Croatian FM to lead Council of Europe, but election causes headache at home

The Capitals is EURACTIV's daily newsletter from across Europe. [EPA/JULIEN WARNAND]

ZAGREB

Marija Pejčinović-Burić, the centre-right Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs (FM), has been elected as a Secretary General of the Council of Europe (CoE), EURACTIV’s partner Jutarnji list reported.

With 159 votes from 268 members of the EPP-dominated Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, Pejcinovic Buric beat Belgian rival Didier Reynders.

In Zagreb, Pejčinović-Burić’s election is considered a real success, but it also causes a political headache for Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, as he has to choose a new FM ahead of Croatia’s EU Presidency due to start on 1 January 2020.

The PM wanted Davor Božinović, currently minister of interior, but this is not possible since he would be difficult to replace. EURACTIV.hr reports that the most likely candidate is Andrea Metelko-Zgombić, state secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She is an experienced diplomat but is not a member of the governing party and this will be a problem for Plenković as HDZ’s right-wing faction would like to have a party official in that post.

Sources suggest that the PM may even reshuffle the government, also in light of a scandal involving Minister of Public Administration Lovro Kuščević, who has been accused of not declaring some of his property.

Pejčinović-Burić’s election was, however, overshadowed by the walkout of several delegations following the ratification of Russia’s return to the assembly. Moscow had been suspended following the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.

Moscow’s return marks the first relaxation of the international sanctions that were imposed on Moscow for seizing Crimea.

Read more: Council of Europe elects new chief amid row over Russia

(Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr/ Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)

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BERLIN

Merkel says Macron should be respected. German Chancellor Angela Merkel still backs the ‘Spitzenkandidat’ system but acknowledged that it would be difficult as the European Parliament was so fragmented.

“Not everyone in the European Council is in favour of the Spitzenkandidat process and since we value the Franco-German relationship greatly we have to accept that the French president has a different view on it from me,” she told Bundestag yesterday. “I hope we can come to a solution that doesn’t reject the Spitzenkandidat process but also lets Europe be effective. For that, everyone has to move a bit,” she said.

Merkel held talks later in the evening in Berlin with Manfred Weber, EPP chief Joseph Daul and the head of her own Christian Democrats, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, ahead of the special summit Sunday in Brussels. (Claire Stam, EURACTIV.de)

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PARIS

G20 must mention Paris climate deal. Two days before the G20 meeting in Japan, French President Emmanuel Macron warned that he would not accept a final conclusion that does not mention the 2015 Paris agreement. This is a warning toward US President Donald Trump, who announced in June 2017 that he would remove his country from the Paris agreement. Since then, Trump has refused to sign any international declaration mentioning it.

Google vs GDPR… again. The French consumer organisation UFC-Que Choisir has launched a group action against Google for breaching the rules of EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The organisation requires compensation of up to €1,000 for each Android user, arguing that Google exploits Internet users’ personal data in an “insidious” way via the Android system. UFC-Que Choisir revealed that 200 Android users have joined the plea. (EURACTIV.fr)

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MADRID

Government deadlock? Two months after the national elections, in which the socialists obtained 123 of the 350 seats in the Parliament, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has not managed to reach a majority (176 seats) to form a government. Fresh elections cannot be ruled out if no agreement is reached soon, experts have warned.

Sánchez has been negotiating with the leader of the leftist Unidas Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, and other smaller and regional parties, seeking to forge a “cooperation” government. But these have not been successful yet, largely due to Iglesias’s demands to have “ministers” in the future government, while Sánchez wants Podemos officials to take over non-governmental but key public bodies.

A meeting between Sanchez and Iglesias reached deadlock on Tuesday, while Iglesias hinted for the first time that his party might not give Sanchez a confidence vote.

“I think it would be good for the country (to have) a government at its full capacity as quickly as possible,” Spanish parliament chief Meritxell Batet said in a statement. Read more (EURACTIV’s partner EFE)

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ROME

Defying Salvini. The captain of Sea-Watch rescue ship Carola Rackete decided to enter Italian waters, despite the vessel not being allowed to disembark. The boat carries 42 shipwrecked migrants on board and has spent the last 14 days floating outside Italian waters. “I know what I’m risking, but the 42 survivors I have on board are exhausted. I’m taking them to safety,” the captain said on Twitter. (Gerardo Fortuna, EURACTIV.com)

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ATHENS / NICOSIA

EURACTIV’s partner Athens-Macedonian News Agency reported that Greek National Defence Minister Evangelos Apostolakis met with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on the sidelines of the NATO ministers’ meetings in Brussels on Wednesday. “I expressed Greece’s disagreement over their movements in the Aegean and in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus. I reiterated that we seek peace and security, but in no way will we back down from defending our sovereign rights,” Apostolakis said.

Meanwhile, Nicosia sent a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, accusing Turkey of constant violations of international law.

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WARSAW

Just Energy Transition Fund. Poland unveiled its programme for the 2030 EU industrial policy. It calls for the creation of a Just Energy Transition Fund, which would help EU member states achieve climate neutrality by 2050, and focus on helping coal-dependent regions in their transition. Last week, Poland vetoed a common EU declaration where the EU was supposed to commit to climate neutrality by 2050. (Łukasz Gadzała, EURACTIV.pl)

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BRATISLAVA

More votes, yet still without a mandate. The Constitutional Court dismissed the complaint of Christian-democrat KDH party on the results of the EU elections. KDH received 719 more votes than the liberal and eurosceptic Freedom and Solidarity party (SaS, ECR), but only elected one MEP, while SaS two.

This is due to the formulation in the electoral law, which Slovak lawmakers quickly amended earlier this year as a result of the delay to Brexit. The one extra “Brexit mandate”, which will only be given to a Slovak representative after the UK leaves the EU, ended up in the hands of the party with the “lowest residue after division”.

However, the Court upheld the law and KDH´s Miriam Lexmann, former Director of the EU Office of the International Republican Institute, will only enter the European Parliament after Brexit, despite receiving more votes than SaS´s MEP. (Lucia Yar, EURACTIV.sk)

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PRAGUE

Government survived. Billionaire Czech PM Andrej Babiš and his government survived yesterday’s (26 June) no confidence vote. His ANO (ALDE) party supported Babiš but also his coalition partners social democrats (S&D). Opposition forces called for the vote following allegations of conflicts of interest and accusations of misusing EU subsidies. It is a second non-confidence vote for the current government and it is expected that the opposition parties will not succeed. Read more (Aneta Zachová, EURACTIV.cz)

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BUCHAREST

New ombudsman. The Romanian parliament has elected Renate Weber as the country’s Ombudsman. Weber resigned on Monday from ALDE, the party that proposed her for the position. Weber had been an MEP since 2007, when Romania joined the EU, but in the last EU elections, her party did not pass the necessary threshold. (EURACTIV.ro)

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SOFIA

Limiting the import of polluting cars. The Bulgarian government has proposed the introduction of low emission zones in the capital Sofia and in the second-largest city, Plovdiv. Other proposals in the National Program for Control of Air Pollution in Bulgaria for 2020-2030 concern the restriction of imports of cars that don’t meet certain environmental criteria. However, in order to do that, Bulgaria must seek permission from the European Commission. (Dnevnik.bg)

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BELGRADE

Serbia opens another acquis chapter. Serbia will open another acquis chapter in its EU accession negotiations tomorrow in Brussels. This time it will be Chapter 9, which concerns financial services. Sixteen acquis chapters have been opened so far, and two had been temporarily closed. PM Ana Brnabić said the country was close to closing at least three more chapters. (beta.rs, EURACTIV.rs)

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SARAJEVO

€20 million for SME Small and medium sized enterprises in BiH will benefit from a programme from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the EU. They will be granted access to loans, incentive grants and technical assistance to improve their prospects on international markets. They will also raise the quality of their products and services through the introduction of EU norms in areas such as environmental protection, safety and quality standards. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)

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[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, and Benjamin Fox]

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