France threatened by Russian spies ‘under diplomatic cover’
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In today’s news from the Capitals:
France is particularly exposed to Russian espionage and interference, such as intelligence officers under diplomatic cover and disinformation, because of its importance on the international scene, Nicolas Lerner, head of the French domestic intelligence service, told the National Assembly’s Committee of Inquiry into Foreign Interference. Read more.
EU Parliament wants probe into alleged Catalonia-Russia ties. A report adopted by the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Interference insists on investigating alleged ties between Catalonia’s secessionist movement and Russia, while the Catalan government rejects such ties and welcomes any investigations, affirming they have nothing to hide. Read more.
New EU debt rules welcome, but tensions simmer on Germany’s new ‘benchmarks’. A large majority of EU countries and political groups agree the Stability & Growth Pact (SGP) badly needed revamping, but the European Commission’s latest tweak to the rules met with mixed reception. Read more.
Germany pursues tougher stance on EU asylum reform. The German government will take a more restrictive position in the upcoming negotiations on revamping the EU asylum system and will accept the controversial accelerated asylum procedures. Read more.
Experts criticise new law gutting Austrian public broadcaster ORF. The Austrian government looks to reign in its independent public broadcaster ORF following significant pressure from private sector media companies, in a move harshly criticised by experts. Read more.
King’s Day marred by protests, debate on Dutch royals link to colonialism. Anti-royalist protests and a heated debate about the royal family’s involvement in Dutch colonialism and slavery overshadowed the Dutch holiday, as King Willem-Alexander and his family visited Rotterdam on Thursday. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Swedish far-right piles on pressure amid risk of government collapse. The far-right Sweden Democrats are cranking up pressure on the government, namely over immigration and wind energy, as the country currently holding the EU Council presidency could face a serious political crisis and even possible government collapse. Read more.
Four-right parties in negotiations to form government majority in Finland. Negotiations to form a majority government with the nationalistic and populist Finns Party, the Swedish People’s Party and the Christian Democrats will start next week, Petteri Orpo, chair of the liberal-conservative National Coalition Party (NCP), told a press conference Thursday. Read more.
Italians wonder why Borrell insisted on Di Maio becoming EU Gulf chief. Government officials in Rome are fuming at EU High Representative Josep Borrell for his push to appoint former foreign minister Luigi Di Maio as the EU special envoy chief to the Persian Gulf, saying the Commission ignored Italian voters as well as Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who remain silent on the matter. Read more.
Meloni, Sunak agree to cooperate in fighting irregular migration. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her UK counterpart Rishi Sunak seem to have found a common line to curb irregular immigration and trafficking by smugglers in the Mediterranean and English Channel, as the two met in London on Thursday. Read more.
Sanchez urges right-wing PP not to harm Spain’s image in Brussels. Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has urged the main opposition centre-right Partido Popular party (PP/EPP) not to harm Spain’s image in the EU after the conservative party accused EU Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius of partiality in a “hot” Spanish climate dossier. Read more.
Spanish government commits to bringing the deficit down to 3% by 2024. The Spanish government is committed to reducing the country’s deficit to 3% of its GDP by 2024, one year earlier than foreseen by the progressive government, Finance Minister María Jesús Montero confirmed on Thursday. Read more.
TAP privatisation to likely start in July, Portuguese government says. The process to privatise national flag carrier TAP will likely begin in July, as the government said it would aim to approve the statute to start the privatisation process then and later approve a resolution to define terms and specifications. Read more.
Unidentified object with Russian writing on found in Polish forest. Debris of an unidentified military object that reportedly has Russian-language text on it was found in a forest in Central Poland, the Defence Ministry confirmed. Read more.
Czech police key in dismantling prostitution network. Czech, Finnish and Hungarian authorities have succeeded in dismantling a criminal network suspected of operating an international prostitution ring of which many victims and perpetrators were reportedly from the Czech Republic, Europol informed this week. Read more.
Slovakia sends updated recovery plan to Commission for approval. The Slovak government agreed on an updated national recovery and resilience plan with a revamped REPowerEU chapter due to the increase in costs, particularly for construction materials, and sent it to the European Commission for approval. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Romania buys 18 Bayraktar TB2 drones from Turkey. Romania signed a purchase contract with Turkey over the purchase of 18 Bayraktar drones, worth €290 million, Turkish Ambassador to Bucharest, Özgür Kıvanç Altast, announced on Thursday. Read more.
Bulgaria close to forming Euro-Atlantic government. The two formations that won first and second place in the early parliamentary elections in Bulgaria on 2 April may agree on a Euro-Atlantic government, as former prime minister Boyko Borissov’s party GERB and the Change Continues-Democratic Bulgaria coalition (PP-DB) met on Thursday. Read more.
Serbia’s labour costs lowest in Europe, much below the EU average. The average labour cost in Serbia is about €5 per hour per person, which is almost five times less than in EU member states, where the average cost is about €30.5 – putting Serbia at the very bottom of the European list, according to calculations from the trade union Sloga. Read more.
Albanians allowed to use expired ID in upcoming local elections. The Albanian government has announced that even citizens with expired identification documents will be able to vote in the upcoming 15 May local elections amid fears of low voter turnout. Read more.
- EU: Eurogroup convenes to discuss banking sector developments, macroeconomic developments, and more;
- Economy and finance ministers (ECOFIN) and central bank governors hold informal meeting;
- Commission Vice President Dubravka Šuica delivers keynote speech for EPP workshop on family, integration, and subsidiarity;
- Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli gives an opening speech at the European Diversity Month Ceremony;
- Financial services, financial stability and Capital Markets Union Commissioner Mairead McGuinness holds meetings with Chair of the ECON Committee of the EU Parliament Irene Tinagli, finance ministers of the current and upcoming Council Presidencies (Sweden, Spain, Belgium);
- Spain: Defence Ministers from Spain, France and Germany sign contract for Future Air Combat System (Scaf)
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Zoran Radosavljevic, Alice Taylor, Sofia Stuart Leeson, Sofia Mandilara]