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.
EXCLUSIVE / Our partners in Bratislava report that Slovakia will be the last country delaying the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), a new EU-wide body that will tackle large-scale, cross-border crime against the EU budget.
The reason is that Slovakia has so far failed to come up with the names of three candidates for the post of European prosecutor. The EU Council needs to pick one. Thus far, only one candidate has passed the selection process. The college of European prosecutors needs to be formed as soon as possible to decide on the EPPO’s internal rules before the Office becomes operational.
According to EURACTIV Slovakia, other member countries, which were also behind schedule, are now on track to submit their candidates, leaving Slovakia as the laggard.
Due to provisions in Slovak national law on the selection process, it is unlikely that Slovakia will be able to deliver the names this autumn. In addition, Slovakia narrowed the pool of possible candidates, excluding judges, which goes beyond the scope of the EU regulation on EPPO, according to Jan Mazak, a distinguished Slovak lawyer and former advocate general at the European Court of Justice, who is also part of the European panel of experts reviewing all national candidates for EPPO. (Zuzana Gabrižová,EURACTIV.sk)
Huawei is not a threat. EURACTIV Slovakia also had an interesting interview with the Chinese Ambassador to Slovakia Lin Lin. Referring to the “digital row” over Huawei, the ambassador said the EU had to show concrete evidence, that Huawei is a security threat.“The relations between Huawei and the Chinese government are not different than any major local company in Slovakia with the Slovak government. I think every government has a natural responsibility to promote its local industry and local companies. But this time Huawei has been accused of being a threat without any evidence,” he said.
EURACTIV.com will publish the full interview later today.
Campaigning begins. Spanish lawmakers on Wednesday unofficially began campaigning for the upcoming elections with a heated debate in which party leaders blamed each other for the political deadlock that will force voters to return to the polls for the fourth time in less than four years. Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said he was confident that his Socialist Party (PSOE) would secure a majority in the repeat polls.
Read more on EURACTIV’s partner EFE: Spain’s politicians unofficially enter campaign mode as repeat vote looms(EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)
PARIS / BERLIN
Right-wing turn on migration? In Paris, Emmanuel Macron’s more radical discourse on migration has awoken a complicated issue for France. A debate is scheduled for 30 September in the National Assembly, and while the president says he does not want to leave the subject to the far right, the left has accused him of flirting with right-wing voters with an “authoritarian” speech on the issue. Meanwhile, several personalities proposed in a forum to rewrite the law on foreigners in France, so that it would be more appropriate and more protective of migrants. Macron already raised the issue at his annual meeting with ambassadors at the end of August.
At EU level, there is controversy over the title of the “European way of life” of the European Commission candidate Margaritis Schinas. According to the OECD, asylum applications slowed globally in 2018, except in France and Spain where they are increasing.
In Berlin, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) met with opposition from his own party following his proposal that Germany should take in a quarter of the refugees rescued at sea. Andrea Lindholz (CSU), chairwoman of the Bundestag’s interior committee, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “We cannot give a blanket assurance of 25% of an unknown number of migrants. This is not a forward-looking migration policy”. Lindholz added that the number of asylum seekers in Germany has been far higher than in Italy for years.
In an interview with EURACTIV.com on 18 September, Tiziana Beghin, the head of Five Star Movement delegation in the European Parliament, said the new Italian government will not follow Salvini-style politics on migration, but made it clear that other member states need to take their responsibility: “The new Italian administration will not be an ‘open harbour’ […] neither Italy nor Greece nor Spain can handle the migration issue alone.”
Mother of Parliaments, Father of lies. “The mother of Parliaments being shut down by the father of lies,” was the stinging rebuke to Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered by Aidan O’Neill QC, counsel for the parliamentarians challenging the government’s decision to suspend parliament for five weeks, on the second of the three day hearing at the UK’s Supreme Court. Legal analysts believe that it is unlikely that the Court will deem the prorogation to be unlawful, but think it is likely that its judgement will curb the government’s powers to suspend Parliament in the future. (Benjamin Fox, EURACTIV.com)
Exodus from the UK? Arkady Rzegocki, Polish ambassador to the UK, said Polish citizens living in the UK should “seriously consider the possibility of coming back to Poland” in the wake of Brexit. He added that Poland’s fast-growing economy creates opportunities for Polish citizens living abroad to prosper and live a good life in Poland. He also reminded that EU citizens staying in the UK should apply for “settled status”, but that so far only 27% of Poles living in the UK have done so. (Łukasz Gadzała, EURACTIV.pl)
Future’s not so “green”. The Greens/EFA parliamentary group has decided to have ‘fact-finding’ talks with the Five Star Movement. Monica Frassoni, Co-chair of the European Greens, said they are not negotiating membership. “Talks are talks. No decision on the outcome. Values like transparency and democracy are in our DNA. In theirs – we’ll see,” tweeted German Greens MEP Jutta Paulus. Another German Green MEP, Damian Boeselanger, criticised the opening of talks, saying that Five Star’s ‘dictatorial governance’ and ‘a populist approach to value and policies’ are well known.
The 5-Star delegation in the European Parliament, which has adopted pro-green rhetoric lately, welcomed the opening of dialogue with the Green group hoping for a constructive spirit “in order to strengthen together the green agenda of the next European Commission”. MEP Tiziana Beghin told EURACTIV Italy needed to be given the opportunity to invest in new sectors, such as the New Green Deal, in order to help the country grow.
Indestructible tie. French President Emmanuel Macron met Italy’s PM Giuseppe Conte and President Sergio Mattarella to discuss, among others, migration and the ongoing conflict in Libya. “The Franco-Italian friendship is indestructible,” said Macron in a tweet. The visit was seen as a rapprochement between the two countries, after months of tension. In February, the French government summoned its ambassador to Rome after ‘repeated attacks’ from the former ruling coalition. (Gerardo Fortuna, EURACTIV.com)
ATHENS / NICOSIA
Drilling deals all over EastMed: While Turkey’s aggressiveness has been escalating in the Eastern Mediterranean for months, Greece and Cyprus have signed more deals on oil and gas exploration. Cyprus signed an exploration agreement on block 7 with the TOTAL-ENI consortium, while TOTAL formally entered into a consortium with ENI on another 4 blocks in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone. Symbolically on the same day, sources told EURACTIV.gr that the Greek government submitted to parliament for ratification four contracts for oil and gas exploration off Crete and Ionian Islands to consortiums including Repsol, Total, ExxonMobil and Hellenic Petroleum-HELPE. (Theodore Karaoulanis,EURACTIV.gr)
Committee of the Regions backs Skopje’s EU path. During a visit to Skopje on 17-18 September, Karl-Heinz Lambertz of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) urged municipalities in North Macedonia to support the country’s accession drive by continuing reforms and exploring further cooperation with cities and regions in Bulgaria and Greece.
Kosovo recognition in question. During a visit in Serbia last week, Czech President Milos Zeman said he wanted to discuss with other high-ranking Czech officials whether it would be possible for his country to revoke its recognition of Kosovo as an independent state, claiming it is led by war criminals. Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek has rejected the idea and PM Andrej Babiš took a similar position last week. However, after a meeting with Zeman on Monday, Czech weekly Respekt suggested that Babiš may want to keep the door open to “trade favours” with the President. (Ondřej Plevák,EURACTIV.cz)
Investment plan. Bulgaria ranks fourth in the EU in terms of the investments triggered by the Juncker Plan. In September 2019, the total financing under the European Fund for Strategic Investments in Bulgaria amounted to €472 million and is set to generate €2.4 billion in additional investments. (Dnevnik.bg)
Romania still doesn’t back Kovesi. The Romanian government still does not support the appointment of Laura Codruta Kovesi, the former head of the anti-corruption directorate, as the first chief European prosecutor. The European Parliament backs Kovesi for the position, while the Council of the EU selected French candidate Jean-François Bohnert. However, after Romania handed over the EU Presidency to Finland on 1 July, support for Kovesi has grown among member states, with even French president Emmanuel Macron telling his Romanian counterpart Klaus Iohannis that France backs Kovesi to be the first EPPO head. On Thursday, the European Parliament and Council delegations will hold a new round of negotiations.
Constitutional battle. The Constitutional Court has decided that the Romanian President must accept the interim ministers proposed by Prime Minister Viorica Dancila. After liberal ALDE left the coalition with the socialist party PSD, most ALDE ministers resigned, but President Iohannis refused to name them, saying the government needs to seek the Parliament’s confidence vote. However, Dancila still has to get her new cabinet line-up approved by parliament. EURACTIV.ro)
Possible corruption in building Nuclear Power Plant. The Slovenian government is planning to build the second block of the Krško Nuclear Power Plant (NEK). It is close to Croatia, which is co-owner of NEK. Slovenia gets 40% of its electricity from NEK. However, the Slovenian Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (KPK) announced that it will investigate possible corruption: Damir Črnčec, one of the secretaries in the cabinet of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, is allegedly in direct contact with the American company Westinghouse. That company was building the first block of NEK, but now, as Šarec says, there is huge interest from other companies in the job. (Željko Trkanjec,EURACTIV.hr)
Is there freedom of the press in Croatia? “I do not have the impression that there is no freedom of the press here”, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković (HDZ-EPP) told the parliament after Željko Jovanović (opposition SDP-S&D) accused the government of corruption, conflict of interest and intimidation of journalists. “The media may be free, but journalists aren’t,” Jovanović said. (Željko Trkanjec,EURACTIV.hr)
Merkel and Brnabić in Berlin. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany and France are trying to restart the dialogue between Belgrade and Priština, and do something about the taxes that Priština has introduced on products from central Serbia.
After talks with Serbian PM Ana Brnabić, Merkel said she could not comment on allegations that Germany and France would appoint a special envoy for the Belgrade-Priština dialogue. (beta.rs,EURACTIV.rs)
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Ben Fox]