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In today’s news from the Capitals:
Austria proposes reform of Euratom treaty. Austria’s Green Climate Action Minister Leonore Gewessler presented a proposal on Monday to reform the Euratom nuclear treaty, saying its current version is outdated and that stricter rules for the security and decommissioning of nuclear stations and for the final storage of nuclear waste should be adopted. Read more.
Juncker: If Costa can’t succeed at social summit, no one can. Former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker believes that Portugal will be able to achieve concrete results at the Porto Social Summit, commenting that if Prime Minister António Costa is not successful, “no one will be, because he is one of the best”. More.
Human rights organisations call for pressure on India. Human rights organisations are calling on European leaders, who meet on Saturday with the Indian government, to warn about the deterioration of fundamental rights in India, including the right to health.
“Focused on strengthening trade relations with India, EU countries have been reluctant to publicly voice human rights concerns in that country, except for some occasional positions, on the death penalty,” a group of NGOs said in a statement.
“Instead of empty references to alleged values about human rights and democracy” to be adopted in joint statements, the EU member states should show willingness in commitments to uphold these values and hold the Indian government accountable for violations against human rights,” the NGOs said. (Lusa)
Belgium’s equality body warns of vaccine discrimination. Refusing access to goods or services to non-vaccinated people could count as discriminatory, Belgium’s equality centre Unia (Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism) stated in an opinion sent to the country’s various authorities. Read more.
German government to discuss the Climate Protection Act. After Germany’s Constitutional Court last week has ruled that the country’s Climate Protection Act does not go far enough to protect future generations and is therefore unconstitutional, Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to hold government talks on a possible amendment to the law. Constitutional judges in their ruling gave the legislature until the end of next year to draw up clearer reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions for the period after 2030. (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)
French students block schools, demand cancellation of final exams. As college and high school students returned to school for in-person teaching as part of the easing of lockdown restrictions on Monday, some students blocked dozens of schools, demanding that they should not be taking the end of school exam known as the baccalaureat this year, and instead be graded on their average school year performance.
After months of home-schooling and the cancellation of many courses due to the pandemic, the national high school student union says students are not prepared to take their final exams. (Magdalena Pistorius | EURACTIV.fr)
Backtracking on the ‘right to disconnect’. Luxembourg’s Economic and Social Council (ESC) issued an opinion on Monday, recommending that the existing legal measures establishing an employee’s “right to disconnect” be supplemented, days after it submitted a proposal to establish a new framework.
“Technical accessibility does not change the legal inaccessibility, and it is therefore not necessary to introduce a right to disconnect, which already exists. On the other hand, it may be useful to put in place mechanisms that promote compliance with these principles and their implementation in practice,” the Council said in its opinion. (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.fr)
UK AND IRELAND
UK-India trade deal on the way. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi are expected to announce £1 billion of new trade and investment between their two countries in a virtual meeting on Tuesday.
Johnson had been expected to travel to India for the talks but the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in India forced him to cancel the plans. The trade and investment pact, which will lower non-tariff barriers on fruit and medical devices, is expected to form the basis for talks on a broader trade agreement between the UK and India in the coming months. India is likely to demand that the UK ease its visa and migration policy for Indian nationals. (Benjamin Fox | EURACTIV.com)
DUBLIN | BELFAST
Northern Ireland Minister visits Dublin for crucial talks. The UK’s Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis is to visit Dublin on Wednesday for talks with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney amid continuing uncertainty at Stormont and turmoil in the now leaderless Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Swedish opposition strict on immigration, edges closer to forming next coalition. Swedish opposition parties released a joint statement on Sunday (2 April) advocating tighter immigration policy. If approved, the statement could reverse the traditionally liberal treatment of migrants and pave the way for a right-wing coalition government. Read more.
Denmark drops Johnson & Johnson jab. Copenhagen has decided to ditch the COVID-19 vaccine produced by US giant Johnson & Johnson from its vaccination programme, citing worries over serious side effects involving blood clots.
“The Danish Health Authority has concluded that the benefits of using the COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson do not outweigh the risk of causing the possible adverse effect […] in those who receive the vaccine,” the authority said in a statement, according to AFP.
Spain urges EU Commission to unblock Mercosur agreement. Spain’s socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has urged the European Commission in a letter to President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday to do everything in its power to move forward and unfreeze the Mercosur pact, as this would give a “political signal” to China about the EU’s economic commitment to Latin America, El País has revealed. Read more.
Italy’s richest 0.1% own almost 10% of country’s wealth. Italy’s richest 0.1%, which corresponds to 50,000 of the country’s 60 million inhabitants, doubled their assets in relation to the national wealth from 1995 to 2016 with assets going from 7.6 million or 5.5% to 15.8 million or 9.6% , a study reported by the newspaper la Repubblica reveals. According to the study, the wealth gap in Italy has since 1995 widened more than in other countries with half the country, like in Germany, owning 3.5% of the wealth, while the rate in France and Spain lies at 7%.
In other news, Italy is considering extending its use of the Astrazeneca vaccine for people below 60, COVID-19 Commissioner Francesco Figliuolo has said. “The vaccines should all be used. Astrazeneca is recommended for certain classes but the European Medicines Agency says it is good for everyone. There are side effects but they are infinitesimal”, said Figliuolo, adding that athletes who will be competing in the Olympics will be vaccinated very shortly. (Daniele Lettig | EURACTIV.it)
COVID-19 crisis in Portugal sheds spotlight on immigrant workers’ rights. The pandemic turned the spotlight on the Alentejo region in southern Portugal due to the high number of COVID-19 cases among immigrants working in the agriculture sector, some living in overcrowded spaces and poor housing conditions. Read more.
Without masks in bars if vaccinated. Greek epidemiologist Nikos Sypsas has described as a “very good idea” allowing vaccinated people to enter indoor areas such as restaurants, bars and clubs without a mask, saying it would be a great reward but also an incentive to promote vaccinations. More.
Jourová: Commission unable to act on Orbán-ally Hungarian media giant. KESMA, an Orbán-ally conglomerate comprising nearly 500 media groups, was in financial terms too small for intervention as competition law was designed for bigger mergers, European Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová told Euronews on Monday (3 May). More
Eastern European presidents mark Polish-Lithuanian constitution. The presidents of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine and Poland met in Warsaw on Monday to mark the 230th anniversary of the constitution adopted by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Read more.
Trust in EU increased among Czechs during pandemic. According to the recent Eurobarometer survey, Czechs’ trust in the EU has increased from 39% in 2020 to 48% currently, as the country abandoned its traditional euroscepticism during the pandemic. Read more.
600,000 Slovaks sign petition for referendum on early election. More than 600,000 signatures calling for early elections were handed to Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová Monday, though many constitutional lawyers in the country consider the move to be unconstitutional. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Belarus to feature prominently on Slovenia’s presidency agenda. The democratisation of Belarus will be high on the agenda of the Slovenian EU Council Presidency in the second half of the year, said Foreign Minister Anže Logar after receiving Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya on Monday. Read more.
Borissov warns that without the GERB party, Bulgaria will enter crisis mode. If the Bulgarian government is not formed by the GERB party the country will lurch from crisis to crisis, outgoing prime minister and GERB leader Boyko Borissov said on Monday. Read more.
Bucharest to host test shows for vaccinated people in May. Bucharest will organise several test shows including full-house shows at the National Opera House and the National Theatre of Bucharest, for vaccinated people in May.
The aim is to study options for reopening activities with a large attendance. Authorities also plan to host some drive-in shows and outdoor events with up to 300 attendees. Outdoor shows are currently forbidden in Bucharest. As the infection rate has decreased in the past few weeks, theatres and restaurants were allowed to reopen Monday, but are only allowed to operate at 30% capacity. (Bogdan Neagu | EURACTIV.ro)
Survey: One in four young Croatians politically illiterate. A quarter of young people in Croatia are politically illiterate, professor Berto Šalaj of Zagreb’s Faculty of Political Sciences said on Monday while presenting the results of a recent survey, Hina news agency reported. Read more.
NGO: A Populism industry has been created in Serbia. Several factors have created a “populism industry” system in Serbia, where the media “are the means of promotion, propaganda and retaliation in the service of personal power,” according to Serbian non-profit the Bureau for Social Research (BIRODI). Read More.
- France: The National Assembly will have a formal vote on the controversial draft climate and resilience bill Tuesday afternoon.
- Spain: Popular Party (PP) still ahead in the polls as Madrid regional elections start on Tuesday.
- Slovakia: Prime Minister Eduard Heger to meet Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Vienna to discuss bilateral cooperation, the current pandemic situation and this month’s upcoming EU summit.
- Czech Republic: Parliament will elect new members for the governing body of public TV broadcaster Czech Television, sparking concerns over the broadcaster’s independence.
- Poland: Estonian President Kersti Kaluljad will visit President Andrzej Duda for a bilateral meeting on Tuesday as parliament’s lower house will discuss the national recovery plan, which has been already officially submitted.
- Croatia: The parliamentary group of the Social Democratic Party will submit a no-confidence motion against Health Minister Vili Beroš.
- Slovenia: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will pay an official visit to Slovenia and will meet his counterpart Anže Logar, President Borut Pahor and Prime Minister Janez Janša.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Paula Kenny, Zoran Radosavljevic, Josie Le Blond]