Juncker’s tight agenda this week could be compared to a “marathon,” according to Schinas | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

MIDDAY BRIEF, IN BRIEF

Commission calls Daphne Caruana Galizia a ‘pioneer’ of investigative journalism in Malta.

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On the agenda: Malta, Brexit, College of Commissioners.

On the podium: Commission chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas.

Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death: Schinas said the Commission was “horrified” by the death of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in a car bombing on Monday. The spokesman added that the Commission “condemns” the attack on press freedom, and described it as a “horrible event, a tragedy, a major thing that needs to be investigated.” He also praised Caruana Galizia as “a pioneer of investigative journalism in Malta.” A minute of silence will be held for her on Wednesday at the International Press Center in Brussels.

No follow-up on Malta’s rule of law: Schinas was not willing to engage with reporters who asked whether the Commission would launch an assessment of Malta’s rule of law. The country has faced scrutiny for corruption allegations as well as for revelations in the Panama Papers. Schinas said the Commission will watch the situation in Malta, but declined to comment on the investigation into Caruana Galizia’s death. No phone call between Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is expected on the issue.

Juncker’s ‘marathon’ agenda: Schinas said Juncker’s tight agenda this week could be compared to a “marathon.” Juncker spoke with Austrian conservative party leader Sebastian Kurz — who is poised to become chancellor after Sunday’s election — as well as with Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa. On Wednesday, Juncker will meet several leaders from the Visegrad group (Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia). Aside from his attendance at the European Council summit on Thursday and Friday, Juncker will also meet with Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis, Greek conservative party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Spanish Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. In total, Juncker will speak with about 15 EU leaders this week, Schinas said.

College of Commissioners agenda: European commissioners meet in Brussels Wednesday to approve a new counterterrorism package — as promised in Juncker’s State of the Union speech in September — and a new progress report on the EU security union. They are also set to discuss the first activity report on the EU-U.S. privacy shield on data protection, as well as the main topics at the European Council summit. EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will brief the commissioners on the last round of negotiation talks. Schinas and Julian King, the European commissioner for the security union, will provide a readout from the meeting to reporters at lunchtime.

No ‘autopsy report’: Schinas said he did not have “much to offer” on the dinner between British Prime Minister Theresa May and Juncker on Monday evening. While Juncker told reporters ahead of the meeting that he would provide “an autopsy report” on the dinner, Schinas simply repeated the main points from a joint statement issued after the meeting.

National budgets are back: The Commission confirmed it has received draft national budgets from EU countries, and it will issue an opinion on those budgets and public deficits in November.

Flags half-mast: Schinas also said EU flags in front the Commission’s headquarters were at half-mast today for the dozens of people who died in forest fires in Portugal.

Source: Politico

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