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In today’s news from the Capitals:
If the EU wants to become an important geopolitical actor, it needs to play a role not only in Africa but in its Eastern neighbourhood, Lithuania’s deputy defence minister, Margiris Abukevičius, told EURACTIV at the sidelines of the NATO ministerial in Riga, Latvia.
His comments came against the backdrop of tensions with Russia, the situation at the Polish-Belarussian border, and Russia’s renewed troop build-up in and around Ukraine. Read more.
EU-Western Balkans ministerial calls for closer cooperation to better manage migration. Home affairs officials from the EU and the Western Balkans meeting at Brdo estate on Thursday agreed on the need to improve the exchange of information and cooperation on the ground in the combat against organised crime, and terrorism and in-migration management Slovenian Interior Minister Aleš Hojs said after the meeting. Read more.
NGOs urge EU to sanction Israeli NSO Group. 85 NGOs and experts have called on the European Commission to sanction NSO Group and prohibit the sale and use of its spyware Pegasus. Read more.
Germany says goodbye to Angela Merkel in grand tattoo. Sixteen years of Chancellor Angela Merkel officially ended on Thursday night, as the Bundeswehr armed with torches said goodbye to the long term leader, as an iconic East German pop hit played. Read more.
Centre-right aspiring candidate Ciotti ‘shares views’ with far-right” Valérie Pécresse and Éric Ciotti were the winners of the first round of the vote to elect the right-wing candidate to run in the 2022 presidential elections that took place on Thursday. Ciotti, however, has said he shares views with the far-right. Read more.
UK AND IRELAND
Farmers paid to protect soil during winter in new post-Brexit subsidy regime. Having left the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, the UK government has set up its own farm subsidy system that is designed to offer “public money for public goods. Read more.
Traffic-induced air pollution dropped in 2020 due to restrictions. Traffic-induced air pollution fell last year largely due to COVID-19 restrictions, according to a new report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Finland’s opposition gain popularity as Greens suffer major slump. Two opposition parties have gained popularity at the government’s expense, a new poll commissioned by the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) has found. The Greens, however, have fallen to their lowest numbers in six years. Read more.
Greek socialists decide leader, eye future coalitions. The Greek socialist party (Movement of Change – Pasok) holds primaries on 5 December to elect its next leader. The outcome of the vote could well determine whether the next coalition government in Greece will lean to the left or the right. Read more.
Spain records its biggest unemployment drop since 2008. The number of officially registered unemployed people in Spain fell by 74,381 in November, the largest monthly drop since 2008, according to the latest figures released on Thursday by the Spanish ministry of labour and social security, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported. Read more.
Italian region of Veneto stops tests for the unvaccinated. Veneto has decided to suspend tests for unvaccinated people to privilege those with symptoms and vulnerable cases, the regional health authorities announced on Thursday. Read more.
People landed at Portuguese airports without negative test, recovery certificate. Police and border agents recorded 152 people who landed at Portuguese airports without a negative COVID-19 test or a recovery certificate on Wednesday, the ministry of internal administration tools Lusa on Thursday. Read more.
WARSAW | VILNIUS | KYIV
Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine appeal for anti-Russia sanctions. New sanctions against Russia should be imposed as a response to its aggressive approach towards Ukraine, according to Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and his Lithuanian and Ukrainian counterparts Gitanas Nausėda and Volodymyr Zelensky. Read more.
Czechia could phase out coal by 2033 ‘at the latest’. The future Czech government wants to speed up the country’s energy transition and phase out coal earlier. “It would be the best success to do it (coal phase-out) by 2030, 2033 at the latest,” environment minister candidate Anna Hubáčkova (KDU-ČSL, EPP) said. Read more.
Hungary: US has bigger problems with democracy, blocks EU position at summit. Hungary wants to block joint bloc participation after being the only EU country not invited to US President Joe Biden’s democracy summit next week. It says Washington has bigger problems with democracy than Budapest, Telex reported. Read more.
Slovak health ministry introduces points system for ventilation access. When hospitals are full with COVID-19 patients, it will be up to the scoring system to decide who gets the intensive care unit or artificial lung ventilation, the health ministry has announced. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Bulgaria returns to ‘history’ in veto talks with North Macedonia. Bulgaria has not given up on its historical claims to North Macedonia, which continue to be a condition for lifting its veto on Skopje. In talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev spoke about what future action is expected from Skopje. Read more.
Omicron variant likely already in Romania. There are “high suspicions” that two of the Romanian citizens returned this week from South Africa are infected with the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the health ministry said Thursday. Read more.
Croatian president opposes fines for flouting COVID-19 certificate mandate. The government-sponsored amendments to the bill on infection diseases that envisage fines for persons not complying with the COVID-19 certificate mandate “are not a law but an act of terrorising,” President Zoran Milanović said on Thursday. Read more.
Croatian foreign minister calls for abuse against migrants at EU borders to stop. The abuse of migrants on EU borders needs to be stopped without delay, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said at the meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe Ministerial Council in Stockholm.
“We are also deeply concerned because of the increasingly bad political situation in Belarus. The abuse of migrants on the border with the EU needs to be stopped without delay,” he said in his address. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
UK appoints special envoy to the Western Balkans. Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach has been appointed by the UK as its Special Envoy to the Western Balkans.
Previously, Peach worked as the UK’s Chief of the Defence Staff and Air Commander in HQ KFOR (NATO) in Kosovo and was Chairman of the NATO Military Committee from 2018 until his recent resignation. The government said that his appointment shows the UK’s commitment to stability in the Western Balkans. (EURACTIV.com)
Serbia’s PM satisfied with Commission’s progress report. Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić said on Thursday that she was generally satisfied with the European Commission’s report about Serbia’s progress in the process of association with the EU, and that the government would “focus on the recommendations” in the report and continue working towards fulfilling them. Read more.
Serbia to acquire new Pantsir air-defence systems from Russia. A representative office of the Russian defence ministry would soon be opened in Belgrade, Serbia’s Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin announced in Moscow on Thursday, adding that Serbia would purchase new Russian anti-aircraft defence systems, Pantsir.
During the meeting with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoygu, Vulin stated that the office would open very soon and that “only the technical issues remain,” the Russian Defence Ministry has stated. “Our countries’ presidents have agreed on the further development of bilateral cooperation in various fields, including defence,” Shoygu said in the statement. (EURACTIV.rs | betabriefing.com)
BiH Army’s beard ban deemed unconstitutional. The Constitutional Court held that the ban on beards in the BiH Armed Forces imposed on soldiers while in service and uniform violated the right to privacy and freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Convention.
The decision comes after a request from Bakir Izetbegović, president of the biggest Bosniak party SDA and Speaker of the House of Peoples of BiH’s parliamentary assembly. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Alternativa party to decide on joining North Macedonia’s government. The Central Council of the Alternativa party will decide whether to participate in the government led by the Social Democrats (SDSM) on Friday in Tetovo, the town with the biggest number of Albanians apart from Skopje. Read more.
Kosovo not officially invited to join ‘Open Balkan’. Kosovo was not informed or invited to join talks on the ‘Open Balkan’ initiative, Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla said at the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs. Initially branded “Mini-Schengen”, the initiative aims to facilitate the movement of peoples and goods between Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania. Read more.
Albanian government rolls out COVID-19 boosters for over 18s. The Albanian health ministry has authorised COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for all adults starting Thursday, EURACTIV’s partner Exit.al reports. Read more.
- EU: Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council continues / European Parliament President David Sassoli meets virtually with the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi / EU Vice President Maros Sefcovic and Britain’s Brexit minister David Frost meet for post-Brexit talks.
- Germany: Health Minister Jens Spahn and RKI head Lothar Wieler hold press conference on Covid-19.
- Belgium: Consultative Committee meets on COVID restrictions.
- Spain: Covid health pass becomes mandatory to enter gyms, bars and restaurants in Catalonia.
- Poland: French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen visits.
- Bulgaria: Parliament meets for the first time after general election.
- Romania: Prime minister Nicolae Ciuca and cabinet ministers meet mayors of major cities to discuss thermal energy costs.
- Croatia: The Intergovernmental Croatian-Russian Commission for Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation holds the tenth session, co-chaired by Croatian Economy Minister Tomislav Ćorić and Russian Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev.
- Montenegro: Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković participates in Central European Initiative summit.
[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox, Zoran Radosavljevic, Alice Taylor]