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 exclusive op-ed by Commission VP Vera Jourova ‘After Trump, we must fight to rebuild the ruins of democracy‘.
Also, feel free to have a look at the story ‘Romania rejects ‘divisive’ Greek proposal for vaccine certificate’ by Sarantis Michalopoulos.
The European news you deserve to read. Welcome to The Capitals by EURACTIV.
In today’s news from the Capitals:
People who get vaccinated against COVID-19 in Poland will receive a confirmation document, a “vaccine passport”, after having received a second dose of the vaccine, according to Polish deputy Health Minister Anna Goławska. Poland is the latest country to welcome the idea of a “vaccine passport” as many member states consider solutions to restart cross border travel. Read more.
Group of CDU leaders comes out in support of Laschet. After suffering in recent opinion polls, North Rhine-Westphalian leader Armin Laschet gained a boost in the race for the CDU helm on Wednesday, after receiving endorsements from five CDU parliamentary group leaders from the country’s eastern and western states. Read more.
Castex faces angry Senate over slow vaccination strategy. French Prime Minister Jean Castex attempted on Wednesday to defend the government’s vaccination strategy before an angry Senate that was highly critical of its slowness. Read more.
Riots in Brussels over death of black man in police custody. Hundreds of people rioted in Brussels on Wednesday night over the death a 23-year-old man in police custody at the weekend. Read more.
Multiple border crossings to the Czech Republic and Slovakia closed. Austria’s government decided to shut down 45 border crossings to the Czech Republic and Slovakia due to their recent spikes in infection rates, in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Though border controls were introduced along both borders last Saturday and a press release from the interior ministry says this aims to uphold “public calm, order, and security”. (Philipp Grüll | EURACTIV.de)
UK AND IRELAND
Schrems drops legal efforts against Irish DPA. Ireland has agreed to proceed with a 2013 complaint challenging Facebook’s transatlantic data flows, Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems said on Wednesday, announcing he had therefore dropped legal action against Ireland’s Data Protection Commission. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Swedish Social Democrats lose pole position. The popularity of the Social Democratic Party of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, who have been increasingly under fire at homey for their poor handling of the pandemic, is now in free fall, according to a new poll published on Wednesday and conducted by newspaper Aftonbladet and research company Demoskop. Read more.
Estonian PM resigns awaiting corruption charges. Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas resigned on Wednesday after an enquiry into a property development project in the capital which could see him accused of corruption. Read more.
Lithuanian MEP apologises in homophobia row. MEP Viktor Uspaskich accused of homophobia apologised on Wednesday after fellow lawmakers threatened to expel him from the liberal Renew grouping in the European Parliament. Read more.
Italy plunged into political crisis with ‘all options open’. Italy was plunged into political crisis Wednesday after former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his party from the ruling coalition, risking the collapse of the government in the middle of a raging coronavirus pandemic. Read more.
Spain to extend temporary lay-off schemes. The Spanish government is ready to approve, likely before Friday, an extension of temporary lay-off schemes put in place last March to protect jobs for around 800,000 workers still affected by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular in the tourism and services sectors. Read the full story.
Portugal announces new lockdown, schools to remain open. A national lockdown, similar to the one in force between March and April, will be imposed as of midnight on Thursday, Prime Minister António Costa announced on Wednesday, warning that this is both “the most dangerous moment, but also a moment of greater hope”. Read more.
Czech Republic not interested in EU banking union, for now. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) has followed a recommendation by the finance ministry not to enter the European banking union for now. Read more.
UK COVID-variant appears in Hungary. Three patients were diagnosed with the more infectious variant of coronavirus first identified in the UK, Hungary’s chief medical officer Cecília Müller told journalists on Wednesday, adding that “it was obvious that Hungary could not avoid the variant either.” Read more.
No environmental impact assessment for Slovak recovery plan. The Slovak government is breaking the law by not letting its draft national recovery plan undergo an environmental impact assessment (EIA), said Renew MEP Martin Hojsík. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Bulgaria will not allow mail-in voting despite pandemic. The ruling coalition in Bulgaria does not intend to allow mail-in voting in the coming parliamentary elections – something they referred to as “an exotic idea”. Read more.
Romanian government mulls pension increase during pandemic. While Romania still has no budget for 2021, the country’s Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday that the Parliament needs to clarify a law requiring a 40% increase of pensions. The government wants a much lower increase, in the current economic context, and it may now have the Parliament’s support. Read more.
Vaccination with Moderna vaccine begins in earthquake-destroyed Petrinja. Epidemiologists used the Moderna vaccine to start jabbing residents of Petrinja, the town that received the first shipment of 3,600 Modern doses because the devastating earthquake that hit the country on 29 December increased the risk of the virus spreading. Read more.
‘Slim chance’ for no-confidence. The planned no-confidence motion against the government has a slim chance but still might succeed, and would then result in early elections, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša said on Wednesday. Read more.
HRW: Limited progress in human rights protection in Serbia. Serbia made limited progress in 2020 when it comes to protecting human rights, according to Human Rights Watch’s annual report about the state of human rights in the world published on Wednesday. Read more.
Bihać mayor opposed to migrants being placed in centre financed by EU. The German and Austrian ambassadors to BiH, Margret Uebber and Ulrike Hartmann, together with EU Delegation head in BiH, Johann Sattler, paid a visit to the Lipa migrant camp, near northwest city Bihać. Read more.
A step towards impeachment, the Balkan way? Montenegro’s President Milo Đukanović has announced that he will not sign the proposals for the dismissals of military chief of staff Major General Dragutin Dakić and Major General Rajko Pešić because the applicable regulations were not complied with. Instead, he announced he would convene a session of the Defence and Security Council.
This is yet another conflict between the government and the president. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić decided to convene a meeting with parliament Speaker Aleksa Bečić, Deputy PM Dritan Abazović, and Đukanović. It would be the first official meeting of government representatives with the president, who will be confronted – as Belgrade daily Blic reported – with his “attempts to obstruct the work of Montenegrin institutions.” The government, Blic wrote, is not happy, with the fact that Đukanović is finding places for the former members of the authorities who were fired. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Zoran Radosavljevic]