Andrew Neil with the latest news from Europe, including interviews with MEPs, reports from the European Parliament and a guide to the inner workings of the European Union.
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Hello, and welcome to Politics Europe,
your regular guide to the top stories in Brussels and Strasbourg.
EU leaders meet in Brussels to discuss Syria,
The race to replace this man heats up.
We have the lowdown on the runners and riders to become
the new President of the European Parliament.
MEPs approve new rules to curb lobbying activities by members
And we visit the snowy north of Sweden for the latest in our
So all of that to come and more in the next half-hour.
First, here is our guide to the latest from Europe
European leaders met for a summit in Brussels this week,
discussing the migration crisis and the conflict in Syria.
They also talked Brexit over dinner, but Theresa May was left out -
One new face at the talks was Italy's new Prime Minister,
He took over from Matteo Renzi on Monday, who resigned after losing
Greater European defence cooperation moved a step closer
after the European Parliament passed a motion calling for a permanent
The process for deciding who runs the railways is also set to change.
MEPs approved new rules to make competitive tendering
compulsory for public service contracts.
It is set to come into effect in 2023.
And MEPs will be banned from taking second jobs as lobbyists
after voting through proposals authored
And with us for the next 30 minutes, I'm joined
Let's look at one of these stories in more detail.
There is a move to ban MEPs from taking paid lobbying jobs.
A lot of people watching this will say, how was this ever allowed
It is all completely mysterious, but this is completely irrelevant
because MEPs are still allowed to have outside jobs.
So, for instance, the Brexit Parliament negotiator,
Guy Verhofstad, has four outside jobs.
One of them, according to the financial disclosures,
But the significant thing about the Corbett report is this.
It actually, there have been a series of procedural devices
rammed through in order to suppress it
in Parliament in order to have more of these laws.
It has been my group's position that the job of an MP
is your only job, so you can serve your constituents properly.
But it is absolutely right it is now being made explicitly clear that
We had to make it explicit they could not anymore,
and also the former MEPs should not be able to come back
What about these other outside jobs that William Dartmouth was saying?
It is our position we wanted to have one job only,
but because it is consensual, we could not quite get
Being an MEP for the north-west is my full-time job.
I'm looking for one because we are all going to be out
What I find utterly mysterious is that Labour MEP Richard Corbett,
who will be out in two years, has basically spent two years
of his mandate pushing through this complicated procedural package,
which is all about suppressing dissent.
But I ask the questions and you are meant to answer them.
I am having trouble with both of them today.
It is not just Brexit preoccupying Europe at the moment.
Members of the European Council covered the gamut of big issues
in their end of year summit, cramming meaty subjects into just
EU leaders strongly condemned the targeting of civilians
and hospitals in Aleppo, as you would expect them to,
criticising Russia and Iran for supporting the Syrian regime.
The existing economic sanctions on Russia over the Crimean
invasion were extended for six months, but a push for extra
sanctions over support for the Syrian regime was rejected.
Leaders endorsed plans for greater defence cooperation,
including creating a new mini military HQ,
battlegrounds of troops from member states and joint procurement
Council members also discussed extending a deal to pay some
countries to limit the number of migrants coming to Europe
from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Egypt,
though a decision was put back to a later date.
Brexit only came up at the informal dinner after Theresa May had left,
where the remaining 27 states discussed the negotiating position
Following the summit, Council President Donald Tusk spoke
about how the EU could not end the Syrian conflict by force.
It is impossible to stop this conflict by force.
The EU has no intentions and no capacity to use this kind
But please stop blaming the EU, because for sure, the EU member
states, the Europeans, are not the reason we witnessed
today this tragedy in Aleppo and other parts of Syria.
So we've got carnage in Syria, terrible things going on in Aleppo.
We have the US president thinking the Kremlin tried to interfere
We extended quite rightly the sanctions in terms
I believe we should have toughened them, however,
in terms of Syria, we should have imposed sanctions on Russia in terms
We have seen intolerable suffering, with people being bombed out
of their homes and their local communities.
Those sanctions, by the way, it should not be against the Russian
people, it should be against the oligarchs,
the oil companies, the people actually taking the decisions
There are always EU summits happening.
In Syria, everybody shares the deep concern
But the point I would like to share with you is that the EU is not
the right structure to attempt to do anything about it.
It should be between the United States and...
How can the United Nations do that when Russia has a veto
It is a forum in which they can talk.
It does not invalidate the point that the EU is the wrong structure.
Donald Tusk was right to say they do not have the capacity.
He seemed to be putting it out to say don't blame the EU.
If you are going to have sanctions against Russia,
But to make sure everybody is in for these, do you need the EU?
But that is our position at the moment.
We have been witness to intolerable suffering.
We have to have sanctions not against the Russian people
But again the EU has done no more than what it has been doing already.
By the UK remaining part of the EU, it is more likely that we will be
taking more people with us to deliver sanctions against Russia.
We need to be at the table not stuck outside.
Do you think the summit's decision to look at creating a mini military
headquarters and co-ordinate troops is going to cause concern
I would like to make a related point, or share that
We were always told we were scaremongering,
suggesting there were plans for an EU army.
It makes no sense at all, and would do nothing
Our commitment should be to Nato and not to this EU fantasy army.
Should we develop a military capability?
I think the structures we have at the moment are adequate.
We need political solutions to work with the people of Syria
to reconstruct their society, education programmes,
Let's be honest, that is meaningless.
What I have been advocating strongly for the past few weeks,
as have my social democrat colleagues, is having airdrops
Really, over skies controlled by Russian jets?
There are ways of doing it with drones.
The whole of Europe does not have a single drone capable
There are ways of working with partners where we could have
We are not getting an answer so I will move on.
It is exclusive, just for MEPs, like our two guests today.
They get to decide who will be president of the European Union
and as well as chairing the sittings and being responsible for the smooth
running of the chamber, the lucky winner also gets
to represent the parliament's view to European leaders,
and acts as its representative to foreign dignitaries.
We have been to Strasbourg, where in between the usual glasses
of wine, we have found out that the campaign has made a lot
The city of Strasbourg, viewed by many as the home
But it is also known as the capital of Christmas,
with its famous market festooned in light.
A mile up the road, the atmosphere at the European Parliament
This man, the socialist politician Martin Schultz,
is stepping down as president in January.
His decision has triggered a fierce leadership battle over who should
of a gentleman's agreement between the two dominant players
The Socialists and the centre-right European People's Party
essentially divide up the five-year presidency post between them
So by rights, it should be the turn of a candidate from the EPP
No, says Italy's Gianni Patella, the current leader of the Socialists
He wants to end the cosy arrangement of taking turns with EPP.
He is putting himself forward for the presidency.
You know, politics is politics, and suddenly because Martin Schultz has
decided to go back to German politics, we would give up the
fundamental political argument. It does not work.
This has infuriated the EPP who hasn't assumed their
candidate, another Italian Antonio Tajani,
We swore the candidate to be president to be in Parliament
We respected our commitments to them for 2.5 years and we are of course
disappointed now that all of a sudden they say
they want to go in another direction and want to
present their own candidate and aren't going to support our
candidate and has agreed on paper and signed by them 2.5 years ago.
Others are also stepping into the frame.
Helga Stevens from the European Conservatives and Reformists Group
which includes British Conservative MEPs, says it's
So, you are standing, representing the third
biggest party in the European Parliament for the job
People have been very happy I have been taken a stand.
But I've been put forward in this way.
They are excited to see a different face, a new face,
somebody who can bring some fresh air to this building.
A sentiment echoed by the smaller euroskeptic parties who want to end
what they see as an establishment stitch up.
People want something else, something different.
We can see the numbers of those are growing.
We see more and more referendums to come.
People want to change the politics and the great
coalition of the Social Democrats and the christians don't
They want to stick to the idea they have.
As MEPs leave for the Christmas break, there isn't so much
of a whiff of compromise in the air but deals
will have to be done as none of the parties in the Parliament has
The winning candidate will need to get more than half of the votes
to be elected as president on January 17.
We are joined now by the Green MEP Jean Lambert.
She is the European Greens candidate.
What do you hope to achieve by running?
What we hope to achieve by running as the Greens
You heard there about the deals that always gets done.
We think it should be possible that you look at people
that you think are actually going to bring something
to the presidency, that can maybe change the view of the public
towards the European Parliament and have a greater
In terms of the process, do each of the political groupings,
They can put up a candidate, you don't have too.
We were considering up until very early this week in not running
a candidate at all but then we saw what was coming from the big groups
Isn't it rather for your candidacies, rather a disadvantage
My group actually see this as, you know, it's
Theresa May keeps saying we are there and fully engaged
Sorry, are you worried you might split what I
might call the staunchly pro-EU vote and make way for a more Eurosceptic
A think if you look at all the candidates that are there,
even the ones, unless you are really talking about the representative
of the from the Front National who hopefully will be out,
That particular group, the NF, are running a candidate, yes.
There is a reason I'm supporting him.
It is because, as we said, we need a fresh approach.
We need to communicate with citizens right across the EU
is standing on a pro- jobs, pro- growth, anti-
austerity and gender so it's the end of any coalition,
it's about actually coming in with what we need for local
communities right across the UK which is jobs
Hasn't European candidate, not just for the Parliament
but various others, been standing on that kind of platform
And growth has been hard to see and the use of the EU
or the eurozone are enjoying mass unemployment.
Which is a fundamental problem and as you know,
we have supported the youth jobs guarantee
I gather that your party voted against it.
Well you actually voted for that, which
Who do you want to be your candidate?
I will know when the candidates are presented.
What about Jean Lambert? A bit of Europe UK solar -- UK solidarity
here. What's happened is the Socialist
group have doublecrossed We are watching it with
great, great interest. I don't know what that means,
can you explain it? I want to make a point
about of the EPP candidate... Is that the mainstream conservative
group or the nonmainstream? All of our group voted for Gianni
Pittella. We cannot have an establishment
figure who is close to bill us scone it being close to the
European candidate, can Whoever wins will have a role
to play in Brexit. Part of their job is making sure
Parliament is fully represented, involved in the discussions and we
have a vote at the end of the process.
Will the Green group vote for you en masse,
The Green group will certainly support the en masse.
I think this is important to actually find a party
that works for the parliament which isn't just marooned
If you were to win, would you try to stop Brexit
It's not our role to stop Brexit as the European Parliament.
That's the decision of the British people.
Our role, particularly as president of
the Parliament, is to make sure the European Parliament is engaged
in this, that our views, our knowledge,
Now, with a Christmas addition of our meet the neighbour series, Adam
Fleming reports from the smelly north of Sweden. -- snowy.
I am in Lapland. They are enjoying a few hours of light before the sun
goes down and doesn't come up again until next year. Of course, all a
way out here, you meet an Italian. You either like it or you hate it.
If you like it, is paradise. If you don't like it, you go crazy. Two
weeks. If you love it and get used to it, it's hard to go back to any
other lifestyle. It's not all dogsledding and Northern lights. It
is the largest iron ore mine. It brings jobs and one big problem. As
it expands, the town is sinking. The entire city centre is going to be
torn down and moved two miles. 3000 flats will be demolished along with
300,000 square metres of public property. Including the wooden
church, once voted the country but like most historic building. They
are going to need a bigger map. This will be the big city centre. If you
imagine going out like this. As a politician, is this a blessing or a
curse for your town? It is both. We are getting paid to do something new
so we can focus on all the new technology that we have around in
the world today and doing their proper environment thing to do when
you are creating a city centre but the curse is that of course, other
30% of the city's inhabitants are worried. The new City Hall is taking
shape. The buildings have stopped when the temperatures Obst -38
degrees. Infrastructure like roads and water will come next. In 20 13,
residents will decide whether they want to move here or take the money
in their old home. It is an undisclosed sum, mostly paid for by
the mining company. But it comes to other things happening here,
immigration is a big topic. Sweden was one of the top three destination
countries or asylum seekers during the migrant crisis. When it comes to
the economy, Sweden is one of the few countries in the world
experimenting with negative interest rates. And what about all the
Swedish cliches? Hi taxes, loads of welfare, lots of leave for when you
have children and being flat that. Is Sweden really like that? Yes,
it's true. And others that stuff, here are some more pictures of cute
puppies. A Christmas gift from politics Europe. The gift is
appreciated, Adam. When you look at the mood music coming out of stock
home both by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary -- Stockholm.
They could be, if we have any allies, it will be the Swedes in
these Brexit negotiations. And there is a big slice of public opinion
which is in favour of leaving. We could be looking at Swexit. It's
news to me. Is news to me too and I am married to a suite. They are big
supporters of Britain. They are not in the eurozone. I was speaking a
Swedish colleague yesterday and they were saying it's a shame because a
lot of mutual support came from the UK and Sweden especially when it
came to improving environmental standards. Trade. The emissions of
scandal et cetera. We are working closely with our Swedish colleagues
who definitely want to remain. We will keep an eye out. We will keep
an eye out. But is it for now. Thanks for joining us.