The Capitals brings you the latest news from across Europe, through on-the-ground reporting by EURACTIV’s media network. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.
Against the background of growing tensions, EURACTIV’s Georgi Gotev asked Vladimir Chizhov if he going to be the last Russian ambassador to the EU. See here what he replied.
Also take a look at the story “Brussels reporters worried about Commission’s post-pandemic press ‘ideas’” by Sarantis Michalopoulos.
The European news you deserve to read. Welcome to The Capitals by EURACTIV.
In today’s news from the Capitals:
Israeli-Palestinian violence reverberates across Europe. The EU has so far been hesitant to show support for either side in the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict for fear of jeopardising the peace process. EU foreign ministers will hold an extraordinary videoconference on Tuesday (18 May) in search of a common position.
Germany, Austria and Slovenia have so far openly backed Israel’s right to defend itself. In Czechia, upon President Milos Zeman’s orders, the Israeli flag is flying over the seat of the Czech presidency. More.
Right conditions in place for safe tourism in summer, EU’s Breton says. The European Union already has the right conditions in place for a “safe reopening” of tourism in the summer, its commissioner for the internal market, Thierry Breton, said on Friday (14 May), while warning that the recovery of the sector “will still take time” after the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the full story.
Turkey’s participation request in EU military project apprehended as ‘Trojan horse’. NATO member Turkey has submitted an application to participate in the EU’s Dutch-led military project on military mobility, despite tense relations with Greece and Cyprus. While the request is being reviewed, EU diplomats are split over Ankara’s possible participation. Read the full story.
Germany’s coal phase-out plan based on flawed calculations. Greenpeace says the formula used by Germany in 2020 to calculate the compensation it awarded to energy companies as part of its plan to phase out coal by 2038 contained favourable assumptions for energy companies, resulting in a miscalculated sum for two energy companies, Der Spiegel reported. Read more.
France to offer 2,000 ‘EU-themed’ civic service placements from 2022. French EU Minister Clément Beaune and Youth and Engagement Secretary of State Sarah El Haïry announced in early May the creation of 2,000 EU-themed civic services per year from 2022 – missions they said would increase awareness of the impact of the EU on young people’s daily lives, according to the country’s Civic Service Agency chief, Béatrice Angrand. Read the full story.
Belgian regions start vaccinating general public. Wallonia and Flanders will both enter the next phase of their regional vaccination campaigns on Monday (17 May) by starting giving out jabs to the general public.
From this week, people aged 18-65 will receive an invitation to get vaccinated, with letters being sent out in descending age order. In Brussels, meanwhile, the lower age limit for vaccination remains 41 as several vaccination centres around the capital are struggling to fill all the available slots and the cities’ worst-hit communes having low vaccination rates, according to Belgian media reports. The general vaccination rate in Belgium, for the first jab, currently stands at 33.8%,with Brussels lagging (26,58%) behind Flanders (33,78%), Wallonia (35,89%) and Ostbelgien (41,03%). (Alexandra Brzozowski,EURACTIV.com)
Luxembourg votes to loosen COVID-19 restrictions. Luxembourg’s parliament voted to loosen restrictions on Friday as the country slowly dropped restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic which has killed more than 800 people.
The new rules will apply until 12 June and will allow restaurants and cafes currently forced to close at 6pm to stay open until 10pm. Indoor seating will also be allowed for those who can present a negative COVID-19 test. (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.fr)
UK AND IRELAND
UK’s pubs, restaurants to start serving indoors. Restaurants and pubs in the UK will start serving customers indoors and some foreign travel returns on Monday as part of the latest stage of easing COVID-19 restrictions. Read more.
DUP Leader: ‘Aggressive’ Irish government damaging cross-border relations. Newly-elected DUP leader Edwin Poots has accused the Irish government of damaging cross-border relations over their backing of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Irish Times has reported. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Finnish football fans asked not to travel to support national team. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) is making a plea to the supporters of the country’s national football team Eagle-Owls to support them from home rather than travel abroad to attend the game, and this despite it being the first time in history the team made it the UEFA European Championship finals taking place this summer. Read more.
In other news, the four-day debate on the EU recovery package in the Finnish parliament came to an end Saturday. The parliament officially announced on Sunday that the vote will take place Tuesday afternoon, with approval requiring a two-thirds majority.
The vote was initially supposed to be held last Wednesday but was postponed due to marathon speeches held by the populist Finns Party MPs, including Sebastian Tynkkynen, who stayed in the speaker bowl for a record 8.5 hours. (Pekka Vänttinen | EURACTIV.com)
Half of Italy’s under-35s still live with their parents. The majority of people in Italy below the age of 35 earn less than €10,000 a year, with half of them still living with their parents, according to a survey carried out by EURES and the National Youth Council presented on Monday (17 May). Read more.
In other news, a judge in Sicily has dismissed the case against the right-wing leader of the Northern League and former interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who was charged for refusing for six days to let 174 migrants and refugees disembark from an Italian Navy ship in 2019. (Daniele Lettig | EURACTIV.it)
Spanish government admits to mistakes in early pandemic. The Spanish government has admitted it made mistakes in the early days of the pandemic in a report by the National Security body, Spanish media reported. Read the full story.
MEP: EU-funded Turkish coastguard vessels targeted FRONTEX. Turkish coastguard vessels acquired with EU funding entered Greek territorial waters off the island of Chios on 26 and 27 April and tried to ram two Frontex vessels, in violation of international law and rules, Cypriot MEP Costas Mavrides (S&D – DIKO) has said. More.
Budapest mayor announces prime minister run. The Hungarian capital’s mayor Gergely Karácsony has confirmed his widely expected candidacy for the pre-election of opposition parties for the prime ministerial post. Read more.
Poland’s ‘New Deal’ project to focus on health reforms. Poland’s ruling coalition announced a New Deal project for the post-pandemic era on Saturday, foreseeing a boost for the healthcare sector equivalent to 7% of the country’s GDP, with 6% to be reached by 2023. Read more.
Czechia on Russian list of ‘unfriendly states’. Russia has published a new official list of “unfriendly states” featuring just two countries – Czechia and the US. Read more.
€1.5 billion needed to decarbonise Slovakia’s steelworks. After a business trip to Pittsburg, Slovak Finance Minister and former PM, Igor Matovič, unveiled a €1.5 billion plan to decarbonise Slovakia’s U.S. Steel Košice steel mill, which aims to reduce the steelwork’s emissions by 80%. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Commission concerned about situation in Slovenia. The European Commission is concerned about the situation in Slovenia although it has never treated Slovenia as a problematic member state since the country joined the EU in 2004, European Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič told daily Dnevnik in an interview on Saturday. Read more.
Zagreb feels the Green wave. The Green-left coalition of the We Can!, Zagreb is Ours, New Left, ORaH and For the City parties were projected as the biggest winners of local elections held Sunday, according to exit polls. Read more.
Bulgarian police chief fired over violence against protesters. Bulgarian interior ministry chief secretary Ivaylo Ivanov was dismissed on Friday by the caretaker government after he refused to take responsibility and dismissed the violence carried out by police at anti-government protests during the summer in Bulgaria.
President Rumen Radev issued a decree for the dismissal of Ivanov with his government stating he had violated world and European professional standards, adding that “basic principles were violated by disrespect and non-guarantee of the rights and freedoms of citizens and their dignity, as well as in lack of objectivity and impartiality, which has damaged the prestige of the Ministry of Interior”.
In other news, caretaker Economy Minister Kiril Petkov revealed that the state-owned Bulgarian Development Bank has granted nearly €500 million to eight companies, four of which are indirectly linked to former MP, high-profiled businessman and media mogul Delyan Peevski. The state-owned bank is required by law to help small and medium-sized businesses, which has not yet happened. According to the minister, the other loans of the bank were not distributed to random people.
This bank also operates with hundreds of millions of euros granted to Bulgaria by the EU in the first months of the pandemic. The minister announced that the Bulgarian trade attachés will compete for the next two months to see who will be the best in attracting foreign investments. (Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)
Slovenia to underline ‘geopolitical dimension’ in Western Balkans’ EU path. The integration of all Western Balkan states with the EU would secure peace and stability in the region, said Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Slovenian counterpart Borut Pahor in Belgrade on Friday. Read more.
Montenegro won’t send infantry to Kosovo mission this year. Montenegro will not send an infantry platoon to the KFOR mission in Kosovo this year due to the coronavirus crisis and budget restrictions, the country’s defence ministry told Vijesti Television.
The engagement was opposed by one of the leaders of the pro-Serbian Democratic Front, Milan Knežević, who threatened to file an interpellation in the Assembly against Defence Minister Olivera Injac and Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić.
The ministry says that two Montenegro representatives, one army officer and one civilian from the ministry, remain in the mission in Kosovo so that Montenegro can continue to contribute to the collective defence system of NATO. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Unemployment up 0.6% during pandemic year. Unemployment rose by 0.6% in Albania during the last year according to the Central Bank of Albania’s first quarterly Monetary Policy Report published on 12 May. It found that 43,405 people lost their jobs from April 2020 to March 2021. The period coincides with the coronavirus pandemic outbreak and restrictions. In terms of percentages, unemployment now stands at 11.8%, marking a rise of only 0.2% in the last quarter. It argues that a rise in employment last summer was related to jobs in the tourism industry but later followed by rising numbers of those who lost their jobs. (Zeljko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
- Germany: Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer to host ‘Rail Summit’ with four counterparts and railway companies Deutsche Bahn, SNCF from France, ÖBB from Austria and SBB from Switzerland to present update on TransEuropExpress (TEE) 2.0 and the expansion of the Berlin-Prague-Vienna rail link.
- Italy: Chamber of Deputies President Roberto Fico will travel to Vienna for an official visit, where he will meet his counterpart Wolfgang Sobotka and the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, while the government will decide the new lifting of restrictions that will come into force next Monday.
- Spain: Health ministry updates COVID-19 infection figures as vaccination gathers pace.
- Portugal: Informal meeting of the EU’s General Affairs Council in Coimbra.
- Poland: Vaccine registration for 16-17-year-olds begins.
- Czech Republic: Government to discuss national recovery plan.
- Slovakia: Prime Minister Eduard Heger to discuss vaccines, bilateral relations and digital green certificates via videoconference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
- Bulgaria: Caretaker government will start audits in the biggest state-owned companies.
- Croatia: The economic and social council will discuss the regulation of Sunday work, the action plan for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and the revised EU guidelines on regional state aid.
- Slovenia: President Borut Pahor will host a summit of the Brdo-Brijuni process featuring the heads of state from Croatia, Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia and the presiding trio of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The meeting marks a decade of the initiative and is designed to reaffirm commitment to EU enlargement. // Also: Slovenian Parliament holds no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Janez Jansa.
- Serbia: President Aleksandar Vučić will meet with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg to speak about KFOR.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina: The governments of Bosnia’s Serb-majority region Republika Srpska (RS) and Serbia will meet in a joint session in East Sarajevo.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Paula Kenny, Josie Le Blond]