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Every Wednesday, the European Circle delivers an overview of the most important topics from the European Union and the European nations.


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Europe’s worst natural disaster in a century, Moldova fears coup by Russia, EU to ban sales of new fossil fuel cars
European Circle in week 07, 2023
curated by Nina von Schweinitz


Europe’s worst natural disaster in a century: The powerful earthquakes that struck central Turkey and northwest Syria just over a week ago are the worst natural disaster in Europe for a century, said the World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe Hans Kluge. „We are still learning about its magnitude. Its true cost is not known yet,“ Kluge said. The death toll from the earthquakes rose to more than 40,000 in both countries, authorities said, even as rescue teams searched for any remaining survivors in the rubble. Syria’s government has agreed to allow the UN to use two more border crossings to deliver aid to opposition-held north-western areas devastated by the earthquakes.,,

  • Dutch cabinet in favour of relaxing visa rules for earthquake victims.

Moldova fears coup by Russia: Moldova’s President Maia Sandu has accused Russia of plotting to use foreign saboteurs to overthrow her pro-EU government. Sandu said the plot would involve protests by the so-called opposition, aiming to overthrow the constitutional order. Sandu alleged Russia was planning to use saboteurs with military background, camouflaged in civilian clothes, to undertake violent actions, attacks on state institutions and taking hostages.

  • The European Union adds Russia to its blacklist of tax havens.
  • Kyiv wants sanctions on Russia’s nuclear sector. But for the EU, the stakes are too high.

Berlusconi blames Ukraine war on Zelensky: Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi has blamed Ukraine’s president for the nearly year-old Russian invasion, again placing himself at odds with Premier Giorgia Meloni’s staunch support for Ukraine. Berlusconi is a long-time friend and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said the war in Ukraine would have never happened had Zelensky “ceased attacking the two autonomous republics of Donbass” — parts of the country that Russia has illegally annexed.

Investigative journalist says report on Nord Stream sabotage by US is untrue: US investigative journalist Bob Woodward, who uncovered the Watergate scandal, has criticised a report by his colleague Seymour Hersh on the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines. In his report, Hersh claimed that the US was responsible for the pipeline leaks last year. At an event in New York, Woodward said that some people had asked Hersh not to publish the story because it was not true. However, the 85-year-old Hersh still wanted to be a „crusader“.

Germany calls on NATO to admit Finland and Sweden: German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called on Turkey and Hungary to pave the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO, stating she expects all NATO members to ratify their bids to join the defence alliance without further delay. The accession of the two countries would strengthen the alliance as a whole and the two should join together, Baerbock told a news conference in Helsinki with her Finnish counterpart, Pekka Haavisto.

EU to ban sales of new fossil fuel cars: The European Parliament on Tuesday gave its final approval to a ban on new sales of carbon-emitting petrol and diesel cars by 2035, with a view to getting them off the continent’s roads by mid-century. Supporters of the bill had argued to that it would give European carmakers a clear timeframe in which to switch production to zero-emission electric vehicles, and spur investment to counter competition from China and the United States.

New EU satellites to protect government communications: A new network of European IRIS² telecommunication satellites will be active from 2024, following the green light by the EU Parliament on Tuesday. The new satellites will provide a secure communications infrastructure for EU government bodies and agencies, emergency services and European delegations around the world.

European allies condemn Israel’s plan to build more housing units in the West Bank: France, Germany, Italy and the UK joined the US in condemning Israel’s plans to build 10,000 more housing units in existing settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israel’s right-wing government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also set to legalise nine smaller Jewish outposts on land the Palestinians want for a future state. The joint US and European statement said the countries strongly oppose these unilateral actions which will only serve to exacerbate tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and undermine efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution.

EU Commission sets out rules for renewable hydrogen: The Commission has proposed detailed rules to define what constitutes renewable hydrogen in the EU, with the adoption of two Delegated Acts required under the Renewable Energy Directive. These Acts are part of a broad EU regulatory framework for hydrogen which includes energy infrastructure investments and state aid rules, and legislative targets for renewable hydrogen for the industry and transport sectors. They will ensure that all renewable fuels of non-biological origin (also known as RFNBOs) are produced from renewable electricity.

„New York Times“ sues EU Commission: The „New York Times“ is suing the Commission for failing to make public the text messages exchanged between Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the CEO of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Von der Leyen became embroiled in a scandal after her office was reluctant to make public the SMS texts von der Leyen exchanged with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla over the purchase of 1.8 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses.

USA: Not aliens — but a Chinese ‚high-altitude balloon programme‘ for intelligence gathering
Brexit: Deal on Northern Ireland protocol ‘could be struck next week’
Migration: Frontex registers highest number of irregular border crossings since 2016


“Through violent actions disguised as protests by the so-called opposition, the change of power in Chisinau would be forced.“

Moldova’s President Maia Sandu accused Russia of planning to use foreign saboteurs to bring down her country’s leadership, stop it from joining the EU, and instrumentalise it in the war against Ukraine.


EU corruption scandal – Cozzolino arrested while Tarabella is criminally charged: The corruption scandal rocking Brussels continues to widen. Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino has been arrested in Naples on a European warrant while MEP Marc Tarabella has been criminally charged, joining a group of four people awaiting trial. The investigation centres on an alleged cash-for-favours scheme that involved large sums of money and substantial gifts paid to influence EU decision-making, according to Belgian authorities.

  • EU Commission paid millions of euros to suspicious NGO.

Germany and Belgium to cooperate closely on energy issues with view to future climate neutrality: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said after a meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo that the past 12 months had once again impressively shown „how important it is that we work closely together in Europe, especially on energy issues.“ De Croo announced that Belgium wants to double its capacity to supply liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Germany. Work on this should begin this year.

Serbia and EU sign agreement for energy support package: 165 million euros will be used for measures defined in the Serbian government’s energy roadmap, including help for vulnerable households and small and medium-sized enterprises, subsidies to households for energy efficiency and use of renewables, reforms in the energy sector, and the introduction of renewable energy auctions.

Italy’s right-wing coalition wins landslide victory in regional elections: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her coalition allies secured emphatic election wins in the two wealthiest regions of the country on Monday, strengthening the right’s grip on power amid growing voter apathy. Less than five months after sweeping to power at the national level, the conservative bloc took more than 55% of the vote in Lombardy, home to the financial capital Milan, and around 50% in Lazio, which is centred on Rome.

Thousands of children abused by members of Portugal’s Catholic Church: At least 4,815 children were sexually abused by members of the Portuguese Catholic Church – mostly priests – over the past 70 years, a report by the commission investigating the issue said on Monday, adding the findings are the tip of the iceberg. Most perpetrators (77%) were priests and most of the victims were men. The majority of the sexual abuses took place when the children were aged 10-14, with the youngest victim being just two-years-old.

EU states to expand border protection: The countries have called on the EU Commission to immediately use funds to procure surveillance of the EU’s external borders, such as cameras, watchtowers and other equipment. In the EU, it has been disputed for some time whether fences and border fortifications should be pushed and paid for in individual member states.

London bus drivers accept 18% pay rise after series of strikes: Around 1,800 London bus drivers employed by Abellio have accepted an 18% pay increase in a long-running dispute that involved more than 20 days of strike action, their trade union Unite said on Monday. Under the deal, drivers with over two years‘ service will be paid 18 pounds ($21.75) an hour, equating to a pay increase of 18% on the basic rate, Unite said.

Hundreds of thousands protest across France against pension reform: Unlike on the three previous protest days there was no call for a day of nationwide strikes on Saturday, although air traffic controllers at Paris‘ second airport staged a surprise walkout that resulted in the cancellation of half of flights. President Emmanuel Macron and his government face a two-way fight to implement the plan to raise to pension age from 62 to 64 by overcoming resistance on the streets and also pushing the legislation through parliament.

Protest in Spain for better health care: Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards flooded the streets of Madrid on Sunday for the largest protest yet against the regional government’s management of the capital city’s health care services. Over 250,000 people rallied in the city centre, according to the central Spanish government. Organisers claimed the crowd was bigger by several hundred thousand. Many protest participants carried homemade signs with messages in Spanish like “The right to health is a human right. Defend the health service.”

Cyprus politician Christodoulides wins presidential vote: Former Cypriot foreign minister Nikos Christodoulides was elected president on Sunday in a runoff vote, promising a unity government tasked with breaking a deadlock in peace talks with estranged Turkish Cypriots. Christodoulides ran as an independent with the backing of centrist and right-of-centre parties which typically take a hard line on solving the long-running division of Cyprus.

Spain: Madrid raises minimum wage by 8% in election year
Hungary: NGOs call on EU countries to join Brussels‘ court case against Hungary’s anti-LGBT law
France calls for ‘coherence’ in sea of EU hydrogen rules


The European Commission expects the eurozone to avert a recession this year, projecting an economic expansion of 0.9% in 2023, higher than the 0.3% increase it anticipated in November.


London carnival in support of Wikileaks founder Assange: Several hundred supporters of jailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Saturday launched a carnival-themed march through central London calling for his release as he risks extradition to the United States. Costumed activists took part wearing pigs‘ heads, clowns‘ noses and orange jumpsuits and carrying a coffin and lanterns decorated with slogans calling for Assange’s release. The Australian publisher remains in custody in Britain pending a US extradition request to face trial for divulging US military secrets about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.