Berlin shocked by Denmark-US spy deal

“It is particularly shocking that the Danish government apparently knew about the illegal actions of its intelligence service as early as 2015 without informing other governments in the EU,” S&D MEP Joachim Schuster of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the EU Parliament told EURACTIV. [Shutterstock/jgolby]

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 “Commission admits fossil fuel share ‘likely’ higher in transport without multipliers“.

Also read the story “Lavrov reads the post-mortem of EU-Russia relations“, by Georgi Gotev.


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


A message from EBAA: European Business Aviation notes aviation emissions study, points out missed opportunities: Environmental action and economic growth are not mutually exclusive; Business aviation has made sustainability a top priority, whilst simultaneously meeting a clear demand to connect citizens, companies and communities. Read more here.


 In today’s news from the Capitals:

BERLIN

German politicians have reacted with shock to revelations that Denmark’s foreign intelligence unit partnered with US National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on senior officials of neighbouring countries, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “Among EU member states, such surveillance operations should be an absolute no-go,” Green MEP Hannah Neumann and member of the security and defence subcommittee told EURACTIV Germany. Read more.

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EU PRESIDENCY 

Commission: EU future debate should focus on ‘genuine people’ not ‘Brussels bubble’. Margaritis Schinas, European Commission Vice-President for the Promotion of the European Way of Life, has underlined that the Future of Europe conference should focus on the “genuine people” and not the “Brussels bubble”. Read the full story.

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PARIS

Most French uninformed about the arms trade, want public debate. A majority (80%) of French people feel uninformed about the arms trade while more than 70% believe the arms trade should be the subject of a public debate in the country, according to a new opinion poll released by Amnesty International on Monday, ahead of the release of the government’s annual report on arms exports. Read more.

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VIENNA

Commission refutes Austrian statement on COVID-19 certificate delays. The European Commission has denied claims by the Austrian government that it announced last minute changes to the technical requirements of the upcoming “green pass” digital COVID-19 certificate, prompting a delay to Austria’s roll-out of the scheme. Read more. 


UK AND IRELAND

LONDON 

UK economy expected to grow more strongly than expected. The UK economy is expected to grow more strongly than expected, according to the latest forecast by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 

The UK is likely to grow 7.2% in 2021, up from the OECD’s March projection of 5.1%, an increase which Boris Johnson’s government says is largely the result of the UK’s mass COVID-19 vaccination programme. The recovery is projected to be the strongest among Europe’s major economies. However, unemployment is expected to peak at over 6% before the end of the year. (Benjamin Fox | EURACTIV.com)


NORDICS AND BALTICS

VILNIUS

11 member states warn Borrell about detained minors in Belarus. Ministers from 11 European Union member states sent a letter late on Monday to the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell warning him about minors detained in Belarus for their participation in anti-government protests. They called for immediate action in addition to EU sanctions already imposed. Read the letter obtained by EURACTIV here.

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HELSINKI

Sanoma wants EU to look into national Finnish broadcaster YLE’s streaming platform. Finland’s biggest commercial media company, Sanoma, has asked the EU’s competition authorities to verify whether Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE has the right to publish education and written content on its YLE Areena streaming platform. Read more.


EUROPE’S SOUTH

ROME

Bank of Italy asks to make recovery fund permanent post-pandemic. Europe has been “forged in the crises” and therefore must emerge strengthened from the pandemic, for example, by making permanent mechanisms such as the EU Recovery Fund or the Sure Fund, said Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco on Monday. Read more.

In other news, Italy is determined to collaborate with Libya’s unified executive authority and “support it in the next decisive phases of the institutional transition”, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi told his Libyan counterpart Abdul Hamid Dbeibah who was visiting Rome. Italy wants to continue helping Libya together with international partners and supports “the need to increase and structure the EU contribution” to the North African country, Italy’s prime minister added.

On immigration, Draghi explained that the Italian government “intends to continue to finance assisted voluntary repatriations and humanitarian evacuations from Libya”, adding that “it is a moral duty and a Libyan interest to ensure full respect for the rights of refugees and migrants”. “Italy will continue to do its part in terms of resources and training skills, but determined and rapid EU action is needed. At the European Council in June, on an Italian proposal, migration will return at the centre of political attention in all its dimensions – internal and external,” Draghi added. (Daniele Lettig | EURACTIV.it)

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MADRID

Spain urges EU to quickly approve all national recovery plans. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has urged Brussels to quickly approve all of the European Union member states’ recovery plans and release funding to speed the economic recovery of countries particularly affected by the pandemic, including Spain, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reports.


VISEGRAD

PRAGUE

Czech PM Babiš’ former holding Agrofert sues EU Parliament. Agrochemical giant Agrofert Holding – formerly owned and still controlled by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš – has filed a lawsuit against the European Parliament, claiming EU lawmakers had denied access to documents that had led to the institution criticising the PM’s conflict of interest. Read more.  

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WARSAW

Poland, Spain sign agreement to develop Polish high-speed rail system. Poland and Spain signed a cooperation agreement on Monday in Madrid that would primarily help Poland’s high-speed railway system as part of the Solidarity Transport Hub (STH) project. Read more.

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BUDAPEST 

Hungary to be able to produce Chinese jab, gives state award. The National Vaccine Plant, currently under construction, will also be capable of producing the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó announced during his visit to China on Monday where he presented Budapest’s state award to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. Read more. 

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BRATISLAVA

Slovak finance ministry: Vaccination best way to help economy. The best way to help the economy recover from the pandemic’s €5.6 billion estimated loss is to promote the vaccine which costs €40 per adult, according to estimates made by the Slovak finance ministry’s value for money department. Read more.


NEWS FROM THE BALKANS

LJUBLJANA

Hungary’s OTP acquires Slovenia’s second largest bank. The Hungarian OTP Bank Group has signed an agreement to acquire an outright stake in NKBM, Slovenia’s second largest bank, to become the leading banking player on the Slovenian market. More.

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SOFIA 

Under fire, Borissov’s GERB lashes out at the caretaker government. Bulgarian MEPs from former prime minister Boyko Borissov’s GERB party sent a letter addressed to all groups in the European Parliament, criticising the actions of the caretaker government, claiming it was “nominated by pro-Kremlin President Rumen Radev.” Read more. 

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BUCHAREST

Romania submits its recovery and resilience plan. Romania filed its recovery plan to the European Commission on Monday, becoming the 22nd EU country to do so. Romania intends to attract the maximum allocation of €14.3 billion in grants and €15 billion in loans from the recovery and resilience fund (RRF). Read more.

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ZAGREB 

Travel restrictions relaxed for Croatians entering Austria. Travellers arriving in Austria from Croatia are no longer required to quarantine from Tuesday, provided they have been tested, were vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, Croatian Tourism Minister Nikolina Brnjac said on Monday after talks in Vienna with her Austrian counterpart Elisabeth Köstinger, Hina reported. Read more. 

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BELGRADE 

Serbian drug regulator launches procedure to clear Pfizer jab for kids. The Serbian Agency for Medicines and Medicinal Devices has launched proceedings to approve the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children over the age of 12, Serbia’s leading epidemiologist Branislav Tiodorović told the Vecernje Novosti newspaper in an interview on Monday. (EURACTIV.rs | betabriefing.com)

In other news, Serbian citizens who have already received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine can apply for a vaccination incentive worth RSD3,000 which is about €25.5, the ministry of finance has announced. According to a decree prescribing the incentives for immunisation, Serbian nationals over the age of 16 can apply if by Monday they have received at least one dose in the territory of Serbia. (EURACTIV.rs | betabriefing.com)

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SARAJEVO 

BiH imposes entry restrictions against foreign nationals. Bosnia and Herzegovina will not ease restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals for the time being as they will continue to show a negative PCR-test unless they are nationals from neighbouring countries, the government decided on Monday. Read more.


Agenda:

  • EU institutions: NATO foreign and defence ministers discuss Russia
  • EU institutions: European Public Prosectors Office starts to be operational
  • France: The National Assembly will start its examination of the new bill on the prevention of terrorist acts and on intelligence.
  • Italy: The national statistical institute will publish employment data for April 2021 and quarterly income statements for this year’s first quarter. 
  • Spain: Government to take legal steps to analyse all judicial and political aspects of a future decision on granting pardon for jailed Catalan separatists.
  • Greece: As of today, Greece’s COVID-19 certificate enters into force.
  • Romania will celebrate a public holiday on Tuesday.
  • Croatia: Parliament continues its session by discussing a vote for a no-confidence motion against Health Minister Vili Beroš, while Labour Minister Josip Aladrović and State Secretary Margareta Mađerić will launch a national media campaign for the prevention of violence against women and domestic violence.
  • Serbia: An online presentation of a Study on assessing policies of digital accessibility in Serbia, implemented with the assistance of the International Communication Union will take place Tuesday.

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

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