Vučić and Kurti at the same table in Brussels

Brussels (Tanjug) – The President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, and the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Aljbin Kurti, met today in Brussels for a new round of the Pristina-Belgrade EU-mediated dialogue on the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina. Before the meeting, both leaders spoke separately with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

“Recent tensions in the north of Kosovo have demonstrated yet again that it is time to move forward towards full normalisation. I expect both leaders to be open and flexible to find common ground,” said Borrell.

Ahead of the meeting, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said that he expects difficult discussions, stating that this is “the beginning of discussions about the essential problems in Kosovo and Metohija”.

“I hope for some kind of solution, although I don’t believe in it at all,” stated Vučić.

After the meeting, the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security Josep Borell said that the delegations of Belgrade and Pristina did not reach an agreement, but that it was agreed to continue the talks in the following days.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Serbia, as well as five EU member states, have not recognized Kosovo’s sovereignty to this day. (August 18)

Von der Leyen applauds energy-saving measures in Spain

Brussels (Europa Press) – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyenapplauded the energy-saving measures implemented in Spain and the other EU member states, in particular the regulation of air conditioning, noting that the measures contribute to the EU reaching its objectives for the winter.

In a series of messages on social networks, von der Leyen pointed out that setting “somewhat higher” temperatures for air conditioning achieves “impressive results”.

“Together, we save energy for a safe winter,” reads the message of the EU Commission’s president, which goes on to state that – according to calculations by Brussels – the savings achieved by setting a higher temperature for air conditioners equal the energy consumption of a member state like Malta.

The German conservative politician also highlights measures implemented by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, such as lowering the heating temperature in homes by one degree, which, according to von der Leyen, can save 7 percent energy during one heating period. (August 17)

Forest fires: a record summer of burned surfaces in Europe

People walk on the Dune of Pilat (Dune du Pilat) near La Teste-de-Buch, while smoke rises in the background. The fire in Teste-de-Buch has intensified and threatened campsites, the local authority said in a statement. More than 14,000 people in the area have already had to leave their homes or holiday residences because of the fire.
People walk on the Dune of Pilat (Dune du Pilat) near La Teste-de-Buch, while smoke rises in the background. Foto: Gaizka Iroz/AFP/dpa

Paris (AFP) – Since January 1, fires have ravaged 662,776 hectares of forests in the European Union. This is according to data updated on August 14 by the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), which has been keeping comparable statistics since 2006, thanks to satellite images from the European Copernicus program.

France had worse years in the 1970s, when there was no standardized European data. But so far, 2022 has been the worst in 16 years, according to these figures. This is mainly due to two successive large fires in the French Gironde region in the southwest of the country, where German, Polish and Austrian firefighters arrived this week as reinforcements.

The situation is also exceptional in Central Europe: In July, it took firefighters more than ten days to bring the largest fire in Slovenia’s recent history under control, supported by a population so mobilized that the government had to ask residents to stop donating to the fire department.

The area hardest hit by the fires, however, is the Iberian Peninsula. In Spain, which like France was parched by several heat waves this summer, 246,278 hectares were devastated by fires, mainly in Galicia in the northwest. However, the situation has eased as temperatures have dropped. Portugal has also been battling a fire for more than a week in the UNESCO Global Geopark Serra da Estrela, a mountain region in continental Portugal which rises to about 2,000 meters. (August 15)

Slovenian government starts to tackle rising food prices with price controls. If necessary, further measures will follow in October

Ljubljana (STA) – The government has decided to start with soft regulation to tackle high food prices, namely by monitoring the prices of basic foodstuffs. “In October, we will know whether there is a need for harder regulation in the area of nutrition,” said Prime Minister Robert Golob. If necessary, the government will also introduce a nutritional subsidy to follow the energy subsidy.

According to Golob, the government regards energy prices as a much more serious problem – prices have risen by up to 300, 400 and even 500 percent – and has already decided to regulate prices and to provide a subsidy, which is expected to be granted to an estimated 50,000 families, Slovenia has a population of 2.1 million. As regards nutrition, the government will initially monitor the price of a basket of basic foodstuffs, for which it has already selected a contractor through a public tender.

“We will continuously monitor the basket, which will not be fixed but will change weekly or fortnightly. We will see the evolution of product prices over time and compare them to prices of the same products in neighboring countries,” said Golob. The effects of the monitoring of staple food prices and the impact on inflation should be visible as early as September, he said, with the government assessing a month later whether more stringent measures will be needed. (August 12)

European Commission wants more gas interconnections between Spain and France, in line with Germany’s request

Brussels/Berlin/Madrid/Lisbon (EFE) – The European Commission wants energy interconnections between France and Spain to be strengthened. It aims to develop ongoing electricity projects and to create new infrastructure to take advantage of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals on the Iberian Peninsula. In the future, this infrastructure would also be used to transport hydrogen, a spokesperson of the EU’s executive told EFE.

In order to reduce the current dependence on Russian gas, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz advocates a pipeline to transport gas from Portugal through Spain and France to the rest of Europe. Scholz regrets that this had not yet been built. The “massive contribution” such a pipeline could make to the supply of northern Europe is now “dramatically” lacking, he said at a press conference on August 11.

The Spanish part of that pipeline could be operational in “eight or nine months”, according to Spanish Vice-President and Minister for Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera. For his part, Portuguese Prime Minister, socialist António Costa, assured that Germany could count “100 percent” on his country. In addition to two gas pipelines with Algeria, the Iberian peninsula has 33 percent of the EU’s liquefied natural gas terminals. What is missing is the infrastructure to send this gas to the rest of Europe, stated the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) in its annual report, published on July 27. (August 11 and 12)

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.