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Before you start reading today’s edition of the Capitals, feel free to have a look at the article Newer EU members support Associated Trio as ‘champions’, by Vlagyiszlav Makszimov.
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A message from the Greens/EFA: Are we fit for 2030? The EU’s climate package could be a game-changer
Last week, the European Commission published the biggest set of climate measures ever proposed. But to be the global frontrunner on climate action the EU needs to step up.
In today’s news from the Capitals:
Future American investments in Poland could be jeopardised if Warsaw does not renew the licence of 24-hour news channel TVN24, US State Department Counselor Derek Chollet said on Thursday, referring to potential new Polish laws against its ownership by American media company Discovery Inc. Read more.
Weber: Nord Stream 2 detrimental to Europe as a whole. Manfred Weber, the conservative EPP leader in the European Parliament, has described as “important” an agreement struck between Germany and the US over Nord Stream 2 as it sends a signal to the Russian leadership not to abuse the controversial pipeline politically, but warned it should not marginalise Ukraine. Read more.
Merkel calls on Germans to get vaccine in final press conference. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for Germany’s citizens to get vaccinated in a bid to halt the spread of the Delta variant on Thursday, in what is likely to be her last press conference as chancellor before she steps down ahead of September’s election. Read more.
Electric vehicles sales in France tripled in past two years. Plug-in hybrids and electric cars have increased in popularity in France, rising from 2.5% of all vehicles sold in 2019 to 7.5% today. The increase in sales is partly linked to the electric bonuses granted under the country’s recovery plan, dubbed France Relance. Read the full story.
Austrian coalition in disagreement over climate protection. After Austria’s Greens pushed a re-evaluation of the CO2 intensity of various road construction projects through parliament, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has criticised the party’s stance on climate protection. Read more.
UK AND IRELAND
Von der Leyen rejects UK bid to reopen Irish protocol. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has insisted that the EU would not reopen the controversial Northern Ireland protocol, a key part of the Brexit agreement with the UK, just a day after Boris Johnson’s published a paper setting out its plans to renegotiate it.
“The EU will continue to be creative and flexible within the protocol framework. But we will not renegotiate,” said von der Leyen after a call with Johnson. Read the full story.
Irish health minister: ICUs need to prepare for COVID surge. The department of health is preparing for a surge in ICU capacity in hospitals because of the “roaring” growth in COVID-19 cases, according to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, the Irish Times reports. Read more.
Greece opens door to mandatory general vaccination. The conservative Greek government (New Democracy, EPP) has opened the door to obligatory vaccination for all, by allowing the health minister to expand the categories of professions in which compulsory vaccination may be imposed. Read more.
Draghi: Anti-vaccine is ‘appeal to die’. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said that people pushing anti-vaccine messages are spreading a deadly appeal. “The appeal not to get vaccinated is an appeal to die, basically. You don’t get vaccinated, you get sick, you die. Or you kill: you don’t get vaccinated, you get sick, you contaminate, someone dies,” Draghi told a press conference Thursday where he announced new restrictions to help counteract the spread of the rising Delta variant. Read more.
More than 230 migrants jump fence into Spain’s Melilla. More than 230 migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa arrived in Melilla after jumping the border fence between Morocco and the Spanish North African enclave. Read more.
Portuguese government approves law to limit petrol pump profits. Portugal’s government has approved a bill that will allow it to limit fuel profits if it considers that they are unjustifiably high, said Environment Minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes.
In a press conference after the cabinet meeting on Thursday, the minister said that this law, which also covers bottled gas, will now be sent to parliament, stressing that the measure will be temporary. Fernandes also said that he would hear from the Energy Services Regulatory Authority (ERSE) and the Competition Authority. (Alexandra Noronha, Lusa.pt)
Firearm ownership rights embedded into Czech constitution. The Czech Senate this week approved the right to own weapons to defend oneself and others under legal conditions to be embedded in the constitution. This comes as a reaction to the EU’s tendency to regulate firearms acquisition and possession. Read more.
Hungary forgoes €200 million from Norway in NGO row. Hungary’s government will forgo €214.6 million in grants from Norway because it could not agree on who decides on NGO beneficiaries, Telex reported on Thursday. As the final Wednesday deadline lapsed, the Hungarian executive did not accept the management of €10.89 million for civil society support by an independent fund manager independently selected by European Economic Area (EEA) and Norway.
This would have been a precondition for receiving the full €214.6 million in aid from Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein that the three provide to new member states and poorer EU countries in return for the benefits of access to EU’s common market. “We could not reach an agreement with the Norwegians,” government representative Gergely Gulyás said at Thursday’s executive briefing. (Vlagyiszlav Makszimov | EURACTIV.com with Telex)
Cars damaged in floods may endanger Slovak market. Slovakia’s car dealership market is worried that sellers from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, countries which import tens of thousands of cars to Slovakia each year, could be selling cars damaged by the floods, the TASR news agency reported. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Bulgaria drastically increases pension spending. Bulgaria’s caretaker government plans to increase all pensions from 1 October this year, announced Finance Minister Asen Vassilev, adding that if parliament supports his proposals, no pensioners in Bulgaria will be living below the poverty line by autumn. Read more.
Croatian finance minister says budget situation satisfactory. Croatian Finance Minister Zdravko Marić has said that: “Regarding the budget, I think we can be relatively satisfied at the moment. Naturally, with great caution. We should do everything to prevent the situation from becoming complex in some way.” Read more.
ZAGREB | BELGRADE
Serbian National Bank: Croatia’s Tesla euro coin could be ‘appropriation’. The Serbian National Bank (NBS) said on Thursday that putting Nikola Tesla’s image on euro coins if Croatia joined the euro “would represent appropriation of the cultural and scientific legacy of the Serb people” as “the famous scientist declared himself as Serb by descent and birth.”
If Tesla’s image ended up on Croatian euro coins, “appropriate action would certainly be taken at the relevant European Union institutions,” the NBS added. That “would point to the inappropriateness of such a proposal,” Tanjug news agency said, citing sources at the NBS. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
LJUBLJANA | VILNIUS
Slovenia helps Lithuania with 10 kilometres of fence. Slovenia will donate equipment to Lithuania to help stop migrants entering from Belarus, including aiding in the construction of 10 kilometres of fence on the Lithuanian-Belarussian border.
Lithuania has asked EU countries to help, the government confirmed, adding that Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite had addressed a letter to Slovenian counterpart, Aleš Hojs, asking for assistance in the construction of physical barriers on the border with Belarus.
The letter did not specify what kind of physical barriers will be sent. Slovenia started installing fencing on the border with Croatia in late 2015 and uses a combination of razor-wire or hard-wire fences on what is now several hundred kilometres of fencing. In addition to the fence materials, Slovenia will donate power generators, blankets and ready-made halal meals worth more than €50,000. (Sebastijan R. Maček | STA)
BELGRADE | MADRID
Serbian interior minister in Madrid to discuss police cooperation, Kosovo. The interior ministers of Serbia and Spain, Aleksandar Vulin and Fernando Grande-Marlaska Gomes, met in Madrid on Thursday to discuss the development of cooperation, especially in training, the exchange of information and suppression of cyber-crime, while Vulin also spoke about Kosovo. Read more.
SKOPJE | BELGRADE
Macedonian, Albanian and Serbian presidents hold virtual summit. North Macedonia’s prime minister, Zoran Zev, held a virtual discussion with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama on preparations for an upcoming economic summit, which they are organising together next week in Skopje.
“I had a productive meeting on preparations for an economic summit on regional cooperation along with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in Skopje on July 29,” Zaev wrote on Facebook. “We are forging even more connections to make life even better and easier for our citizens. This is a new, European Balkans,” Zaev added. (EURACTIV.rs | betabriefing.com)
Russia, China fail at UN in bid to shut down Bosnia peace envoy. Russia and China failed on Thursday in a bid to get the U.N. Security Council to strip some powers from an international envoy overseeing implementation of a 1995 Bosnia peace accord and shut down the envoy’s office in one year. Read more.
Montenegro cracks down on cigarette smugglers. Montenegro has launched an investigation into cigarette smuggling. The country loses up to €35 million a year in taxes due to cigarette smuggling, Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazović told Vijesti Television. The comments come after Bosnia and Herzegovina police found almost 250,000 boxes of cigarettes smuggled from Montenegro to BiH in one truck, worth €650,000. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
- Germany: Fridays for Future demonstrates nationwide for more climate protection and consequences after the flood disaster
- Poland: President Andrzej Duda continues his visit in Japan, where he is to participate in the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
- Bulgaria: Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov is expected to present information to parliament about wiretapped opposition politicians.
- Croatia: Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman meets with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg.
[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Sarantis Michalopoulous, Daniel Eck, Paula Kenny, Josie Le Blond]