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.
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In today’s news from the Capitals:
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić yesterday (12 October) said it is not always easy to protect his country’s friendship with China given the way other powers look at its economic rise. But he promised that Serbia would continue to build “a sincere friendship” with China by “safeguarding the freedom of choice”.
The statement was made during a visit to Belgrade of Yang Jiechi, a leading member of China’s ruling communist party. Jiechi emphasised that Beijing attaches great importance to “practical cooperation” with Serbia, adding that Chinese companies are being encouraged to invest in Serbia. EURACTIV Serbia has more.
In other news, the Serbian minister in charge of the country’s EU accession, Jadranka Joksimovic, sent a request yesterday for the payment of a third tranche of the EU’s financial package worth €8 million to improve Serbia’s integrated border management system destined for the country’s interior ministry and which is expected to be carried out early next year, Joksimovic’s office reported.
Joksimovic, also a national coordinator for the EU IPA assistance, said the purpose of this kind of EU support was to assist the government of Serbia in establishing the free flow of people and goods, while its borders were controlled properly and protected against illegal activities, in accordance with the bloc’s guidelines and principles. (EURACTIV.rs betabriefing.com)
Lower Saxony to conduct study on extremism in the police. The state of Lower Saxony will, in the near future, launch a study examining incidents of extremism in the state’s police forces, regional interior minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) announced on Monday (12 October). “Obviously, there are always hotbeds of anti-democratic behaviour, which we must quickly recognise and stifle,” explained Pistorius. Read more.
StopCovid app gets update. A new version of France’s StopCovid app – which was first launched at the start of June – will be made available for download from 22 October, French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced yesterday (12 October) in an interview with France Info, when he also noted that “we are in a strong second wave”.
The app was only downloaded two million times compared to the respective 18 million and 16 million downloads of the German and British tracing apps. Castex admitted on 24 September to not having downloaded the French version. (Lucie Duboua-Lorsch, EURACTIV.FR)
20,000 volunteers for COVID-19 vaccine. The French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) has managed to recruit 20,000 people out of the 25,000 expected to launch clinical trials in France on COVID-19 vaccines under development, Libération reported. The journal stressed that it was a great success considering that the campaign was conducted only through the press.
Report criticises government for handling of Ischgl-cluster. An independent commission has criticised the crisis management of the Ischgl ski resort that became infamous in March as a coronavirus-hotspot. Reactions had been too slow, communication too diffuse, and the panic-like departure of tourists could have been controlled, according to the report. This comes after the local and federal governments were criticised for reacting too late but denied any wrongdoing. Read Philipp Grüll’s story here. (EURACTIV.de)
UK AND IRELAND
Brexit data transfer concerns. The European Commission should not grant the UK a data adequacy agreement as part of its ongoing assessment of the country’s data protection landscape, an Irish civil rights group has said.
In a letter sent to the EU’s Justice Commissioner Reynders, Internal Market Chief Thierry Breton and Vice-President for Digital Margrethe Vestager on Monday (12 October), the Irish Council for Civil Liberties has hit out at the track record of the UK’s data protection authority as the prime reason why the country cannot be trusted with EU personal data. Read more here. (Samuel Stolton | EURACTIV.com)
NORDICS AND BALTICS
In government we do not trust. 34% of about 3,000 Finnish companies feel that Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s green and red government has been dealing with the crisis badly or even very badly and has not managed to control the pandemic, according to the Central Chamber of Commerce’s October survey. In a similar survey in May, a wide majority of the country’s businesses and industry approved of the measures taken by the government, while only 13% of those surveyed voiced their dissatisfaction. Read more.
Meanwhile, new travel regulations will come into force on Monday (12 October) in Finland. Due to rise in COVID-19 infections, travel between Finland and Latvia, Liechtenstein and Cyprus will be restricted. Finland also lowered the recommended self-isolation period after possible exposure from 14 to 10 days, as health officials in the country consider that more than half of all cases become evident within five days and nearly all within ten days.(Pekka Vänttinen | EURACTIV.com)
Government crisis spared. Sweden’s Social Democrat and Green minority government escaped near collapse after a compromise agreement on the thorny and locally debated issue of migration was reached. Read more.
Opposition and surprise candidates come on top. In the first round of Lithuania’s parliamentary elections, the Conservatives – currently in opposition – came first, followed by the ruling Farmers and Greens Union. Meanwhile, a newly-founded Freedom Party, which based its electoral campaign on LGBT rights, education policy and cannabis legalisation, has taken a surprise fifth spot. Read more.
In other news, George Soros funded a pre-election campaign against the electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance (LLRA-KŠS), the party’s leader and MEP, Valdemaras Tomaševski , has claimed. The Polish minority party failed to cross the 5-percent threshold require to have a seat in parliament, despite being part of the outgoing ruling coalition. Lithuania’s fringe nationalist parties have also failed to clear the benchmark.
(Benas Gerdžiūnas | LRT.lt/en)
Delimiting lockdowns at local level a viable option, says PM. While a new, comprehensive lockdown is still not an option for Italy, enforcing delimited lockdowns at local level if infections continue to rise could well be considered, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said. Read more.
Spain pays tribute to all COVID-19 “heroes” on National Day. Spain’s National Day was marked Monday by tributes paid to health workers and security forces who contributed to the fight against COVID-19, EFE reported. This year, the celebration was limited to an official ceremony in the premises of the Royal Palace in Madrid, which currently suffers from one of Europe’s highest coronavirus infection rates and has gone into partial lockdown. Read more.
In other news, Spain’s socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Twitter on Monday (12 October) that in moments of crisis, the country should “remember more than ever what we are a caring, open, plural Spain that progresses without leaving anyone behind”.
Spain has been one of Europe’s hardest-hit countries during the pandemic and has now reached an overall infection rate of 836,000 since the start of the pandemic, and currently reporting 10,000 new infections per day, most of which are in Madrid. Though the fatality rate has dropped significantly since the pandemic peak in March and April, a total of 32,500 people have died from the coronavirus in Spain. (EUROEFE)
Borrell throws the ball to EU Council to handle new Turkish provocations. The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell described yesterday (12 October) as “regrettable” Turkey’s decision to send back its research vessel Oruç Reis to Greece’s continental shelf, saying EU leaders will again discuss the issue at a summit this week. Read the full story here.
Poland-Ukraine relations given ‘new impulse’. Following Polish President Andrzej Duda’s visit to Kiev where he met with Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Dmitry Razumkov, Zelensky said that “together, we have given a new impulse to relations between Poland and Ukraine.”
Ukraine also appreciates Poland’s support of the country’s territorial integrity and its efforts to join the EU and NATO, said Shmyhal, who said he personally thanked Duda for Poland’s “unchanged and honourable position” in supporting the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Read more.
More than 1,000 illegal immigrants. Last week, Hungary recorded more than 1,000 illegal entries onto its territory, according to Hungarian police and media reports. While border police in Hungary stopped as many as 1,144 illegal migrants in seven days, 502 of them had tried to cross the border over the weekend, but were returned behind a wire fence located along Hungary’s border with Serbia. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
The President on rule of law in the EU. The EU must be tougher on the rule of law otherwise it risks being taken hostage by authoritarian regimes, said Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová in an interview with the Financial Times, in which she called on national governments to grab the “unique opportunity” offered by the proposal to suspend EU budget payments to countries that breach the bloc’s values.
In other news, Slovakia’s new COVID-19 measures have caused an open fight between Prime Minister Igor Matovič (OĽaNO, EPP) and Economy Minister Richard Sulík (SaS, ECR). While Sulík has claimed that the pandemic commission’s decisions are not based on data, Matovič has accused Sulík of “sabotage”, urging Sulik’s coalition partner party to change leadership. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)
Government shuts schools, bars. The Czech government has decided to take further measures to face an alarming increase of COVID-19 cases. Only last Friday, the Central European country recorded a new peak of 8,618 cases.
Primary schools will therefore close their doors on Wednesday as well as restaurants and bars across the country. Moreover, alcohol consumption in public places will be banned.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Jourova promises action plan to protect independent journalism. The European Commission (EC) will present by the end of the year an action plan to protect independent journalism, Commission Vice President Věra Jourová announced on Monday (12 October) during the conference “Media Freedom in Bulgaria”, organised by EURACTIV Bulgaria. Krassen Nikolov has the full story.
Janša – still going strong. The Slovenian Democratic Party SDS (EPP) led by Prime Minister Janez Janša is leading the polls with 18,7% (-0,3%), according to new data published by Slovenian daily Delo. Read more.
In other news, the recently established Slovenian-Chinese business council at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) expressed concern in a public letter over the government’s alleged plans concerning Chinese company Huawei. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Police officer wounded in front of government building. A 22 year-old man shot at a policeman guarding the government’s premises, then ran away and killed himself. In a Facebook post, he wrote: “Enough of deceit and trampling on human values without accountability,” but also wrote he would like being a sniper who kills Serbs. Read more.
In other news, a Floating Storage Regasification Unit, meant to be one of the main elements of an LNG terminal on Krk island, is expected in Rijeka port on Tuesday (12 October), the LNG Croatia company has said. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Belgrade and Zagreb aren’t sending ‘good messages’ to Bosniaks. “We see Serbo-Croat unification. Dodik and Čović are with Vučić, but he did not invite three [meaning a Bosniak representative]. That is not how Belgrade and Zagreb should work. These are not good messages to Bosniaks and Bosnian patriots,” criticised Bakir Izetbegović, president of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA).
The comment comes in response to Dragan Ćović and Milorad Dodik, leaders of the biggest Croatian (HDZ BiH) and Serb (SNSD) parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina showing up unannounced in Belgrade at a dinner with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. Read more.
Moscow worried about Albanians in the Balkans. “The reports of the joint meeting of the government of Albania and the so-called “government” of Kosovo held in Tirana on 2 October this year were received with concern. The documents signed during the event, as well as statements made by participants, raise serious questions”, announced Russia’s foreign ministry. Read more.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Sam Morgan]