Santa Claus got stuck in Finland

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  • Euractiv.com

11.12.2019.

Euractiv.com

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 Claire Stam’s second entry on what is happening at the COP25 in Madrid. Also, feel free to have a look at what the EU’s new Agriculture Commissioner has to say about organic farming as well as an interview with a Bayer scientist on gene editing.

Read also: Russia’s Chizhov: ‘I’m sure we will witness a new beginning under this EU cycle’

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BRUSSELS. No single EU member state agreed with Finland’s EU budget proposal at the General Affairs Council yesterday (10 December) in Brussels. The Lithuanian minister reportedly described the atmosphere in one sentence: “Santa Claus was stuck in Finland”.

This could have a dual meaning: either the Christmas gift that member states expected from Finish EU budget proposals ultimately got stuck in Finland or the proposal was basically tailor-made to the needs of the Scandinavian country.

“No EU country said something positive about this proposal,” a source said. The thorny issues are, of course, the budgets for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the EU’s cohesion policy but everything will depend on the much-awaited Green Deal proposal due soon.

>>Read Sam Morgan’s Brief: Take the money and run.

Some EU member states also raised doubts about priorities, with Germany, in particular, noting that more money should be earmarked for defence and migration matters, while the Dutch complained about there being fewer funds for crucial EU policies.

Poland and Hungary are putting pressure to avoid linking EU funding to the rule-of-law criteria and have been using tricks to block the climate funding talks. In an effort to prove its democratic credentials, Hungarians even said that “80% of the state funding for media goes to anti-government media”.

The vast majority of member states also opposed external convergence in the CAP, while eastern European countries did not defend it strongly.

In any event, EURACTIV’s Editor-in-Chief Zoran Radosavljevic interviewed Croatia’s Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman who said that Zagreb, which takes over the EU Presidency in January, will submit a new proposal with an aim to preserve both the CAP and the EU’s cohesion policy.

Read the full interview here.

[Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com]

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BERLIN

Berlin declares a climate emergency. Yesterday morning, Berlin’s Senate declared a climate emergency for the city. This comes after the Social Democrats (SPD) agreed to sign the bill presented by Senator Regine Günther from the Greens, which had been delayed for a week. This new status ensures that all future legislation will subject to climate change concerns. While 50 municipalities in Germany have taken similar steps, Berlin is the first federal state to have made such a declaration and enforced it into law.

New BASF factory is coming to Brandenburg. On the heels of Tesla’s recent announcement of opening its first European Gigafactory near the Berlin-Brandenburg airport, the federal state of Brandenburg is getting its next big investment. The BASF Group is planning to spend around half a billion euros to build a factory to produce cathodes for car batteries. The Commission’s approval to unlock €3.2 billion of state aid for European battery production helped the project clear a decisive hurdle. (Sarah Lawton | EURACTIV.de)

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MADRID

Spain wants ‘more ambition’ to halt climate change. Spain’s Minister for Ecological Transition and Climate Action, Teresa Ribera, asked on Tuesday the countries participating in the UN world climate summit in Madrid (COP25) to be “more ambitious” in their climate goals before next year when the Paris Agreement enters formally into force, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.

“We can’t afford not to be vigilant, because we are committed to providing answers,” she said.

Meanwhile, the UN Executive Secretary on Climate Change, Mexico’s Patricia Espinosa, has urged the countries to step up their efforts and urgently reach an agreement to regulate the carbon bond market. COP25 delegations in Madrid are expected to give this week a final push towards implementing the UN Paris Agreement of 2015, as from 2020. (EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)

>>Read also: EU pressured to do more in negotiations at COP25 climate summit

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PARIS

Waiting for Wednesday. After a new day of mobilisation in France against pension reform, French citizens are waiting for the government to make concrete announcements on Wednesday (11 December). Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is expected to disclose the details of the contested reform at noon, after weeks of uncertainty on government plans.

The pension reform will merge the 42 existing pension plans into a universal one. But most of the French citizens do not support the government’s proposed method and fear a huge drop in their future pension income, especially for teachers.

Ahead of the announcement, new protests took place on 10 December, and another one has been scheduled for 12 December. According to a survey from IFOP institute for Journal du Dimanche, 59% of French citizens believe that the government is more responsible for the disturbances than the strikers themselves by not revealing the content of the reform earlier. (EURACTIV.fr)

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BRUSSELS

All options open again. After consulting with party leaders, the King appointed Joachim Coens (CD&V) and George-Louis Bouchez (MR) as the new informers to look for a possible federal government coalition. Both have been party leaders for only a few days since their election and are rather inexperienced in coalition negotiations.

They have been given time until 20 December for their assignment. The choice indicates that all possible coalition constellations are still on the table, both a progressive one with the Liberals, Greens and Socialists as well as one with the Socialists, Conservatives and Flemish Nationalists. When leaving the royal palace, Coens said all options should be open. “We’re going to look at everything and talk to everyone,” he said. (Alexandra Brzozowski | EURACTIV.com)

LONDON

A ‘lost decade’. Boris Johnson has said the UK will face a “lost decade” if he doesn’t win the upcoming elections. He also warned that if he loses, then the country will be led by “Hamas-backing” and “IRA-supporting” Jeremy Corbyn.

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ROME

March against hatred. Thousands of people and more than 600 mayors have marched against hatred in Milan, showing solidarity to Liliana Segre, Italy’s senator for life. The Holocaust survivor currently lives under police escort, as she has been receiving death threats after having recently proposed a special parliamentary committee to address hatred, racism and anti-Semitism. (Gerardo Fortuna | EURACTIV.com)

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ATHENS

Seeking EU solidarity against Turkey. EURACTIV was informed that the draft EU Council conclusions include a reference to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) recently signed by Turkey and Libya to demarcate maritime zones in the region, a move that triggered strong reactions in Athens, Nicosia and Cairo.

The draft conclusions suggest that this MoU does not create any legal results for third parties while EU solidarity toward Greece and Cyprus is explicitly stated. Reportedly, no EU country has raised objections so far.

(Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)

>>Read also: EU Commission chief vows tough stance on Turkey amid escalating row with Greece

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WARSAW

Battle for the court. Małgorzata Gersdorf, the First President of the Polish Supreme Court, said the judges appointed to the Disciplinary Chamber created by the ruling PiS, should abstain from their duties. “The continuation of the Disciplinary Chamber poses a serious threat to the stability of the Polish legal order,” said Gersdorf.

Her statement comes after a Supreme Court ruling indicated that the Disciplinary Chamber (created by the ruling party in order to weaken independent judiciary) is not a court according to EU and, therefore, Polish law. The Supreme Court also ruled that the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS) is not independent of the legislative and executive. Therefore, rulings of the chamber may, in the future, be undermined and Poland will end up paying compensations. (Łukasz Gadzała | EURACTIV.pl)

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BRATISLAVA

Kočner on US sanction list. Marián Kočner, who faces charges in the case of the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée – among other charges- has been placed on the US Magnitsky sanction list.

Kočner is only the second EU citizen on this list after Latvian oligarch Aivars Lembergs was sanctioned a few days ago. The Magnitsky Act, which applies globally, authorises the US government to sanction those who are seen as human rights offenders, freeze their assets, and ban them from entering the US. Read also Alexandra Brzozowski’s story: EU ministers break ground on European ‘Magnitsky Act’.

A smear campaign against women journalists. The International Press Institute (IPI) condemned a series of online attacks on two prominent female journalists in Slovakia by MP Ľuboš Blaha (Smer–SD, PES). The lawmaker, who also chairs the EU affairs parliamentary committee, is known for his constant use of hate speech when engaging with his wide audience on Facebook. In both recent cases, Blaha ́s posts generated thousands of likes, shares and hundreds of abusive comments towards female journalists. “[Blaha’s] constant personal attacks have worsened the online abuse against journalists as well as legitimise this type of primitive discourse”, Beata Balogová, editor-in-chief of the Slovak daily SME has said, adding that she is concerned about the physical safety of her colleagues. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)

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PRAGUE

Czech tycoon’s company paid for pro-Chinese campaign. Loan company Home Credit owned by Czech tycoon Petr Kellner paid for a pro-Chinese campaign in the Czech Republic. According to Aktuálně.cz, EURACTIV.cz’s media partner, a PR agency hired by Home Credit has created a network of politicians, experts and journalists that were supposed to influence Czech society in favour of China. As Aktuálně.cz noted, not all the people involved were aware of the fact that they had become part of the network.

Documents show that Home Credit hired the PR agency C&B Reputation Management to spread positive information about China. Its task was also to attack critics of the Chinese regime. (Aneta Zachová | EURACTIV.cz)

Aneta Zachová from EURACTIV.cz has the story (in English)

Read also: Czech PM must quit, say 50,000 protesters

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SOFIA

Lowest interest in combating climate change. Bulgaria is the country with the lowest level of interest in tackling climate change and preserving the environment, oceans and biodiversity, according to a Eurobarometer Survey. Only 14% of Bulgarians (in the last place in EU) believe that the issue should be a priority of the European Parliament. (Dnevnik.bg)

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BUDAPEST

“EU is punishing us”. Speaking to Hungarian reporters after the second hearing on the state of the rule of law in Hungary in the European Union’s General Affairs Council, Justice Minister Judit Varga said the EU had been divided up into “good and bad member states”. “And certain forces are looking to punish the countries that say no to the European mainstream position,” she added. She said it had become clear that the proceedings were “being controlled from the outside” and that certain interest groups were trying to create mistrust among EU member states.

Hungarian journalists from Index and Népszava reported that the justice minister’s press conference scheduled after the hearing to which they were previously invited was in fact cancelled, and Varga only informed reporters of pro-government outlets. The Council hearing also focused on press freedom.

Read the full story here.

(Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr, Vlagyiszlav Makszimov | EURACTIV.com)

Restriction of opposition’s options in Parliament. The National Assembly passed an amendment to the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure submitted by lawmakers of governing coalition Fidesz and KDNP. The amendment was approved with 135 votes in favour, while 54 were against.

The new regulation stipulates that “Independent lawmakers and lawmakers who became independent cannot take part in the formation of parliamentary groups, and cannot join parliamentary groups.” With this amendment, Fidesz wanted to prevent opposition candidates from running independently en masse only to form their parliamentary groups once elected, as, during the municipal campaign, many opposition politicians ran as independent candidates with informal party support. More on index.hu. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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BUCHAREST

Romania’s budget deficit above EU limits for years. Romania’s new government plans to present the draft for the 2020 budget next week, and the fiscal gap will be higher than the EU maximum limit of 3% of GDP. The government sees next year’s budget deficit at 3.6% of GDP, followed by a gap of 3.34% of GDP in 2021. A few weeks ago, the centre-right Executive adopted a budget revision for 2019, which widened the deficit from the initial 2.76% to 4.4% of GDP, blaming the excesses of the previous socialist government, which was dismissed in October, following a no-confidence vote in the parliament.

Euroscepticism falls. A majority of Romanian citizens believe that the country’s EU membership is a good thing, while the number of those opposing the EU is decreasing, according to a Eurobarometer survey. About 55% of Romanians have a positive view on the EU (+1 pp compared with the June survey), while 15% of citizens now think its membership of the EU is bad for Romania (down from 19% in the previous survey). However, the support for the EU is lower than the bloc average (59%), and Euroscepticism in Romania stands above EU28 11% average. (Bogdan Neagu | EURACTIV.ro)

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ZAGREB

Strong flu attack on Croatia. Flu appeared unusually early this year, and according to the number of patients, it can be said that the epidemic is in an upward trend. To date, 270 diseases have been confirmed in the laboratory and are all type A H1N1.

Given the proven 270 cases, analysts suggest that the actual number of patients is already about 3,000. More in jutarnji.hr, partner of EURACTIV.com (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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BELGRADE

Pavlopoulos backed enlargement. Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos said Athens supported Serbia’s EU integration and wished to see the entire region as a strong pillar of the EU in SIE. At the meeting with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vučić, Pavlopoulos said he was certain that this visit would contribute to further strengthening bilateral relations and stepping up the process of Serbia’s EU integration. (EURACTIV.rs)

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[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck]

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