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In today’s news from the Capitals:
Unlike Austria and Greece, which decided to punish unvaccinated citizens with heavy fines, Slovakia seems to be exploring another way: incentivising people over-60-years-old with €500 if they get the COVID-19 jab. Meanwhile, EU sources explained to EURACTIV the logic behind Commission President’s surprising statement that it’s time to think about mandatory vaccination in the EU. Read more.
Timmermans: Gene editing ‘clear part’ of sustainability action in agrifood. European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans added his voice to the growing list of those in the EU executive advocating for gene editing, a move condemned by campaigners who accuse the Commission of already making their mind up on the technology. Read the full story.
Austrian super-minister Gewessler kills €2 billion highway project. A highway project near Vienna has failed to pass the “climate check” of the climate, environment and transport ministry, the ministry’s chief, Leonore Gewessler, has announced. Her ministry had also blocked another expressway in Lower Austria. Read more.
Potential leaders of German conservatives enter the ring. After its crushing defeat in the German federal election in September, the conservative CDU is looking for a leader to bring the party back on track. The three candidates who are running for party chairman faced each other in a debate on Wednesday. Read more.
Macron commits to defending rule of law, media freedom in Europe. Defending the rule of law will be one of the major challenges when France takes over the rotating EU Council presidency in January, said President Emmanuel Macron. He was invited by the European Committee of Regions (CoR) to debate democracy and European values Wednesday evening and recalled that this requires “an independent and impartial judiciary, uncorrupted powers and a free and pluralistic media”. Read more.
UK AND IRELAND
EU ready to solve medicines supply question. The European Commission is ready to unilaterally secure the supply of medicines between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Commission Vice President Maros Šefčovič told lawmakers on Wednesday. Read more.
First case of Omicron variant identified in Ireland. The first case of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been found in Ireland, it was announced on Wednesday. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Faster rail connection between China and Finland. With the help of an improved rail connection, freight between China and Finland will be delivered in six or seven days rather than the current ten, according to the plans of United Transport and Logistics Company-Eurasian Rail Alliance (JSC UTLC ERA), a joint company owned by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Read more.
Spain’s health ministry proposes new measures as cases soar. Cases of COVID-19 in Spain have exceeded 10,000 in the last 24 hours, the Spanish health ministry reported on Wednesday. As a result, they recommend limiting the number of participants in “public and social events”, particularly during the Christmas celebrations EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported. Read more.
Portugal exceeds limits for all environmental categories. Portugal has exceeded limits in all environmental categories including greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, a study released Wednesday showed. The study added that current and future generations will have to emit half the greenhouse gases of previous to be sustainable. Read more.
Brussels worried about new pushback case involving EU employee. A Frontex employee claims he was pushed back in Turkey, beaten and taken by the Greek authorities along with another 100 migrants. Read more.
Czechia expels Lukashenko supporter. Czechia has expelled Vladimir Bazanov, the Belarusian Football Association president and loyal supporter of Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko. Bazanov and his wife were detained on 20 November by the Czech immigration police after they entered the country without a visa and breached COVID-19 regulations, Czech police said. Read more.
Report: Violence systematically increased at Poland-Belarus border. A calendar of events describing the actions of Belarusian and Polish officials show a systematic increase in violence since the start of the crisis in the second half of August, a new report published by the NGO Grup Granica based on firsthand accounts of people working in the border area has found. Read more.
Last location with press access to Hungary’s ruling party closed. The street in front of the prime minister’s office and site of most cabinet meetings, the last place with meaningful press access to leading government figures in Budapest, has been cordoned off, Telex reported via 444.hu. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Nearly half of Bulgarians refuse to get jabbed. About 45% of Bulgarians firmly refuse to get COVID-19 jabs, and their reluctance to be vaccinated is likely to remain, despite the introduction of green certificates. This is according to the “The COVID-19 Crisis and the Future of Liberal-Democratic Constitutional Models” project, which was funded by the State Research Fund. Read more.
Romania sends plane to repatriate citizens stranded in Morocco. Romania will send a special flight on Thursday to repatriate around 180 Romanians and other EU citizens, the country’s foreign ministry has announced. Read more.
Croatian PM calls for shift from crisis management to competitiveness. “Ahead of us is the task to increase the Croatian economy’s competitiveness by shifting our activities from crisis management, which has been going on for nearly two years now, to competitiveness and job creation,” Prime Minister Andrej Plenković told the Sabor, Croatian parliament presenting the draft budget for 2022. Read more.
Croatian largest retail chain accepts cryptocurrencies as payment. It will be possible to pay using cryptocurrency from 1 December when shopping on the webshop of Konzum, the country’s biggest retail chain and part of the Fortenova Group. This will make Konzum Croatia’s first retail chain to allow payment using cryptocurrencies. Read more.
LJUBLJANA | ZAGREB
Slovenia’s interior minister denies pushbacks, says Croatia ‘instructed’ migrants to enter. Croatian police were “instructing” migrants to request international protection in Slovenia, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs has said, claiming the allegations made by NGOs about Slovenian police officers being involved in pushbacks are false. Read more.
Serbia’s parliament speaker calls for referendum to amend Constitution. Serbian Parliament Speaker Ivica Dačić has called for a referendum on amending the country’s Constitution to be held on 16 January 2022. Read more.
Croatian Foreign minister: NATO and EU membership precondition for stability in BiH. BiH’s membership in NATO and the European Union is a precondition for stability not just on the Croatian borders and beyond, Croatia’s Foreign and European Minister Gordan Grlić Radman has said. Read more.
SKOPJE | SOFIA
North Macedonia government official optimistic about Bulgarian veto. North Macedonia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Artan Grubi, believes Bulgaria could be set to greenlight the country’s EU accession, suggesting the veto could be lifted. Read more.
North Macedonia could extend state of energy crisis for six more months. The government will ask Sobranje, the local parliament, to extend the state of the energy crisis for six more months due to difficulties in power supply and the current situation on the energy markets. Read more.
Albania third safest European country for citizens. Albania is the third-safest country in Europe for real-world crime, according to data compiled by Detica for the UK Cabinet Office. Some 320.09 Albanians will experience real-world crime out of every 100,000, making it to the top three safest countries on the continent. Albania has the lowest rate of burglary at 5.23 per 100,000 compared to the UK, which has the highest rate of 1,311.13 per 100,000.
Albania is also the safest country for credit card and debit card fraud and experiencing a loss due to cybercrime. However, this is most likely due to low usage of digital and card payments and a mainly cash-based economy rather than the lack of presence of such crimes. The UK also has the highest rate of cybercrime, including identity theft and credit card fraud. France is second and French citizens experience hacking at a rate of 19.63 per 100,000. (Alice Taylor | Exit.al)
- EU: Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council (Energy) mets.
- Germany: Bundeswehr holds ceremonial send-off for outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel / Government and regional leaders meet to finalise new measures to tackle Covid-19.
- France: President Emmanuel Macron to take part in a ceremony in tribute of the ancient French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing at the European Parliament in Strasbourg today.
- Luxembourg: European Court of Justice rules on Polish, Hungarian challenge to link between EU funds and rule of law.
- Austria: OPEC+ ministers meet to assess eased oil output cuts.
- Sweden: US Secretary of State Blinken meets Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on Ukraine on the sidelines of the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting.
- Greece: Human rights NGOs hold online press conference coinciding with Pope’s visit.
- Romania: Prime Minister Ciuca meets Edwin J. Feulner, leader of US conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation.
- Slovenia: EU-Western Balkans Ministerial Forum on justice and home affairs takes place in Brdo.
- Croatia: Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković attends a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the URIHO association for the professional rehabilitation and employment of persons with disabilities ahead of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
- Serbia: Special session of the Parliament. The president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Duarte Pacheco, will make an address.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox, Zoran Radosavljevic, Alice Taylor]