Bulgaria moves on purchase of Sputnik V vaccine

Kornelia Ninova, leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), among party fellows. [Tsvetelina Belutova/Dnevnik]

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, France, Italy, Spain push for implementation of recovery fund, by Jorge Valero.


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


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In today’s news from the Capitals:

A Bulgarian parliamentary committee has passed a motion to purchase the Russian Sputnik V vaccine despite it not having been approved for use in the EU.

The health committee of the recently constituted parliament supported the Socialists’ (BSP) proposal to start negotiations on the purchase of Sputnik V, arguing that the government’s failure to date to provide vaccines to citizens should be offset by the Russian vaccine. Read more.

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EU PRESIDENCY

‘Act without delay’ to help EU tourism, Portugal urges. Portugal has urged member states and EU institutions to “act without delay” to support European tourism to recover from the crisis, also calling for rapid progress in the creation of the green passport. Read more.

Worker advocates call for more ‘democracy at work’ ahead of Porto Summit. Trade unions and other labour supporters are continuing their push for greater worker involvement in company decisions, now labelling this as a push for “more democracy at work.” They want to see this topic play a larger role on the EU’s agenda, particularly at the upcoming Porto Social Summit. Read the story.

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BERLIN

Germany’s Merkel calls for human rights dialogue with China to resume. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for dialogue with Beijing on human rights to resume as soon as possible, in her last government consultations with China as leader of Europe’s biggest economy. Read more.

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PARIS

Macron expected to present France’s lockdown exit strategy on Friday. President Emmanuel Macron is to present the next steps in the fight against COVID-19 at the end of the week, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced at a press conference on Wednesday. The executive wishes to install a “transitional regime” that should last until 31 October after the current COVID-19 restrictions end on 2 June. (Magdalena Pistorius | EURACTIV.fr)

In other news, the French government has also presented its anti-terrorism bill, which proposes to reinforce the provisions of the 2017 law on internal security and the fight against terrorism. Read the full story.

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BRUSSELS

Green light for opening terraces and bars. Belgium’s Consultation Committee has now definitively given the green light for the reopening of outdoor drinking and dining on 8 May. For that reopening, two important conditions had to be met: the over-65s age group to reach a vaccination rate of more than 80% and the condition in intensive care had to have improved in the past two weeks. (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)


UK AND IRELAND

BELFAST | LONDON

DUP leader Arlene Foster resigns. Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster announced her resignation on Wednesday, leaving her position as DUP leader on 28 May and her position as Northern Ireland’s first minister in June. In her speech, she lashed out against the Northern Ireland Protocol. Read more.


NORDICS AND BALTICS

HELSINKI

Finnish government escapes near collapse, abandons strict fiscal prudence. After a week of budget negotiations, Finland’s five-party government reached an agreement on Wednesday afternoon, escaping a very near collapse. The chairs of the five ruling parties said compromise agreements had been reached on central questions. Read more.

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VILNIUS | RIGA | TALLINN

Russia expels two Lithuanian diplomats in tit-for-tat move. TThe Russian foreign ministry has expelled two diplomats from the Lithuanian embassy in Moscow, as well as one employee each from the embassies of Latvia and Estonia. Read the full story


EUROPE’S SOUTH

ROME  | PARIS

Italian government welcomes arrest of seven former Red Brigades members. Rome welcomed the arrest by the French authorities of seven former members of the left-wing terrorist group Red Brigades, which was active in the 1970s and 1980s. Another three former Red Brigades members are still on the run.

“The memory of those barbaric acts is still alive in Italy”, said Prime Minister Mario Draghi. In April, the Italian and French justice ministers, Marta Cartabia and Eric Dupond-Moretti, discussed the urgency of apprehending Italian terrorists hiding in France before the statute of limitations on European arrest warrants for their capture expired.

In other news, Health Minister Roberto Speranza has survived three motions of no-confidence put forward against him in the Senate by far-right opposition party Brothers of Italy and two members of the mixed group. 

“The motions stated that the plan against pandemic outbreaks was not updated, but they referred to a period where Italy had seven different governments”, Speranza said.

“The virus is the enemy now, but we, unfortunately, see people preferring political conflict and hate speech, which can never be tolerated”, he added. (Alessandro Follis | EURACTIV.it)

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MADRID

Fresh poll predicts Popular Party win in ‘battle of Madrid’. A poll has put Spain’s centre-right Popular Party (PP) ahead of its rivals less than a week before votes are cast in a hotly contested regional election in Madrid on 4 May. EURACTIV’s partner EFE reports. Read the full story. 

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ATHENS

Tsipras backs AstraZeneca, slams Europe’s ‘one-industry’ approach. Greece’s main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras has given his backing to the much-maligned AstraZeneca vaccine, questioning why its COVID-19 vaccine was being rolled out without drama in the UK but not in the EU, implying that political and business interests were at play. Read more.

VISEGRAD

WARSAW

Polish government presents plan to lift COVID-19 restrictions in May. The Polish government has unveiled plans to lift COVID-19 restrictions gradually over the next month, with grades 1-3 returning to in-person schooling full-time as of 4 May. Read more.

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PRAGUE

Prague space agency to get competency boost. MEPs on Wednesday approved a new  European Space programme with a seven-year budget of €14.8 billion uniting all EU space activities in one place and expanding the scope and strengthening the competencies of Prague-based European GNSS Agency (GSA). The decision needs to be confirmed by member states. Read more.

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BRATISLAVA

Slovakia proposes to reallocate €1 billion in EU funds to Bratislava. A Slovak ministry has proposed a reallocation of €1 billion from the European structural and investments funds on Wednesday. Read more.

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BUDAPEST

Hungary only V4 country not to expel Russian diplomats. Hungary has no plans to expel Russian diplomats, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó told RTL on Wednesday (28 April), Telex reported. Hungary will thus be the only Visegrád country to not commit itself to the diplomatic rebuke to Moscow after Czech authorities linked a 2014 arms depot blast to the Russian secret services, which has since prompted similar investigations elsewhere in Europe. Read more.

NEWS FROM THE BALKANS

LJUBLJANA 

Slovenia adopts national recovery plan, eyes higher green spending. Slovenia plans to significantly exceed the green spending target set in the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility but will not take advantage of the entirety of the available loans, according to the National Recovery and Resilience Plan that the government adopted on Wednesday. Read more.

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ZAGREB

Milanović: Croatian army ‘a pillar of civil democracy’. Croatia’s President Zoran Milanović said on Wednesday that the country’s armed forces were one of the pillars of a civil, democratic state. Read more.

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BUCHAREST

Romania hosts ‘vaccination marathons’. The Bucharest Medicine University will organise a “vaccination marathon” between 7 and 10 May, where Romanian citizens and foreign residents can get the Pfizer shot without prior appointment. There will be 50 vaccination lines open and they will function non-stop for 64 hours. Read more.

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BELGRADE 

Vučić has more media presence than entire government combined. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has clocked 38% more time in the media than Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and the entire Serbian government combined. That finding was the result of an analysis of prime time national news broadcasts carried out by the Bureau for Social Research (BIRODI) published on Wednesday. Read more.

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SARAJEVO 

US ambassador to BiH launches attack on government. US ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Eric Nelson, wrote on his blog that “the United States remains a friend to BiH and firmly supports its territorial integrity and sovereignty”, while also launching an attack on the governing of BiH politicians for a lack of consideration of citizen’s needs. Read more.

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PODGORICA

Montenegrin government doesn’t want to give up coal-powered thermal power plant. Montenegro is currently not in a position to give up the Thermal Power Plant (TPP) Pljevlja, Montenegro’s Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić stated in parliament. “There are about 1,400 employees in the TPP, as well as a large number of workers in the coal mine, which is directly related to the TPP,” Krivokapić said.

“The government is committed to implementing a drastic reduction in CO2 emissions and the transition of our energy to renewable energy sources. However, as serious and responsible people, we must carefully analyse the decision to accept 2030 as the year of zero emissions. It must be preceded by a complex analysis”, he added. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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TIRANA

Albania’s Socialist Party vows to dismiss president. Albania’s Socialist Party (SP), the projected winner of recent parliamentary elections, is set to launch the procedure to dismiss President Ilir Meta once the Central Elections Commission has announced the final results. Read more.


Agenda:

  • European Parliament will take a position on a potential digital tax and voting results on the green digital certificate to be announced
  • Germany: Federal Constitutional Court decides on climate action by the environmental organization BUND and representatives of Fridays for Future
  • France: President Emmanuel Macron will meet with social partners in preparation for the Porto Social Summit set for 7 May.
  • Italy: Council of Ministers will give its final approval of the country’s recovery plan, after which it will be submitted to the European Commission.
  • Spain: Trade union association UGT will organise a national conference about the “right to decent housing” on Thursday in Madrid as Spain is about to receive more Janssen COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Poland: National council of the main opposition party Civic Platform (PO) meets in Rzeszów for the first time since last autumn.
  • Czech Republic: The government will hold an extraordinary meeting to decide on potential changes in COVID-19-related measures.
  • Slovakia: Finance Minister Igor Matovič travels to Hungary to meet with Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó and discuss the interconnection of their countries’ electricity transmissions systems, and unofficially the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. 
  • Bulgaria: Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva summoned the Russian ambassador after the prosecutor’s office announced the possible Russian connection with the explosions in the Bulgarian military depots. 
  • Slovenia: Prime Minister Janez Janša to visit France at the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the countries’ successive Council presidencies. Agenda also includes the COVID-19 pandemic and Western Balkans.
  • Croatia: National Bank (HNB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will organise an online conference on the role of banks in supporting green economic growth.

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[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Paula Kenny, Zoran Radosavljevic, Josie Le Blond]

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