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 “Race to succeed Merkel wide open as German election nears“, by EURACTIV Germany.
Also read the article “EU’s dismissal of crop-based biofuels will impede transport decarbonisation: industry” by Sean Goulding Carroll.
The European news you deserve to read. Welcome to The Capitals by EURACTIV.
In today’s news from the Capitals:
The construction of two kilometres of the hotly contested Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in German waters – which had been halted due to environmental concerns – was ordered by the German maritime authority (BSH) on Monday to allow safe continuation of works in Danish waters. The entire German side of the project was green-lit in April. Read more.
Portugal to proceed against Poland, Hungary for violation of European values. Portugal’s minister of foreign affairs reaffirmed on Monday the intention of the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU to move forward with the proceedings against Poland and Hungary for suspected violations of European values. More
Divides deepen within Austria’s Conservative-Green coalition. Dissatisfaction among the Greens with conservative coalition partner ÖVP is growing after the party of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz got hit by a series of political scandals which has stirred up a “circle of escalation” that could end in a snap election, one of Austria’s leading political analysts, Peter Filzmaier, told ORF in an interview. Read more.
Fake EU jobs controversy puts Le Pen’s party back in the spotlight. French weekly Journal du Dimanche (JDD) published on Sunday (16 May) extracts from the report of the French anti-corruption office in its probe of Marine Le Pen’s National Front (FN), now Rassemblement National, finding that the far-right party had set up an “organised system of fraud” to misappropriate EU funds to pay party members. Read more.
Luxembourg finds EU prosecutor candidates. Three Luxembourg magistrates have applied to fill two positions as prosecutors who will work with the EU’s new fraud-fighting agency, a spokesman for the justice ministry said on Monday. The country will propose two of the names as delegated prosecutors at the Luxembourg-based European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), which is led by Laura Kövesi from Romania. The institution has earlier rejected national candidates, for instance from Bulgaria, France and Malta. (Anne Damani | EURACTIV.fr)
UK AND IRELAND
Doug Beattie elected leader of Ulster Unionist Party. Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie has been elected to be the new leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. He was the only candidate to run for the position. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
2,800 radioactive waste barrels found near Baltic Sea, stored carelessly. A stock control inspection has revealed that about 2,800 barrels of radioactive waste partly originating from the healthcare and defence industries may have been handled carelessly, Swedish Television (SVT) reported. Read more.
Italy announces loosening of curfew measures. Italy’s coronavirus curfew will be moved back from 10 pm to 11 pm as of Wednesday, the government has decreed. From 7 June, curfew will start at midnight, and will be finally lifted from 21 June. From 1 June, bars and restaurants will be allowed to resume indoor service.
“We decided to proceed gradually to monitor the effects of the reopening on infections,” Prime Minister Mario Draghi said during the meeting where the new rules were decided.
In other news, PM Draghi spoke with Chinese Prime Minister Li Kequiang in a call to affirm Italy’s desire to “strengthen bilateral economic-trade relations, make them more equitable” and “deal effectively” the issues on which “differences of opinion still remain”. During the talks, Li said he hoped instead that relations between China and the EU would continue “in the right direction” and asked for cooperation so that the investment agreement signed in December 2020 enters into force “as soon as possible”, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported. (Daniele Lettig | EURACTIV.it)
Pro-independence parties form regional government in Catalonia. After five months of tough negotiations, pro-independence parties in Catalonia have announced they have formed a new coalition government in the northeastern region that staves off the need for fresh regional elections. Read the full story.
Budapest rejects Chinese university building site plans. Budapest’s green mayor Gergely Karácsony, who recently announced his run for the prime ministerial post in the opposition primaries, has rejected the construction of the Fudan university on its planned site after talks with Innovation and Technology Minister László Palkovics on Monday. Read more.
Poland’s Civic Platform party continues to lose members. Polish MEP Róża Thun announced on Monday she was leaving Poland’s main opposition party Civic Platform after diverging from the party line over the vote on the EU recovery fund. Thun’s departure comes after lawmakers Paweł Zalewski and Ireneusz Raś were removed from the party last week for “acting to the party’s detriment”. Read more.
Czech government approves national recovery plan. The Czech government approved on Monday a national recovery plan with investments worth €7.9 billion, mostly funded by the EU recovery fund. Read more.
Slovakia’s ageing population to drastically increase public spending. Slovakia will increase public spending to deal with the challenges of its aging population to a level not seen in any other EU country by 2070, the Slovak Institute of Financial Policy has claimed. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
BELGRADE | ZAGREB
NATO chief confirms KFOR to remain in Kosovo. All 30 NATO members, including the US, will remain committed to the KFOR mission in Kosovo and there will be no changes to KFOR’s mandate, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels on Monday, refuting rumours that some powers were asking for KFOR to withdraw. Read more.
In other news, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić will replace President Vučić at a working dinner for West Balkan leaders hosted by EU High Representative Josep Borrell on Tuesday, the European External Action Service in Brussels and the Serbian PM’s office confirmed to Serbian media on Monday. The Serbian president’s office issued a press release earlier stating that Vučić would be in the Czech Republic on an official visit from Tuesday to Wednesday.
North Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev, Albanian PM Edi Rama, Kosovo Premier Albin Kurti, Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik and Montenegrin President Milo Djukanović have confirmed their attendance at the dinner. According to earlier announcements, the topics of conversation will include the overall political situation in the Western Balkans and the EU integration process of the region’s countries. (EURACTIV.rs | betabriefing.com)
Bulgarian secret services take leave until September. The heads of Bulgaria’s security services have gone on unpaid leave until September, Acting Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov revealed on Monday, with the move taking effect immediately after the caretaker government took office. Read more.
Romania plans reform of freight transport taxation. The Romanian government has proposed a reform of the taxation of road freight transport on highways in a bid to reduce pollution in the long term. Read more.
Slovenian parliament session aborted amid lack of clear majority. The gridlock in the Slovenian parliament, where neither the centre-right coalition nor the centre-left opposition has a clear majority, has derailed a key multi-day plenary at which a motion to impeach Prime Minister Janez Janša was on the agenda. More
Croatian Archbishop apologises to gay community. Mate Uzinić, the Archbishop Coadjutor of the Rijeka diocese who is known for his liberal views, voiced regret on Tuesday at the fact that the gay community is still being discriminated against in the Church and asked them for forgiveness.
“It is our duty to respect every person, regardless of their sexual orientation, and accept them with respect, but also avoid any kind of discrimination, aggression or violence,” said Uzinić in comments to mark the International Day Against Homophobia. “It is our duty to provide such people and their families with considerate pastoral guidance… I am sorry that there are still Catholics who disagree with this […] and I am asking for forgiveness from homosexual people for feeling abandoned by the Church,” he added. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
BiH accuses Serbia of infringing on its sovereignty. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Foreign Minister Bisera Turković criticised Serbia on Monday for undermining good relations between the two countries with its investment in the construction of a hydropower plant on the Drina River without prior approval from Sarajevo. Read more.
North Macedonia PM: Bulgaria should show magnanimity. North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said he believes the country will manage to solve the dispute with Bulgaria and urged Bulgarian President Rumen Radev and his caretaker government to show magnanimity and give the country a chance to resume the EU accession process. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Albania’s opposition Democratic Party to elect new leader. The members of the Democratic Party of Albania will elect their new party chairman on 13 June, exit.al reported. Read more.
- France: Emmanuel Macron will host the Summit on the Financing of African Economies in Paris. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi will be among the attendees.
- Spain: Spain will start distributing over 1.7 million new doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the government has announced that the vaccination campaign will be extended to people under 50 as of June.
- Greece: Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias is visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he will meet his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi and his Palestinian counterpart Riad Al-Maliki.
- Poland: Sports facilities, including halls and sports halls, will be allowed to open as of Tuesday with limitations based on the number of people adjusted to the area.
- Czech Republic: President Miloš Zeman will welcome his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vučić at Prague Castle.
- Bulgaria: Caretaker Justice Minister Yanaki Stoilov will introduce his team and his ministry’s priorities.
- Croatia: Candidate in the Zagreb mayoral run-off Tomislav Tomašević from the green-left coalition and the two candidates for his deputies will hold a press conference on the results of the local elections held on Sunday and announce their campaign for a second round.
- Serbia: President Aleksandar Vučić is on a two-day visit to the Czech Republic, where he will be meeting with officials and business community members, while EU High Representative Josep Borrell is set to host a working dinner with Western Balkan leaders in Brussels.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Paula Kenny, Josie Le Blond]