Nordic electronic ID card in the making




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, we invite you to read the story “EU health chief wants more information on gene editing” by Sarantis Michalopoulos.

Also feel free to take a look at a story written by Gerardo Fortuna: “EU aims to ensure viable food packaging recycling by 2030“, Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius told

***CORRECTION: In the edition of The Capitals yesterday, the “Polish concentration camp” in the entry of Rome was replaced with German Nazi concentration camp.

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HELSINKI. Two Finnish ministers from the Swedish People’s Party of Finland, Anna-Maija Henriksson and Thomas Blomqvist, are pressing for the faster introduction of an electronic ID card which would work in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland as part of the government’s digitalisation plans.

EURACTIV’s Pekka Vänttinen has more background information.



Head of AfD group loses immunity. The Bundestag has revoked the immunity of Alexander Gauland, head of the far-right Alternative for Germany’s (AfD) parliamentary group, for alleged tax evasion. EURACTIV Germany’s Sarah Lawton examines the case.



Government omits details on eco-tax. In what is a flagship project of the Green-ÖVP-coalition, the government’s tax reform plans include lowering income and corporate taxes and slap a price tag on CO2 emissions. And with close to nothing having been presented regarding an eco-tax so far, given a task force is still drafting it, many are questioning whether the partnership with the conservative ÖVP will pay off for the Greens. EURACTIV Germany’s Philipp Grüll has more.



Crisis management day. While the coronavirus crisis is putting a brake on trade between China and Europe, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, received Janez Lenarčič, European Commissioner for Crisis Management, on Thursday (30 January). The two politicians discussed the situation in Syria and the Sahel and how to coordinate regarding the coronavirus crisis. has more detail.



King: Patience is not indifference. In his annual State of the Union address, King Philippe called on Belgian politicians not to mistake the “patience” of Belgian citizens for indifference and to “finally” form a federal government. Alexandra Brzozowski reports.



Barnier and Sánchez discuss priorities in ‘post-Brexit era’, including ‘Gibraltar issue’. Spain’s socialist PM Pedro Sánchez and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, met on Thursday (30 January) in Madrid and discussed the Iberian country’s main priorities after Brexit, among them taxation and Gibraltar-related issues. Fernando Heller of EURACTIV’s partner EUROEFE reports.



National strike. Public sector workers will be going on strike today (31 January) in what is the first strike since socialist PM António Costa took office in October. Government workers are unhappy with the wage increase of 0.3% proposed by the government after there had been no raises for ten years. Lusa’s Denise Fernando’s has more.



Flights to and from China suspended. Prime minister Giuseppe Conte confirmed the first two known cases of the coronavirus in Italy, announcing that the government had approved an order to suspend all flights to and from China. Although the couple of tourists that contracted the virus had already been in Rome for ten days, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said: “The situation is serious but totally under control. There’s no need to scaremonger”. [Gerardo Fortuna |]


Outrage over floating sea barriers. Amnesty International’s Research Director for Europe Massimo Moratti has lashed out against the Greek government, which plans floating sea barriers to block migrants. “This proposal marks an alarming escalation in the Greek government’s ongoing efforts to make it as difficult as possible for asylum-seekers and refugees to arrive on its shores and will lead to more danger for those seeking desperately safety,” Moratti said.

The European Commission said yesterday that although the protection of external borders lies in the hands of EU member states, EU law applies when physical barriers prevent asylum seekers from applying for protection. (Sarantis Michalopoulos |



Fianna Fáil leader tells EU Commissioner to stay out of Irish politics. Irish Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has hit out at recent comments made by the EU Commissioner Phil Hogan, accusing him of making a ‘coded partisan intervention,’ ahead of next week’s general election. EURACTIV’s Samuel Stolton has the story: Hogan ‘should stay out of domestic Irish politics,’ Fianna Fáil warns


New tool for assessing soil health. A UK farming technology company has teamed up with leading space industry engineers and soil biologists to create a new tool to accurately assess biodiversity and soil health on farms. Natasha Foote has more detail.



Will the Senate be deprived of money? The Committee of Public Finances of the Sejm, Poland’s lower chamber of the parliament, voted to strip the Senate of zł100 million (about €23 million) dedicated to next year’s budget for relations with Poles abroad. Although the Senate usually deals with budget matters, since the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party lost the Senate and controls the Sejm, it appears to be seeking to deprive the Senate of resources. Although the Senate will most likely ‘kill the bill’ after the matter is voted on by the Sejm, the lower house can always override the senate’s veto. (Łukasz Gadzała |



Alcohol addicts. The average Czech drinks 14.4 litres of pure alcohol a year, which is twice as much as the global average with Czech men consuming four times more alcohol than women, according to a poll conducted by leading research agency MEDIAN for the health ministry. . And it turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the average Czech man’s drink of choice is beer, followed by spirits and wine. EURACTIV Czech Republic’s media partner Aktuálně.cz reports. (Ondřej Plevák |



Number of soldiers protecting border to be doubled. The government has decided to double the number of soldiers protecting Hungary’s southern border after 80 migrants attempted to break the barbed-wire barrier on Serbia’s border with Hungary in an attempt to reach the Hungarian side on Tuesday. Since then, the pressure of migration has increased on the border section, Gergely Gulyás, the head of the prime minister’s office, has said. (Željko Trkanjec |

In other news, people gathered in the streets of Budapest last night (30 January) to demand the resignation of the liberal mayor of the capital’s 7th district, Péter Niedermüller. Reports emerged of clashes between protestors calling him racist and counter-protestors, who took to the streets to support the mayor. Vlagyiszlav Makszimov has more.

Budapest to honour women raped during times of war. Budapest’s Metropolitan Assembly unanimously decided that a statue will be erected in Budapest commemorating women who have been raped during times of war. Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony noted that the wars lived through by Hungarians not only affected the soldiers involved in fighting, but also the civilian population, that many have had to endure wartime sexual violence. (Željko Trkanjec |



Defence Minister now under fire for asset declaration misstatement. Only a few days after the former health minister Milan Kujunžić (HDZ, EPP) resigned after being called out for grossly misstating the value of a house, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević is facing reports that he falsely declared the value and size of a house near the City of Šibenik. EURACTIV Croatia’s Tea Trubić Macan looks into it.



Bulgarian currency under parliamentary protection. The parliament has agreed to protect the lev to euro exchange rate in an attempt to quell the scandal related to last week’s secretly proposed legal changes linked to Bulgaria’s expected accession to the ERM II mechanism in April. Although this has raised doubts on whether the exchange rate is at risk of depreciation before Bulgaria joins the Eurozone, Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said that “Bulgaria will enter the Eurozone with the current exchange rate (€1= Лв.1.95583) or it will not enter at all”. (Krassen Nikolov |

Illegal garbage. Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov said at a press conference in Sofia with his Italian colleague Giuseppe Conte on Thursday that the two countries had committed to crack down on the ongoing illegal trafficking of garbage. Against the backdrop of worsening air quality in Bulgaria, it has been found in recent months that massive amounts of garbage unsuitable for burning in heating centrals has been brought from Italy to Bulgaria. (Georgi Gotev, More with Dnevnik



Mother of all issues. Although Slovenian politics is currently in turmoil without a government, this will go on the back burner on Friday (31 January) when the European Court of Justice announces its decision on whether it has jurisdiction in the Slovenia-Croatia border case. If it decides against admissibility, this could provoke a huge storm in Slovenian politics. (Željko Trkanjec)



First death from flu. An elderly patient with health complications according to the country’s Institute of Public Health, died at the University Clinical Center of the Republika Srpska (an entity of BiH) in Banja Luka, after he had contracted the flu. In the past week, health centres in RS reported 4,705 acute respiratory infections. (Željko Trkanjec |



The biggest number of cases at the European Human Rights Court. In 2019, Montenegro saw the largest number of cases per capita filed against it before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Also of note are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, San Marino and Moldova, who also have many human rights cases filed against them.  (Željko Trkanjec |



We do not compete with the US. After arriving in Priština, EU High Representative Josep Borrell said he wants to help the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue without competing with the United States. He also promised to work together with the US envoys to normalise relations between Pristina and Belgrade. EURACTIV Croatia’s Željko Trkanjec digs deeper.


[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox]

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