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Quest Means Business

Russia Arrests US Journalist On Suspicion Of Espionage; European Parliament Supports Ukraine's EU Membership; Putin Admits Sanctions Could Hurt Russia; President Of The E.U. Parliament Wants "To Avoid Race To The Bottom"; Call To Earth: Protesters Of The Sea; Disney's Florida Surprise. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired March 30, 2023 - 15:00   ET



RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Our second night in Brussels, the EU in focus on tonight's program.

There is an hour to trade left on Wall Street and the market, well, the green gave way to the red and now as a little tinkle of red has given back

to a lot of green, up a third of a percent. The markets are strong and are likely to hold.

These are the events that we're following for you tonight: Russia arrests a "Wall Street Journal" reporter and charged him with espionage. The White

House is calling the charges ridiculous.

The EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola on tonight's program, says EU support for Ukraine is strong as ever, and yet there's still more to do on



ROBERTA METSOLA, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN UNION PARLIAMENT: We can still go further because the escalation is one we have to respond to.


QUEST: And the Magic Kingdom versus the Florida Governor, a new twist in a battle over Disney's theme parks in Florida.

We're live in Brussels. It is Thursday, it's March the 30th. I'm Richard Quest at the European headquarters, where of course, I mean business.

Good evening tonight from Brussels. We're in front of course of the Belmont Building, which is the home of the Commission -- the European Commission.

Tonight, you're going to hear from the other side of it, of course, from the Parliament and the European Union very much our focus tonight as the EU

faces challenges that could split its unity on major issues such as, of course, Russia and Ukraine, economic uncertainty, the IRA, the Inflation

Reduction Act, and Europe's response to that, of course, the war in Ukraine will be top of that.

Related, let's start tonight with "The Wall Street Journal" reporter, Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained in Russia, arrested some months ago and

on suspicion of espionage. He is 31 years old and he is a US citizen. He faced Moscow's Court today for the first time. Apparently, he was placed

under arrest almost two months ago.

"The Wall Street Journal" is vehemently denying allegations that Evan was a spy. Here is the White House Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This espionage charges are ridiculous. The targeting of American citizens by Russian government is


We condemn the detention of Mr. Gershkovich in the strongest -- in the strongest terms. We also condemn the Russian government's continued

targeting and repression of journalists.


QUEST: To Washington now and Natasha Bertrand is with us this evening.

The thing that stuck out for me is that it would appear, give us some more facts, please, that he was actually taken into custody some time ago. It

says, you know, he was placed under arrest for almost two months. And this, of course, is only really the first time publicly, we're hearing all about


NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: So Richard, the State Department actually became aware of his arrest yesterday and that is

actually when he was arrested.

He was arrested yesterday evening, Eastern Time, and he has now been detained for the next two months. Essentially, he is going to be kept in a

Russian detention facility until the end of May.

And so what the White House and what the State Department are telling us is that they don't really have a lot of information right now. They have been

trying to reach out to their Russian counterparts to try to get a sense for what he is actually being accused of, because the Russians have only issued

kind of this vague statement about espionage. And also, of course, how to get him back, right? How to release him? Because it is unclear at this

point whether the Russians are prepared to engage with the US on any of this, even though the US now is saying that this is essentially a hostage


They believe, according to lawmakers here that the Russians are essentially detaining this journalist for leverage, because that is what Russia has

done before. They have detained Americans on trumped up charges in order to get their citizens back from custody in the United States. We saw that just

a few months ago.


QUEST: Now, at the beginning of the war in Ukraine, of course, Russia brought in a whole slew of draconian laws and measures that forced many

organizations, ourselves included to leave Moscow. We've come back, and the fear being that at some point, Russia was going to do something like this.

So I imagine in Washington, everybody is on high alert.

BERTRAND: And they are advising Americans to not travel to Russia, and they acknowledge that of course, this was a journalist who was doing his job.

But they also say that right now, Russia is just so unpredictable with these strict laws that they have placed on information and against

journalism there that it is just extremely risky, even for working reporters to be based there, as we saw, of course, with the detention of

this American journalist -- Richard.

QUEST: Many thanks, Natasha, in Washington.

And so here in Europe today, I sat down with President Roberta Metsola, who is the President of the European Parliament. Now our meeting was before --

our interview was before the news of the arrest of "The Wall Street Journal" reporter came out. So, I was unable to question her on it, which

is why you're not going to hear her talk about it.

But on the bigger issue of Ukraine, on the wider issue, I should say, not bigger issue -- on the wider issue of Ukraine, the underlying issue there

is how the EU will continue to support Ukraine.

And here, President Metsola made it clear, there is no fatigue, and the EU would do whatever was necessary.


METSOLA: It ends when Russia gets out of Ukraine, the same thing we said immediately on the 24th of February last year, when we all woke up to an

invasion by our country into another.

We have seen actually an escalation over the past few days also with Russia placing -- planning to place nuclear armaments in Belarus, and that has

meant that we, as the European Union, slow to start, although we got our act together, but weapons took long to get there; tanks have finally

started to arrive, as you said jets have started to be given. We can still go further, because the escalation is one we have to respond to.

QUEST: Okay, but the Parliament being closer, in a sense to the public will start to feel that anxiety quicker than maybe the other institutions.

And your MPs will start to say, hang on, where is this going? Do we want it to continue like this? Is it worth the price?

METSOLA: I think, you know, the price for freedom can never be too high and if you had asked me this one year ago, I would have thought that by today,

that anxiety would have hit in quicker, but it hasn't.

No matter how hard they have been bombed every day, the Ukrainian resilience and spirit has shown us that the freedoms that we've all taken

for granted are worth fighting for.

QUEST: So, when you have a Hungary which won't allow weapons through its borders. It won't support in the same way. Yes, I know it hasn't blocked

the various sanctions, but it hasn't gone wholeheartedly. And it's delaying, of course, Sweden to NATO. Can you, as President of the

Parliament put pressure there?

METSOLA: Yes. I mean, I sit around the table of the European Council and my position I have been mandated with most clarity, that unity is essential.

And of course, we can look and understand how difficult package by package of sanctions has been.

But we have come so far, that if we think of countries that were last year hundred percent reliant on Russian gas, today, we're in spring, it doesn't

look like that outside the windows, but we're in spring, we have survived the winter. Our storages are still almost full. We have managed to uncouple

ourselves, and I think that we will not fall back into where we were before, into being -- relying on a very intimidating big neighbor to our


QUEST: But escalation is the fear. And Ukraine, Russia says essentially, it is NATO against Russia. And the truth is that NATO is fighting this war

without fighting this war.

METSOLA: I will say that Russia or Putin thought he could take Kyiv at the time within five days. I think he underestimated, perhaps the world

underestimated the resilience of Ukraine.

We tend to forget or sometimes we exclude it from our narrative that this is about one country that has invaded another.


Putin didn't stop in '08. He didn't stop in Crimea. He doesn't look like he is stopping now. What should our response be? Let Ukraine alone or actually

help logistically, militarily, financially. Should we do more? I would be the first one to say, absolutely.

Are our defense capabilities -- should have been better? Absolutely. Should we create a security and defense union? Absolutely. Not in competition with

NATO, in complementarity with NATO, but there are countries to our east who have been telling us for years, this is going to happen.

Look at Moldova. Look at what happened in Belarus. Why are there no more sanctions on Belarus from the regime? Why haven't we not helped Moldova

more? We should have done that earlier. And I think that if we learned something, is that looking at the Transatlantic Alliance never before at

least in my lifetime, more important than it is now.


QUEST: We'll hear more from the European Parliament President on a variety of issues as the program continues on tomorrow.

The top US General, Mark Milley says that Bakhmut has been a slaughter fest for Russians, and has been limited to virtually no gains over the past

three weeks.

The Wagner Chief has put out an audio message saying that his forces are pretty battered. He claimed some territory has been taken, but after eight

months of fighting for Bakhmut, it has become a central battlefield despite the limited strategic importance.

Meanwhile, Ukraine is hinting of a new counteroffensive as Western tanks have been arriving.

Vsevolod Chentsov is the Ukrainian Ambassador here to the European Union. The Ambassador is with me now.

Ambassador, first let us talk about the main story that we're talking about tonight, which is the arrest of "The Wall Street Journal" reporter by

Russia. This is going to be another way perhaps that Russia is trying to use leverage to the West. Are you concerned?

VSEVOLOD CHENTSOV, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Well, it just shows that Russia cannot tolerate any objective information coming

from independent sources, but also insulating it more and more, neglecting all the rules and principle, arresting journalists.

QUEST: But ultimately, of course, the goal will be to create a negotiation, I presume, with the United States or something somewhere along

the line or will deal with yourselves.

CHENTSOV: Yes. Might be to seek for exchange for a real Russian spy. Why not?

QUEST: On this -- the new military hardware is now arriving. The tanks, some planes, admittedly older ones, armored vehicles. And you still want


CHENTSOV: Yes, definitely. And we are working hard to get more tanks, to get -- also, we are talking about fighter jets. And you know those formats,

which were established in Ramstein, and now we are talking about also Nierstein. So, yes, it's about getting more and modern weaponry from our

partners, but also ammunition and the EU is doing quite well consolidating forces.

QUEST: Are you concerned? I mean, the EU President -- the Parliament President very clear, whatever happens, support for Ukraine, but some

member states, Hungary, for example, is more questioning in that way.

CHENTSOV: What is important that the unity is there during more than one year of Russian aggression and Ukraine fight against Russia. And it's not a

surprise, so several times Hungary tried to challenge this unity, but there are ways to overcome it and get business done.

QUEST: How would you spend your day in a way here? If I mean, you know, we've got the part -- we've got the Commission behind us, the Parliament up

the road, the Council is along the street. Do you go and see them all? Do you go and see individual country's Ambassadors? How do you spend your

days? What are you asking for when you go see them?

CHENTSOV: Definitely, we work with all three institutions. As you mentioned, the Council and Ambassadors represent countries in the Council

just across the road. The Commission executive body, and the Parliament and those are free bodies with legislative powers. So, it's important to have

those balanced relations with all of them.

QUEST: We've come through the winter and as the President of the Parliament says, stocks are high on oil. There was not a major calamity,

and now the weather thankfully has improved.


But to some extent, the fatigue is there as -- the war fatigue, and I appreciate, sir, it is your country that is being attacked and I appreciate

the losses that you're suffering. In the West, the rest of Europe, people are fighting for inflation and all of these other issues. Do you worry that

fatigue in amongst European populations will start to take its toll?

CHENTSOV: We try to get the message through that, it is not about the bills and inflation, it's about the value. It's about also the survival, not only

Ukraine, but also foundations about this union.

It's about human rights. It's about democracy, which is under attack now and people are getting serious, seriously.

QUEST: So you can feel that there is still the -- I mean, it's not just nice words, you can feel the support in return.

CHENTSOV: Yes. And you know, in figures because I already mentioned weapons, and it is 3.6 billion already earmarked to compensate spending of

the member states, two billion just allocated for ammunition, 18.5 billion to support Ukrainian financial stability. So it's figures and it's

taxpayers money, and people accept it.

QUEST: Thank you very much, Ambassador.

CHENTSOV: Thank you.

QUEST: I am very grateful for you coming here tonight and talking to us. Thank you.

We are here in Brussels, and the EU is making sure sanctions will have more bite than bark.

Coming up next, a rare concession from Russia's leader that the sanctions may be working.


QUEST: QUEST MEANS BUSINESS tonight in Brussels.

A rare admission today from President Putin that sanctions may be having an effect and possibly more than he has ever been led to believe so far.

President Putin says that the economy has been hit, but the -- the economy has been growing since July, thanks to ties with the East and the South;

however, the estimates show the output shrank 2.1 percent last year. Smaller than perhaps expected. Even so, the cracks are starting to appear.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The illegitimate restrictions imposed on the Russian economy in the medium term can indeed

have a negative impact on it. In this regard, we need to ensure a sustainable increase in domestic demand. In this situation, it is this that

becomes the leading factor in economic growth.


QUEST: Clare Sebastian is with me, in London.

Clare, the sanction rounds. First of all the effectiveness of what we've seen. Bearing in mind the level of sanctions, which are unparalleled and

unprecedented, but Russia's economy hasn't fallen over.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not yet. Richard. I would say that last year, there were several things that made them as resilient as they have

been. One was the fact that oil and energy prices in general was so high, an extraordinary loophole really that emerged that Russia caused the

disruption with this war to energy markets, and then proceeded to reap the benefits of that disruption through higher prices, so that's one thing.

They were able to reroute trade, you had Putin talking about that. That's another thing that helps.

The third thing that's really important to note is they had eight years to prepare for this. They saw the sanctions after Crimea. They anticipated

more coming, so they've built up this sort of Fortress Russia policy with, you know, domestic payment systems, things like increasing domestic

supplies of certain products, like food reserves of the Central Bank, all of those things helped.

And of course, oil prices are now coming down and we are already seeing, as you say, those cracks appearing. Russia reported a $23 billion budget

deficit in January, having spent most of last year in surplus. They are still -- you know, they've got still money left over from last year,

Russia. They reported a record current account surplus last year, Richard, 200 billion plus, that's almost as much as the frozen reserves at the

Central Bank, about 300 billion.

So they are still reaping the benefits, but it is very clear that this year is going to be much harder for Russia than last year, and that is why you

see Putin saying, you've got to act fast.

QUEST: Okay, but as long as China and India buy the oil, and China still continues to trade, and there are those countries, non-aligned that are

taking advantage of cheaper oil.

I suppose, pardon the unsavory nature of the phrase, it's going to be very difficult for sanctions to be the killer blow.

SEBASTIAN: You know, I think it's not so much sanctions that are going to hurt Russia this year, Richard, it's the lower price of oil. If you look at

Russian oil, for example, it's just -- the average of the first two months of the year was just under $50.00 a barrel. That's a lot less than you saw

last year, almost half, in fact. And so they're really going to struggle when that is their key export, and the price has come down so much.

The oil price cap, immaterial really, because the actual price, the market price is lower, but I think the issue of course with sanctions is now

enforcement. You really see momentum in the EU, in the US to step up their crackdown on evasion of sanctions, really trying to make those 10 packages

of sanctions so far actually work.

QUEST: And finally, I mean, we all focus on the sexy bit of sanctions, in a sense. The oligarchs and their yachts and their planes and their expensive

houses, million dollar mansions in London. Is that battle still going?

SEBASTIAN: Yes, Richard. Certainly, that is something that the countries -- the EU, the US is still grappling with the legal ramifications of trying to

not just freeze the assets, but actually seize them. It's incredibly difficult in some cases to find them in order to seize them.

And of course, you're dealing with, you know, things being parked in all different countries, but I would say the thing that they're focusing a lot

on at the moment are ways of getting around these export controls.

The US, for example, issued indictments in December against a number of individuals and entities who seemed to be smuggling US made arms into

Russia. They're doing things like shell companies, front companies trying to hide identities and have these transactions take place across borders.

This is something that both the EU and the US are looking at very closely because of course, a lot of these export controls are in fact targeting

these military technologies or dual use technologies that go straight into that war machine, so this is something we see a lot of focus on.

QUEST: Clare Sebastian, you will continue to watch these events.

Clare, thank you.

Taiwan's President is in the United States visiting New York on the way to South America, and in doing so has caused fury in China.

The Chinese President says Taiwan and the US have never been closer at a dinner in New York, meanwhile Beijing says it violates China's sovereignty.


On the other side of the coin, China is welcoming the former Taiwan President, Ma Ying-jeou in a historic visit that's angering Taiwan's ruling

party. Both sides saying the other is wrong.

CNN's Marc Stewart is in Tokyo.


MARC STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Even though Taiwanese and US officials are describing the presence of Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen in the United

States as stopovers, it is still drawing sharp criticism from Beijing.

President Tsai is using the United States as a transit point for her upcoming visits to Central America landing in New York. The United States

acknowledges China's position that Taiwan is part of China, but House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said he would meet with her although there has

been no formal announcement.

While in New York, President Tsai said Taiwan's relationship with the United States has "Never been closer." Yet Beijing warned her visit could

lead to "serious confrontation" between China and the US.

Here are some recent remarks from China's Foreign Ministry.

MAO NING, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): The United States and Taiwan colluded with each other and arranged with Tsai

Ing-wen to engage in political activities in the United States under the guise of transit in an attempt to enhance official exchanges and

substantive relations between the United States and Taiwan.

This seriously violated the One China Principle and the provisions of the three Sino-US joint communique and seriously damaged China's sovereignty.

STEWART: President Tsai is expected to remain in New York until Friday with visits then planned to Belize and Guatemala. She is then expected to stop

in California on her way home.

Marc Stewart, CNN, Tokyo.


QUEST: And so here in Brussels after the break, the ripples of the corruption scandal that's going through the European Parliament. All the

European institutions are feeling the effect. The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola addresses it with me, head on, after the break.


METSOLA: We cannot allow a house like this to be as one and go. Now, does that mean close it up? Of course not. We pride ourselves on our openness.





QUEST: I'm Richard Quest. A lot more QUEST MEANS BUSINESS tonight, coming from Brussels in Belgium. You're going to hear more from the E.U.

Parliament president who's going to talk about corruption and scandals and what she's doing to stamp them out.

And Disney finds itself taking an interesting, nifty little maneuver. The Magic Kingdom trying to stave off governor DeSantis' efforts. This is CNN

then. We'll only get to those stories after giving you the headlines because, on this network, the news always comes first.


QUEST (voice-over): The U.S. Army's investigating a deadly crash involving two Black Hawk helicopters that collided during a training exercise on

Wednesday night in Kentucky. Brigadier General John Loomis said they were flying information using night vision goggles. Nine service members were


The former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is back in Brazil after spending three months in the United States. He had been in Florida since

his electoral opponent Lula da Silva. Began his presidency in January. Bolsonaro told supporters at his party's headquarters that they will curb

da Silva's agenda.

Sam Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to U.S. charges of bribery and violating campaign finance law. He is accused of offering Chinese officials

$40 million to unfreeze some cryptocurrency accounts.

The founder of FTX has already pleaded not guilty to fraud and conspiracy following his company's collapse.

King Charles has become the first British monarch to address Germany's parliament. In his speech, switching between English and German, he

described his great honor. And currently on his first trip abroad as king, he also met with displaced Ukrainians at a refugee center.


QUEST: As the European Union grapples with a response to the United States' Inflation Reduction Act, the president of the E.U. Parliament says

green subsidies are all fair and good but wants to avoid a race to the bottom.

However Europe must respond. And that she told me the pressure is now ratcheting up to react to the IRA before the U.S. takes the lion's share of

business. I asked President Roberta Metsola what the E.U. is actually doing to tackle the inflation crisis.


ROBERTA METSOLA, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: Our economy is based on small and medium sized enterprises.

How are we going to help them?

And there, together with the rise of interest rates, in order to curb inflation, we're going to have to help them sector by sector, country by


QUEST: You've just said we're going to have to help them.

Now does that mean at national government level, does that mean at European level?

Because the Central European level has moved into areas that it was not in before.

I'm thinking, of course, of mutualization of debt in some cases.

What does that mean, helping?

Does that mean picking and choosing sectors for central help?

METSOLA: This is actually quite a dominant discussion, in fact, when you see prime ministers next to each other, arguing, listen, I need help here

or I need help here. The recovery and resilience facility, which we voted on in this house, together with the commission and the council, was aimed

at what we call the digital and green transition for all economies, irrespective of which country to become, I would say, more equal, to create

a more level playing field.

Not to make them the same but if you look at the investment by certain countries in sectors that should be encouraged, if we look at some

countries that still require a lot of help, let's bring them up to where the countries that have invested in the past could go.

So let's talk about investment in renewables. Let's talk about sectors where we are very competitive as European Union. But also let's talk about

those sectors that are concerned about the emergence of China, the Inflation Reduction Act.


QUEST: The IRA is a really good example of how a federal system works with a central core that comes in with a policy that everybody seems to say,

gosh, this is well and good, this is exactly what's needed.

Europe comes along with its net zero this and its this policy that and sort of a half hearted attempt because it's all by consensus and everybody

agrees. Yes, the commission's come up with something but it's not quite the IRA.

METSOLA: You're saying that, not me. But what I will tell you.


QUEST: -- it's not; I mean, more needs to be done on the European side.

METSOLA: I think the way, first of all, our transatlantic alliance has not been this good since the fall of the wall. I can say this. And I say this

because, when we look at the IRA being a fundamentally, you know, piece of legislation that aims to make the U.S. greener, aims to make us

competitive, aims to make the U.S. more protective of its sectors.

How do we react?

Do we go forth with (INAUDIBLE) products?

Do we go, let's continue to rely on unreliable partners for importation of critical raw materials and reds (ph)?

Or do we say let's see where we're competitive. Let's make an agreement with the United States, which we are on track, in terms of what was signed

already. When we look at the net zero industry actors, not by consensus, despite proper legislative process inside this house, in order to look at

where we can, let's not say protect but help industry survive.

QUEST: Right, but I'm going to ask the question again. The view in Europe is -- or from those business leaders I have spoken to -- yes, something

has been done. But the -- Europe has not yet come up with --


QUEST: -- like the IRA.

METSOLA: I take that and I put it on ourselves in order for us to make sure that we alleviate the impact that will have without going down a

protectionist subsidy road to the bottom race (sic).

And I think that's where the conversation we need to have with our industry leaders.

QUEST: So finally how much is it for an MEP?

I mean the Qatar and the --


QUEST: Yes, I'm being facetious here on a very serious issue.

First of all, do you believe Qatar did bribe?

And secondly, how are you going to prevent it?

Because this is the sort of thing that, if you do not show teeth, you're in your usual tunnel, lights off.

METSOLA: I can tell you that this has been the hardest thing that I've had to deal with. You know, the instinct could have been -- actually criminal

corruption is as old as politics. There will always be somebody who's willing to pay and always be someone who's willing to take payment for

anything, right. This is life.

But I took a decision on that day that, for the protection of this institution, for the integrity of the European Union, keeping in mind the

fact that these are allegations presumption of innocence, et cetera, we cannot allow a house like this to be as vulnerable.

Now does that mean close it up?

Of course not. We pride ourselves on our openness. But that has meant that we put in -- and we're rolling them out month by month -- 15 immediate

measures, a little bit more long term, some coming after.

We've put in a revolving door for MEPs. We've made sure that we keep tabs on who comes in and comes out, declaration of meetings.

Who are you talking to, preserving your mandate as a freely elected member of European Parliament. But at the end of the day, making sure that, if the

alarm bells -- and I take this as my responsibility -- did not ring early enough, next time, I hope they will.

QUEST: Are you shocked?

METSOLA: (INAUDIBLE). Winded, I would say.


QUEST: That's the president of the European Parliament.

With me is Suzanne Lynch, chief Brussels correspondent for "Politico."

Thank you. Thank you for coming out on a -- on an evening at this time.

So the scandal of the -- that's taken place?

How deep has it been felt do you think?

SUZANNE LYNCH, CHIEF BRUSSELS CORRESPONDENT, "POLITICO": It really was a big story when this broke just before Christmas. I mean, it had everything,

this story, bags full of cash, MEPs, accusations of bribery.

And one of the issues for the E.U. is that you've got all these different institutions. You've got the commission over here, you've got the

Parliament. And a lot of people in the commission were saying, well, look, the part -- it's a Parliament issue. It's just a couple of bad apples in

the -- couple of MEPs.

But really, for a lot of people around Europe, they don't distinguish between the different institutions. And this is very bad press for the E.U.

It's elections next year and undoubtedly have very much damaged the brand.

QUEST: OK, so if we look at how the three institutions are performing at the moment, President Von der Leyen seems to have done extremely well on

the question of Ukraine.

LYNCH: Yes, I think she has really stepped into a leadership role.


LYNCH: And with that runup to the war in Ukraine, maybe because, in France, you'd Emmanuel Macron; he was fighting an election. You had a new

government in Berlin with Olaf Scholz. And I think Europe kind of missed the presence of Angela Merkel, who was so dominant here.

And in a way, the European Commission and Ursula van der Leyen stepped into that role.

QUEST: Right, which is interesting because she didn't come from a -- she came from a strong country with support but didn't come from a strong

political base in her own right.

LYNCH: Absolutely. So she was relatively unknown but she was a former defense minister. So I think that stood to her when this big issue wore on

the continent emerged.

Now what's really her trump card is that she gets on very well with President Biden in Washington. So I think that whole relationship between

this building and the White House is very close.

QUEST: The power of the Parliament now and the council, I mean, this is -- whenever I come to Brussels, I almost feel like I'm hitting my head against

the wall, trying to understand the blancmange of what takes place.

LYNCH: And it's a constant battle. You've got these different institutions. You've got the commission here that proposes legislation.

You've got the Parliament. But then you've got the European Council and that represents the 27 E.U. countries.

And in a way they have to sign off on everything. So that's really where the decisions, when you see those shots of the 27 E.U. leaders coming here,

that's when decisions are made.

QUEST: How unified are they on Ukraine?

Is Hungary just making noise to basically screw more money out of its development funds?

LYNCH: Well, look, you're hearing a lot of talk about unity. But the E.U. is always divided. It's very hard to get 27 E.U. countries to decide.

Everyone's got different interests, different economies.

So yes, they have maintained quite a bit of unity. But as the sanctions -- they introduced 10 sanctions packages against Russia -- lots of people

never thought this would happen. But as they went further along the line, it got more difficult. And your country's raising their hands, often

privately in these meetings that happen here, saying, ooh, we're not happy with that element of the sanctions package.

Sometimes they got watered down and, yes, Hungary was one of the key countries that raised objections.

QUEST: So I'm fascinated by the issues, of course, the rule of law; Poland and Hungary. Now in terms of Poland, Poland's sort of riding a wave of

great admiration and respect for the way they have handled the refugees.

But you have this issue of the rule of law, which hasn't gone away. And the -- and now you've got Hungary.

So are they prepared to bite the bullet and actually do something against those (INAUDIBLE)?

LYNCH: Well, I think you've just hit the nail on the head. It's very difficult. And the moral authority the Eastern European countries have is

huge. They were warning about the threat of Russia. No one really listened to them here. and they're proved right.

They talk -- they were on the -- on the up at the very beginning, saying, we need to sanction Russia. We need to help Ukraine. They took in refugees.

So it's very difficult now for the European Commission to say to Poland, hang on. We're not happy with your rule of law standards.

QUEST: But as someone, they have to, I mean, the Article 7 proceedings have begun and, at some point, they have to come to fruition.

LYNCH: And there's money at stake. You've got a lot of these countries in the -- in the east of the bloc, who joined later than other countries like

France, Germany and the founding members. And they get E.U. money and they want that money. But there are conditions attached.

So yes, it comes down to the money.

QUEST: Final question.

Does anybody miss the British?

LYNCH: Well, I think we've moved on, shall we say. There was a sigh of relief a few weeks ago when the Windsor framework was finally signed. Look,

it's an important time for a lot more interaction. There's a lot of defense talks happening here over at NATO, for example, where Britain is a big

player around the table.

But yes, only the 27 flags; used to be 28. So yes there --


QUEST: -- Suzanne, thank you very much indeed for joining us tonight.

We are in Brussels, where the E.U. has just reached a new deal: higher renewable energy targets by 2030. That's the name of the game. It's a

positive development indeed, for everybody and all who are on the (INAUDIBLE).

And that includes the whales, of course. And you'll hear about that in Call to Earth next.





QUEST: It is "Call to Earth" and, all this week, we're looking at the conservation projects and we're looking at Mexico, where conservationists

are working hard to protect the marine ecosystem.

Today is part of the Rolex Perpetual Planet Initiative. We're going to have our guest editors, Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier, who will

introduce us to father and daughter. And they are on a mission to save whales.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Former U.S. tennis pro turned conservation biologist Michael Fishbach is the co founder of the Great

Whale Conservancy, an organization dedicated to protecting the whale population.

MICHAEL FISHBACH, FORMER U.S. TENNIS PRO TURNED CONSERVATION BIOLOGIST (voice-over): Anthropogenic climate disruption is really what climate

change is.

Where has 90 percent of the warming happened?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): The ocean.

FISHBACH (voice-over): The ocean.

CRISTINA MITTERMEIER, PHOTOGRAPHER (voice-over): I love working with people that are passionate, that are experts at what they do. And they're a

little maverick, you know, not afraid of doing things their own way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): His daughter, Delphi Waters (ph), is also part of the team. She's been coming out here on the boat since she was

6 months old and, about 10 years ago, started conducting research as well.

FISHBACH: everything we have learned about the blue whales of the lower Rideau (ph) region are from Michael and Delphi (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): But it's not so much the animal itself they're looking for this morning; rather something it's hopefully left



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Uhh, whale poop, I see it. My goodness, that's like a whale brick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what's --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Finding and collecting feces is just one part of their daily routine.

FISHBACH (voice-over): When it's in the photic (ph) zone, it has phosphorus, iron and nitrogen in it. And that mixes with the nutrients that

are on the bottom of the ocean that are upwelling and that blooms phytoplankton. So --


FISHBACH (voice-over): -- that -- so that fertilizers phytoplankton. So this is literally the stuff of life in the ocean.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Michael's referring to a process called the whale pump or, put more simply --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Everywhere I go. I talk about the poop loop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Whales excrete nutrient-rich feces, which feeds phytoplankton, tiny plantlike organisms that help combat

climate change by absorbing large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while simultaneously producing at least half of the oxygen on


In turn, the phytoplankton feed the krill and the whales then eat the krill, up to four tons of it a day. And the cycle continues. The samples

they collect will be sent to a lab, where tests will measure the amounts of microplastics in the feces as well as get a general idea of the animal's


FISHBACH: The thing about whales is that -- and especially blue whales -- they consciously migrate to an area that they know, historically, is going

to have a productive upwelling. I mean, whales are a critical component and a conscious component. That's what's different about them.

MITTERMEIER (voice-over): In our daily lives, we're not thinking about animals like whales or elephants. And yet these animals provide ecological

services that are important for humans to survive on planet Earth.



QUEST: It is Call to Earth. And please watch our special program, "Call to Earth: Protectors of the Sea." It is Saturday and Sunday and it is only on





QUEST: Disney's fight with governor DeSantis in Florida has gone one stage further, with the Disney company pulling out a little bit of magic to try

and restore some of their benefits.

Before the Florida governor could take over the critical board, there was of such benefit, the outgoing Disney members voted and gutted the board's

power. A major flashpoint, the debate over roll businesses having social issues. But as Leyla Santiago now tells us, Disney seems to have the upper

hand -- for the moment anyway.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Thank you.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a story with more twists and turns than any Disney movie.

The former Disney controlled Reedy Creek improvement district board pulled a fast one just before Governor Ron DeSantis and his handpicked board took


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This development agreement essentially strips the government of the government powers and give those powers to Disney.

SANTIAGO: The board quietly approved the agreement on February 8th, as Florida lawmakers met in a special session to give DeSantis control of the


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cannot imagine Orange County, Osceola County, the city of Orlando or any other central government, central Florida

government, allowing or agreeing to allow any private developer or property owner to have this sort of control over a government and the officials that

run it.

SANTIAGO: The agreement was signed before DeSantis had a chance to pick his board members.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This development agreement, which in my opinion is void as a legal malady (ph), was passed the same day the Florida house passed

the bill creating this board. And it was done to prevent us from doing our job.

SANTIAGO: Under the new deal, Disney would maintain control over much of its land in central Florida for 30 years and in some cases the board cannot

take significant action without getting approval from the company. Just last month, DeSantis celebrated gaining control of the board.

DESANTIS: The corporate kingdom finally comes to an end. There's a new sheriff in town and accountability will be the order of the day.


SANTIAGO: Following a nearly year-long spat between Disney and the governor, it stemmed from Disney speaking out against a Florida bill, which

DeSantis signed into law, restricting certain classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity.

And while it looks like the battle between Disney and DeSantis may not be over, Disney stands by its actions, saying in a statement to CNN, "All

agreements signed between Disney and the district were appropriate and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with

Florida's government in the Sunshine law."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think anyone is trying to degrade the guest's experience or the quality of the Walt Disney World Resort. I think what

we're trying to do is provide oversight.


QUEST: And we'll continue to follow that story.

Quick look at the markets before we take a break. The markets -- there was a little bit of red during the course of the session but otherwise it has

all come back into the green and it's the strongest session across all the three major indices.

And you can see the best of the day going to the Nasdaq.

We will take a short break and there'll be a "Profitable Moment" from Brussels on the other side.




QUEST: Tonight's "Profitable Moment" from Brussels; every time I come here and walk around this part of the city, I look in these vast buildings, like

the Berlaymont and psylium du plus (ph) building and think, what do they all do?

I mean, it's huge, the infrastructure and the bureaucracy of the European Union; the commission, the Parliament, the council. And then I think, well,

actually, there are 300 million people that it is sort of governing and coordinating amongst.

And it is a distance the size of the United States, so perhaps it does really take this many people and this much infrastructure.

Now the European Union, it's very easy to criticize. It is large, it is sclerotic, it is bureaucratic. It takes forever to get everything done. And

as Alex Stubb, the former Finnish prime minister always says, at the end of the result, it's always suboptimal.

But with Ukraine, they have found new purpose. Keeping all the members on side through sanctions round after sanction round, unity, to a large extent

on NATO, has been a real achievement.

And when the European Parliament president today says to me, that is to be celebrated, she is correct, because there will be more to come.

And that's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for this Thursday night. I'm Richard Quest in Brussels. Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead. I hope it's