Germany not interested in joint EU gas purchases

Spain, Italy and Greece have asked the Commission to explore the option of joint purchases and storage of natural gas, but other member states such as Germany are not interested. [Shutterstock / RikoBest]

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 the article NATO to focus on hybrid warfare, how to deter Russia, by Alexandra Brzozowski.


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


In today’s news from the Capitals:

EU leaders should do everything possible at the EU summit on Thursday to avoid a “clean or cheap’ dilemma, which poses a severe political risk, an EU diplomat told EURACTIV.

No major developments are expected on the rule of law and the EU-Poland row, and regarding migration, Belarus will be in the spotlight. Read more.

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EU PRESIDENCY

Janša discusses importance of cooperation at Tripartite Summit. Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša discussed the significance of social dialogue, cooperation, green and digital transition, lifelong learning and sustainable work as he addressed a virtual Tripartite Social Summit ahead of the EU summit. Read more.

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BERLIN

Germany’s Seehofer opposes closing Polish border, blames Russia for migrant crisis. “Nobody wants to close the border to Poland,” interior minister, Horst Seehofer, told journalists on Wednesday. Doing so would be both politically and “legally questionable”, he explained. Read more.

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PARIS

Les Republicains presidential candidates to face each other in four TV debates. The six nominees hoping to represent the right-wing Les Républicains in France’s presidential elections next April will publicly confront each other in November, news channel FranceInfo revealed on Wednesday (20 October). Read more.

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VIENNA

Austria to introduce new COVID rules at work. From 1 November, everybody who has physical contact with other people in the workplace needs proof that they are either vaccinated, recovered, or tested negative for COVID-19, Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein announced in a press conference on Wednesday. Read more.


UK AND IRELAND

LONDON

Brexit deal has created ‘bumpy’ trade relations. The post– Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and UK has not made a level playing field for trade between equals but an imbalanced and only narrowly “free” trading relationship, according to a report published on Thursday 21 October by the London School of Economics. Read more.


NORDICS AND BALTICS

HELSINKI | COPENHAGEN| STOCKHOLM

Swedish Handelsbanken exits Finland and Denmark. Sweden’s second-biggest bank, Handelsbanken announced on Wednesday that it is planning to divest its units in Finland and Denmark. The exit of a major player may cause upheaval in the Nordic banking sector. Read more.


EUROPE’S SOUTH

ROME

Draghi: State intervention fundamental to achieve digital and ecological transition. Speaking to the Italian parliament ahead of the European Council meeting on Thursday, Prime Minister Mario Draghi stressed that “there is no alternative to state intervention to achieve the ecological and digital transition. If the state isn’t present, these two transitions won’t happen”. Read more.

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MADRID

Spain to ask for decisive action from the EU to curb energy prices. Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez is expected to ask the EU to be “more ambitious” and adopt new measures to curb the tremendous rise in energy prices in Europe, during the summit on Thursday in Brussels. Read more.

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Spain records highest inflation since 2008. Spanish inflation rose to a record 4% in September, the highest level since 2008, mainly due to increased electricity prices, the Spanish Statistical Institute (INE) reported. Read more.

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ATHENS

Pandemic nightmare returns in Greece. The National Public Health Organisation (EODY) reported on Tuesday one of the highest numbers of daily cases (3,739) since the pandemic started as vaccination rates remain low compared to other EU countries. Read more.

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LISBON

Portuguese PM calls on EU to review the way energy prices are set. Portugal’s prime minister, António Costa, on Wednesday called for a review of the mechanism for setting energy prices in the European Union, which he said harm Portugal, and for short-term measures to address the current crisis, without jeopardising environmental goals. Read more.


VISEGRAD 

PRAGUE

Czech government waives VAT for electricity and gas. The Czech government approved on Wednesday (20 October) zero VAT on electricity and gas for the upcoming year. It is expected to come into force on 1 January 2022. Moreover, if the Czech parliament gives consent, a zero VAT rate will also be applied for November and December 2021. The current VAT rate on energy is 21%. Read more.

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BRATISLAVA

Slovak government steps back from national park reform. The government did not discuss the important reform of national parks at its Wednesday meeting, and discussions on the parliamentary bill amending the law are temporarily suspended. The agreement is being blocked by a coalition member, SME Rodina. Read more.

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BUDAPEST

Political activist detained and searched for pasting a heart on a government poster. The police detained and raided the home of the joke Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party (MKKP) candidate in Pécs on suspicion of having pasted giant hearts over six government ads. Law enforcement failed to find any hearts, Telex reported. Read more.

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WARSAW

Poland, a LGBT-free zone? Polish parliament is considering a new law called “Stop LGBT”, pushed forward by the Foundation for Life and Family.  This latest proposal comes after four regions in Poland recently backtracked on plans for anti-LGBT zones because the European Commission threatened to withdraw EU funds. Read more.


NEWS FROM THE BALKANS

BUCHAREST

Romanian MPs reject Dacian Ciolos’s government. As expected, Dacian Ciolos did not get the parliament’s confidence vote for his proposed Cabinet, so president Klaus Iohannis has to designate a new prime minister. Meanwhile, the country is fighting a difficult battle with COVID-19, while having a government with limited powers. Read more.

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SOFIA

Green pass becomes main topic of Bulgaria’s election campaign. The introduction of a mandatory Green pass for all indoor activities has become the main topic of the Bulgarian election campaign. On 14 November, Bulgarians will vote in both parliamentary and presidential elections. From Thursday, the Green pass comes into force. Read more.

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ZAGREB

Croatian government to financially support municipality mergers. The reform of local government through mergers of municipalities with poor administrative and fiscal capacities is moving closer. Read more.

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ZAGREB | LJUBLJANA 

Slovenian-Croatian commission pleased with operation of Krško nuclear power plant. The intergovernmental commission on the Krško nuclear power plant, co-owned by Slovenia and Croatia, on Wednesday expressed its satisfaction with the plant’s operation and discussed the programme and financial aspects of its work. Read more.

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BELGRADE 

Serbian PM: Covid passes to be used in hospitality. COVID passes will be introduced in Serbia from Saturday in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić said on Wednesday (20 October). Read more.

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SARAJEVO 

Hight Representative: Separate RS entity medicines agency is dangerous. The National Assembly of BiH’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity adopted the Bill on Medicines and Medical Devices, which foresees the establishment of a Medicines Agency contesting the powers of BiH’s Agency for Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices. High Representative Christian Schmidt immediately responded, pointing out that the law “constitutes a severe challenge to the competencies and the unimpeded functioning of the BiH Agency. Read more.

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PODGORICA 

US calls on Montenegro to achieve necessary reforms for EU path. “We call on all political forces in Montenegro to work together to maintain a strategic orientation that reflects the desire of the people of Montenegro to achieve the reforms necessary to make their hopes for a future in the EU a reality,” EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell and US State Secretary Antony Blinken said in a joint statement. Read more.

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TIRANA

EC report urges stat of Albanian EU accession talks. Albania has delivered “tangible and sustainable results” in reforms towards integration in the European Union, the European Commission (EC)’s annual report has found, and it has met all conditions to start accession negotiations. Read more.


AGENDA:

  • EU: EU leaders summit on rule of law, gas prices, migration and digital / NATO defence ministers meet.
  • Germany: Caretaker Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected in Brussels for what could be her last European Council meeting.
  • France: President Emmanuel Macron to participate in Thursday’s council of ministers as well as the COVID-19 defence council. French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire is to meet with debt collecting agency Cabinet ARC for a debate on the perspectives for growth for companies in 2022.
  • Latvia: 30-day Covid lockdown begins.
  • Spain: Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, to discuss separately with the EU Council president,  Charles Michel, before the European summit, on the need for the EU to take urgent and bold decisions to curb energy prices.
  • Bulgaria: COVID health becomes mandatory for most leisure activities, including restaurants and hotels.
  • Romania: President Klaus Iohannis holds a new round of consultations for the formation of a new government.
  • Croatia: The first grant agreements are presented for “Strengthening company competitiveness for investments in the digital and green transition,” with a total allocation of 1.14 billion kuna (€152 million).

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[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox, Zoran Radosavljevic, Alice Taylor]

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