Dead heat on the cards as Poles ready for presidential run-off

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Before you start reading today’s edition of the Capitals, feel free to have a look at Jorge Valero’s reporting on Donohoe winning the Eurogroup presidency and Gerardo Fortuna’s exclusive interview with Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.


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EU INSTITUTIONS

‘Crocodile club’ snaps back into life. 50 MEPs and national MPs from various EU member states have created a network of informal pan-European parliamentary contacts to relaunch the spirit that animated the “Crocodile Club” forty years ago, founded by Altiero Spinelli.

The group of 50, created on the initiative of Alessandro Fusacchia and Brando Benifei, asks for rapid approval of the Next Generation EU programme, the relaunch of investments at European level thanks to a strengthened budget funded by own resources. (EURACTIV.com)


 In today’s news from the Capitals:

WARSAW

Polls suggest dead heat in Presidential run-off. Poles go to the polls on Sunday (12 July) for the presidential run-off, after incumbent President Andrzej Duda secured 43.5% of the vote in the first round and challenger Rafal Trzaskowski received 30.5%.

Pollsters  say the race is too close to call with the latest Kantar poll suggesting that 46.4% of voters would back Trzaskowski, and 45.9% for Duda, while 7.7% of respondents said they did not know who they would vote for.

The economic impact of lockdown and a controversial attempt to push ahead with an election in May significantly narrowed Duda’s lead. At the same time, Trzaskowski can expect to receive all votes from candidate that stood in the first round.

Election silence, a ban on political campaigning, will start on Friday at midnight. (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)

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BERLIN

Extremist violence on the rise. Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) in tandem with the head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) presented Germany’s annual report on ‘anti-constitutional’ activities. The report found increasing violence compared to the previous year committed by both left and right-wing extremists, although officials noted that right-wing extremism remains the “largest threat.” Read more in the latest from EURACTIV Germany.

>> Read also: Germany wants EU ‘hospital trains’ as new military project

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VIENNA

ECJ allows indictments against VW in Austria. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg held on Thursday (9 July) that class action suits against German car manufacturer Volkswagen could be filed before Austrian courts if the damage had been perceived in Austria. Volkswagen had argued that all lawsuits had to be filed in Germany given the company’s seat there.

In 2015, Volkswagen admitted that the company had used illegal software to create emission figures, which affected a total of 11 million cars worldwide, many of which belonged to Austrians. (Philipp Grüll | EURACTIV.de)

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PARIS

France’s National Assembly votes on third emergency budget. Faced with the “unprecedented crisis” of the coronavirus pandemic, MPs voted in favour of a bill that aims to help the tourism, automotive and aeronautics industries with €45 billion in additional funding. The bill still needs to go through the Senate.

The government estimates it has pumped a total of €460 billion into the economy since the coronavirus outbreak, which according to liberal MP and budget rapporteur, Laurent Saint-Marin (LREM), is a “vast safety net, representing more than 20% of our national wealth.” (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.FR)

>> Read also: Air France’s promise to nix domestic flights: Not good enough for the environment

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BRUSSELS

Belgium introduces colour-code for travel destinations. The country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has updated its list of for countries and areas which Belgian travellers are and are not allowed to go this summer, including a colour-coded guide to which countries are fully open (green), open with some restrictions (orange) and still off-limits (red).

Four countries in Europe – Ireland, Finland, Malta and Norway – remain “red”, while the Belgian foreign ministry has also defined three “red zones” in Spain and Portugal – Lleida and A Mariña in Spain, and the Portuguese capital Lisbon – where travellers returning to Belgium will be required to quarantine for 14 days and two COVID-19 tests (one on arrival, the second after nine days).

In other news, mask will be from now on compulsory in shops and other venues like theatres, concert halls, conference venues and places of worship from Saturday (12 July) after Belgium’s Higher Health Council, the federal health ministry’s scientific advisory body, had this week strongly urged the federal government to make the step.

(Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)

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LUXEMBOURG

Pierre Gramegna fails in second Eurogroup bid. Luxembourgish Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna was beaten in the Eurogroup race for the presidency by Irish counterpart Paschal Donohoe, who will now take office as of 13 July. Gramegna was defeated by Portuguese Mário Centeno back in 2017.

Following this second failure, the country’s finance minister told the Lëtzebuerger Land newspaper that he could now be tempted in ten months by the OECD Secretary-General position. (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.com)

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LONDON

Step up ‘no deal’ plans, warns Barnier. Michel Barnier has warned EU businesses to step up their planning for a ‘no deal’ scenario when the UK leaves the Single Market at the end of 2020.

As the latest negotiating round on a new EU-UK trade deal ended in London on Thursday (9 July), Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator on future relations with the UK, said that “this week’s discussions confirm that significant divergences remain between the EU and GB. We will continue working with patience, respect and determination.” Read the full story, here.

>> Read also: EU nationals shut out from UK welfare scheme, report warns


NORDICS AND BALTICS

HELSINKI

Possible prosecution over foreign fighter returnees. Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Greens), who masterminded a plan to bring back 40 Finnish women and children from the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria is now being investigated by the Office of the Prosecutor General. EURACTIV’s Pekka Vänttinen has the details.

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VILNIUS

Mobility woes. Lithuania, together with other so-called ‘peripheral’ states, has criticised the EU’s so-called ‘mobility package’ signed off by MEPs on Thursday (9 July), which provides for new trucking rules. According to them, the most contentious provision requires trucks to return to their country of registration every eight weeks, as it favours Western European hauliers.

While Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis called the deal discriminatory, echoing the words of President Gitanas Nausėda, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius called the move “deplorable”. (Benas Gerdžiūnas | LRT.lt/en)

>> Read also: MEPs bless Mobility Package without fuss


EUROPE’s SOUTH

ROME

Italians increasingly worried about the economic situation. Following the COVID-19 crisis peak, 68% of Italian citizens say they are worried about their economic situation, according to a report conducted by the Italian research institute, Censis. The number is even higher among women and millennials, 72% of which are worried, as well as for entrepreneurs (76%) and families with lower income (83%). EURACTIV Italy’s Alessandro Folis has more details.

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MADRID

First agreement on dual nationality. Spain will sign with France the first dual nationality agreement reached with a European country, which will be initialled during the bilateral summit  in the second half of this year, their foreign ministers announced on Thursday (9 July).

“It is a very clear signal to the more than 275,000 Spanish residents in France and a nod to the more than 125,000 French residents in Spain,” said the head of Spanish diplomacy, Arancha González Laya, after meeting in Paris with her French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian. EURACTIV’s mediapartner EFE reports.

In other news, Morocco will not open its land and sea borders with Spain this summer, the country’s government said in a statement to EFE following a joint statement from the Moroccan ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Health, EFE reports.

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ATHENS

Cases spike with foreign arrivals. Fifty new coronavirus cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours, the National Public Health Organization (EODY) said on Thursday (9 July), with nearly half relating to people entering Greece by land or air, EURACTIV’s media partner Athens News Agency reports.


VISEGRAD

PRAGUE

Opposition supports EU Recovery Fund. Four opposition parties in the Czech lower chamber called on Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to back the EU Recovery Fund at the European Council that will be held next week in Brussels. EURACTIV.cz’s Lukáš Hendrych takes a closer look.

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BRATISLAVA 

Huge corruption scheme with agricultural subsidies unearthed. Slovakia’s Highest Court ruled on Thursday (9 June) that influential businessman Norbert Bödör who is being prosecuted for his involvement in a major corruption scheme involving EU agricultural subsidies, should be taken into custody, reversing a previous lower court decision.

The court’s presiding judge called the case a “monstrous case of corruption” unprecedented in modern Slovak history as millions of euros had exchanged hands, mostly in the form of bribes for intermediaries who had arranged agricultural subsidies for beneficiaries. Two former bosses of the Agricultural Paying Agency, that administers EU CAP money, are currently in custody.  

(Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk


NEWS FROM THE BALKANS

BUCHAREST

MEPs against the Mobility Package. While the European Parliament may have voted for new rules for road transport, Romanian MEPs, as well as MEPs from eight other new EU member states, are calling for the rule changes to be rejected. They argue that they go against the EU’s free movement rules and hinder the EU’s efforts to reduce emissions by forcing trucks to return empty to their operational centre.

Several Romanian MEPs, including Marian Jean Marinescu (PNL, EPP), Clotilde Armand (USR-PLUS, RE) and former EU Commissioner Corina Cretu (Pro Romania, S&D), are asking the Romanian government to take the new road transport legislation to the EU Court of Justice to prevent major losses for Romanian haulage companies.

>> Read also: MEPs bless Mobility Package without fuss

In other news, Romania never registered more than 600 COVID-19 cases in a single day until Thursday (9 July), and authorities are worried that the number of infections could continue to grow in the coming weeks. The number of active cases in Romania, which has almost reached 8,000, is also at its highest level since the start of the pandemic, while the number of patients in intensive care units has been growing steadily over the past days. As of Thursday, Romania registered a total of 30,789 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, of which 1,834 people died, while almost 21,000 recovered.

(Bogdan Neagu | EURACTIV.ro)

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SOFIA

Protests in support of president following search. Bulgarian President Rumen Radev saw protests support him following the prosecution’s search of his administration’s offices and the arrest of a presidential secretary and adviser.

“The Bulgarian mafia has achieved the impossible – it has united honest people against it. It is up to all of us to throw the mafia out of the executive. To throw the mafia out of the prosecution service, which the mafia is using in the most ruthless manner as a shield and for political repressions”, Radev told the rally that had gathered in his support. EURACTIV Bulgaria’s Krassen Nikolov reports from Sofia.

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LJUBLJANA 

Slovenia’s budget aims. Slovenia has two goals in the talks on the next EU seven-year budget and the EU Recovery Plan: to get the final deal as close as possible to the Commission’s proposal and to reach it as soon as possible, Prime Minister Janez Jansa said after talks with European Council President Charles Michel in Brussels.

“We know some compromises will be necessary,” he said, stressing that “time is money and we know the pandemic is not over”, so it is very important to take quick steps and show the appropriate response, the official STA news agency reported. 

(Zoran Radosavljević | EURACTIV.com)

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ZAGREB

Initiative for a special ministry. Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković is considering giving minority MPs a government vice-president seat in charge of social activities and minorities, which would work as a minister without an official portfolio, Veteran Affairs Minister Tomo Medved announced on Thursday (9 July). Eight MPs are expected to propose a candidate for that position as soon as possible. Czech minority MP Vladimir Bilek and his Serbian colleague, Milorad Pupovac, have already said they are not interested in being in the government. 

In other news, the opposition, crushed by the unexpected defeat in Sunday’s elections, has first candidates to succeed Davor Bernardić as leader of the Social Democrat Party. Istrian MP Peđa Grbin (SDP, S&D) is running for party president, while his colleague MP Siniša Hajdaš Dončić is interested in being his vice-president and the former minister of administration is running for the position of the secretary-general. MEP Biljana Borzan, which is believed to be the most popular candidate for the party’s president, has chosen not to run for the seat, believing that the campaign would compromise her activities in the European Parliament. (Tea Trubić Macan, EURACTIV.hr)

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BELGRADE 

No Belgrade curfew but gatherings of 10+ banned. While the Serbian government’s Crisis Headquarters stepped up epidemiological measures against the coronavirus on Thursday (9 July) by banning public gatherings of 10 or more people indoors and outdoors, it decided against introducing a curfew in Belgrade after the announcement had caused a string of protests, some violent, across the country, Prime Minister Ana Brnabić has said. EURACTIV Serbia looks at the other measures.

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Meanwhile, the German MTU giant, which has been heralding its arrival in Novi Pazar, has said that due to the coronavirus crisis it will be postponing its investment plans in Serbia by six months, while Chinese HBIS, which owns the Zelezara Smederevo steel mill, has announced it will be shutting down one of two blast furnaces and that it will restart “the furnace when the market conditions are there,” according to the 9 July edition of Blic Biznis. EURACTIV Serbia has the story.

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[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox]

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