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.
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In today’s news from the Capitals:
Ahead of the Council meeting of EU finance ministers on Thursday (17 June), Austrian Finance Minister Gernot Blümel urged his European counterparts to return to strict EU budgetary rules. Read more.
EU Council reaches agreement on road charging. The Council of the European Union (EU), chaired by Portugal, has reached an agreement with the European Parliament to revise the rules on road charging, the so-called Eurovignette, to reduce emissions of polluting gases and infrastructure congestion. More.
Flanders plans to get rid of masks by the end of summer. The leaders of the Belgian Flanders region have reiterated their goal of dropping most pandemic-era restrictions on public life by September. More.
In other news, the COVID-19 travel certificate is rolled out in Belgium. A COVID-19 travel certificate expected to greatly simplify travel within the EU was made available in Belgium from Wednesday (16 June), the country’s authorities confirmed. More.
BERLIN | VILNIUS
Germany recalls soldiers from NATO mission over racism, sexual assault allegations. Germany has recalled a platoon from a NATO mission in Lithuania after reports emerged of troops allegedly engaging in racist and antisemitic behaviour, as well as sexual assault. Read more.
France lifts COVID-19 restrictions as case numbers plummet. French Prime Minister Jean Castex has said the 11 pm curfew will end on Sunday, 10 days earlier than planned, while wearing masks will no longer be necessary outdoors from Thursday – except for open markets or stadiums – but will remain mandatory indoors. Read more.
UK AND IRELAND
Stalemate over Irish language legislation. Late night talks between the UK’s Northern Ireland minister and the province’s political leaders on Wednesday sought to break a stalemate over Irish language legislation that could lead to the collapse of the devolved government in Belfast.
Sinn Féin has said it will not support Paul Givan of the Democratic Unionist Party as the next first minister unless the UK government introduces language laws from Westminster.
The DUP meanwhile has indicated that it will not support new language laws before the next Northern Ireland assembly elections, which are due to take place in May 2022. (Benjamin Fox | EURACTIV.com)
Ireland’s Fine Gael calls for quarantine rules to be relaxed for UK travellers. Fine Gael ministers are asking for home quarantining measures to be scrapped for travellers from the UK, the Irish Independent reported. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Swedish political storm over rent reform. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has been given 48 hours to resolve a spat over draft legislation aimed at liberalising the rental market by the leader of opposition Left Party Nooshi Dadgostar, who threatened to otherwise withdraw support from the Social Democrat-Green minority government. Read more.
Greece warns Berlin submarine sale to Turkey will shift power balance. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Nikos Dendias has expressed disappointment over Germany’s sale of submarines to Turkey, a move he says will change the balances in the Aegean Sea in favour of Ankara. According to the draft conclusions of the EU Council next week, obtained by EURACTIV.com, the EU welcomes the continued de-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean. Read more.
Nearly 1 in 10 Italians lived in absolute poverty in 2020. About 5.6 million Italians, or 9.4% of the population, lived in conditions of absolute poverty in 2020 – of which 1.3 million are below the age of 18, the National Statistics Institute (Istat) reported in its annual poverty report presented on Wednesday (16 June). Read more.
Spain expected to abolish mandatory outdoor mask-wearing. Face masks worn in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus may “soon” become something of the past in public spaces, Spain’s socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has announced. Read the full story.
In other news, Brussels on Wednesday approved the coronavirus recovery funds for Spain and Portugal during a visit by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to the two countries. Read more.
Polish government email leaks continue. The Russian service Telegram has published further email leaks from the head of the prime minister’s office Michał Dworczyk, this time in regards to preparations for press conferences on tightening pandemic restrictions and last year’s protests against the near-total ban on abortion. Read more.
Cyberattacks skyrocket in Czechia. The number of cyberattacks launched at the country’s health sector in 2020 saw a 267% year-on-year increase, the newly released annual report of the country’s National Cyber and Information Agency (NÚKIB) reads. Read more.
UN judge independence rapporteur concerned over Hungary top court choice. Diego García-Sayán, special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers for the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has said he is concerned over Budapest’s top court president choice. Read more.
Slovak government to apologise to Roma victims for 2013 police raid. Slovak Justice Minister Mária Kolíková and Interior Minister Roman Mikulec have asked the government to apologise for a 2013 incident in which more than 60 riot police officers raided the Roma community in Moldava nad Bodvou (Košice Region), subjecting many residents to beatings, Dennik N reports. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
BELGRADE | PRISTINA
Serbia criticises German MEP for defending Pristina’s approach to dialogue. Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selaković has accused German MEP and rapport for Kosovo in the European Parliament Viola von Cramon of committing “a serious political and diplomatic violation, trying to downplay and defend Priština’s total lack of readiness to discuss any issue constructively, or meet its obligations.” Read more.
Bulgaria will not lift its veto on Skopje’s EU talks. The meeting of the General Affairs Council, scheduled for 22 June in Luxembourg, is expected to see Bulgaria maintain its current position on the negotiating framework for the accession of North Macedonia to the EU. Read more.
In other news, the Prosecutors’ College of the Bulgarian Supreme Judicial Council opened a new procedure for the selection of six delegated European prosecutors on Wednesday.
The Prosecutors’ College has until now failed to respond to EU Chief Prosecutor Laura Kövesi’s request that Bulgaria meet its quota of 10 EU delegated prosecutors. Kövesi visited Bulgaria at the end of last week and announced that the procedure would now be opened. Sofia’s quota has so far remained unfilled because Kövesi approved only four of the 10 magistrates the Prosecutor’s College nominated in February. (Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)
Romania donates vaccines to Ukraine, Serbia. Romania’s government said on Wednesday (16 June) it would donate 100,800 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Ukraine and 50,400 doses to Serbia. The government also approved the legislative framework that would allow it to sell the vaccine doses it has in stock, as demand for vaccination in Romania remains low. (Bogdan Neagu | EURACTIV.ro)
Zagreb mayor forms ruling coalition. Newly appointed Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević from the left-green platform We Can! (Možemo!) has established a ruling coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SDP, S&D) at the City Council. Read more.
- France: Emmanuel Macron will continue his regional tour across France with a trip to the departments of Somme and Aisne today.
- Greece: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to bring recovery plan documents to Athens.
- Germany: Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer travels to Turkey for bilateral talks with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.
- Poland: On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the signing of the German-Polish Treaty of Good Neighbourship and Friendly Cooperation, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will visit Warsaw.
- Romania: President Klaus Iohannis is on an official visit to Estonia.
- Croatia: Parliament to vote 117 amendments for the budget’s adjustment on Thursday.
- North Macedonia: Prime Minister Zoran Zaev will meet with Bulgaria’s caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Yanev and President Rumen Radev in Sofia.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Paula Kenny, Josie Le Blond]