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 EU delays decision on Brexit extension vote election, as well as EURACTIV France’s story on Macron’s new Commissioner pick, Atos CEO Thierry Breton.
Thanks to its popular Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow, Die Linke (The Left) has surged as a clear winner in Sunday’s state election in Thuringia, EURACTIV’s media partner Der Tagesspiegel reported.
According to projections, Die Linke obtained 31.0% (2014: 28.2%), the centre-right CDU 21.8% down from 33.5% in 2014, while the far-right AfD overtook CDU and doubled its score (23.4%) compared to 2014 (10.6%). The social democrats (SPD) obtained 8.2% while the so-called “Green wave” was halted as the Greens scored 5.2%, who were closely followed by the Liberals (FDP) with 5.0%.
EURACTIV Germany reports that although the result in Thuringia is unlikely to have any direct impact on the current so-called ‘Grand Coalition’ between CDU/CSU and SPD, it will question the leadership of the CDU’s new head, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. With its 11%, the conservative party has emerged as a ‘big loser’, highlighting once again that because of the defeats experienced with the new leader at the party’s helm, it is becoming increasingly doubtful whether she can be a possible candidate for the chancellor’s office.
The situation is even more difficult for the social democrats, as it is now completely uncertain whether the federal party conference scheduled for 6-8 December in Berlin will even green-light the continuation of the Grand-Coalition (CDU/CSU and SPD) until 2021.
The CDU’s top candidate in Thuringia, Mike Mohring, said it was a “bitter” result for Germany’s democratic centre, while Björn Höcke, the leader of the anti-EU AfD, which has been building support since the 2015 migration crisis, said that “the sun is rising above the east and soon we will let the sunshine above all of Germany”.
Thuringia is facing a political stalemate, considering that the low score of the SPD is not helpful for Die Linke, while the CDU has refused to cooperate with the left.
(Claire Stam | EURACTIV.de)
Tensions escalate in Barcelona. Violent protests in response to the 14 October ruling that sentenced nine Catalan pro-independence politicians and separatists to between nine to thirteen years in jail for their role in the banned 2017 independence referendum continued in Barcelona on Saturday, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.
Under the slogan “Libertad” (liberty), around 350,000 demonstrators demanded the central government in Madrid to free the pro-independence leaders. They called on the Spanish parliament to come up with a “political response” to the Catalonia crisis.
The Catalan regional police (Mossos d’esquadra) detained at least three people, following new clashes right after Saturday’s demonstration, which happened to be the smallest secessionist march to date in the Catalan capital, according to figures released by Barcelona’s local police.
Meanwhile, the president of the Catalan regional government, Quim Torra, who led Saturday’s pro-independence march, has called for an investigation to determine if actions by the Mossos d’esquadra during the latest riots were “proportionate”. Meanwhile, caretaker socialist PM Pedro Sánchez said on Saturday (26 October) that pro-independence movements in Catalonia and far-right party Vox shared “the same” political objectives, because, according to him, they believe that Catalonia and Spain “belong to them”.
On Saturday, around 20,000 Vox supporters gathered in Plaza de Colón, in Madrid’s city centre, to demonstrate in favour of Spain’s unity and against secessionist forces in Catalonia.
A Fresh election will be held in Spain on 10 November, with the socialist party (PSOE), winner of the 28 April election, leading the latest poll by El Mundo. With Vox having obtained 24 parliament seats in the April elections, it is expected to become the parliament’s third political force, according to a new poll. (Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)
PARIS | LONDON
A shorter deadline for Brits. France is waiting for clarification on Britain’s intentions before deciding how long a new extension of Brexit would last, Amélie de Montchalin told TV5 Monde.
“We must not give time-based on fictional politics. We must have certainties to be able to decide,” she said. “Certainties about ratification, or elections, or a second referendum,” the Secretary of State for European Affairs added.
The EU27 have agreed to postpone Brexit beyond 31 October but have not yet agreed on a new deadline, as they prefer to wait, under France’s, for the result of the UK’s early general elections, wich PM Boris Johnson wishes to hold on 12 December. A three-month postponement until 31 January 2020 is one of the assumptions, but the Secretary of State pleaded again for shorter deadlines.
“If they want to ratify the agreement, they must be given time to do so, and it is a matter of days,” she added.
In London, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party have tabled a bill to hold a general election on 9 December, in a bid to find a compromise on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s wish to hold a national ballot on 12 December.
The parties will attempt to amend the Fixed Term Parliaments Act this week so that only a simple majority of MPs would be needed to support a general election, rather than the current rules – which require two-thirds of MPs to support an early election. Should the Prime Minister get behind the plans, the legislation could pass through the UK parliament this week.
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said: “A general election on our proposed timetable would take no-deal off the table, and give the public the chance to elect a Liberal Democrat government who will revoke article 50 or increase the number of MPs who support a People’s Vote.”
Madam Prime Minister. Sophie Wilmès of the Reformist Movement(MR) and budget minister in Charles Michel’s caretaker government, will replace her boss to become the first female prime minister in Belgium’s history. Last Friday (25 October), Michel announced that he wanted to leave his post in early November to prepare for his new role as EU Council President, which he will take over on 1 December. Wilmès will hold the post until a new government is formed (unsuccessful for 155 days), or until early elections which could take place in January-February 2020, are able to resolve the political stalemate. (Alexandra Brzozowski | EURACTIV.com)
More on this story: Belgium’s first female prime minister officially named
Nostalgic for the Duce. Twelve coaches from all over Italy brought almost 3,000 people to Predappio, the birthplace of Benito Mussolini. Marching in black shirts and doing the Roman salute, they gathered on the dictator’s grave to celebrate the 97th anniversary of the March on Rome, the event that swept the fascists to power in 1922.
The National Association of Italian Partisans (ANPI) criticised the demonstration as being illegal. “No one really objects that the family keeps his grave there, but it must be a family tomb, not a mausoleum of fascism,” an ANPI’s coordinator has said. In Italy, the promotion of fascism is criminal, and some of the marchers were identified by the police. (Gerardo Fortuna | EURACTIV.com)
Greece bickers with Turkey over refugees. Greece has reacted strongly after Turkish media quoted Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu as saying that “Greece shoots and sinks refugee boats in the Aegean and forces many of them to return injured to Turkey”.
“Greece is a democratic state that effectively oversees its borders with full respect for international law and a high sense of humanity,” the Greek foreign affairs ministry said in a statement. “Claims to the contrary serve only to conceal the unwillingness of those making those claims to meet their international commitments,” the statement added.
No to the EU’s Mobility Package. Poland and five other countries have signed a letter opposing some of the EU’s proposals regarding its Mobility Package. Poland and others have said that the proposed regulations are unfavourable for carriers from Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw has also argued that this is an attempt to eliminate the region’s entrepreneurs from the Western markets. (Łukasz Gadzała | EURACTIV.pl)
Read more on the issue: Bulgaria mulls taking Macron’s ‘mobility package’ to EU court
Natural grass-cutters. Bratislava will have its flock of sheep to graze protected grasslands areas in the vicinity of the city, following the recommendation of the State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic. In this way, the areas should be better protected against invasive species endangering natural biotopes. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)
Cheaper mobile data. The Ministry of Industry and Trade has announced that Prague managed to catch up with other EU and OECD countries regarding unlimited data mobile tariffs. When comparing how much GB customers get for €50, in six months the Czech Republic has moved from the 37th to 14th place among 41 countries. However, the Czechs still lag when it comes to cheaper tariffs, the Czech News Agency reports. (Ondřej Plevák | EURACTIV.cz)
Hungary wants to buy Qatar gas through LNG on Krk. Hungary is interested in buying about 1.6 billion cubic meters of liquefied gas through the LNG terminal at Krk (an island in Croatia) annually, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó had said after his last week’s visit to Qatar. Szijjártó’s announcement comes after his visit in June to Croatia and a meeting with Environment and Energy Minister Tomislav Ćorić, during which no progress had been made regarding Hungary’s interest in investing in Krk. The LNG terminal at Krk is financed from EU funds and is expected to be operational at the start of 2021. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Local elections in Bulgaria. The ruling party GERB (EPP) is expected to win the local elections in most major cities in the country, according to the results of Sunday’s local elections. In Sofia, current GERB Mayor Yordanka Fandakova is in the lead, while the former National Ombudsman Maya Manolova trails behind. Manolova is also a former member of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, backed by the Left. Since none of them obtained the majority (50% + 1) of the votes, a second voting round is due next Sunday. This also applies to other major cities in the country. (Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)
“Turm-oil”. Three members of the board of directors of Ljubljana-based oil company Petrol, the biggest Slovenian company in which the Slovenian government has a 32% stake, were unexpectedly ousted after a Supervisory Board meeting took place on Friday (25 October) evening. Formally, the reason for dismissal has been linked to the board’s disagreement over the development strategy and business plan.
According to Reuters, the Managers’ Association of Slovenia, which named Berlocnik the manager of the year last month due to his successful leadership of Petrol, called upon the government on Thursday (24 October) to reconsider the rumoured plans to replace Petrol’s management. “What message do we send to society if we remove the team which ensured the company’s growth and significantly increased the added value it makes?” the association said in a statement.
Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec (LMŠ-RE) denied on Sunday (27 October) that his party was not behind the move. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
SARAJEVO | ZAGREB
Croatian ‘aggression on BiH’. Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency member Šefik Džaferović (a member of biggest Bosniak SDA party), has accused Croatia of pursuing a one-sided policy toward his country, which the EU has already rejected, adding that it is an effort to achieve the goals set during the “aggression on BiH”. “Acting in this way, I believe that Croatian politics has only harmed itself because it has shown that it cannot be a credible interlocutor in the EU institutions when it comes to the situation in BiH, “Džaferović said.
Regarding the current political deadlock in BiH, Džaferović commented: “In recent years, there has been a noticeable decline in US interest for BiH’s situation. This has, of course, led to increased activity of anti-Bosnian forces. The EU, which should have assumed most of the responsibilities, did not adequately respond to this challenge. I was always saying that what is most important for BiH is action coming from Washington and Brussels”. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Thaçi: Dialogue has no alternative. Hashim Thaçi, the Kosovo President, said that dialogue with Serbia “has no alternative” and that Kosovo is ready to resume talks on a comprehensive deal with the mediation of the USA and the EU. Speaking at the SEE Peace Summit in Tirana, Thaçi said the tragedy that Serbia had triggered was finalised 20 years ago and that “the agreement of the two countries will once for all times dismiss a new tragedy,” Gazettaexpress news portal reported. (EURACTIV.rs)
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck]