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In today’s news from the Capitals:
Belgium suffered a major cyberattack on Tuesday, Belgian media reported, affecting many of its key institutions.
Belnet’s internet network, which connects public institutions, higher education and university establishments, research centers and public administrations, has been the target of a large-scale denial-of-service (DDoS) attack since 12pm on Tuesday, spokeswoman Davina Luyten said. It’s origin is still unknown. Read more.
EU-India summit postponed until leaders can attend in person. The EU-India bilateral summit which had been planned to take place during Portugal’s presidency of the Council of the EU has been postponed until the leaders involved can attend in person, Portugal’s minister of foreign affairs confirmed on Tuesday. Read more.
Marine Le Pen acquitted in trial over IS tweets. The Nanterre tribunal acquitted far-right Rassemblement National leader Marine Le Pen on Monday for having tweeted violent images of crimes committed by the Islamic State in 2015. Le Pen was accused of disseminating a “message of a violent nature or of a nature that seriously undermines human dignity”.
The court recognised Le Pen’s freedom of expression, the “informative purpose” behind her dissemination of these images, as well as her contribution to public debate as sufficient reasoning for her acquittal. (Magdalena Pistorius | EURACTIV.fr)
Austria cannot wait for EU to roll out COVID-19 certificates. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced plans to introduce a national green certificate in an attempt to revitalise the economy, despite the European Commission announcing the introduction of the digital green certificates by summer. Read more.
Government backs priority vaccination for teachers and police. Teachers, police officers, magistrates, prison guards and others whose job requires close contact with others will get priority in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, a trade union for civil servants has announced.
Luxembourg entered the final phase of its vaccination programme last week, calling up people aged 54 or younger to get a shot. More than 20,000 volunteers have signed up to be vaccinated after the government opened a first come, first served waiting list for the AstraZeneca jab. (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.fr)
UK AND IRELAND
Jersey faces blackout as fishing row with France escalates. The Channel island of Jersey has become the unlikely centre of the wider row over access to fishing waters between the UK and France, with the government in Paris on Tuesday threatening that electricity supply to the island could be stopped. Read more.
Irish politicians support principle of simple majority for United Ireland. Politicians from Ireland’s leading parties, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Sinn Féin, have said they support the principle of a simple majority determining the result of any vote on a United Ireland. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Nuclear energy to make a comeback in Sweden? Preceding next year’s general elections, nuclear energy is once again a focal point of political debate in Sweden, after a television debate on Sunday made apparent that liberal-conservative Moderates, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Sweden Democrats would be ready to build new nuclear capacity once in power. Read more.
Italy to introduce their own travel ‘green pass’ by end of May. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi announced on Tuesday in a press conference following the G20 tourism ministers’ meeting in Rome that Italy will introduce their own travel green certificate by the end of May. Read more.
Spain’s Popular Party wins Madrid regional election. Spain’s conservative Popular Party (PP) has won a snap regional election in Madrid, in a victory for the incumbent regional president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso. However, the party fell short of an absolute majority and must form a coalition or rely on the abstention of far-right Vox to govern. Read the full story.
In other news, Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias has announced he is leaving politics a month after stepping down from his post as the country’s deputy prime minister.
“I’m leaving all party politics […] I won’t be an obstacle for the renewal of leadership our political force needs,” Iglesias told reporters late on Tuesday after learning the results, which he described as a tragedy. “We have failed,” he said.
Polish president to meet with B-9 leaders ahead of NATO summit. Polish President Andrzej Duda will travel to Bucharest to meet his Romanian counterpart Klaus Iohannis next Monday for a joint teleconference meeting with leaders of the Bucharest Nine (B-9) group. Read more.
Czech Interior Minister denies exchanging data on depot blast for vaccines. Czech Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Jan Hamáček (ČSSD, S&D) has denied accusations that he planned to exchange information about the involvement of Russian agents in the 2014 ammunition depot blast in return for 1 million Sputnik V vaccines and the organisation of the US-Russia summit in Prague, Czech news site Seznam Zpravy has reported. Read more.
Heger’s cabinet wins trust of Slovak government. The Slovak parliament on Tuesday approved by 89 votes the programme statement of Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger’s government installed on 1 April, which was similar to that of the previous PM, Igor Matovič, last year.
Leaders of all four coalition parties have now declared that the trust they received from parliament was a chance for a new start. Matovič’s government collapsed over a month ago, mostly due to his handling of a pandemic. (Michal Hudec | EURACTIV.sk)
Orbán: Universities with controversial model will be Hungary’s “locomotives”. The mission of the model-changing universities is to pull the Hungarian economy forward as the locomotives of the country and to strengthen its competitiveness, the Prime Minister emphasized, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said at the meeting with minister of innovation and technology László Palkovics on Tuesday (4 May), according to MTI. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Hunting fences restrict access to 470,000 decares of land in Bulgaria. More than 470,000 decares of Bulgaria’s land and forests are restricted to the public by hunting fences, many of which are controlled by private companies, announced the Green Laws initiative on Tuesday following a large-scale study under the Access to Public Information Act. Read more.
Election of Supreme Court president in Croatia sparks debate. Croatian President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday that law professor Zlata Đurđević was his candidate for the Supreme Court president and asked members of parliament to think carefully before they reject her because he would not give up. Read more.
In other news, nearly 39,000 candidates will be running in the local elections on 16 May, with the candidates having an average age of 45, according to statistics released by the State Electoral Commission (DIP). The two youngest candidates are a man and a woman, who both turned 18 on 29 March.
The oldest female candidate, 91, is running for the Zagorska Stranka za Zagreb party, while the oldest male candidate, 92, is running for a group of voters led by Dražen Vranić. The DIP has set a rule that the representation of any gender should not be below 40%, however there are several slates with only male candidates. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Romanian PM highlights benefits of vaccination as demand fades. Faced with the prospect of a slowing vaccination campaign, Romanian Prime Minister Florin Citu has raised the prospect of a potential easing of restrictions for people that have received their COVID-19 vaccinations. Read more.
Serbia falls behind economically due to corruption. Serbia is lagging behind in economic development relative to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe – Romania, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, due to the poor quality of its institutions which are plagued by corruption and an insufficient level of rule of law, Fiscal Council president Pavle Petrović said on Tuesday.
In an interview with BETA, Petrović was asked whether Serbia would start closing the gap if it achieved an economic growth rate of 6% this year. He replied that strong economic growth during one year did not mean much, especially in these very turbulent times. “Economic growth needs to be observed over a somewhat longer period, and when one views things over a longer period of time one sees that Serbia’s average GDP growth rate is 3.5% to 4% per annum, while it would have to equal around 5% to catch up to the more developed countries of Central and Eastern Europe,” Petrović said. (EURACTIV.rs | betabriefing.com)
High Representative: BiH politicians using pandemic for new divisions. Divisions in Bosnia and Herzegovina have become more pronounced during the pandemic because of attempts by local politicians to score political points in the present situation, High Representative for BiH Valentin Inzko told the UN Security Council on Tuesday. Read more.
Várhelyi: Montenegro’s finances none of EU’s business. “It’s not up to the EU to consider Montenegro’s financial situation. We’re monitoring the reforms of prosecutorial laws and have already talked about it with Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić,” announced European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Olivér Várhelyi during a working visit to Montenegro. Read more.
- France: President Emmanuel Macron is expected to deliver a speech Wednesday for the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s death.
- Bulgaria: President Rumen Radev to conduct consultations with parties in parliament on the new Central Electoral Commission, which will conduct the upcoming early elections with 15 members nominated by the parties and approved by the president. The Socialist Party will return the mandate to form a government, meaning the president will have to dissolve parliament and call for a snap election.
- Poland: The working team dealing with the national recovery plan will have its first meeting and vaccination registration will open for people born in 1990 and 1991.
- Czech Republic: Lawmakers to continue debate recently revealed information about Russian involvement in ammunition deposit blast.
- Spain: Political parties to analyse results of Tuesday’s regional elections in Madrid.
- Croatia: Parliament will continue its seventh session with a debate on the final amendments to the Foreign Exchange Transactions Act.
- Romania: Most students will restart school after a month-long holiday due to worsening pandemic figures. While authorities are discussing the return to in-person schooling for all students due to an improving COVID-19 situation, only children attending pre-school and primary school are currently going to school, while the rest are still attending classes online.
[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Paula Kenny, Zoran Radosavljevic, Josie Le Blond]