Baltic countries ready to cut last ties to Soviet past

The influence Russia had on its western neighbours at least in theory via the electricity network will end as soon as the Baltic states connect to the European network.  [Shutterstock/Kev Gregory]

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 article “Germany to give different second jab to AstraZeneca recipients under 60“.


The European news you deserve to read. Welcome to The Capitals by EURACTIV.


High-level Conference Climate Science from Space: Synergies for a greener innovation economy: With the participation of the European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel and the Portuguese Minister for Science, Manuel Heitor, this conference will help building bridges to link space and climate ecosystems, by showing how space-based systems can improve daily life and contribute to the European Green Deal.
URLhttps://www.climatesciencespace.eu/


In today’s news from the Capitals:

TALLINN | RIGA | VILNIUS

Baltic states prepare to leave Russian electricity network, join European one. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, all currently part of the Russian electricity network since gaining independence in the early 90s, are set to join the Continental Europe electricity network in early 2026, meaning they will soon be leaving the Russian one. Read more.

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EU PRESIDENCY

Kyriakides: Lifting patents is not way forward to produce more vaccines. Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides on Tuesday (13 April) acknowledged the need to accelerate production of COVID-19 vaccines but stressed that lifting patents is not a way forward and that other options are under consideration. Read the full story.

EU INSTITUTIONS 

Parliament to look into Commission’s multi-million bill with consultancy firms. The European Parliament will examine the European Commission’s sizeable expenditure on big consultancy firms, recently revealed by EURACTIV.com, and propose a different approach to limit their influence in structural reforms, the chair of the Parliament’s budgetary control committee has said. Read the full story.

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BERLIN

US to increases military presence in Germany in reversal of Trump policy. The United States announced on Tuesday it will ramp up its forces by 500 additional troops in Germany amid the latest tensions with Russia over Ukraine, in a reversal of former President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw around 12,000 of the 36,000 troops from the fellow NATO country. Read the full story.

In other news, a decision on the conservative chancellor candidate is expected later this week, after CSU boss Markus Söder and CDU boss Armin Laschet had agreed on the timing following a hearing in the parliamentary group on Tuesday.

According to German media reports, the picture is divided. In CDU regional groups from states such as Baden-Württemberg, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein a clear majority of the MPs spoke out in favour of Söder, while Hessian MPs and the largest state group in North Rhine-Westphalia is in favour of Laschet. In the Bavarian CSU regional group, in turn, approval for Söder is certain.  (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)

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BRUSSELS

Belgium’s Consultation Committee to discuss limited relaxations. Three weeks after Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced a “Easter break” with enforced COVID-19 restrictions, Belgium’s federal and regional governments will discuss a new, phased plan for a potential reopening.

It is almost certain that the schools will reopen and the travel ban will be lifted next Monday (19 April). Other themes to be discussion is the potential reopening of cafes and restaurants, which was previously pencilled in for 1 May, a potential change in social contacts and contact professions such as hairdressers, for which the provisional reopening was planned for 26 April.

According to health experts and official data, the number of confirmed infections and hospital admissions is decreasing, but a lot slower than expected. (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)

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PARIS

All flights between France, Brazil to be cancelled ‘until further notice’. All flights between France and Brazil will be cancelled “until further notice”, French Prime minister Jean Castex told the French National Assembly on Tuesday as the COVID-19 situation in Brazil is becoming increasingly out of hand. 

Scientists are particularly concerned by the very contagious and lethal Brazilian COVID-19 variant known as P1, which has been responsible for a sharp rise in mortality in Brazil over the last few weeks. (Magdalena Pistorius | EURACTIV.fr)


UK AND IRELAND

DUBLIN 

Irish non-Erasmus students returning home will not have quarantine costs covered. With a €1 million plan, the Irish government will only be footing the bill for Irish Erasmus students having to go into mandatory hotel quarantine, leaving non-Erasmus students out of the plan. Read more.

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LONDON 

UK-EU trade partially recovered in February. UK-EU trade made a partial recovery in February, after a steep drop in January following the UK’s exit from the single market.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics on Tuesday (13 April) show exports to the EU increased by 46.6%, £3.7bn, to £11.6bn, following a 42% slump in January as firms struggled to adjust to new customs requirements on goods entering and leaving the EU. However, these figures still represent a fall from last year. (Benjamin Fox | EURACTIV.com)

MEPs seek extension on response to Commission’s UK data adequacy agreement. EU lawmakers from the Renew group have submitted a request to the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee to hold off on adopting a position on the UK’s adequacy for EU personal data transfers until the EU’s data protection watchdog has weighed in on the plans. Read more.


NORDICS

COPENHAGEN | STOCKHOLM | HELSINKI

EU court to decide on Ryanair lawsuits for COVID-19 aid in three countries. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg is set to decide on Wednesday regarding three state aid lawsuits brought by Ryanair for other airlines in the corona crisis. Ryanair has sued the European Commission over Danish and Swedish guarantees for SAS as well as Finnish loan guarantees for Finnair. One of the arguments is that the Commission did not take into account the damage to low-cost airlines in the pandemic.

There are several lawsuits filed by Ryanair with the ECJ regarding state aid to airlines in different countries. In February, the court had already ruled in a first decision that other corona aid introduced by Sweden and France were compatible with EU law. (EURACTIV.com)


EUROPE’S SOUTH

ATHENS 

EIB to evaluate, finance Greek private projects under national recovery plan. Greece signed a deal on Monday with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to use the EU financier’s resources for the National Recovery and Resilience Fund. Read more

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ROME

60 million face masks seized in Italy’s Gorizia. The Italian finance police, by order of the prosecutor of Gorizia, in the north-east of the country, seized 60 million Chinese-made FFP2 and FFP3 face masks purchased in 2020 by the special commissioner for the COVID-19 emergency.

The masks were intended for hospitals and healthcare personnel, but an examination conducted in two Italian laboratories found the masks to be “non-compliant with current regulations and dangerous to health”, with a filtering capacity “even 10 times” lower than the standard.  In total, there were 250 million of the ffp2 and ffp3 masks, with 190 million already having been distributed, which is just under 50% of all the masks that Italy imported from China before ending foreign mask purchases in July 2020. However, it is not clear how many have already been used. (Daniele Lettig | EURACTIV.it)

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MADRID

Spain to focus COVID-19 recovery funds on ecological transition, digitalisation. Spain plans to invest 68% of its share of the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund in ecological transition and digitalisation between 2021 and 2023. Read the full story.

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LISBON

Iran summons Portugal’s envoy to protest EU sanctions. Tehran on Tuesday summoned the envoy of Portugal, current holder of the European Union’s rotating Council presidency, to protest against the bloc’s sanctions on eight Iranian military and police chiefs over a deadly crackdown in 2019, state media reported. Read more.


VISEGRAD

BUDAPEST

Hungary to hold off from regulating big tech ahead of EU-wide rules. Despite earlier promises to submit a bill regulating social media giants in spring, Hungary is set to delay its plans to rein in tech companies, sources told EURACTIV’s partner Telex. Read more.

In other news, “Hungarian companies will be invited and are expected to take part in the business forum” for the reconstruction of Nagorno-Karabakh organised by the Turkic Council in Baku next month, the international organisation’s secretariat told EURACTIV in emailed comments on Tuesday. Read more.

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PRAGUE

Czech government in turmoil as it struggles to replace foreign minister. The Czech government is facing turbulent times after Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček was fired on Monday and Health Minister Jan Blatný was replaced by Petr Arenberger just last week. Read more.

In other news, the Czech Communist Party decided to withdraw its tacit support of the government, meaning the governing coalition formed by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’ ANO party (Renew) and Hamáček’s social democrats (S&D) has lost its parliamentary majority. (Aneta Zachová | EURACTIV.cz)

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BRATISLAVA

Slovakia lifts COVID-19 measures for the first time in 2021. Slovakia, which has been under a strict lockdown since December, will start easing its COVID-19 restrictions since its pandemic situation has slowly been improving, the government announced Tuesday. Read more.

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WARSAW

PKN Orlen says media takeover unchanged by court decision. Polish PKN Orlen chief executive said a court decision to suspend the competition watchdog UOKiK’ approval of the state-backed refiner’s takeover of newspaper publisher Polska Press would have no impact because the deal has been completed. Read more.


NEWS FROM THE BALKANS

SOFIA

Hoteliers urge Bulgarian government not to ‘flex muscles’ at Putin. The Bulgarian Hotel and Restaurant Association has warned the government not to take a sharp stance against Russia because the country could suspend flights to Bulgaria as it did for regular and charter flights to Turkey until 1 June due to the spread of COVID-19, which would hurt the country’s summer tourism season. Read more.

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BUCHAREST

Open slots for AstraZeneca jab on the rise in Romania. As demand for AstraZeneca’s vaccine falters, authorities in Romania have announced that anyone wanting to receive the vaccine can now do so without a prior appointment in centres that have it in stock. More

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ZAGREB

Croatian president wants missing persons issue resolved before Serbia enters EU. The issue of people who went missing during Croatia’s 1991-95 Homeland War must be resolved before Serbia joins the European Union, President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday as he met with representatives of veterans, special police forces in the Homeland War and guard veterans. Read more.

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LJUBLJANA 

Opposition wants to grill PM and president over Balkan borders. The opposition Social Democrats (SD) have requested a session of the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee to grill Prime Minister Janez Janša and President Borut Pahor about media reports concerning an alleged non-paper on the potential redrawing of borders in the Western Balkans. Read more.

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BELGRADE 

Chinese-owned mine, plastic recycling plant temporarily closed in Serbia over environmental  issues. The Jama underground ore mine near the eastern Serbian town of Majdanpek, belonging to Chinese company Zijin Copper, has been closed over environmental issues. Read more.

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ZAGREB | SARAJEVO 

Five Afghans arrested in joint police operation. Five people suspected of people smuggling were arrested on Tuesday in a combined operation by Bosnia and Herzegovina police and Croatia’s law enforcement bodies, BiH’s prosecutors have confirmed. The BiH prosecutors coordinated the operation, dubbed “Fast”, with Croatia’s anti-corruption office USKOK and the country’s interior ministry. 

The five suspects who were arrested are all Afghan nationals. Two of the suspects were arrested in Croatian territory, Croatian news agency Hina reported. Acting in collusion with some other persons, the criminal group had been illegally transferring migrants, mostly from Afghanistan, across Serbia through BiH and into EU member state Croatia. The investigation in the case had lasted for months. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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PODGORICA 

Montenegro sends draft amendments to prosecutor law to EU Commission. The office of Montenegro’s chief EU negotiator has sent to the European Commission draft amendments to the law on the prosecutor’s office, the cabinet of Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazović announced, according to Mina news agency. Read more.

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TIRANA | PRISTINA

Kosovo opposition criticises ruling party for interference in Albania’s elections. Opposition parties in Kosovo criticised the ruling Vetëvendosje party for interfering in the Albanian elections by supporting electoral campaigns of some independent candidates. Read more.

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[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Paula Kenny, Zoran Radosavljevic and Josie Le Blond]

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