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The European news you deserve to read. Welcome to The Capitals by EURACTIV.
In today’s news from the Capitals:
Czech Environment Minister Anna Hubáčková (KDU-ČSL, EPP) is heading to Poland amid rising tensions between the two countries. In past months, Czechia blamed Poland for illegal coal mining in the bordering area and asked Poland for financial compensation. While the political representation of both sides sends positive signals hoping for an out-of-court settlement, the Polish coal mining company is adding fuel to the fire. Read more.
Serbs approve constitutional changes in referendum. Unofficial results say 61.84% voted ‘yes’ in the referendum on changes in the election of judges and prosecutors, which Serbia says should boost the independence of courts and the country’s EU bid. However, turnout was estimated at a little over 30%. Read more.
EU socialists throw temporary lifeline to centre-right. As the once-powerful centre-right sees its support at the ballot box collapsing across the EU, socialists appear to have decided to give them a second chance to stay on the pro-EU course by backing their candidate for the new European Parliament president, Maltese centre-right MEP Roberta Metsola.
To what extent this move will help the conservative camp resist the siren call of the new right-wing game in town, the Viktor Orbán-driven political train, remains to be seen, however. Read more.
Germany continues blocking arms exports to Ukraine due to new foreign ‘peace’ policy. Germany reiterated its refusal to send defensive weapons to Ukraine that according to Kyiv would help the country fend off a potential Russian invasion. This comes as part of a new German peace policy that aims at restricting arms exports and fostering peace via diplomacy. Read more.
Zemmour fined for provoking racial hatred, again. The Paris Criminal Court slapped far-right candidate Éric Zemmour Monday with a €10,000 fine for his comments on young migrants. He will appeal this decision, which he considers “ideological and stupid”. Read more.
Belgium can extend life of nuclear reactors if it acts soon, watchdog says. Belgium’s nuclear regulator gave a provisional green light on Monday to extend the life of two of the country’s nuclear power reactors and urged the government to make a final decision on the issue in the first quarter of 2022. Read more.
VIENNA | LISBON
Austria seeks Germany’s support for return to strict budgetary rules. Austrian Finance Minister Magnus Brunner said he has high hopes Germany will support the frugal countries for a swift return to the EU’s strict budgetary rules once the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. On the other hand, his Portuguese counterpart said it was “urgent and fundamental” to review budgetary rules. Read more.
UK AND IRELAND
British trade with Ireland slumps following Brexit. Goods exports from Great Britain to Ireland have dropped by 20% since the United Kingdom left the single market, according to data published on Monday by Ireland’s Central Statistics Office. Read more.
Irish FM orders investigation of ‘Johnson-like’ government lockdown party. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has initiated an inquiry into a gathering held by officials from his department in June 2020 while the country was in lockdown. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Ukraine situation threatens Finland’s sixth nuclear project. The escalating situation in Eastern Ukraine has created obstacles for Finland’s plans to build its sixth nuclear power plant, which have already been progressing slowly. Read more.
Russian warships are leaving the Baltic Sea. Several Russian Navy landing ships that were cruising in the Baltic Sea are now leaving, according to the Swedish Armed Forces. Read more.
Greek conservative MEP slams his own ruling party over press freedom. Greek MEP from ruling New Democracy party (EPP) Giorgos Kyrtsos has strongly criticised the government over the quality of press freedom in Greece, hinting that Brussels will soon react. Read more.
One in four Italian youngsters did not work or study in 2020, top EU ranking. More than two million Italians, or one in four aged 15-29, were not working or studying in 2020, according to a report from the Institute of National Statistics, ISTAT. This is the highest rate in the EU, which has a 13.7% average, data journalist Jacopo Ottaviani told newspaper L’Essenziale on 15 January. Read more.
Spanish government to approve affordable housing plan for young people. The government will approve on Tuesday a royal decree that develops a national State Plan for Access to Housing 2022-2025, endowed with €432 million, and a rental aid voucher for young people, with a budget of €200 million, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported. Read more.
Slovakia blames historic lack of food industry funding on Commission rules. Slovakia plans to invest a historically small amount of the 2023-2027 CAP money on its food industry, which is severely underdeveloped compared to other EU countries. The agriculture ministry blames the lack of funding on Commission rules, which force it to prioritise green transition even though Slovakia has failed to “build the foundations”. Read more.
Polish justice ministry proposes online free speech law after Facebook debacle. A draft law on freedom of speech online, first presented last year, is ready for the government’s approval and submission to parliament, Deputy Minister Michał Woś said. This is the ministry’s answer to Facebook’s recent decision to remove the FB page of the far-right party Confederation, currently in opposition. Read more.
Hungary registers new spike in COVID-19 cases due to Omicron variant. Hungary, one of the EU countries with the least stringent COVID-19 restrictions, has faced a new spike in coronavirus infections this week due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Erdogan demands Albania’s support in fight against Gulen. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s address to the inaugural session of the Albanian Parliament on Monday included demands to take “immediate measures” against cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers. Read more.
Woman to head Bulgarian Supreme Court for the first time. President Rumen Radev signed a decree on Monday appointing Judge Galina Zaharova as chairperson of the Supreme Court of Cassation after she was unanimously elected by Bulgaria’s Supreme Judicial Council on 15 January. Zaharova will thus be the first woman to chair the highest court in the country. Read more.
Romanian coalition holds more talks on energy prices. The government coalition is still looking for ways to ease the burden of energy prices on vulnerable consumers and companies, while the opposition is demanding ministerial resignations. Read more.
Russia sees Croatia as a respected European partner. Russia sees Croatia as “a respected European partner” with which it has historical and cultural ties. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a press conference after meeting with his Croatian counterpart, Gordan Grlić Radman, in Moscow. Read more.
Russia recognises discrimination against Croats in BiH. Russia sees the discrimination against Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina and insists on honouring the Dayton Peace Agreement and implementing electoral reform, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Moscow. Read more.
Abazovic starts process of forming minority government. Deputy Prime Minister and leader of URA (the Civic Movement United Reform Action) Dritan Abazović has proposed a minority government without the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), led by President Milo Đukanović and the pro-Serbian Democratic Front (DF). Read more.
- EU: European Parliament elects new president and vice presidents in Strasbourg / College of Commissioners meets / EU finance ministers to discuss minimum corporate tax plan / ESA Director-General Josef Aschbacher present annual priorities
- Germany: Chancellor Olaf Scholz hosts NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in Berlin / Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock continues visit to Moscow to meet Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
- Norway: Judge considers early release request of far-right killer Anders Behring Breivik.
- Poland: President Andrzej Duda will meet this week with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy to discuss the situation on the border with Russia.
- Slovakia: MEP Michal Šimečka of the Renew Europe group competes for the country’s first European Parliament vice-president spot.
- Spain: Iberdrola CEO Ignacio Sanchez Galan testifies in court over alleged spying case.
- Bulgaria/North Macedonia: Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov visits Skopje.
- Romania: Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca meets representatives of energy producers and suppliers.
- Serbia: President Aleksandar Vučić on a one-day visit to Turkey, where he will meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and sign several documents on bilateral cooperation.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox, Zoran Radosavljevic, Alice Taylor]