Flemish nationalists throw temporary lifeline to struggling EU conservatives

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BRUSSELS

N-VA remains in ECR. The Flemish nationalist N-VA party will continue to be part of the conservative European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group in the European Parliament for the next five years, the party leadership decided late Tuesday evening, according to an N-VA spokesperson.

“ECR is a very diverse group that explicitly guarantees its members the greatest possible freedom: freedom of mood and communication. As a result, we as the N-VA can continue to follow our own course and bring our own political positions,” a press release stated.

In the previous term, N-VA had seven delegates sitting in the hemicycle, which after the EU elections shrunk to three: Geert Bourgeois, Assita Kanko and Johan Van Overtveldt. The party lost ground following the extreme-right Vlaams Belang’s enormous victory in Belgium’s triple election. Read more

It was, however, unclear whether they would continue their affiliation with the ECR. The grouping is still struggling to remain relevant as it fell to 63 MEPs from 74 due to Brexit and the surge of the extreme-right. If the Tories leave in October, the Polish ruling party PiS would become the largest delegation.

Spanish far-right party Vox announced last Thursday that it wanted to join the group, as did Forum for Democracy, the party of the Dutch politician Thierry Baudet, which pushes for a Dutch exit from the EU. (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)

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THE HAGUE

What happens in the shadows. The Netherlands, along with Estonia, Ireland, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Sweden have called for more transparency in the EU. In a non-paper, the member states call for the dates of trilateral meetings to be published well in advance and for political discussions to be better documented. They urge the Council to include the quest for more transparency in the strategic agenda, guidelines for the next five years due to be adopted at this week’s summit. Behind closed doors of course. (Sam Morgan, EURACTIV.com)

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LONDON

Johnson lives to fight another day. In a debate that had been billed as a potential banana skin for Prime Minister-favourite Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary came through Tuesday evening’s televised event relatively unscathed. However, Johnson failed to capitalise on the opportunity, with BBC journalist Andrew Neil saying that he didn’t look like a ‘front runner.’

Meanwhile, resurgent candidate Rory Stewart hit out repeatedly at his fellow Tory MPs for refusing to rule out no-deal Brexit scenario, which Stewart has himself said that he would take off the table. (Samuel Stolton, EURACTIV.com)

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BERLIN

French-German tension.“An agreement between France and Germany [on the nomination of the next EU Commission president] is crucial in order to get out of the deadlock we have reached […] but we are not that far,” a diplomat told EURACTIV.de, on the condition of anonymity. The same diplomat said the Berlin-Paris relationship had recently deteriorated.

Supporting Ukraine. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has backed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s calls for maintaining sanctions against Russia. Zelenskiy, an actor who obtained the Ukrainian presidency last April, has given EU leaders fresh hope to end the conflict in Europe’s eastern neighbourhood. (Claire Stam, EURACTIV.de)

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PARIS

 Facebook’s cryptocurrency. Facebook’s project to launch its own cryptocurrency, Libra, has faced opposition in Europe, especially in France, where the company has been accused of producing fake news and paying no tax.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire reacted strongly against the digital currency Libra. “It is out of question that Libra will become a sovereign currency […] it can’t and it must not happen,” the minister told Europe 1 radio. He even called on other banking authorities to look through the issue when they meet next July. (Aline Robert, EURACTIV.fr)

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MADRID

Over 100,000 asylum applications pending. Spain has more than 100,000 asylum applications pending judicial resolution, the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (CEAR) has said.

During the presentation of its annual report, CEAR asked the Spanish socialist government to revive “the spirit of Aquarius”, referring to the humanitarian ship that Sanchez allowed to reach the country’s ports in June last year, after being rejected by the authorities of Malta and Italy. (EURACTIV’s partner EFE).

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ROME

Mini treasury bonds. Lega’s leader Matteo Salvini has attacked Economy Minister Giovanni Tria, saying he must stick to the government programme and carry out promised measures such as tax cuts and the mini-BOT plan.

The mini-BOT would allow the government to pay Italy’s debt with suppliers using “mini” treasury bonds and not euros. Issuing mini-BOT is seen as the first step for exiting the Eurozone, as they could circulate as a parallel currency. Speaking at a conference in London, Tria said the mini-BOT were “illegal and unnecessary.” (Gerardo Fortuna, EURACTIV.com)

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ATHENS / NICOSIA

Turkey’s EU talks come to an end. The EU has expressed “serious concerns over Turkey’s current illegal drilling activities in the EastMed and deplores that Turkey has not yet responded to the EU’s repeated calls to cease such activities”. The Council has called on the Commission to push forward options for appropriate measures without delay and added that “Turkey’s accession negotiations have therefore effectively come to a standstill.”

During the weekend, the US State Department issued a statement against Ankara while the US Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey Pyatt, said the US and the EU shared interest “in avoiding any further provocative actions by Turkey”.

Despite the EU-US pressure, Turkey will launch a second drilling vessel on Thursday (20 June) that will launch natural gas exploration near Cyprus at the beginning of July, Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez was quoted as saying on Tuesday. (EURACTIV.gr)

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WARSAW

Fewer Ukrainians in Poland? Looking for better wages, almost half of Ukrainians currently working and living in Poland plan to leave, mainly for Germany and the Czech Republic. This could result in difficulties for the Polish industry and construction sector as well as the economy as a whole, considering that it has absorbed over 1.2 million Ukrainians. (Łukasz Gadzała, EURACTIV.pl)

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BRATISLAVA

Employers scold lawmakers. Employers’ associations in Slovakia have urged members of the parliament, especially those from the governing parties, not to propose fundamental legislative changes.

Contrary to government legislative proposals, draft laws proposed by MPs do not have to go through a rigorous process of impact assessment and consultations with other ministries and relevant stakeholders. Several times in the past, profound changes impacting the business environment were adopted with insufficient debate and in an unpredictable way, the private sector said. (Zuzana Gabrižová, EURACTIV.sk)

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PRAGUE

Juncker and Babiš talks. According to information obtained by iROZHLAS.cz, Czech PM Andrej Babiš is due to meet Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday (20 June) to discuss the Commission’s audit reports on Babiš’s alleged conflict of interests.

More renewables, please. The European Commission have assessed the Czech energy and climate plan for 2030. According to the executive, the Czech republic should raise its share of renewables in energy consumption to 23% by 2030 while the original Czech plan proposed only 20.8 %. (Aneta Zachová, EURACTIV.cz)

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BUCHAREST

Government survives no-confidence vote. The Romanian socialist government survived a no-confidence vote on Tuesday, as just 200 of the 465 MPs voted in favour of the motion. The victory boosts PM Viorica Dancila’s chances of being elected as the new chief of PSD party after former president Liviu Dragnea was jailed last month on corruption charges. (EURACTIV.ro)

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SOFIA

A modest innovator. Bulgaria is a modest innovator according to the European Commission’s 2019 European Innovation Scoreboard. Employment impacts and intellectual assets are its strongest innovation dimensions while Finance and Support, Attractive research systems and Innovators are its weakest. (Dnevnik.bg)

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ZAGREB

He said he’d be back.  Former Croatian PM and SPD (EU socialists) president Zoran Milanović has announced that he will run in the presidential elections at the end of the year. According to polls, current Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović (former HDZ – EPP) will get 34.7% of the votes, while Milanović 18.5%. In the second round, Grabar-Kitarović will win with 53.9%. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)

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LJUBLJANA

S&P raised country credit rating. The rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S & P) raised Slovenia’s credit rating with A +, with positive outlook, and AA, with stable prospects, the Slovenian finance ministry has announced. (Željko Trkanjec, Euractiv.hr)

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BELGRADE

Results of high school entrance test leaked. A national mathematics test part of the final exam for students of the eighth, final grade of elementary school has been postponed after the test results were leaked onto social networks. Minister of Education Mladen Šarčević said, “Someone took photos and sent them to people”. Some opposition parties have urged Šarčević to resign. (beta.rsEURACTIV.rs)

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SARAJEVO

US against entity reserve police in BiH. US State Department high-ranking diplomat Matthew Palmer has openly opposed the establishment of reserve police units of two BiH entities, Republika Srpska and the Federation of BiH. He said these reserve police forces will not solve the problem of migrants, because the migration issue is transnational and can not be solved by unilateral efforts. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)

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[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Samuel Stolton]

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