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.
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In today’s news from the Capitals:
An unnamed great power is launching a demand to withdraw NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) and United Nations Mission (UNMIK) from Kosovo, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said on Thursday, adding that he will ask NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to step in. Read more.
In other news, Serbia and Greece are set to sign an agreement cancelling roaming fees next week, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić announced on Thursday. More
EU ministers in search of consensus on sustainable tourism. Portugal’s secretary of state for tourism hopes that a high-level forum on Friday (14 May) will resolve “two major concerns”: the commitment of member states to sustainable tourism and funding lines for this transformation. More
Austria’s Kurz won’t resign amid anti-corruption probe. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he will “certainly not resign” despite being investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office for Economic Affairs and Corruption for allegedly giving false testimonies to the parliament’s investigation committee. Read more.
France, New Zealand review online terror steps since Christchurch Call. French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern are set to co-host a summit on Friday (14 May) to review progress made on combatting terrorist content online two years on from the live-streaming of the deadly Christchurch mosque attack. EURACTIV France reports.
No freedom without COVID passport, says health minister. Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke has said pre-pandemic freedoms cannot be regained without a COVID-19 passport, or a variant thereof, according to Belga news agency. He also said that the COVID Safe Ticket mechanism announced by the Belgian government this week to allow the organisation of future mass events will work on the same principle.
“I’m not interested in the terminology […] but without such an instrument it will not be possible to regain our freedom,” Vandenbroucke said. However, a Belgian version of the digital health certificate will likely not be in place until the end of September. “But it will come,” he said. (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)
Germany relaxes entry rules. Since Thursday uniform nationwide COVID-19 rules will apply for those returning from vacation and other people traveling to Germany. There are now no quarantine or test requirements for those who have been completely vaccinated or recovered from coronavirus unless they come from an area with new, more contagious virus variants. More on the federal government’s new regulations here. (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)
Government to give broadcaster RTL more than €10 million annually. A new deal between broadcaster RTL and Luxembourg’s government will see the broadcaster receive more than €10 million annually from 2024 once their current agreement expires, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told a parliamentary committee meeting on Tuesday. The PM said that the final cost of the new contract “cannot yet be quantified”, but it would “certainly have an upward trend”. (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.fr)
UK AND IRELAND
Israeli ambassador accuses Irish politicians of spreading ‘hate’ toward Jewish State. Israel’s ambassador to Ireland Ophir Kariv has accused some Irish politicians of directing hate towards the Jewish State in an emotional outburst at a parliament committee on Thursday, the Irish Times has reported. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Report: Finnish economy will grow but unsolved problems remain. Economic growth in Finland will see a boost in 2021 after which it will start to normalise substantially, the finance ministry said in a report published on Wednesday. Read more.
In other news, the Finnish parliament picked up its debate of the EU recovery fund Thursday evening at 8 pm after the debate that continued through Wednesday night was suspended Thursday morning. Most speeches, which included excerpts from church hymns and the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, were delivered by Finns Party MPs who took turns in delaying the vote, the news agency STT reported. Vote on the EU package, which needs a two-thirds-majority approval from Finnish MPs, will probably take place sometime next week. (Pekka Vänttinen | EURACTIV.com)
Baltics step closer to plugging into EU power grid, ending dependence on Russia. Three EU Baltic states on Thursday (13 May) took a big step toward accessing the bloc’s power grid, a move intended to end energy dependence on Russia dating back to the Soviet era. More.
Kerry in Rome: climate crisis needs ‘multiple approach’. “There is not a single thing that can solve the climate crisis. We need a multiple approach,” said US special envoy for climate, John Kerry, who on Thursday met with Italy’s foreign and ecological ministers, as well as with CEOs of the country’s major energy companies in Rome. Read more.
In other news, former EU Commission President Romano Prodi has joined an appeal for the liberalisation of patents on COVID-19 vaccines. The appeal, coordinated by the People’s Vaccine Alliance, has been supported by intellectuals, Nobel laureates and politicians including former French President François Hollande and former Spanish Prime Minister José Luìs Zapatero.
According to Prodi, “liberalisation is necessary because the more developed countries have already expanded their production capacity, but the rest of the world is still completely uncovered in the face of the pandemic and must be helped. When dramatic and global events such as a pandemic occur, an exception to the just and understandable regulation of intellectual property is needed”. (Daniele Lettig | EURACTIV.it)
Spain aims to boost COVID-stricken tourism sector with new campaign. Spanish Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto this week urged foreigners to start preparing for their getaway in Spain now, stressing that the conditions in the country allowed for the resumption of international and domestic travel. Read more.
Major public projects under Greek PM’s control. Greece’s big public projects will now be under the supervision of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, according to a last-minute amendment in a bill that triggered the strong reaction of the opposition. More
Hungary launches vaccination certificate mobile app. Hungary launched a mobile app allowing holders to certify their vaccination status on Thursday (13 May), though several users encountered problems with using the tool, Telex reported.
Polish right-wing opposition party opposes ‘vaccine passports’. The “green certificates” to be introduced across the EU will “significantly hinder or even make it impossible for tens of millions of people, including at least 10 million Polish citizens to travel in Europe,” Michał Wawer, a lawyer and treasurer of the right-wing Confederation party in opposition, told the Polish parliament, the Sejm, in a conference on Thursday. Read more.
Czechia’s fourth health minister since pandemic sparks another controversy. The Czech Republic’s new Health Minister Petr Arenberger, who took office on 7 April, has been challenged to explain alleged substantial irregularities in his tax returns, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said on Thursday. Read more.
Slovakia to support families in material need. The government decided to pay a one-time allowance of €333 per child to families in material need. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Bulgaria aims for collective immunity within about two months. Bulgaria can achieve collective immunity against COVID-19 within 63 days if the current rate of vaccination is maintained, government health adviser Nikolay Vitanov said on Thursday. Read more.
Croatia successfully tests digital green certificates. Croatia is the first EU country to have successfully tested the system for digital green certificates, announced Interior Minister Davor Božinović during a government session on Thursday. Read more.
Romania announces plans to ease restrictions. Romania will lift restrictions gradually, as the vaccination rate picks up and the number of coronavirus infections drops countrywide. As of Saturday (15 May), wearing masks outside will no longer be mandatory, except for markets and fairs, president Klaus Iohannis said. Also, the night curfew will be lifted and shops could return to their usual opening hours. More.
- France: Prime minister Jean Castex on Friday will visit his home town in Gers, where he will visit the vaccination centres there.
- Italy: US special climate envoy John Kerry will meet Italian PM Mario Draghi, while the judge of the preliminary investigations of Catania will decide whether to indict former interior minister Northern League leader, Matteo Salvini, on kidnapping charges for having blocked the landing from an Italian navy ship of 174 migrants for six days in 2019.
- Spain: FITUR, the second most important tourism and trade fair in the world, opens next week in Madrid in a “hybrid” format (50% digital) as the first big event to be organised in Spain since the start of the pandemic.
- Foreign ministers from V4 countries will meet Friday in Łódź, Poland to discuss foreign policy and sum up the group’s activities over the past 30 years.
- Poland: The Senate has postponed consideration of the draft bill on the EU recovery fund and own resources to 27 May.
- Slovenian President Borut Pahor will visit Serbia on Friday.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Paula Kenny, Josie Le Blond]