The Capitals brings you the latest news from across Europe, through on-the-ground reporting by EURACTIV’s media network.
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Tsipras attacks European far-right: Anti-EU far-right forces appear anti-systemic but they are in fact identical to the most extreme neoliberalism and “probably receive financial support from the other side of the Atlantic”, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras has said.
Speaking at an event organised by the EU socialists (S&D) in Athens, he said the political management of the economic crisis had cultivated the stream of extreme right-wing populism that is today threatening to prevail in Europe.
“From Orbán to Kurz and from Wilders to AfD in Germany,” Tsipras said.
Tsipras lashed out against Orbán, saying his economic programme is based on layoffs that have made hundreds of thousands of Hungarian workers homeless. Kurz plans to establish labour relations in Austria via a law on 12-hour work, he added.
“This marriage of extreme right and neoliberalism is what constitutes a devious ‘anti-European International’ at the heart of Europe. It is precisely these political forces that we will confront in view of the EU elections.”
He said that although these forces focus on the return to the nation-state, they also show solidarity among each other.
“But one sees the support, possibly financial as well, by other powers on the other side of the Atlantic and then we can really talk about a Black International.”
The answer to this, according to Tsipras, is the creation of an EU-wide progressive front among socialist, leftist and green forces, which will highlight EU values based on social solidarity and justice.
Cretan drilling: US oil and gas giant ExxonMobil, French energy major Total, and Greece’s Hellenic Petroleum (HELPE) will start looking for natural gas reserves off the coast of western Crete in the next four months, Greek energy minister Giorgos Stathakis has said. A large part of the resources will contribute to the pension fund, he added. (Sarantis Michalopoulos, EURACTIV.com)
Macron’s EU vision: In an opinion piece published by several European publications, Emmanuel Macron outlined his vision for Europe’s future, urging reform of its passport-free Schengen area and setting up a new agency “for the protection of democracies” against cyber-attacks and fake news.
“A European agency for the protection of democracies would provide European experts to each member state to protect its electoral process against cyber-attacks and manipulation,” he said. “Financing European political parties from abroad should also be banned, while rules should be agreed on banning hateful and violent speeches from the internet”, Macron added. (AFP)
Aviation tax: Belgium has proposed the introduction of an EU tax on commercial aviation. Currently, there is no tax on kerosene or VAT on airplane tickets, which are two options for applying the possible tariff. It will be discussed at a meeting of environment ministers today. (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com).
‘Galactic scale stupidity’: The UK will be “lost in space” following the country’s withdrawal from the EU, according to one of the most successful British space entrepreneurs.
Dr Will Marshall, the owner of Planet Company, the world’s largest satellite imaging network, has fiercely criticised the UK’s decision to leave the EU, saying that it would leave “the UK less secure, less financially stable, and adrift.”
Labour’s anti-semitism: Ex-minister Lord Falconer could be set to be given a new role in the Labour Party – as ‘Surveillance Commissioner” for Anti-Semitism. Labour has been plagued by accusations of anti-semitism since 2016, forcing some MPs to leave the party. (Samuel Stolton, EURACTIV.com)
UK-Spain deal to curb tax evasion in Gibraltar: Madrid and London plan to sign an international agreement setting out stricter rules to determine the tax residence of individuals and businesses located in Gibraltar, Spanish media reported.
Those who are mostly based in Spain, or getting their income from financial activities on Spanish territory, will have to pay taxes in the Iberian country. Madrid’s target is to prevent Gibraltar from increasing its competitive advantage once the UK leaves the EU. Gibraltar offers attractive tax rates for businesses and capital. According to El Pais, profits are taxed at a top rate of only 10%, compared to 25% in Spain.
The contingency plan that the Spanish government approved last Friday, as a way to soften the negative effects of no-deal Brexit (which grants all rights to British residents in Spain, and extends those benefits to Gibraltar), refers to that territory in the south of Spain as a “colony”, sources told El Pais.(EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)
Town twinning against Brexit: Berlin’s Economics Senator Ramona Pop and London’s Deputy Mayor for Economics, Rajesh Agrawal, signed an agreement in Berlin on 4 March, to help companies headquartered in the German capital continue doing business in London or be able to start a business there. “London is open, London is a proud European city,” Agrawal said.
Turkish threats: Turkey is planning to arrest on sight any holidaymakers from Germany that are considered opponents of the government, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on 4 March. The government said it is watching closely participants of anti-Turkey protests in Germany and other EU countries, and has created lists of suspects. (Claire Stam, EURACTIV.de)
Alpine link spat: Prime Minister Conte together with his two deputies Salvini and Di Maio will today meet Transport Minister Toninelli to discuss the Alpine railway link between Lyon and Turin. The two ruling parties have been struggling for months to find a compromise.
5 Star is trying to postpone a final decision until after the EU elections in May, as most of its voters have always been against the Alpine link. On the other hand, Lega backs the project and wants to avoid losing EU funds due to delays in completing the connection.
“It would be criminal to stop the project,” said the Democratic Party’s new leader, Nicola Zingaretti, who aims to take advantage of any wrong moves by Five Star on the issue. (Gerardo Fortuna)
Pro-Europeans lead the EP polls: Poland’s newly established pro-EU alliance ‘European Coalition’ leads the latest EU election polls with 37.5% of the vote. Ultra-conservative ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) sits on 36.3%, according to the second seat projections released by the European Parliament. (EURACTIV.pl)
Pirates after Babis: The Czech Pirates have called on the EU Commission to decide before the EU elections on the conflict of interest case involving PM Andrej Babis and Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman.
Brexit harm: Most Czechs believe Brexit will not have a positive impact on anyone, according to a new poll. They blame both London and Brussels for failing to strike a deal and expect both sides to make concessions. Still, more than a quarter of Czechs think there should be a referendum on their nation’s EU membership. (Ondřej Plevák, EURACTIV.cz)
Spitzenkandidat Honoris Causa: A Bucharest university will next week award an honorary degree to Commission VP Frans Timmermans, the socialists’ lead candidate to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker. The university is led by a former education minister appointed by the PSD, the ruling party that is part of the PES family, but with which Timmermans has been at odds over changes to the judiciary. (Bogdan Neagu, EURACTIV.ro)
Big energy in focus: During a Monday visit to Sofia, Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev told Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borissov that Moscow needs guarantees from the European Commission prior to choosing Bulgaria as a route for its Turkish Stream gas pipeline project.
Borissov said Bulgaria just wants to maintain the level of gas transit it benefits from at present, transporting up to 16 billion cubic metres of Russian gas per year to Turkey.
He added that Sofia would organise a fair and transparent tender to find a strategic investor to build a new nuclear power plant on the Danube. Medvedev, who will stay in Bulgaria today, said that Russia is ready to take part in the construction of the Belene facility. (Georgi Gotev, EURACTIV.com)
Sandwich affair concludes: A member of the ruling party, Dario Krajčić, has resigned from the Slovenian parliament. Krajčić announced his resignation after he stole a sandwich from a shop near the parliament and then praised himself about it publicly in the parliament. He claimed that it was a “social experiment”.
Hacks in the Parliament: Irena Joveva, a TV journalist, will top the ruling party’s (ALDE) list for the EU elections. But an internal poll has raised eyebrows as it showed that the party would only get one to two seats. Tanja Fajon, a Slovenian socialist MEP, is also a former journalist. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)
Mission to protect media: Several regional organisations will gather in Zagreb today to protest against the worrying decline in media freedoms. PM Andrej Plenković said he is deeply convinced that the problem of media freedom in Croatia does not really exist, contrary to how some are trying to present it.
Hands off cohesion: EU funding minister Gabrijela Žalac said cohesion policy is a key instrument of growth and development and strict rules should not jeopardise the achievement of cohesion policy’s goals in less developed countries. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)
Serbian Davos begins: PM Ana Brnabić told the 26th Kopaonik Business Forum that Serbia’s economy is not yet fully prepared for sustainable growth. She said the aim is to transform an investment-based model to a model focused on innovation and knowledge. (Julija Simić, Beta-EURACTIV.rs)
Dunroamin: Bosnia and Herzegovina has officially requested the postponement of an agreement to reduce roaming charges in the Western Balkans. The decision was made following an agreement with telecom operators who make a significant profit on roaming. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos and Sam Morgan]