Mandatory vaccination suffers setback in Austria

While the government said that it wants to stick to its February timeline, it will “take into account” the potential technical difficulties and might extend the period after which it will issue fines for the unvaccinated. [Shutterstock/Spitzi-Foto]

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 Greece fumes as Washington loses interest in EastMed gas pipeline, by Sarantis Michalopoulos.

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In today’s news from the Capitals:


Due to technical complications, the registration of mandatory vaccines will only be possible by April, two months later than envisioned by the Austrian government. Meanwhile, experts are questioning the effectiveness of mandatory vaccinations. Read more.



EU foreign ministers to discuss Kazakhstan measures. EU foreign ministers will this week discuss possible measures to respond to the crackdown against anti-government protests in Kazakhstan over the past week, a French minister said on Sunday. Read more.



Former right-wing vice-president drops Pécresse to join Zemmour. Guillaume Peltier, former vice-president of right-wing party Les Républicains, announced he will rally behind far-right presidential candidate Éric Zemmour, on Sunday According to him, Zemmour is the only candidate “capable of beating Emmanuel Macron”. Read more.



German government parties drags feet on mandatory vaccine vote. The two biggest parties in Germany’s government coalition – Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens – are in no hurry to call a parliamentary vote on mandatory vaccination despite both supporting it. Read more.



Dutch government to be sworn in with focus on climate. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s fourth successive coalition government will be sworn in Monday a record 10 months after elections, with pledges to spend big on climate change and coronavirus. Read more.



Thousands protest COVID-19 rules in Brussels. Several thousand protesters marched in Brussels on Sunday to oppose anti-coronavirus regulations, as European governments mull tighter rules in the face of the omicron wave.

There was no repeat of the violence that had marred previous, larger demonstrations in the Belgian capital, although police intervened to surround a small group that approached the EU headquarters. Belgium requires residents to show a Covid certificate to enter bars, restaurants and cultural events, and there have been several recent protests. (



UK resumes sabre rattling with EU, threatens to suspend NI protocol. Brexit minister Liz Truss on Sunday resumed the UK government’s sabre rattling with Brussels, warning that she was prepared to suspend the Northern Ireland protocol, and potentially collapse the UK’s trade pact with the EU. Read more.



Ireland offers vaccines to all children aged 5-11. Ireland on Sunday began offering COVID-19 vaccinations to all children in the 5-11 years age group. Read more.



PM Marin: Finland ‘will not be blackmailed’ by Russia. Ahead of the US and Russia talks, Finland reiterates its right to maintain and strengthen its security and foreign policy without ‘blackmail’ from third parties. Read more.



Swedish PM and Security Services criticised for cleaner on deportation list. Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has come under fire after a cleaner hired for her home in Nacka was found to be facing a deportation order. The Swedish Security Services was heavily criticised over the incident. Read more.



Italy expects big increase of preventable deaths of unvaccinated. “In the next 30 days, at current rates, we will have 2,500 deaths among unvaccinated people, deaths that could have been prevented,” Professor Sergio Abrignani, immunologist and member of the scientific technical committee of the health ministry, told Radio 24 on Sunday. 

“That’s why I keep saying that not vaccinating is like riding a motorcycle at crazy speed without a helmet,” he added. Read more.



Spanish study: Unvaccinated 20 times more likely to die from COVID-19. Unvaccinated people aged 60-79 are 20 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those vaccinated against it, according to a Spanish study, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported. Read more.



Poland’s ruling party prepared to split with coalition partner for EU cash. The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party is considering a split with its eurosceptic junior coalition partner Solidarity Poland. The party hopes this will help unblock the deadlock between the government and the European Commission over the money from the Next Generation EU fund, several media, including leading Gazeta Wyborcza daily, reported on Sunday. Read more.



Czech ambassador scolded for supporting Beijing Olympics. The Winter Olympic Games in Beijing has caused the first diplomatic clash between the new Czech government and pro-Chinese President Miloš Zeman. While the current ruling cabinet is criticising China’s holding of the Games, the president has asked the Czech ambassador to China to express support. Read more.



Hungarian producers expect pork prices to skyrocket. Rising costs in 2021 are likely to force pork producers to increase prices in 2022,  Tamás Éder, president of the Hungarian Meat Industry Association, told Inforádió, according to Telex. Read more.



Migrant care workers from Slovakia, Romania discriminated against in Austria. Thousands of women migrant care workers in Austria, mostly from Slovakia and Romania, work excessively long hours with “shockingly” poor salaries and are often subject to various forms of discrimination and abuse, Amnesty International has revealed in a report. Read more.



Prominent Bulgarian investigative journalist threatened with assassination. A Western special service has warned Bulgarian investigative journalist Atanas Chobanov of the imminent threat of an assassination attempt, on Bulgarian territory. Read more.



Vaccination will not be mandatory in Romania, says Health Minister. The vaccination against COVID-19 remains very important, but it should not be mandatory in Romania, the health minister Akexandru Rafila said. Read more.



Electricity price for Croatian government 58% above plan. Electricity consumption of the government, parliament, and the president’s office is 58% more expensive than planned, while some bids being submitted for the supply of electricity and gas are 130% higher than estimated, Večernji List daily reported. Read more.



Slovenia imposes stricter entry requirements, shorter quarantine periods. Slovenia has decided to tighten entry requirements as of Monday as the Omicron-driven wave of COVID infections continues to surge. Still, it reduced the duration of quarantine out of concern that too many people would be absent from work. Read more.



Serbian Olympic Committee gets involved in Djokovic debacle. The president of the Olympic Committee of Serbia, Božidar Maljković, sent a letter to his Australian counterpart John Coates on Sunday in which he strongly protested against the treatment of tennis No 1 Novak Djokovic. Read more.

Serbians block main roads to protest possible opening of lithium mine. Some of the main roads in Serbia were blocked on Saturday in protest at the possible opening of a lithium mine in western Serbia, as part of Rio Tinto’s Jadar Project. Read more.



Dodik: Republika Srpska is a state. Further steps will be taken to strengthen the Republika Srpska (RS), Serb entity, Milorad Dodik, Serb member of BiH tripartite Presidency, announced during the two-day official ceremony of the so-called ‘RS National Day’. Read more.



Parties trade blame following storming of opposition headquarters. Following Saturday’s storming of Democratic Party headquarters by its own members, Prime Minister Edi Rama has reacted to the opposition party’s internal conflict by calling the warring leaders “clowns” and “political corpses”. Read more.



Kovacevski and Petkov could overcome obstacles. Prime Minister-designate Dimitar Kovacevski said he aims to build a concrete and friendly relationship with Bulgaria’s new Prime Minister, Kiril Petkov, who announced his visit to the country on 18 January. Read more.



Montenegro likely to complete all reforms for EU accession by 2025. Montenegro should follow its internal reform plan because it has a real chance to complete all obligations by 2025 and achieve readiness for EU membership, chief negotiator for EU accession Zorka Kordić said. Read more.



Familiar face appointed as new US ambassador to Pristina. Jeff Hovenier, who is part of the ‘Biden package’ of diplomats with experience in the region, was appointed US Ambassador to Pristina and is expected to initiate solutions for the unsolved problems in the region. Read more.


  • EU/France: Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis travels to Paris for the EU-Africa trade relations conference organised by the French EU Council presidency. 
  • US, Russia hold arms control, Ukraine talks in Geneva / NATO-Ukraine Commission meets in Brussels.
  • Germany: German finance minister Christian Lindner and Eurogroup chief Paschal Donohoe meet in Berlin.
  • Netherlands: Four-party coalition government under Prime Minister Mark Rutte to be sworn in.
  • Italy: / Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio hosts German counterpart Annalena Baerbock / New Covid restrictions, vaccine pass come into force.
  • Bulgaria: The National Security Advisory Council will discuss Bulgaria’s veto on the European integration of North Macedonia.
  • Croatia: Defence Minister Mario Banožić on an official visit to Poland.


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

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