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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 considers exemptions to push through Russian oil embargo, Apple hit with EU antitrust charge, Spanish PM’s mobile phone infected by Pegasus malware
European Circle in week 18, 2022
curated by Nina von Schweinitz

EUROPE

EU considers exemptions to push through Russian oil embargo: The European Union is closing in on a new round of sanctions against Moscow that will likely include an embargo on Russian oil imports. The EU Commission is expected to put forward a proposal on new oil sanctions this Wednesday. However, Slovakia and Hungary want exemptions. Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Tuesday his country would not support sanctions that would make it impossible to receive oil from Russia, Reuters reported. cnbc.com

Finland and Sweden can count on German support if they seek NATO access: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday that Germany would support Finland and Sweden if they decided to join NATO. Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and her Finnish counterpart, Sanna Marin, both said Russia’s attack had forced their countries to rethink the question of NATO membership. dw.com

  • NATO announces nomination of US General Cavoli as Supreme Allied Commander Europe nato.int
  • Putin tells French President Macron West should stop sending arms bbc.com
  • ‚Ukraine will be free,‘ British PM Johnson tells country’s parliament theguardian.com
  • Pope says he wants to go to Moscow to meet Putin over Ukraine reuters.com
  • Hungary shrugs off Ukrainian allegations it was warned of the war by Kremlin euractiv.com

Apple hit with EU antitrust charge over mobile payments technology: Apple faces a possible hefty fine and may have to open its mobile payment system to competitors after EU antitrust regulators charged the iPhone maker with restricting rivals‘ access to its technology used for mobile wallets. The EU Commission said on Monday it had sent a charge sheet known as a statement of objections to Apple, detailing how the company had abused its dominant position in markets for mobile wallets on iOS devices. reuters.com

Head of EU border agency Frontex resigns amid criticisms: The head of the EU border agency Frontex has resigned after being investigated by the union’s anti-fraud agency, amid numerous reports of its complicity in illegal pushbacks of asylum seekers. Fabrice Leggeri, who has been criticised by the European parliament for failure to protect the human rights of people seeking asylum in the EU, announced his resignation shortly before Frontex’s management board were to decide whether to take disciplinary action against him. theguardian.com

European Parliament agrees position on EU election law overhaul: The EU Parliament adopted its position on a major reform of EU electoral law that would introduce bloc-wide transnational lists, following a compromise between the largest EU parties in March. The parliament’s proposal would mean that each voter would have two votes: one to elect MEPs in national constituencies, and one in an EU-wide constituency, composed of 28 additional seats. euractiv.com

EU Commission wants to network health data across Europe: The Commission wants to make health data easier to access by 2025 for patients, medics, regulators and researchers in a bid to improve diagnoses, cut unnecessary costs from duplication of medical tests and boost medicine research. „Sharing data will save lives,“ EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said, underlining that easier access to health data would also greatly help patients by improving diagnoses. Data generated from patients‘ health records and wellness apps would be pooled in compatible formats and made accessible to patients, regulators and researchers under strict rules to protect privacy. reuters.com

European Central Bank: Executive board member Schnabel says rate hike to tame inflation may come in July bloomberg.com
Study: Europe falls further behind in digitisation welt.de
Future of Europe: Conference Plenary ambitious proposals point to Treaty review europarl.europa.eu

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

„Broadcasters in the EU and the member states must not allow incitement to violence, hatred and Russian propaganda in their talk shows, as foreseen by the EU directive.“

The EU Commission digital spokesman Johannes Bahrke warned European media not to give airtime or importance to Russian propaganda following a contentious interview with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Italian media. euractiv.com

NATION

Spanish PM’s mobile phone infected by Pegasus malware: The cellphones of Spain’s prime minister and defence minister were infected last year with Pegasus spyware, which is available only to countries‘ government agencies, authorities announced Monday. The breaches, which resulted in a significant amount of data being obtained, were not authorised by a Spanish judge, which is a legal requirement for national covert operations, Cabinet Minister Félix Bolaños said. Before Monday’s announcement, the government was already under pressure to explain why the cellphones of dozens of people connected to the separatist movement in the northeastern Catalonia region were infected with Pegasus between 2017 and 2020. france24.com

French Greens and Left form alliance ahead of parliamentary elections: The French Greens and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s left wing party struck a deal on Monday to challenge Emmanuel Macron in June’s parliamentary election. Both parties pledged not to compete with one another when they face France’s newly elected President on 12 and 19 June. The environmental party will field candidates in 100 districts where Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party is not running. The aims of the green-left coalition include lowering the retirement age to 60, raising the minimum wage and capping prices on essential products. euronews.com

Mali junta breaks off from defence accords with France: Mali’s ruling junta announced on Monday it was breaking off from its defence accords with former colonial ruler France, condemning “flagrant violations” of its national sovereignty by the French troops there. The announcement – threatened several times over the past few weeks – was the latest confirmation of deteriorating relations between the junta in Mali and France. france24.com

Greece, Bulgaria say new LNG terminal will help cut reliance on Russia: Greece and Bulgaria said on Tuesday a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility to be built off the northern Greek port of Alexandroupolis would help create a new gas route for Europe and cut reliance on Russian gas. Greece has been supplying Bulgaria with gas since it was cut off by Russia. Greece has one LNG terminal off Athens. With the new Alexandroupolis terminal and other projects in the pipeline, it could triple its regasification capacity by the end of 2023, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said. reuters.com

Alleged ‚Sexist of the Year‘ award at Downing Street event: Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has written to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanding answers over reports that a ‚Sexist of the Year‘ award was handed out at a lockdown-busting Christmas party in Number 10. „You have claimed on the record this week that there is ’no place‘ for sexism in politics, and yet there are now serious and credible allegations in the Sunday Times that sexist behaviour has not only taken place in your own office but has been celebrated and rewarded,“ the letter states. news.sky.com

Dozens of people detained at anti-government demonstration in Armenia: Police in Armenia have detained at least 180 demonstrators who had blocked the streets of Yerevan to protest against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Anti-government protests demanding that Pashinyan step down reignited in Armenia last month after he expressed the need to sign a peace agreement with Azerbaijan. euronews.com

Tensions with regional rival Morocco: Algeria threatens to cut gas contract with Spain euractiv.com
Italy approves 14 billion euros of stimulus measures as growth outlook weakens reuters.com
Nazi war crimes: Germany takes Italy to court over Nazi reparations dw.com
Austria pays a repair bonus faz.net
Elections in Northern Ireland this Thursday: Sinn Fein could see landmark win washingtonpost.com

NUMERS

The number of press freedom alerts among Council of Europe member states soared by 41% during 2021 and should be a wake-up call for Europe, according to a newly released annual report. euractiv.com

AT LEAST

Queen’s guards fall for fake priest: An investigation into an “extraordinary breach of security” is under way after an intruder pretending to be a priest reportedly spent the night eating and drinking with soldiers at a barracks close to Windsor Castle. Police were alerted to reports of an intruder at Victoria Barracks on Sheet Street, Windsor on Wednesday, while the Queen was at Sandringham for Easter. theguardian.com