Support EU-based vaccine production, five leaders say

The letter, signed by the prime ministers of Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Poland and the President of Lithuania, on the initiative of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, was delivered to European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday (23 February). [Shutterstock/Iryna Mylinska]

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Before you start reading today’s edition of the Capitals, feel free to have a look at the article “US to push troop synchronisation between Europe and Africa commands“, by Alexandra Brzozowski.

The European news you deserve to read. Welcome to The Capitals by EURACTIV.

In today’s news from the Capitals:

Five EU leaders have sent a letter, seen by EURACTIV, to EU Council chief Charles Michel, calling for immediate action and support to European-based vaccines manufacturers to address the ongoing vaccines’ shortage.

The letter, signed by the prime ministers of Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Poland and the President of Lithuania, on the initiative of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, was delivered to Michel on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca has announced new delays in vaccines deliveries while the Western Balkans is now fully exposed to Russia and China. Read more.



Portugal wants deal on EU privacy law to combat online child sex abuse. The Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union wants to quickly conclude an agreement with the European Parliament on the provisions of the EU law on privacy in electronic communications to combat child sexual abuse on the internet. More


Report: More right-wing extremism in the German army. Germany recorded 477 new suspected cases of right-wing extremism in 2020, compared to the 363 discovered in 2019, according to the annual report on the status of Germany’s armed forces presented on Tuesday by the parliament’s Armed Forces Commissioner Eva Högl. Read more.



French government presents roadmap to bridge digital and environmental transitions. France’s Ecological Transition Minister Barbara Pompili and the Secretary of State for Digital, Cédric O, unveiled on Tuesday the government’s national strategy to bring environmental and digital issues together, which aims to “develop knowledge of the digital environmental footprint”, “support a more sober digital environment” and “make digital technology a lever for the ecological and solidarity transition”. Read the full story.



Austrian gastronomy sector demands to open on 15 March. The Chamber of Commerce’s gastronomy division, Austria’s main business association, with close ties to the ruling conservative ÖVP, has asked the government  – which is set to discuss an exit roadmap for the current lockdown next Monday – to allow restaurants and bars to open on 15 March.

“We will be able to handle it,” said the division’s leading lobbyist, Mario Pulker, emphasising that owners had already prepared hygiene safety concepts and that they would be ready to check whether guests had been tested. Meanwhile, microbiologist Michael Wagner has called for more patience given the increased uncertainty that comes with the new COVID-19 variants. (Philipp Grüll |



Parliamentary ping pong over genocide amendment. UK lawmakers will have to reconvene for their next battle of parliamentary ping pong after the House of Lords on Tuesday again amended the Johnson government’s Trade Bill, seeking to tighten the rules to prevent UK governments from agreeing on trade deals with countries that have committed genocide. Read more.

France, Britain urged to rescue Eurostar from bankruptcy. Lawmakers from across the political spectrum have called on the French and UK governments to support the financially-moribund Eurostar, as they did with struggling airlines. More.

Britain’s au pair system ‘killed’ by Brexit. Once a childcare mainstay for many working parents, Britain’s au pair system is under threat after Brexit – piling pressure on families and forcing some mothers to consider quitting their jobs. More



NI Issue is ‘two-way street’. Britain must show it is fully using the avenues available under the Brexit divorce deal to minimise trade disruption in Northern Ireland before seeking concessions, a senior EU official said on Tuesday. Read more from Reuters.



Russian military infrastructure hampers Lithuania’s 5G development. Lithuania has ended direct talks with Russia without reaching a deal on radio frequency used by its military, which remains an obstacle to the country’s 5G development. Read more.



Finnish steel company linked to human rights violations and pollution in Brazil. Vale, a mining firm subcontracted by Finnish steel giant Outokumpu, has increased deforestation, polluted the Cateté river, and deteriorated the well-being of the Amazon’s indigenous tribe known as the Xikrin, according to NGO Finnwatch’s report investigating the global impact of businesses, released on Tuesday. Read more.



Portuguese airline association calls for rapid COVID-19 tests at airports. Portugal’s airline association commonly known as RENA insisted on Tuesday on the implementation of rapid COVID-19 tests at airports, stressing the urgent need for relaxing restrictions in a harmonised way and ending quarantines. Read more.



Local lockdowns are multiplying in Italy. An increasing number of areas in Italy are going into local lockdowns due to the increase in coronavirus cases. Read more.



Spain closely monitors newly imported COVID-variants as infections drop. As Spain’s health ministry continues to closely monitor the British, South African, and Brazilian COVID-19 variants, it has now put its focus on four other new variants, including two from the UK, one from California, and another from Rio de Janeiro. Read the full story.



Ankara-Athens tensions move to North Aegean Sea. Four Greek fighter jets allegedly “harassed” the Turkish research vessel Cesme while it was sailing in international waters in the broader area of Northern Aegean, according to Turkey’s defence ministry sources on Tuesday. Read more.



Israel donates vaccines to Czechia in exchange for diplomatic support. The Czech Republic received 5,000 jabs of the Moderna vaccine as a donation from Israel on Tuesday, a day after the Czech government decided to open its new diplomatic office in Jerusalem. Read more.



Poland, US united against Nord Stream 2. The Polish foreign minister and the US secretary of state in a telephone conversation on Tuesday confirmed their will to strengthen the bilateral partnership and oppose Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline. More



Slovak agriculture minister bows to farmers’ demands, averts protest for now. Slovakia will introduce a so-called redistributive payment, which should redirect part of the EU’s agricultural subsidy from large farmers to small ones, Slovakia’s Agriculture Minister, Ján Mičovský, announced on Tuesday. Large farmers and coalition partners have already criticised the move. Read more.



Croatian businesses ready for EU funding as three threats loom. More than 68% of Croatian businesses have more than 21 billion kunas (€2,8 billion) worth of projects or investment plans ready to be implemented in the next financial period, the Croatian Employers’ Association (HUP) has said. Read more.

In other news, two former Serb rebels, currently out of reach of Croatia’s judiciary, have been reported for war crimes committed against two Russian reporters – Gennady Demyanovich Kurinoy and Viktor Vladimirovich Nogin – who were killed near Hrvatska Kostajnica in September 1991. Their unit opened fire on a vehicle carrying the two Russian reporters, although the vehicle had diplomatic licence plates and the reporters were wearing civilian clothes. (Željko Trkanjec |



Bulgaria heading towards third pandemic. As Bulgaria recorded the largest number of infections since the start of the year on Tuesday, with 1,925 new daily COVID-19 infections and 14% positive tests, the country is now heading towards a third coronavirus wave just after it loosened some restrictions at the start of February. Read more.



Future will be without fossil fuels, Timmermans tells Bucharest energy summit. Investments in sustainable energy are increasing hugely worldwide and the EU must stimulate that development, European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans told an online energy summit held in Bucharest. Read more.



Slovenia’s National Assembly appoints new health minister. Slovenia’s National Assembly appointed 42-year-old doctor turned health manager, Janez Poklukar, as the country’s new health minister, instead of Defence Minister Matej Tonin who had also been the temporary health minister. Most deputy factions praised Poklukar for his work in leading Slovenia’s medical centre during the biggest ever health crisis. Only two centre-left factions explicitly announced they would vote against his appointment, but even they held nothing against him.

Meanwhile, Slovenia will be looking into “additional options for vaccine supplies” amidst sluggish supplies from the joint EU purchase, Prime Minister Janez Janša has announced.(Željko Trkanjec |



EU Parliament committee adopts amendments to Serbia report. MEPs on the Parliament’s foreign policy committee known as AFET adopted on Tuesday a set of harmonised amendments to a report on Serbia drafted by Slovak MEP and rapporteur Vladimir Bilčik. Read more.



Montenegro to receive Russian, Chinese and Serbian vaccines. As 5,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine are set to arrive in Montenegro on Thursday, 30,000 doses of the Chinese vaccine will be leaving Beijing for Montenegro on Saturday, Health Minister Jelena Borovinić Bojović said after she received the Sputnik V vaccine at the clinical centre of Montenegro.

The second delivery of vaccines from Belgrade would arrive in time so that revaccination could be performed with those doses, the minister confirmed. “The national immunisation strategy envisages that it would be optimal to vaccinate about 330,000 inhabitants in Montenegro [about half of the country’s population], which would speak in favour of collective immunity,” said Borovinić Bojović. (Željko Trkanjec |



EU Ambassador urges party leaders to pick MP candidates with integrity. EU Ambassador Luigi Soreca has called on party leaders in Albania to take responsibility in ensuring that MP candidates in the elections set for 25 April have no shady past, reported. “Party leaders have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure candidate lists with the highest integrity standards,” Soreca tweeted on Tuesday, adding that Albania deserves legislators who will support the EU reform agenda to fight corruption and organised crime.

The same call was made by US and UK ambassadors, who called on party leaders to exclude people with criminal past from electoral lists. In response, Prime Minister Edi Rama said party leaders cannot check the pasts of each potential candidate and this is the duty of other institutions. (Željko Trkanjec |



Tactical changes in US approach to the region. With the change in US administration, the country’s fundamental goals for Kosovo and the Balkans do not change that much, said US Ambassador to Kosovo, Philip S. Kosnett, adding that the new administration is still developing specifics of what their policy would be with the countries of the region.

Asked if he expects the Biden administration to continue the work of the previous administration in the region, Kosnett said he expects “some tactical changes”, adding that “economic development and regional economic integration are going to remain part of our programme for the Balkans.” On the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, which Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti previously said would not be his top priority, the US Ambassador said the “world does not wait”, implying that dialogue with Serbia should remain one of the priorities of the new Vetevendosje-led government. (Željko Trkanjec |


[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Zoran Radosavljevic]

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