More EU news is available on the wire services of the respective news agency.

New Frontex team supports Austrian authorities

Vienna (APA) – The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) has stationed a new team in Vienna to support the Austrian authorities in implementing the voluntary return of refugees. This was reported by the Warsaw-based agency on August 4. Four “experienced return officers” now work “with experts of the Federal Agency for Care and Support Services (BBU)”.

Frontex officials will help with the transport of people from various places in Austria from Vienna’s airport, bus and train stations, and assist “with all airport procedures such as check-in and security checks”. In recent months, Frontex has already “successfully deployed officials to support returns at Vienna Airport and four other airports in Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and France”.

Since December 2020, BBU has been responsible for providing basic services to asylum seekers in Austria as well as displaced persons and people who cannot be deported. According to their own statement, BBU’s responsibilities also include legal advice and representation as well as “advice and support for returnees”. In the first half of 2022, the agency assisted EU member states in returning more than 11,000 people who had no right to stay in the EU. More than 30 percent of these “returned voluntarily”.

Frontex was founded in 2004. According to its own information, the agency “promotes, coordinates and develops” European border management in accordance with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the concept of integrated border management”. NGOs repeatedly criticize the EU agency’s approach. (August 5)

Slovenian real estate market expects consequences of tightening euro monetary policy

Ljubljana (STA) – In Slovenia, the prices of residential real estate increased to record levels in 2021. Data for the first quarter of 2022 showed a renewed increase, but some real estate agents have perceived greater caution in recent weeks. One of the reasons for this development are expectations regarding the potential effects of the recent tightening of monetary policy in the eurozone on lending.

According to statistics, prices of residential property increased by 4.1 percent quarter on quarter in the first three months of this year. Yeao on year, they grew by 16.9 percent. The availability of relatively cheap loans during the European Central Bank’s (ECB) lax monetary policy contributed to the high demand for real estate.

But home loans have been volatile since the end of spring, and in July the ECB raised key interest rates in the eurozone. The extent to which the increase in the price of loans will be reflected by lower demand is not yet known. The latest data from the Bank of Slovenia for May does not yet indicate a decline in demand, as the volume of new home loans increased sharply for the fourth consecutive month. Year-on-year growth in the volume of home loans was one of the highest in the eurozone at 11.7 percent.

Rents are also becoming more expensive, partly due to the post-pandemic increase in demand for short-term rentals of housing through various platforms. According to Zoran Đukić, director of the real estate company Stoja Trade, rents rose by approximately 15-20 percent so far in 2022. This is also reflected by fewer rental apartments on offer in the center of Ljubljana. (August 8)

Escobar: US is a strong partner to support North Macedonia for rapid EU accession

Skopje (MIA)The US will support North Macedonia in its reform efforts in order to move the EU integration process quickly, said Gabriel Escobar, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in charge of Europe and Eurasia.

Escobar pointed out that North Macedonia is a major bilateral partner and an outstanding NATO ally. “Juding from our experience with North Macedonia, we regard them as a great partner, loyal friend and strong supporter of the transatlantic community. They have implemented difficult reforms and continue to do so,” he stated.

He continued that for the United States, the question of the language and cultural identity of North Macedonia is not a question, and encouraged the country to continue its constructive dialogue with its neighbours and to commence the accession process as soon as possible. (August 8)

Record number of fires in Europe

Rome (ANSA) – There has been a record number of forest fires in the European Union so far this year. From January 1 to August 8, the fires have devastated an area of 600,000 hectares, more than the whole of Liguria (542,000 hectares). The figure is almost four times as high as the average of the last 16 years (158,000 hectares).

The data is provided by the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) of the European Commission. The number of large fires (affecting over 30 hectares) in the EU has also reached record levels: Since the beginning of the year, there have been 2,144, compared to 493 on average between 2006 and 2021. In Italy, 37,000 hectares (average: 34,000) have been devastated in 319 large fires (average: 143) so far this year (August 6).

“Nothing prevents” gas turbine from being supplied to Russia (European Commission)

Brussels (Belga) – On August 5, the European Commission strenuously denied that EU sanctions are responsible for Russia not being able to reintroduce the gas turbine for the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. The pipeline transports Russian gas to Europe and the turbine is currently located in Germany.

Russian energy group Gazprom had cited the missing turbine as the reason for reducing gas supplies via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. The turbine in question should have returned to Russia after a maintenance in Canada, but is for the time being stored in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany. Gazprom puts the blame for this on Siemens Energy.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that the turbine is ready to be deployed to Russia at any time. “There is nothing standing in the way of transport to Russia,” he said.

“The sanctions do not contain any provisions that prevent the turbine from being shipped to Russia. Any claim to the contrary is simply false. What Russia is saying is an excuse not to supply gas to the EU,” added Eric Mamer, the European Commission’s chief spokesman. Gazprom reduced supply columes via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 40 percent of its full capacity in June. Subsequently, the pipeline closed for a few days, after which the gas supply resumed at 20 percent of capacity, officially due to maintenance and technical problems. (August 5)

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.