Belgium hacked, most likely by China

Previously, Microsoft announced that the Chinese group "Hafnium" is exploiting a vulnerability in Exchange to infiltrate computer networks worldwide. [Shutterstock/Koshiro K]

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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Also have a look at the story “EU hesitant over potential ‘Putin connection’ in Belarus plane ‘hijacking’“.


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 In today’s news from the Capitals:

BRUSSELS

Belgium’s interior ministry hacked, most likely by China. Belgium’s interior ministry has been targeted by a cyberattack that saw intruders gain access to the ministry’s entire computer system. Belgian experts say the attack was likely carried out by China. Read more.

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BERLIN

Albanian prime minister slams German health minister comment on Western Balkans. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has responded with outrage to comments by German Health Minister Jens Spahn suggesting that half of all coronavirus infections in Germany last summer could be traced back to family visits by migrants in the Balkans. Read more.

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PARIS

France’s Pasteur Institute unveils optimistic pandemic outlook for the summer. If the current decline in COVID-19 cases in France continues until 9 June, there will be no “significant resumption of the pandemic” this summer, according to a report from French non-profit Pasteur Institute published on Saturday. Read more.

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VIENNA

Austrian coalition partners compete over easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Splits are deepening within Austria’s governing coalition over of lifting pandemic restrictions, with Green Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein disagreeing with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz about the correct timescale for reopening. Read more.

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LUXEMBOURG

Luxembourg to launch COVID-19 passport ahead of EU-wide roll-out. Luxembourg plans to issue a COVID-19 passport that will show whether a person is fully vaccinated, has recovered or has recently tested negative for the coronavirus to accelerate the economy’s reopening ahead of EU-wide roll-out, a government source told the Luxembourg Times.

“We are pretty much ready with the solution and the launch could conveniently coincide with when the current pandemic restrictions expire on 12 June,” said the source, adding that “the last element we are working on now is to equip […] authorities with an application that would read data stored in the certificates.” (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.fr)


 UK AND IRELAND

DUBLIN 

EU digital travel pass expected to be rolled out in Ireland from mid-July. The long-awaited European digital travel pass is expected to be operational from mid-July, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said after meeting fellow EU leaders in Brussels. Read more.


NORDICS AND BALTICS

HELSINKI

Sararikko appointed to be Finland’s new finance minister. The chair of Finland’s Centre Party, Annika Saarikko, has been announced as the country’s new finance minister, replacing her party colleague, Matti Vanhanen on Wednesday (26 May). Read more.


EUROPE’S SOUTH

ATHENS

Greek PM: No information about Russian involvement in Belarus state hijacking. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said there is no information about any Russian involvement in the Belarus state hijacking of a plane at the weekend.

“The discussion on Russia was more general of strategic nature,” Mitsotakis told journalists after the EU summit on Tuesday in Brussels. Read more.

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ROME

Italian PM: voluntarism in migration has failed. The management of migrants attempting to reach Europe by sea must be “balanced, humane and effective,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi told journalists on Tuesday at the end of the European Council summit.  Read more.

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MADRID

Spain in race against the clock to extend furlough schemes. Spain’s employer’s association, CEOE, has rejected a latest proposal by Social Security Minister José Luis Escrivá to extend temporary lay-off or furlough schemes known as ERTE – protecting some 600,000 jobs – beyond the 31 May deadline. Read the full story

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LISBON

Portugal’s contribution to the European Digital Agenda. Digital transformation of the way Europeans live and do business is one of the priorities of the Portuguese EU Council presidency, which ends on 30 June. To find out how much has been achieved, and what Portugal’s successor, Slovenia, should pursue, EURACTIV spoke to Hugo Santos Mendes, Portugal’s deputy minister for communications. More


VISEGRAD

PRAGUE

Czechia to appoint fifth health minister during pandemic as Arenberger resigns. Czech Health Minister Petr Arenberger – the fourth to take the role since the start of the pandemic – announced his resignation on Tuesday following mounting pressure in recent days over irregularities in his finances. Read more.

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WARSAW

Polish carrier LOT suspends flights to Minsk. Poland’s largest airline has suspended connections with the Belarusian capital and set alternative flight routes over its territory in response to the forced grounding of a flight in Minsk on Sunday by Belarus in order to arrest dissident journalist Roman Protasevich. Read more.

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BUDAPEST 

PM’s office: Budapest leaders joined recovery plan talks at last minute. Budapest’s leadership only attempted to join social consultations on the government’s recovery plan at the last minute, according to an official of the prime minister’s office, Daily News Hungary reported. Read more.

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BRATISLAVA

Slovak agriculture minister resigns amid corruption scandal over nominee. Slovak Agriculture Minister Ján Mičovský (OĽaNO) announced his resignation on Tuesday after his nominee in the Slovak Land Fund, Gabriela Bartošová, was charged in an alleged bribery case. Read more.


NEWS FROM THE BALKANS

LJUBLJANA 

Slovenia to hold first referendum in nearly four years. Slovenians will head to the polls for a referendum on 11 July – just before the start of peak tourist season – to vote on amendments to the Waters Act, the first referendum in the country in almost four years. Read more.

In other news, Slovenia and Serbia agreed to mutually recognise COVID-19 certificates after the country’s foreign ministers, Anže Logar and Nikola Selaković, met in Ljubljana on Tuesday. Neither the details of the plan nor the time frame has been revealed.

Slovenia has recently struck a similar agreement with Hungary and talks are underway with Croatia to ensure mutual recognition of certificates even before the deployment of the EU’s Digital Green Certificate, which is expected to be ready for roll-out before the summer tourism season. (Sebastijan R. Maček | STA)

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SOFIA

Bulgaria expects Skopje to produce ‘roadmap’ for EU talks to resume. Bulgaria expects North Macedonia to offer a “roadmap” to resume talks regarding EU accession and find a solution to the issues between the two countries, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev explained after the meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on Tuesday. Read more.

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BUCHAREST

Data reveals infection rate could be higher in Romania. It is possible that as many as 6 million Romanians have been infected with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, the head of the vaccination campaign, Valeriu Gheorghita, said on Tuesday, far higher than the official figure of just over 1 million. Read more.

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ZAGREB

Croatia’s governing party HDZ has backing of voters, survey reveals. Croatia’s governing HDZ (EPP) party can count on the support of 30.5% of voters, while the biggest opposition parry SDP (S&D) is backed by only 15.2%, according to a Crobarometar survey published on Tuesday. Read more.

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BELGRADE 

Serbian, Greek, Cypriot ministers discuss ways to improve cooperation. Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin, Greek Minister of Citizen Protection Michalis Chrisochoidis and Cypriot Minister of Justice and Public Order Emily Yiolitis held a video conference on Tuesday to discuss ways to further develop cooperation.

The ministers proposed that the Serbian police intensify collaboration with Greece in combating organised crime, illegal migration, border control, and in case of emergencies. With Cyprus, it was agreed to conduct joint training in financial investigations and high-tech crime and also training for Serbian police dive units in Cyprus, according to the Serbian interior ministry.

The ministers also agreed to exchange experience on border control, “particularly considering the specificity of internal border lines in Serbia and on Cyprus,” the statement said. The meeting was held at the initiative of Vulin, who also suggested that it should become a regular form of cooperation.

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SARAJEVO 

Ratko Mladić defence seeks to postpone final verdict. The defence of the former commander of the Republic of Srpska Army, Ratko Mladić, nicknamed the “butcher of Bosnia”, who has been convicted of war crimes, requested that the final verdict be postponed until both defence attorneys and client could be present in person in the courtroom, as defence lawyer Dragan Ivetić is being treated in hospital. Read more.


Agenda:

  • Luxembourg: Agriculture Minister Romain Schneider to attend the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels.
  • Italy: Major trade unions will demonstrate in Rome against deaths at work and illegal and irregular work.
  • Spain: The government, trade unions and the employer’s associations to continue negotiations on temporary lay-off schemes ahead of the 31 May deadline.
  • Poland: President Andrzej Duda and his wife Agata Kornhauser-Duda will pay a visit to Georgia on Wednesday and Thursday, where they will take part in the celebrations of Georgia’s Independence Day. Talks between Duda and the Georgian authorities, including President Salome Zurabishvili, are planned.
  • Bulgaria: Bulgarian and North Macedonian presidents Rumen Radev and Stevo Pendarovski are travelling together to Rome to pay tribute to the work of the holy brothers Cyril and Methodius, credited for the creation of the Slavic Glagolitic alphabet.
  • Romania:  Romanian government will present its recovery and resilience plan in parliament.
  • Croatia: Parliament is to resume its session with draft amendments to the capital market legislation on the agenda.
  • Slovenia: The National Assembly will launch the debate on an impeachment motion against Prime Minister Janez Janša with a vote scheduled for Wednesday or Monday. 
  • Serbia: The German Embassy and German-Serbian Initiative will hold an online conference on green industry policy and is set to have Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, German Ambassador Thomas Schieb, Serbian Chamber of Commerce president Marko Čadež and others in attendance.

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

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