Italy gets closer to referendum decriminalising cannabis

The referendum would amend a 1990 law that makes selling weed punishable with two to six months of prison and owning weed for personal use punishable with the suspension of one’s driver’s license. [Shutterstock/Dmytro Tyshchenko]

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In today’s news from the Capitals:


A referendum aiming to decriminalise growing and consuming cannabis in Italy has been signed by more than 420,000 people in just four days. At the current pace, it is set to reach the 500,000 signatures it needs to be considered valid much earlier than the 30 September deadline. Read more.



EU unprepared to tackle Alzheimer’s disease as new treatments progress. European Union countries are still lagging behind in tackling Alzheimer’s disease despite calls by the World Health Organisation for urgent action as cases in the European region are expected to double. Read the full story.



Slovenia advocates for strong cohesion policy, minister says. Cohesion policy has an important role in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, and the Slovenian EU presidency intends to keep it strong, Development and EU Cohesion Policy Minister Zvonko Černač said at a conference in Porto. More.



Macron bids Merkel farewell over dinner, but not really. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel winds up her farewell tour across Europe, she visited Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Thursday. Read more.



France suspends 3,000 unvaccinated medical staff. “Yesterday, 3,000 staff of health or medico-social establishments who had not yet been vaccinated out of a total of 2.7 million employees were suspended,” Health Minister Oliver Véran told RTL radio on Thursday (16 September). Read more.



Belgium’s young adults face post-pandemic depression. Young adults (18-29) are still the most affected by anxiety (27%) and depressive symptoms (24.5%), while the elderly (65 years and over) are the least affected (7% and 6% respectively), a new survey by Sciensano, the national public health institute of Belgium, has shown that. Read more.




Irish FM survives no-confidence vote. Foreign minister Simon Coveney has survived a no-confidence vote brought against him in the Irish parliament on Wednesday. Read more.




New Defence Report puts new focus on cyberspace and the Arctic. According to the government’s new Defence Report, Finland’s defence environment is “tense” and “difficult to predict”. Cyber and information environments and space are lifted as areas next to traditional land, sea and air. The superpower activity in the Arctic is seen as a growing challenge to Finland and Northern Europe as a whole. The rise of China and its means of influence are mentioned separately. Read more.




Unprecedented racism incident puts Greek PM to the test. A lawmaker from the ruling conservative New Democracy party (EPP) has caused turmoil in Greek politics after he re-tweeted an article that made public a list with names of “foreign” underage children in a kindergarten.

The article’s aim was to show that foreigners are taking over Greek schools. From a legal point of view, the case escalated on Thursday, as a prosecutor stepped in. Politically, PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis is now cornered and accused of winking at the far-right electorate because of unwillingness to sack his lawmaker. Read more.



Spain’s energy prices continue to hit record highs despite government intervention. The seemingly unstoppable surge of wholesale energy prices in Spain continued on Thursday with a new record of €188.18 per megawatt-hour, a rise of 22% this week, despite government efforts to bring down costs amid public outcry, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported. Read more.




The island in illiberal storm is getting bigger. Another twenty cities from around the world have joined the Pact of Free Cities initiative launched in 2019 by Bratislava, Budapest, Prague and Warsaw mayors. Faced with conservative illiberal governments, these cities launched the initiative to promote democracy and transparency against populism and nationalism. But now it seems that their voice was heard even outside Europe. Read more.



Poland’s medical staff go on strike. “You will hang,” far-right lawmaker Grzegorz Braun (Confederacy) told health minister Adam Niedzielski at a debate over the situation in the health sector on Thursday in the Sejm.

Braun was thrown out of the chamber and the issue was referred to the prosecutor’s office, as his words can be considered as punishable threats. Read more.

In other news: the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Poland, criticising the Polish government’s actions against private media, undermining rule of law and discrimination of sexual minorities. It calls on the EU institutions to accept the recovery plan on the condition of respecting rulings of the EU’s Court of Justice (CJEU).

(Piotr Maciej Kaczyński |



Czech railway: Low quality, high density. Czechia is an EU leader when it comes to the density of railway network. With 9,277 kilometres of rail in the country, it would be difficult to find a more connected state within the EU. Quality-wise, though, there are severe shortcomings, Emanuel Šíp, chairman of the Transport Section of the Czech Chamber of Commerce, told Read more.




Don’t be Europe’s idiots, warns Bulgaria’s chief health inspector. “If we continue to behave like the idiots of Europe, we will deal a terrible blow to our economy and tourism,” said Chief Health Inspector Angel Kunchev, who proposes restrictive measures against COVID-19 in the country. Read more.



President Iohannis wants Romgaz to extract Black Sea gas. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has backed the partnership between OMV Petrom and Romania’s state-owned natural gas producer Romgaz in the offshore project Neptun Deep. The Black Sea deepwater perimeter, which is currently equally owned by OMV Petrom and US giant ExxonMobil, has estimated reserves of 42-84 billion cubic meters of gas. Read more.



Croatia to enjoy USA Visa Waiver program by end of year. Croatian citizens will be able to travel to the US without a visa as early as the end of this year. Serena Hoy, assistant secretary for international affairs at the US Department of Homeland Security, told Hina news agency that Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas would make the decision by the end of September. Read more.

In other news, Croatian Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković repeated on Thursday that Italian Prosecco and Croatian Prošek are not the same wine, stressing that Croatia has every right to have its traditional name Prošek recognised at the EU level.

Vučković said that there is evidence showing that the term Prošek has been used in Croatia for centuries and that it concerns a special winemaking method used in Dalmatia and the Dalmatian hinterland.

She noted that Italian Prosecco is a sparkling wine with completely different specifications.

Italy is trying to prevent Croatia’s request to get EU protection for its Prošek, claiming that the use of the term Prošek causes damage to the Italian Prosecco.

(Željko Trkanjec |



Slovenian PM urges member states to back Lithuania in spat with China. Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša called on fellow EU leaders to back Lithuania in its dispute with China when they meet in Slovenia in early October, saying the country faced “unprecedented and regrettable challenges vis-à-vis China.” China has condemned the statement. Read more.



Almost 37% of citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina do not want to get vaccinated against COVID-19, fearing unwanted side effects, showed an online survey conducted at a time of a relatively high number of new infections and coronavirus-related deaths in the country.

The survey showed that 46% of people who oppose vaccination are afraid of the possible side effects. The survey also found that about 51% of BiH’s population are opposed to the introduction of mandatory vaccination, 30% support the idea and 19% do not have an opinion.

(Željko Trkanjec |



Đukanović: Russia tells us EU-NATO is not a good geopolitical choice. The geopolitical vacuum in the Balkans is being exploited by countries like Russia, Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović said during a visit to Zagreb. Read more.



  • France: Frencg MPs meet self-exiled former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont in Paris.
  • Belgium: Consultative Committee to decide about extension of use of Covid Safe Ticket.
  • Austria: First court hearing in lawsuit against government over Covid-19 infections at Ischgl ski resort.
  • UK: Liberal Democrats hold annual conference.
  • Greece: Seven Mediterranean EU member states (EU-Med7) hold leaders’ summit in Athens / French President Emmanuel Macron visits.
  • Italy: G20 agriculture ministers meet in Florence.
  • Poland: Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte visits Warsaw.
  • Hungary: UDMR, the ethnic Hungarian party that is a junior partner in the governing coalition, holds a congress to elect its leadership.
  • Serbia: President Aleksandar Vučić to meet with Minister of Industry of Belarus Petr Parhomchik.
  • Russia: Parliamentary elections.


[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Alexandra Brzozowski, Zoran Radosavljevic]

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