Musical chairs for EU top jobs leave countries in the lurch
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In today’s news from the Capitals:
The geographical imbalance of EU Commission jobs is on everyone’s radar. Most EU member states are frustrated with the current situation, and the EU executive’s current plans are unlikely to satisfy them, EURACTIV has learnt. Read more.
BERLIN | VIENNA
Berlin, Vienna show united front on Western Balkans, Ukraine. The EU needs to coordinate its approach during the ongoing Ukraine crisis and provide a European perspective to the Western Balkans, said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and her Austrian counterpart, Alexander Schallenberg. Read more.
France lifts most COVID-19 measures. Most COVID-19 measures have been lifted in mainland France as of Wednesday, although some remain recommendations. Health Minister Olivier Véran hopes to scale back the vaccine pass currently in force by mid-March. Read more.
UK AND IRELAND
Truss takes hawkish message to Kyiv. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will visit her counterparts in Ukraine and Poland on Thursday as the UK seeks to cement its position as one of the more hawkish allies of Ukraine. Read more.
Lawmaker calls for referendum to enshrine principle of Irish neutrality. An Irish lawmaker on Wednesday called for the country’s longstanding principle of neutrality in international affairs to be enshrined in the constitution via a public referendum. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Lithuania proposes non-stop visits of EU leaders to Ukraine to discourage war. A ‘continued physical presence’ of European representatives on the ground in Ukraine over the coming days and weeks could prevent an escalation, according to a letter sent on Tuesday, seen by EURACTIV. Read more.
Most Finns want country’s strict alcohol policy to change. 75% of Finns want wine to be sold in food shops – which are only allowed to sell alcoholic drinks below 5.5% proof – a survey commissioned by the Finnish Grocery Trade Association shows. In Finland, drinks with higher alcoholic content are sold across the country’s 370 Alko shops. Read more.
IMF welcomes Spanish labour reform, calls for greater fiscal consolidation. After the European Commission congratulated employment minister Yolanda Díaz on Spain’s labour reform, the IMF has also highlighted the positive effects of the new legislation in its latest country report published Wednesday. Read more.
SNCF breaks agreement with Renfe for railway between Spain and France. SNCF and Renfe, the main railway operators in France and Spain, will no longer be partners in the cross border lines from December onwards. Read more.
Italy invests €30 billion of its recovery plan in education, research. Italy will invest more than €30 billion of the national recovery and resilience plan in education and research, Prime Minister Mario Draghi announced Wednesday during a visit to the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (Infn) at Gran Sasso. Read more.
Russian billionaire Abramovich not contacted about Portuguese nationality enquiries. Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has not been contacted about ongoing investigations into his acquisition of Portuguese nationality as a descendant of Sephardic Jews and maintains he has complied with the law, a spokeswoman told Lusa on Wednesday. Read more.
Portugal may lift some restrictions, says minister. Portugal may move forward with lifting COVID-19 restrictions as the country has entered a new phase of the pandemic, Health Minister Marta Temido said on Wednesday. Read more.
Polish Constitutional Tribunal holds off decision on EU conditionality mechanism. The Polish Constitutional Tribunal set to review the EU conditionality mechanism linking EU funds’ disbursements with the rule of law decided to postpone its decision indefinitely less than an hour after the EU Court of Justice dismissed a legal challenge submitted by Poland and Hungary. Read more.
Slovak households energy prices stabilised until 2024. Electricity prices for Slovak families will not increase until 2024, the government and Slovenské elektrárne a.s., the largest electricity producer in Slovakia, has agreed. The government claims that the state will enable households to save more than €1 billion. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Bulgaria looking for ‘green’ and nuclear investments from US. The Bulgarian government has sent a high-level delegation to the US to secure “green investment”, modular nuclear reactors and the import of electricity storage technologies. The delegation is led by the powerful Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Asen Vassilev. Read more.
Romania’s energy ministry prepares calls for energy projects. The The Romanian Energy Ministry is preparing to launch calls for green energy projects funded from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP). Read more.
Croatian opposition slams government’s energy price measures. The package of measures to cushion energy price rises presented by the government has been welcomed by the entrepreneurs’ association, but attacked by the opposition. Read more.
Slovenian Left withdraws motion for referendum on income tax changes. The Left, currently in opposition, has formally withdrawn its motion for a pre-emptive referendum on changes to the income tax act after the government parties indicated the referendum could be held on the same day as the general election, making it a major campaign issue. Read more.
Mitsotakis: Serbia And Greece Share Common Vision of European Path. Serbia and Greece shared a common vision of the European future of the Western Balkans, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in Belgrade, stressing that Athens wanted to see Serbia as part of the EU. Read more.
BELGRADE | PARIS
Clear links between Serbia’s Bureau for diaspora and French right-wing extremists. The Bureau for Cooperation with the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region has earmarked around €40,000 for projects of Serb associations in France during the last three years, but the events anf digital platform activities evidence support of right-wing and xenophobic figures, the Vojvodina Investigative and Analytical Center (VOICE) reported on Wednesday. Read more.
US envoy Escobar threatens BiH with sanctions, again. Those who “engage in corrupt, destabilising or anti-democratic behaviour” in the Western Balkans region will face the “consequences”, Gabriel Escobar, the US special envoy for the region said at the US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation meeting. Read more.
SKOPJE | ATHENS
North Macedonia to reserve capacities at Alexandroupolis LNG terminal. The government decided to start signing agreements related to the reserve capacities of liquefied natural gas (LNG) at the floating LNG terminal in Greece’s Alexandroupolis, which is currently under construction. Read more.
UK ambassador to Montenegro calls for democratic process. In Montenegro, “the way out of the political crisis lies in democracy,” UK Ambassador to Montenegro Karen Maddocks, who has been outspoken since the crisis started, said in a recent interview. Read more.
PRISTINA | ATHENS
Greece will not change position on Kosovo. Athens will not change its position on Kosovo, but because it wants to see the normalisation of relations with Pristina, it supports a continuation of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić on his visit to Belgrade. Read more.
Albanian PM discusses Ukraine in New York. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama met with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in New York after participating in a meeting of the UN Security Council of which Albania is a non-permanent member for 2022-2023. Read more.
- EU: Informal meeting of EU leaders on Russia-Ukraine crisis 12:30pm + EU-African Union leaders’ summit / European Commission President von der Leyen receives Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
- NATO defence ministers meet Ukraine, Georgia counterparts in Brussels, EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell participates.
- France: President Macron hosts press conference following talks on Sahel with leaders from the region.
- Germany: Trial begins of Russian scientist Ilnur N, accused of spying for Moscow on Ariane space programme.
- Italy: Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio in Moscow, meets Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
- Czech Republic: Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala in Brussels meets Parliament President Roberta Metsola.
[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox, Zoran Radosavljevic, Alice Taylor]