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 Georgi Gotev’s Brief “To the attention of the EU Chief Prosecutor“, as well as the story on Huawei’s billion-euro pitch to Vestager.
Also, feel free to have a look at the interview of the EU Parliament’s new Transport Committee Chair, Karima Delli of the Greens.
The German conservative parties (CSU/CSU) are now feeling the electoral consequences for ignoring the climate crisis for all these years and are trying to find a way out eyeing the traditional Green party, an analyst told EURACTIV.de.
“The climate crisis has moved into the centre-stage of politics, and it won’t leave soon. The other parties realise that their programmatic platforms on environmental issues are meagre. They have left these issues for too long to the Greens, and it hurts them at the voting booth, especially among younger voters,” said Arne Jungjohann, a political analyst and expert of Germany’s Green Party.
Markus Söder, leader of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), warned the CDU/CSU against solely concentrating on the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), as their most important political opponent. In an interview with Germany newspaper “Welt am Sonntag”, he said the main competitors are now the Greens.
“We need to focus more on them. Although the Greens are still a monothematic party, they are about to replace the Social Democratic Party (SPD) as the leading party on the left,” he said, adding that they will be the main competitor in the chancellorship race. “That is why we have to deal with them in a more targeted way,” he added.
Söder’s statement followed CSU vice-president Manfred Weber’s speech before the CSU party conference in Munich, which took place on 18 October. In that statement, he also described a coalition between the conservatives and the Greens – or a so-called ‘black-green coalition’ – as a good, realistic option for the future. “When we discuss the next perspectives for Berlin majorities, it is clear that black-green is one of the options on the table,” Weber said.
The analyst said the Greens’ electoral success in recent years cannot be explained with the zeitgeist. Jungjohann said as a reaction to the Green’s performance, the other parties respond in various ways.
“CSU-party leader Söder has identified the Greens as the main competitor. He is demanding his party to take on the competition with the Greens and modernise the party platform on energy, climate, and mobility issues.”
He pointed out indicators supporting this observation: “The demand for a quicker coal phase-out, announcing state initiatives such as a climate law and a bike law for Bavaria, something that only the city-state of Berlin has passed so far”.
He continued, saying Söder has made a strategic choice to modernise the CSU, and he is supported by the party leadership, which is not the case for the CDU.
“The conservative sister party CDU is still struggling to find the right response. While party-leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer favours a more modern, pro-environmental course for the party, influential fractions of the CDU strongly oppose such a modernisation. It is wide open who will win this struggle.”
EURACTIV.de commented that since the last EU elections in May, the German Greens have been gaining ground amid persisting dissatisfaction in the country with the current Grand Coalition (or so-called ‘GroKo’) between the CDU/CSU and SPD, and have already overtaken the SPD as the conservatives’ main opponent.
According to the latest opinion poll published in Germany on Monday (4 November), the CDU/CSU are polling at 27%, the Greens at 18%, the SPD at 16%, the far-right from the AfD at 15%, while the Liberals (FDP) and the Left (Die Linke) stand at 9%.
(Claire Stam | EURACTIV.de)
IAG acquires Spain’s Air Europa. International Airlines Group (IAG) is to acquire Spain’s Air Europa for €1 billion ($1.1 billion) in a move that will transform Madrid into a “true rival” to Europe’s four largest travel hubs, the airline group announced on Monday (4 November).
IAG, a group comprised of British Airways (BA), Iberia, Vueling, Aer Lingus and Level, announced the deal in statements sent to Spain’s Securities Market Commission (CNMV) and the London Stock Exchange.
“Acquiring Air Europa would add a new competitive, cost-effective airline to IAG, consolidating Madrid as a leading European hub and resulting in IAG achieving South Atlantic leadership, therefore generating additional financial value for our shareholders,” IAG CEO Willie Walsh said in a statement, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.
“IAG has a strong track record of successful acquisitions, most recently with the acquisition of Aer Lingus in 2015 and we are convinced Air Europa presents a strong strategic fit for the group,” he added.
The acquisition, which will be financed by external debt, is expected to be completed in the second half of 2020. (EUROEFE.EURACTIV.es)
PARIS | ATHENS
Beaujolais Nouveau reaching China. Emmanuel Macron announced on Monday (4 November) that an agreement would be signed during his visit to China, on Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs) that certify the origin of European products entering the Chinese market. A quarter of the 100 products concerned are French, including Beaujolais, Cognac, Comté and Roquefort.
China has become the first wine producer and a big consumer, importing mainly Bordeaux and Cognac. The French president is due to stay in China until Thursday (7 November) to deal with a number of issues and has been asked not to make a fuss about human rights in Hong Kong.
“The more we act Franco-German and especially European, the more credibility and results we have,” the French President told French and German business leaders who are participating in the Shanghai Import Fair.
Meanwhile, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis is also visiting China with a big delegation of state and business representatives. Conservative New Democracy (EPP) in 2008 paved the way and signed the first agreement that brought COSCO, China’s biggest sea transporter, to Piraeus, Greece’s biggest port. Currently, COSCO owns the majority of shares in the port while the Greek government recently accepted a new investment plan for the port’s expansion.
“There is a government in Greece committed to facilitating foreign investors, attracting foreign capital and creating wealth and prosperity for all Greeks in a sustainable way that respects the environment,” Mitsotakis said.
Besides, the Bank of China, the 4th biggest bank worldwide, has begun operations in Athens. Since Greece is also expecting bigger waves of Chinese tourists coming into the country, it has announced new airline connections and simplified the Golden Visa programme just days ago. EURACTIV Greece reported that besides promoting Greek companies and products, Athens has also another “secret” desire. The Greek government wants to convince China to invest more in infrastructure, as well as in privatisation projects in the sectors of energy, transport, logistics and real estate.
Brexit party leader Nigel Farage ruled out the prospect of a ‘Leavers Alliance’ with the Conservative party on Monday (4 November), accusing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s party of “conceited arrogance”. Read more
Ilva’s mess. World’s largest steel producer ArcelorMittal said it’d pull out of a deal to take over Italian steelmaker Ilva. According to the Franco-Indian group, the government broke the promise of a legal shield from potential criminal charges over the polluting Ilva plant which allegedly caused hundreds of cancer-related deaths in recent years.
Balotelli-gate. Racism came up again in Italy’s public debate after Brescia striker Mario Balotelli suffered monkey chants by Verona supporters during a Serie A match. In an interview with EURACTIV’s media partner ANSA, the head of Verona’s ultras said the black football star “won’t ever be totally Italian” while the European Parliament’s President David Sassoli tweeted that Balotelli is fully Italian, as well as European.
But former right-wing Lega minister Fontana said the whole issue is part of a “shameful media blast against the city of Verona and Verona supporters.”
Asked to comment on the case, Matteo Salvini has said that an “Ilva worker is worth more than ten Balotelli’s” and that there’s no need of a “hotshot” like him in the fight against racism. (Gerardo Fortuna| EURACTIV.com)
Controversial replacements. The ruling PiS party has announced that it intends to replace three judges, who are nearing the end of their terms as judges in the Constitutional Tribunal. The ruling party wants to have three of its politicians instead.
Two of the names proposed are particularly controversial. Krystyna Pawłowicz, former PiS’s MP, who is known for her brutal rants against the opposition, and Stanisław Piotrowicz, former communist prosecutor and author of PiS’s justice system reform. Both have been named by PiS and are set to take the positions in December. Now, it is up to the parliament to confirm their nominations, as the President does not have the power to block the nominations.
Centrists start a presidential campaign. Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, leader of centrist PSL (EPP), is starting his campaign for the presidential elections set to take place in May 2020. Although his party has long played a minor role in Polish politics, his own centrism, moderation and outreach to diverse groups in society is already positioning him as one of the most serious contenders for the presidency. (Łukasz Gadzała | EURACTIV.pl)
Elections are on. The next general elections in Slovakia will take place 29 February 2020, the Speaker of the Slovak parliament, Andrej Danko, announced on Monday (4 November). With polls approaching, Andrej Danko ́s coalition party, Slovak National Party (SNS), has already started a billboard campaign.
On their billboards, with the slogan “For the family – For the nation”, the party used a traditional folk ornament, presumably of Slovak origin. As it turned out, the ornament is Moravian, which is a region in the Czech Republic, as was clearly stated by the seller. Danko is also behind the 50-day long moratorium on public opinion polls ahead of elections that were recently adopted by law. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)
PRAGUE | ZAGREB
Teachers’ headaches. Due to a strike, almost half of all schools in the Czech Republic are set to close or have limited service on Wednesday (November 6). Teachers unions have called the one-day strike after a breakdown in pay talks with the government, although officials have argued that salaries are increasing significantly. PM Andrej Babiš has said the walkout will not affect his cabinet’s policy.
In Zagreb, following talks with the Labour and Pension System Ministry, the teachers’ union insisted on a 6.11% pay rise, adding that they would only accept the government’s proposal in writing. Until then, the strike would go on. Labour and Pension System Minister Josip Aladrović said he expected the unions to understand and accept the government’s position and responsibility for fiscal discipline and care for other sectors. (Ondřej Plevák | EURACTIV.cz, Željko Trkanjec |EURACTIV.hr)
The Putin Prize. Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly awarded Bulgarian citizen Nikolai Malinov who is accused of espionage on behalf of Russia on Monday (4 November). This raised serious questions about the Bulgarian judicial system and the strange relations between Sofia and Moscow. A judge from the Specialised Court for Combating Corruption and Organised Crime has granted permission for Malinov to travel to Russia for the award. He is among the foreigners awarded the Russian Order “Druzba” (Friendship).
Prosecutors say Malinov was collecting data for two Russian organisations affiliated with Russian special services. The Bulgarian is the chairman of the non-governmental organisation ”Russophiles”. At the end of last week, Bulgaria extradited an employee of the Russian embassy in Sofia on charges of espionage, but Moscow did not respond. (Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)
A new government was sworn in. Romania finally has a new Cabinet, almost four weeks after the socialist government was toppled following a no-confidence vote. Prime Minister Ludovic Orban went to great lengths to convince enough MPs to vote for his government, and he managed to get 240 votes in his favour, which is seven more than required to govern.
President Klaus Iohannis congratulated the new PM and praised all the MPs from all political sides that voted in favour of the new executive and for “their wisdom to install this government to end a political crisis and give Romania a chance to move on.” In his turn, Ludovic Orban told Iohannis that he now has “a partner he can trust” in the government.
Before becoming president of Romania in 2014, Iohannis was the leader of the National Liberal Party (PNL), which formed the new minority government, and PNL (a member of EPP) is supporting Iohannis to get a second term in November’s presidential elections.
Commissioner proposal. One of the first tasks of the new government is to propose a new candidate for the European Commission. As EURACTIV previously reported, MEP Siegfried Muresan is most likely to be nominated. The first proposal of Romania, Rovana Plumb, was rejected by the European Parliament due to a conflict of interest. And all the other names put forward by the socialist government were rejected by EU Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, considering the tumultuous political scene in Bucharest, and the tug of war between President Iohannis and interim PM Viorica Dăncilă and her PSD government. (EURACTIV.ro)
Read also Sam Morgan’s Commissioners assemble: Class of 2019-2024
Blocking Croatia’s Schengen entry not necessary. Slovenian President Borut Pahor said it would be possible to avoid Slovenia’s blockade of Croatia’s entry into the Schengen area. However, the problem is that Croatia’s refusal to implement an arbitration ruling on a border dispute that Slovenia considers to be final and binding on both sides.
“I would urge all those who can contribute to this to use the time between the Commission decision that Croatia is technically ready for Schengen and the discussions at the EU Council for intense political and diplomatic dialogue,” said Pahor. “The solution would be in the mutual interest of Slovenia and Croatia. It takes some political courage, some wisdom and perseverance, but it would pay off”, he said. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Serb Ticket has a right to be in Kosovo government. Matthew Palmer, US state secretary’s special envoy for the Western Balkans, has said it is important that the election results in Kosovo are respected, and that it is completely clear that the Serb Ticket has won the support of the vast majority of Kosovo Serbs and the right to be represented in the government.
Answering questions about Albin Kurti’s statement that he will not invite the Serb Ticket into the government, Palmer said he had discussed the issue with the leaders in Kosovo, including Kurti. He pointed out that it was important for the Serbs to be given an opportunity to express themselves, not just openly in public, but through the political process as well. (EURACTIV.rs)
New gas pipeline. The design of the Southern Interconnection gas pipeline project, which will connect the gas pipelines of Croatia and BiH, is underway, according to BH-Gas company. It is a pipeline that would reduce the dependence on Russian gas coming from Serbia. “The Southern Interconnection project is a part of the IAP pipeline which will allow BiH to buy natural gas from Azerbaijan”, BH-Gas said. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck]