Tusk: Don’t be naive with Russian and Chinese jabs

Meanwhile, the first batch of 200,000 Russian Sputnik V vaccines arrived in Slovakia on Monday afternoon, which Prime Minister Igor Matovič welcomed at Košice airport without consulting his coalition partners. [EPA/EFE-ROBERT GHEMENT]

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.

Before you start reading today’s edition of the Capitals, feel free to have a look at the article “German industry calls for greener EU policy after Bundestag elections“, by Philipp Grüll.


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


In today’s news from the Capitals:

WARSAW | BRATISLAVA. Polish President Andrzej Duda held a phone call on Monday with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss the possibility of cooperating on vaccines. However, the call prompted a reaction from Poland’s former prime minister Donald Tusk, the current chief of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), who called on Poles and Europeans not to be “naive” about the intentions of Moscow and Beijing.

“I warn against such a naive approach to these very cynical players. I am talking about the Chinese and Russian authorities. And above all, I would warn the Polish authorities, and also other European countries, against buying and trying to vaccinate their citizens with a vaccine that has not been tested,” Tusk said.

Meanwhile, the first batch of 200,000 Russian Sputnik V vaccines arrived in Slovakia on Monday afternoon, welcomed at the Košice airport by Prime Minister Igor Matovič, who apparently did not consult his coalition partners.

EURACTIV Poland and Slovakia have more.

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EU PRESIDENCY

Portugal to ‘immediately follow up’ on Commission EU-Mercosur proposal. Portugal will “immediately follow up” on the proposal for further clarification of the EU-Mercosur agreement that the European Commission presents, the foreign minister said on Monday, reiterating that he “strongly” expects progress on this matter during the Portuguese presidency. More

EU vaccination certificate will allow ‘resuming normality’, says Portuguese minister. A proposal for an EU-wide vaccination certificate, due to be presented this month by the European Commission, will allow “resuming normality” in the daily lives of European citizens in the best possible conditions, Portugal’s health minister Marta Temido has said. More

BRUSSELS

Belgian FM warns against COVID-passport for travel. There should be “no question of linking vaccination to freedom of movement in Europe” as the European COVID-19 digital vaccination passport aims for, Belgium’s foreign affairs minister Sophie Wilmès warned on Monday. Read more.

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BERLIN

German government will not make AstraZeneca vaccine available to everyoneGermany will not make the British-Swedish AstraZeneca vaccine available to everyone in the country, the government announced on Monday although a large amount of these vaccines remain largely unused due to scepticism towards the jab. Read more.

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PARIS

Sarkozy sentenced to three years in prison for corruption and influence peddling. The Paris criminal court handed down its verdict on Monday, finding former French president Nicholas Sarkozy guilty of corruption and influence-peddling and sentencing him to a three-year sentence, two of which were suspended. Read more.

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VIENNA

Austria to open up slowly. The government decided to roll back the current lockdown: On 27 March, outdoor areas of restaurants will be allowed to open up again. Guests will have to present a test and be registered. Children will be allowed to visit sports venues from mid-March onwards.

Gastronomy associations voiced disappointment: The chamber of commerce had expected to open up fully on 15 March. However, the current rate of infections did not allow for that, said health minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens). “We want to reach Easter without an explosive increase in the numbers”, he said. (Philipp Grüll)


UK AND IRELAND

LONDON 

Counting the Brexit trade cost. Britain’s manufacturers carried the costs of supply chain disruption in February as Brexit and the third COVID-19 lockdown weighed down growth in factory production, according to the IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply survey on Monday. Read more.


NORDICS AND BALTICS

TALLINN

Estonian agriculture sector to receive substantial support. Estonia’s agricultural sector should soon receive €3.8 million in aid to overcome the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as the already approved government aid proposed by Rural Affairs Minister Urmas Kruuse has a high likelihood of being greenlighted by the country’s parliament, the Riigikogu. Read more.

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VILNIUS

Lithuania to start supplying LNG to Poland next year. Lithuanian state-controlled energy company Ignitis Group will start supplying liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Poland next year when a new pipeline between the two countries comes online, its CEO said on Monday (1 March). More


EUROPE’S SOUTH

ROME

Italy’s Draghi replaces COVID-19 commissioner with army general. While coronavirus infections are again on the rise and ‘red zones’ are being established in regions like Lombardy, Italian Prime Minister Draghi decided to replace the extraordinary commissioner for the COVID-19 emergency, Domenico Arcuri – whose work in recent months has been at the centre of much controversy – with Army General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo. Read more.

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MADRID

Spanish self-employed, small entrepreneurs pessimistic about recovery. Some 300,000 more jobs are expected to be lost in Spain in 2021, mainly affecting small businesses, in a new blow to the already battered economy, warned the Spanish Association of the Self-Employed Workers (Asociación de Trabajadores Autónomos, ATA). Read the full story.

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ATHENS 

Former Greek Commissioner withdraws from OECD chair race. Greek former minister and EU Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou announced that she had withdrawn her bid in the race for OECD Secretary-General on Monday. The OECD will announce the finalists for the post on Tuesday. Read more.

According to Diamantopoulou’s own tweet, she decided to sit on the bench in the final stage “in an effort to facilitate consensus in the selection process.” On Facebook, the former minister said she wanted to help one of the final two candidates – who she said would be from Australia and Sweden – obtain a clearer majority. (Theodore Karaoulanis | EURACTIV.gr)


VISEGRAD 

BUDAPEST

Only half of Hungary’s citizens invited to get the jab show up. One in two people notified by their family doctors to get the vaccine show up, according to Béla Merkely, rector of the Semmelweis Medical University. Read more.

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WARSAW

EU Commissioners: Poland’s disciplinary chamber for judges violates EU law. “The European Commission believes that Poland violates European Union law by allowing the Disciplinary Chamber to continue adjudicating in cases that directly concern judges, especially in cases for lifting immunity,” according to a letter sent by the European Commission’s values and transparency chief Vera Jourova and Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders. Read more.

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PRAGUE

Germany and France will send vaccines to Czechia. The German states of Bavaria, Saxony, and Thuringia will send 15,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from UK-Swedish manufacturer AstraZeneca to the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has confirmed. Meanwhile, France has promised to send the Czech Republic 100,000 Pfizer/BioNTech doses in the form of a “loan” to be paid back later, the PM added. Read more.

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BRATISLAVA

Slovakia: Shop assistants, drivers sign up for AstraZeneca vaccine. Shop assistants, train conductors and chief guards, public transport drivers, taxi drivers, and public transport controllers aged 18 to 55 have been able to sign up for vaccination with the UK-Swedish Astrazeneca vaccine as of 27 February, the health ministry said. Read more.


NEWS FROM THE BALKANS

SARAJEVO 

Srebrenica Memorial Centre publishes Genocide Transcripts. The Srebrenica Memorial Centre on Monday published a collection of documents entitled Genocide Transcripts, which prove that Bosnian Serb authorities planned to split up Bosnia and Herzegovina, that ethnic cleansing was implemented and mass war crimes were committed. Read more.

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SOFIA

Protecting rights of Bulgarians abroad: President Radev meets with security services. Bulgarian President Rumen Radev summoned the directors of the security services to discuss measures to protect the rights of Bulgarians abroad after he received a letter from the president of the “Ivan Mihailov” Cultural Centre in North Macedonia, as well as complaints from Bulgarians living in North Macedonia, claiming their rights are frequently being violated because they identify as ethnic Bulgarians. Read more.

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ZAGREB

Croatian president’s energy transition council adopts solar energy guidelines. Croatian President Zoran Milanović’s energy transition council adopted guidelines on Monday for encouraging the instalment of integrated solar power plants on private homes and commercial buildings. Read more.

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LJUBLJANA 

5 CEE ministers discuss Slovenian EU presidency, pandemic. The foreign ministers of Slovenia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia, who together form the so-called Central 5 (C5) group, discussed Slovenia’s upcoming EU presidency and the coronavirus pandemic during their meeting on Monday in Slovenia’s Brdo pri Kranju. Slovenia’s EU Council Presidency priorities include building EU resilience to crises and further EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, which was backed by everyone.

“Expectations are high and this must not be another lost year for the Western Balkans,” said Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, adding that Austria has great interests in the region. His Czech counterpart, Tomáš Petříček, called for fewer restrictions on migrant workers crossing borders during the pandemic and supported Slovenia’s EU priorities for a post-pandemic economic recovery and expanding EU integration into the Western Balkans.(Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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BELGRADE 

MEPs call for inter-party dialogue mediated by EU Parliament. An inter-party dialogue mediated by the European Parliament is in the best interests of Serbia, and an important element in the country’s efforts to strengthen democracy and increase public confidence in institutions and the election process, said a joint statement from David McAllister, chairman of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee (AFET), and MEPs Vladimir Bilčik and Tanja Fajon. Read more.

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TIRANA

Post-Electoral Coalition Deal against PM Rama. Albania’s two main opposition parties, the Democratic Party (PD) and the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) signed a post-electoral coalition deal on Monday, exit.al reported. The two parties said the signing of the deal represented the “union against Prime Minister Edi Rama”.

The main priorities of the 13-point deal include taking the country out of what they consider an economic crisis created by the current government and advancing in European integration. The opposition parties also committed to creating jobs, ending the pandemic, fighting organised crime, adopting the rule of law, curbing the immigration of Albanians, supporting youth and women, developing culture, and restituting property to religious communities. Meanwhile, President Ilir Meta said he would resign if the Socialist Party led by PM Rama obtains the 71 votes needed for a majority in the elections, “without stealing even a single one”. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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

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