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 reading The Capitals today, take a look at our EURACTIV network stories about the upcoming #EU2019 elections.
You can also see extensive analyses of all 28 EU member states by clicking here.
Exit poll shock. Preliminary results from the Netherlands estimate the centre-left Labour Party (PvdA) coming out on top with five seats (a two-seat increase on 2014), as the far-right looks set to under-deliver on pre-election hype.
In an exit poll released on Thursday night, PM Mark Rutte’s party (ALDE) is predicted to snag four seats, while Thierry Baudet’s FvD (ECR) is on track for three. Geert Wilders’ PVV (ENF) could collapse to just one seat. Rutte congratulated the PvdA’s lead candidate, Frans Timmermans, and Baudet admitted that he didn’t expect the Commission president hopeful to inspire such support.
The Dutch Greens, also estimated to take three seats, welcomed the early results; Timmermans’ rival for the Commission presidency, compatriot Bas Eickhout, said it was a “great result for Green and progressive Europe in the Netherlands”.
The preliminary result did not go unacknowledged in Brussels: EU tax Commissioner Pierre Moscovici called it a “striking and well-deserved victory”, as well as an “encouraging signal” to other socialist forces across Europe. Similarly, S&D chief Udo Bullmann said it was a breakthrough for EU social democrats and Timmermans.
Turnout has already been cited as a contributing factor to the PvdA’s success, as the exit poll also estimated that it was around 40%: a three-decade high.
The EU socialists have said they want to form a coalition in the next EU House together with the progressive forces, meaning the leftists and the greens. Timmermans recently called for a progressive coalition “from Tsipras, all the way to Macron.”
In an interview with EURACTIV.com in September 2018, Syriza MEP and EU Parliament Vice-president Dimitris Papadimoulis said only such an alliance would be able to block the “EPP right wing-far right entente”.
“I don’t think the EPP will get a majority with the far-right either. So the EPP needs to decide whether they want to start working with the left. That’s really the key decision that the EPP needs to make. And for now, they are totally divided,” MEP Eickhout told EURACTIV yesterday. (Sam Morgan, EURACTIV.com, Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos)
EU citizens denied UK vote. Hundreds of EU citizens based in the UK have voiced their frustration after they were turned away from ballot boxes and denied the opportunity to vote in the EU elections.
The UK’s Electoral Commission said that the “very short notice” from the government on the UK’s participation in the elections had resulted in administrative delays that led to issues in registering EU citizens in the country. The campaign group The3Million said on Thursday that it had been dealing with ‘hundreds’ of people who had issued complaints, but the problem may have affected thousands.
“The scale of this apparent problem needs to be investigated,” ALDE’s chief Guy Verhofstadt tweeted. (Samuel Stolton, EURACTIV.com)
Election advertising. The extreme-right Vlaams Belang party has the highest number of Facebook and Instagram fans, something that allowed them to flood the Internet with fake news and radical right-wing propaganda, a new Avaaz report has found. Targeting mostly the younger generation, the party has spent around €400,000 on digital advertising. (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)
Leading politicians call for a ‘European Islam’. Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn and premier of northern state Schleswig-Holstein Daniel Günther have called for a more progressive form of Islam in order to align the religion with the European way of life. (Claire Stam, EURACTIV.de)
Last minute green-washing.Three days before the EU elections, Macron’s government has decided to accelerate its ecological policy. The recently established “ecological defence council” put forward a series of measures of high symbolic value, such as the end of the “Montagne d’or”, a gold mining project in the middle of the virgin forest in French Guyana.
Bittersweet news for French sugar. German sugar group Sudzucker, which bought French Saint Louis Sucre in 2001, announced on Thursday that it would not sell its business to French farmers. The beetroot association CGB hoped to keep 130 jobs by buying the two sugar refineries in Calvados and Somme. “France produces twice the sugar it needs, the competition is strong”, Sudzucker said, adding that it wanted to cut production. (EURACTIV.fr)
Sanchez to govern alone? Spain’s PM Pedro Sánchez plans to govern alone but does not rule out a coalition pact with left-wing Unidas Podemos (UP), EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported on Thursday.
Sánchez prefers to wait for the outcome of the EU elections, which will take place together with local and regional elections. Formal negotiations with Unidas Podemos are due next week on the basis of a “soft coalition” proposal, according to which the leftist party could get some key ministries. (EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)
Less ‘bullshit’. “Let’s be clear, the government will continue, on one condition though: more work and less bullshit,” deputy PM and Five Star Movement’s leader Luigi Di Maio posted on Facebook on his account.
In a radio interview, his Lega counterpart Matteo Salvini proposed to decriminalise abuses of office, because punishing public officers for wrongdoing makes their work harder. (Gerardo Fortuna, EURACTIV.com)
No euro? Adam Glapiński, chief of the National Bank of Poland, said Poland would never enter the Eurozone or the ERM II mechanism as long as he is in office. He has been in office since mid-2016 and his term ends in 2022. Therefore, even if the government changes, he will still have the power to block the Eurozone membership. (EURACTIV.pl)
EU money diverted from research to roads construction. The Slovak government and the European Commission have approved the transfer of €70 million EU funds from research to road construction.
The ministry of education said this would not affect academia and researchers since the money was originally allocated for the research activities of SMEs, which showed no particular interest in applying for them. (Zuzana Gabrižová, EURACTIV.sk)
Strache scandal will open eyes. Czech EU Commissioner for Justice Vera Jourová hopes that the scandal implicating former Austrian Deputy Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache will negatively influence the support toward nationalist parties in the upcoming EU elections. “I hope this will open the eyes to people,” she told German newspaper Handelsblatt.
Disinformation not widespread. The number of disinformation cases on Czech websites regarding the EU elections has not substantially increased despite projections, the Prague Security Studies Institute’s survey has found. (Ondřej Plevák, EURACTIV.cz)
What polls say.The latest polls suggest that the centre-right opposition Homeland Union (EPP) will get 27% of the vote, followed by ruling Peasantries and Green Union (Greens/EFA) with 25% and Lithuanian social democrats (S&D) with 13%. The liberal Labour party (ALDE) gets 8%, the Justice and Order (EFDD) 7% and the Lithuanian Liberals (ALDE) 6%. (Angele Kedaitiene, EUnewslithuania.com)
UDMR breaks ties with the government. The party of the Hungarian minority in Romania (UDMR/EPP) has said it won’t support any government initiatives and even considers its protocol with the ruling coalition frozen. UDMR has no members in the PSD-ALDE government but it backed the laws pushed forward by the ruling coalition in the parliament, including controversial changes to justice and criminal laws.
Cretu: Pro Romania’s place is in S&D. In an interview with HotNews.ro, EU Commissioner Corina Cretu said she hadn’t heard anything about any negotiations with the ECR group and pointed out that Pro Romania belongs to the S&D.
Pro Romania, a party founded by former Romanian PM Victor Ponta after he left socialist PSD, is projected to get 4 seats in the next EU Parliament, while PSD 9. But Pro Romania does not want to become a member of the S&D group, as long as PSD is still there. (EURACTIV.ro)
ATHENS / NICOSIA
Crucial US Act. US senators from both Democratic and Republican parties have introduced much-awaited legislation which will strengthen US ties with Israel, Greece, and Cyprus. The 2019 bipartisan Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act will expand US involvement in regional energy issues and improve defence cooperation with the nations of the region. It also makes clear that the US Congress will not turn a blind eye to Turkey’s regional aggression or pursuit of policies, which threaten the interests of the United States and its partners. (Theodore Karaoulanis, EURACTIV.gr)
EU elections poll. PM Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party gets 31.1% of the vote while the main opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party 26.6%, according to a poll of Alpha Research agency.
BSP was narrowly leading previous polls. The liberal Movement for Rights and Freedoms (13.9%) comes third, followed by the nationalist VMRO party (6%), the populist ‘Volya’ (‘Will’) with 4.9% and the Democratic Bulgaria party (4.2%). (EURACTIV’s partner Dnevnik)
More people going to vote. According to data, 8,052 citizens voted in pre-elections for the EU ballots. In 2014, on the first day less than five thousand people voted. Slovenia has around 2 million inhabitants. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)
Report on Belgrade-Priština dialogue. Serbia’s government’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija will on May 23 submit a report to MPs on the Belgrade – Priština dialogue under EU auspices, from 2013 to 2019. The report will be submitted for the purposes of a May 27 parliament session, at which Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić will also address MPs. (Beta-EURACTIV.rs)
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos and Samuel Stolton]