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Before you start reading today’s edition of the Capitals, feel free to have a look at the article “Over 20% of digital healthcare startups emerged during the pandemic“.
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In today’s news from the Capitals:
Fifth-generation mobile networks from China may pose a certain number of possible risks, the director of the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service, Antti Peltarri, warned in an interview with the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation (YLE), adding that countries like Russia and China are attempting to get hold of Finland’s critical infrastructure. Read more.
Germans start showing liking for CDU/CSU and Greens coalition. A few months before the German elections, voters seem to start seeing the advantages of a Christian Democrat and Green coalition. Read more.
Plans for free rapid tests as of March. German Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) wants rapid tests to be available to everyone in Germany free of charge. Since there will be more tests on the market, “all citizens should be able to be tested free of charge by trained personnel with rapid antigen tests,” Spahn told German media group RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND).
The tests will be available in major testing centres, as well as doctors’ offices and pharmacies, with the federal government footing the bill. Once these tests are widely available, they will play a key role in the country’s strategy to reopen schools and daycare centres. (Sarah Lawton | EURACTIV.de)
Withdrawing French troops from Sahel ‘would be a mistake’, Marcon says. French President Emmanuel Macron backed away on Tuesday from immediately withdrawing French troops deployed in the Sahel region of north-west Africa, following a two-day summit on the future of the mission against Islamic militant groups in the region. More
France now in compliance with world anti-doping code. After a unanimous vote in the French Senate, the bill that would have allowed France to transpose the new version of the world anti-doping code was definitively adopted by parliament on Tuesday.
The World Anti-Doping Agency had set the 12 April deadline for France to comply with the new rules, which came into force on 1 January 2021. On Twitter, the French anti-doping agency “welcomed” this adoption by the Senate. (Mathieu Pollet | EURACTIV.fr)
Dutch coronavirus curfew upheld temporarily after legal setback. Appellate judges ruled on Tuesday (16 February) that a night-time curfew would remain in place in the Netherlands pending a government appeal against a lower-court ruling that found the measure lacked legal justification. Read the full story.
Finance minister survives vote of no confidence. The attempt by opposition parties to remove finance minister Gernot Blümel (ÖVP) has failed. The vote of no confidence, tabled by the right-wing FPÖ, was supported by social democrats but would have needed Green votes to succeed. But the environmental party decided not to vote against their coalition partner.
Last week, Blümel’s home had been raided, as anti-corruption authorities officially declared him a suspect in an investigation into possible graft. A gambling company had contacted Blümel to discuss a donation and the party’s support in a tax law case in Italy. Blümel had reached out to the relevant authorities but today says that the donations never materialised. (Philipp Grüll | EURACTIV.de)
Intermediaries offer Italy’s Veneto extra 27 million COVID-19 doses. Two intermediaries of pharmaceutical companies producing vaccines authorised by the European Medicine Agency (EMA) reportedly offered 27 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the north-eastern Veneto region instead of the requested four million, several Italian media reported on Tuesday. Read more.
In other news, Northern League leader Matteo Salvini, who decided to support the new government led by Mario Draghi despite his well-known Eurosceptic positions, said the euro currency is not “irreversible” in a television interview on Tuesday. “Only death is irreversible, fortunately. We are in the hands of the good God,” said Salvini. (Daniele Lettig | EURACTIV.it)
Study: Nearly half of Spain’s territory lost more than half its population since 1950. Almost 46% of the Spanish territory has lost more than half of its population since 1950 and, as a direct impact of this quick depopulation, also lost considerable economic power, a new survey by Spanish think tank Funcas revealed. Read the full story
Portugal mulls using €2.7 billion from EU post-crisis funds to help housing, companies. Portugal is considering drawing on €2.7 billion in European loans from COVID-19 post-crisis funds to invest in affordable housing, business capitalisation, and transport, according to its Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) released on Tuesday. Read more.
Greek EU prosecutor: Recovery fund fraud cases could overburden EU prosecutor. The management of EU recovery funds could be “a challenge for the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, as there are fears that fraud may occur in claiming and disposing of these particularly large sums,” Greece’s EU prosecutor, Dimitrios Zimianitis, told EURACTIV’s media partner AMNA. Read more.
Slovak farmers plan to protest government’s subsidy changes. The Slovak Agriculture and Food Chamber (SPPK) is preparing a protest against the farming subsidy changes drawn up by Agriculture Minister Ján Mičovský after his ministry announced last week that it would introduce a redistributive payment to shift a portion of EU farm subsidies from large farms to small ones. While SPPK – the country’s largest agricultural association – does not reject the redistributive payment as such, it is not pleased with the way Mičovský wants to introduce it. Read more.
Polish ski slopes crowded as government allows reopening for two-week-trial. As Poland’s government allowed ski slopes to reopen from Friday for a two-week trial period, with cinemas, theatres, and hotels also being allowed to open at 50% capacity, Zakopane – the country’s largest ski resort – was full of tourists for the entire weekend, with many flouting compulsory mask-wearing and social-distancing rules. Read more.
Former Czech health minister to become new ambassador to Finland. The Czech government approved the nomination of former Health Minister Adam Vojtěch to become the new Czech ambassador to Finland – which according to news site SeznamZpravy, was based on the nomination proposal of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. Though the nomination has already been approved by Czech President Miloš Zeman, it has already raised public attention due to Vojtěch’s lack of diplomacy experience. Read more.
In other news, the opposition said it would not vote for the prolongation of the emergency decrees issued by Viktor Orbán’s government, which holds a supermajority in parliament. MPs debated another extension of the state of emergency and decrees on Tuesday. Even though the proclamation and length of the state of emergency is entirely up to the government, the decrees issued during the extraordinary legal order have to be prolonged in parliament.
The Fidesz-dominated parliament is likely to prolong the decrees by another 90 days, which were already extended once in November, but then the majority of the opposition voted to keep them in place as well. (Vlagyiszlav Makszimov | EURACTIV.com with Telex)
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Bulgaria convicted of ignoring Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. In two of its judgments, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Bulgarian institutions had reacted inadequately by not reprimanding or convicting Volen Siderov, the far-right leader of the pro-Russian Ataka (Attack) party – which was part of the ruling coalition with Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s GERB party just a year and a half ago – for his anti-Semitic and anti-Roma comments. Read more.
Romania sees highest quarterly GDP increase in December. The performance of Romania’s economy in the fourth quarter obliterated all the apocalyptic scenarios, Romanian Prime Minister Florin Citu wrote on Facebook after the national statistics institute announced in a flash release that the country’s GDP rose by 5.3% in the last quarter of 2020 compared to the previous one. The PM called this the “quickest recovery in history,” adding that “the V-shaped recovery is certain!” Read more.
Croatia’s SDP finally picks candidate for Zagreb mayorship. After several drama-fuelled weeks, Croatia’s biggest opposition party SDP (S&D) finally chose Joško Klisović as its candidate for the Zagreb mayor in the local elections this spring. Read more.
BELGRADE | PRISTINA
Serbs in Kosovo not pleased with government but want interests represented, says Serbia’s parliament speaker. It was positive to see a large number of Serbs cast ballots in Kosovo’s recent snap elections and vote for the Serb Ticket party as it represented a connection with Serbia, Serbian parliament Speaker Ivica Dačić told Pink TV on Tuesday. He added that while Serbs in Kosovo are not ‘pleased’ with any government in Pristina, they still wanted their interests represented in the institutions. Read more.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Zoran Radosavljevic]