April 19. 2024. 8:42

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Sweden’s new ‘voluntary return’ migration push raises eyebrows

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.

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In today’s news from the Capitals:


Sweden will review ways to increase voluntary return migration, Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard announced on Wednesday, which the opposition considers yet another illustration of the far-right’s influence on the Swedish government. Read more.



Germany unveils ‘feminist foreign policy’ concept. Germany will make humanitarian, and development aid more targeted towards the needs of minorities and women, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Wednesday. Read more.



France seizes ‘historic’ 157 tons of drugs in 2022. Over 150 tons of illegal drugs were seized by French authorities in 2022, marking a “historic” win against Home Minister Gérald Darmanin’s self-dubbed “mother of all fights”. Read more.



Austrian unemployment rate hits lowest level since 2008. The number of unemployed people in Austria continued to fall to 7% in February, with APA reporting that about 369,769 people were unemployed or in labour market service (AMS) training at the end of February, making this unemployment rate the lowest one in 15 years. Read more.



Turkey taken to International Court for ‘crimes against humanity’. A communication to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which provides evidence of crimes against humanity allegedly committed by Erdogan’s regime after a failed coup in 2016, was sent by a Belgian law firm, a Belgium-based NGO, and a European judges association, it was announced on Wednesday. Read more.



Former UK education secretary says teaching unions ‘hate work’. Teaching unions ‘just hate work’ and complain about a lack of protective equipment in order to ‘have an excuse not to teach’ during the COVID-19 pandemic, Former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a leaked WhatsApp exchange to Matt Hancock, former health secretary. Read more.



Finnish parliament passes NATO bill with large majority. Finland’s parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly backed its bid to join NATO, with Helsinki’s eyes now turning to alliance members Hungary and Turkey to ratify its accession. Read more.



Corruption scandal rocks Spanish politics ahead of elections. A corruption scandal in the Canary Islands involving Socialist Party members, local businessmen, and former members of the military police has rocked the Spanish political arena three months before key regional and municipal elections. Read more.



Italy rejects ‘ideological’ EU ban on combustion engines. Italy says no to the EU regulation banning internal combustion vehicles by 2035 unless the EU Commission revises its position and proposes environmentally and economically sustainable alternatives. Read more.



Exit from economic crisis may take longer than expected, Portuguese president. The exit from the economic crisis may take a little longer than expected, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa told journalists on Wednesday, adding that he considers the unemployment figures to signal that international developments are slow. Read more.



Greek PM blames ‘tragic human error’ for train collision. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Wednesday (1 March) that a “tragic human error” was probably responsible for a train collision that left at least 38 dead in the country’s worst rail tragedy. Read more.



Poland given greenlight to renegotiate deal with Pfizer. The European Commission allowed Poland to renegotiate the agreement with Pfizer on the deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines, a groundbreaking step amid long-time resistance of the EU executive to permit member states from requesting to change the conditions of the EU-concluded deal. Read more.



EU, NATO should prepare for large-scale intensive military conflict, warns Czech official. Western allies should provide Ukraine with more weapons and improve its military capacities as they can expect a large-scale and intensive military conflict, warned Senior Director of the Defence Policy and Strategy Section of the Czech Ministry of Defence Jan Jireš during a debate organised by EURACTIV.cz. Read more.



Slovakia moving forward with biggest investment in green electricity. Slovakia has approximately €122 million earmarked for developing renewable electricity production in the National Recovery plan. Read more.



Bulgaria denies citizenship to Spanish-born child with two mothers. The Bulgarian Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) has finally decided that Sara, born in Spain and raised by two mothers, does not have the right to receive a Bulgarian birth certificate and citizenship. Read more.



EU prosecutors prove to be a welcome addition to Croatia’s anti-corruption efforts. The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), which investigates fraud and corruption related to EU funds, launched 23 investigations in Croatia in 2022 for cases with total estimated damages of over €313 million, according to their annual report released on Wednesday. Read more.



Serbia’s future is in EU, von der Leyen tells Vučić. Serbia’s future is in the EU, and further important steps need to be taken, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said following a phone call with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. Read more.



Serbia backtracks on positive signals towards EU-brokered Kosovo proposal. An EU-brokered verbal agreement on the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo reached on Monday may have pleased the international community, however Serbian President Aleksander Vucic threw a spanner in the works on Wednesday. Read more.



Albania to open Holocaust museum after Israeli call for Europe to step up antisemitism fight. The Albanian Culture Ministry has announced the creation of the ‘Besa Museum’ in the capital of Tirana to celebrate the history of Jews in Albania and the actions of the Albanians that sheltered and saved them during WWII. Read more.


  • EU: Competitiveness Council (internal market and industry composition) seeks to adopt Council positions on distance marketing of consumer financial services, on data collection and sharing relating to short-term accommodation rental services, and more;
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen meets with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Stockholm; Participates in working dinner with the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT);
  • Vice President Maroš Šefčovič chairs the Steering Board meeting of the EU Energy Platform on joint gas purchasing;
  • Vice President Margrethe Vestager hosts US Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter;
  • Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis holds meetings with US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai in Washington;
  • Jobs and Social Rights Commissioner Nicolas Schmit receives Director of the Research Department at the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) Nicolas Countouris;
  • Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski attends the Salon International de l’Agriculture; Meets with Minister for Agriculture and Food Marc Fesneau, in France;
  • European Parliament Committee on International Trade (INTA) holds public hearing on building resilient, sustainable and competitive supply chains in critical raw materials;
  • Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) debates European Investment Bank’s (EIB) Climate roadmap on transport, Chinese investment in EU ports;
  • Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) debates the collection and transfer of advance passenger information (API) for enhancing and facilitating external border controls, for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime, and more;
  • Germany: Chancellor Olaf Scholz receives his Armenian counterpart Nikol Pashinyan;
  • Czech Republic: Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen on official visit;


[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Zoran Radosavljevic, Alice Taylor, Sofia Stuart Leeson, Sofia Mandilara]