Slovak government faces collapse amid Sputnik purchase

The first batch of Sputnik V vaccines arrived in Slovakia on Monday afternoon. Slovakia will become the second EU country to use the Russian vaccine that so far has not been registered by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).  [EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON]

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In today’s news from the Capitals:

BRATISLAVA

Slovakia faces a political crisis after two junior coalition parties spoke about leaving the governing coalition over the purchase of two million doses of the Russian vaccine negotiated by Prime Minister Igor Matovič. Marián Koreň has more.

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EU PRESIDENCY

EU states find common ground in first debate over EU trade policy. Portugal’s foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva said the first discussion among EU member states over the European Union’s future trade policy was “an excellent starting point,” although tough debates on trade and climate policy have yet to be addressed. More

BERLIN

Merz announces Bundestag candidacy. Former candidate for CDU chair, Friedrich Merz, confirmed that he will run for a seat in the Bundestag in September’s elections on Tuesday. Read more.

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PARIS

French ministry to explain integrating Doctolib into COVID-vaccine booking system. France’s solidarity and health ministry will have to defend its choice to integrate medical portal Doctolib, which uses Amazon’s hosting services, into its online booking system for COVID-19 vaccinations before the Council of State on 8 March. Read the full story

Europe not dead: Three in four EU citizens want a more sovereign Europe. The demand for more European sovereignty within the EU is strong despite disparities between member states, according to a study published on Tuesday (2 March). EURACTIV France has more

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BRUSSELS

AstraZeneca for Belgians over 55. The AstraZeneca vaccine can now be given to people over 55 instead of only those between 18-55 years of age, according to advice from Belgium’s Superior Health Council, which states that there are now enough scientific studies that show the vaccine works in all age groups.

The advice is part of a re-assessment of Belgium’s vaccination strategy, which will be discussed on Wednesday and  could accelerate the country’s vaccination process. Out of the three proposals, the Superior Health Council said there is no scientific basis to support the claim that only one dose of the vaccine is sufficient, but recommended allowing more time between the first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine. (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)


UK AND IRELAND

LONDON

Sunak to keep spending ahead of ‘challenging months’. The UK government will continue to pay the wages of people who have been furloughed because of the COVID pandemic until the end of September as part of the Budget to be unveiled by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday (3 March). More

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DUBLIN 

EU Commission expects permanent Northern Irish border checks by mid-2021. The European Commission expects permanent border controls at the Northern Irish border to be in place by the middle of the year despite Agricultural Minister Gordon Lyons of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) ordering the halt of any further work on border control facilities. Read more.

In other news, COVID-19 infections among hospital staff has dropped by approximately 95%, Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly told the Oireachtas health committee Tuesday. The health minister largely attributed this decline to vaccinations as well as falling levels of community transmission. Donnelly further stated that by the end of the week, 500,000 vaccinations will have been administered with the vast majority of over 85’s receiving the vaccine. 

Ireland also saw a sharp decline in the number of COVID-19 cases in hospitals now below 500, a figure Donnelly said was ‘very, very welcome.’ This turnaround could see the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) move key workers such as teachers and carers up the prioritisation list as part of their rolling review. (Paula Kenny | EURACTIV.com)


NORDICS AND BALTICS

STOCKHOLM

Climate targets may leave Sweden’s Armed Forces without fuel. Sweden’s ambitious plans to stop using fossil fuels may endanger and limit the military’s ability to carry out its tasks, while biofuels will fail to power most vehicles and could also be unsuitable for Scandinavia’s cold surroundings, the country’s military has warned the government. Read more.

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VILNIUS

‘17+1’ format with China divides Europe, says Lithuanian foreign minister. The cooperation programme between Beijing and Eastern Europe has brought Lithuania “almost no benefits”, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told LRT.lt after the Lithuanian parliament agreed in February to leave the “17+1” summit of China and Eastern European countries, adding that it “is not useful for Europe, it is dividing Europe, because some countries have a different opinion on China than others.” Read more.


EUROPE’S SOUTH

ROME

Lega Nord hails Denmark, Austria turn to Israel for vaccines. MEPs from the right-wing Lega Nord, which backs the new Mario Draghi government, have backed an initiative of Austria and Denmark to form an alliance with Israel to produce second-generation vaccines against COVID-19 variants, thus moving away from Europe’s joint vaccination strategy. More

In other news regarding Italy’s national recovery plan, EU Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Paolo Gentiloni, said on Tuesday that “we certainly had a few weeks off. Now the work between the government offices and those of the European Commission is proceeding at a good pace”. Gentiloni also said he is “optimistic” about the possibility that the EU countries’ recovery plans could benefit from the early disbursement of 13% of the funds “before the summer break”. (Daniele Lettig | EURACTIV.it)

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MADRID

Spain records over 4 million unemployed for first time since 2016. February saw Spain hit its largest unemployment figures since April 2016, which according to sources, are due to the “heavy impact” of the pandemic. Read the full story.

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ATHENS 

Negative test or vaccination certificate to travel to Greece. People who wish to travel to Greece will have to present a negative COVID-19 test or a vaccination certificate, Greek tourism minister Charis Theocharis has said. More

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19% of Britons with assets exceeding £1 million prefer to invest in the Greek property market due to its affordability and quality of life compared to Britain, CEO World Magazine reported on Monday. More


VISEGRAD 

WARSAW

EU Court: Appointment of Polish Supreme Court judge may violate EU law. The EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled on Tuesday that the changes to the way Polish Supreme Court judges are appointed may be in breach of EU law. Read more.

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PRAGUE

Czechs fall for COVID-19 conspiracy theories. Around 40% of Czech internet users believe in conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey conducted by the STEM agency revealed. Read more.


NEWS FROM THE BALKANS

BELGRADE | SARAJEVO

Vučić: The EU has left us in the lurch, Balkan countries should help each other. The situation surrounding the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines has shown that Balkan countries have been abandoned by the EU and that the Balkan people should be cooperating and helping each other, said Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. Read more.

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SOFIA

Bulgarian president sparks tensions in Skopje. Bulgarian President Rumen Radev’s decision to summon the directors of the security services to discuss measures to protect the rights of Bulgarians in North Macedonia has sparked tensions in Skopje. Read more.

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BUCHAREST

Romania finally has a budget. Romania’s parliament adopted its budget law without approving any amendments on Tuesday. Although the bill still needs to be signed into law by President Klaus Iohannis, this is seen as a formality since the budget was adopted exactly in the form proposed by the government. Read more.

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ZAGREB

Croatia confirms interest in Russia’s Sputnik V. Croatia has confirmed its interest in purchasing the Russian-made Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in line with EU and Croatian legislation, the Russian Embassy in Zagreb confirmed on its Facebook and Twitter accounts Tuesday evening. Read more.

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LJUBLJANA 

More Slovenians struggle with mental health during second pandemic wave. More Slovenian residents have been struggling with mental health during the second coronavirus wave, compared to the first one or before the pandemic, according to a study published by the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ). Read more.

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BELGRADE 

Serbian PM discuses EU membership with Commissioner Varhelyi. Serbia’s reforms in the area of rule of law remain a top priority for the European Union in the process of Serbia’s accession to the EU, European Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi told Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić in a video discussion on Tuesday about the EU’s methodology in membership negotiations, the Serbian cabinet has said in a statement.

Serbia has made considerable progress especially in the area of rule of law, media freedoms, the protection of journalists, and with regards to the economy, said Brnabić. According to the prime minister, the accession talks should be harmonised with Serbia’s reform efforts, the statement said. Serbia has accepted the new methodology, in the belief that it will enable it to lead negotiations with European officials in a more concrete and favourable way, Brnabić added. (EURACTIV.rs | betabriefing.com)

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SARAJEVO 

BiH presidency speaks with WHO about difficulties and delays in vaccine delivery. BiH Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik and members Željko Komšić and Šefik Džaferović spoke with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and discussed difficulties and delays in the delivery of vaccines to Bosnia and Herzegovina through the UN COVAX mechanism. Read more.

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[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Paula Kenny, Benjamin Fox]

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