Eastern Europe awakes to Russian covert action threat

Poland fully supported Czech Republic's decision to expel Russian diplomats, the country’s foreign ministry has said. [Shutterstock/trambler58]

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 today’s edition of the Capitals, feel free to have a look at an interview with Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová on a wide range of issues currently impacting the European media landscape.

Also read the story “EU foreign ministers to meet on Navalny health as tensions with Russia soar“.


The European news you deserve to read. Welcome to The Capitals by EURACTIV.


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In today’s news from the Capitals:

PRAGUE | WARSAW | SOFIA

It took seven years to expose that Russia was behind the explosion of an ammunition deposit in 2014 that killed two people in the Czech Republic, and for Bulgaria to realise that the attempted Novichok poisoning of an arms trader was linked to this covert action. Read more.


EU PRESIDENCY

Portugal: Europe needs ‘comprehensive, balanced view’ of Asia. The European Union must adopt a “comprehensive and balanced view” on Asia, Portugal’s minister of foreign affairs has told a conference, stressing the “enormous challenges” posed by the United States-China-Russia triangulation. More


WESTERN EUROPE

BERLIN

German Greens to announce candidate for chancellor. Germany’s Green party is due to announce its candidate to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor after federal elections in September. More.

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PARIS

Macron ready to sanction Russia in case of ‘unacceptable behaviour’. “I think after an unacceptable behaviour, indeed, we have to sanction,” French President Emmanuel Macron told US broadcasting channel CBS in an interview on Sunday when asked about the possibility of sanctioning Moscow in the event of an invasion at a time when Russian troops are increasingly present on the Ukrainian border.

In the interview, the French head of state also expressed his wish to “define clear red lines with Russia”. Although he said sanctions alone “are not enough” and that “constructive dialogue” was preferable, sanctions were still “the only way to be credible”. “We need a frank and open dialogue with Russia,” Macron added. (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.fr)

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LUXEMBOURG

Luxembourg starts vaccinating 30-54 age group. A government council meeting on Friday decided that starting this week the AstraZeneca vaccine will be administered to those aged 30-54 who request it. According to Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, “we have vaccines, we must use them”.

“I will sign up to show that the vaccine brings more than risk and fear,” said the 48-year-old leader. “Although the situation is complex, I believe that in the race against the pandemic it would be irresponsible to leave vaccines in the fridge.” (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.fr)


UK AND IRELAND

LONDON 

UK Football teams sign up to controversial European Super League. Six English football clubs are among the 12 major European teams who signed up to a controversial breakaway European Super League on Sunday. Read more.

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DUBLIN | LONDON

Sinn Fein leader apologises for 1979 IRA killing of Lord Mountbatten. Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said she was “sorry” the IRA killed Lord Mountbatten in 1979, a day after the funeral of Lord Mountbatten’s nephew, Prince Phillip. Read more.


NORDICS AND BALTICS

COPENHAGEN | NUUK

Greenland gets left-wing government. After winning the elections with 37% of the vote and gaining 12 seats in the 31-seat parliament, the Greenland’s leftist IA party announced on Friday that it has formed a government with pro-independence party Naleraq. Read more.

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HELSINKI

Finland’s share of renewables takes over that of fossil fuels. Production of renewable energy in Finland has reached 40% of the total energy consumption and is now higher than the share of fossil fuels, including peat, which fell to 37%, statistics from 2020 published by Statistics Finland show. Read more.


EUROPE’S SOUTH

MADRID

Spain expects to have its own COVID-19 vaccine ready this year. Spain expects to launch a COVID-19 vaccine before the end of the year, according to Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who described Spanish pharmaceutical firm Hipra’s vaccine candidate as one of Europe’s most promising to end the pandemic, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.

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ROME

Italy to soon ease COVID-19 measures. Several COVID-19 restrictions currently in force in the country will be eased as of 26 April, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi announced in a press conference on Friday. Read more.

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ATHENS 

Greece, Israel sign a historic $1.65 billion defense agreement. Greece and Israel signed a $1.65 billion defence agreement in which Israel’s Elbit Systems Ltd. will operate a training centre for the Greek air force in a bid to tighten bilateral political and economic relations and includes the supply of 10 new M-346 training aircrafts produced by Italian company Leonardo, as well as the maintenance of the Greek air force’s training fleet for a period of 22 years. Read more.


VISEGRAD

BRATISLAVA

State institution in Slovakia target of ransomware attacks. The National Security Authority (NBÚ) registered a series of significant ransomware attacks on targets in Slovakia on Friday, that saw hackers request hundreds of thousands of euros for reopening the systems and restoring their full functionality. Read more.


NEWS FROM THE BALKANS

TIRANA | SKOPJE

North Macedonian PM Zaev urges Albanians to vote for Edi Rama. North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev called on Macedonians who hold an Albanian passport to vote for his counterpart’s Edi Rama’s Socialist Party in the elections in Albania to be held on 25 April. Read more.

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SOFIA

Bulgarian PM refuses to present recovery plan in parliament. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov – whose government’s resignation was confirmed in a vote by parliament on Friday after his GERB party lost the elections on 4 April – is refusing to present the country’s recovery plan before lawmakers in parliament although he has been called to appear before them on Wednesday.  Read more.

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BUCHAREST

Rating agency sees Romania’s fiscal outlook improve. Rating agency Standard & Poor’s has upgraded Romania’s outlook to stable, from negative, due to lower fiscal risk, while affirming the country’s rating at BBB-/A-3. The agency also perceives the government’s fiscal consolidation agenda as credible. 

Risks stemming from Romania’s imbalances are mitigated by the prospect of the deployment of sizeable EU funds, the government’s stated reform ambitions, and a return to economic growth, the rating agency added. (Bogdan Neagu | EURACTIV.ro)

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ZAGREB

Tourism ministry launches ‘Croatian islands – COVID-free zones’ campaign. Croatia’s tourism ministry has launched the “Croatian islands – COVID-free zones” campaign in order to give tourists information when visiting the islands, which have lower COVID-19 case numbers than seen on the mainland. Read more.

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LJUBLJANA 

Slovenia’s COVID-19 situation continues to improve. Of a total of 2,620 PCR coronavirus tests performed in Slovenia on Saturday, 478, or 18.2%, came back with a positive result figures from the National Institute of Public Health showed. Read more.

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BELGRADE 

Vučić says he never saw alleged non-paper on redrawing Western Balkan borders. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has said he has never seen the alleged non-paper on redrawing borders in the Western Balkans and that Serbia has nothing to do with it. Read more.

In other news, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the possibility of changing the former Yugoslavia’s borders. Read more.

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SARAJEVO 

Republika Srpska entity borrowing €350 million at London Stock Exchange to cover deficit. Republika Srpska (RS), one of two BiH entities, is borrowing €350 million at the London Stock Exchange to cover its budget deficit, but critics say the process is not transparent and may be too expensive. Read more.

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PODGORICA 

Montenegrin government plans to sign agreement with Serbian Orthodox Church. The Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), the biggest opposition party, called on Montenegrin Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić to announce the details of the agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) as soon as possible and to start a public debate on what they said was a very important issue. More

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[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Paula Kenny, Zoran Radosavljevic, Josie Le Blond]

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