Hahn: Expect accessions “in the foreseeable future”

Vienna (APA) – Following Austria’s veto of Romania and Bulgaria, EU Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn expects that “in the foreseeable future, both countries will be able to become members of Schengen.” On Sunday, Hahn told Austrian public broadcaster ORF that a first step could be taken in the area of flights. He was “not happy” with Austria’s veto, Hahn said. But he had “a certain understanding”, if 80,000 unregistered migrants came to Austria.

The pressure from Austria had already led to a special EU summit on migration in February, the EU Commissioner said. Austria had rightly drawn attention to an issue here. He also understood the frustration of smaller and medium-sized EU states when their concerns were not dealt with immediately, as would happen if, for example, France or Italy voiced concerns.

In the future, it must be ensured that EU candidate countries develop 100 percent the same rules as the EU with regard to visa policy, said the former EU Enlargement Commissioner and ÖVP (People’s Party) politician with regard to illegal migration via Serbia. There must also be clarity about the figures, as there are contradictions between the data provided by the Austrian authorities and those at the European level. Austria’s reputation in Romania and Bulgaria was “definitely damaged by the veto, but that can be repaired.”

With regard to the EU’s continued support for Ukraine, Hahn said that this was valid “without ifs and buts.” The EU commissioner apparently does not expect a peaceful solution any time soon. “Unfortunately, there will only be a solution on a military level.” He said the EU had the claim and the obligation to help Ukraine, with current operations, reconstruction and arms supplies. (January 15)

Uphill road in the EU for state aid and subsidies

Kiruna (ANSA) – It is an uphill road and one that risks dividing Europe in its response to the more than 360 billion dollars in subsidies envisaged by the United States with the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has launched a consultation with the member states on the action to be taken, while European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, at the start of the Swedish presidency of the EU Council, emphasized the need to be quick in taking decisions.

We need “targeted and temporary changes to our state aid framework,” noted the president of the EU executive. She acknowledged, however, that this recipe did not suit all countries. And that was why, according to von der Leyen, financial instruments had to be put in place to also support the investments needed to move forward and accelerate the green transition. This strategy is supported by countries like France and Italy as well as European Commissioners Paolo Gentiloni and Thierry Breton. But it risks alienating a minority of countries – the so-called ‘frugal’ ones – who are opposed in principle to putting new financial resources on the table and do not want to hear about new common debt.

This group of frugal countries can now count on the Swedish EU Council Presidency, which has in recent days repeatedly emphasized the need to adopt a more long-term strategy. The issue is destined to be at the center of confrontation between the EU-27 in the coming weeks, as Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson is determined to make the relaunch of the EU’s competitiveness the focus of the European summit to be held in Brussels on 9 and 10 February. (January 13)

First satellite launch site opened on the EU mainland

Kiruna (dpa) – In the future, the EU will be able to send satellites into space from continental European territory. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, together with Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, opened a new launch site for this purpose in the northern Swedish Esrange Space Center on Friday, to complement France’s EU spaceport near Kourou, French Guiana, in South America.

On the road to greater independence from Russia, major importance is attached to the complex near Kiruna. “The current geopolitical situation – not least, of course, the Russian invasion of Ukraine – has demonstrated how important it is that the European Union has access to space,” Kristersson said at the inauguration. There, together with the king and the Commission President, he symbolically cut a ribbon in the colors blue and yellow. Fittingly, these are not only the Swedish national colors, but also those of Ukraine.

“It is a big moment for Europe. It is a big moment for Europe’s space industry,” said von der Leyen. The spaceport offers independent European access to space and provides exactly the infrastructure that is needed, she added. On the one hand, smaller satellites are to be launched into space from the sparsely populated and heavily forested northern part of Sweden, and on the other, reusable rockets are to be tested there. The first satellite launch is currently planned for the end of 2023. (January 13)

Number of illegal entries into EU at highest level since 2016

Warsaw (Belga) – The number of illegal entries into the European Union in 2022 is up 64 percent compared to the previous year. It has now reached its highest level since 2016. Some 330,000 people entered and registered in the EU, 45 percent of them through the Western Balkan route. The European border security agency Frontex announced this on Friday.

“This is the second year in a row with a steep rise in the number of irregular entries,” Frontex stated in a press release. “Syrians, Afghans and Tunisians together accounted for 47% of the detections in 2022.” For Syrians, the figure was 94,000, double that of the previous year.

Through the Western Balkan route, 145,600 people were registered, up 136 percent from 2021. Via the Mediterranean route, 100,000 people arrived illegally in Europe. Here, there was a 50 percent increase.

About one in ten illegal entrants is a woman and about nine percent of cases involve minors.

Frontex also counted 13 million fleeing Ukrainians who entered the EU through Ukrainian borders or via Moldova. Meanwhile, ten million Ukrainians made the reverse move and returned to their country. (January 13)

This is a compilation of the European coverage of enr news agencies. It is published Wednesdays and Fridays. The content is an editorial selection based on news by the respective agency.