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 article “Vestager urges EU member states not to backtrack on 5G” by Samuel Stolton.
To stay up-to-date on everything to do with the coronavirus across the capitals, feel free to check out EURACTIV’s comprehensive overview, which is regularly updated with the help of our network of offices and media partners.
Breton speaks out. Thanks to the EU single market, Germany conducts 50% of its exports, so if there is no single market, there is no German industry, European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton has said.
“The internal market cannot be maintained if we save only one or two industries of one or two members states. We are all in the same boat and for us, this boat is Europe”, he underlined.
(Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)
In today’s news from the Capitals:
Bavaria to relax restrictions as health institute warns of second wave. On Tuesday (5 May), Bavarian Minister-President Markus Söder (CSU) outlined new plans to reopen the state’s restaurants and hotels. Having implemented the first and strictest lockdown in the country, the state of Bavaria will allow restaurants to resume service outdoors from 18 May and indoors as of 25 May, with hotels allowed to reopen from 30 May. “Now is the right time for a cautious opening. The successes are clear,” Söder told cabinet members. Sarah Lawton reports.
Also, check out EURACTIV’s country page to learn more about Germany’s COVID-19 response.
Discussing the next stage. Belgium’s National Security Council will meet on Wednesday to discuss the next stage of the exit strategy from the lockdown measures. One of the questions is whether the politicians will make a decision about social contacts that have been limited for nearly two months. Alexandra Brzozowski has the details.
COVID cyber attacks. The UK and US on Tuesday (5 May) issued a joint warning that hackers have been targeting the health sector hunting for information, including Covid-19 data and vaccine research. Ben Fox has the story.
1,000-page police report on COVID-19 hotspot. After the Ischgl ski resort in the Tyrolean Alps became an infamous COVID-19 hotspot in March when local leaders decided to keep hotels and bars open, the public prosecutor started investigating the town on the basis of “suspicion of negligent endangerment of humans through transmittable disease.
Upon receiving a 1,000-page police report, the public prosecutor said it was “very detailed and comprehensive” but that the decision on whether or not to start an investigation into Tyrolean politicians’ negligence would not be taken this week. (Philipp Grüll | EURACTIV.de)
To refresh your memory on how the village of Ischgl in Tirol became famous for being a coronavirus hotspot, read here.
Anti-lockdown protesters arrested. As the Dutch celebrated the anniversary of the end of Nazi occupation indoors, police arrested around 80 protesters in the Hague on Tuesday afternoon (5 May) for protesting against the country’s coronavirus measures. EURACTIV’s Davine Janssen digs deeper.
Tiny exit steps. Following a two-day meeting, the Finnish government presented a very cautious plan on Monday evening (4 May) on how to reopen society. Many economists, however, had hoped for a more courageous approach. EURACTIV’s Pekka Vänttinen takes a closer look at the country’s COVID-19 exit plan.
More on the Finnish response to the novel coronavirus can be found here.
Tracking app almost ready. In a parliamentary hearing, the special commissioner for the emergency, Domenico Arcuri, has said that a mobile tracking app called ‘Immuni’, designed to trace the spread of COVID-19 will be launched at the end of the month. While the app will be voluntary, anonymous and will use a special Bluetooth technology, doubts remain over potential security and privacy breaches. (Gerardo Fortuna | EURACTIV.com) Read more here.
Simple majority to extend emergency measures. Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has to obtain a simple majority in Congress on Wednesday (6 May) to extend the current emergency measures. But while Catalan separatists and the far-right Vox have already said they would oppose such an extension, it remains to be seen whether the conservative opposition Popular Party will back Sánchez .
“I think we can all agree that the only instrument that right now allows the government to fight against COVID-19, to save lives and defend the healthcare system, is the extension of the state of alarm,” Sánchez told senators Tuesday afternoon. “How can we guarantee that people from Madrid won’t head to their second home in Murcia? There is no alternative, we cannot come up with experiments if we don’t know how they’ll go or whether they’ll be effective,” he added. EURACTIV’s partner Efe reports.
For more information on Spain’s efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus, read here.
EU-India summit during Portugal’s EU presidency. Portugal and India consider that in the current international climate “the EU-India summit during the Portuguese presidency is more important than ever”, Portugal’s Prime Minister, António Costa, said on Tuesday (5 May). Portugal takes over the EU presidency in the first half of 2021 and one of the government’s diplomatic objectives is to hold an EU-India summit during this period.
In other news, the Portuguese government on Tuesday (5 May) estimated that tourism companies will have a 50% drop in turnover this year compared to 2019 due to COVID-19, and called on Portuguese citizens to enjoy holidays within the country. Portugal’s tourism sector accounted for 11.3% of the country’s GDP in 2018, according to the most recent data from the National Institute of Statistics. (Pedro Morais Fonseca and Joana Haderer, Lusa.pt)
Greeks angry at rising prices of masks. The price of masks is rising, and, in many cases, fraud has been reported. The government has made the use of masks obligatory on public transport and Greeks are desperately looking for cheap masks in pharmacies. On average, each citizen needs at least two masks per day.
Three months ago a simple surgical mask cost 10 cents. Today it’s being sold for 80 cents, an increase of 800%. Greek socialists raised the issue in parliament asking the government to provide masks at least for elderly and other vulnerable groups. Unlike other EU countries, masks were not given for free to Greeks by the state. (Sarantis Michalopoulos)
Back in court. Kamil Zaradkiewicz, whom President Andrzej Duda appointed as interim 1st President of the Supreme Court from 1 May, on Tuesday (5 May) reinstated the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, contrary to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision. However, it will not rule until a final decision of the ECJ or a judgment of the Constitutional Court on the competence of the EU court with respect to the Polish judiciary. (Barbara Bodalska | EURACTIV.pl)
No legal basis for state-run quarantine. The government may be forcing citizens into state-run quarantine facilities without an appropriate legal basis since the country’s ombudswoman, NGOs and the media could not find any legally relevant decisions banning the entry of foreigners into the country and ruling that every citizen returning to Slovakia must undergo a 14-day quarantine under the threat of being taken into custody. Zuzana Gabrižová has more.
In other news, Slovakia will contribute €750,000 towards the global initiative to support the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, Foreign Affairs Minister Ivan Korčok announced on the occasion of the international donor event organised by the European Commission, the WHO, France, Germany, the UK and Saudi Arabia. “This is a challenge that requires joint action and Slovakia is on board,” the minister said, adding that it is important to ensure everyone needing the vaccine would have access. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)
For more on the coronavirus situation in Slovakia, check here.
‘We have to look for our own way’. Several Czech health institutes are jointly developing a COVID-19 vaccine which has now reached its laboratory phase, said Health Minister Adam Vojtěch, adding that if successful, the vaccine will be tested on mice. “There is such a big embargo on knowledge that we have to look for our own way,” said MP Věra Adámková from the governing ANO party (Renew), who happens to also lead the joint research team. “Every (foreign company) would feed its own market,” Adámková added. (Aneta Zachová | EURACTIV.cz)
To stay abreast on what’s happening in the Czech Republic, read more here.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Chief EU prosecutor wins case against Romania before Strasbourg Court. Laura Codruta Kovesi, the chief prosecutor of the recently established European Public Prosecutor Office, was wrongfully fired from her position as head of Romania’s anti-corruption directorate, according to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The court upheld Kovesi’s complaint that she had been fired for criticising legislative changes to corruption laws and that her right to a fair trial and free speech had been violated by the state. Bogdan Neagu reports.
On vacation with state money. Bulgarian citizens will receive vouchers from the government for the summer holidays but these will only apply to Bulgarian resorts, the government has announced in a bid to support the local tourism industry, which generates about 11% of Bulgaria’s GDP but has been severely impacted by coronavirus
Meanwhile, tourists will be free to use umbrellas and sunbeds on local beaches this year. However, the ruling coalition between GERB and the “United Patriots” have failed to agree on a reduction in VAT on restaurants and tourist services, though talks are ongoing. From 6 May, restaurants in Bulgaria can welcome customers if the tables are located outdoors and there is a distance of 1.5 meters between them. (Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)
To stay up-to-date with how Bulgaria is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, read here.
Zagreb declaration. The European perspective, the commitment of the Western Balkan countries to the EU and cooperation in the coronavirus crisis are key elements of the declaration that will be adopted at the central event of the Croatian EU presidency in Zagreb on Wednesday (6 May), Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman said on Tuesday, adding that North Macedonia and Albania had been given the green light on their path to EU membership which he said was “a great Croatian success”. Read more about the summit here.
The Croatian EU Presidency has proposed that summits on European integration be held every two years, Grlic Radman said. “Not all EU members are equally interested in enlargement. There is still talk of what the future will bring with new members, but Croatia has shown the initiative in this regard,” he added. (Karla Junicic, EURACTIV.hr)
Slovenia’s GDP forecast revised down again. The government’s macroeconomic office UMAR has once again cut Slovenia’s growth projections for this year. The latest forecast puts the decline of output at 8.1% but points out that it is likely to be even greater, given that it is still not known how the spread and containment of coronavirus will develop. Before the pandemic, UMAR had forecast 3% GDP growth for this year. (Zoran Radosavljevic | EURACTIV.com)
Parliament session scheduled for 6 May. Serbian parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic has said that the assembly will hold its second session since the declaration of the state of emergency on 6 May, during which MPs will debate a government proposal for lifting the state of emergency and a bill on the ratification of the decrees passed by the government and co-signed by the president during the state of emergency.
While Serbia’s state of emergency had been declared based on signatures from the president, parliament and government on 15 March, a parliamentary debate had been delayed because of the government’s decree banning gatherings of more than 50 people in enclosed areas.
In other news, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić said on Tuesday (5 May) that it should not be expected that borders would re-open soon as the matter did not solely depend on Serbia but on the international community and the EU.
Dačić also said Brussels would decide on new rules within the Schengen area, adding that member countries would first open borders among themselves which had been closed due to the pandemic. “So, at the moment, it is difficult to predict when people will be able to go across the borders,” Dacic told the Belgrade Happy TV. (EURACTIV.rs betabriefing.com)
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox]