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Good morning. Days after the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, please read this startling and deeply reported FT Magazine piece on the murderous tactics of the Kremlin’s security services, by my brilliant colleague, Courtney Weaver.

Today, our European parliament correspondent hears Ursula von der Leyen’s campaign pitch for June’s election, and our finance correspondent explains the arcane (and deeply factional) process to choose the location of the EU’s new anti-money laundering agency today.

Bearing right

Ursula von der Leyen is three days into her campaign for re-election and it’s already clear what her slogan is: security, writes Andy Bounds.

Context: The European Commission president defined her first term by fighting climate change. But with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and falling living standards, there is a backlash against the Green Deal and renewed focus on the economy.

The EU is teetering on the edge of recession, while an ageing population and cuts to public services are putting pressure on health services. At the same time, voters fret about migration and the neighbouring war in Ukraine.

In a press conference yesterday in the European parliament with her party boss Manfred Weber, von der Leyen once again talked up her plan for a defence commissioner to prepare EU industry for a possible war with Russia.

But she also spoke of “security in a wider sense”.

“Citizens want to be safe on our streets. They want protection from poverty and illness. They want to know who takes care of them when they are old. People want a society where everyone plays by the rules and where the rule of law is respected,” she said.

Constitutional experts might quibble that some of these areas are the competence of member states. The EU does not set health policy or fund welfare payments.

But officials from other parliamentary groups say “security” is coming up a lot in focus groups for June’s elections.

As for the Green Deal, von der Leyen said: “We must achieve the climate targets, and we have to do it with the people and with the business sector.” Companies did not disagree with the targets, but on how to get there, said the president.

To get the approval of a potentially more Eurosceptic parliament, von der Leyen might have to secure allies outside the traditional centre parties.

She said it was “impossible” to work with “Putin’s friends” or those who did not obey the rule of law. That means no to Hungary’s Fidesz party and Poland’s Law and Justice, but yes to other hard-right parties such as Brothers of Italy.

In a sign of how tricky things might get for von der Leyen, Les Républicains — the French contingent in her own group — has already said they won’t back her.

Chart du jour: Ageing wind farms

With an average lifespan of 20 years, the first generation of European wind farms is ready for retirement, raising major questions for turbine owners: to invest more or walk away? Barney Jopson investigates.


EU countries and MEPs will today determine the location of the bloc’s new anti-money laundering agency (AMLA). The complexity of the process and the amount of infighting are only rivalled by the papal conclave, writes Paola Tamma.

Context: In 2022 the European Court of Justice ruled that the Council of the EU member states must share competences with the European parliament when it comes to picking the seat of EU agencies. Member states fight over them for influence, prestige, and the attached economic and job benefits.

A great deal of energy was put into designing a system that would give both institutions an equal say. Each institution gets 27 votes, and the first city to win a simple majority of 28 will get to host 250 EU staffers fighting white-collar crime. Voting is secret.

The candidates are Brussels, Frankfurt, Dublin, Madrid, Paris, Riga, Rome, Vienna and Vilnius. Competition has been fierce, with countries accusing each other of unduly trading favours to win support for their bid.

But in order to predetermine the outcome, the EU countries agreed to hold a pre-vote among themselves to determine a city that would get all their 27 votes, so that only one additional vote from a single MEP would suffice.

Nothing exemplifies EU institutional power struggles more than seemingly minor matters such as hosting an agency: countries fighting tooth and nail, but eventually agreeing to unite so as to circumvent the parliament.

But the parliament, seeking not to be outwitted by the council, will itself determine a shortlist of countries that the 27 MEPs will back. If the two institutions’ top picks coincide, it may be over quickly.

Otherwise, it will probably take a few rounds of voting before we get white smoke and ‘habemus AMLA.’

What to watch today

  1. G20 foreign ministers meet in Brasília.

  2. Informal meeting of EU finance ministers begins in Ghent.

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