US cleans up Bulgarian mafia

The action targets prominent Bulgarian gambling oligarch Vassil Bozhkov, former MP and media tycoon Delyan Peevski, and Deputy Chief of the National Bureau for Control on Special Intelligence-Gathering Devices, Ilko Zhelyazkov. [Combo picture. From L to R: Vassil Bozhvov, Delyan Peevksi, Ilko Zhelyazkov - Dnevnik]

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 In today’s news from the Capitals:


The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned three Bulgarians for corruption in Bulgaria, as well as their networks encompassing 64 entities. The move was part of the largest Global Magnitsky action taken in a single day, targeting more than 65 individuals and entities for their significant acts of corruption in Bulgaria, the US Treasury Department has announced. Read more.



Brussels optimistic migration pact will be approved during Portugal’s EU presidency. The European Commission is optimistic that the Pact for Migration and Asylum will be approved during the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) by the end of June, Commissioner Vice-President Margaritis Schinas has said. More.



Tensions in Germany flare up ahead of local election. Germany’s commissioner for eastern Germany Macro Wanderwitz (CDU) has sparked controversy with comments that some people in the region have not yet properly grasped democracy – and this ahead of local elections in Saxony-Anhalt set for 6 June where far-right party AfD is set to have more than 20% of the vote. Read more.

Schäuble’s comeback. “We must therefore return to monetary and fiscal normality. The burden of public debt must be reduced. Otherwise, there is a danger that the COVID-19 pandemic will be followed by a “debt pandemic”, with dire economic consequences for Europe,” president of the Bundestag and former finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble wrote in an op-ed published by FT.

“With their ageing populations, EU countries will struggle to match the US and China in productivity and competitiveness if they allow excessive debt to jeopardise their financial flexibility. Thus, all eurozone members must engage in efforts to return to stricter budgetary discipline,” he added.



Communist candidate in French 2022 election: ‘We are very different from Mélenchon’. In an interview with EURACTIV France, Communist Party candidate in the upcoming presidential elections, Fabien Roussel, said he wants to be the candidate for the youth and the working man and criticised Europe for pitting the French worker against the Polish one. Read more.



Calls to drop age limits for vaccination. From 1 July, Belgium should drop all age limits and let people choose when to get vaccinated in order to avoid empty slots in the holiday season, Jan Stroobants, head of a vaccination centre in Antwerp, said on Wednesday (2 June). Read more.



Austrian prosecutor concludes investigation in COVID-hotspot Ischgl. The prosecution has concluded its investigation into the Tyrolean winter resort of Ischgl – one of Europe’s main COVID-19 hotspots during the first wave last year. Though it has not yet announced whether it will press charges, five local public officials – including Ischgl’s mayor and the regional commissioner – stand accused of allegedly endangering people through communicable diseases. Read more.



Luxembourg to spend €367 million on military vehicles. The government agreed on Wednesday to replace and maintain its fleet of armoured military vehicles with the aim of fulfilling its defence spending commitments as a member of NATO.

Ministers in Prime Minister Xavier Bettel’s government decided to buy 80 lightly armoured vehicles for the Luxembourg army, together with the logistical costs related to the vehicles with a 15-20-year lifespan, said Defence Minister François Bausch in a statement. (Anne Damiani |



US professors accuse Finland’s prosecutor of human rights violations. Ten conservative US-based university professors have approached the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, urging it to sanction Finnish Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen for having charged an MP for inciting hate speech on grounds of sexual orientation. Read more.



Commission: Italy’s economy could worsen post-pandemic support. The Italian economy continues to suffer from “excessive macroeconomic imbalances” due to high debt, low productivity and non-performing loans – problems that could worsen with the withdrawal of post-pandemic support measures, the European Commission warned in recommendations released Wednesday. Read more.



Spain’s unemployment figures improve as economy gradually recovers.  Unemployment in Spain significantly improved in May, with 129,378 fewer people searching for a job, the best official figure since 1996, EURACTIV’s partner EuroEFE reported.



Mafia murders cause Greek government headaches. Five contract killings related to mafia and organised crime within 40 days have sparked alarm in the Greek government. More.



Slovakia taken to Strasbourg court for not helping closing businesses during pandemic. The European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg will look into a complaint filed against Slovakia for failing to compensate businesses that had to close during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company taking the country to court, the network of premium clothing brands Denim has confirmed. Read more.



Activists of Polish minority in Belarus released from custody. Irena Biernacka, Maria Tiszkowska and Anna Paniszewa who were detained by Belarus authorities for their involvement in commemorating soldiers of the Polish Independence Underground during and after World War II have been safe in Poland since 25 May due to the efforts of Polish diplomatic services, the foreign ministry announced on Thursday. Read more.



Czech government likely to survive no-confidence vote. The no-confidence vote against the minority government of Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in parliament’s lower house on Thursday is likely fail as the Communist Party reportedly decided that it would not support the motion. Read more.



Chinese university protest to take place in Budapest despite restrictions. More than 4,000 people have already registered their intention to participate in the protest against the planned Hungarian campus of China’s Fudan University to be held outside parliament on Saturday. Read more.



Kurti: Brussels meeting with Vučić will start ‘new chapter’. Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said in Pristina on Wednesday that his meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić in Brussels this month would be the opening of “a new chapter”, not the resumption of the previous dialogue. For his part, Vucic said he won’t be requested to recognise Kosovo. Read more.



Romania tables recovery plan. Romania has published its recovery and resilience plan in full two days after the document was officially submitted to the European Commission. The government details the multiple reforms assumed, including almost 500 targets, but also the huge investments, totalling €29.2 billion. The sectors that receive the most funding from the recovery plan are transports, education and healthcare, but the plan also includes reforms of the pension law and of public servants pay, to address major fiscal imbalances. (Bogdan Neagu |



Finance Minister Marić: Croatia in safe financial zone. The budget revision, proposed by the government on Wednesday, keeps Croatia in a safe financial zone, Finance Minister Zdravko Marić said after the cabinet’s meeting. Read more.



Parts of Slovenia’s Communicable Diseases Act declared unconstitutional. The Slovenian Constitutional Court has declared provisions of the Communicable Diseases Act that the government invoked to restrict movement and assembly during the pandemic as unconstitutional, arguing that there were insufficient safeguards for such sweeping curbs on fundamental rights as curfews and prohibition of public assembly. Read more.



Dodik: BiH High Representative appointment not in Republika Srpska’s interests. The Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik, stated in Belgrade on Wednesday (2 June) that Republika Srpska (RS) is not against the Dayton Agreements but is in favour of upholding the Constitution. He added that the appointment of Christian Schmidt as BiH’s new High Representative was “directed against the interests of RS  and the Serb people in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Read more.



North Macedonia’s net foreign investment plummets by 82%. The net foreign direct investment (FDI) in North Macedonia plunged sharply to €25.7 million in the first quarter of 2021 compared to €140.7 million during the same period last year, preliminary central bank data indicated, Intellinews reported

The World Bank said recently that North Macedonia’s current account deficit widened slightly to 3.5% of GDP for 2020, and that its net FDI was almost halved as previously announced foreign investments got delayed. The new Fiscal Strategy adopted by the government projects growth rates over 5% and an 8.6% drop in unemployment until 2026. Meanwhile, North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev announced several huge investments in the coming period including that of German retailer Lidl, which is set to open the first stores in the country. (Željko Trkanjec |



Albanian Prime Minister Rama to visit Ankara. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama announced Wednesday on social media that he will depart for a two-day working visit to Ankara to increase the bilateral cooperation between the ministries for the progress of joint projects and organised contacts with investors in different fields such as technology and tourism. (Željko Trkanjec |


  • France:  Luxembourg’s Digitalisation Minister, Marc Hansen, will speak to the French National Assembly as part of a debate on building European digital sovereignty. 
  • Luxembourg: Deputy Prime Minister and Mobility Minister François Bausch will participate in a Transport Council with his European counterparts in Luxembourg on Thursday.
  • Spain to donate 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Latin America, as part of the international Covax mechanism.
  • Poland: President Andrzej Duda will meet with Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in Warsaw.
  • Czechia: Parliament’s lower house will hold its no-confidence vote against the minority government at 9 am on Thursday.
  • Romania: The government will discuss in its weekly meeting a policy document regarding e-government and the digitalization roadmap
  • Serbia: US Western Balkans envoy Matthew Palmer and EU special representative for the  Belgrade-Priština dialogue, Miroslav Lajčak, are visiting Serbia, where they will meet with Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and President Aleksandar Vučić. Brnabić will also meet Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.


[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Josie Le Blond]

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