Morning Briefing Global Edition

The Tit-for-Tat Toll Spat

In the search for the right person to succeed ECB President Mario Draghi as champion of European unity, one name comes to mind: Margrethe Vestager. The European competition commissioner from Denmark spoke to Handelsblatt about her decision to recoup €13 billion from Apple in back taxes. It’s not about tax policy, she says, but about “irritating’’ illegal state aid. It’s also about having the guts to stand up for Europe.

 

There’ll be plenty of umbrage to go around today when Vestager meets U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob “Jack’’ Lew in Washington. In what some see as a tit-for-tat spat, the U.S. Justice Department is demanding $14 billion from Deutsche Bank for selling dicey mortgage-backed securities. While unrelated, the dueling cases highlight growing transatlantic tensions. Apple is sitting on a mountain of cash, while Germany’s largest bank is deep in a financial hole. Perhaps Vestager and Lew can make a swap and keep the lawyers out of it.

 

Audi’s head of development will be suspended as part of its investigation into the origins of emissions cheating software at the carmaker, which is owned by Volkswagen, Handelsblatt has learned. Evidence shows Stefan Knirsch, who sits on Audi’s board, not only knew of the rigging, but also lied under oath. Will Dieselgate’s noxious cloud eventually reach top decision-makers on the board?

 

Et tu, Berlin? That’s the message delivered yesterday by the German capital’s voters to Angela Merkel, who suffered another embarrassing setback in state elections. Gains by the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party sent Merkel’s conservatives to their worst post-war defeat ever, and kicked her party out of the state’s ruling coalition. The only question that remains is whether Merkel herself will get the boot in next year’s national elections.

 

The Social Democrats came out on top in Berlin’s election but even they fell sharply, their support down 7 percent from five years ago. That certainly won’t help party chief Sigmar Gabriel, who today already faces an uphill battle convincing his colleagues to back the CETA trade deal between Canada and Europe at a major party gathering. Rank-and-file SPD members aren’t likely to see CETA Gabriel’s way just to boost his chances of unseating Angela Merkel next year. If the SPD is good at anything, it’s knowing how to sabotage your own candidate.

 

Image of the Day

jaws
We’re gonna need a bigger boat: The 1975 thriller “Jaws,ˮ directed by Steven Spielberg, is screened at a shark-free public indoor pool in Strasbourg during a European Film Festival. Source: REUTERS / VINCENT KESSLER
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