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In today’s news from the capitals:
Bulgarian government figures are seeking a way out of a 40-year-old plan to build a second nuclear power plant near the Danube island of Belene. The Belene project, which is to be implemented with two Russian nuclear reactors, is creating serious political tensions between the pro-European liberals “Change Continues” and “Democratic Bulgaria” and the pro-Russian Bulgarian Socialist Party, coalition partners. President Rumen Radev also insisted on a quick decision on the nuclear project. Read more.
Austria sets up a “crisis cabinet” on Ukraine. Amid the looming threat of a Russian invasion, Austria set up a crisis cabinet on Sunday to allow the government to act quickly if the conflict in and around Ukraine spirals out of control. Read more.
Germany tightens travel warning and halts flights from Kyiv. The Federal Foreign Office has urged Germans to leave Ukraine “immediately”, while airlines will halt flights to Kyiv and Odessa from Monday. Read more.
Putin and Biden agree in principle for a summit as tensions in Ukraine soar. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Joe Biden have agreed on a summit – which will only take place if Moscow does not invade Ukraine, France announced on Monday February 20, after another frantic diplomatic round to avoid a total war. Read more.
The survey exposes Credit Suisse, the state of press freedom in Switzerland. Swiss bank Credit Suisse served dodgy clients, helping them store illegally acquired wealth in Swiss bank accounts, an international journalistic investigation called ‘Swiss Secrets’ has revealed. Read more.
UNITED KINGDOM AND IRELAND
LONDON | BELFAST
Prepare for a united Ireland, says Sinn Fein. Irish Republican Party Sinn Fein is ‘closer than we’ve ever been [to a united Ireland], and I think now is the time to plan,” former party deputy premier Michelle O’Neill said in an interview with Sky on Sunday. Read more.
The Irish opposition is calling for the carbon tax increase to be scrapped to tackle the cost of living crisis. Opposition party Sinn Féin will table a motion this week to scrap a carbon tax hike planned for this spring in response to Ireland’s cost of living crisis. Read more.
NORDIC AND BALTIC
Finland is tightening laws against sex offenders. The Finnish government has proposed to strengthen the country’s laws on sex crimes, similar to reforms adopted in Sweden and other European countries. With the five governing parties holding 117 of the 200 seats in parliament, the bill is likely to pass. Read more.
Madrid’s conservatives are rallying around the regional chief amid a party row. Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the headquarters of the Spanish People’s Party (PP) in Madrid on Sunday to show their support for the capital’s regional president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, and to call on the leader of the conservative party, Pablo Casado, to resign . Read more.
The Spaniards are divided over NATO support. Spain seems divided on a hypothetical intervention in a military conflict in Ukraine, including Spanish military forces. Read more.
Italy recommends the fourth dose for immunocompromised patients. The fourth dose of COVID-19 is recommended for immunocompromised patients 120 days after receiving their third booster dose, the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) announced on Sunday. Read more.
Greek politicians are bickering over an expelled MEP who criticized the government for press freedom. EU lawmaker Giorgios Kyrtsos, who was expelled last week from the centre-right ruling New Democracy (European People’s Party), said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was more arrogant than Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. Read more.
Czech Prime Minister: Putin did not count on such a united attitude from the West. Europe is on the brink of war because Russia can attack Ukraine at any time, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS, ECR) told Czech television on Sunday, noting that unity between the EU and NATO was not what Russian President Vladimir Putin expected. Read more.
The Minister of Justice announces an anti-EU offensive “in defense of Polish sovereignty”. Poland’s sovereignty is threatened by the The EU’s conditionality mechanism – linking the disbursement of EU funds to the bloc’s rule of law and climate policies, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro of the Solidarity Poland party said on Saturday, proposing to block it . Read more.
Hungary braces for budget hit after European Court ruling on rule of law. Hungary will temporarily rely on its own resources, said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who expects EU funds to be released later this year, Hungary Today reported. Read more.
Roma in Slovakia: twice as likely to die from COVID-19. Slovakia’s Roma are twice as likely to die of COVID-19 as the rest of the population, according to a new study conducted by the value for money department of the Ministry of Finance found. Read more.
Vucic: The Serbian people do not want NATO. The Serbian people “will not have NATO”, declared on February 19 President Aleksandar Vučić, also leader of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). Read more.
Croatian minister arrested, relieved of his duties. A judge at the Zagreb county court sent Darko Horvat (HDZ-EPP), who left his post as Minister of Construction, to one month in detention on Saturday evening. He is suspected of having illegally paid 2.6 million kuna (€346,000) in subsidies in 2018 when he was Minister of Economy to the four other suspects in the case. Read more.
Slovenia finally eases restrictions as Omicron wave recedes. Slovenia lifted many major COVID-19-related restrictions over the weekend, broadly aligning them with countries that opted to start reopening public life several weeks ago. Read more.
BELGRADE | WESTERN BALKANS
Sarazzin is appointed as Germany’s first envoy to the Western Balkans. The German government appointed Manuel Sarrazin special envoy for the Western Balkans on February 18. Sarazzin is the first German envoy to the region, Radio Free Europe reported.
Sarazzin is a member of the Green Party and was a German MP from 2008 to 2021, playing an active role in the Bundestag’s European and Foreign Affairs committees. ILast May, he stressed the importance of a coordinated Franco-German policy on the Western Balkans, clearly opposing any modification of the borders in the region.
(EURACTIV.rs | betabriefing.com)
Croatian Assembly in BiH: territorial reorganization if no reform of the electoral law. the The Croatian National Assembly (HNS), an umbrella organization of most Croatian political parties and other organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), concluded that the conditions for the 2022 general elections were not met. Read more.
National Bank of North Macedonia: denar, stable banking system. The denar’s exchange rate is stable, foreign exchange reserves have increased over the past year and the banking system remains stable, the National Bank of the Republic of North Macedonia reported on Saturday. Read more.
NGOs urge authorities to stop praising Albania’s former communist regime. An Albanian NGO has launched a petition calling on the authorities to stop praising the former communist regime and ban the public use of communist-related symbols to align with EU states that have banned the glorification of fascist and totalitarian regimes. Read more.
- EU: EU Foreign Ministers meet in Brussels on Ukraine, climate diplomacy, Bosnia, will be briefed by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba / European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic and FM British Liz Truss attend EU-UK Joint Committee meeting / EU Agriculture Ministers meet in Brussels / European Commission LIBE and AFCO Parliamentary delegations visit Poland.
- NATO Secretary General receives British Foreign Minister Liz Truss in Brussels.
- France: European transport ministers meet at Le Bourget.
- Netherlands: ICJ hears Myanmar’s arguments in the Rohingya Genocide case.
- Italy: Tuesday, interview with activist Marco Cappato on cannabis and euthanasia.
- Spain: Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez receives his Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen in Madrid.
- Slovenia: Prime Minister Janez Janša will welcome Hungarian Viktor Orban to sign a cooperation agreement to support the development of ethnically mixed areas on both sides of the border.
- Montenegro: the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, receives the President of Montenegro Milo Đukanović in Brussels.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox, Zoran Radosavljevic, Alice Taylor]