European Parliament:  Luxembourg MEP elected vice-president in place of imprisoned Eva Kaili

Strasbourg (AFP) – On Wednesday, the European Parliament elected a Luxembourg socialist to replace Greek MEP Eva Kaili, who has been jailed for alleged corruption, as vice-president of the institution.

The European Parliament has 14 vice-presidents, to whom President Roberta Metsola delegates certain tasks and who can chair debates and voting sessions. A few days after her imprisonment in Belgium, Kaili was stripped of her vice-presidential functions by the European Parliament and excluded from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D group).

In a secret ballot held in the hemicycle of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Marc Angel, 59, MEP since 2019 (S&D group, left), was appointed vice-president by an absolute majority of 307 votes in the second round.

Angel, a long-time member of the Luxembourg Parliament, competed against Annalisa Tardino, an MEP from Italy’s Lega party (far-right ID group), who obtained 185 votes, and French Green Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield (98 votes). (18 January)

European Parliament puts Scholz under pressure in battle tank debate

Strasbourg/Berlin (dpa) – The European Parliament has called on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to clear the way for the delivery of Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine. According to a motion adopted by a large majority in Strasbourg on Wednesday, the chancellor should set up a consortium of countries that can provide such tanks “without further delay.” Shortly before the West is going to discuss further military aid on Friday in the German town of Ramstein, the pressure on Scholz to take a decision thus increased further.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expects the Ramstein meeting to send the message that Ukraine will get “more support and more advanced support, heavier weapons, and more modern weapons.” It was a fight for the West’s own values and democracy, Stoltenberg said at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Ukrainian President Wolodymyr Selenskyj accused the international community of hesitating too long. “The time the free world uses to think is used by the terrorist state [Russia] to kill,” Selenskyj said in a video address.

Scholz did not yet indicate any tendency in Davos. He pointed out again that Germany, together with Great Britain and after the USA, was already one of the greatest suppliers of weapons to Ukraine, which was attacked by Russia. “We will continue to be such a big supporter,” he promised. Germany would supply weapons for as long as necessary. Scholz reiterated that he would only decide on new steps together with Germany’s allies. He explicitly mentioned the USA and France. He said that the aim was to continue to avoid a war between NATO and Russia.

After being sworn in on Thursday, Scholz’s new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius was scheduled to meet his US counterpart Lloyd Austin in Berlin. Worldwide, 20 countries have the modern Leopard 2 tanks, which are produced in Germany. The German government must therefore approve any transfer of these tanks – regardless of the country. As a rule, this is stipulated in the purchase contracts. This means that Scholz is at the lever for the delivery of the tanks to Ukraine.

The European Parliament’s call on Scholz was included in a report on the common security and defense policy upon request by the Greens. The report is not legally binding. However, the fact that a head of government of an EU country is explicitly mentioned by name and asked to do something in such a report is considered exceptional, even more so since the motion was an initiative of the Greens, who are part of the German government coalition headed by Scholz. (January 18)

Citizens of the Russian Federation enter BiH as ‘tourists’

SARAJEVO (FENA) – The current influx of citizens from the Russian Federation to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) on alleged tourist visits has decreased somewhat compared to the end of last year, Advisor to the Director of Border Police of Bosnia and Herzegovina Svevlad Hoffmann told FENA.

Since the beginning of the year, the entry of a total of 366 citizens of the Russian Federation through the airport in Sarajevo has been registered. A smaller number entered through other airports as well as by land.

Hoffman said that those Russian citizens were abusing the visa-free regime between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Russian Federation. After landing at the airport, they cited tourist purposes as the reason for their arrival in BiH and showed paid vouchers for hotels. They often had considerable amounts of money.

“Then, instead of heading to the hotel where they allegedly booked accommodation for their stay, they go towards Velika Kladuša, with the aim of entering the territory of the Republic of Croatia and thus of the European Union and seeking asylum there,” explained Hoffmann. Velika Kladuša is a town in the north-west of BiH, bordering the EU member state Croatia.

It is believed that one of the motives of Russian citizens for taking this path is Croatia’s entry into the Schengen zone, because they believe that once they enter the territory of the Republic of Croatia, which has been a member of the Schengen zone since January 1, they can continue their journey to other EU countries unhindered.

Towards the end of last year, an increased number of Russian citizens, mostly of Chechen and Dagestan origin, were recorded at the BiH side of the border crossing at Maljevac, trying to enter Croatia. Many of them claimed they were fleeing military mobilization in Russia. (January 18)

Von der Leyen outlines plan for green and competitive European industry

Davos (Belga) – In Davos on Tuesday, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen offered more insight into the Commission’s plan to support the European industry on the path to climate neutrality. With less strict procedures and state aid rules, a new investment fund and an assertive trade policy, von der Leyen aims to keep companies in Europe, which are groaning under high energy prices and are tempted by US and Chinese subsidies.

The Green Deal Industrial Plan comprises four pillars. Besides accelerated and simplified procedures for the establishment of new production capacities and a focus on developing new skills for the labor market, von der Leyen wants to increase funding. A temporary relaxation of state aid rules, for which Germany and France are pushing, is in the works, but the Commission President said that state aid was “only a limited solution, which only a few member states can use.”

To avoid fragmentation of the single market, von der Leyen says European funding is also needed. As part of the multi-year budget review, the Commission will put the creation of a European Sovereignty Fund on the table later this year. How that fund would be financed, she left open, but von der Leyen did acknowledge that the initiative would take time. Therefore, “we will look at a bridging solution to provide fast and targeted support where it is most needed.”

The Commission is expected to put concrete plans on the table by the end of January. On February 9 and 10, the heads of state and government of the 27 Member States will hold a special summit to discuss industrial policy and European competitiveness.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo commented on von der Leyen’s plans during a debate on international trade in Davos on Tuesday. He pointed out that an industrial policy is now at the top of the agenda. Five years ago, this was by no means sexy, the Belgian prime minister said. But such an industrial policy was necessary now because the EU needed to be more self-sufficient in certain areas of strategic importance, he stated. “For energy, we were too dependent on Russia, for security on the US. And for semiconductors, we have an excellent knowledge center in Belgium, but production is done elsewhere.”

Europe should come up with its own industrial plan in response to the US Inflation Reduction Act, De Croo argued. He took a positive stance on the incentives for a green economy in the US in themselves, stating that “they are now on the right side of the table. But the Commission should avoid the relocation of European companies with its own plan. “Our plan should not be a copy of the American one, but focus on our own strengths,” De Croo believes. (January 17)

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.