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Brussels Edition: Zuckerberg’s EU Networking

Viktoria Dendrinou and Natalia Drozdiak

(Bloomberg) -- Welcome to the Brussels Edition, Bloomberg’s daily briefing on what matters most in the heart of the European Union. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every weekday morning.

Weeks after Alphabet chief Sundar Pichai visited the European Union capital, Brussels is about to be treated to some more Silicon Valley star power. Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg is in town today to meet with senior officials to discuss new rules and regulations for the internet, two days before the the bloc unveils its plans to legislate artificial intelligence. He’s unlikely to get the red-carpet treatment, with the social media giant continuing to fend off antitrust and privacy scrutiny over how it handles user data. Still, there’s a good chance his visit to Brussels will be more pleasant than the last one, when he was taken to task by members of the European parliament over privacy issues. 

What’s Happening

Sophia Choice | EU foreign ministers will try reviving their Operation Sophia mission aimed at enforcing an arms embargo in Libya. Use of the mission's warships has been suspended because of objections by Austria over where to disembark rescued migrants. But prospects for progress at today’s Brussels meeting remain bleak, with a top UN official even calling the arms embargo a “joke.”

No Stimulus | Euro-area finance ministers are poised to acknowledge their economy faces the danger of protracted malaise, though they’ll likely stop short of calling for wholesale stimulus to address it. The lukewarm spending pledge may disappoint ECB officials who have asked governments to step up, insisting monetary policy alone can’t lift stubbornly low inflation.

The Longest Days | This week’s biggest spat won’t be about migration or stimulus but the EU’s next seven-year budget, which leaders will discuss at an special summit starting Thursday — and they can’t even estimate when it will end. Today, EU Affairs ministers will prepare for the marathon talks and debate a recent proposal by EU Council President Charles Michel that has so far got little love from anyone. British Goals | U.K. chief Brexit negotiator David Frost will set out Britain’s goals for its future relationship with the EU today in Brussels as the two sides prepare to thrash out an agreement before the end of the year. His speech comes amid warnings of a fierce clash over future trade terms, and after Boris Johnson’s office said the U.K. isn’t seeking special treatment.

Virus Impact | As more coronavirus case are identified, global policy makers are looking to Beijing for clues over the economic impact of the outbreak. The fallout is expected to dominate talks at this week’s G-20 summit of finance ministers and central bankers in Riyadh as the broad policy direction for many central banks and governments largely hinges on China’s response to the economic shock.

In Case You Missed It

Aircraft Spat | A long-running transatlantic spat over European subsidies to Airbus is back in focus after the U.S. said it will increase the tariff rate imposed on aircraft imported from the EU to 15% from 10% starting next month. The Trump administration will also make minor changes to a previously released product list, though Italy said it escaped higher tariffs after directly lobbying Washington.

Pipe Pressure | Donald Trump’s top energy official said he’s confident Russia won’t be able to complete the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Nord Stream 2 has become a focus for transatlantic geopolitical tensions, with Trump assailing Germany for giving “billions” to Russia for gas while it benefits from U.S. protection.Trying Again | Michel sought to build momentum in his efforts to get France to finally back EU membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania, hosting top representatives of western Balkan countries at a dinner in Brussels last night. His efforts come as the EU is seeking to revive the membership hopes of both countries to avoid political instability in the region, and prevent a political vacuum that could play into the hands of Russia and China.

IMF Warning | Kristalina Georgieva said the lack of deeper improvements in the global economic system is hindering what’s already an “anemic” outlook for growth. Speaking in a Bloomberg TV interview, the IMF chief warned that the monetary policy space is shrinking and the reliance on fiscal measures as well as on structural reforms to boost growth should be stronger. 

United Ireland | Following an unexpected election triumph, Sinn Fein’s leader wasted little time in calling for a united Ireland, demanding a referendum on the matter within five years. Nearly a century after its partition, is Ireland’s wave of nationalist fervor leading inexorably to a movement to unite one of the last divided countries in Europe? Not quite, writes Dara Doyle. Read why here. 

Chart of the Day

Subzero rates are in their sixth year in the euro zone, and the fatigue is especially evident in countries with strong savings cultures like Germany. Such unpopularity of negative monetary policy risks creating a political brake on the measure at a time when populism is focusing the minds of officials.

Today’s Agenda

All times CET.

9 a.m. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, EU trade chief Phil Hogan and Council President Michel hold meetings with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi  9:30 a.m. EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels to discuss the situation in the Middle East, Venezuela, Western Balkans and Libya 12 p.m. Polish Finance Minister Tadeusz Kościński talks about EU tax policy at Bruegel event  3 p.m. Euro area finance ministers meet in Brussels to discuss economic governance, euro area policy and outlook  3:30 p.m. Gibraltar Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Garcia speaks on ‘Brexit’s other land border’ in Brussels  4:30 p.m. European Affairs ministers meet to prepare extraordinary summit on the long-term budget  Facebook CEO Zuckerberg visits Brussels, meets EU tech and antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager  EU diplomats discuss legislative actions to  impose sanctions against two Turkish nationals over Ankara’s drilling activities off coast of Cyprus  Johnson’s EU sherpa Frost gives lecture at Brussels university ULB on the coming negotiations  EU energy chief Kadri Simson speaks at ‘emPOWER - Energy Transition Summit’ in Brussels  U.K. Labour Party leadership debate on Channel 4

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--With assistance from Zoe Schneeweiss.

To contact the authors of this story: Viktoria Dendrinou in Brussels at vdendrinou@bloomberg.netNatalia Drozdiak in Brussels at ndrozdiak1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Harris at hharris5@bloomberg.net, Chad Thomas

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