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In today’s news from the Capitals:
Had there been no epidemic, the assembly of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) would have already decided on the exclusion of Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party, Manfred Weber, the group’s leader in the European Parliament, told Flemish De Standaard, Hungarian outlet Népszava reported.
Due to the pandemic, we cannot hold a meeting on the total expulsion of Fidesz, otherwise a decision would have already been taken, EPP ‘s Weber told De Standaard. Read more.
Belgian police to enforce Christmas rules, but with limits. The country’s police will be on patrol during the Christmas season to ensure that the rules on gatherings are observed, but will not be able to enter homes to check, Belgium’s home affairs minister, Annelies Verlinden, said. Read more.
German Greens adopt a new basic programme. Following their three-day virtual party conference, Germany’s Greens have a new basic programme, including a commitment to the Paris Climate targets to limit the Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees, which is described as “the central basis for the Greens’ policy,” and reasserting their demands for 100% renewable energy in the country and the phasing out of fossil fuels. Read more.
Press freedom protesters clash with French police. Clashes took place in Paris on Saturday between the police force and protesters who defended press freedom and opposed a government bill currently being debated by France’s National Assembly that would make it a crime to circulate an “image of the face or any other element of identification” of law enforcement agencies. Read more.
France expects actions from Turkey, not words. French FM Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Sunday that Paris expects Turkey to de-escalate international tension with actions instead of words ahead of an EU decision on possible further sanctions against Ankara on 10-11 December, AFP reported.
On 20 November, Erdogan’s chief adviser Ibrahim Kalin held a meeting with EU officials, EU sources have said. Reportedly, Athens, Paris and Vienna are pushing for sanctions against Ankara but countries such as Spain, Italy and Germany remain reluctant. More.
Austrian Vice-chancellor won’t confirm lockdown end in December. It is “not certain” whether the lockdown will end on 7 December as initially envisaged, Austrian Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) told broadcaster ORF in an interview. With about one month to go before Christmas, the government will try to ensure businesses are open as many days as possible. For this to happen, however, the COVID-19 reproduction rate will have to be below 1 for several days, Kogler added. (Philipp Grüll | EURACTIV.de)
Canada to roll over terms of EU trade deal with UK. Canada has become the latest country to agree to roll over the terms of its EU trade deal with the UK after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December. Read more.
Finland does not want Belarus to host ice hockey championship. Finland wants EU member states to sign a joint formal petition for the respect of human rights and non-discrimination in all sectors of society, including in sports, as Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and the Finnish president of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), Kalervo Kummola, have spoken against Belarus hosting the 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship. Read more.
Swedish PM’s dramatic televised speech. “Sweden is being put to the test. But Sweden will get through this,” PM Stefan Löfven said in a rare televised speech on 22 November. “The little breath we took in the summer and fall is over,” he added, calling on all to show unity in the fight against the pandemic. More.
Italian government mulls ‘cashback’ system for Christmas shoppers. The Italian government is considering a cashback bonus system to encourage citizens to buy with credit cards, debit cards and payment apps. The first bonus of €150 euros is already expected to be disbursed next February on the expenses for Christmas.
Another extra bonus is under review, with another 10% cashback (for up to €150) to be disbursed before the end of the year to people who make at least 10 purchases using electronic payment methods. To be eligible for the bonus, people must spend at least €1,500 and pay with any electronic system, credit cards, debit cards, apps and transfers. (Alessandro Follis | EURACTIV.it)
Madrid seals all its borders in hopes of ‘saving’ Christmas. The Community of Madrid will close its borders with other Spanish regions next month for 10 days to curb infection rates over a long holiday weekend. Read more.
US Army 5th Corps officially established in Poland. The inauguration of the forward command of the 5th US Army Corps, which will help raise the number of US troops in Poland to around 5,500, took place on Friday. Read more.
Experts suggest excluding Russian and Chinese companies from nuclear tender. Ahead of the Czech National Security Council’s meeting on Monday, the security experts’ community, joined by the Czech foreign and interior ministry, have warned that Chinese and Russian companies – which have been “identified as a risk” – should be excluded from a tender for the construction of new blocks of the Dukovany nuclear power plant.
Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček has already confirmed for website Seznam Zprávy that he is ready to support the recommendation of the expert group. The Czech Republic wants to launch the tender before the end of the year. (Aneta Zachová | EURACTIV.cz)
Slovak intelligence chief ‘spills the beans’ on China. Chinese diplomats try to establish contacts with MPs and senior public officials by offering them prostitutes and free trips to China, Slovak intelligence service (SIS) Director Vladimír Pčolinský told TV Markíza in an unusually candid interview. “Then it’s rather embarrassing. We caution those MPs concerned,” said Pčolinský, explaining that the aim of the Chinese is not to blackmail but rather to exchange information, establish relations and create business contacts. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Bulgaria topped EU’s mortality charts on Friday, came second worldwide. Bulgaria topped the EU’s coronavirus mortality per capita charts on Friday with 17.1 deaths per one million and came second globally after Bosnia and Herzegovina. Read more.
Romania records more than 10,000 COVID-19 deaths. Romania has surpassed the 10,000-deaths-mark caused by COVID-19 on Sunday. While the number of coronavirus infections reached more than 418,000, with 5,837 new cases reported on Sunday, hospitals are currently scrambling to make more beds available for patients with serious cases of the coronavirus as almost 1,200 patients are now in intensive care units (ICUs). There are currently 1,390 beds available in COVID-19-dedicated ICUs with another 280 ICU beds to become operational over the next three weeks, Health minister Nelu Tataru has said. (Bogdan Neagu | EURACTIV.ro)
Komšić doesn’t represent Croats, says Croatian foreign minister. No Croatian official would meet with current BiH Presidency member Željko Komšić, whose election violated the Dayton peace agreement because he did not really represent Croats in that body, said Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman. Read more.
Slovenia’s conservative NSi will continue looking for cooperation possibilities. Slovenian Defence Minister and New Slovenia leader Matej Tonin (NSi-EPP) told his party’s election congress that started Saturday that he will continue looking for cooperation possibilities across the political spectrum. Tonin, who has no rival in the race for party leadership, also said that “any coalition bow can snap if pulled too tight” and urged the opposition to cooperate.(Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Head of Serbian Orthodox Church laid to rest. The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, 90-year-old Patriarch Irinej, was laid to rest on Sunday in a crypt in the Church of St. Sava, in Belgrade. The Patriarch died of COVID-19 on Friday. Metropolitan Hrizostom led the service, accompanied by multiple senior priests, as well as guests from other Orthodox churches. Eulogies were delivered by high-ranking members of the Church, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
From what could be seen in televised footage, most of the bishops and priests and many among the several thousand faithful who attended the funeral but stayed outside the church did not wear masks. The Synod of the Church stated that it would take over the duties of the patriarch, in line with the Church constitution, with Metropolitan Hrizostom, the highest in rank, presiding over it.
In other news, Serbian citizens see Russia and China as the country’s ‘best friends’, while more than half do not support Serbia’s EU membership bid, according to a new public opinion poll conducted by the Belgrade Center for Security Policy (BCBP) and published on Friday. Read more.
BiH mulls banning Srebrenica genocide denial. After Joe Biden was elected US president, one could expect stronger engagement of the international community in BiH with one of the first steps being a law banning the denial of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, the International High Representative Valentin Inzko told Al Jazeera Balkan in an interview. Read more.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Zoran Radosavljevic]