Latest news from EUobserver. Making sense of the EU.
Updated: 5 min 21 sec ago
Macedonia could be invited to join Nato as soon as it solves its name dispute, but a Greek far-right party with links to Russia might cause trouble.
Newly-announced financial help for so-called 'supercomputers' can help both EU member states, and small and medium-sized companies to grow - in fields such as health diagnostics, driverless cars and even earthquake predicting.
Polish chairwoman of the EU parliament's constitutional affairs committee says main candidate of the 2019 election-winning group should become candidate-president of the European Commission.
While ongoing crackdowns in Poland and Hungary have put the spotlight on rights groups, NGOs are now under new political and financial pressure across the EU, the Fundamental Rights Agency said.
The president of the European Investment Bank, Werner Hoyer, said the bank had high standards - but did not explain why an anti-fraud report on a loan to Volkswagen was being kept secret.
Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, says the EU's key policy on returning migrants to Libya is condemning them to "nightmarish conditions", and is a hypocritical use of the Libyan coastguard to avoid direct responsibility.
The European Parliament's conference of presidents decided on Thursday to create a special committee to investigate the assessment process for pesticides, including the glyphosate weedkiller. The committee, which has a nine-month mandate, will in particular assess "potential failures that might have arisen in the scientific evaluation" and "possible conflicts of interest at all levels".
The breeding method called mutagenesis is exempt from EU law regulating the authorisation of GMOs, the European Court of Justice's advocate general said on Thursday, in a non-binding opinion. Unlike GMOs, "mutagenesis doesn't entail the insertion of foreign DNA into a living organism"
. The case was brought to the court by France after small-scale farmers said mutagenesis carries risks for health and the environment. A formal ruling will follow.
The leaders of political groups in the European Parliament on Thursday postponed a decision on whether to schedule an 'impeachment vote' on Polish MEP Ryszard Czarnecki. Four group leaders want to remove his title of parliament vice-president because he used a Nazi-era slur to describe MEP Roza Thun
. The decision is now scheduled for 1 February. Meanwhile, parliament president Antonio Tajani will meet both Czarnecki and Thun.
The amount of non-performing loans (NPL) - loans that individuals or companies cannot repay to the banks - has reached its lowest level since the end of 2014, the European Commission said. According to a report published on Thursday, the ratio of NPLs was down one percentage point in the second quarter of 2017, compared to a year before, to 4.6 percent. They still represent €950 billion.
European Investment Bank president Werner Hoyer said Thursday that in 2017 UK-based demand for loans dropped, compared to the remaining EU-27 - even though UK projects remain eligible until Brexit. Hoyer also said he believed the UK will not be able to immediately offer similar funding opportunities to replace EIB funds. "We will leave a gap in financing in the UK."
Werner Hoyer, president of the European Investment Bank, said Thursday the bank was "well on track" to generate €315bn of additional investments from a guarantee of €21bn through the Juncker fund. At its launch
there was scepticism that the bank could achieve a multiplier of 15. "Some called the plan's ambition ... a delusion, mentioning black magic or financial wizardry," said Hoyer. "We are now vindicated. This has worked."
EU tax commissioner Pierre Moscovici has called "formally and solemnly" on EU member states to publish as soon as possible the letters of commitment they have received from entities on the EU lists of tax havens. He asked finance ministers to take the decision at their next meeting next Tuesday. "We need citizens, NGOs, parliaments and media to be able to see the process," he said on Thursday.
The European Commission proposed on Thursday changing VAT rules in the EU, to allow member states to decide reduced rates on some products without needing an unanimous agreement with other member states. It also proposed simplifying the rules for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in order to reduce the costs of VAT for them. One of the commission's goals is to fight VAT fraud.
Romania has made "very limited progress" in reforms to fight corruption, the Council of Europe has said. In a report published on Thursday
, the institution's anti-corruption body, the Greco, said that Romanian authorities have implemented only two of the 13 recommendations it made in 2016. The Greco calls among others for more transparency, and an improvement in MPs' declarations of assets and interests.
EU elections in 2019 are likely to be the next big target for Russian propaganda, MEPs have warned, with one asking 'how many seats will Russia get?'
Macedonian president Gjorge Ivanov on Wednesday vetoed a law that would make Albania a second official language. "This law introduces an expensive parallelism to all levels of administration and leads to their total blockade and dysfunctionality," he said. Ethnic Albanians make up around a quarter of the total population. The law had been passed by parliament. It will now be sent back for a second vote.
Sweden's prime minister Stefan Lofven on Wednesday threatened to deploy the army to fight a flare-up of gang violence in the country. "It would not be my first option to bring in the military, but I am prepared to do whatever is necessary to make sure that serious, organised crime is stamped out," he told news agency TT. 106 people were murdered in Sweden last year.
More Germans would prefer Sigmar Gabriel as vice-chancellor than SPD chief Martin Schulz, according to a YouGov/DPA survey published on Thursday. It found that 33 percent wanted Gabriel to remain deputy to chancellor Angela Merkel in a new coalition government, while only 22 percent wanted Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament, in the post.
The United Kingdom is set to pay an extra €50 million to beef up security around the French port city of Calais
. The move comes ahead of a meeting on Thursday between French president Emmanuel Macron and British prime minister Theresa May. The two are set to discuss, among other issues, reforming the 2003 Le Touquet agreement. The agreement allows British border guards to patrol inside French territory.