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 EU, China and Canada renew pledge for climate action, despite virus.
We would like to remind you that everyone at EURACTIV is keen to continue delivering top-quality content that covers the EU in a clear and unbiased way, despite being heavily impacted by the current crisis. As we, at EURACTIV, firmly believe that our readers should not have to access content via a paywall, we are asking you to consider making a contribution and thank all of you who already have. If you are interested in making a one-time or recurring donation, all you need to do is follow this link.
Renew Europe agrees on measures to safeguards rule of law in MFF. The liberal Renew Europe Group in the European Parliament agreed on Tuesday (7 July) on a series of concrete measures in its paper entitled “Smart conditionality: how the European Commission could centrally manage EU funds through direct and indirect management” to ensure EU solidarity and the common financing of projects is underpinned by respect for democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law.
Noting the “backsliding of the rule of law and attacks on democratic institutions, most notably in Poland and Hungary,” in its press release, the liberal group wants to ensure EU citizens, as opposed to governments, benefit directly from EU funding, particularly in situations of gross violations. “The EU is not an ATM, it is a community of values, driven by the needs of our citizens. European solidarity – ultimately financed by the citizens of Europe – must be conditional on respect for core principles,” Renew President Dacian Cioloș said.
In today’s news from the Capitals:
Weekend coronavirus curfew sparks protests. In response to the newly announced COVID-19 measures, a group of opposition supporters stormed the Serbian parliament building in Belgrade on Tuesday in protest against a lockdown planned for the capital this weekend to halt the spread of the virus.
Belgrade will have to undergo “a lengthy curfew” from 10-13 July and ban all public gatherings of more than five people both indoors and outdoors as of Wednesday (8 July) given the “alarming” situation in the capital, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić announced on Tuesday in an emergency televised address to the nation. “Belgrade is in a critical situation and the situation is serious in four other cities,” the president said, adding that hospitals in Belgrade “are nearly full”.
The president also said that this had been the most difficult day for Serbia since the COVID-19 outbreak given that 13 people had died from the COVID-19 within the past 24 hours. Besides, 4,000 patients are currently hospitalised with a suspected or confirmed infection and the number of people on ventilators went up from 110 to 120 that day, he added.
A few thousand protesters had gathered in front of the Serbian parliament building in Belgrade, protesting the new measures announced by President Vučić. EURACTIV Serbia’s Vladimir Tintor takes a closer look.
Meanwhile, the Serbian government imposed a 14-day quarantine for all Montenegrin nationals entering Serbia on Tuesday after Montenegro had imposed a mandatory quarantine on travellers from Serbia the day before. EURACTIV Serbia has more.
Liberal FDP calls COVID-19 restrictions into question. Germany’s liberal Free Democrats (FDP) want a review of all of Germany’s lockdown measures to determine whether they are proportional. This comes after an administrative court struck down the lockdown measures in Gütersloh on Monday (6 July).
The review could include the requirements to wear a mask in shops and public transit, which was recently called into question in the state of Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania. EURACTIV Germany’s Sarah Lawton digs deeper.
Upper Austria re-introduces masks. The local government of Upper Austria decided to make wearing masks in public spaces like shops and restaurants mandatory after the measure was abolished throughout the country in mid-June. The decision comes after the region saw a significant surge in COVID-19 cases last week, most of which can be traced back to slaughterhouses.
Austria’s opposition parties – liberal NEOS and socialist SPÖ – criticised another federal coronavirus measure, which allows police to control symptoms of the virus, calling the measure “absurd” and suggesting the police would have to “play doctor”.
€1.1 billion more for healthcare workers. France’s new Prime Minister, Jean Castex, has decided to increase the funding for the health sector after last week’s failure of the so-called “Ségur de la Santé”. Health Minister Olivier Véran had already increased the budget by €6.4 billion, though this was deemed insufficient by trade unions.
The newly appointed PM has, therefore, decided to make a gesture towards healthcare workers, who have been staging strikes for years, and decided to add “employment issues” to the negotiations agenda. (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.FR)
Return talks continue. Belgian health ministers are meeting again this morning on self-quarantine and testing for travellers after a stay in a high-risk area abroad. In Tuesday’s meeting, they had agreed in principle, but not how enforcement could work as self-quarantine and the test are not legally required yet. Regional governments such as Flanders and Wallonia are lobbying hard to make an obligation legally enforceable. (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)
Financial support for students. Since the academic year was disrupted due to the COVID-19 crisis, precarious students have had difficulties in making ends meet.
However, the Grand-Duchy’s university has created a so-called “Hardship Fund”, for which Education Minister Claude Meisch announced on Tuesday that among the eighty requests received, “about fifty” had been accepted”. Each of these students, as well as scholarship students, will receive a sum of €1,100 from the university, which also created a digital platform to provide students with psychological support. (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.COM)
Youth jobs scheme at centre of new stimulus plan. The government will subsidise six-month work placements for people between 16 and 24, who are at risk of long-term unemployment, as part of a £2bn ‘kickstart scheme’ to create more jobs for young people. EURACTIV’s Benjamin Fox has the details.
Swedish care homes bear brunt of COVID-19 crisis. About half of Sweden’s COVID-19-related deaths were recorded in care homes, heavily affecting the elderly, according to the country’s health and social care inspectorate. Serious failings in providing the right care for care home residents had been found in 91 of Sweden’s homes, Health Minister Lena Hallengren told reporters on Tuesday, adding that these will be further investigated. (EURACTIV.com)
Lockdown heavily impacts family income. “More than half of the population suffered a drop in family income after the lockdown measures and the impact was particularly severe on autonomous workers,” according to a study conducted by the Bank of Italy, which surveyed Italian families between April and May, collecting information about their economic situation and expectations during the pandemic.
The study also confirmed that almost one-third of all Italian families will not be able to go on holidays. EURACTIV Italy’s Alessandro Follis takes a closer look.
Spanish unemployment rate to ‘skyrocket’. Unemployment in Spain will rise to 20% in the case of another COVID-19 outbreak, according to the OECD. As a consequence of the collapse of GDP, the calculations indicate that the unemployment rate will rise from around 14% at the end of 2019 to 19.2% at the end of this year, in the main scenario, but could in the end skyrocket to 20.1% in the case of a second outbreak. Read more here.
Economic forecasts call for agreement. The prime ministers of Portugal and Italy said on Tuesday that the worsening economic forecasts issued by the European Commission require an agreement between the 27 EU member states at the next European Council meeting.
“There was a general downward revision of economic forecasts for Europe as a whole and Portugal saw a very significant reduction. We are now one-tenth below the EU average”, said Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa, adding that his government “has a habit of working against forecasts – and that is what will be done.” Lusa.pt’s Pedro Morais Fonseca has more details.
27 new coronavirus cases in Greece. Greece recorded 27 new coronavirus cases since Monday, including 14 individuals who entered Greece either by air or by land, according to the National Organisation of Public Health (EODY) on Tuesday. Besides the 14, the other cases include three who volunteered to be tested in Xanthi (northern Greece), and three in Attica, and one each in Larissa, Kastoria region and Karditsa area. Read more on Athens News Agency.
“Back to Normality” with V4. As foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia met in Wadowice for a first summit under the Polish presidency of the Visegrad Group (V4), which began on July 1, Poland presented the priorities of its V4 presidency, and its motto, ‘Back to Normality’. EURACTIV’s Alexandra Brzozowski has the story.
Jourova expresses solidarity with Index. “I have been following the situation of Index with concern. I would like to express my solidarity with the staff of Index who have been working under very difficult conditions,” European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, wrote to news website Index.hu, Hungary’s most popular media outlet. EURACTIV’s Vlagyiszlav Makszimov has the details.
Ban for hen cages. The Czech opposition Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) is set on pushing for an all-EU ban on hen battery caging the day the Czech Republic will introduce it to ensure Czech farmers are not at a disadvantage, KDU-CSL representatives told media yesterday.
“For us, it is important to do our utmost for the conditions to be equal in all countries of the European Union,” KDU-CSL leader and former agriculture minister, Marian Jurecka, said. As a member of the EPP, the Christian Democrats will try to push for an all-EU ban on battery cages within the EPP, he said. (Ondřej Plevák | EURACTIV.cz)
Slovakia yields to EU Commission pressure. The Slovak government is confident it will find common understanding with the European Commission with respect to the Letter of formal notice about restrictions in the food retail sector.
According to the EU executive, Slovak measures, such as a compulsory quota on Slovak products on the marketing leaflets, create more advantageous marketing conditions for domestic products and restrict retailers’ freedom to decide on their assortment and the layout of their sale surfaces. The government has already agreed on relevant law amendments that should be passed by the parliament shortly. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
New government by August. Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković (HDZ) hosted meetings at the government’s headquarters on Tuesday (7 July), both with his incumbent ministers and potential coalition partners.
MPs from minority parties, as well as two Liberal MPs, have officially given Plenković their support, meaning he can already count on the 76 seats needed to be given a mandate by the president to form a government. However, because parliament has to vote on the Earthquake Reconstruction Bill as soon as possible, the new government will only be sworn in by August. EURACTIV Croatia’s Tea Trubić Macan has the story.
PM to discuss lawsuit with EU Commission chief. Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša will discuss with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels on Thursday (9 July) a lawsuit the EU executive filed against Slovenia in 2019. The country was taken to court for having seized ECB data during a 2016 investigation into an earlier bailout of its banking system, thus violating ‘the inviolability of the ECB archives’.
The daily Delo reported that, after Janša signalled readiness in June to discuss the issue, von der Leyen replied with a letter welcoming his stance and calling for direct communication between the Commission’s expert services and the Slovenian authorities.
In other news, banks in Slovenia posted a 50% lower pre-tax profit of €152 million in the first five months of the year, mostly because growth in loans to households was halved, while corporate loans were gradually declining too, the central bank said on Tuesday.
(Zoran Radosavljević | EURACTIV.com)
Bulgaria may tighten its COVID-19 restrictions. Some measures may be re-instated if the number of infected people in Bulgaria reaches 200 per day, explained Bulgarian Health Minister Kiril Ananiev, as the country recently recorded between 150-180 COVID-19 infections per day based on about 3,000 tests. We just have to be disciplined and keep social distance, as well as wear masks, the minister added.
Since the start of the pandemic, Bulgaria recorded a total of 5,914 COVID-19 cases, of which 2,664 are now active, as well as 250 deaths. The pandemic situation in Bulgaria was prolonged until the end of the month. (Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)
About a quarter of the EU’s teenage mothers are in Romania. Almost a quarter of the EU’s underage mothers live in Romania, according to humanitarian organisation Save the Children.
More than 8,600 of Romanian girls became mothers before the age of 18 in 2018 alone, with 725 of them giving birth before the age of 15, said the NGO, citing Eurostat data. Of these underage mothers, two-thirds had abandoned school before getting pregnant and 2% had no interaction with social services. (Bogdan Neagu, EURACTIV.ro)
In other news, the number of active coronavirus cases in Romania is getting close to the peak the country had experienced back in April although authorities are almost out of ‘weapons’ to fight a potential second wave of infections.
On Tuesday, 397 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus within the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases to almost 30,000, public health authorities said. The death toll reached 1,799 on Tuesday as 31 new deaths were recorded within the past 24 hours, which represents the fourth-highest daily figure since the pandemic started. EURACTIV Romania’s Bogdan Neagu has the story.
[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Zoran Radosavljevic]