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In today’s news from the Capitals:
The Czech Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security has claimed that President Miloš Zeman is incapable of serving in his position and proposed that he be stripped of the post. Parliament’s upper house is set to vote on whether the president should be removed from office next week. Read more.
German conservatives brace for strong far-right showing in regional election. Germany’s conservatives are bracing for what is likely to be a bruising result in Sunday’s regional election in the eastern state of Saxony Anhalt, with polls suggesting the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) are set to gain more than a fifth of the vote. Read more.
Macron puts highly controversial pension reform on hold. French President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged on Thursday that the planned pension reform could not “be resumed as is” after being halted by the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Read more.
Belgium’s Consultation Committee to discuss summer travel and relaxations. Belgium’s regional governments are set to meet on Friday to discuss the conditions under which citizens will be able to travel during the summer and announce the next stage of relaxations. Read more.
Austrian constitutional judge resigns over texting scandal. Austria’s constitutional judge Wolfgang Brandstätter has resigned after it was revealed he had exchanged messages over WhatsApp with the justice ministry’s former department director, Christian Pilnacek, about alleged acts of corruption, as well as a contempt for the rule of law. Read more.
UK AND IRELAND
Tory rebels could overturn UK government aid policy. UK ministers are facing the growing prospect of a major rebellion that could overturn the government’s aid policy as 30 Tory rebels, including former prime minister Theresa May, said they will vote next week to back a bid to increase aid spending in 2022. That is close to overturning the government’s 80-seat parliamentary majority. The announcement comes days before Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to chair a G7 summit.
Andrew Mitchell, the former international development minister who is leading the rebels, has said that he expects to obtain the votes of the additional 15 Conservative MPs needed to pass the legislative amendment that would restore the 0.7% budget. Last year, Chancellor Rishi Sunak cut the UK’s aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income, equivalent to a £4 billion drop in spending. (Benjamin Fox | EURACTIV.com)
DUBLIN | BELFAST
New DUP leader meets Irish government for first time in new role. Newly elected DUP leader Edwin Poots met with Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin in Dublin on Thursday evening for the first time since taking over from Arlene Foster to primarily discuss the Northern Ireland Protocol, in a discussion Poots is hoping will be “frank.” Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Survey shows Finnish workers prefer working from home. With restrictions easing across Europe, a new survey by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) has found out that some 20% of workers in Finland would like to work at home permanently and more than 40% would like to work from home part-time post-pandemic. Read more.
Denmark passes law to process asylum seekers outside Europe. Denmark on Thursday passed a law enabling it to process asylum seekers outside Europe, drawing anger from human rights advocates, the United Nations and the European Commission. Read more.
Lithuanian PM in Brussels calls for more support in guarding borders. Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė on Thursday called for more support from Brussels to help protect the country’s border with Belarus. Read more.
TALLINN | HELSINKI
Italy’s trade unions blast Commission’s criticism of pandemic layoff freezes. Italian trade unions reacted furiously to the European Commission’s technical document annexed to the spring recommendations published on Wednesday slamming Rome’s pandemic-era freeze on job cuts. Read more.
In other news, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that Italy’s economy will grow by 4.3% in 2021 and 4% in 2022, more than the previously assumed 4.3% and 3.6%. However, the IMF stated that “uncertainty remains” and the country’s economic outlook depends “on the progress of the pandemic, on the extent of the structural changes it will produce but also on the effectiveness of economic and health policies.” (Daniele Lettig | EURACTIV.it)
Spain to reopen nightlife for summer season. Spain plans to reopen nightlife venues in regions with fewer COVID-19 cases in time for the summer season as the country eyes an international tourism sector badly hit by the pandemic. Read the full story.
Greek police plan high decibel message to deter migrants. Greek police on Thursday said they plan to send out a high decibel message designed to deter would-be migrants after setting up two controversial “sound cannons” at the Evros border post with Turkey. Read more.
Disabled children removed from school before minister’s visit. Polish Education Minister Przemysław Czarnek has been criticised over a visit to a school in Łuków to celebrate its 60th anniversary amid reports that the headmistress suggested that the youngest children, seriously disabled children and those with the lowest grades not participate in the celebrations. Read more.
Hungary U-turns on COVID-19 passport vaccine type disclosure. The digital version of the Hungarian immunity card will include the type of vaccination and the dates of both vaccinations by 15 June, and so will comply with EU regulations, Gergely Gulyás, the prime minister’s chief of staff told journalists on Thursday, thus reversing a previous decision from February. Read more.
Poll shows Slovaks’ positive stance on Russia. A recent survey by political think-tank Globsec showed as many as 55% of Slovaks view Russian President Vladimir Putin positively and for 47% of respondents, Russia is Slovakia’s most important partner. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Bulgaria caught up in organ transplant for the super rich scandal. Bulgaria’s health ministry revealed on Thursday that under the former government of Boyko Borissov the state hospital performed organ transplants on poor live donors for rich “uncles” operating under a false identity for which the ministry has “every reason to believe that they are not relatives, as required by law”. A high-ranking government official reportedly received a liver transplant this way and managed to skip to the top of the waiting list. Read more.
Romania urged to do more against human traffickers. Romania should do more to crack down on human trafficking by ensuring offenders are punished and victims compensated, the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) has urged. Read more.
Croatian president criticised for pardoning war criminal. Croatian President Zoran Milanović has responded to the strong public backlash he has received for pardoning convicted war criminal Branimir Glavaš who was sentenced for crimes against Serbs in Osijek during the Homeland War. Read more.
Vucic: Compromise solution for Belgrade-Pristina dialogue possible. Reaching a compromise solution for the Belgrade-Pristina talks is possible and talks with Kosovo should soon resume, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said on Instagram on Thursday after he had “a good conversation” with EU special envoy to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Miroslav Lajčak and the US special envoy for the Western Balkans, Matthew Palmer. Read more.
BELGRADE | ATHENS
Greek FM Dendias calls Lajčak ahead of scheduled Kosovo trip. Ahead of his visit to Kosovo scheduled for Friday, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias spoke over the phone with EU special envoy to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Miroslav Lajčak. Read more.
HDZ BiH leader: Electoral reform necessary for EU path. Dragan Čović, the leader of HDZ BiH met Johann Sattler, head of the EU Delegation in BiH, to discuss implementing the country’s election and constitutional reforms – which Čović said were necessary to keep BiH on its path towards EU membership, an HDZ BiH press release stated.
The party leader was also quoted as saying that 2021 was an opportunity for reaching long-term internal stabilisation and addressing the long-neglected challenges and that amendments to the election legislation should not be delayed. Čović also welcomed the strong engagement of European and international partners in this regard.
Čović and Sattler welcomed the EU’s decision on the IPA III funds of €14.2 billion euros for the new Western Balkans strategy in the 2021-2027 period. The strategy intends to renew the focus on reforms necessary for future membership. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
North Macedonia’s Zaev ready to beg Sofia, won’t sacrifice identity, language. North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said he is ready to beg for a solution in Sofia, but is not prepared to sacrifice the Macedonian identity and language, adding that if the dialogue with Bulgaria is successful, talks may be held as early as 23 June. Read more.
Energy Community chief Kopac warns Kosovo of no future in coal. Opening the market implies an increase in electricity bills and the government must make sure it happens gradually, Energy Community Secretariat Director Janez Kopač warned Kosovo’s Assembly via video link, adding that “all efforts must be directed to renewable energies” and that “coal-fired power plants have no future,” Balkan Green Energy News reported. Read more.
TIRANA | ATHENS | ANKARA
Greece: EU integration will bring Albania closer to Greece, regardless of Turkey. Albania’s decision to continue the path of EU membership will bring it even closer to Greece, said Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias during the international Regional Growth Conference. Read more.
- Belgium: Consultative Committee meets to discuss next stage of COVID-19 relaxations
- Italy: Fitch will review the country’s rating, while Economy Minister Daniele Franco will attend the G-7 meeting in London.
- Spain: Spain’s socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to start his official visit to Libya to express his support for a peaceful transition in the African country.
- UK: G7 finance ministers meet in London
- Croatia: Powers will be transferred to the newly-elected mayors and county prefects throughout Croatia, including in Zagreb
- Poland: German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is to visit Poland on 17 June.
- Czechia: Prime Minister Andrej Babiš will receive a gift in the form of 41,000 COVID-19 vaccines in Prague on Friday Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó.
- Serbia: Director of the Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Petar Petković will meet with EU special envoy to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Miroslav Lajčak and the US special envoy for the Western Balkans, Matthew Palmer.
[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Paula Kenny, Josie Le Blond]