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In today’s news from the Capitals:
Slovak journal denies removing article criticising Sputnik V. The Russian Fund for Direct Investment (RFDI) has asked Slovak newspaper Denník N to withdraw a story, citing the Slovak authorities’ assessment of the Sputnik V vaccine, which it stated is “misleading.” Read more.
Portugal wants to be remembered for ‘rebalancing relationship with Asia’. Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva has said that he would like Portugal’s EU Presidency to be remembered as the “one that rebalanced the relationship with Asia”. Read the full story.
European Parliament expects June return to Strasbourg chamber. The European Parliament is expected to return to its official seat in Strasbourg for a June plenary after an absence of more than a year due to COVID-19 restrictions, officials said on Wednesday (12 May). Read more.
EU Commission urges limiting travel from India. The European Commission on Wednesday urged EU member states to work together to restrict travel from India in order to limit the spread of a COVID-19 variant that has ravaged the Asian country. More.
Germany aims for carbon neutrality by 2045. Germany’s governing coalition of the conservative Union of CDU/CSU and the Social Democrats (SPD) met in Berlin Wednesday to agree on a revision to the climate protection law as demanded by the country’s constitutional court, with new, ambitious goals, including carbon neutrality by 2045. Read more.
France extends mandatory quarantine to five new countries. Five more countries will be added to France’s mandatory 10-day quarantine list, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal announced Wednesday. Read more.
Austrian Chancellor faces anti-corruption probe. The Prosecutor’s Office for Economic Affairs and Corruption has begun its investigation of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz for allegedly giving false testimonies on multiple occasions to the parliament’s investigation committee set up in the wake of the “Ibiza-gate” scandal and tasked with investigating political corruption in the former Austrian government. Read more.
Former vice prime minister to have his resignation annulled. Luxembourg’s former justice minister and vice-prime minister, Felix Braz, who was given an “honourable resignation” while in hospital a month after suffering a heart attack in August 2019 has filed two lawsuits before the administrative court in a bid to overturn the move.
“My case has not yet arrived. I am the first but certainly not the last. I can only hope that the next one in such a situation will be spared what I have had to face over the past few months, in addition to my rehabilitation,” Braz tweeted on Wednesday. (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.fr)
UK AND IRELAND
EU citizens in UK feel they receive unequal treatment, survey finds. A quarter of EU citizens living in the UK do not feel they are treated equally to UK citizens according to the first survey of EU citizens by the watchdog set to protect their rights published on Thursday. Read the full story.
DUBLIN | LONDON
UK PM apologises over verdict of Ballymurphy inquest. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has “apologised unreservedly on behalf of the UK government for the events that took place in Ballymurphy” on a call with Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill on Wednesday, newspaper Irish Times has reported. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Finnish parliament postpones recovery fund vote. Parliament was not able to vote on the EU’s €750 billion recovery fund as planned Wednesday as its debate continued after two EU officials made remarks that the arrangement could become a regular and even permanent mechanism to boost growth. Read more.
Greeks discuss benefits for those vaccinated. The Greek authorities are currently discussing potential “benefits” for those citizens who have been vaccinated using the so-called vaccination certificate. More.
Italian PM: European fiscal rules have to change. “There is no question that the European budget rules have to change,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi told deputies during a Question Time session in parliament Wednesday. Read more.
In other news, the Italian government on Wednesday appointed Ambassador Elisabetta Belloni as the new head of the Security Information Department (Dis), the coordinating body of the secret services. Belloni, who currently holds the position of general secretary of the foreign ministry, will be the first woman to fill this role. (Daniele Lettig | EURACTIV.it)
San Marino to offer tourists Sputnik jabs for €50. San Marino, an independent micro-state in northern Italy, announced Wednesday (12 May) it would begin offering the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine to tourists for €50. Read the full story.
Spain eyes fresh elections in Catalonia to tackle political crisis. A new regional election could be a possible way to unblock the political crisis in Catalonia after separatist parties were unable to reach an agreement and form a pro-independence executive, the Spanish government has said. Read more.
Polish government speeds up post-lockdown reopening. The Polish government has brought forward by eight days the reopening date for cinemas, theatres, philharmonics and opera houses, allowing these establishments to operate at 50% capacity from 21 May as the country’s daily new coronavirus case numbers continue to fall. Read more.
Babis’ minority government could face no-confidence vote in June. The two opposition coalitions in the Czech parliament’s lower house said on Wednesday they want to initiate a vote of no-confidence in the minority government of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, with a possible date at the beginning of June, due to its poor handling of the pandemic, management of public funds and other issues. Read more.
Hungary hands in revised recovery plan following initial alleged rejection. Hungary handed in its revised recovery plan to the European Commission on Wednesday, under which the country will request €7.2 billion in grants, forgoing claiming €9.6 billion in cheap loans, after press reported that the initial plans of the government were rejected by the European executive. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Ambassador: Israel recognised Kosovo under US pressure. The Israeli Ambassador to Serbia, Jahel Vilan, said on Wednesday during a TV interview that Israel had recognised the independence of Kosovo under pressure from the United States, as part of an agreement Serbia and Kosovo had signed with the US. Read more.
In other news, Serbian citizens will be able to download a digital green certificate attesting they have been vaccinated or tested negative to the virus, the Serbian government’s Office for IT and eGovernment has announced. Read more.
Caretaker government will not change Bulgaria’s policy towards North Macedonia. Bulgaria has said it will not change its opposition to North Macedonia’s accession to the EU following a meeting between Bulgaria’s new caretaker Foreign Minister Svetlan Stoev and Deputy Prime Minister for Judicial Reform Ekaterina Zaharieva. Read more.
PM promises steady post-pandemic growth for Romanian economy. Romanian Prime Minister Florin Citu has pledged to aim for sustainable post-pandemic economic growth, focusing on both reforms and investments, during a discussion with European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis and several other ministers in Brussels. Read more.
Slovenia rejects bill to exclude foreign investors from mega rail project. A motion by Slovenia’s opposition to sideline Hungary from the country’s biggest rail project in decades was defeated in parliament in Wednesday, clearing the way for an investment worth a reported €200 million. More.
EU Commission increases 2022 growth forecast for Croatia. The European Commission has increased its projection for the growth of the Croatian economy to 6.1% in 2022, meaning it could become one of the fastest-growing economies in the bloc. This year’s forecast meanwhile was slightly reduced from 5.3 to 5%. Read more.
- Italy: Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio will meet US Special Envoy on Climate John Kerry in Rome.
- Spain: Several regions will start vaccinating people aged 50-59 with the Janssen vaccine.
- Greece: Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis will meet his North Macedonia counterpart Zoran Zaev as well as Serbian PM Ana Brnabić.
- Poland: The Supreme Audit Office (NIK) will present a report on the €16 million spent without legal basis in last year’s preparations for elections to be held via an all-postal ballot which was then shot down by parliament.
- Foreign ministers of Czechia, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary and Ukraine will meet in Bratislava on Thursday to discuss the COVID-19 situation, the Conference on the future of Europe and EU-Russian relations.
- Bulgaria: The Supreme Judicial Council will discuss a declaration against the closure of specialised courts and prosecution offices that investigate organised crime and high-level corruption.
- Romania: The government will meet following the return of Prime Minister Florin Citu and several ministers from Brussels, where they discussed the national recovery and resilience plan.
- Croatia: One of Zagreb’s restaurants on Thursday will welcome 70 to 80 fully vaccinated people who will be encouraged to mingle and socialise in order to check whether COVID-19 measures can be relaxed.
- Serbia: Prime Minister Ana Brnabić to address the Delfi Economic forum and is scheduled to meet Greek Prime Minister Kiriakos Mitsotakis and President Katerina Sakelaropoulou, as well as Montenegrin Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić in Athens.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Paula Kenny, Zoran Radosavljevic, Josie Le Blond]