Why Putin wants escalation with the West

The Ukrainian position is that since Nord Stream 2 is not compliant with EU rules, it should not be certified, the CEO of Ukraine’s gas and oil state company Naftogaz Yuriy Vitrenko told a conference in Brussels on Wednesday (1 December) organised by EURACTIV Bulgaria. [EPA-EFE/PAVEL BEDNYAKOV / KREMLIN POOL / SPUTNIK]

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In today’s news from the Capitals:


One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goals in the escalating conflict with Ukraine is to force Europe and the US to open the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, the former head of the Bulgarian State Intelligence Agency Dimo Gyaurov commented in an interview with Nova TV. Meanwhile, EURACTIV’s partner Europe Elects estimates that opinion polling is another reason. Read more.



European citizens divided on nuclear in EU democracy experiment. A citizens’ panel dedicated to the environment, climate change, and health, held in Warsaw in January, found no agreement for a recommendation on nuclear energy, despite being one of the most debated issues. Read more.



Activists block Berlin streets, decry food waste. Climate activists blocked several streets in the German capital during rush hour to demand more sustainable agriculture and reduced food waste. Many of the protesters were arrested by the police. Read more.



Crisis in Ukraine: France calls for a “de-escalation” of tensions. The situation between Russia and Ukraine is “highly volatile”, and it is necessary to avoid “the self-fulfilling character” of the crisis, the Elysée Palace said on Monday. Read more.



Dublin raises concerns over planned Russian naval exercises off Irish coast. Dublin has voiced concern over Russian naval exercises set to be held off the coast of Ireland next month. Read more.



UK diplomats return home. Britain has begun withdrawing staff from its embassy in Ukraine amid growing fears of a Russian invasion, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning that “the intelligence is pretty gloomy at this point.” Read more.



Finland’s National Coalition Party wins first-ever county council elections. The liberal-conservative National Coalition Party, currently in opposition, has come out on top in the country’s first-ever county council elections. Read more.



Danish MP convicted of EU funds fraud elected to head far-right party.  MP Morten Messerschmidt was elected to lead the far-right Danish People’s Party (Danske Folkeparti, DF) on 23 January. However, his conviction for misusing EU funds, and leadership style have raised doubts about his future hold on the party. Read more.



Brussels could take Portugal to court over 5G rollout delay. Portugal has fallen behind schedule with fifth-generation (5G) networks as it took the country too long to allocate frequencies and it failed to transpose European electronic communications rules, according to the European Court of Auditors (ECA), which expects Brussels will take the country to court. Read more.



Greek army steps in to save government snowstorm fiasco. After a heavy snowstorm paralysed Athens, the Greek army was asked to intervene and help citizens who were trapped in their cars for hours. Despite initial guarantees that the state was prepared, the government has lost control of the situation. Read more.



Uncertainty reigns as presidential race begins. Lawmakers and delegates from regional administrations have gathered in Rome to elect Italy’s president for the next seven years, as Sergio Mattarella’s office is formally due to expire on 3 February. Read the full story.



Spanish government asks coalition partner not to undermine relations with NATO. Left-wing party Unidas Podemos (United We Can) is being asked to show “containment” in its statements on the situation in Ukraine and not jeopardise Spain’s relationship with NATO, government spokesperson Isabel Rodríguez of the ruling socialist party PSOE said on Monday. Read more.



Polish Supreme Court body Brussels wants disbanded, picks new head. The Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Chamber, which the EU Court of Justice ordered Poland to dismantle over rule-of-law-related concerns, is set to elect its new president. Read more.



Turów deal is illegal Czech experts warn. A newly drafted agreement between Czechia and Poland on the Turów coal mine violates EU law, Czech environment, and legal experts have warned. Read more.



Hungary hires ex-Pegasus spyware lobbyist. The Hungarian government has allegedly hired a Washington DC lobbyist who is linked to Israeli company NSO Group, the creators of  Pegasus spyware, to prepare for potential US sanctions, Telex reported via Direkt36. Read more.



Most Slovaks want social media to remove false content. Eighty-one per cent of Slovaks want social media platforms like Facebook to remove content that is proven false, while two in three believe social media is responsible for society’s mood regarding the pandemic, a recent survey organised by MEP Vladimír Bilčík (EPP) has found. Read more.



Montenegro switches ministers to lead EU accession talks. Economic Development Minister Jakov Milatović will replace Foreign Minister Đorđe Radulović as chairman of the State Delegation of Montenegro for accession talks with the EU, the government has decided. Read more.



Bucharest residents prepare for day six of public transport strike. The Bucharest authorities have reached no agreement with the representatives of public transport workers, which staged a strike at the end of last week demanding higher wages. Read more.



Two men in court for insulting Croatian PM. Two men were taken to court for posting insulting comments below an article on a local news portal announcing a visit by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to the coastal city of Zadar, local police said on 20 January. According to media reports, one of them wrote on Facebook that the prime minister “and his toadies should be welcomed with rotten eggs”. Read more.



Newcomer throws hat into the ring. Robert Golob, who has been ousted as chairman of energy trader Gen-I, has ended weeks of speculation by announcing he will enter the general election race, a move that polls indicate might upend the balance of political power in the country. Read more.



Serbia extradites Bahraini national, ignores European courts’ injunction. On Monday, Serbia unlawfully extradited a Bahraini national to his home country despite the European Court of Human Rights issuing an injunction against the extradition procedure, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights has warned. Read more.



Travellers protest new travel restrictions in Kosovo. A small protest took place on the border of Kosovo and North Macedonia on Monday following the introduction of new COVID-19 travel rules. Read more.



Albanians protest three-day school closure. Activists in the Albanian capital of Tirana protested the three-day closure of schools due to cold temperatures outside the education ministry, while accusing the government of misspending taxpayer funds. Read more.


  • EU: EU affairs ministers meet in Brussels / European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen receives with German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck / EU-Serbia Stabilization and Association Council takes place in Brussels, with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić in attendance / EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell delivers keynote speech at “Europe in Danger: What next for EU security and defence?” foreign policy event / European Space Conference takes place in Brussels.
  • Germany: Chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron in Berlin.
  • France: Informal meeting of ministers of higher education, research and innovation continues in Paris.
  • Poland: Start of Belarus border wall construction.
  • Czechia: The foreign ministry’s crisis committee will hold a special meeting to discuss the situation in Ukraine, including possible steps to protect the Czech embassy.
  • Bulgaria: The Prime Minister’s Security Council will have a sitting on Tuesday on tensions over Ukraine and NATO’ plans to strengthen the Alliance’s Eastern flank.
  • Croatia: Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman attends a celebration of the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Hungary and Croatia.
  • North Macedonia: The joint session of the North Macedonia and Bulgaria governments in Sofia.


[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox, Zoran Radosavljevic, Alice Taylor]

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