Self-determination ‘key’ to lock or unlock Spanish government talks

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  • Euractiv.com

28.11.2019.

Euractiv.com

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Before you start reading today’s edition of the Capitals, feel free to have a look at our Special Report on medical cannabis as well as why Paris, Berlin are divided over nuclear’s recognition as green energy.

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MADRID. Catalan separatists of ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia) and Spain’s socialist party (PSOE) are starting complex negotiations today (28 November) to solve the current political deadlock in the country, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported. PSOE needs at least the abstention of ERC to facilitate the investiture of Sánchez as the new PM, and the formation of a coalition executive between the PSOE and leftist Unidas Podemos (United We Can).

However, ERC’s leaders won’t give a blank cheque to the socialists and want instead to seize the opportunity of a weakened PSOE (it won the November elections but lost three seats compared with the April 28 election) to press Sánchez into giving more concessions from the Madrid central executive.

Negotiations will be harsh. ERC wants a “negotiating table among equals” to discuss, among other topics, the right of “self-determination” of that prosperous Spanish region. This is, however, considered “a red line” not only for PSOE but also for other parties that defend a united Spain and the principles set forth in the Spanish Constitution of 1978, among them the centre-right Popular Party, the liberal-centrist of Citizens and far-right Vox (the third force in the Spanish parliament).

On the self-determination issue, Spain’s acting deputy PM, Carmen Calvo, said on Wednesday that this would be excluded from any negotiations with ERC, as self-determination is not foreseen in the country’s Constitution. (EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)

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BERLIN

New debts are “absurd”. During the budget debate at the Bundestag on Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the government’s no-debt policy: “I’m surprised that this House always talks so derogatorily about a balanced budget,” she told the members of parliament. “We have never had such high investments in the budget before. One cannot find investments only good if they cause debts,” she said.

Merkel opposed calls from opposition parties Die Linke and the Greens, which demand higher investments in climate protection and the social sector and also want to finance these through new debts. Merkel countered that a “decent budget” must focus on investments without new debts – “everything else is absurd”.(Claire Stam | EURACTIV.de)

Read also: 40,000 farmers on tractors block Berlin in protest at new agricultural policy

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PARIS

Massive strikes in December. France is slowly preparing for major strikes, which will take place on 5 December. The rail company SNCF has closed the sale of train tickets until 8 December, and airport control operators have also called for a strike in light of the government pension system reform plans. France’s official retirement age is 62, but it has more than 40 different pension systems, with some allowing workers to retire in their mid-to-late fifties, or even in their early fifties for Paris subway conductors.

The government hopes to unify the pension system to make it fairer and less costly. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said workers would be able to hang on to “acquired rights” but said that the government is determined to end special pension regimes. However, he added that he would be open to delaying the application date. (EURACTIV.fr/ Reuters)

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LONDON

The biotechnology dilemma. The question of whether the UK will open its doors to GMOs after Brexit has become more pertinent after EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told MEPs on Tuesday (26 November) that in order to secure a trade agreement, the UK would have to agree to maintain a ‘level playing field’ and not undercut EU regulation. EURACTIV’s Natasha Foote has the story.

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ROME

ESM spat. Opposition lawmakers have accused the government for having sold out the country in the talks for overhauling the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). Lega’s Claudio Borghi, who also chairs Italy’s lower house budget committee, wants to take Italy’s PM Giuseppe Conte to court, as according to him, the Parliament’s prerogative in the field of international treaties has been bypassed.

For Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri, the criticism raised by right-wing Lega on the reform of the eurozone bailout fund is a mere pretext to attack the executive. “Concerns about the ESM are based on inaccurate and incorrect information,” he said. (Gerardo Fortuna | EURACTIV.com)

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ATHENS

Denmark to the EU Court. The European Commission referred Denmark to the European Court of Justice on Wednesday (27 November) of the EU for exporting white cheese to non-EU countries after labelling it as “feta”, the characteristic and Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) cheese of Greece. Athens-Macedonian news agency has the story.

Read also: Danish illegal ‘feta’ cheese exports face EU probe

WARSAW

The most trusted ones. According to the latest poll by CBOS, 68% of respondents trust president Andrzej Duda, the highest number of any politician in Poland. PM Mateusz Morawiecki is second (60%) and Jarosław Kaczyński third (46%). The opposition leader Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz comes fifth with 41%. (Łukasz Gadzała | EURACTIV.pl)

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BRATISLAVA

ECB warns Slovakia against plans to increase bank levy. A draft law recently announced by former PM and leader of SMER-SD Robert Fico doubles the bank levy’s rate from 0.2% to 0.4% of each bank’s liabilities. “While the draft law would maintain the designated primarily financial stability purpose of the proceeds of the bank levy, it could have unintended and material adverse consequences on financial stability,” the European central bank wrote in its opinion.

ECB recommends the legislative proposal to be “accompanied by a robust impact assessment detailing the net benefits of the proposed changes”. The Slovak Ministry of Finance asked the ECB for its opinion just a day before the draft law was passed in the government (6 November). The decision now lies in the hands of the parliament. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)

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PRAGUE

Boycotting refugee quotas. The Czech Republic will oppose any EU asylum policy proposal introducing obligatory relocations of migrants. “We will coordinate our stance with our Visegrad partners,” Interior Minister Jan Hamáček (S&D) and Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (RE) told the Czech News Agency in response to a new German proposal to change the EU’s asylum policy.

The unofficial document is now circulating among EU member states, and according to Hamáček, it does not explicitly mention the quota system but suggests similar measures. (Aneta Zachová | EURACTIV.cz)

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SOFIA

Judicial reforms again. In a meeting on Wednesday (27 November) with the ambassadors of EU member states, as well as Switzerland and Norway, the Bulgarian President, Rumen Radev, said that the effective fight against high-level corruption, increasing the security of the citizens, quality changes in healthcare and education are obligatory to overcome the negative demographic trends in Bulgaria.

As a common European challenge, the President highlighted the trend of increasing numbers of migrants in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans. Radev called for a common European approach on this issue, financial support for countries at the European external borders and timely support from Frontex.

Regarding the Western Balkan countries, he said Bulgaria expects the future enlargement to be based on the real fulfilment of the membership criteria, as well as on decisive progress in building good neighbourly relations in the Balkans. (Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)

>>Read also the op-ed: Harnessing the potential of French proposals for the benefit of Western Balkans

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BUDAPEST

Hungary cooperates with the Chinese bank. Hungary is tightening its financial ties with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Finance Minister Mihály Varga said after signing a strategic cooperation agreement. The document states that the ICBC is ready to actively cooperate in renminbi bond issues and support cross-border renminbi business relations, payment transactions and the financing of infrastructure projects.

ICBC will be prepared to develop links with Hungarian banks interested in artificial intelligence, cloud-based services and other digital developments. The bank will also consider the opening of a Budapest branch to simplify Hungarian-Chinese transactions and support projects under the arrangements of the Belt and Road Initiative. (Željko Trkanjec |EURACTIV.hr)

Hungary pulls out of Eurovision. Hungary will not participate in next year’s Eurovision song contest. No official reason was given for the decision, but there are speculations that Eurovision became “too gay” for leading Hungarian politicians, especially PM Viktor Orbán. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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LJUBLJANA

Radioactive waste sent to the US. Slovenian company Cinkarna from Celje, one of the largest industrial pollutants in the country, announced that it had successfully resolved the long-standing problem of disposal of radioactive material generated in the process of titanium dioxide production and, with the assistance of the Slovenian Agency for Radioactive Waste and the US License authorities, will send it to the US state of Idaho. The cost of this operation remains secret. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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ZAGREB

EU needs to adjust to new technology for its security. “New technology including artificial intelligence, 5G networks and other technological innovations are a huge challenge to defence systems in the entire world,” said Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović.

Speaking at a conference organised by the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Croatia and Jutarnji list, partner of EURACTIV.com, Grabar-Kitarović added that they also represent an opportunity for economic development and conquering the markets that have so far been inaccessible.

Daniel Fiott, Editor-in-Chief for Security and Defense at the EUISS-EUISS Institute for Security Studies, explained the geopolitical uncertainty the EU currently finds itself in, and how it could adjust to new challenges. The great concern in the EU is the incompatibility of new technologies and artificial intelligence that are being developed in China and Europe.

“The defence is not just about crisis management anymore, it’s about how to protect citizens from new threats like cyber threats,” said Fiott, highlighting that future close EU-NATO cooperation will be crucial because of the new challenges. Read more (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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BELGRADE

The new Commission. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has congratulated the members of the new EU executive expressing his satisfaction about statements backing strong relations and cooperation with the Western Balkans because a European prospect incited reforms in Serbia. He also said that the new EU officials “respond to challenges with new ideas.” (EURACTIV.rs)

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SARAJEVO

Environmental associations against small hydropower plants. The construction of thousands of new small hydropower plants in the Western Balkans is threatening to devastate the environment in the region’s states and destruct endemic plant and animal species that live there, representatives of regional environmental associations have warned in Sarajevo. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck]

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