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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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Ukraine receives 1.5 billion euros from EU, ECB says EU banking sector remained strong amid market turmoil, French government adopts controversial pension reform
European Circle in week 12, 2023
curated by Nina von Schweinitz


Ukraine receives 1.5 billion euro tranche from EU: Ukraine received another 1.5 billion euro tranche from the EU’s 18 billion aid package, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter. „Our support helps keep Ukraine running while (it’s) defending itself,“ von der Leyen wrote. „Together, we’re writing Ukraine’s European future.“ The European Council agreed on allocating 18 billion euros of macro-financial assistance to Ukraine back in December.

  • Ukraine clinches $15.6bn IMF loan.
  • EU triggers crisis fund to bail out farmers hit by Ukraine grain influx.
  • EU seals plan to send a million artillery shells to Ukraine.
  • Bulgaria’s President says his country will not supply arms for Ukraine until after 2 April elections.
  • Russia’s Putin blasts UK move to send ammo with depleted uranium to Ukraine.

Hungary blocked joint EU statement on Putin’s arrest warrant: Hungary blocked EU member states from issuing a joint statement about an international arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to people familiar with the matter. Budapest’s veto meant that the EU’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, instead released a statement in his own name taking note of the decision by the International Criminal Court.

Big EU powers still short of NATO spending targets: The Continent’s largest economies all fell short of a common goal of spending 2% of economic output on defence, according to a NATO report published Tuesday. And across the entire military alliance, only seven out of 30 members spent at least 2% of their GDP on defence last year. Of 30 members, only Greece, Poland, the Baltic states, the United Kingdom and the United States spent more than 2% of their economic output on defence last year.

  • NATO to hold Ukraine meeting despite Hungary’s objections.
  • Stoltenberg expects Finland to join NATO quickly.
  • Swedish parliament to vote on NATO membership this Wednesday.

Putin and Xi sign new deals: Russian President Vladimir Putin said after talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Tuesday that Chinese proposals could be used as the basis of a peace settlement in Ukraine, but that the West and Kyiv were not yet ready. They signed a series of documents on a strategic cooperation after what Putin described as successful and constructive talks showing China was clearly now Russia’s most important economic partner.

EU proposes extending energy crisis measure to curb gas demand: The EU Commission on Monday proposed extending for a year an emergency measure to curb gas demand that is set to expire in order to help the continent get through next winter. Europe is emerging from winter with a more stable energy supply than was feared last year, after Russia cut off most gas supplies in the months following its invasion of Ukraine – squeezing supply and triggering record-high prices.

EU conference raises 7 billion euros for earthquake recovery in Turkey and Syria: An EU-hosted conference sought to generate funds six weeks after the 7.8-magnitude quake that killed over 55,000 people across southeastern Turkey and parts of Syria. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen kicked off the fundraising by promising one billion euros for reconstruction in Turkey and €108 million for humanitarian aid in Syria.

ECB says EU banking sector remained strong amid market turmoil: The European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde confirmed that the EU banking sector remained strong amid market turmoil in the US. The past ten days have been turbulent for EU and US markets. A number of mid-size US banks failing as a result of a downturn in the US crypto and tech sectors, followed by liquidity traps as they ran out of cash to pay back deposits from corporate clients, triggered panic across the Atlantic.

Owners of vehicles with illegal defeat devices due compensation: The owners of vehicles equipped with devices to manipulate their emissions, such as those used in the so-called Dieselgate scandal, have the right to compensation, according to the EU’s top court. The European Court of Justice ruled in favour of the plaintiff on Tuesday who brought the case against the Mercedes-Benz group.

Israeli government lifts ban on return to West Bank settlements: The Israeli parliament on Tuesday paved the way for Jewish settlers‘ return to four settlements in the occupied West Bank by amending a 2005 law that ordered their evacuation, a move condemned by the Palestinian Authority and the EU. Most world powers deem settlements built in the territory Israel seized in the 1967 war as illegal under international law and their expansion as an obstacle to peace, since they eat away at land the Palestinians claim for a future state. Washington was „extremely troubled“ by the move, deputy State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters. In its own condemnation, the EU said the Knesset decision was counter-productive to de-escalation efforts and a clear step back from a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

EU Commission wants to tighten controls at external borders: The Commission is committed to tightening controls at the EU’s external borders to make them more effective against irregular migration, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote in a letter to member states. In the letter, von der Leyen cites a wide range of Commission investments to modernise and enlarge border control procedures and increase reception capacities and returns. Some are already in place, while others are set to be negotiated.

  • EU to train Libyan coast guard ‘whenever Libyan side is ready’.

EU raids energy drink maker Red Bull in antitrust probe: The EU Commission said its teams carried out unannounced inspections Monday at the premises of a company active in the energy drinks sector in various member states. Red Bull confirmed that EU officials searched its premises. „The Commission has concerns that the inspected company may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices,“ the EU enforcer said in a statement.,

Trade: Austrian agriculture minister says ‘no’ to Mercosur deal amid industry pressure
Was he poisoned? Former Georgian president is dying
Winter is gone: But can we really say Europe’s energy crisis is over?
World Happiness Report: Finland declared happiest country for sixth time in a row
EU packaging law: Ministers demand more flexibility


“Nothing will safeguard the freedom of nations, their culture, their social, economic, political and military security better than nation states.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki laid out his vision for the future of Europe in a speech at Heidelberg University, Germany, highlighting the role of sovereign nation-states against a European federation.


French government adopts controversial pension reform: Two no-confidence votes against French President Emmanuel Macron’s government failed in the country’s parliament, clearing the way for his hugely unpopular pension reforms to be implemented and sparking new protests. Over several nights of sporadic demonstrations there have been more than 1,500 protests in cities including Marseille, Lyon, Lille and Paris – where bins were set alight – as well as ring-road blockades, docker protests, barricaded university buildings, train-track invasions at stations, refinery protests and electricity blackouts by strikers. It is uncertain what French President Emmanuel Macron will propose to calm the storm on the streets. He will appear in a TV interview this Wednesday, but Elysée insiders have already ruled out a cabinet reshuffle or a referendum.,

Engine standoff deepens as Brussels refuses to reopen green car deal: The EU Commission will only go so far to please Germany and Italy in their battle to save the combustion engine from the clutches of an EU ban. The Commission has rebuffed the German government’s ask to reopen draft legislation mandating a zero emission sales-only policy for cars and vans from 2035 — agreed by the Parliament and EU countries last year — to make room for synthetic e-fuels. Instead, it agreed to Berlin’s request to make tweaks to separate, existing legislation known as Euro 6 setting out a classification for vehicles running exclusively carbon neutral fuels such as e-fuels.

Swedish court OKs activists to sue state over climate policy: A court in Sweden allowed a group of environmental activists, including Greta Thunberg, to file a lawsuit against the Swedish state for what they say is insufficient action on the climate. The youth-led initiative Aurora, which is behind the lawsuit, said on its website that the Swedish state does not treat the climate crisis as a crisis. Last year, more than 600 people under the age of 26 signed a document as the basis for the lawsuit, saying the country has violated its citizens’ human rights with its climate policies.

  • Activists protest spending EU ‚green‘ funds on Spain ski resort.
  • EU lawmakers back heavy fines, jail sentences against green crimes.

Earth to hit critical global warming threshold by early 2030s: Earth is likely to cross a critical threshold for global warming within the next decade, and nations will need to make an immediate and drastic shift away from fossil fuels to prevent the planet from overheating dangerously beyond that level, according to a major new report released on Monday. The report, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of experts convened by the United Nations, offers the most comprehensive understanding to date of ways in which the planet is changing.

EU Commission warns of drought in southern and western Europe: The drought effects are already noticeable, for example, in the water levels of rivers or soil moisture. Starting this Wednesday, at the United Nations Water Conference in New York, the EU will be confirming its strong engagement for global water security by announcing 33 commitments for action starting now. These commitments will underpin the EU vision that by 2050, the world should be resilient to increasing water stress, providing water security for all.

Dutch bureaucrats told to remove TikTok from work phones: Dutch civil servants will soon no longer be allowed to use the Chinese-owned video app TikTok on their work phones, the Dutch Interior ministry said on Tuesday, following similar decisions by other European countries. The Dutch ministry said it discouraged on phones distributed by the government the use of all apps from countries with an aggressive cyberprogram targeted at the Netherlands or Dutch interests.

  • Italy investigates TikTok over ‚dangerous content‘.
  • Which countries have banned TikTok and why?
  • US lawmakers say TikTok is a national security threat, but evidence remains unclear.

DUP opposes new Brexit deal: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland doesn’t address the fundamental problems with the protocol it is intended to replace, the DUP has said. The unionist party has released a fresh assessment of the Windsor Framework ahead of a crunch vote in the House of Commons this Wednesday.

Boris Johnson admits he misled Commons: Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he would never have dreamed of intentionally misleading the House of Commons over Downing Street gatherings as he published a defence dossier he hopes will exonerate him from claims he lied to parliament. Johnson admitted he misled the Commons by telling MPs that strict Covid rules and guidance had been followed in No 10 at all times – but he said his comments were made in good faith.

  • London’s Metropolitan Police lets predators flourish, review concludes.
  • UK Home Secretary visits Rwanda to discuss controversial deportation scheme.

Run-off election for presidency in Montenegro: After the result of the first round, Milo Dukanovic said his 6-point lead gave him a serious advantage in the next round. While the incumbent Dukanovic remains a contender in the presidential race, the polls are predicting the vote on April 2nd could see Jakov Milatovic declared the winner.

German parties accused of breaching data protection rules: The civil rights group NOYB has filed several complaints accusing Germany’s major political parties of having violated EU data protection rules during the 2021 federal election campaign. To attract more voters, the ruling SPD and the Greens, as well as the conservative CDU, AfD, Die Linke and environmental-democratic ÖDP parties allegedly engaged in unlawful microtargeting on Facebook during the 2021 federal election campaign.

Italy: Debate flares over surrogacy, LGBT rights
French journalist and aid worker freed in Mali after years as hostages
France to keep a cautious watch on German cannabis bill
Romania wants to push euro adoption by 2026


The European Central Bank pushed ahead with a large interest rate increase last week. The ECB hiked rates by half a percentage point to 3.5%, underlining its determination to fight high inflation of 8.5%.


EU lawmaker and Orbán aide tangle via ChatGPT: Asked by EU lawmaker Daniel Freund to write a rap song about Hungarian President Viktor Orbán’s corruption, the popular chatbot slammed Orbán, with verses such as: „From football clubs to luxury castles, Orbán’s empire is built on scams and hustles.“ This prompted an angry response from Orbán’s government’s spokesperson Zoltán Kovács, who said the chatbot was “nothing more than a bullshit generator” — and went on to ask the AI software to create a rap song about Freund. But the chatbot actually praised the German MEP, labelling him a “fighter for democracy”.