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 interview with EU Commissioner Thierry Breton: “Europe was too naive before, now we are in the driving seat“, by Jorge Valero.
Also read the story “US surprises Europe, backs waiving COVID-19 vaccines patents“.
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In today’s news from the Capitals:
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has made an offer to the Danish authorities for Poland to buy back doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson after the product was pulled from the Danish vaccination programme due to rare cases of blood clots potentially linked to the vaccine, Polsat News TV has reported. Read more.
China Atlantic base to spark ‘strong concern’, Portuguese minister says. Any Chinese military base in the Atlantic Ocean is unnecessary and any such hypothesis would be viewed with “strong concern”, Portugal’s minister of defence, João Gomes Cravinho, has said, adding that it was “not a good idea” to transform this region into a scenario of “geopolitical conflict”. More
Germany pledges to become carbon-neutral by 2045. Germany has announced plans to become carbon-neutral by 2045, in a landmark shift in climate policy driven by a recent constitutional court ruling demanding better defined emissions targets after 2030. Full story.
French journalist kidnapped in Mali. In a short video that circulated on social media Wednesday, French journalist Olivier Dubois claims to have been kidnapped on 8 April by the GSIM, an alliance of jihadist movements in the Sahel region targeted by the French military as part of Operation Barkhane. (Magdalena Pistorius | EURACTIV.fr)
Austrian Labour Minister rejects EU-wide minimum wage. A few days ahead of the EU Social Summit in Porto, Austrian Labour Minister Martin Köcher of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) rejected the idea of an EU-wide minimum wage, claiming the EU lacks competence in the area of labour policy, and that the issue falls within the sole competence of member states. Read more.
PM announces further easing of restrictions. Luxumbourg’s prime minister Xavier Bettel announced on Wednesday a further easing of COVID-19 restrictions to be applied from 16 May to 12 June, though the new rules still need the approval of the Chamber of Deputies, which will vote next week.
If adopted, Luxembourg will push back its current 11pm curfew to midnight and allow outdoor hospitality to open until 10pm. It would also be possible for four people who are not members of the same household to gather together inside, instead of two, and more people would also be allowed in cultural and sports venues. (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.fr)
UK AND IRELAND
Johnson to use vaccination roll-out in local elections. Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are likely to reap the benefits of the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination programme in local elections on Thursday. More.
Irish media commission to focus on online abuse of women politicians, journalists. The Irish parliament has proposed legislation that would establish a new media commission. The proposed body would see staff transferred from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) and establish an Online Safety Commissioner tasked with the regulation of social media platforms with a focus on the online abuse of female politicians and journalists. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Norway denies Russia’s remarks of mounting tensions in Euro-Arctic region. The signing of the Norway-US revised Supplementary Defence Cooperation Agreement (SDCA) on 16 April has sparked harsh criticism from Russia’s foreign ministry, accusing Oslo of “aggravating tensions in the Euro-Arctic region, and destroying Russian-Norwegian relations”. Read more.
Greek reporter after death threats: journalism targeted by business-politics ties. Greek journalist Kostas Vaxevanis recently heard someone was trying to have him killed. Days later, another well-known investigative journalist was assassinated in a mafia-styled execution in Athens. EURACTIV spoke to Vaxevanis to find out if press freedom is in trouble in Greece. Read the full story by Luca Bertuzzi.
Members of Italian organised crime group ‘Ndrangheta’ arrested in joint operation. A group of 33 alleged members of the powerful Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta criminal gang were arrested on Wednesday in a joint operation carried out by the Italian, German, Spanish and Romanian police.
Those arrested are accused of mafia association, international drug trafficking, money laundering, fictitious registration of assets, extortion and other crimes. The group are said to have been working in the catering, real estate and construction sectors between the province of Turin, in the north-west of Italy, the German region of Baden-Wurttemberg, Spain, and Romania.
In other news, the leaders of the 5-Star Movement requested in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Mario Draghi to ensure the temporary suspension in the EU of patents on COVID-19 vaccines, and to regulate the use of compulsory licenses provided in the trips agreement. The rule would allow, in the event of no agreement with pharmaceutical companies, companies to proceed with the production of vaccines even without their consent upon payment of compensation. (Daniele Lettig | EURACTIV.it)
Spain’s green recovery plan among EU’s best, experts say. The contribution of Spain’s recovery, transformation and resilience plan to the green transition is among the best in the EU, according to a report international climate experts highlighting the lack of European ambition to decarbonise the economy. Read the full story.
Hungarian opposition to file police complaint after MP attends vote with virus. Hungarian opposition parties Párbeszéd (Dialogue) and Momentum have said they will file a police complaint against ruling Fidesz party lawmaker Zsolt Becsó after he attended a parliamentary session last week while infected with the coronavirus. More.
Czech Deputy PM files civil suit against article accusing him of Russia collusion. Czech Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Jan Hamáček said on Wednesday he is filing a civil complaint about an article alleging he collaborated with Russia. Read more.
Slovak parliament deputy speaker resigns after breach of curfew. The Slovak parliament’s deputy speaker, Juraj Šeliga (Za ľudí) stepped down from his post on Wednesday after holding a late-night meeting in a downtown club in Bratislava. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Bulgaria to hold snap elections on 11 July. Bulgarian President Rumen Radev will schedule early parliamentary elections for 11 July after parties voted into parliament following elections held just a month ago failed to form the required majority to govern. Radev also said he will appoint a caretaker government to at least run for the next two months. Read more.
Romania’s convergence programme approved at cabinet meeting. Romania’s Prime Minister Florin Cîțu announced that the Convergence Programme for 2021-2024 has been approved by the government at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday (5 May). Read more.
Zagreb Court’s same-sex ruling paves way for adoption by LGBTIQ partners. The Zagreb Administrative Court has made a historic decision in the “Kožić and Šegota” case of a same-sex couple. The ruling paves the way for all lifelong partners to adopt, Daniel Martinović, who heads Croatia’s Rainbow Families association said on Wednesday. Read more.
Serbian President Vucic offers €25 to vaccinated citizens. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić announced on Wednesday that people over the age of 16 would receive RSD3,000 (€25) if they got the COVID-19 vaccine. This comes after the president announced the allocation this year of €60 for all adult citizens and an additional €50 for pensioners, measures that have been highly criticised by the country’s fiscal council. Read more.
Turkey reassured Slovenia did not author Balkan border non-paper. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Wednesday that he was reassured, following his visit to Ljubljana, that Slovenia had not been the author of the phantom non-paper that suggested a change of borders in the Western Balkans along ethnic lines. Read more.
1.5% of Montenegrin population vaccinated in one day. About 10,000 people were vaccinated against COVID-19 on the first day of mass inoculation in Montenegro on Tuesday, which is 1.5% of the population, the country’s health ministry said on Wednesday. Read more.
- France: President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday will lunch with Senate President Gérard Larcher and National Assembly President Richard Ferrand.
- Spain: Regions to decide on new mobility restrictions after Sunday, when the government-decreed state of alarm is due to end.
- Greece: Major syndicates have organised a massive strike in Athens against a new bill pushed forward by the conservative government. The bill provides the abolishment of eight-hour workday, collective agreements and unpaid overtime.
- Poland: President Andrzej Duda will appoint his new advisory body, the Social Affairs Council, which will be tasked with seeking solutions that will make life easier for those most vulnerable in society. The president will appoint another two councils in May – one dealing with the family and the other with local governments.
- Czech Republic: Czech and Austrian foreign ministers to discuss bilateral relations and current European and international issues Thursday, after which they will hold a press conference at 11:30.
- Bulgaria: Bulgarians celebrate St. George Day as a public holiday on Thursday in honour of its army.
- Croatia: Finance Minister Zdravko Marić to hold a news conference on the country’s recovery and resilience plan with details from within his department’s remit, while Foreign and European Minister Gordan Grlić Radman will visit Kosovo.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Paula Kenny, Zoran Radosavljevic, Josie Le Blond]