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.
Editor’s take: Johnson’s case for the defence
One of the most hotly contested arguments following the Brexit vote in 2016 was whether Russian interference had played a role in the referendum campaign. As in the United States over Donald Trump’s election five months later, no Kremlin link or interference in the referendum was ever proven, but the smell lingered. So, too, did the argument that Russia would be one of the beneficiaries of the UK being outside the EU. Read more.
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In today’s news from the Capitals:
The welcome citizens of Central and Eastern Europe first showed Ukrainian refugees is slowly waning, especially in more pro-Russian countries like Slovakia and Bulgaria, where refugee “privileges” are being criticised, and comparisons to the 2015 refugee crisis are now being made. Read more.
EU source: Ukraine just sped up EU’s will to cut off Russian gas. Ukraine’s decision to suspend the gas flow through a transit point that it said delivers almost a third of the fuel piped from Russia to Europe through Ukraine is a “logical consequence” of Russia’s atrocities, an EU source told EURACTIV.com.
The same source also rejected criticism regarding the delays in adopting the sixth sanctions package against Moscow, stressing that it makes sense and that Europe has reacted at record speed so far. Read more.
LEAK: Russia main focus of upcoming transatlantic TTC summit. The confrontation with Russia will be at the centre of the next high-level meeting of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC), according to the draft conclusions obtained by EURACTIV.
EU lawmakers clinch compromises on carbon market overhaul. European Union lawmakers have reached an initial agreement on reforms to the EU carbon market as they prepare to negotiate an overhaul of the bloc’s core policy for reducing planet-warming emissions. Read more.
Austria extends Hungarian, Slovenian border control amid Ukraine war. Austria has extended the border controls at the land border with Hungary and Slovenia it introduced during the 2015 refugee crisis, the government decided on Wednesday, citing the security risk of the Ukraine war as the main reason for its decision. Read more.
BERLIN | PARIS
Germany to send more troops to Mali amid French withdrawal. The government in Berlin has decided to prolong Germany’s participation in the UN’s Mali mission and send additional troops to make up for France’s withdrawal. Read more.
Masks soon no longer required on French transport. Facemasks will no longer need to be worn on public transport in France from Monday, meaning the country is getting closer to dropping all COVID-19 restrictions. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
STOCKHOLM | HELSINKI | LONDON
UK ‘formalises’ mutual security assurances with Sweden, Finland. The UK signed agreements confirming mutual security assurances with Finland and Sweden after Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited both Helsinki and Stockholm on Wednesday. Read more.
Lithuania continues military deployment at Belarus border. Permanent military forces remain in the riskiest sections of the Lithuanian-Belarusian border, Interior Minister Agnė Bilotaitė and Defence Minister Arvydas Anušaukas announced on Wednesday. Read more.
Greece ratifies defence deal with US. The Greek government is expected to ratify on Thursday a landmark defence agreement with the US deepening the American military presence at four new military bases.
The main opposition has reacted, saying the government did not negotiate the new deal properly, while in a sudden move, US President Joe Biden asked congressional leaders to approve the sale of advanced weapons and other equipment for Turkey’s fleet of F-16 jet fighters. Read more.
EU Commission approves Italy’s tourism support package. The European Commission green-lighted Italy’s €698 million aid package included in the national Recovery and Resilience Plan, which aims to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19 on companies in the tourism sector, it announced on Wednesday. Read more.
Spain to make abortion a public health right, end parental consent for over 16s. Spain is finalising the details of a draft law that would guarantee the right to seek an abortion in the country’s free public healthcare system and scrap the requirement for 16-year-olds and above to obtain parental consent. Read more.
Prosecutor drops case against ex-minister over fatal car crash. The public prosecutor will not be pressing charges against former Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita over a fatal car crash. Read more.
Portuguese inflation hits 7.2% in April. The year-on-year change in Portugal’s consumer price index (CPI) was 7.2% in April, up from 5.3% in the previous month and the highest since March 1993, Statistics Portugal (INE) said on Wednesday. Read more.
Czechia plans LNG imports from Baltics by train. Czech state fuel distributor Čepro is ready to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the country so gas could be transported from the Baltics by train. Read more.
Polish opposition tables confidence vote against controversial justice minister. Polish opposition parties from the left, centre and moderate right have tabled a motion for a vote of no confidence against controversial Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro. Read more.
Authorities withhold reason for giving away Hungarian highways for 35 years. The Hungarian National Concession Bureau will go to the Supreme Court (Kúria) to withhold the release of the calculations underlying a 35-year concession contract of the country’s motorways to a consortium linked to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Telex reported via Radio Free Europe. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Bulgaria to replace Russian gas supply with cheaper US LNG. Bulgaria will receive supplies of US liquefied natural gas (LNG) at prices lower than Gazprom’s starting in June, according to a deal struck between Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and US Vice President Kamala Harris, the government’s press service said on Wednesday. Read more.
Romania wants to stop public bodies using Russian security software. Public institutions and authorities may no longer be allowed to use cyber security software and services made by Russian companies or controlled by firms or persons from Russia, according to a new government bill. Read more.
Croatia could become Central Europe’s energy hub, says PM. Croatia could become an “energy hub in the northern Adriatic” as Europe seeks to wean itself off Russian energy, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said during a visit to Cyprus on Wednesday. Read more.
Incoming Slovenian government finalises coalition agreement, cabinet line-up. The incoming left-liberal government led by former energy executive Robert Golob has finalised the coalition agreement less than three weeks after Golob’s landmark election victory and unveiled most of the names in what will be the largest cabinet in Slovenia’s history. Read more.
COVID-19 jabs still necessary, says Serbian epidemiologist. An increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases was not registered during the Labour Day and Easter holidays but everyone should be careful, and vaccinations are still necessary, said Serbian epidemiologist Predrag Kon on Tuesday. Read more.
BELGRADE | WARSAW
Poland receives 10 times more refugees than Serbia during 2015 crisis. Poland recorded ten times more Ukrainian refugees since the start of the war in Ukraine than the refugees Serbia received from the Middle East at the peak of the 2015 refugee crisis, a spokesman for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Wednesday. Read more.
PRISTINA | THE HAGUE
Former Kosovo military leaders plead guilty to charges in The Hague. Former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) leaders pleaded not guilty to fresh charges brought against them by prosecutors on Tuesday and asked for their trials to be expedited as they have been in custody for 18 months at The Hague. Read more.
Albanian government must prioritise vulnerable people amid price crunch. The government must provide financial support to society’s most vulnerable while scaling back on non-priority expenditures to help the country through this difficult period, according to the Governor of the Bank of Albania, Gent Sejko. Read more.
- EU: EU-Japan summit in Tokyo with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel.
- MEPs discuss migrant situation on UK-France border.
- MEPs and UK MPs gather to discuss EU-UK cooperation and the Ukraine war.
- Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski will participate in the EU-Turkey High-Level Agricultural Dialogue in Ankara.
- Germany: G7 foreign ministers meet in Wangels on Ukraine. German Bundestag plenary session in Berlin.
- Denmark: International climate meeting with Danish, Indian and British environment ministers.
- Finland: President Sauli Niinisto to communicate his position on joining NATO / Finnish FM Pekka Haavisto briefs MEPs on Finland looking to join NATO.
- Spain: Spanish government to approve a plan to cap gas prices on Friday.
- Italy: Eurovision Song Contest 2nd semi-final in Turin.
- Croatia: Rally to defend women’s reproductive rights.
- North Macedonia: NATO exercise with 4,600 soldiers taking part.
- Special session of the UN Human rights Council on Ukraine / UN Security Council meeting on the war in Ukraine, requested by France and Mexico.
- Serbia: Parliament Speaker Ivica Dačić to open a conference titled “Serbian-American Relations: Energy Diversification Strategy” in parliament. Ambassadors of Israel and the US, Jahel Vilan and Christopher Hill, and Serbian Mining and Energy Minister Zorana Mihajlović, will address reporters before the conference.
- United Arab Emirates: Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić visiting the United Arab Emirates, where she will meet with the country’s officials.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox, Zoran Radosavljevic, Alice Taylor, Sofia Stuart Leeson]