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 EURACTIV Poland and Alexandra Brzozowski’s story: “With new judiciary appointments, Poland further escalates row with Brussels”, as well as the story on “Fronting personalised cancer care through nanotechnology research”.
PSD set for a leadership change. Former PM Viorica Dancila is set to announce on Tuesday (26 November) her resignation from the helm of the Social-Democratic Party, according to sources. Several important socialist party figures said it was high time for a reset of the party after Dancila got the lowest number of votes of any PSD candidate in the second round of presidential elections. Dancila obtained 3.3 million vote or about 34%, in the Sunday elections, but she said she would not resign.
However, news TV stations reported that Marcel Ciolacu, the head of the parliament’s lower chamber, visited Dancila on Monday (25 November) and convinced her to resign. Dancila will become the leader of PSD’s women’s organisation and will get an eligible spot on the party’s list in next year’s national election slate. Ciolacu confirmed they had a “calm, settled and productive” talk, without elaborating. After that, Ciolacu met several leaders of PSD to set the course for a party meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
The news will most probably please even her EU socialist family, with which she had been at odds for a long time.
Enlargement for four hours. In the meantime, rumours in Brussels suggest that the Romanian drama regarding the country’s Commissioner lasted until the very last moments. Particularly, members of the European Commission’s Secretariat-General were initially informed that Ursula von der Leynen had picked MEP Siegfried Muresan as enlargement Commissioner, a post that had originally been earmarked for Hungary.
However, four hours later, the situation changed completely. Von der Leyen announced that MEP Adina Valean would take the spot as the next transport Commissioner, not enlargement, and with a German official as the head of DG MOVE.
In the meantime, Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán has claimed a huge diplomatic victory with the enlargement portfolio despite George Soros’ efforts to prevent it.
“There was also a great deal of attempted sabotage within Hungary: the Hungarian opposition united in Brussels in an attempt to derail the Hungarian candidate’s nomination. Indeed, there is factual support for the assertion that George Soros personally tried to contact European leaders at the highest level to personally prevent Olivér Várhelyi’s appointment. This was a fierce battle, but we won,” Orbán said.
No clash with Macron. German Chancellor Angela Merkel cannot remember any personal dispute with French President Emmanuel Macron, as the New York Times reported last weekend, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday (25 November). “In the Chancellor’s memory, that evening, there was no complaint, no anger, no quarrels,” her spokesperson said, referring to a dinner on the day of the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. During the dinner, Merkel allegedly clashed with Macron over NATO: “Over and over, I have to glue together the cups you have broken so that we can then sit down and have a cup of tea together”.
Seibert said the meeting in Berlin had rather been “a wonderful round essentially about the events and decisions of 30 years ago on German unity”. According to Seibert, it was, of course, also about “the often-different approaches of Germany and France when it comes to various issues and challenges, and the fact that we always seek and find common solutions”. (Claire Stam | EURACTIV.de)
The honey row. France has been requested to review its proposed measure to label jars of honey marketed in France with the countries from which the different kinds of honey originate. However, this could slow down the implementation of this labelling measure, eagerly awaited by beekeepers. EURACTIV France has the story.
A clear commitment from socialists. Catalan separatists from “Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya” (ERC, United Left of Catalonia) demanded on Monday (25 November) from Spain’s socialists (PSOE) “a clear and explicit commitment” to negotiate “at the government” level between Madrid and the regional government of Catalonia (“Generalitat”), before giving its support to the investiture of acting socialist PM Pedro Sánchez.
ERC, whose direct support or abstention is key to allow the investiture of Sánchez, wants a “negotiating table” “among equals” and “with no conditions”, to address, among others, demands such as amnesty, self-determination, rights and freedoms for the prosperous Spanish region (northeast), EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.
“This (negotiating) table has to have some guarantees: that it is between equals, without conditions, with an established calendar and with guarantees of compliance”, said a ERC spokeswoman on Monday.
After the 10 November election was won by the PSOE, Sánchez still needs the support of leftist Podemos (We Can) and Catalan separatists from ERC to be the next PM. (EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)
Two more weeks. Despite lack of breakthrough in the federal government formation, the Belgian King has extended the assignment of Socialist leader Paul Magnette (PS) to build a government coalition until 9 December. “We work for all Belgians, from Zeebrugge to Arlon, from Eupen to Mouscron,” Magnette said, calling on all parties to “look beyond mutual differences”. The fact that his mission for the second time has been extended for another 2 weeks, indicates that the socialist leader is given the benefit of the doubt, while the other bigger parties, the French-speaking Liberals (MR) and Flemish Conservatives (CD&V), are preoccupied with internal leadership contests. (Alexandra Brzozowski | EURACTIV.com)
Italian red shoes. A shocking survey released on the Violence Against Women day by the national statistical bureau ISTAT revealed that almost one Italian in fourth (23.9%) believes that women are capable of provoking sexual assault because of the way they dress.
In addition, 39.3% of respondents believe that a woman is able to escape sexual intercourse if she really doesn’t want it. In 2018, in Italy there were 142 femicides, of which 78 were committed by partners or former partners. “Violence against women remains an emergency. We are working towards a cultural change, starting with young people,” said Italy’s PM Giuseppe Conte. (Gerardo Fortuna | EURACTIV.com)
Tour d’Europe. Greek leaders from ruling New Democracy and leftist opposition Syriza party will travel across Europe in the next days. PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis will be visiting Rome today (25 November) to meet his counterpart for discussions on energy (TAP and EastMed pipelines), investments, Western Balkans and the refugee crisis. FM Nikos Dendias will be visiting Skopje to meet all the state leadership (President, prime minister and FM) of Northern Macedonia, with the Prespa agreement’s implementation on the table. At the same time, leftist leader Alexis Tsipras will be visiting Paris, to speak at the opening of a Public Debt academic seat in Sciences Po University, while he will meet former President Francois Hollande and outgoing Commissioner Pierre Moscovici.
Constitutional change. The Greek parliament approved significant changes to the Greek constitution on Monday (25 November) evening, based on proposals by New Democracy (ND) and leftist Syriza, which include regulations on the selection of Greece’s president, the right of Greeks abroad to vote at their countries of residence, and ministerial liability. EURACTIV’s partner Athens Macedonian News Agency has the story. (Theodore Karaoulanis | EURACTIV.gr)
A new monument? There is an ongoing debate concerning the upcoming 100th anniversary of the victorious Battle of Warsaw during the Polish-Soviet War of 1920. To commemorate the victory (an unusual outcome for Polish military after years of partition), some want to erect a gigantic arc of triumph in the Vistula river in Warsaw, or at least a monument in the city centre.
Recently, the most important proponent of the monument has been PM Mateusz Morawiecki, who said it would be built “in a short time to commemorate those who saved Poland and the whole continent”. The idea of an arc has been in public sphere for a few years when it was a pet project of right-wing groups. Now, it made its way to the centre of public debate. The opponents of the idea say the monument is meant to further divide the already polarised society and the money could be better spent. (Łukasz Gadzała | EURACTIV.pl)
In search for preliminary support on ‘anti-oligarchs’ bills. The draft legislation called “Lex Haščák” (named after one of the partners of financial group Penta) aims to limit vertical control of Penta group over Slovak healthcare sector. The financial group controls one of two major health insurance companies and owns a network of private hospitals, as well as a network of pharmacies. A separate draft law also tabled under the name “Lex Haščák”, should also ban simultaneous ownership of media, as well as companies if these take part in public tenders. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)
Coal phase-out plans. The Czech Coal Commission decided at a meeting on Monday (25 November) to come up with various scenarios of the coal-phase out in the Czech Republic. Ecologist NGOs estimated that one of the scenarios should develop a plan of coal-exit in 2030 but some other commission members expect the coal-exit in 2040 or 2050. Representatives of Germany’s former Coal Commission joined the meeting of their Czech colleagues and Industry Minister Karel Havlíček (RE) said the Czech Commission will also closely cooperate with its German successor.
Meanwhile, Czech environmental activists attacked the headquarters of coal producer Severní energetická on Monday. Some of them were arrested. Coal remains a crucial part of Czechia’s energy mix and the government plans to replace it mostly with nuclear power plants. (Aneta Zachová | EURACTIV.cz)
Money for waste. The European Commission has approved funding of €90 million for the production of electricity from Sofia’s waste. The total cost of the project is about €185 million. Sofia will also take a loan of up to €67 million from the European Investment Bank, while the rest of the money will be from the state budget. The municipal heating company will get the funding and is going to conduct the public procurement. The problem is that the company has been in the red as it carries €400 million debts. (Krassen Nikolov|EURACTIV.bg)
Limited public consultation on climate goals. The Ministry for Innovation and Technology published a National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) public consultation on 18 November and citizens were given a week to complete the survey published on Google Forms. The Hungarian translation of the NECP plan did not even have “energy” as a reference.
The opposition heavily criticised the government for the short timeframe. “It is incomprehensible that, besides the [hidden link on its webpage] the government does not want to inform people about the most important issue that determines our future,” said Dialogue for Hungary’s Tímea Szabó. “Where is the personal letter, the publicity campaign paid for by public funds?” added the politician, referring to previous ‘national consultations’ targeting George Soros. These cost €35.9 million, estimated transparency NGO Átlátszó.
“The aim of the [consultation] is not for the government to find out the comprehensive opinion of the people,” said István Hollik, government spokesperson but an obligation imposed by Brussels with which the government complies.” The public consultation was mandated by the regulation on the governance of the energy union and climate action, which sets “reasonable timeframes” for the consultation. In Austria, a month was given for the completion of a similar form, reported Index.
Agriculture think tank Farm Europe recently published a report criticising EU member states for not having calculated the transport decarbonisation cost in their plans. The report also emphasised that just nine countries help public consultation.
(Vlagyiszlav Makszimov | EURACTIV.com)
International centre for AI in Slovenia. The first UNESCO-sponsored international centre for artificial intelligence (AI) will be based in Ljubljana, UNESCO decided in Paris on Monday (25 November). The International Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI) is to be established early next year. The centre will address global challenges, support UNESCO in studies, and participate in major international artificial intelligence projects. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Teachers’ strike paralyses Croatia. After last week’s triumph of hosting the EPP Congress in Zagreb, Croatian PM Andrej Plenković was dealt a severe blow on Monday. Zagreb’s Ban Jelacic Square hosted 20,000 teachers demanding a 6.11% wage increase. Croatian teachers have been striking for 31 days nationwide.
The government offered a basic wage increase of 6.12% as of 2020, on a 2+2+2 basis, but the unions rejected the offer arguing that such a proposal would not solve the issue of lagging wages in the long term. “The EPP Congress was not a League of Champion Prime Minister, we are your League of Champion”, a protester said. Plenković said a final agreement is expected to be made by the end of the day, according to EURACTIV’s media partner Novac.hr.
EU Presidency calendar. The Croatian government has finally published a schedule for the upcoming EU presidency. According to currently available information, the European Commission is not expected to come to Zagreb at the beginning of its term, as von der Leyen’s team is expected to start with a delay. The ECOFIN summit is scheduled for 21 January, while the ‘crown’ of the Croatian presidency, the Zagreb summit, is expected for 6 and 7 May. Read the full schedule here. (Tea Trubić Macan | EURACTIV.hr)
Citizens against Polluting Factories. One in six respondents in a survey in Serbia has not heard of sustainable development, while 92% of them think there is a lot of talk and little action regarding the topic. The survey, conducted by pollster Demostat, has also shown that more than 50% of the respondents believe that those who pollute the environment should bear the cost of protection or cleaning, rather than the entire society. At the same time, 80% of the respondents do not agree with the opening of factories that pollute the environment, regardless of the fact that they generate new jobs. (EURACTIV.rs)
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck]