Poland closer to total ban on abortion after top court ruling

[EPA-EFE/TOMASZ GZELL]

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 NATO seeks ways of protecting undersea cables from Russian attacks by Alexandra Brzozowski and the Incoming Portuguese Presidency calling for ‘significant’ investment into e-Government, written by Samuel Stolton.


The EURACTIV Network keeps you updated on what’s going on in the capitals of Europe. We are happy to present you with a refreshed layout, both in this newsletter and on our website, and hope you will enjoy this improved experience of our daily roundup across the continent.

The news you deserve to know. Welcome to The Capitals by EURACTIV.


In today’s news from the Capitals:

WARSAW

Abortion due to foetal defects unconstitutional in Poland. A ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal on Thursday has rendered existing laws that allow abortions due to foetal defects unconstitutional, making abortion almost illegal in Poland.

Once the ruling enters into force, ending a pregnancy in the largely Catholic country will be permissible only in cases of incest, rape or a threat to the mother’s health, which make up only about 2% of legal terminations conducted in recent years.

A group of MPs from the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party and other right-wing parties had taken the case to the tribunal, claiming that existing legislation infringed the constitutional principles of human dignity and protection of human life.

The development pushes Poland further away from the European mainstream, as the only EU country apart from Malta, which prohibits the practice entirely, to severely restrict access to abortion.

Read more background and reactions from Poland and the EU here.

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EU INSTITUTIONS

Convicted to jail MEP to continue getting paid. A Greek court sentenced on Thursday the “directors” of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party to up to 13.5 years in prison for “running a criminal organisation”.

Most of them have already surrendered but the case of MEP Ioannis Lagos seems to be stuck in Brussels bureaucracy as in order to be arrested his immunity has to be lifted. Read more.

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BERLIN

COVID-19 situation in Germany ‘very serious’. As Germany logged more than 11,000 new daily COVID-19 infections on Wednesday – 5,000 more than the spring peak – the president of Germany’s government agency and research institute responsible for disease control and prevention, Lothar Wieler, said “the situation is very serious”. Read more.

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PARIS

38 additional departments under curfew. “The progression of the pandemic leads us to extend curfew measures to 38 new departments and one overseas area,” Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday as the country recorded 41,622 new COVID-19 cases within the past 24 hours – nearly twice the amount recorded the previous day. Read more.

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BRUSSELS

Lockdown or no lockdown? With rising infections rates, health experts and politicians are torn whether to return the country into a full lockdown as in spring or continue targeted partial measures. Read more.

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VIENNA

Viennese mayor to choose coalition partner by Tuesday. Following the Viennese elections that brought a landslide win for the Social Democrats and a massive loss for the far-right FPÖ, old and new mayor Michael Ludwig (SPÖ) will be choosing the party with which to start formal negotiations to form the regional government.

Vienna’s mayor has three options: the Greens (with whom the SPÖ governed Vienna for ten years), the liberal NEOS and the conservative ÖVP. According to many observers, only the two first options are politically viable. (Philipp Grüll | EURACTIV.de)


UK AND IRELAND

LONDON

‘Compromises on both sides’ needed. “Every day counts,” EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters as he re-started face-to-face negotiations with UK counterpart David Frost in London on Thursday. The UK side agreed to resume talks after Barnier told MEPs that “compromises on both sides” were needed to conclude an EU-UK trade deal, in a speech in the European Parliament on Wednesday. Read the full story here.


NORDICS

HELSINKI

Finland considers EU to be a means to foster security. Finland sees the EU increasingly as a means to enhance the country’s security and a barricade against geo-economic threats, according to a new research paper published on Thursday by the Finnish Institute of Foreign Affairs (FIIA). The report marks the country’s 25-year-long EU membership. Read more.


EUROPE’S SOUTH

ROME

Quick COVID-19 tests in pharmacies. In addition to regular testing options, fast-result COVID-19 tests will be conducted in pharmacies, Health Minister Roberto Speranza confirmed on Thursday as the number of infections hit a new daily record in Italy with 16,079 new infections registered and 136 deaths in the last 24 hours. Read more.

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MADRID

Spanish far-right no-confidence motion flops by huge margin. An attempt by Spain’s far-right party Vox to table a no-confidence motion against the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez flopped on Thursday after two days of heated and divisive debate in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more.

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LISBON

Portugal could define a pragmatic EU approach to China. Portugal is well-placed to use its presidency to define a pragmatic EU approach to China because it recognises the relationship’s complexity, yet considers it crucial, according to the latest report by European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR). Read more.

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ATHENS

Universal use of masks imposed. Greece has imposed stricter measures to fight the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Masks are mandatory everywhere, not only indoors but also outdoors. More on the new measures here.


VISEGRAD 

PRAGUE

Military medical staff to help with COVID-19 pandemic. The Czech government approved on Thursday the 90-day stay of 300 military medical staff from EU and NATO members who would help the Czech Republic curb the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision must yet be passed by both houses of parliament. Read more.

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BUDAPEST

Hungary prepared to buy Russian, Chinese COVID-19 vaccines. The government asked the coronavirus task force to examine the Russian and Chinese vaccines with the involvement of experts, said the head of the prime minister’s office, Gergely Gulyás.

“Of course, we are prepared to buy from these countries or those manufacturing companies that own the vaccine, if and to the extent that these vaccines provide real protection,” Gulyás told reporters on Thursday. (Vlagyiszlav Makszimov | EURACTIV.com)

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BRATISLAVA

Top prosecutor detained. The National Criminal Agency detained Special Prosecutor Dušan Kováčik on Thursday on various criminal charges, including organising a criminal group, corruption and misuse of power. As he is to remain in custody for the time being, the Prosecutor General’s decision on whether to suspend his duties is pending. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)


NEWS FROM THE BALKANS

SOFIA

Bulgaria in desperate need of doctors. As Bulgaria reported a record number of 1,472 new daily COVID-19 infections and 29 related deaths on Thursday, the biggest concern for the Bulgarian authorities is the lack of doctors in hospitals. Read more.

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BUCHAREST

Romanian diplomat to lead EU labour body. Cosmin Boiangiu, the deputy permanent representative of Romania to the EU, has been selected as Executive Director of the European Labour Authority. Romania’s Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu noted his “great achievement for Romanian diplomacy and excellent news for the EU social agenda!”. (Bogdan Neagu | EURACTIV.ro)

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ZAGREB

Government committee tasked with examining radicalisation in Croatia. Croatia’s government has tasked the Coordinating Committee for Homeland Security to analyse the emergence of radicalisation in Croatian society and make recommendations to prevent it to relevant bodies. Read more.

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LJUBLJANA 

Slovenia ramps up COVID-19 measures as ‘week of struggle’ awaits. Slovenia will put in place new restrictions – similar to those adopted during the spring lockdown – to limit the spread of coronavirus that will enter into force on Saturday (24 October) and last for a week, Prime Minister Janez Janša announced.

“Next week will be a week of struggle, a week in which we must restrain the virus,” Janša said. The measures include the closure of non-essential shops, kindergartens and student dormitories, with some exceptions. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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BELGRADE 

Pandemic cannot slow down reforms, stakeholders warn. The coronavirus pandemic must not slow down the reforms and the European integration of the Western Balkans, participants of a panel discussion at the Belgrade Security Forum said on Thursday, attended by EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi. Read more.

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SARAJEVO 

Head of a security-intelligence service indicted for abuse of power. Prosecutors have indicted Osman Mehmedagić, director of the security-intelligence agency, OSA. Prosecutors argue Mehmedagić abused his power by trying to identify the person who reported him for having an invalid university diploma and lacking the necessary qualifications for his job.

Mehmedagić has been at the helm of OSA since 2015 and is now running for another term, but the biggest obstacle to his reappointment is the fact that he cannot prove to have a valid university diploma. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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TIRANA

First majority Muslim country to adopt IHRA antisemitism definition. Albania became the world’s first Muslim majority country to accept the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of antisemitism, following an unanimous vote in parliament, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The IHRA, an intergovernmental organisation with 34 member countries, established an international consensus on a working definition of antisemitism. “At a time when antisemitism is increasing across the world, the IHRA definition has never been more important,” said Combat Antisemitism Movement director Sacha Roytman-Dratwa. Next week, the first-ever Balkans Forum Against Anti-Semitism will be held in Albania. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Sam Morgan]

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