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 “Diplomats say Borrell apologised for Moscow visit, Commission denies“.
Also take a look at “EU Commission cautious with ‘unilateral’ moves on vaccination passports” and “Airlines implore EU countries to implement ‘vaccine passports’“.
The European news you deserve to read. Welcome to The Capitals by EURACTIV.
In today’s news from the Capitals:
A Slovenian doctor employed at the Maribor Clinical Centre has again become infected with the coronavirus after he previously received two doses of the vaccine, sources at the second-biggest hospital in the country confirmed on Wednesday. Read more.
In other news, the government’s press and communication office (UKOM) has suspended financing of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) again, declining to pay it for the services provided as a public service in January on the ground that the parties have not yet signed a contract for the year. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Portuguese minister: EU countries should start receiving funds by June. Portugal’s minister of planning, Nelson de Souza, said on Wednesday (26 February) that member states that have their recovery and resilience plans approved by April should receive the first funds by June. More
Belgian government’s free face masks might be toxic. The Belgian government has recommended that the textile mouth masks which have been distributed free of charge through pharmacists since last June should no longer be used as they may contain harmful substances. Read more.
Bundeswehr to remain in Afghanistan until next year. The German government cabinet voted on Wednesday to maintain the country’s military presence in Afghanistan until 31 January 2022, and to keep the cap on the number of troops at 1,300. Read more.
France pushes discussion on vaccine delivery to African continent at EU summit. With EU heads of state and government set to meet on Thursday in an online videoconference, it has been confirmed they will discuss the proposal made at the G7 summit by French President Emmanuel Macron to send 13 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to African countries. Read the full story.
Austria’s chancellor proposes ‘green pass’ for people who pose no COVID-threat. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) has proposed the introduction of a “green pass” for those who would not pose a threat in spreading the coronavirus in an attempt to roll back the travel restrictions currently in place across Europe.
According to Kurz, three categories of people would be granted such a pass, including those who already received the vaccine, people who were already infected, and those who have been tested very recently. Should the EU not start work on this “green pass” project, Kurz announced that Austria would do so at a national level. (Philipp Grüll | EURACTIV.de)
Finns lost €1 million to online fraudsters since start of year. Finns have lost €1 million to online fraudsters and 200 complaints about scammers posing as employees from the Microsoft technical support team were received from authorities in 2021 compared to 1,000 such complaints made last year, Finland’s Cyber Security Centre has informed. Read more.
Swedish company on course to launch world’s first carbon-free steel. A startup called H2 Green Steel, is on its way to launching the world’s first large steel production plant powered by green hydrogen in northern Sweden as it aims to begin production in 2024 and reach its full production potential of five million tons of carbon-free steel by 2030. Read more.
Spanish government announces €11 billion direct aid package. Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced on Wednesday an €11 billion direct aid package to help mitigate the difficult financial situation of small and medium-sized companies, and the self-employed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Read the full story.
Greek cabinet discusses new pet ownership. The Greek cabinet discussed on Wednesday a pet ownership bill proposing a new national pet registry and a digital health book for all pets. Read more.
Poland only allows tight-fitting facemasks to face third pandemic wave. Poland has banned covering the mouth and nose with scarves, neckerchiefs, bandanas, or plastic visors, and allowed the use of tight-fitting masks, announced Poland’s health ministry as the country will soon enter the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Read more.
Orbán hopes to be vaccinated next week. No relaxation of measures is expected yet, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in his video posted on Facebook on Wednesday (25 February) following consultations with experts, adding the day was an important one because vaccinations with the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine began. The Fidesz leader said this gave him hope that next week the turn of those “leading the defense” could come. More
Also read: Deutsche Welle resumes Hungarian service amid free press fears
Slovak health minister under pressure as COVID-19 continues to worsen. Slovak Economy Minister Richard Sulík has offered to take over the health ministry from current minister Marek Krajčí as Slovakia currently ranks worst in terms of deaths per 100,000 people. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
BELGRADE | ATHENS
Greek Neo-nazi fugitive could be hiding in Serbian monastery. The Greek authorities are currently verifying a report stating that former 59-year-old lawmaker Christos Pappas, who has been on the run since he was sentenced for having a leading role in the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn organisation, has been hiding in a Serbian monastery. Read more.
US expresses support for Bulgarian journalist beaten by police during anti-government protests. US Ambassador in Sofia, Hero Mustafa expressed support for the Bulgarian freelance journalist Dimiter Kenarov, who was severely beaten by police officers while covering the anti-government protest in Bulgaria’s capital last September. Read more.
Also read: Bulgaria accuses AstraZeneca of taking country’s vaccine ‘hope’ away
BUCHAREST | CHISINAU
Romania sends vaccines to Moldova. Romania will send 20,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to Moldova, in a first tranche of a total donation of 200,000 doses, said Romanian Prime Minister Florin Citu after a cabinet meeting where the decree on donation was adopted, adding that the government will do everything necessary to speed up delivery.
For her part, Moldovan President Maia Sandu thanked Romania for the donation, saying the 20,000 doses are enough to immunise the country’s medical personnel. (Bogdan Neagu | EURACTIV.ro)
HDZ announces legal action against Croatian news website Index.hr. The ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) has announced legal action against the Index.hr news website for creating a pop-up asking visitors whether they are human beings or members of HDZ before entering the website and a sign with words that read “No entry for HDZ”. Read more.
Serbian foreign minister criticises European Parliament draft Kosovo report. The European Parliament’s draft report on Kosovo adopted by the Parliament’s foreign affairs committee (AFET) “urges, in an impermissible and inappropriate way, the EU states which have not recognised the unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo, to change their stance,” said Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selaković on Wednesday. (EURACTIV.rs | betabriefing.com)
Police relocate migrants from the streets of Bihać to Lipa camp. The Una-Sana Canton (USK) police, close to the border with Croatia, has carried out a migrant and refugee relocation operation from abandoned buildings in the north-west Bosnian city of Bihać to the Lipa migrant camp, N1 reported.
The operation was carried out in coordination with the Service for Foreigners Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina and with the help of the humanitarian organisation “SOS” Bihac. All individuals will be accommodated in the Lipa camp, where food, clothes and shoes, living conditions in heated areas, medical care, as well as areas for personal hygiene are provided, police said. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Đukanović issues decree to recall Ambassadors. President Milo Đukanović has issued a decree recalling ambassadors from BiH, Serbia, Italy, China, Germany, Poland, the Holy See, the Sovereign Order of Malta, and the United Arab Emirates in line with the government’s decision. The president – who was involved in the posting of the recalled ambassadors – thanked them for having professionally and responsibly served the interests of Montenegro.
“It is not a question of whether the new government has the political legitimacy to take this initiative,” said Đukanović. “Based on this initiative, let the public judge whether the creation of a professional diplomatic service or the demonstration of power after the elections is in the forefront of the new majority”, Đukanović added. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox]