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.
EDITOR’s TAKE: Editor’s take: Rocky start as French presidency proves to be very French. It was expected that France would make a point of ensuring French would be the language of honour for the next six months. But non-French speakers in Brussels and beyond are taken aback by just how French it has turned out to be. Read more.
The European news you deserve to read. Welcome to The Capitals by EURACTIV.
In today’s news from the Capitals:
Slovenia will stop using coal for electricity generation by 2033 under the national strategy to phase out coal and restructure coal regions that the government adopted on Thursday. It is one of the last EU countries to do so. Read more.
EU wants to continue its military missions in Mali, but ‘not at any cost’. The EU’s role in an anti–jihadist defence and security mission in the Sahel region is under increasing threat as relations with the military government in Mali continue to decline over delayed elections and the presence of Russian mercenaries, EU officials conceded on Thursday. Read more.
Greens and Social Democrats announce referendum for a Swiss Green New Deal. The presidents of two Swiss political parties announced on Thursday they would join forces to launch a popular initiative to amend the constitution focusing on climate. Read more.
BERLIN | THE HAGUE
Scholz and Rutte show united front on Ukraine, COVID-19. During the first visit of Dutch PM Mark Rutte to Berlin to meet with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the two affirmed their agreement on issues like Ukraine, the fight against COVID-19, and economic transformation, but differed on nuclear energy. Read more.
French teachers, school staff go on strike in protest at sanitary measures. While unions announced a “historical mobilisation” with 75% of teachers on strike to protest against the management of COVID protocols in schools, only 31% of teachers were actually absent on Thursday, the French education ministry said. Read more.
UK AND IRELAND
Intelligence service issues alert over Chinese spy targeting lawmakers. The UK intelligence services have issued an alert that a Chinese agent has been donating large sums of money to UK politicians before then attempting to build relationships between them and senior members of the Chinese Communist Party. Read more.
Ireland to establish new online watchdog. Dublin is looking to implement new online safety measures under legislation put forward this week that will oversee streaming platforms and broadcasters. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Finnish electricity market returns to pre-pandemic levels. Electricity consumption in Finland returned in 2021 to pre-pandemic levels. The wholesale price has risen to an all-time high but remains at mid-level compared to other European countries. Read more.
Danish nursing home residents may have to take fourth jab. The elderly and residents of Denmark’s nursing homes may have to prepare to receive a fourth COVID-19 dose, Søren Brostrøm, director of the Danish Health Authority said this week. Read more.
Right-wing wants Berlusconi to be the next president. League Party leader Matteo Salvini said the right-wing supports Silvio Berlusconi in the race for the country’s presidency and Mario Draghi should remain prime minister. Read more.
Madrid regional president, finance minister fight over distribution of EU funds. A bitter dispute has been triggered in the central government following the alleged exclusion of the capital over the disbursement of EU funds to ease the impact of the pandemic. The Madrid regional government filed an appeal to Spanish Justice, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported. Read more.
Schools partner with pharmacies to test pupils. Schools will make agreements with local pharmacies to perform screening tests for COVID-19 on their pupils, the president of the National Association of Directors of Groupings and Public Schools (ANDAEP) said on Thursday. Read more.
Slovakia eyes small modular reactors for nuclear future. Slovakia is interested in small modular reactors and will support discussion about this topic at the European level, said state secretary of economy Karol Galek, who again welcomed the Commission’s proposal to include nuclear energy and natural gas in the EU Taxon my. Read more.
Polish lawmakers pass disputed bill increasing government control of schools. Poland’s Sejm on Thursday passed a bill by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, with 227 votes in favour and 214 against, which will step up government control of schools and which critics say could curb access to teaching on LGBTI and reproductive rights. Read more.
Polish scientists identify gene profile in severe COVID-19 cases. In what they described as a groundbreaking discovery, scientists from the Medical University in the northeastern Polish city of Białystok have identified a genetic profile that makes people predisposed to a severe form of COVID-19. Read more.
Bad week for new government party in Czechia. The new cabinet of Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) on Thursday evening finally got the green light from the lower house of parliament, a step needed in the Czech political system. However, the success was diluted by several issues surrounding one of the coalition parties. Read more.
Civil society demands fully-fledged international mission for Hungarian elections. Twenty Hungarian NGOs have written a letter to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) asking for a full-scale monitoring mission instead of a “limited” observation mission ahead of the 3 April general elections, Telex reported. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Bulgaria may launch site to report vaccine side effects. The Bulgarian authorities are mulling the launch of a website to report the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines. Read more.
Croatia’s 2022 inflation growth forecast revised up to 3 5%. The government revised its inflation growth projection for this year up to 3.5%, Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said on Thursday, adding that VAT cuts were being considered as part of a set of measures aimed at buffering energy price hikes. Read more.
Media freedom, LGBTI, disabled rights, still lagging behind in Serbia – report. Journalists in Serbia who criticise the government are still exposed to harassment, threats, violence and intimidation, and the rights of the LGBTI and disabled persons must improve significantly, Human Rights Watch (HRW) assessed in its 13 January report about the state of human rights in the world. Read more.
BiH records second highest COVID-19 death rate in Europe. The daily number of new coronavirus cases in Bosnia and Herzegovina is continuing to grow, recording an all-time high of 2,590 cases, and the Worldometer has indicated that this country has the second-highest COVID death rate in Europe per one million population, Hina reported.
The latest record number of new daily cases were detected after 6,000 tests were conducted. BiH reported another 22 fatalities related to COVID, demonstrating an exceptionally high fatality rate and bringing the death toll to over 13,000. According to the Worldometer, it has the second-highest death rate in Europe, with Bulgaria having the highest rate per one million population. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Former US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power to visit BiH. Samantha Power, the Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), will pay a visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina between January 19-21 to reaffirm the US’s commitment to partnering with Bosnian citizens in building a democratic and prosperous future of a stable and functional Bosnia and Herzegovina, the agency has announced. Power is a former US ambassador to the UN and a wartime correspondent from BiH and Pulitzer-Prize winner. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
North Macedonia’s PM-designate to invite VMRO-DPMNE leader to meet. SDSM leader and PM-designate Dimitar Kovačevski said he will invite VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski, opposition leader, for a meeting after the election of the new government, at which they will discuss the political situation and solutions on new l ws. Read more.
Another huge seizure of cocaine in Montenegro. About half a tonne of cocaine in a banana shipment destined for one of Montenegro’s largest companies, Voli, has been seized by police, according to local media.
“After five months, another huge seizure of cocaine in Montenegro. We continue the joint fight against drug cartels. Determined, brave and without compromise”, wrote Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazović on Twitter. The owner of the company Voli is Dragan Bokan, one of the leaders of the basketball club Budućnost. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Kosovo human rights concerns raised in new report. Women, members of the LGBTIQ community, and ethnic minorities continue to suffer human rights abuses in Kosovo, according to the 2021 report by Human Rights Watch released on Thursday. Read more.
Albanian prosecutors’ to question opposition figures over protests. Tirana Prosecutors will question Democratic Party (PD) chairman Lulzim Basha and ex-Prime Minister Sali Berisha over the 8 January protest at the PD headquarters that saw supporters of the latter force their way into the building. Read more.
- EU/France: EU foreign ministers continue their informal meeting in Brest on China, EU-Africa relations.
- Germany: Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) receives EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson in Berlin on Schengen border reform and how to avoid controls at internal borders in the future
- France: Covid restrictions eased on vaccinated travellers arriving from UK.
- Italy: Funeral of EU parliament president David Sassoli.
- Portugal: Covid restrictions eased, bars and clubs reopen for guests with negative test, mandatory homeworking ended.
- Bulgaria: The Supreme Judicial Council will vote for a new President of the Supreme Court of Cassation.
- Albania: Albania-Turkey cooperation panel to take place ahead of Presidential visit.
[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox, Zoran Radosavljevic, Alice Taylor]