Austria doesn’t wait for EU, passes COVID-19 certificate

The EU-wide COVID certificate is expected to apply as of 1 July. [Shutterstock/Melinda Nagy]

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.

Before you start reading today’s edition of the Capitals, feel free to have a look at the interview with Valérie Corre from the European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE) who said “electric vehicles are not the future, but part of it“.

Also read the op-ed by Greece’s Minister of Rural Development and Food Spilios Livanos on the next CAP: “The European Green Deal and the role of the 2023-2027 CAP


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 In today’s news from the Capitals:

VIENNA

Austria doesn’t wait for EU, passes COVID certificate. The Austrian parliament approved a bill on Wednesday (26 May) introducing the so-called “green pass” which would grant holders access to restaurants, hotels and cultural facilities if they can prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or tested negative for the virus via a QR-code. Read more.

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EU PRESIDENCY

Comissioner: Criminalise those who use service of victims of human trafficking. The European Commissioner for Home Affairs has said that ending the “culture of impunity” surrounding trafficking in human beings requires criminalising those who use the services of victims of this crime. Read more.

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BERLIN

German top court drops hammer on government-parliament relations. The German government must inform parliament comprehensively and as early as possible about its lines in EU negotiations, Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled in a judgment published on Wednesday.  Read more.

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PARIS 

France introduces mandatory isolation for UK travellers. The French executive decided on Wednesday to add the UK to its list of countries whose travellers must go into quarantine upon entering its territory in response to the spread of the Indian COVID-19 variant which has been spreading across the island. Read more.

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LUXEMBOURG

IMF salutes Luxembourg’s COVID-19 crisis response. Luxembourg has provided “a rapid, targeted and appropriate response” to the COVID-19 crisis, according to the International Monetary Fund’s latest report.

The experts lauded the country’s massive budgetary investment of 18.6% to help soften the social, economic and human consequences of the pandemic, as well as its rapid transition to teleworking which has enabled the country to weather the crisis “relatively well”.

According to Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna, the report is “a great praise from Washington, which we can be happy about. This confirms the appropriateness of the policy pursued during the pandemic.” (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.fr)

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BERN

Swiss scrap talks with EU on cooperation deal. Switzerland on Wednesday (26 May) called off years of talks with the European Union aimed at sealing a cooperation agreement with Bern’s largest trading partner, in a move which angered Brussels. Read more.


 UK AND IRELAND

LONDON 

Cummings opens fire on ministers over pandemic. The prime minister’s former top adviser, Dominic Cummings, turned his fire on ministers in an explosive seven-hour evidence session before UK lawmakers on Wednesday during which he described Boris Johnson as “unfit for the job”. Read more.


NORDICS AND BALTICS

HELSINKI

Helsinki Court to decide whether waving a Nazi flag is a criminal act. The District Court in Helsinki will decide whether waving Nazi swastika flags should be considered inciting discrimination against ethnic, sexual and other minorities in a country where the swastika is not banned by law – unlike in Germany and Sweden. Read more.


EUROPE’S SOUTH

ATHENS

AFP becomes Facebook’s fake news watchdog in Greece. The French news agency AFP has become the new fact-checker for Facebook in Greece and Cyprus, the American tech giant has announced. More.

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ROME

Italy, Commission reach agreement on relaunch of Alitalia airline. The European Commission and the Italian government have reached an agreement for the relaunch of Italy’s national carrier Alitalia, the EU executive announced Wednesday at the end of a meeting between Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager and Italy’s finance and economic development ministers, Daniele Franco and Giancarlo Giorgetti. Read more.

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MADRID

Spanish government mulls pardon for jailed Catalan separatists. TSpain’s government is considering pardoning 12 Catalan separatist politicians sentenced in 2017 for their role in holding an illegal independence referendum in the region, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has confirmed. Read the full story.


VISEGRAD

BRATISLAVA

Slovak government agrees to use Sputnik V vaccine. Slovakia will start vaccinating people using the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, which has not yet been formally approved in Europe, from 7 June at the latest, the government decided at its meeting on Wednesday. Read more.

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WARSAW

Polish municipalities incentivised to vaccinate people in race to 75%. Poland’s government is offering cash prizes to municipalities which become the first to vaccinate 75% of their populations against COVID-19 in a bid to boost the country’s slow vaccination campaign. Read more.

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PRAGUE

Czechia punishes Belarus after plane ‘hijacking’. Starting Friday, The Czech Republic will suspend the operation of Belarusian airline Belavia on Czech territory in reaction to Sunday’s forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk, the National Security Council decided on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Karel Havlíček told a press conference. Read more.

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BUDAPEST 

Hungarian parliament approves EU budget, recovery package. Hungarian lawmakers on Wednesday approved legislation ratifying the EU’s 2021-2027 budget framework and post-pandemic recovery package, with 170 votes in favour and zero votes against. Read more.


NEWS FROM THE BALKANS

BELGRADE 

Vucic: Greece recognising Kosovo ‘not the best of news’ for Serbia. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said on Wednesday that although Greece has assured Belgrade it would not recognise the independence of Kosovo, warming relations between Athens and Priština were “certainly not the best of news” for Serbia. Read more.

In other news, Serbia’s Freedom and Justice Party urged European Parliament rapporteur Vladimir Bilčik to stop applying double standards and to condemn the arrest of opposition activists in Serbia in the same way as he does similar events in Belarus. 

In the circular letter, the party asked Bilčik why he was “supporting the regime of Aleksandar Vučić,” when, of everyone in Europe, it was “only Vučić and his regime who are favourably inclined towards Aleksandar Lukashenko and his way of ruling Belarus.”

“After the 2020 election in Belarus, the tabloids and the media in Serbia that are under the complete control of Vučić cordially congratulated Lukashenko winning the election,” the letter reads. 

“If we compare the methods of ruling, [we can see that] Vučić has replicated Lukashenko’s model by putting all the media under his control. For the time being and unlike his role model, Vučić is not arresting prominent opposition leaders. Instead, he has conducted years-long campaigns of demonisation through his tabloids and media,” the letter added. (EURACTIV.rs | betabriefing.com)

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SOFIA

Bulgarian president fires counterintelligence head. The head of Bulgarian counterintelligence (SANS), Dimitar Georgiev, was fired on Wednesday for damaging the service’s prestige, according to a decree signed by President Rumen Radev late on Wednesday. Read more.

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ZAGREB

Croatian bill proposes making revenge porn separate offence. Croatia is to debate amendments to the country’s criminal code that would make revenge pornography a separate criminal offence, EURACTIV’s partner Jutarnji list has learned. Read more.

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LJUBLJANA

Slovenian PM Janša survives impeachment motion. Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša survived an impeachment motion with 42 votes in favour and 42 against on Wednesday as the motion fell short of the majority required in the 90-member legislature. Read more.

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SKOPJE

US ambassador: We want to see EU accession talks with North Macedonia. “At a meeting with [Prime Minister] Zoran Zaev I emphasised that we value our bilateral partnership with North Macedonia and want to see EU accession talks as quickly as possible. We see a positive way forward and are pleased with the ongoing conversation by both Bulgaria and North Macedonia to move North Macedonia EU accession forward,” tweeted US Ambassador Kate Byrnes. Read more.

In other news, Serbian tourists travelling to Greece during the tourist season from June to August will not pay tolls, North Macedonia has decided, thanking Serbian citizens for donated vaccines.

Serbia donated a total of 40,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccine to North Macedonia, and 8,000 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, for which it had to obtain additional approval from the US-German pharmaceutical company. During the handover of donations, North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said that his country would know how to repay Serbia for its support in overcoming the pandemic. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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PODGORICA 

China willing to extend grace on loan for Montenegro motorway. China is willing to talk with Montenegro about extending the grace period on the repayment of an €809 million Chinese bank loan for the construction of a motorway, Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović’s office said on Wednesday. Read more.


Agenda:

  • France: President Emmanuel Macron is travelling to Rwanda for a state visit on Thursday before moving on to South Africa on Friday.
  • Germany: Vaccination summit by Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of government of the federal states.
  • Luxembourg: Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister François Bausch will participate in the informal Council of EU defence ministers Thursday and Friday in Lisbon.
  • Italy: The national statistic Institute (Istat) will publish data on consumer and business confidence in May 2021, and on Italian non-EU foreign trade in April 2021.
  • Spain: Government to convene an extraordinary meeting to approve by decree the extension of furlough schemes known as ERTE, amidst fierce confrontation with trade unions and employers who reject the executive’s proposal for a new model.
  • Poland: Belarusian carriers will be banned from entering the country’s airspace as of Thursday.
  • Czechia: Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek is attending a Gymnich meeting in Lisbon from Wednesday to Thursday. 
  • Croatia: Yang Jiechi, member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo and head of its foreign policy office, will meet with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković.
  • Serbia: The Center for European Policies and the EU Delegation in Serbia will organise a zoom webinar on”How Much It Costs (Not) To Be An EU Member?”

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[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Josie Le Blond]

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