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.
EDITOR’S TAKE: How to pay off debts in Taliban’s reality: Selling children for $2,000. Parwana Malik, a nine-year-old girl from Afghanistan, was sold to an older man because her father had debts. Thanks to journalists and NGOs, she is now back with her family. While the EU says it has no option other than to talk to the Taliban, her personal story exposes the West’s diplomatic failure. Read more.
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In today’s news from the Capitals:
Austrian residents who refuse to get their COVID-19 jab from February when they will be mandatory will face fines of up to €7,200, a draft of Austria’s COVID-19 vaccination law reveals. Read more.
EU ministers adopt recommendations for blended learning in response to pandemic. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, EU education ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday adopted recommendations on blended learning approaches that combine school site and other physical environments away from the school and digital and non-digital learning tools. Read more.
Germany calls on Army General to head crisis management team. Germany’s new “traffic light” government of Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens, and the liberal FDP have called on a Bundeswehr general to head its COVID crisis management team. Read more.
French majority parties launch alliance to support Macron in presidential elections. The four political movements LREM (La République en Marche), Modem, Agir and Horizons – which currently make up the presidential majority – launched the new entity ‘Ensemble Citoyens!’ on Monday evening to back the candidacy of President Emmanuel Macron in next May’s presidential elections. Read more.
UK AND IRELAND
Government short on green jobs. The UK is falling well short of its ambitious green jobs target, according to the latest ‘green jobs’ report by accounting giant PwC. Last November, the government announced it would spend £4bn to create two million green jobs by 2030, as part of its promise of a ‘green industrial revolution’.
After researching jobs advertised online, PwC found 124,600 positions related to sustainability, the environment or tackling climate change, equivalent to 1.2% of all advertised roles in the year to July 2021. Scotland, London and the southeast of England accounted for the majority of the new jobs. (Benjamin Fox | EURACTIV.com)
Ireland detects 11 suspected cases of Omicron. Eleven suspected cases of the new COVID-19 variant have been detected and sent for confirmatory genome sequencing, Ireland’s department of health said on Monday. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Sweden’s shortest-lived PM given another shot to run country. Magdalena Andersson, the Chair of the Social Democratic Party who was prime minister for a few hours last week, has been appointed to lead a Social Democratic minority government as the country’s 34th prime minister. Read more.
Italy registers spike in vaccination after announcement of ‘super COVID pass’. The number of people vaccinated with at least one dose has seen a substantial increase in the past few days, reaching 87.2% among people over 12. The surge comes after the government announced the introduction of a ‘super COVID pass’. Read more.
Greeks still reluctant to get COVID-19 booster. One in three vaccinated citizens has not registered to receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Next month will be crucial to avoid the resurgence of anti-vaxxers, news website News247 has reported. Read more.
Inflation hits new record not seen since 1992. Spain’s Inflation in November stood at 5.6%, breaking a new record after the 5.4% mark reached in October, the highest rate in almost 30 years, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported. Read more.
Portugal’s Madeira launches Europe’s largest marine protected area. The regional government of Madeira announced on Monday the creation of Europe’s largest marine protected area through the approval of a new legal regime on the nature reserve of the Selvagens Islands. Read more.
Czech president: Visegrad should make vaccines mandatory. Czech President Miloš Zeman called on Visegrad countries to follow the Austrian example and make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for everyone. Read more.
Polish president can’t imagine making COVID-19 jab mandatory. “I cannot imagine making the vaccination against COVID-19 compulsory in Poland,” said President Andrzej Duda on Monday, adding that it is necessary to approach the vaccination issue “as wisely as possible”, weigh “all the pros and cons” and get vaccinated. Read more.
Fidesz agrees with claim opposition is a “security threat”. Chief ruling party Fidesz spokesperson agreed with the speaker of the Hungarian parliament’s speech, in which the latter called Hungary’s opposition the ‘most dangerous national security threat’, during Monday’s legislative sitting, Telex reported. Read more.
Slovak government greenlights construction of country’s biggest solar park. The government has announced that a solar park will be built by the state nuclear energy company of Slovakia next to the nuclear power plant Jaslovenské Bohunice. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Bulgarian prosecutor’s office refused to investigate its chief. The specialised prosecutor’s office refused to launch a criminal prosecution against Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev for publicly leaking information from wiretapping used to attack political opponents. Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov made the request to launch a formal investigation against Geshev. Read more.
Fourth COVID-19 wave plateauing in Slovenia. Slovenia had an early fourth-wave surge in coronavirus infections, but the latest figures show the situation is stabilising. Nevertheless, the caseload remains above what most European countries are currently experiencing. Read more.
BELGRADE | BUDAPEST
Hungarian opposition candidate for PM supports cooperation with Serbia. The candidate for prime minister nominated by Hungary’s united opposition, Peter Marki-Zay, said that he wants to maintain positive and good neighbourly relations with Serbia. Read more.
Palmer and Eichhorst working hard to help implement electoral law in BiH. Special US State Department envoy Matthew Palmer and the managing director for Europe and Central Asia at the European External Action Service in Brussels, Angelina Eichhorst, are back in Sarajevo to help local politicians implement the rulings of the Strasbourg Court that called for the reform of the country’s electoral law. Read more.
Most Macedonians believe COVID-19 was artificially created to control people. Nearly 65% of citizens in North Macedonia believe COVID-19 was created in a laboratory to control humans, a public opinion poll conducted by the Societas Civilis Institute for Democracy (IDSCS) in collaboration with the Presidential Center for Political Education (PCPO) has found. Read more.
Montenegrin opposition files no-confidence motion against government. A motion of no-confidence in the government was signed by deputies from the Social Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Socialists, led by President Milo Đukanović, the Liberal Party, the Social Democrats, the Bosniak Party, and the Albanian List.
The opposition demanded parliament decide on their proposal in an urgent procedure. It is stated that the prime minister and the government have lost their legitimacy in parliament ass the government does not have majority support.
According to the latest poll by the Center for Civic Education (CCE) and the Damar agency, 49.2% of citizens think that the state is moving in the wrong direction. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Police offer reward for information on masked gunman. Kosovo police have offered a €20,000 reward for information that leads to the capture of the bus shooter who killed three people on Friday, reports Exit.al. There are still no official suspects in the case, although the police said they are following a number of leads. Eyewitnesses from inside the bus told the police they saw a masked gunman shooting at them.
On Friday, a student bus travelling from Gjakove to the village of Gllogjan was assailed by an unknown gunman. Three people died following the shooting, the bus driver and two students. Another was injured, although their condition is reported to be stable. (Barbara Halla | Exit.al/en)
Serbia stops Kosovo ministers from visiting Albanian minority area. The Serbian government has prevented four Kosovo ministers from visiting the Presheva Valley which is mainly inhabited by ethnic Albanians.
Liburn Aliu, the minister of infrastructure, reported being told of the ban moments before leaving for a two-day visit. He wrote that they had filed a request per an agreement between the two countries, but added that no reason was given for the ban. The Presheva Valley is in southwestern Serbia and is home to a large Albanian population. The Serbian government has been accused of ethnically cleansing the region via administrative means. (EURACTIV.com)
Environmental organisations slam construction of new airport in protected area. Twenty Albanian nature organisations have condemned the start of works on a new airport in Vlora, in the south of the country, saying it is illegal and environmental assessments were unprofessional, reports Exit.al. Read more.
- EU/NATO: NATO foreign ministers meet in Riga / Georgian Prime Ministers Irakli Garibashvili, Moldova’s Natalia Gavrilița and Ukraine’s Denys Shmyhal on visit to Brussels / Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi in Jordan for two-day visit.
- Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel, likely successor Olaf Scholz, hold talks with regional leaders on tougher Covid curbs.
- France: Values Commissioner Vĕra Jourová in Paris / Josephine Baker becomes first black woman to be entombed in Pantheon mausoleum.
- UK: Stricter Covid restrictions on foreign arrivals, mask-wearing come into force.
- Spain: UN World Tourism Organization holds annual general assembly.
- Poland: Lawmakers to vote on allowing media, migrant aid groups to access border.
- Croatia: The parliament will debate a bill on the prevention of conflict of interest.
- Slovenia: Prime Minister Janez Janša will have a virtual meeting with Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg to discuss bilateral ties, covid-19, Western Balkans, and preparations for the Eastern Partnership summit / Ministerial Conference of the Three Seas Initiative on digital transformation in Brdo.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina: Croatian Defence Minister Mario Banožić visits.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox, Zoran Radosavljevic, Alice Taylor]