France ready to welcome back car industry in exchange for state aid

French car manufacturers will have to consider relocating their activities to France if they want support from the state, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire warned on BFM Business radio on Monday (11 May). [Frederic Legrand - COMEO/Shutterstock]

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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.


EU INSTITUTIONS  

Stand by the EU Court to the end. German Green MEP Sven Giegold said the conflict between Germany and the European Central Bank should come to an end as the eurozone is in danger. Giegold had asked EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen if the executive would initiate infringement proceedings against Germany after the German top court questioned the legality of the 2015 European Central Bank’s bond-buying programme.

“If this conflict escalates, the euro is in danger. Because if the Bundesbank is really withdrawing from purchases of bonds it will be seen by financial markets as if the largest member state is not clearly anymore backing the euro,” he told Portuguese and Greek TV.

“Therefore, we have to avoid the escalation of this conflict in the eurosystem,” he added.

Giegold also spoke about anti-euro motives behind this move. Read more.

Stakeholders back ‘linking’ biomass policy to CAP. Linking biomass policy to key EU policy sectors such as agriculture would create a win-win situation that would help the bloc deliver its Green Deal goals and create a sustainable market, a number of stakeholders have told EURACTIV.

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In other news from The Capitals 

PARIS

Race for home. French car manufacturers will have to consider relocating their activities to France if they want support from the state, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire warned on BFM Business radio on Monday (11 May).

“We are ready to help you, we are ready to improve conversion premiums for example. We are ready to look at what can improve your competitiveness on the French production site, in return, it must be the relocation you are considering,” said the French minister.

“This is how we are going to build a stronger car industry,” he added. Le Maire also said he would be meeting representatives of the sector later this week. France has already agreed to bail out Renault to the tune of €5bn, a deal which has been given the green light by Brussels.

Meanwhile, France is urging its EU partners to consider threatening Israel with a tough response if it goes ahead with a de facto annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, three diplomats said. Read more. (EURACTIV.FR)

Moreover, EURACTIV’s Georgi Gotev reported that France kicks out Bulgarian seasonal workers despite Commission ‘guidelines’. Two groups of seasonal workers arriving in France by plane from Bulgaria have been sent back home by the French airport authorities, despite the European Commission’s calls to ensure the freedom of movement of such “critical” personnel. Read the full story.

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BERLIN

Merkel encourages adherence to coronavirus measures. After protests in major cities over the weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had warned that people must adhere to the protective measures in place on Monday (11 May). “Despite all the loosening, we really do have the certainty that people will stick to the basic commandments,” the chancellor said, urging people to “keep your distance, wear a face mask that covers your mouth and nose, show consideration for each other.”

Also, make sure to check out the latest coronavirus-related updates for Germany, here.

Meanwhile, over the weekend, there was a coronavirus outbreak in a meat-producing plant in the northwest of the country near the Dutch border. While the plant was forced to stop production from Saturday (9 May) through 18 May, there are now more than 200 infections linked to the location. EURACTIV Germany’s Sarah Lawton has the story.

Also read: Germany plans big bailout for Deutsche Bahn

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BRUSSELS

A summer by the Belgian sea? Mayors of Belgium’s coastal municipalities agreed to follow the guidelines of the National Security Council for reopening the beaches, after disagreement over when and how to allow tourists to return to the seaside. Alexandra Brzozowski has the details.

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LONDON

More clarity on lockdown easing. The UK will begin the slow process of easing confinement measures this week and Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday (11 May) told MPs that people should exercise “good, solid, British common sense” in adapting their lives to the next phase of the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Benjamin Fox reports from London. 

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VIENNA

Right-wing politician caught at ‘corona-party’ now lead candidate. After announcing his resignation from “all functions in the Freedom party” after being caught at a lockdown-breaching party on 21 March, Gerhard Hirschmann said he will now run in local elections on 28 June, as the lead candidate for the Freedom Party.

“I am still a party member and will give it my all in these elections”, Hirschmann told the newspaper, Der Standard. Because he had submitted his bid to participate in the elections in February, he and his party argue that it is now legally impossible to change it. (Philipp Grüll | EURACTIV.de)

To stay up to date of the COVID-19 health situation in Austria, read more here.

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HELSINKI

Taxation becoming the new ‘hot potato’. To finance the Finnish welfare state after the coronavirus crisis, 24% of Finns favour raising taxes, 18% want to see social services cut and 6% want to raise the retirement age, according to a survey published on Monday (11 May), which was commissioned by Rural Future, a newspaper close to the Centre Party. But 26% of respondents could not even provide an answer. Pekka Vänttinen has the details

To stay up-to-date with the COVID-19 health crisis in Finland, check here.


EUROPE’S SOUTH

ROME

Aid package delayed. The standoff between Italy’s ruling parties on the regularisation of illegal migrants working as agricultural labourers or as housekeepers is slowing down the adoption of the latest aid package to support families and companies in the throes of the lockdown. EURACTIV’s Gerardo Fortuna has the full story.

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MADRID

Phase 1, phase 0 and full confinement. Several provinces launched phase 1 of the country’s de-escalation measures which will see bars and restaurants reopen with limited capacity and sticking to strict hygiene measures and social distancing. Churches will also open operating at a third of capacity as well as small shops which will open on appointment only.

Meanwhile, the country’s hotspots in Madrid and Barcelona will remain in Phase 0 and have submitted proposals to the government on Monday (11 May) to start easing measures which, if approved, would start on 18 May. Granada, Málaga and Valencia, however, will still abide with full confinement rules. (EUROEFE)

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LISBON

15,000 meals a day. Thanks to an investment of €1.5 million per month and currently closed school kitchens, among other means, Lisbon City Hall has been preparing and distributing 15,000 meals a day “to those who need it most” because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the council. (Vera Amaro, Lusa.pt)

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ATHENS

Five countries join forces against Turkey. Greece, France, Cyprus, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates signed a joint declaration yesterday (11 May) slamming Turkey over its illegal activities in the maritime zones in the eastern Mediterranean. The foreign ministers condemned the escalation of Turkey’s violations in Greece’s national airspace, including overflights over residential areas, as well as the ongoing Turkish illegal activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone and territorial waters of Cyprus.

They also urged Ankara to fully respect the UN arms embargo and stop the influx of foreign fighters from Syria to Libya. (Sarantis Michalopoulos)


VISEGRAD

WARSAW

New project. The ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) will present parliament with a new proposal today (12 May) on how to conduct presidential elections, which parliament should vote on later in the evening. The proposal will favour in-person-voting with postal voting just being an option. While PiS politicians had called the proposal “a compromise” and a good solution, Health Minister Łukasz Szumowski stood by his earlier comments and continued to only favour postal voting. (Łukasz Gadzała | EURACTIV.pl)

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PRAGUE

The end of face masks saga. Wearing face masks and covers in outdoor public areas will no longer be obligatory as of 25 May, the Czech government decided on Monday (11 May), after Czechs have had to wear face masks in all public spaces since 19 March, putting them among Europe’s frontrunners. However, masks will remain mandatory in shops, institutions and all closed public spaces including public transport.

This decision confirms the government’s willingness to release restrictive measures earlier than previously suggested. On Monday (11 May), shopping centres, hairdressers and other salons were reopened again and restaurants can serve customers in outdoor gardens.  (Aneta Zachová | EURACTIV.cz)

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BUDAPEST

COVID-19 mostly brought from Europe. European, Taiwanese and American sources have simultaneously brought the novel coronavirus to Hungarian soil, according to a study from the University of Pécs, which was based on a representative sample of the virus’ presence in the country. EURACTIV’s Vlagyiszlav Makszimov has more.

For more on the health crisis situation in Hungary, read here.

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BRATISLAVA 

Shops on Sunday – open or closed? As part of the government’s measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, the government decided that shops which were allowed to operate under the lockdown (groceries, pharmacies, drugstores, etc) would be closed on Sundays for sanitation reasons and for employees to have a day of rest. Now, however, the governing coalition cannot agree on whether shops will be open again on Sundays. EURACTIV’s Zuzana Gabrižová reports.


NEWS FROM THE BALKANS

SOFIA

Political benefits from the crisis. While the approval rating of President Rumen Radev saw an 8% decline between December and May (48% to 40%) due to him being one of government’s anti-coronavirus measures’ main critics according to a sociological study conducted by Alpha Research, Prime Minister Boyko Borrissov’s popularity saw a 10% surge during that same period.

The biggest winner, however, seems to be the head of the national anti-COVID-19 task force, Ventsislav Mutafchiiski, who enjoys 60% approval. (Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)

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ZAGREB    

Big hit on the economy. Croatia’s tourism council expects that by the end of the year only 30% of last year’s turnover will be achieved in the sector, which is considered to be one of the bedrocks of the country’s economy. The ministry recalled that as a result of COVID-19 restrictions imposed around the world, Croatian tourism is experiencing a 74% drop in turnover and 66% fewer bed-nights. EURACTIV Croatia’s Tea Trubić Macan takes a closer look.

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LJUBLJANA 

International flights resume, in theory. Passenger flights to and from the EU, as well as third countries, are allowed to resume at Slovenia’s international airports from today (12 March), after the government had decided not to extend the ban on passenger flights in force since 17 March.

However, the government stressed that epidemiologic measures like obligatory self-isolation upon arrival in most countries have seriously impacted international passenger flights so that carriers have not yet resumed operation, nor is there a great demand for such flights. Most airlines have cancelled flights until the end of May, but the management of Ljubljana airport told STA news agency it had already taken all measures to resume passenger traffic safely. (Zoran Radosavljević | EURACTIV.com)

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BELGRADE 

Serbian-German cooperation in peacekeeping missions. On Monday (11 May), Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin met in Belgrade with the German ambassador to Serbia, Thomas Schieb, to discuss bilateral cooperation in peacekeeping missions and multinational operations under the auspices of the EU. EURACTIV Serbia digs deeper.

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In other news, Serbia’s Construction, Transport and Infrastructure Minister, Zorana Mihajlovic, said on Monday (11 May) that the goal of Serbia’s government was for the state to break into the top five in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings.

“We have prepared an ambitious action plan for Serbia to improve its score, and the Serbian government will pass it as soon as possible. Our goal is to join the top five states in the next few years,” Mihajlovic told a meeting of a group tasked with improving Serbia’s position, which was also attended by the country’s finance and energy ministers,  Sinisa Mali and Aleksandar Antic. One of the meetings’ conclusions was that the reforms conducted so far, such as electronic construction licensing, had already been recognised globally, Mihajlovic’s ministry had said. (EURACTIV.rs  betabriefing.com)

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PRISTINA 

PM Kurti self-isolates. Kosovo’s acting Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, has been isolated at home since Monday (11 May) because he came in contact with a ministry official suspected of having the virus infection. “I have been self-isolating at home since 11 May, waiting to see if the ministry’s official will test positive for COVID-19 or not,” Kurti said on Facebook.

Kurti explained that other staffers had also been tested and that he is waiting for the results. “I was in contact with him, as well as other employees of the European integration ministry and at the prime minister’s office, even though I always respected physical distancing rules,” Kurti said in the Facebook post. (EURACTIV.rs  betabriefing.com)

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[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Sam Morgan]

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