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In today’s news from the Capitals:
The Czech Republic will take Poland to the European Court of Justice for illegal mining activities in the Túrow coal mine, Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček (S&D) has confirmed. According to the European Environmental Bureau, it will be the first legal case in EU history where one member state sues another for environmental reasons. EURACTIV’s Aneta Zachová reports from Prague.
EU Commission warns of disorderly recovery from 2020 crisis. Not all EU countries will recover from the economic losses of 2020 at the same pace, the European Commission said on Monday (22 February), calling for a “strong joint response” from all 27 EU member states. More.
German lawmakers back expanding eligibility of AstraZeneca vaccine. Politicians from across the political spectrum in Germany want to expand the eligibility for the AstraZeneca vaccine – which was only approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for people under 65 – at a time when scepticism towards the jab is widespread and a large portion of the government order remains unused. Read more.
Predictions point towards four Belgian easing models. There is a possibility to relax some COVID-19 measures in March, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced in a press conference where, together with health experts, four different relaxation models were presented. Read more.
Nice goes into ‘partial’ lockdown. Authorities in the south-east region of Alpes-Maritimes announced a “partial” lockdown on weekends for the urban area of Nice, meaning residents will be forbidden to travel from Friday at 6 pm to Monday at 6 am, unless there is a valid reason to travel, such as shopping or a doctor’s appointment. Shops and shopping malls larger than 5,000 square metres will also have to close.
With Nice being one of the cities most affected by the new wave with an incidence rate of 735 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi defended the new measure on Twitter, saying there is a “need to set up a lockdown, at least on weekends”, or even to “move to a generalised lockdown (…) in the whole region if the situation were to worsen further.” (Mathieu Pollet | EURACTIV.fr)
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Finland’s municipal elections could be postponed as infections surge. Seeing the surge in coronavirus infections, politicians and civil servants will have to quickly decide whether to go ahead with April’s municipal elections or postpone them till autumn. Read more.
Estonian tech firm says wearable air purifier can kill virus with UV light. Estonian tech company Respiray on Monday launched a wearable air purifier it says can kill more than 99% of viruses and bacteria in the air inhaled by the wearer using ultraviolet light. See the full story on Reuters.
A cautious exit from lockdown No three. The UK will gradually ease the lockdown restrictions over the next three months under a timetable set out by prime minister Boris Johnson on Monday (22 February).
Schools will reopen on 8 March with outdoor sport resuming and groups of up to six people allowed to meet. However, non essential shops will not reopen until mid April, while overseas travel will be restricted to work and other essential reasons until mid May. Legal limits on social contact will be removed on 21 June, the final step of easing restrictions. The plan suggests that Johnson would rather underpromise and overdeliver this time, having previously been quick to unwind restrictions following previous lockdowns. (Benjamin Fox | EURACTIV.com)
UK Premier League clubs ranked according to environmental commitment. Tottenham Hotspur Football Club came first in this year’s EPL Sustainability Table, published by the UN-backed Sport Positive Summit, which ranks the UK Premier League’s most environmentally committed football clubs. More
Arts world turns its back on Greek culture minister. A number of associations representing Greek arts have issued strong statements against culture minister Lina Mendoni following her refusal to resign following a scandal of alleged rapes and paedophilia in theatre. More
Italian ambassador killed in Congo. Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Luca Attanasio, a soldier, and a driver were killed Monday morning in an attack on a UN convoy carrying a delegation to Rutshuru to visit a UN-run school feeding programme along the road that connects Goma and Bukavu, in eastern DRC. Read more.
Spanish Central Bank proposes robust EU deposit guarantee fund. Spain’s central bank known as the Banco de España considers that the complex and volatile economic environment in Europe requires a massive EU response through a “fully mutualised European deposit guarantee fund”. Read the full story.
Slovak minister proposes to reopen churches as country needs ‘COVID-miracle’. As Slovakia recorded the highest COVID-19-related deaths and hospitalisations per capita last weekend and its ongoing lockdown and nationwide antigen testing experiments are not bearing fruit, Social and Family Minister Milan Krajniak is proposing to re-open the country’s churches, referring to “a miracle” that occurred in the Slovak city of Trnava during the 1710 plague epidemic. Read more.
EU needs to look into ‘strategic’ cooperation with Russia, says Hungarian FM. Budapest’s position is that relations between the EU and Moscow have to be looked at “strategically,” which “cannot be reduced to sanctions, nor the Navalny case,” said Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó meeting his counterparts in Brussels on Monday. Read more.
Pro-fascist director of Poland’s Remembrance Institute resigns after 13 days. Tomasz Greniuch resigned from the position as director of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) in Wrocław after 13 days since taking office. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Croatia’s tourism, hospitality sectors hardest hit as January employment drops. Employment dropped by 0.8% in January compared to December 2020 and by 0.3% compared to January of the previous year, and registered unemployment rate increased by 0.3 percentage points on the month to 9.8%, according to data released by the national statistical office (DZS). Read more.
Bulgarian restaurants call for a reduction of fees. Restaurant owners in Bulgaria insist that local authorities in the country reduce several fees they have to pay in order to help them emerge from the crisis. Read more.
Government adopts again the 2021 budget. Romania’s government adopted the final form of the 2021 budget draft law on Monday evening, a few days after it was sent to the Parliament for debates. The budget is unchanged but its re-approval is due to procedural reasons, after the draft law got the OK from the Legislative council.
The leaders of the Parliament will probably establish a calendar for the debates on Tuesday, but it is now clear that the budget for the current year will only be adopted in March. (Bogdan Neagu | EURACTIV.ro)
Dutch MEP invites Janša to Brussels to discuss Slovenia’s media landscape. Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld (RE) has invited Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša to Brussels to take part in a discussion on the media in Slovenia that is expected to take place in March, public broadcaster TV Slovenija reported on Monday.
According to the Dutch MEP, the situation in Slovenia is ripe for the European Parliament to start monitoring the situation with regard to respect for the principles of democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental rights. The heads of the junior coalition partners New Slovenia (NSi) and Modern Centre Party (SMC) have proposed to Janša that the government invite an EU mission to investigate the state of press freedom in Slovenia. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Officials sign contract on funding part of Trans-Balkan electricity corridor. Serbia’s goal is to become an energy transit corridor like it already is for transportation, said Energy Minister Zorana Mihajlović on Monday at the signing of a funding agreement for the construction of a section of the Trans-Balkan Power Corridor. Read more.
Council of Europe urges BiH to abandon notion of constituent peoples. “It is time for BiH to move to a different modern system in which there is no discrimination and which is not based on the constituent peoples,” said the Council of Europe’s Director of Human Rights, Christophe Poirel after a five-day virtual visit, klix.ba reported. Poirel also said that BiH must understand that it is in its interest to implement the Sejdić-Finci verdict.
“I think the main obstacle is related to the existing constitutional framework. It was designed after the war when many people died. It was designed with the constituent peoples, but the war ended a long time ago and that is why BiH needs to move to a different, more modern system,” said Poirel. For now, only Željko Komšić, a Croat member of the BiH Presidency, has reacted to Poirel’s statement, saying he agrees. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
40 children from Albania in Syrian refugee camps. At least 130 children from Western Balkan countries, including 40 from Albania, are still staying in refugee camps in Syria, which were set up following the fall of the Islamic State (IS), the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network said on Monday. Read more.
Germany, France urge swift formation of Kosovo government. “Germany and France look forward to supporting an ambitious reform agenda, including strengthening the rule of law, and the fight against corruption and organised crime. Together with the EU Office in Kosovo, we will continue to support Kosovo in managing the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the joint statement of German and French embassies in Pristina published on Twitter and reported by GazetaExpress, urging for swift formation of the new government and election of the president.
“Germany and France stand ready to support the continuation of the EU-facilitated Dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia towards the European integration of both countries,” according to the statement posted by German Ambassador Jorn Rohde. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox]