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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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Danish left-wing bloc retains majority in parliament, Ukraine hopes for EU help to rebuild power grid, EU to tighten gun trade laws
European Circle in week 44, 2022
curated by Nina von Schweinitz

EUROPE

Zelenskyj hopes for EU help to rebuild power grid: 40% of the energy system in the Ukraine has been destroyed, the Ukrainian president said at a meeting with EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson in Kyiv. The EU Commission should play a coordinating role in restoring the energy infrastructure, Selenskyj suggested. handelsblatt.com

  • Poland wants to help Ukraine with food transports with EU partners.
  • Finnish criminals steal weapons meant for Ukraine.
  • Thousands rally in Prague against pro-Western government and Ukraine support. dw.com

EU sanctions may next target Belarus: The Czech prime minister, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said the bloc may look at further sanctions on Belarus over its role in the war in Ukraine. Minsk allows Russian troops to be stationed on Belarusian territory and stage attacks on Ukraine from there, although it insists it does not want to join the war directly. kyivpost.com

Britain denies Russian military’s claim that UK navy blew up Nord Stream pipelines: Britain’s defence ministry said the accusation was the latest invented story put out by Moscow to detract from their disastrous handling of the illegal invasion of Ukraine. The Russian defence ministry “is resorting to peddling false claims of an epic scale,“ the statement added. „This invented story, says more about the arguments going on inside the Russian government than it does about the west.“ rferl.org

  • Putin blames West for tensions, demands security guarantees. apnews.com

EU Commissioner says billions in Russian assets frozen: The EU has frozen Russian assets worth around 17 billion euros since Moscow invaded Ukraine in February, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said. The EU has adopted eight sanctions packages since the Russian war against Ukraine began eight months ago. Ukrainian officials have been calling for the assets to be used to rebuild their country after the war. rferl.org

  • Computers in parliaments of Poland and Slovakia out of service after cyber attacks. spiegel.de

Qatar summons German ambassador over interior minister’s World Cup remarks: Germany’s interior minister Nancy Faeser had told media that the awarding of major sporting events such as the upcoming World Cup should be linked to criteria, “namely, compliance with human rights and principles of sustainability.” Faeser also said she wanted to hear civil society’s opinion on whether progress had been made. Following her comments, Qatar’s Foreign Ministry summoned the German ambassador Claudius Fischbach and expressed its disappointment as well as complete rejection and condemnation of Faeser’s remarks. cnn.com

EU pushes ahead with plan to ban new diesel, gasoline cars: EU negotiators have agreed on a deal related to the EU Commission’s proposal for zero-emission road mobility by 2035. The plan seeks to slash CO2 emissions from new vans and passenger cars by 100% from 2021 levels and would constitute an effective ban on new diesel and gasoline vehicles of these types. The parliament said smaller automakers producing up to 10,000 new cars or 22,000 new vans could be granted a derogation, or exemption, until the end of 2035. cnbc.com

EU to tighten gun trade laws as Ukraine war fuels arms fears: The European Commission has called for a change in the rules on the import, export and transit of firearms for civilian use to clamp down on trafficking and keep better track of the number of such weapons in the bloc. About 35 million illicit firearms are in the hands of civilians in the EU, according to estimates by the Commission, amounting to 56% of the estimated total of firearms. Around 630,000 of these firearms are listed as stolen or lost in the Schengen Information System. euronews.com

Euro zone inflation hits record high of 10.7% as growth slows sharply: Preliminary data from Europe’s statistics office showed headline inflation came in at an annual 10.7% this month. This represents the highest ever monthly reading since the euro zone’s formation. The 19-member bloc has faced higher prices, particularly on energy and food, for the past 12 months. But the increases have been accentuated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. cnbc.com

Climate activist glues his head to ‚Girl with a Pearl Earring‘ painting: Dutch police have arrested three people at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague after Johannes Vermeer’s golden age masterpiece Girl with a Pearl Earring became the latest target of climate protesters. Video published on social media showed two men wearing Just Stop Oil T-shirts in front of the painting, one of whom tried to superglue his shaven head to the artwork while the other emptied what appeared to be a can of tomato soup over him. theguardian.com, reuters.com

Three of the worst fire seasons on record took place in the last six years: The European Forest Fire report concludes that last year’s fire season was the second worst in the EU territory in terms of burnt area (since records began in 2006). More than 5,500 km² of land burnt in 2021 – more than twice the size of Luxembourg – with over 1,000 km² burnt within protected Natura 2000 areas, the EU’s reservoir of biodiversity. ec.europa.eu

EU funds border control deal in Egypt: The EU signed an agreement with Egypt on Sunday for the first phase of an 80 million-euro border management programme, at a time when Egyptian migration to Europe has been rising. The project aims to help Egypt’s coast and border guards reduce irregular migration and human trafficking along its border, and provides for the procurement of surveillance equipment such as search and rescue vessels, thermal cameras, and satellite positioning systems. reuters.com

  • 985 migrants await port entry in first test for Italy’s new leaders. maritime-executive.com
  • Greece: Dozens missing after boat carrying migrants sinks. abcnews.go.com
  • Swiss minister defends approach towards transiting migrants. swissinfo.ch
  • Clashes break out at Cyprus migrant centre. reuters.com

Protests in Iran: EU examines classifying Iran Revolutionary Guards as terrorists – Germany reuters.com
Non-compliance with EU rules: EU may block Polish nuclear investment, warns opposition euractiv.com
Israel election: Netanyahu poised for comeback, exit polls show reuters.com

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

„Russia’s decision to suspend participation in the Black Sea deal puts at risks the main export route of much needed grain and fertilisers to address the global food crisis caused by its war against Ukraine.“

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to reverse the decision on the Black Sea grain deal. twitter.com

NATION

Danish left-wing bloc retains a majority in parliament: Denmark’s left-wing bloc led by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen reached out to the centre for broader collaboration on Wednesday after winning a one-seat majority in a nail-biter general election. Together with another three seats from the autonomous overseas territories of the Faroe Islands and Greenland, the bloc holds a total of 90 of parliament’s 179 seats. „Social democracy had its best election in over 20 years,“ Frederiksen said in a speech to campaign supporters early Wednesday. The right-wing „blue“ bloc — an informal liberal and conservative alliance supported by three populist parties – won 72 seats in mainland Denmark and one in the Faroe Islands. france24.com

UK interior minister Suella Braverman slammed over migrant ‚invasion‘ remark: British Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been accused of using inflammatory language after describing the arrival of asylum seekers on England’s southern coast as an „invasion“. Her comments in parliament on Monday came a day after a man used fire bombs to attack an immigration processing centre in the port town of Dover. Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has said politicians must be careful with language, adding: „It’s not a phrase I’ve used.“ euronews.com, bbc.com

Braverman faces criticism as migrant crisis worsens: British Home Secretary Braverman has been accused by a Conservative MP of deliberately causing the overcrowding of a migrant processing centre amid growing questions around her strategy for dealing with people crossing the Channel in small boats. Sir Roger Gale, whose constituency includes Manston processing centre, said it has been turned into a “refugee camp” by a “car crash” policy decision by the home secretary to suspend a search for hotel accommodation for new arrivals. theguardian.com, bbc.com

Braverman sent official papers to personal email 6 times. bloomberg.com

Liz Truss phone hack claim prompts calls for investigation: The UK government has been urged to open an investigation into claims former prime minister Liz Truss’s phone was hacked while she was foreign secretary. The Mail on Sunday reported private messages between Truss and foreign officials, including about the Ukraine war, fell into foreign hands. bbc.com

NI election looms as Stormont deadline passes: Northern Ireland is on course for an assembly election after politicians missed the deadline set by Westminster for restoring devolved government. Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, now must call an election to be held within 12 weeks. He pledged to do last week, rather than try to delay it or avoid it with fresh legislation at Westminster. bbc.com

Former UK health secretary Matt Hancock suspended by Tories over role in reality TV show. politico.eu

Germany’s Scholz set for high-stakes China visit: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz makes a high-stakes trip to China this week, walking a tightrope between shoring up a key economic relationship and facing heightened concerns about over-reliance on authoritarian Beijing. Scholz, accompanied by a delegation of business executives, will be the first EU leader to visit the world’s second-biggest economy since 2019. france24.com

Chinese police stations in the Netherlands ordered to close: The so-called police stations, which were established without the knowledge of the Dutch government, must immediately close their doors, said Foreign Affairs Minister Wopke Hoekstra on Tuesday. He said he finds those secret police stations to be unacceptable. Hoekstra will investigate exactly what activities took place in those Chinese offices, and pledged to leave no stone unturned. nltimes.nl

German leader urges climate activists not to endanger others: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged climate activists Monday to show “creativity” and avoid endangering others after attacking art works and setting up road blockades that allegedly delayed the arrival of a specialist rescue crew at an accident scene. apnews.com

Italy scraps vaccine mandate for medics: Italy’s new government on Monday delayed the application of a justice reform required to obtain European post-pandemic funds and scrapped a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health workers. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s cabinet ruled that doctors and nurses would no longer have to be vaccinated against the disease and said those suspended from work until Dec. 31 because they had refused the shot would be immediately reinstated. reuters.com

  • Italy’s government to criminalise raves. bbc.com

Italian minister blasted over 2005 Nazi uniform photo: A Brothers of Italy politician who was once photographed wearing a Nazi swastika armband is among the junior ministers appointed in Giorgia Meloni’s government. The photo in question shows Galeazzo Bignami in a Nazi uniform standing next to another man wearing an SS armband at a bachelor party. Bignami said Monday that he felt profound shame for the pictures and firmly condemned any form of totalitarianism. theguardian.com, euronews.com

No breakthrough at Putin-mediated Armenia and Azerbaijan talks: Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan on Monday to try to broker a settlement to a longstanding conflict between the two ex-Soviet neighbours but announced no breakthrough. The negotiations were aimed at brokering a settlement after violent clashes between the two Caucasian countries. euronews.com

Commission declares Bosnian Serb leader Dodik winner after vote recount: The Central Election Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina has declared Milorad Dodik as the winner of an election for the presidency of the country’s Serbian entity, Republika Srpska, after a recount of ballots cast in the October 2 vote. Dodik, who has denied the election fraud allegations, has been the most powerful politician in Republika Srpska for years. He has close relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, while the United States and Britain have placed sanctions on him for allegedly trying to undermine peace and stability in the country. rferl.org

Germany: Foreign minister’s aide to join RWE energy giant dw.com
Czech presidential election in January: Former PM Babis announces candidacy tagesspiegel.de
Spain: Conservative opposition party stops talks on judicial crisis deutschlandfunk.de
Slovakia: Far-right stumbles in municipal elections euractiv.com
Malta: MEP calls out Malta for selling passport to executives behind spyware companies euractiv.com

NUMERS

High inflation and rising interest rates are increasingly endangering the situation of Spanish households, and those who spend more than 40% of their income on debt repayments could now exceed 1.5 million. euractiv.com

AT LEAST

Elon Musk haggles with Stephen King over the price of a blue checkmark: Prolific horror author Stephen King went viral with his dismissive reaction to Elon Musk’s plan to introduce a $20-dollar-per-month fee for verified Twitter users to keep their blue checkmarks. “$20 a month to keep my blue check?” King tweeted to his 6.9 million followers. “F**k that, they should pay me.” Musk responded to King: “We need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot entirely rely on advertisers. How about $8?” A while later, apparently realising it was not about the money for King, Musk added: “I will explain the rational in longer form before this is implemented.“ twitter.com, forbes.com