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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 to open humanitarian air corridor to Gaza, EU Parliament backs Ukraine aid, Belgian police kill suspect after attack in Brussels
European Circle in week 42, 2023
curated by Nina von Schweinitz


EU to open humanitarian air corridor to Gaza through Egypt: The European Union will launch a humanitarian air corridor to Gaza through Egypt with the first two flights expected this week. The flights will take cargo from Unicef, the United Nations’ children’s fund, to humanitarian organisations on the ground. The material will include shelter items, medicines and hygiene kits, the EU Commission said. A push by the US and Egypt to open Gaza’s border crossing with Egypt stumbled Monday, delaying the evacuation of Americans and other foreigners stranded by the Israeli military’s siege and the delivery of urgent humanitarian aid to the Palestinian enclave.,

  • European Council President Charles Michel: “A total siege, when you cut basic infrastructure, when you cut access to water, when you cut electricity, when you don’t allow food to enter: this is not in line with international law.“
  • Dutch government pledges 10 million euros in extra aid to Gaza.
  • Britain increases aid to Palestinians by 10 mln pounds.
  • Over 70 MEPs call for the resignation of Commissioner Várhelyi after fiasco over Palestinian aid.

Israel and Hamas blame each other for attack on hospital: Gaza authorities said an Israeli air strike on Tuesday killed about 500 people at a hospital in the Palestinian enclave, but Israel said a Palestinian barrage had caused the blast. The Palestinian Authority’s health minister Mai Alkaila accused Israel of a massacre. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said terrorists in Gaza had attacked the hospital, not Israel’s military. News of the hospital strike and high death toll prompted condemnation from many countries. Russia and the United Arab Emirates demanded a UN Security Council meeting and clashes erupted in the West Bank. US President Joe Biden’s summit in Jordan to meet with King Abdullah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has been cancelled.,

  • With its blockade of Gaza and evacuation order, Israel may have been guilty of forcibly displacing civilians, breaking international human rights law, according to the UN human rights office in Geneva.
  • London in talks with Israel on water supply for Gaza.
  • Progress in negotiations to release hostages, says French President Macron.
  • Iran says ‚preemptive action‘ by resistance front expected in coming hours, Israel would not be allowed to take any action in the Gaza Strip without facing consequences.
  • Russia warns Israel against ground offensive in Gaza.
  • Ukraine accuses Russia of training Hamas terrorists.

EU launches investigation against X over Hamas content: The EU Commission has formally opened an investigation into X (formerly Twitter) after a previous warning about disinformation and illegal content on its platform linked to the Israel-Hamas war. The platform was given 24 hours by the EU earlier this week to address illegal content and disinformation regarding the conflict or face penalties under the bloc’s recently enacted Digital Services Act. Meanwhile, X says it has removed hundreds of Hamas-affiliated accounts and taken down thousands of posts since the attack on Israel by the Palestinian militant group.

German chancellor reiterates German responsibility for Israel’s security: During a visit to Tel Aviv, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz emphasised Israel’s right to defend itself. Every state is allowed to protect its people, Scholz said in a joint press conference with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He strongly condemned the Hamas attacks and said Germany had a historic responsibility to stand up for Israel’s existence and security. He also spoke with Netanyahu about humanitarian aid for the civilian population in Gaza. Netanyahu called the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel the worst crime against Jews since the Holocaust.,

  • Scholz warned foreign actors against intervening in the conflict.

Spain and Israel settle dispute over criticism of Gaza offensive: Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares announced that the two countries had settled their dispute. He said that he and the Israeli ambassador had concluded in a joint conversation that the two would work together to keep the friendship between Israel and Spain as it has been. Criticism by members of the Spanish government of Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip had previously sparked condemnation from Israel.

EU Parliament backs Ukraine aid worth 50 billion euros: The parliament endorsed a proposal for a €50 billion facility to support Ukraine’s recovery, reconstruction and modernisation from 2024. The EU lawmakers strengthened the provisions on the fight against fraud, corruption, conflicts of interest and irregularities in the use of EU funds in Ukraine. One of the lawmakers‘ key demands is that assets from the Russian Federation or other entities or individuals directly connected with Russia’s war of aggression be used to reconstruct Ukraine.

Ukraine reports heavy blow against Russian air forces: Ukrainian special forces early on Tuesday struck two Russian military airfields, saying they successfully destroyed nine Russian military helicopters, an anti-aircraft missile system, and an ammunition warehouse. In an unusually early statement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Ukrainian forces for the successful attack and nodded to effective Western weapons. Zelensky also confirmed that Ukraine has used US-supplied long-range missiles for the first time.,

  • UN concerned about slowdown in aid for Ukrainian refugees.
  • Zelensky expects early EU accession talks with Ukraine.

China praises Hungary for participation in the New Silk Road: More than 4,000 delegates from 130 countries are meeting in Beijing for the two-day Silk Road Summit. On the agenda are economic investments under the umbrella of China’s major geopolitical project. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban is the only EU head of state attending the summit and met China’s President Xi Jinping, who praised him as a friend. Orban also met with Russian President Wladimir Putin, who said it was satisfying that Russia continued to maintain relations with many European countries – one of which was Hungary. Orban described his meeting with Putin as difficult. He said Hungary’s main concern was to prevent a mass exodus and to end the fighting as well as the sanctions against Moscow.,

Tunisia refunds 60 million euros in EU aid: The Tunisian government sent back the money that was released the previous week, the EU Commission confirmed last Thursday. The grants, which come from a previous COVID-19 recovery programme, were designed as budget support and were directly transferred to the bank account of the Tunisian treasury. This was supposed to be the first disbursement of a larger 127 million euro tranche that also includes money earmarked under the EU-Tunisia memorandum of understanding signed in July. But Tunisian President Kais Saied dismissed the EU’s financial offer, saying it was derisory and contrary to the agreement.

EU extends Iran sanctions for violating nuclear pact: This means that individuals and entities involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes remain subject to sanctions in the EU. Sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards and a ban on trade in arms and missiles also remain in effect.

EU countries agree on joint stance for COP28 climate summit: The EU countries support the goal to triple global renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency improvements by 2030. The EU will also push for a predominantly fossil-free global energy sector well before 2050 and strive to reach a fully or predominantly decarbonised power system in the 2030s.

EU countries break deadlock on power market subsidies: The agreement between EU energy ministers defuses a stand-off between France and Germany over the future competitiveness of industrial sectors. The deal struck on Tuesday focuses on a section of the law spelling out how state aid can be used to support power projects. The new rules seek to shift to longer term, fixed-price contracts to protect consumers from volatile energy markets.

EU countries do not agree on extending glyphosate approval: European Union governments failed on Friday to give a decisive opinion on a proposal to extend by ten years the EU approval for the use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Bayer AG’s Roundup weedkiller. The World Health Organization’s cancer research agency concluded in 2015 that glyphosate was probably carcinogenic to humans.

EU states want lower CO₂ emissions from trucks and buses: European Union countries backed tougher CO2 emissions targets for heavy goods vehicles on Monday, requiring new trucks to slash their emissions by 90% by 2040. A proposed law would also require new trucks sold in the EU to have 45% less CO2 emissions by 2030 and 65% by 2035, compared with 2019 levels. EU countries will now debate the proposed law with the EU Parliament.

EU to crack down further on microplastics: The EU has announced further plans to crack down on microplastics after its ban on glitter came into force. Currently, between 52 and 184 thousand tonnes of pellets are released in the environment each year due to mishandling throughout the entire supply chain. The EU Commission’s proposal aims to ensure that all operators handling pellets in the EU take the necessary precautionary measures.,

  • Pharmaceutical companies to ensure cleaner water in Europe.

EU Parliament approves new EU fisheries control rules: Under the new rules, all boats will need to carry on board a tracking device enabling national authorities to locate and identify them at regular intervals. Certain small-scale vessels may be exempted from this obligation until 2030 and all small-scale fishing fleets will get up to four years to adapt to these new requirements.

EU Commission’s microtargeting under scrutiny: The European Commission’s use of microtargeting techniques to promote its law to prevent the dissemination of child sexual abuse material is under investigation over concerns it might have violated the EU data protection and privacy rules.

EU wants to eradicate Polio: The EU, European Investment Bank (EIB), and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation aim to contribute funding for global polio eradication. Half of the package – some €500 million – will be dedicated to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), including the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF’s efforts to eradicate polio.

Xinjiang: European Parliament wants import ban on goods from forced labour
Tax havens: EU adds Belize, Seychelles, Antigua and Barbuda to tax havens list
Green power: Europe’s biggest battery starts up in England using Tesla cells
Military drills: EU tests its crisis response force, for the first time
Report: EU Parliament gets ready to shake up internal committee structure
Frontex: Nearly 280,000 irregular border crossings detected in first nine months of 2023


„There is no contradiction in standing by Israel and also caring about the humanitarian needs of the Palestinians.“

That is why the EU will increase its funding for humanitarian aid and try to set up an airlift to deliver relief supplies to Gaza, said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.


Belgian police kill suspect after attack in Brussels: A gunman suspected of killing two Swedish nationals in a terrorist attack has died after being shot by police, bringing an end to an overnight manhunt. A spokesman for the Swedish Migration Agency said the suspected gunman lived in Sweden from 2012-2014 and spent part of that time in prison before being sent to another EU country under the Dublin rules. Investigators are still trying to determine the motive for Monday night’s attack, which happened not far from where Belgium’s men’s soccer team was hosting Sweden in a European Championships qualifier. The match was suspended at halftime and the more than 35,000 fans were kept inside the stadium as a precaution while the attacker was at large.,

Teacher is killed in knife attack at school in France: The French government raised its terrorist threat alert to the highest level on Friday after a knife-wielding man killed a teacher and injured three other people at a school in northern France in what officials described as an Islamist terror attack. The suspect, identified by prosecutors as Mohamed M., who has been arrested, was a former student of the Lycee Gambetta high school where the attack happened, a police source said.,

Palace of Versailles reopened after bomb threat: The Palace of Versailles was briefly evacuated for the second time in days after a bomb threat on Tuesday. After a few hours the palace was reopened and a security cordon lifted. On Saturday, one day after a teacher in France was killed, bomb alerts that proved false forced the evacuation of the Louvre museum, the Palace of Versailles and Paris‘ Gare de Lyon train station.,

  • France increases security measures before soccer match against Scotland.

Poland’s Tusk calls for quick decision on appointing government: President Andrzej Duda should move swiftly to allow the formation of a new government, Donald Tusk, leader of the Civic Coalition (KO), said after official election results showed his liberal pro-EU party and its allies winning a majority. A KO-led government would mark a massive shift in Poland after eight years of conflict between the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party and the EU over the rule of law, media freedom, minority rights and migration.

Norway’s foreign minister removed from office amid stock market scandal: Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt was dismissed Monday by Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, after it was revealed that her husband had been making financial deals that could have affected her ministerial duties. In August, Huitfeldt herself announced that her husband, Ola Petter Flem, had traded the shares of companies that could have been affected by her decisions as foreign minister — including arms manufacturer Kongsberg Gruppen, in which the Norwegian state is a majority shareholder.

European socialists suspend Robert Fico’s Smer party and its ally Hlas: The Party of European Socialists have suspended both Robert Fico’s election-winning Smer (Direction) party and Peter Pellegrini’s Hlas (Voice) party, which on Wednesday announced they’d formed a government in Slovakia. “This step has been taken following the clear divergence from the values of the PES family demonstrated by Smer-SD leader Robert Fico. And additionally, as a result of concerns raised following the announcement of a government coalition between Smer-SD, Hlas-SD and a radical-right party,” said a press release.

Italy takes Austria to court in dispute over Brenner pass: Italy on Monday cited Austria to the European Court of Justice over its restrictions on heavy goods traffic at the Brenner Pass in the first such move by one EU country against another.

Sweden says telecom cable with Estonia damaged: A Baltic Sea telecom cable connecting Sweden and Estonia was damaged at roughly the same time as a Finnish-Estonian pipeline and cable were earlier this month, but remains operational, Sweden’s civil defence minister said on Tuesday. Separately, Finnish investigators said they had identified vessels operating in the area where the damage to the pipeline and cable occurred on 8 October, naming two of them, a Russian-flagged ship and a Chinese-owned vessel.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg arrested at London protest: Thunberg had taken part in the “Oily Money Out” protest organised by Fossil Free London and Greenpeace outside the InterContinental London Park Lane hotel. The demonstration was held on the first day of the Energy Intelligence Forum, a three-day gathering of major oil and gas executives, politicians, and civil society groups. Thunberg and other protestors blocked entrances at the hotel, trying to prevent delegates from entering.

Germany notifies the EU of border controls at the Polish, Czech and Swiss frontiers: The notification would enable Germany to carry out the same systematic border checks that it has conducted on its frontier with Austria since 2015. The government has responded over the past week to intense pressure to address the arrival of large numbers of migrants.

Summit between EU and Western Balkan states overshadowed by disagreements: Leaders of the European Commission and Council as well as key EU member states are adamant that dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia must continue, despite uncertainty over the recent attack on 24 September in north Kosovo, just one of many divergences on display at the Berlin Process Summit in Tirana on Monday.

  • Serbia’s president calls snap elections for 17 December.

Georgia’s top court clears move to remove president: Georgia’s constitutional court has ruled that pro-Western President Salome Zurabishvili had breached the constitution by making unauthorised foreign trips, paving the way for her removal. EU chief Charles Michel met Zurabishvili in Brussels last month to reaffirm the bloc’s commitment to Georgia’s European path and highlight reforms it needed to enter the bloc.

Martti Ahtisaari, ex-Finland president and Nobel peace laureate, dies aged 86
Spain: Sumar presents Palestine recognition as condition to join next Sánchez government
Migration: Over 8,500 migrants reach Spain’s Canary Islands in two weeks
Six months after pension reform: French cabinet woos unions with wage hike talks
Bulgaria struggles with severe shortage of diabetes drugs
Italy: Authorities arrest two suspected Isis recruiters


Restoring European rivers: The European Union’s biodiversity strategy aims to free up 25,000 km of rivers before 2030.


Six-month sentence for Russian behind politician sex video: Russian activist artist Petr Pavlensky has been sentenced to six months in custody by a French court for his role in a sex tape scandal that brought down a political ally of President Macron.