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: US sanctions may not be enough to reign in Dodik.“If they think they will discipline me in this way, they are very wrong. I have now only got a motive to fight for the rights that have been taken away from us for 26 years”, said Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of the tripartite BiH Presidency after the US imposed new sanctions on him. Read more.
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In today’s news from the Capitals:
Despite additional COVID-related expenditure, Germany’s new “traffic light” government will not move away from the country’s constitutional debt limit despite additional spending, the liberal FDP’s vice-leader, Johannes Vogel, told the daily Welt on Thursday. Read more.
French MPs approve controversial vaccine pass. French MPs have adopted the COVID vaccine pass bill in the National Assembly on Thursday amid fierce debates laying bare the internal struggles of the right-wing. Now, only Senate approval remains. Read more.
Austria introduces new COVID-19 measures to fight Omicron. Austria will implement new measures to fight the spread of the Omicron variant and rise in COVID-19 cases but will relax others due to Omicron being less dangerous than previous variants, the government has announced. Read more.
UK AND IRELAND
Colston Four acquitted after pulling down slave trader statue. Four protestors who pulled down the statue of a slave trader during a Black Lives Matter protest were on Thursday acquitted of causing criminal damage in what could be a landmark legal case. Read more.
Many Omicron cases not included in Ireland’s official COVID-19 figures. Tens of thousands of cases of the Omicron variant have not been officially recorded since the start of December, the government has been told, meaning the actual case count in Ireland is likely much higher than previously thought. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Estonia develops its first offshore wind farms. Estonia, which over the years has earned a reputation for being one of Europe’s dirtiest electricity producers, is now going through an energy transition that includes setting up offshore wind farms to improve its track record. Read more.
Greece causes row with Cyprus over ‘low-reliability’ Chinese PCR tests. A statement from Greek Minister of Development Adonis Georgiadis, who described some PCR tests in Cyprus as “Chinese” and of “very low reliability” because their prices are low, has caused outrage in Cyprus. Read more.
Italian government wants in-person classes to resume, schools don’t. A return to in-person classes is unmanageable at the moment, 1,500 school principals wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Education Minister Patrizio Bianchi on Thursday. Read more.
La Palma volcano still monitored as toxic gases pose risks. The Spanish Civil Guard’s Reserve and Security Group (GRS) continues to measure harmful gases that are being emitted, three weeks after the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma was officially declared over, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported. Read more.
Former EU Secretary of State accused of disloyalty by major labour union. The late-December resignation of the Secretary of State for the EU, Juan González-Barba, has led to accusations of disloyalty from disgruntled labour groups. Read more.
Morawiecki defends far-right party spreading COVID conspiracies. Following Facebook’s deletion of the page belonging to the opposition nationalist Confederation Party, the party and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki condemned tech giants for throttling free speech. Read more.
New Czech cabinet promises to reform pension system, transport networks. The new Czech coalition government led by Petr Fiala of the Civic Democrats approved its policy programme for the next four years in office on Thursday. Among other things, it promises to reform the pensions system and extend the highway and high-speed network. Read more.
Hungarian competition watchdog goes after beer giants, fast food chains. After a months-long grace period, the Hungarian Competition Authority (GVH) launched proceedings against Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, and beer producers Dreher, Borsodi and Heineken to enforce the new beverage procurements regulations, Telex reported via state news agency MTI. Read more.
Slovaks will have little time to comment on future of EU farm subsidies. The agriculture ministry has opened a national consultation for its national strategic plan to implement the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) before it is sent to the European Commission. But stakeholders and the public will only have five days to go through the 1,000-page document on drawing agricultural subsidies from the EU. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Bulgarian greenhouses shutting down due to high gas prices. Nearly 70% of all greenhouses for vegetable production have stopped producing in the winter due to high gas prices, the Association of Greenhouse Producers told state radio and television. It added that this has led to a lack of Bulgarian tomatoes and cucumbers on the domestic market. Read more.
Bulgarian population shrunk over 10% in a decade. Bulgaria saw its population drop 11.5% within the past ten years, meaning there are now 844,000 fewer people, preliminary data from the National Statistical Institute’s (NSI) national census states. Read more.
Medical masks now mandatory in Romania. Romania’s government adopted new restrictions on Thursday, as the state of alert was prolonged by another 30 days. The most significant change is that textile and plastic face coverings will no longer be permitted as of 8 January. Read more.
Croatia registers record-high number of daily COVID-19 cases. Croatia recorded 9,058 daily COVID-19 cases on Thursday, a record-high for the second day in a row. Meanwhile, 33 COVID-19 patients died, the national crisis management team said. Read more.
Serbia will not impose sanctions on Dodik. Serbia will in no way implement sanctions against Serbs in BiH and Republika Srpska or their representatives said President Aleksandar Vučić, who expressed concern over the US Treasury imposing sanctions against BiH’s Republika Srpska leader Milorad Dodik. Read more.
US will stand up to corrupt actors. The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve better, said Derek Chollet, following the sanctions that the US administration imposed for some BiH officials, including Miloard Dodik, Serb member of the tripartite presidency.
“An important step. When I went to BiH in November, I made it clear that the U.S. will stand up to corrupt actors. The people of BiH deserve better,” Chollet tweeted, who is the Counsellor of the US Department of State, where he serves at the rank of Under Secretary as a senior policy advisor to the Secretary of State. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
North Macedonia’s foreign reserves up 8.4%. North Macedonia’s foreign reserves saw a year-on-year increase of 8.4% and reached €3.643 billion by the end of December 2021, accelerating from a 6% year-on-year increase in the previous month, preliminary central bank data indicated, intellinews reported.
Compared with the previous month, forex reserves rose 2% at the end of December, after a month-on-month drop of 2.2% in November, data indicated. The largest part of the foreign reserves are placed in securities (70.1%), followed by currency and deposits (20.1%) and monetary gold (9.8%). (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Kosovo to proceed with judicial vetting despite EU objection. The Kosovo government plans to vet all the country’s judges and prosecutors despite the European Union’s objections. Read more.
Albanian courts move in on Pandora Papers revelations. Albania’s specialised corruption prosecutors (SPAK) have launched investigations into €3.6 million in transactions made by the company that constructed the electricity interconnector to Kosovo, to a company based in the United Arab Emirates. Read more.
- EU/France: French President Emmanuel Macron, members of the French government and the European Commission participate in a ceremony in tribute to Jean Monnet and Simone Veil at the Panthéon / Macron to meet with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen / Commissioners meet with French political and parliamentary committees.
- NATO: NATO foreign affairs ministers meet virtually on Ukraine crisis.
- Germany: President Frank-Walter Steinmeier officially appoints incoming Central Bank head Joachim Nagel / Chancellor Olaf Scholz to meet regional leaders on Covid-19.
- UK: Covid travel rules relaxed for arrivals in England, pre-departure tests and quarantine scrapped.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox, Zoran Radosavljevic, Alice Taylor]