Slovenia takes EU helm, strenghtens border security

Slovenian police operate at the Italian-Slovenian border crossing of Fernetti, 12 March 2020. [EPA-EFE/MICOL BRUSAFERRO]

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In today’s news from the Capitals:

LJUBLJANA

Slovenia is formally taking over on Thursday the six-month presidency of the Council of the EU, focusing on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery, enhancing resilience to future crises, and the EU’s enlargement, EURACTIV’s partner Slovenia news agency STA reports.

But Ljubljana is also handed over the hot potato of EU migration pact, with negotiations currently at a deadlock. Read more.

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EU PRESIDENCY

Slovenia hosts College of European Commissioners for working visit. Amid high tension between east and west over democratic values, the country’s six-month stint will begin with a working visit by the College of Commissioners and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as is customary when a country starts the rotating presidency. Read more.

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BERLIN

Last German soldiers officially leave Afghanistan after nearly 20 years. The last German troops left Afghanistan on Tuesday after a nearly 20-year deployment in the country, Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer confirmed. Read more.

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PARIS

French scientists warn of fourth COVID-19 wave in autumn. While vaccinations are increasing in France, there still may not be enough of the population vaccinated to avoid a fourth wave of COVID-19 after the summer, according to a study published by the Institut Pasteur on Tuesday. Read more.

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BRUSSELS

Hundreds of migrants stage hunger strike in Brussels for legal status. Concern over a weeks-long hunger strike by hundreds of undocumented migrants in Belgium’s capital has mounted this week after four men stitched their lips shut to stress their demands for legal recognition and access to work and social services. Read more.

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VIENNA

Austrian teenager death sparks deportation talksAfter the murder of a 13-year old girl last weekend, allegedly committed by two Afghan asylum seekers, Austria’s minister of the chancellery, Karoline Edtstadler, will discuss ways to faster deport migrants that commit criminal offences. Read more.

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LUXEMBOURG

Luxembourg extends economic help as COVID-19 fight continues. The Grand Duchy will extend its guarantees for bank loans to companies for up to €2.5 billion until the end of the year to help the economy weather the effects of the pandemic as the country opens up, the government said on Wednesday. 

Through this scheme, first announced in March 2020 to help stabilise the economy when Luxembourg entered its first lockdown, the state gives loans to companies over a maximum six-year period, capped at €2.5 billion. (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.fr)


UK AND IRELAND

LONDON

Britain’s Sunak promises to sharpen City of London’s competitive edge. The UK will unveil its blueprint on Thursday for building the world’s “most advanced” financial sector after Brexit largely severed the City of London financial district from the European Union, its biggest export customer. Read more.

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DUBLIN 

EU, UK agree on temporary deal, allowing chilled meats into Northern Ireland. The EU and Britain have announced a temporary deal that will allow uncooked meats to flow into Northern Ireland for an extra three months alongside a number of other post-Brexit changes, the Irish Times has reported. Read more.


NORDICS AND BALTICS

STOCKHOLM

Moderate Party leader given chance to form new Swedish government. Sweden’s parliamentary speaker, Andreas Norlén has given Ulf Kristersson, the chair of the conservative-liberal Moderate Party, the biggest opposition party in the current parliament, a mandate to try and form a new government. Read more.

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VILNIUS

Lithuania adopts national climate change agenda. The Lithuanian parliament on Wednesday adopted a National Climate Change Management Agenda with 120 votes in favour and 3 abstentions.

The agenda sets short, medium and long-term goals relating to climate change mitigation as well as targets for individual sectors, which use fossil fuels, pollute the atmosphere with CO2 emissions and have the biggest impact on climate change.

Main goals include an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and a 100% reduction by 2050, compared to 1990.

(Sniegė Balčiūnaitė, LRT.lt/en)


EUROPE’S SOUTH

ROME

Video of violent prison beating by police causes storm in Italy. The publication by newspaper Domani on Wednesday of a surveillance video of the prison of Santa Maria Capua Vetere, in the south of Italy, showing club-wielding police officers violently beating prison detainees has sparked a huge controversy in Italy. Read more.

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MADRID

Spanish PM: Socialist Party will ‘never’ endorse independence vote in Catalonia. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Wednesday that there will not be an independence referendum in Catalonia because the Socialist Party (PSOE) he leads “will never ever accept it.” Read the full story

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LISBON

Trio of presidencies to create reflection group on EU economy. Portugal’s minister of state and finance, João Leão, announced on Wednesday that the Portuguese, Slovenian and French presidencies would launch a reflection group on the EU economy. Read more.

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ATHENS

Multinationals’ marketing thrives after gaffe with Picasso’s painting. The Greek police managed to recover a painting by Pablo Picasso that was seized in a 2012 raid on the National Gallery in Athens. However, the good news was overshadowed by a video showing the painting slipping onto the floor just before a press conference over the issue. Read more.


VISEGRAD

WARSAW

Visegrad Group does not want to expand. Poland, together with the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, has no plans to expand the Visegrad Group, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said during the V4 summit in Katowice on Wednesday. Read more.

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PRAGUE

EU presidency budget ‘not final’. The sum of 1.24 billion crowns (around €50 million) for the Czech EU presidency in the second half of 2022 is not final, wrote PM Andrej Babis on Wednesday in reaction to the criticism expressed in an open letter sent to him last week from economists, investors and diplomats expressing their concern over the budget being too low. Read more.

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BUDAPEST 

German interior minister mulls cutting Hungarian EU funding. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has said that the country is mulling cutting Hungary’s EU funding, saying the move “would send the right signal on the bloc’s stance on Hungary’s recent paedophile law that discriminates against the LGBTQI+,” he told Augsburger Allgemeine. Read more.

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BRATISLAVA

Slovakia introduces ‘vaccination lottery’ and quarantine for unvaccinated travellers. Bratislava introduced on Wednesday a new set of incentives in a bid to increase the vaccination rate in Slovakia including a “vaccination lottery” with a €2 million prize to be won every week as well as a cash bonus for those who persuade the unvaccinated to get the shot and a mandatory quarantine period for unvaccinated travellers from 9 July onwards. Read more.


NEWS FROM THE BALKANS

SOFIA

Bulgaria plans to adopt euro in 2024. The Bulgarian government has confirmed the country’s plans to adopt the euro as its official currency on 1 January, 2024, without a transitional preparatory period – all institutions and shops in the country will be obliged to accept payments in euros from the first moment of its adoption. Read more.

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ZAGREB

Croatia mostly exports medicine, handguns to US. The imminent visa waiver for Croatian citizens and the advanced negotiations on double taxation avoidance are a good basis to strengthen trade and investments between the US and Croatia, Croatian Employers’ Association (HUP) president Mihael Furjan said on Wednesday.

His comments came at a conference organised by HUP in cooperation with the US Embassy in Croatia and two consulting companies – the Armatus Prudentia and Trans-Atlantic Market Development – which are engaged in helping Croatian businesses to be implemented into the US market. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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LJUBLJANA 

Report shows media in Slovenia systematically undermined by government. A coalition of press freedom organisations and journalism groups has warned that the Slovenian government is overseeing an increasingly systematic effort to undermine critical media, in a report released just a day before Slovenia takes over the presidency of the Council of the EU. Read more.

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BELGRADE 

Former Serbian state security heads sentenced to 12 years each. The Hague court sentenced on Wednesday the former heads of the State Security Service (SDB) of Serbia, Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović Frenki, to 12 years in prison each for the crimes of the Red Berets against the non-Serb population in Bosanski Šamac in the spring of 1992. Read more.

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SARAJEVO 

Russia marginalised at UN Security Council session over Bosnia envoy. Moscow stood alone in opposing the appointment of the new High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina, German politician Christian Schmidt, while the US representative said the appointment was a done deal and that Schmidt would take office on 1 August.

The UN Security Council on Tuesday discussed Schmidt’s appointment at the request of the permanent representative of the Russian Federation, Vasily Nebenzya, who said that all sides in BiH and the UN Security Council should give their consent for Schmidt’s appointment, which, he said, had not happened.  (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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SKOPJE | ZAGREB

Croatia supports North Macedonia in European hopes. Croatia supports opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia as soon as possible, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said at a meeting with North Macedonia’s President Stevo Pendarovski in Zagreb. Read more.

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TIRANA | ZAGREB

Milanovic: Albania’s majority Muslim population slowing down EU membership bid. President Zoran Milanović has said the delays tp Albania’s EU membership bid could be attributed to the fact that the majority of the Albanian population is Muslim.

One should decide whether a country whose population is mainly Muslim can be an EU member or whether their journey towards the EU should be stalled, said Milanović, adding that such a country can and must be a member. Croatia’s president warned that delaying the process could make some people understand different messages and opt for different directions. (Zeljko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)


Agenda:

  • EU-wide: EU digital Covid certificate comes into force.
  • Slovenia: College of European Commissioners will pay a visit as Slovenia formally starts its six-month stint at the helm of the Council of the EU / European Commission will issue an assessment of Slovenia’s recovery and resilience plan.
  • Germany: Pandemic ‘risk zone’ travel warning scheduled to be lifted for most countries.
  • France: European Court of Human Rights rules on French plan to bury radioactive waste.
  • Belgium: ECB’s Christine Lagarde addresses European Parliament.
  • Austria: Austrian World Summit on climate, hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger / Chancellor Kurz takes questions from parliamentary committee probing corruption
  • Netherlands: European Medicines Agency gives a regular press briefing, to rule on Moderna vaccine for teens (tbc).
  • UK: OPEC and non-OPEC ministerial meeting.
  • Italy: Sputnik vaccine production starts.
  • Greece: Main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras is participating today at the “Prespa Forum Dialogue” in North Macedonia. Opposition sources say Tsipras wants to send a political message to the ruling New Democracy government to speed up the implementation of the name-change deal between Greece and North Macedonia.
  • Czech Republic: Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on Thursday will receive 100,000 doses of the COVID-19 Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from the Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó.
  • Slovakia: PM Eduard Heger will meet doctors who have begun administering COVID-19 vaccines from their offices.
  • Poland: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visits Warsaw to meet Polish counterpart Zbigniew Rau, as well as representatives of Belarusian civil society who are in Poland / 30 years since Warsaw Pact dissolved.
  • Croatia: Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman will attend the Prespa Forum Dialogue in Ohrid, where he will take part as a speaker in the session “Building Confidence through Dialogue”.
  • Kosovo: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will visit Kosovo.

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[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Paula Kenny, Zoran Radosavljevic, Josie LeBlond]

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