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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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Von der Leyen assures Africa of EU support, EU diplomat held in Iran for over 500 days, Less Russian gas in the EU
European Circle in week 36, 2023
curated by Nina von Schweinitz


Von der Leyen assures Africa of EU support: EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised that the European Union would stand by Africa at the next world climate conference in Dubai in early December. She reiterated that public funds are not enough for ecological change. The issue must therefore be how to mobilise private investment for Africa. In addition, she said, it was important to talk about a CO2 price and setting global targets for the energy transition.,

EU diplomat held in Iran for over 500 days: EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has confirmed that Johan Floderus, a Swedish citizen working for the European Union, has been held captive in Iran for over 500 days. To secure his release, the European Union’s diplomatic services have put the issue on the table relentlessly in all meetings with Iranian counterparts, Borrell said. The New York Times first reported on Floderus’s imprisonment on Monday, describing his detention as hostage diplomacy.

EU expects one million asylum applications by the end of the year: Asylum applications registered in EU countries, Norway and Switzerland surged by almost 30% during the first half of 2023, compared with the year before. Some 519,000 asylum applications were lodged in these 29 countries between January and the end of June, the EU’s Asylum Agency said. The main applications came from Syrians, Afghans, Venezuelans, Turks and Colombians, accounting for 44% of requests in total.

  • Coast Guard intercepts more than 200 migrants in the Aegean Sea – one dead.

Less Russian gas in the EU: According to estimates by Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic, the European Union will purchase only 40 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia this year – about half the usual amount. Sefcovic told German newspaper „Handelsblatt“ that the EU states needed to find new partners. However, it would be almost impossible to do without Russian gas altogether.

  • EU proposes permanent scheme for joint gas purchases.

Confusion over Russian attack on Romania: Romanian territory was not hit by Russian drones or debris in an overnight air strike on a Ukrainian port across the Danube River, Romanian Foreign Minister Luminita Odobescu said on Monday. Ukraine had previously said that during the Russian attack on the Danube port of Ismajil, drones also fell and detonated on Romanian territory.

Facebook is getting rid of the News tab in Europe: Facebook users in the UK, France and Germany will no longer see a dedicated section for news articles starting in December. Meta said that it plans to spend more time and money on short-form video, as best exemplified by its TikTok-like Reels product.

Almost 900,000 people are homeless in Europe: A new study raises the alarm about how unfit housing conditions, such as overcrowding, mould, dampness, exposure to pollution and poor sanitation, affect the poorest segments of the population, exacerbating poverty and perpetuating social exclusion.

Margrethe Vestager temporarily withdraws from EU Commission: Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s longtime antitrust czar, announced that she has gone on leave from the Commission, having been assessed as a fit candidate for the presidency of the European Investment Bank (EIB). The next EIB president will take up their role in January 2024. The choice is expected in mid-September, when EU finance ministers — who represent EIB shareholders — meet to discuss the appointment.

New Bulgarian commissioner smoothly passes grilling in EU Parliament: Iliana Ivanova, Bulgaria’s commissioner-designate for innovation, research, culture, education and youth, successfully sailed through an almost three-hour European Parliament hearing on Tuesday, winning applause from MEPs.

EU considers reopening wolves high protection status: The EU Commission has hinted it might review the high protection status of wolves on the back of increasing tension around the predator in rural areas. Wolves and other large carnivores are currently under strict protection according to the EU habitats directive, which prohibits all forms of the deliberate capture or killing of the wolf in the wild. But farmers have repeatedly warned growing populations pose a threat to farming and local communities and that their status should be reconsidered.

Council of Europe: Imprisoned Turkish publisher Osman Kavala nominated for Vaclav Havel Human Rights Award
Demand flexibility: A key challenge for EU electricity market reform
Energy: EU Commissioner Maros Sefcovic rejects industrial electricity price cap
Quarter of European bankruptcies blamed on late payments: What is the Commission doing about it?


„This summit is a crucial step to prepare the upcoming COP28 meeting and to make sure that Africa’s voice resonates around the world and that Africa’s priorities – as a continent that is most affected by climate change – are duly taken on board.“

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the first Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi on Tuesday.


Exiled former leader of Catalonia sets terms for talks on Spain’s new prime minister: Carles Puigdemont, who is wanted for attempting Catalonia’s secession from Spain, laid out tough conditions for his party’s support in parliament for the Socialist acting prime minister to stay in power following July’s election. Speaking in Brussels, Puigdemont called on Spain to respect the Catalan independence movement’s legitimacy and abandon judicial actions against it.

Heavy rain and flooding in Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece: Fierce rainstorms battered neighboring Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria on Tuesday, triggering flooding that caused at least five deaths, including two holidaymakers swept away by a torrent that raged through a campsite in northwestern Turkey. Streams overflowed their banks and swept cars into the sea in the Pilion area, while rockfalls blocked roads, a small bridge was carried away and many areas suffered electricity cuts.

Macron supports experimenting with uniforms in some schools: French President Emmanuel Macron opened the door Monday to experimenting in some public schools with uniforms or a dress code amid debate in France over a ban in classrooms on long robes worn mainly by Muslims. The new rule has prompted criticism across the country, with some arguing that the loose, body-covering garments did not constitute an ostentatious display of religion and should not be banned from classrooms.

France plans partial withdrawal of its troops from Niger: The French army is holding talks with Niger’s military over withdrawing „elements“ of its presence there following a coup, a defence ministry source said on Tuesday. The country became a crucial hub for France after coups forced the withdrawal of French troops from neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso.

Violent protests after Quran burning in Sweden: Three men have been arrested in connection with a violent riot following a Quran burning in Sweden. Unrest erupted after an Iraqi anti-Islam activist Salwan Momika set fire to a copy of the Islamic holy book on Sunday.

Poland to significantly increase its defence budget: In the coming year, Warsaw will spend around 30.6 billion euros on defence because of the war in Ukraine, President Andrzej Duda said.

  • Lithuanian President: Closure of Belarus border no longer an issue.

Thousands march in North Macedonia over claims cancer hospital staff stole drugs meant for patients: Thousands of people protested Monday outside the government headquarters in North Macedonia ‘s capital, Skopje, over allegations that patients at a state cancer hospital missed life-saving treatment because staff were stealing the expensive drugs to sell on the black market.

Northern Ireland police chief resigns amid mounting scandals: Pressure had been growing for the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Simon Byrne, to step down after a major data breach last month. In response to a freedom of information request, the names, ranks and work locations of every serving officer and civilian employee were accidentally published online, causing fear and outrage.

Diplomacy: Turkey and Greece agree on a new beginning in territorial dispute
Denmark: Russian Embassy closes consular section
Spain: Men’s soccer team condemn Rubiales‘ unacceptable behaviour that tarnished World Cup win
Belgium: Life sentences demanded for defendants in Brussels attacks
UK: Sunak denies inaction over schools concrete crisis


Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk has dethroned Bernard Arnault’s luxury goods giant LVMH as Europe’s most valuable company. Boosted by an explosion in demand for its weight-loss drugs Wegovy and Ozempic, Novo Nordisk had a market capitalisation of 428 billion dollars.


German Chancellor Olaf Scholz tweets picture of himself with eye patch: Scholz on Monday tweeted a pirate-style picture of himself with a black eye patch and dark-red bruises on the right side of his face — the result of a jogging accident on the weekend. “Am excited to see the memes,” the chancellor wrote in the caption.