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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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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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Weapons for Ukraine, Boris Johnson apologises in Parliament for ‚Partygate‘ fine, Spain accused of mass surveillance campaign
European Circle in week 16, 2022
curated by Nina von Schweinitz

EUROPE

Weapons for Ukraine: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz appeared to deflect criticism about his country’s hesitance to deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine in a short speech in Berlin on Tuesday. „We have asked the German arms industry to tell us which material it can supply in the near future,“ Scholz said, adding that Berlin was coordinating with Kyiv over what Ukraine needs and would supply the funding needed. The US had already announced last week that it will send Ukraine heavy artillery and 200 armoured personnel carriers. The Netherlands will send “heavier material” to Ukraine, “including armoured vehicles,“ Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Tuesday. Belgium, the UK and Canada also announced they would send weapons. dw.com, cnn.com

  • Russia expels diplomats from Belgium and the Netherlands politico.eu
  • US and EU ready for further sanctions against Russia zeit.de
  • US supports Ukraine more than the entire EU welt.de
  • Latvia to stop Russian gas imports by 2023 tagesschau.de
  • France urges EU to prioritise banning Russian oil over gas politico.eu

Ukraine completes questionnaire for EU membership: Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky formally submitted a completed questionnaire on EU membership to the bloc’s envoy in Kyiv on Monday and said he believed this step would lead to his country gaining candidate status within weeks. Zelensky said “Ukraine’s accession to the EU is an integral part of the strategic vision” for a future for the next decades. euractiv.com

  • Boris Johnson banned from Russia over support for Ukraine washingtonpost.com
  • Cyprus retracted „golden passports“ of Russian oligarchs, report says businessinsider.com
  • Serbia accuses Ukraine and unnamed EU country of Air Serbia bomb hoaxes euractiv.com
  • French President Macron declines to call actions of Russian troops in Ukraine “genocide” washingtonpost.com
  • Pope condemns war in Ukraine but doesn’t name Putin politico.eu
  • EU to grant Poland €59 million for helping Ukrainian refugees, media say euractiv.com

Von der Leyen says Russia’s bankruptcy is only a matter of time: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told German media that Western sanctions are increasingly undermining Russia’s economy and that default is only a matter of time. tagesspiegel.de

Sweden and Finland want to coordinate on NATO membership: Finland and Sweden took a major step towards joining NATO last week, after their prime ministers said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had changed Europe’s “whole security landscape” and “dramatically shaped mindsets” in the Nordic countries. The Finnish prime minister, Sanna Marin, said that her country, which shares a 1,300 km border with Russia, would decide whether to apply to join the alliance “quite fast, in weeks not months”, despite the risk of infuriating Moscow. theguardian.com

WHO concerned about drop in COVID-19 testing: The World Health Organization’s director of emergencies, Michael Ryan, warned that as the coronavirus continues to evolve, the world cannot afford to lose sight of it. “It would be very short-sighted at this point to assume that lower numbers of cases mean absolute lower risks. We are pleased to see deaths dropping but this virus has surprised us before, it has caught us off guard before. We need to do our jobs and track this virus the best we can, while people go back to live their lives as normally as possible”, Dr. Ryan explained. news.un.org

Boris Johnson apologises in Parliament for ‚Partygate‘ fine: The British prime minister faced lawmakers in the UK Parliament on Tuesday for the first time since police fined him over illegal parties held during coronavirus lockdowns. Johnson insisted he was not aware he was breaking the rules. „I repeat that was my mistake, and I apologise for it, unreservedly,“ he said. Despite holding a comfortable majority in the House of Commons, members of his own party started expressing particularly rebellious sentiments after the prime minister was accused of having been partying while millions were locked inside their homes. dw.com

EU countries agree on criteria for green bonds: In the future, investors will be able to recognise which bonds are environmentally and climate-friendly by means of a uniform EU label. A law will define which requirements must be met for the label. In addition, there will be a framework for checking these requirements. The EU Parliament and the EU countries will have to agree on the law before it can come into force. handelsblatt.com

Frontex: Highest number of illegal border crossings at EU external borders since 2016 faz.net
Space: If access to Russia’s capabilities are lost due to Western sanctions, companies in Europe and the US will have to step in to meet demand reuters.com
Predictive policing: EU rapporteurs on AI regulation recommend banning methods of algorithm-driven „predictive policing“ heise.de
European Court of Auditors: Plans to allow foreign donations to EU parties risks interference euractiv.com
Security pact: US, UK and Australia announce expanded co-operation on hypersonics washingtonpost.com
Global economic growth: International Monetary Fund says Russia’s war in Ukraine will ‘severely set back’ global economy cnn.com

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

„We are trying to convince our European partners to stop importing oil from Russia.“

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire on Tuesday called on the EU to prioritise a Russian oil embargo rather than a ban on gas.
politico.eu

NATION

Spain accused of mass surveillance campaign: Leaders of the movement for Catalan independence said on Monday that the Spanish government was spying on at least 65 people after a report by Canadian research centre Citizen Lab found that the controversial Israeli spyware Pegasus had been installed on their phones. The phones were allegedly hacked between 2017 and 2020, when relations between Barcelona and Madrid were at a low point following an independence referendum that Spain sought to quash. dw.com

Sweden riots over Quran burning: More than 40 people have been arrested after violent clashes in Sweden between police and people angry at plans by a far-right group to burn copies of the Quran. The violence was sparked by a series of rallies organised by the Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan. He planned and carried out the anti-Muslim demonstration, posting a picture of himself on social media with a burning Quran and declared intentions of burning more. Sweden’s national police chief, Anders Thornberg, said he had never seen such violent riots following Sunday’s clashes in Norrkoping. bbc.com, cnn.com

Cases of unknown hepatitis strain reported among children in EU: Cases of acute hepatitis of unknown origin were reported among children in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK, the European Centre for Disease Control said on Tuesday. “One of the possible causes that we are investigating is that this is linked to adenovirus infection. However, we are thoroughly investigating other potential causes,” said Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at the UK Health Security Agency. Other possible causes, such as COVID-19 and other infections or environmental causes, are also being investigated. euractiv.com

France must choose between Macron and Le Pen on Sunday: For the third time in the past five presidential elections, millions of French citizens are preparing to cast their ballots not in favour of a candidate but to keep another one out of power. Pollsters have flagged the prospect of record abstention in the 24 April run-off, following a botched campaign and five turbulent years marked by violent protests and Covid lockdowns. Many voters say they feel arm-twisted into choosing “the lesser of two evils”, and students have taken to occupying university campuses in protest at the outcome of the election’s first round. france24.com

  • EU anti-fraud body accuses Marine Le Pen of embezzlement theguardian.com
  • Macron vows to end fossil fuels use in pitch to green voters bloombergquint.com
  • Le Pen wants to stop military cooperation with Germany euractiv.com
  • What exactly is Le Pen’s stance on Russia and Vladimir Putin? euronews.com

Germany charges alleged neo-Nazi who tried to start „race war“: The German federal prosecutor’s office announced Wednesday that a supporter of the US-based „Atomwaffen Division“ has been indicted. The suspect is accused of „trying to found a terrorist organisation,“ according to a statement. He is also alleged to have prepared to commit a „serious and dangerous act of violence“ on the German state. Last year, the then-teenager had tried to unleash „a civil war of races“ within three years to „preserve the white population“. euronews.com

Germany foils plot to kidnap minister: German authorities on Thursday said they had arrested four people in connection to a plot to kidnap the country’s health minister and destroy some power infrastructure with the aim of triggering a “civil war” that would lead to the collapse of the country’s democratic system. Three people were arrested on suspicion of the “preparation of a serious crime endangering the state,” and a fourth person is charged with financing terrorism. All four are accused of planning to attack substations and power lines across the country, while simultaneously kidnapping Germany’s health minister, Karl Lauterbach, and then subjecting him to a show trial. The suspects are linked to protests against pandemic restrictions and reject the authority of the state. washingtonpost.com, bloomberg.com

Germany to scrap hybrid car aid earlier than planned: Germany’s economy ministry wants to end subsidies for plug-in hybrid cars earlier than planned at the end of this year and cut a cash bonus for electric vehicles by a third from 2023, according to a person familiar with the plans. The move is part of attempts to gear subsidies more toward climate protection and the legislation is currently being discussed by the relevant government ministries. bloomberg.com

  • IMF board approves new trust to help members deal with climate change, pandemics reuters.com
  • Study finds nations can keep global warming to 2 degrees if pledges are met pbs.org
  • Extinction Rebellion activists arrested in various anti-fossil fuel protests across London theguardian.com

Germany approves rainbow flags on ministry buildings for LGBT events: “We are a modern and diverse country,” said Interior Minister Nancy Faeser. “It is high time that we as state institutions also show that more clearly.” The move is intended to end discussions in Germany about unclear rules and signal acceptance of diversity. euronews.com

Italy: Prime Minister Mario Draghi will not run for office in a year derstandard.at
France: Paris court fines Deliveroo €375,000 for undeclared work euractiv.com
Belgium starts trial of suspected Paris attack helpers reuters.com
Channel crossings: French police prevent 600 migrants from crossing English Channel faz.net
UK: Anglican church leader condemns UK plan to send refugees to Rwanda pbs.org
Greek police: Migrant found shot dead near Turkish border euronews.com

NUMERS

EU okays German aid for companies hit by sanctions against Russia: The European Commission on Monday cleared a 20-billion-euro German scheme to help companies affected by sanctions against Russia and also approved 836 million euros in Polish state aid for the agricultural sector for the same reason. reuters.com

AT LEAST

Switzerland to launch 1st cannabis sale pilot in summer: Swiss health authorities on Tuesday approved the launch of a pilot project for the recreational consumption of cannabis in Basel. About 400 people in the city will be allowed to buy cannabis from select pharmacies in Basel in late summer, the city’s government said. They will be questioned regularly about their usage pattern and physical and mental health. dw.com