German intelligence chief quits over rising far-right extremism

The Capitals. [EPA-EFE/FELIPE TRUEBA]

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Before you start reading today’s edition of the Capitals, feel free to have a look at the article Commission tones down hopes for a COVID-19 vaccine soon, written by Sarantis Michalopoulos.


The EURACTIV Network is keeping you up-to-date with how Europe’s capitals are dealing with the new school year, changing travel restrictions and varying epidemiological situations. Click here to find out more about what’s going on in your capital.


In today’s news from the Capitals:

BERLIN

Head of Military Intelligence Service to resign. On Thursday (24 September), Christof Gramm, the president of Germany’s Military Intelligence Service (MAD), was forced to resign. To many, the shake-up doesn’t come as a surprise given the recent criticism over how the agency handled investigations into right-wing extremism in the German Special Forces (KSK). Gramm’s term as MAD president will come to an end next month. Read more.

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PARIS

An 8% increase for the 2021 justice budget. French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that the budget for the country’s justice department will increase by 8% and have €8.1 billion at its disposal, modifying a five-year programme which initially only foresaw an increase of 4%.

He also promised the recruitment of 900 personnel and the creation of “a thousand permanent posts.” France ranks 23rd out of the 47 Council of Europe countries in terms of the budget devoted to justice per capita. (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.FR)

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BRUSSELS

Belgium has ‘worrying trend’, ECDC says. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has divided European countries into groups with stable trends, where the risk of infection is estimated to be low, and countries with “worrying trends,” which face a moderate risk of COVID-19 spread. In their estimation, Belgium has moved into the second group on Wednesday (23 September). (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)

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VIENNA

Winter tourism rules. Austria’s government laid out the country’s rules for winter tourism to help preserve the tourist sector in the coming months. While the Christmas markets can open and skiing will be allowed, so-called ‘après-ski’ parties will be banned. Read more.

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LUXEMBOURG

EIB’s legal immunity questioned in trial. After he saw a 23-year old intern jump to her death in the European Investment Bank (EIB) building seven years ago, a former manager requested damages and is now demanding access to a report about the death of the employee, despite the bank’s claim that diplomatic immunity prevented it from sharing the evidence.

A judge said that he could not force the EIB to share the report, but requested for the prosecutor to do so in order for a fair trial to take place. (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.com)


UK AND IRELAND

LONDON

UK unveils new German-style job subsidy scheme. Boris Johnson’s government unveiled on Thursday (24 September) a massive new financial support package for businesses and employees, modelled on Germany’s ‘Kurzarbeit’ scheme, as the UK economy braces for six months of hardship from the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the full story here.

Read also: Eurotunnel on track for Brexit disruption as talks falter

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DUBLIN

Irish foreign minster says EU-UK trade deal breakthrough possible. There is a window of several weeks for Britain and the EU to reach a breakthrough on trade talks before Britain’s upper house of parliament considers the contentious Internal Market Bill, Ireland’s foreign minister said on Thursday (24 September).

“I believe there is a window for negotiations that I hope the two negotiating teams, in particular the UK, will take in terms of giving the signals that are necessary to move this process into a more intensive phase,” Simon Coveney told parliament. “It is possible to get a deal here.”


NORDICS

STOCKHOLM

Stimulating the economy with €3 billion in tax cuts. Earlier this week, the Swedish coalition government of Social Democrats and the Greens announced a budget for 2021 aimed at kick-starting the economy. Due to the COVID-19 health crisis, the Swedish economy is expected to shrink by 4.6% this year, while the unemployment rate is currently at around 9%. Read more.

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HELSINKI

Border restrictions return. Due to the worsening COVID-19 situation in Europe, the Finnish government decided on Thursday (24 September) to reinstate travel restrictions that were eased less than a week ago. From next Monday (28 September), Finnish citizens can travel only to six European countries without having to quarantine upon return, while travelling to any other country is not recommended. Read more.


EUROPE’S SOUTH

ROME | LONDON

UK-Italy beef spurred by Johnson’s ‘freedom’ comments. After UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Italy and Germany had fewer COVID-19 cases than the UK because “Britain is a freedom-loving country”, Italian President Sergio Mattarella replied, saying that “Italians love their freedom too, but also care about seriousness”. Read more.

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LISBON

Extending the state of contingency. Portugal’s government decided on Thursday (24 September) to extend the state of contingency in mainland Portugal until 14 October given the increase in COVID-19 cases in the last five weeks.

The government’s decision was announced by the minister of the presidency, Mariana Vieira da Silva, who said that the government would reassess the state of contingency in mainland Portugal within two weeks, along with a more in-depth analysis of the impact of the first weeks of school. (Pedro Morais Fonseca, Lusa.pt)

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ATHENS

In search of a ‘victim’. Ruling New Democracy party (EPP) cannot find a rapporteur to speak positively about the three memoranda of understanding with North Macedonia that need to pass through the Greek parliament. Read more.

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NICOSIA

Cyprus says committed to peace talks, but not at gunpoint. Cyprus said it would be committed to reunification talks with estranged Turkish Cypriots but not at gunpoint, its president said on Thursday (24 September) on a dispute which has deepened Greece-Turkey tensions and deadlocked EU policy-making on Belarus.

“For the (Cyprus peace) talks to resume with realistic prospects for success, it is imperative to create an environment which will be conducive for constructive and good faith negotiations… not under conditions of intimidation or threats,” Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said in an address to the UN General Assembly.

Read also: EU urged to sanction Lukashenko as struggle with Cyprus continues


VISEGRAD

Read also: In Brussels, three Visegrad countries reject the EU’s migration plan 

WARSAW

Poland should not phase out coal before 2060, unions say. Poland should not phase out coal before 2060, mining trade unions said on Thursday (24 September), as talks with the government continued on the restructuring of the industry, which generates most of the country’s electricity. Read more.

Coalition agreement. Anita Czerwińska, a Law and Justice Spokeswoman, said that the ruling United Right coalition has come to an agreement that presupposes ‘working together and in solidarity for Poland’. Earlier, the leader of the coalition party Porozumienie, Jarosław Gowin, said that his party had reached agreement with the Law and Justice party on its role in the future government. The coalition had almost broken up over an animal rights bill, which was supported by PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński, but fractured his party and the coalition. (Łukasz Gadzała | EURACTIV.com)
Meanwhile, Kaczyński, as part of the new coalition agreement, is set to become a deputy prime minister, according to Ryszard Terlecki, chairman of PiS in the parliament. Kaczyński would be responsible for oversight of the minister of justice and defence, the move that would serve the purpose of controlling different factions within the government.

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PRAGUE

ECDC’s warning. The COVID-19 pandemic which has spread heavily in the Czech Republic and six other European countries: Malta, Spain, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Croatia, is a great concern for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Read more.

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BRATISLAVA

Zelensky in Bratislava. Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová has welcomed her Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, in Bratislava.

They signed an agreement that allows Ukrainians to use Slovak aerial space for flights to the Uzhhorod airport close to the Slovak-Ukrainian border. Čaputová also reaffirmed the support of Slovakia for Ukraine´s EU ambitions. (Zuzana Gabrišová, EURACTIV.sk)


NEWS FROM THE BALKANS

ZAGREB

Pompeo to visit next week. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Croatia next week, where he will discuss lifting visa requirements for Croatian citizens, double taxation, and the Western Balkans, foreign minister Goran Grlic Radman said on Thursday (24 September).

Radman said the issue of 5G and Chinese technology would also be on the agenda but declined to comment on whether Croatia would sign a joint declaration on 5G security, like neighbouring Slovenia did in August. “It will be discussed,” he said briefly.

(Zoran Radosavljevic | EURACTIV.com)

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LJUBLJANA 

Second COVID-19 wave would cripple economy. Slovenia’s state macroeconomic office UMAR forecast on Thursday (24 September) that the national economy would fall 6.7% this year, an improvement on its previous prediction for a 7.6% GDP contraction. More on this here.

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SOFIA

No police violence, just violence against the police. Bulgarian Interior Minister Hristo Terziiski sent MEPs three videos with selected footage showing only aggressive actions by protesters against police in Sofia, confirming that the beating of journalists and police violence did actually take place.

However, Terziiski did not show MEPs the footage of brutal police violence that has acted as a catalyst for civil unrest since the first days of protests against the government and the chief prosecutor.

(Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)

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BUCHAREST

Anti-mafia prosecutor chief resigns following husband’s conviction. Giorgiana Hosu, who headed the anti-mafia prosecutor office, resigned Thursday (24 September), hours after her husband who was convicted on corruption charges, had received a three-year suspended prison sentence with the possibility to appeal the verdict. Read more.

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BELGRADE 

Salih Mustafa charged with war crimes in Kosovo. Salih Mustafa, who has been accused for war crimes in Kosovo, was arrested yesterday (24 September) and brought to the Kosovo Specialist Chambers. Mustafa is the first publicly indicted and arrested person since the Court was founded in 2015. Read more.

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SKOPJE

No time to schedule negotiations between EU and Skopje. Now is not the time to call for the government’s first intergovernmental session for North Macedonia to start accession talks between North Macedonia and the EU, Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Krasimir Karakachanov has said. Read more.

Read also: Revolutionary hero’s identity stands in the way of Skopje’s EU path

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[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox]

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