Today marks 25 years since the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl – an event brought closer to home by the current crisis in Fukushima. Italy steps up to bat in Libya, while in Rome Prime Minister Berlusconi is set to meet with French President Sarkozy to resolve the ongoing migration dispute. Poland continues to squabble with the Czech Republic over territory while it looks to bridge Berlin and Moscow with a newly planned high speed rail route.
Greek 2010 deficit worse than expected (European Voice)
Government says economy was hit harder than expected as deficit is revised up to 10.5% of economic output. Greece’s budget deficit for 2010 has been revised significantly upwards, with the government saying that its economy was hit harder by recession than expected.
The leaders of France and Italy are meeting in Rome today (26 April) to discuss measures to tighten EU border controls amid rising tensions over how to deal with the thousands of migrants fleeing revolutions in north Africa.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi are expected to use this 29th bilateral summit to call for a partial reintroduction of border controls, a move that would undermine one of the most significant integration steps of the European Union.
Hectares of contention (Lidove Noviny)
“Local authorities refuse to hand over dozens of hectares to Poles,” reports Lidové Noviny. The Prague daily explains that to redress errors made when the border between Czechoslovakia and Poland was marked out in 1958, the Czech government has decided to hand over 368 hectares of state-owned land in northern Bohemia and Moravia to Poland, which has refused an offer of financial compensation. However, the decision has prompted criticism from local mayors, who believe that the reduction in the size of their municipalities will reduce their access to funding. Inspired by the campaign against the plan to site an American missile radar base in the Czech Republic, the mayors are hoping to mobilise public opinion, and “if necessary, to organise a referendum.” (Full Text in Czech)
Berlin-Moscow soon at high speed (Gazeta Wyborcza)
“Moscow closer to Paris thanks to rail,” thus Gazeta Wyborcza welcomes a plan of opening a new railway connection between Moscow and Berlin via Poland with the prospect of extending it to Paris as of 2012. The official launch of the project is scheduled for June at Third Forum of the Russian and Polish Regions to be held in the Russian capital. Russian Railways (RZD) aims at cutting the trip to Berlin (currently about 27 hours) by two hours by the end of 2011 and by another eight in 2013 when a high speed line is to link Moscow and Berlin. The shortening of the journey time will be also possible thanks to new cars with a Spanish-made Talgo automatic gauge changing system (it now takes nearly 2 hours to switch from the European to Russian gauge at the Polish-Belarusian border).
Meanwhile Polish state railways (PKP) hope to join the Russian project although officials admit no “talks” have been held on the subject. Gazeta Wyborcza ponders the “economic sense” of the new railway links, stressing the fact that according to estimates, “railway could be competitive on distances up to 750 km” (on longer hauls planes remain cheaper option). The distance from Moscow to Berlin is over 1600 km. Hence there must be other reasons for the new railway connections with the West. “Russians want to show they have money and they are not afraid of investing in infrastructure”, explains Adrian Furgalski, director of the Railway Business Forum. (Full Text in Polish)
Between 300 and 500 European soldiers of fortune, including EU nationals, are working for Colonel Gaddafi in Libya, a leading criminologist has said. The European mercenaries are mostly specialists in heavy weapons, helicopter technology and tactics and command fees of several thousand US dollars a day. The majority come from Belarus, Serbia and Ukraine. There is a significant amount of Polish helicopter experts. Belgian, British, French and Greek nationals are also involved.
More blasts hit Tripoli on Monday night, at the same time that Italy agreed to step up involvement in missions against military targets. Rebel leaders have dismissed claims of progress in the city of Misrata.
Georgia wants the European Union to help it solve its conflict with Moscow over the "occupied territories" of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the country’s Vice Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze told EurActiv in an exclusive interview.
EU, US condemn ‘excessive violence’ in Syria (Euractiv)
Security forces have arrested some 500 pro-democracy sympathisers across Syria after the government sent in tanks to try to crush protests in the city of Deraa, a Syrian rights organisation said today (26 April). The EU condemned the "violent repressions".
EDITORIALS AND COLUMNS:
Rome joins the war in Libya (Corriere della Sera)
"Italy will also bomb Libya", headlines Corriere della Sera. After weeks of hesitation over the level of its involvement in the campaign – the coalition was allowed to use Italian airbases, but the Italian air force could only participate in "non-lethal" action – the Italian government has announced that its aircraft will now be available for NATO attack missions against Gaddafi troops. However, the Northern League and other members of Italy’s ruling coalition, who have reiterated concerns that Tripoli’s collapse would have dire consequences for immigration control and Italian interests in the area, are resolutely opposed to the change. In order to avoid further complications, the issue will not be put to a vote in parliament. Corriere’s editorial approves the decision, which will mean that Italy is no longer “stuck in the middle” between the conflicting French and German positions, while La Repubblica complains that it was taken "in the worst possible way — not as a result of strategic evaluation but in response US pressure.” The daily continues, “Enfeebled as he is, Berlusconi cannot cope with enemies in Washington". (Full Text in Italian)