EU health chief: We don’t know if this is the last COVID wave
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In today’s news from the Capitals:
Contrary to estimates from other parts of the world that we are facing our last battle with the pandemic with Omicron, Europe takes a more cautious approach. According to EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, who spoke to a small group of journalists in Brussels, including EURACTIV, current scientific data cannot predict if this is the last pandemic wave.
“We have seen many twists and turns throughout this pandemic. So, I will not put predictions on when and whether this is going to be the last wave or not. What we do know is that vaccines have not failed us,” she said.
The Cypriot Commissioner also said the option of a new vaccine targeting Omicron or multiple variants could not be ruled out and added that new therapeutics are coming up. Read more.
Macron’s EU presidency presentation turns into a settling of scores. President Emmanuel Macron presented the programme of France’s six-month EU Council presidency before very agitated MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday, but it quickly turned into a sparring match with the French opposition. Read more.
German inflation anxiety mounts amid 29-year-high. Consumer prices rose 3.1% in 2021, according to numbers from the Ifo institute in Munich, and German government bonds have returned to positive yields following an inflation anxiety-fueled purchasing spree. Read more.
Montebourg withdraws from French presidential elections. Former economy minister Arnaud Montebourg, who ran as an independent, announced on Wednesday that he would no longer take part in the French presidential elections. He confirmed that he would not support any other candidate. Read more.
Austria pushes for more restrictive EU border protection. Austria is calling for a more rigid European border control system to reduce the number of migrants arriving in the bloc amid the ongoing migrant crisis at the Belarus border. Together with Greece, Poland and Lithuania, Austria is initiating a border protection conference in Vilnius to give its push more political weight. Read more.
UK AND IRELAND
In the name of God, go… Prime Minister Boris Johnson survived fresh humiliation on Wednesday as one of his MPs defected to the Labour party citing Johnson’s “disgraceful conduct” and former Brexit Secretary David Davis urged the PM to “in the name of God, go” during a House of Commons debate. Read more.
Frontline healthcare workers to receive €1,000 bonus. Healthcare workers in Ireland who staffed the frontlines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic will receive a €1,000 tax-free bonus, the cabinet agreed on Tuesday. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Demilitarised Aland Islands again centre of security debate. Agressive Russian behaviour in the Baltic Sea has again sparked discussion on the Åland Island’s strategic importance. Read more.
Left-wing bloc opposes Berlusconi’s presidential candidacy. Italy’s left-wing bloc has agreed to oppose Silvio Berlusconi’s presidential candidacy if the right-wing proposed him, a source of Italy’s 5-Star Movement said on Wednesday. Read more.
Spanish MP slams government for newly agreed labour reform. Gabriel Rufián, MP and spokesman of the left Catalan independentist party (ERC), criticised the government for the labour reform agreed with trade unions and employers, during a press conference on Wednesday, eldiario.es reported. Read more.
Second investigation into Abramovich citizenship launched. Portuguese public prosecutors have opened a formal investigation into granting Portuguese nationality to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich under the Nationality Law for Sephardic Jews, the office of the attorney general said on Wednesday. Read more.
MEPs call for full-scale election observation in Hungary. Sixty-two MEPs from various political groups have sent a joint letter to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), asking for a full-scale monitoring mission ahead of Hungary’s elections on 3 April. Read more.
EU Commission takes hard steps to make Poland pay Turów fines. The European Commission will deduct money from Poland’s allocation in the EU budget in response to the country’s refusal to comply with the EU Court of Justice’s ruling regarding the Turów mine, TVN24 TV station reported. Read more.
Prague considers sending military material to Kiev. The new Czech government wants to help Ukraine amid the escalating situation at the borders with Russia, Defence Minister Jana Černochová (ODS, ECR) said in an interview with daily Hospodářské noviny. Read more.
Simple defence agreement with US divides Slovakia. The defence cooperation agreement between Slovakia and the US has been major news in Slovakia for over a week now. If passed, the deal would grant the American army the right to use two military airports in exchange for access to funds aimed for investments for the modernisation of Slovakia’s armed forces. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Chinise backlash over Slovenian Taiwan plan. China has reacted against Slovenia’s plan to forge closer ties with Taiwan, labelling Prime Minister Janez Janša’s recent statements about Slovenia being in talks to open a representative office on the island as “dangerous”. Read more.
Bulgarian Prime Minister reported a ‘huge success’ in Skopje. Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov has described his first visit to North Macedonia which took place on 18 January, as a “huge success”. Read more.
Romania abandons plan to introduce COVID passes for workers. The idea of introducing a mandatory pass for workers has been dropped after many contradictory discussions in the coalition. Read more.
Catholic church in Croatia secures €160 million from EU Solidarity Fund. The Catholic Church is the biggest winner of money from the EU Solidarity Fund. Of 150 contracted projects worth 3.5 billion kuna (€466 million) through cultural heritage protection measures, 50 projects worth as much as 1.2 billion kuna (€160 million) have been contracted through the Ministry of Culture, EURACTIV’s partner Jutarnji list has reported. Read more.
Serbia is of no threat to anyone, says defence minister. The Army of Serbia is not a threat to anyone, nor is it intended for offensive use, Serbian Defence Minister Nebojša Stefanović said on Wednesday. Read more.
EU representative calls for October elections to be held regardless of reform. The general elections in BiH will be held in the autumn even if no agreement is reached on amending the Election Law, said Johann Sattler, the head of the EU Delegation in Sarajevo. Read more.
Albanian party leader calls for recognition of Bulgarians in Constitution. Ali Ahmeti, leader of the biggest Albanian party DUI, called on North Macedonia to accept the demands put forward by Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, starting with including the Bulgarian nation to the Preamble of the Constitution. Ahmeti, whose power over his coalition with SDSM keeps growing, made the statement after meeting Petkov. Read more.
Montenegrin government could face no-confidence vote. The civic movement URA, led by Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazović, sent an initiative for a vote of no confidence for the current government to the parliamentary procedure, the party said. It added that it was a test of whether the concept of a minority government, which they had previously proposed, had a majority in parliament. Read more.
Citizens clash with police over forced evictions in Tirana. Residents of the “5 Maji” neighbourhood in Tirana clashed with the police on Wednesday as the National Inspectorate began its demolition of their homes. Read more.
- EU: Informal meeting of environment and energy ministers in Amiens / European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers virtual speech to World Economic Forum / European Parliament to announce result of Digital Services Act vote, votes on law to curb harmful content online / Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson meets Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko.
- Germany: US Secretary of State visits Berlin / US, Britain, France and Germany four-way talks on the Ukraine crisis / German Chancellor Olaf Scholz meets Swiss President Ignazio Cassis.
- Austria: Parliament expected to adopt legislation making coronavirus vaccination mandatory.
- France: Appeal against acquittal of Eric Zemmour, accused of denying crimes against humanity.
- Poland: Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy meets with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda for consultations in Wisla.
- Croatia: National council for introducing the euro as legal tender in Croatia holds 13th meeting.
- Romania: Prime minister Nicolae Ciuca hosts a meeting at the government headquarters to analyse Romania’s results in combating human trafficking.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox, Zoran Radosavljevic, Alice Taylor]