The Capitals brings you the latest news from across Europe, through on-the-ground reporting by EURACTIV’s media network.
Dragnea goes to the PES Congress: The leader of Romania’s socialists, Liviu Dragnea, will indeed attend the Congress of the European Socialist Party (PES) on 22-23 February in Madrid, although he previously said he would not be pictured with anyone who hates Romania.
The Kövesi case
Former chief prosecutor Laura Codruţa Kövesi is among three candidates up to be named head of the new European Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), after being forced out of her role last year by Romania’s ruling party. Read the full story:
In an interview with Euronews, Commission VP Frans Timmermans said “there can be no amnesty for corrupt politicians who have been convicted before courts. I’ve been quite brutal with the Romanians with this and I will continue to be clear on that.
“In the fight against corruption, in my experience, Miss Kovesi did an excellent job over the years. The only thing I can testify to is that I’ve seen her at work and that I think she’s an excellent prosecutor. She’s done a very courageous job in Romania.” (Bogdan Neagu, EURACTIV.ro)
PM silent on Orbán and EPP: Croatian PM Andrej Plenković said his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orbán made a mistake with a controversial campaign that accuses Brussels, namely Jean-Claude Juncker and George Soros, of compromising Hungary’s security.
But he did not say whether Orbán should be kicked out of the EPP, of which Plenković’s HDZ party is a member.
Support for geoblocking regulation: Implementing EU rules that abolish geographic blocking will lead to an increase in e-commerce and a greater choice and security for consumers and traders in cross-border transactions, Croatia’s parliament heard. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)
Iberia faces “Brexit turbulences“: Iberia, Spain’s former flag carrier, has been given a six-month deadline (instead of 12) by the Commission to re-organise its shareholding structure and adapt it to EU rules on European ownership in case of no-deal Brexit, EURACTIV’s partner EuroEFE reports. More background here.
Barnier Jnr to run for Macron list?: It’s still unknown who will lead the election list of Macron’s La République En Marche (LREM) in the EU elections. But Nicolas Barnier, the son of Brexit boss Michel Barnier, might be eligible under Agir, a centre-right ally of LREM for the EU election.
‘Benalla affair’: The Senate recommended that Macron’s former security aide, Alexandre Benalla, be prosecuted for perjury. Benalla was accused of contradictions in his testimony over his violent conduct during protests last year. Senators added that the case highlighted “major dysfunctions at the highest level of the state”.(Cécile Barbière, EURACTIV.fr)
Heavy braking: Germany’s Greens criticised the government after EU negotiators agreed on the first ever set of rules for heavy vehicle CO2 emissions. MEP Sven Giegold told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung that the German government acted “once more as an advocate for the car lobby instead of climate protection”.
Far-right displeasure: Berlin’s Constitutional Court rejected a lawsuit filed by the AfD against Berlin mayor Michael Müller (SPD), Der Tagesspiegel reported. The far-right party sued Müller after he tweeted that he was happy that 25,000 people took to the streets in response to an AfD march in the city last year. (Claire Stam, EURACTIV.de)
Conservative walkout: Three prominent Conservative MPs have left the party, citing opposition to Theresa May’s Brexit plans. The move comes a day after eight Labour MPs left their party for similar reasons, in addition to issues over claims of anti-semitism within the party’s ranks.
The Tory walkout was met with disappointment by May, who said she was “saddened” but her party would “always offer… decent, moderate and patriotic politics”. (Samuel Stolton, EURACTIV.com)
The EU Parliament is not a nursing home: The ruling Conservative Law and Justice party (ECR) unveiled its lead candidates for the EU elections. Among them are falling stars of national politics, including former PM Beata Szydło, former FM Witold Waszczykowski and the incumbent minister for home affairs Joachim Brudziński. The frontrunner will be Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, who unsuccessfully ran against Donald Tusk for the EU Council Presidency in 2017.
Robert Biedroń, leader of progressive opposition party Wiosna, tweeted: “I thought dinosaurs are extinct. The EP is not a nursing home”. (Karolina Zbytniewska, EURACTIV.pl)
Diplomatic kidnapping: The 17-year-old daughter of North Korea’s defected ambassador to Rome was kidnapped by Pyongyang’s secret services and repatriated by force, another defector diplomat reported. The teenager was not able to flee with her parents when they both vanished last November. The Five Star Movement and the opposition called on Minister of Interior Salvini to report on the issue to the parliament. (Gerardo Fortuna)
New Democracy still up on Syriza: Ruling party Syriza (European Left) continues to trail the centre-right New Democracy party (EPP) according to a new poll. ND scored 39%, followed by Syriza (24.5%) while socialist Movement for Change (S&D) stood at 8.5%. Far-right Golden Down scored 7.5% followed by the Communist Party (6.5%). The next national elections are due in November. (Theodore Karaoulanis, EURACTIV.gr)
Trump hails name deal: Donald Trump congratulated Greek PM Alexis Tsipras for the North Macedonia name change agreement. Trump said the deal could help inspire other countries in the region to resolve their bilateral issues. (EURACTIV.com).
Halloumi cheese under threat?: Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades called on Jean-Claude Juncker to push forward the halloumi/hellim application as a protected designation of origin (PDO). Halloumi is the most famous traditional product in Cyprus bu the application has been stalled since 2015. The case got more complicated still when a UK court recently granted a British company owned by a Greek-Cypriot commercial license to use the “Halloumi” brand in the UK and third-party countries. (EURACTIV.com)
Trump links trade talks and tariffs: Donald Trump gave a warm welcome to Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz at the White House and promised a “great relationship”. But he insisted that cars imported from Europe were something “we certainly think about”, although he noted the decision on tariffs will depend on if a trade deal with the EU will be reached. (Herbert Vytiska, EURACTIV.de)
Former PM had ‘talks’ with Italian mafia: According to Italian daily La Repubblica, Italy’s prosecutor’s office has information about a 2012 phone call between former Slovak PM Robert Fico and Antonino Vadala, an Italian citizen living in Slovakia, who was investigated by Italian authorities for connection to the Ndrangheta mafia. The links between Slovak politicians and Ndrangheta were the topic of an unfinished article by murdered investigative journalist Ján Kuciak, who was killed together with his fiancée a year ago. (Zuzana Gabrižová, EURACTIV.sk)
Babiš in the report: Czech PM Andrej Babiš, the country’s second-richest person, was mentioned in a report on the EU budget for 2017 due to suspicion of conflict of interest, which is now being investigated by the Commission.
The EU Parliament committee for budget control has voiced its regret that the Commission reacted only after Transparency International filed a complaint against Babiš in June 2018. More here.
Polish beef case: The Czech state veterinary administration has found that 700 kg of Polish beef has been contaminated with salmonella. The ministry of agriculture has now ordered inspections of all beef imported from Poland. (Aneta Zachová, EURACTIV.cz)
Electing a new Central Electoral Commission: The ruling party of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, GERB, started the procedure of electing a new Central Electoral Commission (CEC). This takes place in the absence from parliament of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) who left the assembly, saying fair elections could not be guaranteed following recent Election Code amendments.
According to the Election Code, CEC has 18 members, and consists of representatives of the forces elected at the last general and European elections. One of the issues is that two of the political forces that elected one MEP each in 2014 no longer exist: ‘Bulgaria without censorship’ and the ‘Reformist Bloc’. Reportedly, GERB has proposals to change the formula of electing CEC, which is likely to spark controversy. (Georgi Gotev, EURACTIV.com)
Turkish bakers coming to Slovenia: Franchise ‘Simit Sarayi’ will enter the Slovenian market in mid-March. The company is strongly connected to Turkish president Erdoğan, present in 22 countries and technologically superior to Slovenian bakers, which means they can offer lower prices. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)
EBRD asks for stronger reforms: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development believes that Serbia needs stronger reforms as its growth is expected to slow down to 3.5% in 2019 from 4.4% in 2018. EBRD sees significant fiscal risks to the Serbian economy stemming from unreformed public enterprises, while reforms in the public sector and the tax administration are progressing slowly. (Julija Simić, Beta-EURACTIV.rs)
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic, Sarantis Michalopoulos and Sam Morgan – EURACTIV.com]