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 article Stronger support for Eastern partners finds way into amended EU military strategy proposal, by Alexandra Brzozowski.
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In today’s news from the Capitals:
The Austrian Data Protection Authority has decided that the use of Google Analytics violates the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Other EU member states could follow suit, as regulators cooperate in a task force in the European Data Protection Board. Read more.
EU defence ministers to talk Ukraine, Strategic Compass. Meeting in the western French seaside town of Brest, EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell underlined that the EU must define concrete steps in its response to Russia’s military build-up on Ukraine’s border. Read more.
Freedom of the press: Why censorship by platforms must be resisted. The Digital Services Act is a major piece of legislation that should result in a safer digital space. However, a recent vote in the European Parliament stopped short of adopting an amendment that would have made freedom of information in Europe free from non-EU private sector digital giants, writes Pierre Louette, CEO of Les Echos-Le Parisien and president of the Paris-based Alliance de la Presse d’Information Générale, which represents 300 French newspaper publishers, for EURACTIV. Read it here.
Scholz: Overlap of German G7 and French EU presidency ‘is very good’. “It is very good” that France holds the EU council presidency while Germany holds the G7 presidency, Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the German parliament on 12 January. Read more.
Violence against elected officials increases in France. The violent attack on the French MP Stéphane Claireaux at his home on 9 January has put the issue of threats, harassment, and attacks on elected representatives back in the spotlight. These are increasing at a worrying rate, both in number and intensity. Read more.
Dutch foreign minister tests positive for COVID-19. New Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra announced on his personal Twitter account late on Wednesday he had tested positive for COVID-19.
Hoekstra, who was only sworn in Monday, visited Brussels on Tuesday, where he met with the EU’s chief diplomat Joseph Borrel and Belgian foreign minister Sophie Wilmes. (EURACTIV.com)
UK AND IRELAND
UK Foreign Secretary Truss rolls out the red carpet for commission official. European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič will be wined and dined on Thursday evening with Scottish smoked salmon, Welsh lamb and Kent apple pie, when he meets Foreign Secretary Liz Truss at her official country residence for two days of talks on the Northern Ireland protocol. Read more.
Ireland to allow adopted people automatic access to birth records. Ireland will grant adopted people automatic access to their original birth certificates and the identities of their birth parents under a new law published on Wednesday. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
COPENHAGEN | TALLINN
Denmark heightens its military presence in the Baltics. Amid ongoing talks between NATO and Russia, Denmark has decided to increase its military presence in the Baltics as a show of support against Russia’s aggressive behaviour. Read more.
Millions of Swedish households could be compensated for high electricity prices. The government is proposing SEK 6 billion (€584 million) in aid to compensate the 1.8 million households hardest hit by high electricity prices, Finance Minister Mikael Damberg told a press conference. Read more.
Baltics in talks to increase NATO troops on their soil. The Baltic States are talking to NATO allies about increasing military deployments on their soil to deter Russia, Estonia’s prime minister told Reuters on Wednesday, and NATO’s chief said any Russian attack on Ukraine would spur a decision. Read more.
Portuguese startup develops ‘revolutionary’ vaccine, treatment for bacterial infections. Biotech startup company Immunethep is developing an injectable vaccine, and a treatment against bacterial infections, based on research developed at the University of Porto, technology that promises to be revolutionary, the company’s director has advocated. Read more.
Portuguese flag carrier TAP to close down maintenance operations in Brazil. TAP Group has decided to close the operations of Maintenance and Engineering Brazil (TAP ME), as part of the restructuring plan approved by Brussels in December, the airline’s chief executive, Christine Ourmières-Widener, told Lusa on Wednesday. Read more.
Half of Italy’s households go without healthcare. Over half the families in Italy (50.2%) went without health care services, partially due to COVID-19, between spring 2020 and November 2021, the Cerved Group’s 2022 report on Italian Household Welfare presented Wednesday in Rome has found. At the same time, household spending on healthcare, eldercare, and education went up €5,000, corresponding to 17% of an average household’s net income. Read more.
World’s leading tourism fair in Spain to take place this year. A total of 107 nations and almost 7,000 companies will be represented at this year’s 42nd edition of the International Tourism Fair (Fitur) in Madrid from 19 January, with the Dominican Republic as a special partner, EURACTIV’s partner EFE and Cinco Días, reported. Read more.
Czech government to push through own Magnitsky Act. The new five-party governing coalition wants to propose its own Magnitsky Act, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS, ECR) announced in his speech ahead of the parliament’s confidence vote. The Magnitsky Act, based on legislation introduced first in the US, enables the government to impose sanctions against foreign officials who abuse human rights. Read more.
New education law ‘brings back communist standards’, says Poland’s opposition. The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party and the opposition clashed on Wednesday in parliament during the debate on the new amendments to the education law, which the government’s critics say will limit parents’ control over their children’s education. Read more.
BRATISLAVA | BUDAPEST
Slovakia’s Hungarian minority party divided over Orban. Alliance, the Hungarian minority party in Slovakia founded by the merger in October of three political parties, all disagree on who to support in Hungary’s elections in April. While SMK (Party of the Hungarian Community) openly supports Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz, the Most-Híd party, known for being anti-Orbán, calls on the Alliance to restrain from activity in the Hungarian election campaign. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Bulgaria to drop ‘golden passports scheme. Bulgaria is on the verge of abandoning the “golden passports” scheme because a majority in parliament recognises that it hinders the poorest EU member state. On Wednesday, the Council of Ministers adopted a bill to eliminate the sale of investment citizenship. Read more.
Romanian government to discuss penalising energy companies. The Romanian government will discuss new measures to help consumers affected by the increase in energy prices and measures to force energy suppliers to redo wrongly-issued bills. Read more.
Two in three Croatian parents against advertising unhealthy food to children. About 68% of parents support the introduction of legal restrictions on unhealthy food advertising while children watch television, according to a survey conducted in November. Read more.
US and Croatia sign agreement against illicit drug trafficking. The US Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Croatian interior ministry that aims to increase cooperation to combat the illicit trafficking of drugs across Southeast Europe.
“After the accession of the Republic of Croatia to the Visa Waiver Program, the Memorandum is another result of intensive cooperation with our American partners as well as confirmation that the US sees Croatia alongside other countries which meet the highest security standards,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Davor Božinović. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Slovenia moves to allow low-volume fracking. Low-volume hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, will be allowed in Slovenia under amendments to the mining act adopted by the government this week. It will pave the way for limited fracking in the only location where it is currently being explored, the Petišovci gas field in the east of the country. Read more.
Serbian minister delivered transcripts of Russian opposition meetings in Belgrade. Serbia’s Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin submitted to the Kremlin transcripts of wiretapped conversations in Belgrade between Russian opposition members, Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza has announced. Andrei Pivovarov, the former director of the NGO, Open Russia, was arrested as a result. Read more.
Crisis in the BiH Army. Members of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina participated in the celebration of the so-called ‘Day of RS’ (RS, Republika Srpska, Serb entity) on 9 January in Banja Luka. Read more.
30 MEPs urge for investigation against Várhelyi. “With MEP colleagues, we call for an investigation into Commissioner Varhelyi’s alleged role assisting Milorad Dodik’s separatist escalation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The EU needs to stand firmly and credibly on the side of peace. People in BiH and beyond deserve clarity on this,” MEP Katalin Cseh tweeted on Wednesday. The investigation is referring to the scandal EURACTIV reported in December. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Former North Macedonia minister attacks government. The government of Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski is ready to accept the most hardline Bulgarian demands, Nikola Dimitrov, former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister for EU integration, said at a press conference. Read more.
Number of Kosovars leaving for EU increases. In December 2021, over 56,000 Kosovo citizens applied for a visa in Germany with more than 60,00 applying in Croatia and thousands in Slovenia and other European countries. Read more.
TIRANA | LONDON
Albanians top UK deportation chart in 2021. In 2021, the British government deported 435 people to Albania, the highest number out of all nationalities, according to data from the Home Office. Read more.
- EU/France: EU foreign and defence ministers continue their meeting in Brest, France with discussions on Strategic Compass, Ukraine/Russia and current affairs / European Commission VP Margaritis Schinas and Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson address European Parliament on temporary measures for migration and asylum crisis related to Belarus.
- NATO Military Committee Chair Admiral Rob Bauer holds press conference in Brussels following meeting of NATO military chiefs.
- Germany: Chancellor Olaf Scholz hosts Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
- France: President Emmanuel Macron meets remotely with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez / Nationwide strikes are called for at schools and colleges over Covid protocols.
- Luxembourg: ECJ ruling in case of disciplinary proceedings in Poland against lawyer of ex-European Council President Donald Tusk.
- Austria: OSCE Permanent Council meets amid NATO-Russia tensions.
- Switzerland: Human Rights Watch publishes its annual report on rights abuses around the world.
- Czechia: European Council President Charles Michel is heading to Prague to meet with Czech PM Petr Fiala. The Czech EU Council presidency, which is set to start in the second half of 2022, will be discussed.
- Croatia: French Ambassador Gaël Veyssière presents the challenges and main events of the French EU Council presidency.
[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox, Zoran Radosavljevic, Alice Taylor]