Wednesday, 31 March 2021 07:28

Czech government defies intelligence warnings over Russia’s Rosatom Featured

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.

Before you start reading today’s edition of the Capitals, feel free to have a look at the article “NATO jets intercept Russian warplanes during ‘unusual level of air activity’“.

EDITOR’S TAKE: Which EU countries lag behind on ‘decent work’? The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), which represents workers and their trade unions at the European level, has published a survey about the progress EU member states have made regarding “decent work”. The results are not surprising. See more here.

The European news you deserve to read. Welcome to The Capitals by EURACTIV.

In today’s news from the Capitals:


Czech Industry, Trade and Transport Minister Karel Havlíček has dismissed the government’s commissioner for nuclear energy, Jaroslav Míl after he criticised the minister for inviting Russian company Rosatom to take part in a tender to build a new unit of the Dukovany nuclear power plant despite previous warnings by the country’s security services. Read more.



Airbnb welcomes common tax framework for digital platforms. Airbnb has welcomed the agreement reached among EU member states to create a common tax reporting framework for digital platforms, which will require sales to be reported to the tax authorities. More.



Belgium to start vaccinating next risk groups in April. In the next stage of Belgium’s vaccination campaign, people with an underlying condition between 18 and 65 years old will start receiving their jabs in April. Read more.



Germany suspends AstraZeneca jabs for under-60s. Germany on Tuesday said it would suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine for the under-60s, after a small number of severe blood clotting cases. Read more.



Greater Paris region commits to ‘sustainable metropolitan agriculture’. The Greater Paris region and Île de France’s agriculture chamber on Tuesday agreed on a shared strategy aimed at more than doubling the agricultural surface of the Greater Paris area from 2% to 4% by 2030.

The framework convention on a shared strategy on agriculture pledges to develop “sustainable metropolitan agriculture” and commits to a process of “permanent consultation”. The partners have committed to avoiding urban sprawl and supporting agri-urban projects, as well as promoting short circuits and increasing the supply of organic and local produce in collective catering. (Magdalena Pistorius |



Facebook urges Ireland to hold off on political ads rules until EU legislation. Facebook on Tuesday (30 March) told Irish lawmakers to hold off on going ahead with proposed rules to regulate online political advertising until the European Commission presents its own legislation in the field. Read the full story.

Irish foreign minister calls for greater focus on NI relationship than border control. Northern Ireland’s institutions are “just about hanging on” after a “bruising number of years,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told the Irish parliament on Tuesday, noting the importance of building relationships rather than always focusing on border control. Read more.



UK calls for end to ‘pernicious’ trade practices, in apparent swipe at China. Britain said it will push G7 allies at talks on Wednesday (31 March) to do more to ban “pernicious practices” in trade, such as forced labour and intellectual property theft, in an apparent call for a tougher line towards China at the World Trade Organization. More

EU nations scold Commission on plans to exclude UK from research groups. A contingent of EU nations has locked horns with the European Commission over plans to exclude third-countries from involvement in quantum and space research projects, in a move that could see the UK’s involvement significantly downgraded due to concerns over intellectual property. Full story here



Passenger train connecting Sweden, Finland may finally become reality. As if to highlight the European Year of Rail 2021, a functioning passenger train link between neighbouring Nordic countries Sweden and Finland looks to finally be moving forward. Read more.



Orban, Morawiecki, and Salvini to form political alliance. Italian Northern League leader Matteo Salvini will meet Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Thursday in Budapest to discuss a “political alliance at European level” between their respective political parties, the Hungarian government wrote in a press release on Tuesday. Read More.



Spain tightens COVID-19 restrictions, mask wearing rules. Spain will as of Wednesday (31 March) implement a series of new and tougher measures to prevent COVID-19 infections under the so-called New Normality Law, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reports.



Greece: From ‘stay safe at home’ to ‘go out’. Despite the new record of COVID-19 cases reported on Tuesday, the Greek government has decided to relax measures to revive an already ailing economy, local media reported.



Cyprus wins EU protection for halloumi cheese. Halloumi, a traditional Cypriot cheese known as Hellim in Turkish, is to be entered to the EU’s register of protected designations of origin, a move intended to promote unity on the divided island. More



Slovak PM steps down after dispute over Russia’s Sputnik. Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovič (Ordinary People/OĽaNO) resigned on Tuesday following weeks of disputes within the governing alliance sparked by the controversial purchase of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. Read more.



Polish ‘Yes to Family, No to Gender’ initiative to be examined by parliamentary committees. A bill calling for Poland to terminate the Istanbul Convention that seeks to prevent violence against women and initiate work on an international family rights convention, has been sent to the parliamentary committees of justice, human rights and foreign affairs for examination. Read more.

Poland, others step up push for gas in EU green finance rules. Poland, Bulgaria and seven other countries have stepped up their push to ensure natural gas is classed as a sustainable investment under EU finance rules, warning Brussels its latest proposal falls short, a document seen by Reuters showed.



Council of Europe: Hungarian government eroded freedom of expression. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović has said Hungary has eroded freedom of expression in a memorandum published on Tuesday (30 March).

“The combined effects of a politically controlled media regulatory authority and distortionary state intervention in the media market have eroded media pluralism and freedom of expression in Hungary”, the memorandum reads. More.



Drug wholesaler suspends deliveries to Croatian hospitals. The Medika drug wholesaler suspended as of Tuesday supplying all hospitals with medicines and medical supplies due to outstanding debt by the government of 2.1 billion kuna (€280 million), the president of Medika’s management board, Jasminko Herceg, has announced. Read more.



Bulgaria removes restrictions amid pandemic third wave peak. The Bulgarian government has announced the relaxation of coronavirus measures as the country is currently undergoing the third pandemic wave, recording close to 10,000 patients in hospitals and 760 in intensive care units. Read more.



Record in ICUs. The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units throughout Romania went above 1,400 for the first time since the start of the pandemic. At the same time, hundreds of people took to the streets to protest the restrictions. On Monday evening, protests were organised in several cities across Romania to call for the abolishment of many restrictions.

Romania is getting through the third wave of the epidemic with about 6,000 new cases recorded daily, and new restrictions were enforced over the weekend for communities with high infection rates. However, the government wants to avoid a lockdown and is struggling to provide new beds for COVID patients. (Bogdan Neagu |



PM Jansa’s coalition MPs fail to oust parliament speaker. MPs of the ruling coalition of the SDS, NSi and SMC parties failed to dismiss parliament speaker Igor Zorčič, himself an SMC member, as their proposal to oust him only received 45 votes, falling short of the 46-majority needed to dismiss him. Read more.



Serbian health workers may soon have to get vaccinated. The director of the Clinic for Infectious and Tropical Diseases in Belgrade, Goran Stevanović, announced on Tuesday that a demand would be issued for the introduction of mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers in Serbia. Read more.


[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Paula Kenny, Josie Le Blond]