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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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EU imposes sanctions for violence against women, More child poverty in Europe, Dispute over EU ban on internal combustion engines
European Circle in week 10, 2023
curated by Nina von Schweinitz


US intelligence suspects pro-Ukrainian group behind attack on Nord Stream pipelines: New intelligence reviewed by US officials suggests that a pro-Ukrainian group carried out the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines last year, the „New York Times“ reports. However, there is no evidence that the suspected perpetrators acted on the instructions of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky or other government officials. A close aide to Zelensky denied Ukraine’s involvement in the attacks. According to a joint investigation by German media, German law enforcement authorities have reconstructed how the attacks were prepared. The group placing the explosives consisted of five individuals who set sail from Rostock on 6 September 2022. Nothing is known about their nationality.,

  • EU looks to dedicate €1B to howitzer shells for Ukraine.
  • German defence minister promises permanent Bundeswehr presence in Lithuania.
  • German ambassador argues with US Senator on Twitter.
  • Switzerland’s war material exports hit record level in 2022.

German and Ukrainian police raid alleged cybercrime gang with help from FBI: German police officers raided a German citizen’s house, while Ukrainian police searched properties in the capital Kyiv and the eastern city of Kharkiv, European Union law enforcement agency Europol said. The international law enforcement operation led to arrests of suspected core members of the prolific DoppelPaymer ransomware operation. German police said DoppelPaymer had targeted at least 601 companies worldwide. German police also announced arrest warrants for three alleged DoppelPaymer operatives who appear to be from Russia.,

EU Parliament president calls on EU countries to send fighter jets to Ukraine: Roberta Metsola emphasised the importance of helping Ukraine defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty. The EU should support Ukraine and provide the necessary military equipment, she said. Latvia supported the call to deliver fighter jets to Ukraine.,

EU prepares civilian mission for Moldova: The country feels increasingly threatened following Russia’s attack on Ukraine and has asked Brussels for support. The European External Action Service (EEAS) is currently working on a crisis management concept, which is expected to be completed this month. In the concept, EEAS experts will develop proposals on the size, profile, and mandate of the planned mission, which will then have to be unanimously approved by EU governments.

EU imposes sanctions for violence against women: The EU imposed sanctions on nine people, including two Russian commanders involved in the war in Ukraine, and three organisations the bloc holds responsible for sexual violence and other violations of women’s rights. The move is the first time the EU has issued a sanctions package targeting perpetrators of sexual violence, using powers it established in 2020 to penalise human rights abusers. The sanctions also target two policemen in Moscow, two Taliban officials, and others in Myanmar and South Sudan.

EU Commission tightens rules after Qatar free travel uproar: The Commission announced that it is tightening rules that allow foreign governments or organisations to pay travel expenses for its staff, a day after the institution conceded that Qatar had provided free flights and accommodation to a top official without independent oversight. Henrik Hololei, the director general of the Commission’s transport department, flew business class for free on Qatar Airways nine times between 2015 and 2021, including six journeys during a crucial period when the EU-Qatar open skies agreement was being put together. Four of these flights were paid for by the government of Qatar or a group linked to Qatar.,

Almost 20 million children in EU countries are living in poverty: Every fourth child in Europe was affected, according to Save the Children. The increased cost of living and the COVID-19 pandemic were named as the main causes of the development. Spain and Romania scored worst with 33.4% and 41.5% of children at risk of poverty or social exclusion, respectively. Germany was slightly below the European average at 23.5%, while the risk of poverty for children was lowest in Finland (13.2%) and Denmark (14%).

Dispute over EU ban on internal combustion engines: During EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s visit to Meseberg in Germany, no agreement was reached. The topic was briefly discussed, said von der Leyen. She added that the EU Commission fully supports the principle of technology neutrality. However, this must always be balanced with climate policy goals. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that the government agreed that the EU Commission should make a proposal on how e-fuels could still be used after 2035.,

EU drugs regulator doesn’t want brothel moving in next door: Amsterdam authorities are considering relocating the city’s red light district to the same neighbourhood as the European Medicines Agency. The EMA is very concerned that this will create safety, security and nuisance issues for its staff as well as visitors, said a spokesperson in a written response to a request for comment. The spokesperson cited concerns over drug dealing, drunkenness and disorderly behaviour.

EU invests 816 million euros in ocean protection: The EU is confirming its strong engagement for international ocean governance by announcing 39 commitments for action for the year 2023. These actions will be funded by 816.5 million euros. The EU’s commitments include, for example, around 320 million euros for ocean research to protect marine biodiversity and address the impacts of climate change on the ocean, and 126 million euros to protect biodiversity and fight climate change in Benin, Guyana, and Tanzania.

Teachers protest over suspected Iran schoolgirl poisonings: Iranian teachers protested Tuesday over suspected poisonings targeting schoolgirls, as a prominent lawmaker and an activist group put the number of those reporting symptoms into the thousands across hundreds of schools. Meanwhile, prosecutors started filing criminal charges against journalists, activists and others over their comments on the still-unsolved incidents that began in November. Officials also again announced arrests of unnamed suspects over the occurrences, with little detail, after withdrawing similar earlier claims.

Twitter: EU tells Elon Musk to hire more staff to moderate Twitter
Less reliance on China: EU Commission to boost production of solar panels
Western Balkans: EU and US want to solve conflict between Kosovo and Serbia
EU revolution: Seniors over the age of 70 will have to prove that they can still drive a car


“Consumers have a right to understand what they agree to and what that choice entails concretely, so that they can decide whether they want to continue using the platform.“

The European Commissioner for justice and consumer protection Didier Reynders comments on the decision by WhatsApp to agree to a series of commitments to settle an EU consumer probe over how it pushes out updates to its terms of services.


Greek authorities were warned over railway safety prior to deadly crash: At least 57 people were killed when a Greek passenger train collided head-on with a freight train late last week, derailing carriages which then burst into flames in the country’s deadliest rail crash in living memory. A 59-year-old station master in Larissa has been charged with manslaughter by negligence. He has admitted to having a share of responsibility in the accident. A government minister said austerity during Greece’s economic crisis in the 2000s had contributed to a lack of investment in the railways. Rail workers held a one-day strike on Thursday following the disaster, blaming government neglect. The EU agency responsible for rail safety warned the Greek authorities on multiple occasions over the past few years, according to the head of the organisation.,,

UK reveals plan to stop asylum-seekers in small boats: The British government has announced a new law barring the entry of asylum-seekers who cross the English Channel in small boats. UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the legislation pushed the boundary of international law. The legislation means that most people who arrive on small vessels, rather than by official means, will not be allowed to claim asylum in Britain. Instead, they could be detained without bail or judicial review for 28 days before being deported, either to their home country or a safe third country. The opposition Labour Party accused the government of ramping up the rhetoric on refugees while failing to solve the deeply damaging chaos in Britain’s asylum system.

Italy rejects any blame for deadly migrant shipwreck: Italy’s interior minister strongly rejected claims that government policies to discourage illegal migration played a role in a shipwreck off the nation’s southern coast in which at least 72 people died. Minister Matteo Piantedosi said assertions that rescues were supposedly conditioned or even impeded by the government constituted a grave falsehood. “The Frontex asset (aircraft) didn’t pick up on nor did it signal a situation of distress,” Piantedosi said. He added that no calls for help or distress signals came from the vessel itself.

  • Child identified after shipwreck in Italy: Akef was only 5 years old.
  • EU calls for dignified treatment of migrants after assaults and verbal attacks in Tunisia.

Hundreds of thousands protest pension reform in France: Mass strikes left thousands without electricity and disrupted schools, airports and trains as the country’s biggest union CGT urged people to bring France to a halt. Police said an estimated 1.28 million people took part in the protests across France on Tuesday, including 81,000 in Paris. Oil refineries across France were blockaded by workers taking part in the strike. France has endured a series of strikes this year, as workers rail against President Emmanuel Macron’s planned pension reforms. The reforms will gradually increase the age at which most French citizens can draw a state pension to 64, from 62.

Boris Johnson criticises deal between London and Brussels on new Brexit rules: The former British prime minister criticised current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s new post-Brexit deal with the EU for Northern Ireland, saying Sunak had allowed the bloc to retain too much influence in the UK. Sunak struck a new deal on Monday to ease trade restrictions in the British-run province, partially unwinding an earlier arrangement by Johnson that introduced checks and paperwork on goods arriving from the rest of Britain. „I’m going to find it very difficult to vote for something like this myself because I believe that we should have done something different,“ Johnson said, breaking his silence on the agreement in a speech at the Global Soft Power Summit 2023.

  • Keir Starmer brands Boris Johnson desperate over Sue Gray Partygate inquiry.
  • Michelle Donelan: ChatGPT robot could play role in government.
  • London rejects talks on Falkland Islands.
  • Government adviser on British supermarket crisis: „This is going to get worse.“

Estonia’s pro-Ukraine prime minister Kallas wins reelection: The centre-right Reform Party of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, one of Europe’s most outspoken supporters of Ukraine, overwhelmingly won the Baltic country’s general election, while a far-right populist challenger lost seats in a vote that focused on national security and the economy. “This result, which is not final yet, will give us a strong mandate to put together a good government,” Kallas told her party colleagues and jubilant supporters at a hotel in the capital, Tallinn.

Spain’s controversial consent law is reformed: Following a heated debate, the lower house of parliament approved a proposal by the left-wing government to initiate the reform process. The „Only Yes Means Yes“ law, which unexpectedly led to the early release of over 70 sex offenders, triggered a severe crisis within the coalition nine months before the parliamentary elections. As a result, the conservative opposition is now ahead in the polls.

  • Spain seeks right to stop Ferrovial from moving to the Netherlands.

Spain demands US clean up after plutonium accident: Nearly 60 years after a midair collision dumped four US hydrogen bombs in south-eastern Spain, strewing radioactive plutonium across the landscape, Spanish officials have renewed efforts to have Washington cart off tens of thousands of cubic metres of contaminated soil to the US for storage.

Thousands protest Georgian foreign agent bill: Protesters have clashed with police in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, after parliament backed a controversial draft law which critics say limits press freedom and suppresses civil society. Riot police used water cannon and pepper spray to disperse the crowds outside the parliament building. There has been widespread international condemnation of the bill, which would require non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and independent media who receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad to declare themselves as foreign agents.

UK: Former minister’s texts lift the veil on UK covid policy – it isn’t pretty
Denmark: Defence ministry bans TikTok on employee work phones
Something in the water? Finnish economy minister denies being drunk at work
Slovenia: Prime minister under pressure as government faces motion of no-confidence


The European gas price has reached its lowest level in over a year and a half. At the beginning of the week, the price for the benchmark TTF futures contract for delivery in one month fell to 42.50 euros per megawatt-hour. The last time European natural gas was cheaper was in August 2021.


Jeff Bezos‘ luxury yacht finally sets sail: The superyacht is so large that there were plans to temporarily dismantle the Koningshaven bridge in Rotterdam because the 130-foot steel structure wouldn’t allow the vessel and its 229-foot masts to pass through. But the plans sparked outrage among many citizens in the Netherlands. The main pillars of the bridge have been standing since 1878, and many citizens did not see why the structure should give way for Jeff Bezos‘ luxury toy.