energy security – while constantly search for better solutions within renewables and low carbon to contribute solving the energy transition.**
Suella Braverman is the most hated woman in British politics — and far nicer than you think
A cracker of a piece, landing at precisely the right time with Suella Braverman hitting the headlines. Thoroughly researched and written and full of brilliant insight we gleaned from those who are (or were) close to Braverman. Read the story.
A broken Netanyahu is miscalculating over Gaza, former Israeli PM says
In a string of impressive interviews this week, we shone a remarkable light on how the elite of Israeli politics view the war with Hamas, and what it means for Benjamin Netanyahu’s future. Our man on the ground secured some incredibly candid and brutally honest quotes from former PMs, weaved into compelling narratives. Read the story.
The EU’s report card on potential new members of the bloc
There isn’t a better piece anywhere analyzing in depth what the Commission’s announcement on EU enlargement means for all the wannabe members of the bloc. A must-read for everyone in the Brussels bubble. Read the story.
Around the world, the left is tearing itself apart over Israel
The Gaza-Israel war has upended politics far beyond the Middle East. In this piece, reporters from eight countries bring their expertise to bear, painting a striking picture of just how divisive the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is for parties on the left, and their leaders. With elections looming, the price could be high. Read the story.
Inside Giorgia Meloni’s Hobbit fantasy world
This fun story takes readers on a journey deep into Giorgia Meloni’s fascination with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, exploring the importance the Lord of the Rings has played in her career. It highlights her hobbit-like beginnings, Gandalfian aspirations and the unusual integration of Tolkien’s mythos into her party’s ethos. Read the story.
Putin rakes in extra €1B for his war chest via Bulgaria sanctions loophole
This hard-hitting investigation into how a Russian oil company was exploiting a sanctions loophole in Bulgaria to pay €1 billion into the Kremlin’s coffers sparked immediate concern at the European Commission, which said it would ask Sofia to explain itself. “Everyone is shocked, including the government,” said Bulgarian lawmaker Delyan Dobrev. Read the story.
Deal over dim sum: China caves to EU on data to keep investors sweet
We published this colorful and important tale on how the worried court of Xi Jinping is willing to start throwing bones to foreign investors now as the Chinese economy takes a turn for the worse. You could taste the beef and dim sum in the 11-course meal where the deal was struck. Read the story.
YOUR WEEKEND PLAYLIST
EU Confidential: The EU’s report card: Ukraine, Moldova and other aspiring members
Host Suzanne Lynch is joined by POLITICO’s Barbara Moens and Jakob Hanke Vela in Brussels, as well as Sam Greene from the Center for European Policy Analysis to discuss the European Commission’s annual report card on the ten countries hoping to join the 27 EU members. The report recommends the start of formal accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova, but what exactly does that mean? And where does that leave others in the Western Balkans, for example, who’ve been waiting in the wings for years? Also in this episode, POLITICO’s Aitor Hernández-Morales explains what’s behind the shock resignation of Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa amid a corruption probe. And finally, POLITICO’s Anne McElvoy brings us details of her conversation with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on our Power Play podcast, out this week. Listen to the episode.
Westminster Insider: Revenge of The Blob
Britain’s civil service is under fire like never before — criticized as an obstructionist “blob” by ministers and castigated for a “terrifyingly sh*t” response to the COVID-19 pandemic by former Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings. So what do U.K. government officials — normally banned from speaking to the media — actually make of it all? This week in a special “focus group” episode, five former mid-ranking civil servants sit down with host Aggie Chambre to lift the lid on life inside Whitehall. The panelists, who worked in departments across government, tell Aggie about the deteriorating relationship between ministers and officials, and about how difficult all that Whitehall bureaucracy makes their jobs. They discuss how rare it is for anyone to actually get fired from the civil service — and even reveal the secret formula for getting promoted which works almost every time. Listen to the episode.
Power Play: PM Mitsotakis on ‘hard truths’ for Israel and Greece’s economic comeback
One month after war broke out between Israel and Hamas, the solidarity of European leaders is being tested. Nowhere more so than in Greece, on the EU’s southern border, which has traditional ties to Israel and Arab states. On this week’s edition of Power Play, host Anne McElvoy speaks to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on his concerns about the war in the Middle East, Greece’s proximity to the region, and the prospect of increasing humanitarian aid via a sea corridor. They also discuss Greece’s economic revival, relations with Turkey, the challenges of dealing with migrant boat crossings and climate change. Anne is then joined by POLITICO’s “Power Panel” to reflect on the interview. Jamie Dettmer is POLITICO Europe’s opinion editor, and Matt Kaminski is POLITICO’s editor-at-large in Washington. Listen to the episode.
It’s been a bad week, if you’re the top man in Portugal or a purveyor of sugary drinks. Declassified has more.
“And if I press this button, it automatically fires all my staff. Do you want one?”
Last week we gave you this photo:
Thanks for all the entries. Here’s the best from our postbag — there’s no prize except for the gift of laughter, which I think we can all agree is far more valuable than cash or booze.
“The Franco-German Shepherd alliance goes from strength to strength,” by Tom Morgan.
**A message from Equinor: Equinor is an international energy company headquartered in Norway. Every day, Equinor energizes the lives of over 170 million people and companies around the world. Behind this contribution lie 50 years of company energy: knowledge, experience and cooperation across disciplines and countries. And that may be the key to solve the energy transition – the greatest task of our time. Equinor aims to be a net zero emissions company by 2050. To achieve it, new solutions in renewables, low carbon, oil, and gas must be found. They might not have all answers yet. But they have 22,000 employees with the knowledge and willpower to find them – always searching for better solutions. That’s how Equinor provides a vital and stabilizing contribution to Europe’s energy security, constantly searching for better solutions to solve the energy transition. Learn more at equinor.com**
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