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The European news you deserve to read. Welcome to The Capitals by EURACTIV.
In today’s news from the Capitals:
PARIS | BUCHAREST
France’s plan to possibly deploy troops on NATO’s Eastern flank as fears rise of a Russian attack on Ukraine can be seen as a bid to clarify the ‘misunderstandings’ created by French President Emmanuel Macron, who recently called for the EU to forge its own security pact with Russia, experts say. Read more.
EU should advance foreign intelligence-gathering capacity, EU lawmaker says. The EU should develop its own foreign intelligence services to provide itself with credible information about possible foreign threats, according to an upcoming European Parliament proposal, previewed to EURACTIV. Read more.
German Greens shrug off embezzlement allegations. The leadership of Germany’s Green party, including Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck and Foreign Minister Baerbock, appears to be unfazed by an investigation over unauthorised COVID bonuses launched by Berlin prosecutors. Read more.
Belgium’s Consultative Committee meets on new COVID-19 tool. Belgium’s Consultative Committee is set to meet later on Friday to discuss the long-awaited coronavirus barometer, a tool that will be used to determine which measures will apply in the culture, hospitality and sports sectors, depending on the epidemiological situation.
So far, there has been no agreement on thresholds that would trigger the different green, orange or red phases, which is expected to be part of the discussion today.
Although no new big measures are expected to be announced, some small sector-specific relaxations could be possible. (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)
Austrian parliament passes compulsory vaccination law. The Austrian parliament voted on Thursday evening to make vaccinations mandatory by February. The government also announced a lottery-based “incentive and reward package” to boost the acceptance of the new law. Read more.
UK AND IRELAND
Irish government plans public inquiry into handling of pandemic. Dublin will establish an inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Thursday. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Estonian military commander predicts war. The situation in Ukraine has reached a point of no return, and escalation towards open conflict is inevitable, Martin Herem, the Commander of Estonia’s Defence Forces (EDF), said ahead of the meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Read more.
Finish PM forced to defend NATO membership comment. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin defended her comment made in an interview to Reuters on 19 Wednesday, where she said it would be “very unlikely” Finland would apply for a NATO membership during her term in office. Read more.
Survey shows Swedes divided on NATO membership. About as many people are for NATO membership as against it, while almost one in three are unsure, a survey conducted by Novus for Sweden’s national broadcaster SVT shows. Read more.
COPENHAGEN | OSLO
Danish paediatricians question COVID-19 jab for children after Norwegian decision. Danish paediatricians are calling on the Danish Health Authority to review whether it should continue to recommend the COVID-19 vaccine for children in Denmark. This comes after Norway’s health authorities said they would not recommend them for children aged 5-11. Read more.
European Capital of Culture launch. On Saturday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and also Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, are to visit Kaunas, one of three selected cities, to launch the programme of European Capital of Culture 2022. The city aims to celebrate “diversity and open-mindedness” through its year-long program of events, Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė told EURACTIV. (EURACTIV.com)
Italian labour minister receives threats and unknown substance. Labour and Social Policies Minister Andrea Orlando received an envelope containing a threatening letter and an unknown substance at his ministry on Thursday morning. Read more.
Some Spanish regions extend COVID-19 measures as others relax them. Some regions have decided to extend the extraordinary COVID-19 measures, while others opted to gradually relax them to reach a “new normal”. Read more.
Fresh poll: support for Spain’s socialists and centre-right increases. The ruling socialist party of PSOE and the main opposition force, the Partido Popular (PP), are gathering more support, according to a fresh poll released on Thursday by state-owned Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS). Read more.
Sun in December, drought in January is the new normal in Portugal. Drought and lack of rain in winter are becoming the new norm in Portugal, environmental association Zero said on Thursday while calling for proper water management. Read more.
Poland pledges support to Ukraine as presidents meet for two-day talks. Polish President Andrzej Duda will receive Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy for a two-day discussion on the security situation in Ukraine in the face of the risk of a Russian attack. Read more.
Czechia shies away from mandatory vaccination. The new Czech government has decided it will not make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory, Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) announced this week, saying his cabinet does not wish to “widen divisions within society”. Read more.
Justice Minister: European left is interfering in Hungarian elections. Justice Minister Judit Varga has accused the European left of interfering in the country’s decisions after 62 MEPs sent a letter to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) asking for a full-scale mission to monitor the Hungarian elections. Read more.
Slovak economy minister against prolonging Crimea sanctions. In a December interview, economy minister Richard Sulík stated that he does not consider sanctions effective and thinks Russia will not return Crimea to Ukraine. The latter part of the statement recently caused tension between Ukraine and Slovakia. Sulík’s statement was, however, twisted by Russian news agency TASS. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Serbia urged to implement Green energy law without delay. The World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Energy Community have urged Serbia not to delay implementation and not to amend the Law on the Use of Renewable Energy Sources – which they said is important for achieving the green transition of the country’s energy sector. Read more.
Bulgaria negotiating purchase of two submarines amid Ukraine crisis. Bulgaria wants to buy two submarines to re-establish its submarine fleet. The last Bulgarian submarine “Fame” was decommissioned 10 years ago and is now a museum. Since 2011, the Black Sea state has not had a submarine fleet, but in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis, the desire for one is growing. Read more.
Highest number of COVID-19 cases. Romania reported more than 19,000 new infections with the coronavirus on Thursday, the highest daily number of cases since the pandemic started. Romania has recently entered the fifth pandemic wave, and authorities still maintain restrictions, which are actually expected to tighten further as the infection rates are growing countrywide.
On Thursday, Romania reported 19,100 new infections out of almost 79,000 performed tests, meaning one in four tests returned positive. Since the start of the pandemic, almost 2 million people have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 in Romania, and 59,428 people have died. (Bogdan Neagu | EURACTIV.ro)
‘It’s Time’ campaign launched for National Cancer Strategic Framework. The public health campaign called “It’s Time” has been presented in Zagreb to encourage the implementation of Croatia’s National Cancer Strategic Framework, which has been delayed for a year. During that time, 15,637 people died of cancer, equivalent to 20% more than the European average. Read more.
Major General Wessely takes over command of EUFOR mission. Major General Alexander Platzer handed over command of EUFOR to Major General Anton Wessely during Thursday’s ceremony. Former Commander Platzer has been in this position for 12 months, overseeing the European peacekeeping force EUFOR’s tasks in implementing the Ammunition Master Plan, and provided €10 million in aid to the BiH Armed Forces’ Demining Battalion. Referring to the last year, Platzer said that he was welcomed in BiH by a warm reception and people who deserve a bright future.
The newly appointed EUFOR commander Wessely was the director of training at the Austrian defence ministry and the chief of staff of this country’s Defence Minister. Wessely received the award for “Military Merit” of the United States in 2016, N1 reported.
(Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Montenegrin parliament announces special sessions for no-confidence vote. Parliament Speaker Aleksa Bečić called three special sessions due to the initiative for the no-confidence vote against the current government. Read more.
PRISTINA | ATHENS
Athens and Pristina discuss energy cooperation. Foreign Minister Donika Gërvalla-Schwarz met his colleague Nikos Dendias on Athens on Thursday and discussed how to strengthen relations between Athens and Pristina.
“In this direction, moreover, we upgraded your office here in Athens last May, renaming it the “Kosovo Interest Office in Athens”, said Dendias. Read more.
Police violence against journalists continues in Albania. Yet another case of Albanian police violence against journalists has been condemned by Reporters Without Borders following an assault at a protest in Tirana on Wednesday 19 January. This is the third incident of police violence against a journalist this year. Read more.
- EU: Informal meeting of energy and environment ministers continues in Amiens, with European Commission VP Frans Timmermans in attendance / European health ministers meet via videoconference to discuss omicron and fourth vaccine doses / European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen chairs advisory panel on COVID.
- Germany: Chancellor Olaf Scholz holds press conferences after cabinet talks on G7 presidency.
- France: Ruling at trial of former aides of ex-president Sarkozy charged with favouritism over polling contracts / Plenary session of the Conference on the Future of Europe in Strasbourg, chaired by Commissioner Dubravka Šuica.
- Belgium: Prime Minister Alexander De Croo meets with ministers, regional chiefs to review Covid restrictions.
- Switzerland: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva.
- Lithuania: Several EU interior ministers meet to discuss border management.
- Spain: Covid curfew lifted in Catalonia.
- Romania: Prime minister Nicolae Ciuca meets representatives of the trade unions in education and healthcare
- Croatian and Greek foreign ministers Gordan Grlić Radman and Nikos Dendias participate in a panel discussion as part of the Conference on the Future of Europe.
[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox, Zoran Radosavljevic, Alice Taylor]