Bulgaria mulls taking Macron’s ‘mobility package’ to EU court

MEP Peter Vitanov estimated that the Bulgarian government and the local transport industry should make compromises with some of the changes in order to negotiate the cancellation of the most controversial proposals. [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 The Capitals today, take a look at EURACTIV’s editor Sam Morgan interview Maroš Šefčovič as part of the Special Report on “Clean mobility’s challenging road ahead“.

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SOFIA

Bulgaria will likely seek the cancellation of part of the Mobility Package before the EU Court of Justice if no compromise is reached on the most contentious issues, socialist MEP Peter Vitanov (S&D), a member of the EU Parliament’s committee on transport and tourism, told EURACTIV Bulgaria.

On Tuesday (24 September), the Parliament’s Transport Committee gave the ‘green light’ to begin negotiations with the European Commission and the Council on rules for reforming the EU’s transport sector. The trilogue will start on 1 November and will be led by the new European Commission. The goal is to reach a compromise on the rules known as the “Macron Package”.

Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania oppose part of the changes.

The “Macron Package” introduces new rules for posted drivers, including a higher minimum wage and regulation of their stay in hotels. The most contentious issue is the return of empty trucks to their country of origin once every four weeks. This would prevent transport companies from Central and Eastern Europe from providing their services to the market of Western Europe, the so-called “cabotage”.

The six countries opposing the changes claim that the obligation to return empty trucks would be an illegal protectionist measure that would seriously affect companies in their respective countries, and lead to the loss of jobs and increased economic emigration. The Bulgarian representatives are among the most vocal opponents of the contested package. Peter Vitanov estimated that the Bulgarian government and the local transport industry should make compromises with some of the changes to negotiate the cancellation of the most controversial proposals.

“The return of the empty truck [to the country of origin] is contrary to a fundamental principle of the EU – the free movement of goods and capital”, Vitanov said. This means that Bulgaria can begin negotiations to seek a compromise with the threat of a dangling court case. “There is no way to oblige anyone to go somewhere else. It is contrary to the free market”, Vitanov added.

(Krassen Nikolov, EURACTIV.bg)

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BRUSSELS: Malmström hiding from ENVI committee?

EURACTIV was informed that the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) of the European Parliament has sent a letter to EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström inviting her, again, for an exchange of views on the Mercosur agreement.

The letter, signed by ENVI chair MEP Pascal Canfin, a member of Renew Europe, reads: “I have informed ENVI coordinators that you are not available for an exchange of views on the Mercosur agreement during one of the upcoming ENVI meetings, due to previous commitments and they have mandated me to come back to you to reiterate our invitation.”

“The ENVI Committee considers your presence necessary to provide further clarifications on the binding nature and ambition of the sustainable development chapters,” the letter said.

EU Parliament sources told EURACTIV that “the old Commission is not used yet to the European Green Deal way of life.”

The 2010 Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission provides that the EU House “shall be immediately and fully informed at all stages of the negotiation and conclusion of international agreements”.

The EU-Mercosur trade deal has triggered the strong reaction of environmentalists, who described it as “dark moment” and warned about severe consequences for climate.

(Sarantis Michalopoulos, EURACTIV.com)

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MADRID: A new ‘leftist kid’ shakes Spanish politics

A new poll conducted by the official Center for Sociological Research projects a 3.5% drop for the socialist party (PSOE) in the upcoming elections amid fears of division in the leftist camp, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.

According to the survey, PSOE would obtain a moderate 27% setback, compared to the 28 April general election results. The socialists came out victorious but did not obtain a sufficient majority to form a government.

The latest survey was carried out before the announcement for fresh elections on 10 November, and before leftist leader Iñigo Errejón, co-founder of Podemos (We Can), decided this week to launch a new party: Más País (More for the Country).

Íñigo Errejón, a 35-year-old leftist, left Podemos in January due to strong disagreements with its polemic leader and his former close friend, Pablo Iglesias. “Íñigo and I were very good friends, we’re not anymore,” Iglesias said on Tuesday (24 September).

The poll, therefore, does not appear to reflect the “Errejón effect”, which could cause a strong fragmentation of votes among supporters of Podemos, PSOE and Más País.

Analysts suggest that Errejon’s new party could have a disastrous effect, as it could deal a severe blow not only to Pablo Iglesias but also to the Spanish left as a whole. This could, in turn, favour the conservative forces, in particular, the Partido Popular (PP, right-wing), the liberal-centrists of Ciudadanos (Citizens) and the far-right Vox, which could eventually forge a “trilateral” front.

However, acting socialist PM Pedro Sánchez has said that he is not concerned about Errejón’s new party. “We expected a re-composition of the political space of Podemos, to the left of PSOE”, Sánchez said.

(Fernando Heller EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)

Commission ‘aware’ of Brexit agrifood concerns. In an interview with EFE, Spain’s Agriculture Minister Luis Planas said he had asked the European Commission if Spain would be granted financial compensation in case the country is affected “by logistical difficulties and the closure of the British market”.

Contacted by EURACTIV.com, EU Commission sources said Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan is in close contact with Spain’s agriculture minister, as well as with agriculture ministers from other EU countries, regarding Brexit and other ongoing agricultural issues. “It’s too early to speculate on any outcome but we are aware of concerns and are taking all the necessary steps to be prepared in the best extent possible,” the sources said.

Commissioner Hogan said last April: “The European Commission has considerable experience in deploying market support measures on occasions of significant market disturbance, especially in the agri-food area.” (Sarantis Michalopoulos, EURACTIV.com)

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PARIS

Reactions to the death of Jacques Chirac. “We, the French, have lost a statesman whom we loved as much as he loved us… Whether we share, or not, his ideas or what he fought for, we all recognise ourselves in this man who resembled us, and brought us together,” French President Emmanuel Macron has said. Dominique de Villepin, who was his foreign affair minister, commented: “It’s a part of France who has left us”.

The death of former president Jacques Chirac has generated a flood of praise and sympathy from the French political class and society.

Chirac opposed the US-led war in Iraq in 2003, at a time where other European countries complied with the superpower’s wishes.

Read more: Former French president Chirac dies, world leaders pay tribute

(EURACTIV.FR)

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ROME

Assisting suicide is sometimes legitimate. The political world is divided, and the Catholic Church has expressed dismay after Italy’s Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday (25 September) that assisting suicide is lawful in some cases. The court’s decision dealt with activist Marco Cappato’s right-to-die case. Cappato was accused of assisting suicide by helping 40-year-old blind and tetraplegic Italian ex-DJ Fabiano Antoniani, better known as DJ Fabo, take his own life at a Swiss clinic in 2017.

>>Read the story on EURACTIV’s partner ANSA.

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ATHENS / BERLIN

Promoting climate education. Greece’s conservative New Democracy government is planning to increase teachers’ roles in promoting environmental consciousness within the mandatory school curriculum, the Minister of Education and Religious Affairs Niki Kerameus told EURACTIV.com in an interview.

“Education can play a crucial role, both in raising awareness and equipping the youth with the necessary tools in order to face the effects of climate change,” she said. See the video interview here.

CDU mulls raising proposed carbon tax. Last Friday (20 September), the German climate cabinet presented its long-awaited draft of the country’s first climate protection law. But since then, it has received a lot of criticism for not being bold enough, lacking the potential of having a real impact in fighting a climate emergency. The CDU, Germany’s leading conservative party, has signalled that it would soften its stance regarding a carbon tax. The social-democratic SPD was quick to say they pledged for higher taxation of carbon emissions and would enter talks with the Greens about potential collaborations.
Currently, the plan is to put a €10 tax on every ton of emitted CO2 in 2021 for the transport and buildings sectors, both of which are not covered under the European emissions trading scheme (EU ETS). This would make a litre of petrol around 3 cents more expensive, and by 2025, the price is supposed to be raised to €35 for every ton of emitted CO2. Scientists, environmental groups, as well as the SPD and the Greens criticised the proposal for having no bite. (Alicia Prager, EURACTIV.de)

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BRATISLAVA 

More arrests linked to Kuciak’s murderThe Inspection of the Interior Ministry has detained former head of the financial police’s intelligence unit, Pavol Vorobjov. He reportedly illegally screened several journalists including the murdered Ján Kuciak and several prosecutors in official databases. Information from the screenings led to Marián Kočner, who has been charged with ordering Kuciak’s murder. Besides, the current deputy head of the National Criminal Agency’s (NAKA) financial unit, Milan Mihálik, and other police officers, were also taken in and released later in the day. Vorobjov, who also met the European parliament’s Budgetary Control (CONT) and Civil Liberties (LIBE) committees during their mission in Slovakia last year following the murders, remains in custody. (Zuzana Gabrižová, EURACTIV.sk)

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PRAGUE

No chance for ‘impeachment’.The majority of Czech senators from the upper chamber of the parliament are seeking to sue President Milos Zeman for violating the Constitution on several occasions. However, they also need the support of the lower chamber, which seems highly unlikely after several parties, including both from the government cabinet (ANO and Social Democrats), have refused to do so. (Ondřej Plevák,EURACTIV.cz)

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SOFIA

Education and training. The country’s education and training system are still being modernised. However, quality, labour market relevance and inclusiveness remain challenging, according to the EU Commission’s Education and Training Monitor 2019. Demographic trends and rising skill shortages suggest that Bulgaria needs to invest better in the skills of its current and future workforce. The status of the teaching profession is low, and the teacher workforce is ageing. Yet, salaries are being increased as a means to boost the profession’s attractiveness. (Dnevnik.bg)

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BUCHAREST

The European Parliament’s legal committee rejected the Commissioner-designates from Romania and Hungary due to conflict of interest on Thursday (26 September).  With the clock ticking, Bucharest and Budapest must now propose new names before the full parliamentary hearings are due next week. The Romanian names that have circulated previously as a much safer option are Ramona Mănescu, a former MEP who has been Romania’s foreign minister since 24 July, and Luminiţa Odobescu, the country’s Permanent Representative to the EU. No names of potential replacements for Hungary have been circulated as of yet.

EURACTIV’s editor Georgi Gotev has the story: Romanian, Hungarian Commissioner nominees rejected

>>The Capitals reported on 4 September that the “Romanian lobby” in Brussels is pushing for Mănescu, prompting the reaction of Romanian PM Viorica Dăncilă, who said nothing was official yet, and urged for “national unity” on the issue. (EURACTIV.com)

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LJUBLJANA 

Row with EU Commission over Croatia and Schengen. Slovenian PM Marjan Šarec (LMŠ-RE) said on Thursday (26 September) that he was unhappy with the outgoing European Commission’s decision to determine Croatia’s accession to the Schengen area based on whether it meets the technical requirements. “Croatia hasn’t resolved its border issue with practically any state. How can we then bypass these questions and automatically determine that someone is adequate to join Schengen?” he said. He added that if the EU executive acts politically and gives Croatia the green light to enter the Schengen area on 16 October, Slovenia “will also act politically”.

The European Commission replied, saying it was politically unbiased. “The case between Croatia and Slovenia is now before the Court of the European Union,” the Commission said. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)

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ZAGREB                 

Free of classical swine fever. Croatia has been granted the status of a country free of classical swine fever after a 2013 ban on the EU market of live pigs and pork from Croatia had been lifted.

“This is the result of the long-term implementation of comprehensive veterinary measures to monitor, control and eradicate this disease in the population of domestic and feral pigs,” a statement said. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)

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BELGRADE

Serbian PM said Kosovo would soon be under pressure. PM Ana Brnabić has said that after the upcoming snap elections, the soon-to-be-formed Kosovo government in Kosovo could be subject to strong pressure by many countries across the world to lift the tariffs on goods coming from Serbia and to resume the dialogue with Belgrade. (beta.rs,EURACTIV.rs)

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[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck]

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