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In today’s news from the Capitals:
Increasing number of Swedes support NATO membership. Support for Sweden’s possible future NATO membership is on the rise, with Swedes supporting the idea almost neck and neck with those against it, according to a poll conducted in December and published on Sunday by newspaper Dagens Nyheter. Read more.
Merkel calls Trump Twitter ban ‘problematic’. The recent permanent suspension of US President Donald Trump’s Twitter account for risk of further incitement of violence was described as “problematic” by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday. Read more.
France to receive first batch of Moderna vaccines. The areas most impacted by the pandemic in France will receive doses from the first batch of Moderna vaccines authorised by the EU last Wednesday and delivered to France on Monday. Read more.
Returning travellers cause infection spike in Brussels. As the number of COVID-19 infections has been increasing over the past week in the Brussels region due to travellers returning from abroad, experts are now calling for border closures. Read more.
People travelling to Austria will have to register. The government has announced tighter regulations for people travelling into Austria, which will come into force on Friday. Read more.
Travellers, including Austrian citizens, will need to register before crossing the border, irrespective of whether they come from a high-risk country or not. The registration form asks for basic personal data, as well as an Austrian address where travellers intend to reside during their stay.
However, quarantine rules will continue to apply. Those who have visited a high-risk country days before their arrival to Austria will have to isolate themselves for 10 days, with the option to cut self-isolation short by presenting a negative test after the fifth day. An update on high-risk countries is due in the next few days. (Philipp Grüll | EURACTIV.de)
UK AND IRELAND
UK braces for ‘most dangerous time’ of coronavirus pandemic. The UK is about to face the “most dangerous time” of the COVID-19 pandemic in the coming weeks before the country’s vaccination programme takes effect, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned on Monday.
Although close to 2.5 million people have received a vaccination over the past few weeks, around one in 50 people across the UK is currently infected with the virus. The government hopes to have administered 15 million vaccinations to the most vulnerable groups by mid-February.
Meanwhile, the UK passed the unwelcome milestone of 80,000 deaths from coronavirus since the start of the pandemic over the weekend. (Benjamin Fox | EURACTIV.com)
Ireland records world’s highest COVID rate. Coronavirus infections have shot up over the past seven days in Ireland, resulting in the highest transmission rate in the world, new data shows.
The country has recorded 10,100 confirmed cases per million over the past week, according to research from Bloomberg. Taoiseach Micheál Martin believes the recent rise may be down to a new more infectious variant of the virus first discovered in the UK.
Speaking to Newstalk radio, Martin said that Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan had informed him that the UK variant was found in 45% of the most recent 92 samples that had been submitted for additional tests. (Samuel Stolton | EURACTIV.com)
NORDICS & BALTICS
Cyberattack on Finnish parliament: ‘a serious attack on democracy’. The cyberattack that targeted the Finnish parliament late last autumn had compromised parliamentary email accounts – including of Finnish MPs – whose exact number has not been disclosed, recent results of ongoing investigations have revealed. Read more.
Lithuanian MEP told to explain homophobic remarks. A Lithuanian MEP whose Facebook page features a video of him calling gays or transvestites “perverts” has been given until Thursday (14 January) to explain and apologise if he wants to stay in his political group. More.
First batch of Moderna vaccines arrives in Italy. The first batch of 47,000 doses of Moderna vaccines is expected to arrive in Italy on Tuesday and will first be dispatched to the National Health Institute, which is considering to first distribute the doses to the regions showing the highest efficiency in the vaccination campaign. Read more.
Greek students frown at extended mandatory military service. Authorities in Athens are planning a new law in May to extend the mandatory military national service from 9 to 12 months, a move resented by the young people concerned. Read the full story.
EU migration pact a priority for Portuguese Council Presidency. The development of the “migration pact” in the EU is a priority despite being a “divisive” issue, Portuguese Prime Minister Anónio Costa told a joint press conference with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday. Read more.
Turkish FM: ‘The EU has over-politicised our accession negotiations’. Turkey’s FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told EFE in an interview that the EU has “excessively politicised” the negotiations between Ankara and Brussels. The EU “should take a more positive approach and keep Turkey’s membership perspective open”, he added. Read the full written interview in English here.
Poland plans to reopen its primary schools. Poland plans to reopen its primary schools for the youngest pupils as of 18 January after online learning had been introduced in November for first, second and third-year primary school students as the number of COVID-19 saw a rapid uptick, announced Health Minister Adam Niedzielski. Read more.
Czech municipalities fight against nuclear waste repository. Czech municipalities chosen to provide space for a deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel are ready to fight against the government’s decision “with all possible means”. Read more.
Teaching at protesting university to be broken up across different locations. Teaching at Budapest’s University of Theatre and Film Arts, which was under a student-led blockade for 70 days until the introduction of strict pandemic measures in November, will be spread across several locations across the city, RTL reported. Read more.
Slovak PM blames coalition partner for 4,300 coronavirus deaths. As COVID-19 infections continue to reach record highs and hospitals reach peak capacity despite the Christmas lockdown and a further tightening of the rules in the new year, Prime Minister Igor Matovič publicly blamed Vice-Prime Minister and Economy Minister Economy Richard Sulík (Freedom and Solidarity) for deliberately failing to procure enough antigen tests back in November and sabotaging widespread testing ahead of the Christmas Holidays. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Bulgaria is trying to change tactics with Skopje. Sofia has proposed an action plan for cooperation with North Macedonia in the implementation of the Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation, Bulgaria’s foreign ministry announced after Deputy Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva met in Sofia with North Macedonia’s special envoy, Vlado Buckovski. Read more.
Vaccination campaign in Romania enters phase two. Romania will start the second phase of its vaccination campaign on Friday with the aim to immunise people above 65, those suffering from chronic diseases, and essential workers. Read more.
ZAGREB | LJUBLJANA
Slovenian parliament adopts ‘options’ for Italy and Croatia’s EEZ. Slovenia’s options in the event that Italy and Croatia to proclaim an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Adriatic Sea were presented by Foreign Minister Anže Logar to the parliament’s foreign policy committee and unanimously endorsed behind closed doors. Read more.
Serbian citizens can apply for COVID-19 vaccinations online. Serbian citizens were able to apply for COVID-19 vaccinations by filling in a form as of Monday via the e-government portal. Read more.
Most migrants accommodated in tents, Dodik muted. EU High Representative Josep Borrell held a call with Milorad Dodik, chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 11 January to discuss the dire humanitarian conditions of hundreds of migrants in the country, according to a statement published by the EU’s diplomatic arm, the EEAS. Read more.
High-ranking government officials ousted in Montenegro. Directors of the tax administration, customs administration, property administration, real estate administration, and the gambling administration and their assistants were dismissed based on a government decree published in the Official Gazette on 5 January.
The director of the real estate administration, Dragan Kovačević, was arrested at the end of last year on the order of the special state prosecutor’s office. The tax administration and the gambling administration will merge into the revenue administration, and the real estate and property administrations will form the cadastre and state property administration.
Although the largest opposition party DPS did not react as furiously as might have been expected, MP Suzana Pribilović had announced earlier on Monday that the new government had no legal basis for such dismissals. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Strasbourg cour urges Albania not to deport Selami Simsek to Turkey. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg sent an official request to Albania not to deport the Turkish citizen Selami Simsek to Turkey as long as his trial was not finalised, the Tirana Times reported. Read more.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Zoran Radosavljevic]