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.
***Correction: In yesterday’s edition of The Capitals, we wrote that Commission vice-presidents were questioned in 2014 by the leaders of the political groups in the European Parliament (the Conference of Presidents). In fact, they were questioned by the Presidents of the Parliament’s 20 parliamentary committees.
MADRID / STRASBOURG
Spain’s acting socialist PM Pedro Sánchez asked all political parties on Monday to “take their responsibility”, help break the current political deadlock and avoid new elections, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reports. King Felipe VI has begun a round of consultations with all key political parties to determine if there is a candidate for PM with enough support to form an executive.
Sanchez’s socialist PSOE won the 28 April elections, but without the majority required to govern alone.
In a last-minute move, the centrist Ciudadanos (Citizens) on Monday offered to abstain, facilitating Sánchez’s investiture with conditions: among them, tax reductions and a compromise not to pardon the 12 Catalan separatists being tried for the unlawful October 2017 independence referendum, in case they are found guilty, next October, EFE reported.
In addition, the abstention of the conservatives of Partido Popular (PP), the main opposition party, would be required to facilitate Sánchez’s investiture. Over the weekend some voices within the PP pledged to offer a “grand coalition” to PSOE, and avoid new elections, but this is not the official position of the party, PP sources said.
If no agreement is reached between PSOE and leftist Unidas Podemos before the end of the week, new elections will be called for 10 November. On Monday Sánchez asked Podemos’s leader Pablo Iglesias not to reject the formation of a “progressive government” for a third time.
PSOE wants a “single colour” executive with the parliamentary support from UP. Iglesias, however, has repeatedly insisted on a coalition government with the socialists.
(Fernando Heller, EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)
But at the EU level, sources from the S&D Group in the European Parliament told EURACTIV.com in Strasbourg that socialist EU lawmakers from the Nordic countries are disturbed by the stance of the party’s new leader Iratxe García Pérez, who comes from Sánchez’s PSOE party.
The critics suggest that the socialist government in Madrid “dictates” Pérez’ and the EU socialists’ line. “Our party line is officially being directed by Madrid […] no consultations take place in the party anymore,” the sources said, adding that following the EU elections, the EU socialists are split into two camps: Northerners and Southerners.
The same sources said that the party group was divided over the upcoming Commissioner hearings, citing the case of Romanian socialist Rovana Plumb, who was nominated as European Commissioner for Transport, and Hungarian László Trócsányi (EPP) who got the enlargement portfolio.
Rumours in Strasbourg suggest that the leaders of the EPP and socialists have made a deal not to attack each others’ Commissioners and run a smooth process, something that Macron’s EU party, Renew Europe, will not like.
EURACTIV’s Frédéric Simon wrote in The Brief that both are among the “exposed” candidates ahead of the hearings of the 26 Commissioners-designate.
In 2017, Plumb “escaped” investigation in a corruption case linked to jailed former PSD leader Liviu Dragnea, after lawmakers turned down a request made by the anti-corruption prosecutors. She then thanked them for defending “the principles of the rule of law”.
Orban’s Trócsányi, a former justice minister, has been accused of undermining rule of law standards in Hungary. “How can this person point the finger to the countries that wish to join the EU when it comes to the rule of law”, a socialist source said.
EURACTIV has also learnt that some socialists from Nordic countries are ready to sacrifice their Romanian colleague in order to nix Trócsányi’s nomination “no matter what Sánchez will say”.
(Sarantis Michalopoulos, EURACTIV.com)
No-confidence vote delays. The opposition parties may decide against filing a motion of non-confidence against the socialist government this week. The leaders of PNL (EPP) and USR (Renew Europe) said they are expecting confirmation from ALDE and Pro Romania. However, the leader of Pro Romania, ex-PM Victor Ponta, said he was expecting to see if Prime Minister Viorica Dancila would ask the parliament to vote for a restructuring of the government. “If she does not come on Wednesday… we’ll have no other option… but to support the no-confidence motion that I hope our colleagues from PNL and USR will file,” Ponta said.
The socialist party PSD does not hold a parliamentary majority after its junior partner ALDE left the governing coalition in August. However, ALDE has lost some of its MPs to PSD, as some party members decided to join the government, against the official position of the party. (EURACTIV.ro)
Is Snowden welcome in France? LREM MEP Nathalie Loiseau and justice minister Nicole Belloubet have said they are in favour of welcoming the US whistleblower Edward Snowden to France. “He did humanity a favour”, Loiseau said.
Snowden, an NSA employee who revealed how the USA was spying the Internet and communications worldwide, unsuccessfully applied for asylum in France in 2013. He now hopes that Macron will give it to him. Ofpra agency, and not the Elysée, officially deals with the asylum system. But sensitive files may somehow find their way.
EURACTIV France reports that the US-France relations are already damaged, and so welcoming a whistleblower would not cause much further harm.
“The saddest about this whole thing is that the only place where an American whistleblower can talk is not in Europe but here in Russia,” Snowden said in an interview with France Inter on Monday. Loiseau is leading the defence sub-committee in the European Parliament, which will scrutinise the new European Commission’s plans to overhaul the bloc’s defence policy. (EURACTIV.FR)
Greek-German understanding. At a meeting with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in Berlin on Monday (16 September), German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas assured Greece of support with regard to migration. More refugees coming from Turkey recently arrived in Greece – despite the 2016 pact with Ankara that provides for the return of all migrants who illegally entered the Greek islands via Turkey. (Claire Stam,EURACTIV.de)
Renzi’s new start. Yesterday evening, Italy’s PM Giuseppe Conte received a phone call from Matteo Renzi, announcing his departure from the centre-left Democratic Party (PD). Renzi has assured that the new centrist movement he intends to set up in the next few days will support Conte’s new government.
Among those who will join Renzi’s new party are the ministers for agriculture Teresa Bellanova, and for family Elena Bonetti, as well as two junior ministers Anna Ascani and Ivan Scalfarotto. Renzi can also count on the support of around 15 lawmakers in the lower House and roughly 5 in the Senate. (Gerardo Fortuna, EURACTIV.com)
IMF early repayment. On Monday Greece officially asked the Eurogroup and ESM for permission to repay early expensive IMF loans of its bailout program. Finance Minister Christos Staikouras mapped a repayment scheme for €2.9 billion given to Greece by IMF with 5.13% interest, and of total loans amounting to €8.8 billion. The remaining amount carried an interest rate lower than 3%. (Theodore Karaoulanis, EURACTIV.gr)
>Read more on EURACTIV’s partner Athens-Macedonian News Agency
Be like Singapore. In an emailed interview, EU Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič confirmed that strategic foresight is part of his next portfolio (inter-institutional relations and foresight). “Part of the assigned portfolio resides in embracing the trends, which will define the resilience of Europe and its success,” Šefčovič wrote.
He praised Singapore as being no 1. in strategic foresight and Europe should not lag behind. “I would like for all of us – the Commission, the Parliament and the member states – to agree on strategic priorities within the so-called multiannual programming. Among the new trendsetters like Singapore, this is very much a matter of course”. (Zuzana Gabrižová, EURACTIV.sk)
The conditions to accept budget cuts. The Czech Republic can accept the planned 2021-2027 EU budget cutbacks to cohesion and agriculture funding under one condition: It wants to have more control in deciding how to use the subsidies, State Secretary for European Affairs Milena Hrdinková has told the Czech News Agency.
The Czech Republic will be one of the most affected countries by the proposed cuts. In 2021-2027, it is expected to receive around €3.8 billion less than 2014-2020. (Aneta Zachová, EURACTIV.cz)
Budget scenarios. Poland could lose up to €13 billion from the EU’s new long-term budget compared to the draft proposal of the European Commission presented last year, Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita reports. It could be even worse, as the new Commission will put aside more money for the Green Deal, which is likely to save on agriculture and cohesion policy, French Minister for European Affairs, Amelie de Montchalin, said. However, despite the anticipated loss, Poland can expect to benefit from the newly created Just Transformation Fund. (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)
Why Croatia tolerates Italian and Hungarian provocations? Croatian authorities’ reaction to the pro-fascist provocations in Rijeka last week have been tepid.
“It had to be answered faster and more fiercely because Italy, like Hungary, is a long-standing hegemon in the Croatian territories. We have to be friends with both countries, but there is a limit that must not be crossed, such as this kind of events. However, our government will completely silence them, but they will fixate on Serbia as if all evil comes from there”, Ivica Maštruko, Croatia’s first ambassador in Italy told jutarnji.hr.
Professor Dejan Jović recently described Croatia-Serbia relations as a “frozen conflict”, adding that the normalisation of relations does not suit the political elites in either country. (Željko Trkanjec,EURACTIV.hr)
Ageing farming population. In Serbia, farmers are predominantly aged 65 or older (42.5%) while just 8.7% of farmers are between 35-44 year-old. The Serbian Statistical Office has also said that the average surface area of a plot of land owned by a farmstead is 12.7 hectares. (beta.rs,EURACTIV.rs)
New EU Delegation chief, one more Austrian. Austrian diplomat Johann Sattler takes over as chief of Delegation of the EU to Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday. From 2008 to 2013, he was the publishing director for WAZ Media Group and Axel Springer in Moscow. (Željko Trkanjec,EURACTIV.hr)
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Ben Fox]