Portugal: Poland’s unexpected ally on rule of law?

Portugal sided with Poland and Hungary behind closed doors, according to Publico. [EPA/NUNO VEIGA]

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Before you start reading today’s edition of the Capitals, feel free to have a look at the interview with MEP Udo Bullmann who said “EU needs open channel with Turkey, no ‘wrong compromises’ with Erdogan“.

The European news you deserve to read. Welcome to The Capitals by EURACTIV.

In today’s news from the Capitals:


Portuguese PM António Costa is reported to have criticised the proposal to have a mechanism linking EU funding with upholding the rule of law  – a bone of contention that has prompted Hungary and Poland to veto the EU budget and recovery programme – at the November meeting the Council of the EU, despite making public statements to the contrary, Portuguese daily Publico reports. Read more.



Germany’s CDU/CSU, SPD youth wings target the Greens. The youth wings of both the Christian Democrat CDU/CSU and Social Democrat SPD – each considered more partisan than the parties – held conferences over the weekend where they took aim at the Greens who have surged behind the leading CDU/CSU in recent polls. Read more.



Belgium keeps lockdown over Christmas, with small exceptions. Belgium’s Consultative Committee has decided to open non-essential stores from 1 December, after retailers were forced to close a month ago, for the second time this year. It was, however, more difficult to find a deal on how to celebrate Christmas and the New Years. Read more.



French protest controversial security law second Saturday in a row. For the second Saturday in a row, French people have beaten the pavement to demand the withdrawal of the so-called “global security law” as it bans the broadcasting of images of police officers in action. The bill was passed on first reading on 24 November by the French National Assembly. Read more.



Austrian defence minister tests positive for COVID-19. Austrian Defence Minister Klaudia Tanner (ÖVP) tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday, but has no severe symptoms and is working from home, said her spokesperson. That makes Tanner the second Austrian minister to test positive after the partyless but ÖVP-backed Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg tested positive in October. He is now in good health. (Philipp Grüll | EURACTIV.de)



England could face third wave if lawmakers do not ‘get balance right’. England could face a third wave of COVID-19 if lawmakers do not “get the balance right” on restrictions to curb the spread of the pandemic, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said. Read more.



Two-thirds of Finland’s EU stimulus funding allocated to green initiatives. The Finnish government decided on Friday to spend €2.3 billion from its €3.1 billion share of the EU recovery fund on ecological sustainability and cutting climate emissions, exceeding the Commission’s 37% minimum threshold for targeting climate actions. Read more.



Italy defines governance structure for Recovery Fund distribution. The use of the Recovery Fund in Italy will be managed by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri, Economic Development Minister Stefano Patuanelli, and the European Affairs Committee guided by Minister Enzo Amendola. They will carry out their work in cooperation with an executive committee of six managers, who will be selected by the government according to the sectors the recovery fund’s resources will flow into, and supported by a task force of 300 people. The definitive composition of the governance will be defined by a rule in the budget law. (Alessandro Follis | EURACTIV.it)



Spain to donate COVID-19 vaccine ‘surplus’ to poorer southern Mediterranean countries. Spain will donate its surplus of COVID-19 vaccines to the poorest countries in the southern Mediterranean region after it is done vaccinating its entire population next year, said Spain’s socialist Foreign and EU Minister, Arancha González Laya. Read more.



Bullmann: EU needs open channel with Turkey, no ‘wrong compromises’ with Erdogan. German Chancellor Angela Merkel aims to keep a channel of communication open with Turkey as opposition forces in the country are advocating a different approach toward the EU, social democrat MEP Udo Bullmann told EURACTIV. Read the full story.




Czech Republic relaxes coronavirus restrictions. All shops and restaurants in the Czech Republic will be allowed to open with limited opening hours as of Thursday, the government decided after the country recorded a decrease in new COVID-19 cases.

On top of that, the currently implemented night curfew will be lifted, while drinking alcohol in public spaces will be allowed again. Czech Health Minister Jan Blatný pointed out at Sunday’s press conference that the decision is related to Christmas shopping as well. “People would like to buy gifts. I understand that and it is all right. If we shorten the shopping period, we will risk a higher concentration of people and infection,” Blatný told Sunday’s press conference. (Aneta Zachová | EURACTIV.cz)



Hungarian MEP suddenly resigns. József Szájer, the leader of the Fidesz delegation to the Hungarian parliament resigned after “long-term reflection” from his position as an MEP on Sunday, citing mental strain put on him by the daily political struggle.

The politician emphasised that his decision is not related to ongoing political circumstances, and that he supports the current position of the Hungarian government, seemingly agreeing with its veto of the EU long-term budget and recovery fund. Szájer served four terms in the Hungarian parliament, before moving on to the European stage, serving as many terms. (Vlagyiszlav Makszimov | EURACTIV.com)



Slovak government proposes far-reaching changes to judiciary. Slovak Justice Minister Mária Kolíková (For the people) presented a proposal last week, which laid out far-reaching changes to the court system, such as drastically reducing the number of courts. At a time when distrust toward the judiciary is at an all-time high and high profile judges have been arrested, what is being termed the “biggest reform of the judiciary in two decades” aims to break corruption chains, improve the quality of rulings and speed up the decision-making process, by allowing judges to specialise in a particular area. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)



Whistleblower’s dismissal illegal, Bulgarian court rules. The former head of the Bulgarian Citizenship Directorate, Katya Mateva, was illegally fired in 2017 by then-Justice Minister Tsetska Tsacheva, the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) decided. Read more.



Croatia’s PM Plenković goes into self-isolation. Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković went into isolation after his wife had tested positive for the virus. As the prime minister tested negative for the virus and did not show symptoms, he and his government are continuing to work normally, the government announced. The PM is expected to participate in Monday’s cabinet meeting via video link. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)



Slovenia’s parliament to hold debate on PM’s foreign policy positions.  Slovenia’s MPs are set to hold a debate this week on Prime Minister Janez Janša’s foreign policy positions, which have been met with numerous reactions both at home and abroad.

Meanwhile, parliament will hold talks regarding the initiative to conclude an agreement – which the opposition strongly opposes – between Slovenia and Hungary on cooperation in the construction and management of the second railway track Divača-Koper (2TDK). (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr) Read also: Slovenia and Hungary partner in construction of new rail track



IMF close to concluding €750 million credit arrangement with BiH. The International Monetary Fund is willing, in principle, to conclude a new €750 million credit arrangement with BiH and the negotiations which have just begun could end in December, IMF representative to BiH, Andrew Jewell, has announced. Read more.



A Montenegrin government of 12 apostles. Almost three months after the Montenegrin parliamentary elections and nearly two months since he was appointed the prime minister-designate, Zdravko Krivokapić presented the names of 12 ministers – called apostles by the late Orthodox metropolitan Amfilohije – plus the deputy prime minister.

Dritan Abazović, leader of Civic Movement URA (United Reform Action, a member of European Green), will be the only Deputy Prime Minister. Many criticised the ministers proposed by Krivokapić, notably as some – such as Education, Science, Culture and Sports Minister Vesna Bratić – do not recognise the Montenegrin nation. The security sector is given to non-party members but some question their capabilities for the function. The government’s composition will be voted on by parliament on 2 December.

In other news, Montenegro and Serbia expelled their ambassadors. The acting government on Friday declared Serbia’s ambassador to Montenegro, Vladimir Božović, persona non grata, for interference in its internal affairs, after he described as a “liberation” the decision of the 1918 National Assembly to unite Montenegro with Serbia and thus join the kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, losing its independence. More.



Kosovo parliament did not ratify loan agreement with EBRD. Kosovo’s 120-seat parliament did not ratify the Vital Emergency Liquidity Loan Agreement between Kosovo and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The two-thirds majority threshold for the ratification of international agreements was not met as only 52 MPs took part in the vote.

The finance contract between Kosovo and the European Investment Bank for the Wastewater Plant Project in Gjilan, as well as the Draft Law on the ratification of the Agreement between the Republic of Kosovo and the International Development Association regarding the financing of the programme – promotion and advancement of opportunities for water security – were not adopted either.  (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)


[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Zoran Radosavljevic]

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