Belgium to scrap COVID-19 tests for asymptomatic

Under the current regime, if a person has been in close contact with an infected or upon return from a red zone from abroad, it had to be tested for COVID-19. [Shutterstock/Alexandros Michailidis]

The Capitals brings you the latest news from across Europe, through on-the-ground reporting by EURACTIV’s media network. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

Before you start reading today’s edition of the Capitals, feel free to have a look at the Special Report “Preventing osteoporosis in the EU“, by Natasha Foote.


The EURACTIV Network keeps you updated on what’s going on in the capitals of Europe. We are happy to present you with a refreshed layout, both in this newsletter and on our website, and hope you will enjoy this improved experience of our daily roundup across the continent.

The news you deserve to know. Welcome to The Capitals by EURACTIV.


In today’s news from the Capitals:

EU INSTITUTIONS

European parliament tests positive. The European Parliament has so far recorded 56 registered COVID-19 cases, EURACTIV has learnt. However, the EU House does not have information on how many tests of officials were conducted elsewhere and were not declared. More.

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BRUSSELS

No COVID-19 symptoms, no test? Belgium’s health ministers are set to adjust the COVID-19 test strategy in a bid to reduce long waiting times. According to the new system, those with no symptoms will no longer be tested, even if they had contact with a person infected with the virus. Read more.

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BERLIN

Bundestag wants more power in determining COVID-19 rules. The Bundestag should have more say when it comes to new coronavirus restrictions, according to MPs from the liberal FDP, the Greens, leftist party Die Linke, and some grand coalition MPs. They have criticised Chancellor Angela Merkel’s approach to addressing the virus, which has focused on summits between the federal government and leaders of the 16 states. Read more.

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PARIS

2021 budget to create 330 extra intelligence service jobs. The government’s 2021 budget will create an additional 330 jobs for the country’s intelligence services, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told the National Assembly on Monday (19 October), a few days after the assassination of history and geography professor Samuel Paty Friday (19 October). Read more.

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VIENNA

Stricter national COVID-19 measures announced. As new daily coronavirus infections continue to rise, Austria will adopt new nationwide measures, the government announced on Monday (19 October). Read more.

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LUXEMBOURG

No right to telework. Luxembourg’s government says it does not intend, for the time being, to give employees a “right to telework”, after MPs at the Cercle Cité on Monday (19 October) discussed a petition signed by 5,842 people calling for the “right to telework” to be recognised. Read more.


UK AND IRELAND

LONDON

EU-UK talks set to resume. EU and UK trade negotiators are set to return to the table after performing a significant ‘volte-face’ on Monday (19 October).

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said that the bloc remained “available to intensify talks in London on all subjects, and based on legal texts, after a weekend of rhetoric in which both sides appeared to have abandoned argued that the other would have to make major compromises in order to re-start the talks. Read more (Benjamin Fox | EURACTIV.com)

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DUBLIN

Two inquiries launched against Facebook. Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) has launched two inquiries into Facebook after concerns were raised about the social network giant’s handling of children’s personal data on Instagram. Read more here.


NORDICS

HELSINKI

Wide support for abortion law reform. A citizens’ initiative to reform Finland’s abortion laws has gathered more than 50,000 signatures within a few months, meaning it has surpassed the minimum threshold of signatories necessary to obligate decisions makers to consider the initiative. Read more.


EUROPE’S SOUTH

ROME

More power to local administrations. The new COVID-19 government decree came into force on Monday (19 October), meaning local administrations will now be able to close streets and city squares after 9pm, though it remains unclear which specific institution will hold such power. Read more.

In other news, Italy will not be requesting funds from the European Stability Mechanism unless there is “an immediate cash flow need”, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said, adding that EU funds would bring “only limited savings” and require “new taxes and cuts”.

However, the Democrat Party’s leader in the Chamber of Deputies, Graziano Delrio, urged the prime minister to discuss whether ESM resources are the best solution before parliament. “I do not agree with PM Conte on the cuts and taxes necessary if we decide to use the ESM, but in any case it will have to be discussed in parliament,” said Delrio. (Alessandro Follis | EURACTIV.it)

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MADRID

New COVID-19 restrictions for Aragón and Navarra. The Spanish autonomous communities of the north-east Aragón and Navarra regions on Monday (19 October) implemented new restrictions to curb the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, EFE reported. While bars and restaurants will only be allowed to be at half capacity, social meetings are limited to a maximum of six. Read more.

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ATHENS 

Golden Dawn: Prosecutor fuels the fire. In a move that triggered strong reactions, the prosecutor of the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn case suggested that those convicted for directing a criminal organisation should be given a suspended sentence. Read more.

In other news, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias appointed a new foreign ministry spokesperson, Alexandros Papaionnou, replacing outgoing diplomat Alexandros Gennimatas. Some media outlets reported that the latter’s resignation came after a recent US-Greece statement referring to the “historic” name-change deal with North Macedonia. (Theodore Karaoulanis | EURACTIV.gr)

Read more: “Historic or not? Greece and US lost in translation over North Macedonia

Also read: Greece asks the suspension of EU-Turkey customs union  

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NICOSIA | VALLETTA

EU to launch legal action over Cyprus, Malta ‘golden passports’. The EU said Monday (19 October) it will begin legal action against Cyprus and Malta over their controversial “golden passport” schemes for foreign investors, which critics say have been exploited by criminals. Read the full story.

Read also on the topic: How the outgoing Cypriot Commissioner got burnt


VISEGRAD 

WARSAW

Stadium transformed into emergency field hospital. Poland’s biggest stadium, located in Warsaw, will be transformed into an emergency field hospital which should provide 500 emergency hospital beds as the number of coronavirus cases continue to rapidly increase, the government has decided. Read more.

In other news, Przemysław Czarnek was sworn in by Polish President Andrzej Duda on Monday morning (19 October) as the country’s new education and science minister. The ceremony, initially scheduled for 5 October, had to be postponed due to Czarnek testing positive to COVID-19 and having to self-isolate.

Czarnek’s appointment has been met with strong criticism, due to his homophobic statements and accusations of anti-Semitism. “Let’s end the discussion about these LGBT abominations, homosexuality, bisexuality, equality parades,” he had said in the past.

Czarnek also previously said: “There is no doubt that this entire LGBT ideology, which grew out of neo-Marxism, comes from the same root as German National Socialism, which is responsible for all the evils of World War II, the destruction of Warsaw and the murder of those who fought for our freedom in the Warsaw uprising. It’s of the same origin.”

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PRAGUE

Coal Commission meeting. The Czech Coal Commission will meet on Tuesday (20 October)  to discuss whether the country should phase out coal by 2033, 2038 or 2040. Read more.

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BUDAPEST

Controversial Supreme Court head. The Hungarian parliament has elected András Zsolt Varga to head the country’s supreme court for the next nine years. The former deputy of  controversial Chief General Prosecutor Péter Polt and law professor, had never served in judicial capacity before being appointed member of the Constitutional Court, a separate legal entity in the country’s legal system created in 2014 by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government. Read more.

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BRATISLAVA

Grammar school teachers are prone to conspiracies. More than half of Slovak teachers in grammar schools believe that coronavirus was created artificially, while 49% say they would not get a vaccine even if the vaccine was free of charge. These are some of the findings of an opinion poll conducted by Focus agency. One third of the teachers surveyed believe that vaccines are preparing people for microchip implantation. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)


NEWS FROM THE BALKANS

BUCHAREST

Interconnection as a priority. Romania’s main objective is finalising the strategic interconnection projects, said President Klaus Iohannis about the talks that took place at the Three Seas Initiative summit. The European Commission has repeatedly criticised Romania’s limited capacity to connect with its neighbours. Read more.

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BELGRADE 

Serbia’s total debt amounts to about €27 billion. Serbia’s public debt in mid-October surpassed €27 billion, of which €400 million was in the form of unsecured debt of local self-governments, said Belgrade Faculty of Economics, Finance and Administration (FEFA) Professor Goran Radosavljević on Monday (19 October). Read more.

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BELGRADE | PRIŠTINA

Kosovo and Serbia arrange draft agreement on missing persons. Kosovo and Serbia have agreed in Brussels on a draft agreement on finding missing persons, which will be functional once a final agreement is reached, participants in a meeting of the Kosovo government’s Commission on Missing Persons said on Monday (19 October).  Read more.

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PODGORICA 

Bosniaks and Albanians will not enter government. Bosniak Party and Albanian list “Unanimously” decided not to be part of the new governing coalition. However, they are prepared to support all constructive acts in parliament. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox]

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