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Before you start reading today’s edition of the Capitals, feel free to have a look at the article German industry pleased with the results of the EU summit written by Phillip Grüll.
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In today’s news from the Capitals:
PARIS | LJUBLJANA
Digital tax momentum. French President Emmanuel Macron told French TV that he envisages an EU-wide digital tax on big tech multinationals, along the lines of a digital tax, which France has said it plans to impose this year.
Macron’s comments on Tuesday (21 July) come after he backed down earlier this year on levying hefty taxes on some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names in January, following US President Donald Trump’s tariff threats.
Slovenian PM Janez Janša also said he sees a digital tax as the EU’s best resource. “Subsidies will have to be repaid. One of the major shifts is contained in these few words, which speak of the EU’s own resources, because in seven years time, when we negotiate the next budget, this will be a key thing,” Janša said on Tuesday (21 July).
He highlighted digital taxation as probably the EU’s biggest potential ‘own resource’ in the future and said that taxation of emissions and plastics is a problem for those countries that have already included these resources in their national tax policy. Read more here.
(Anne Damiani/Zoran Radosavljevic, EURACTIV.com)
Halle attacker on trial. Nine months after what was termed the worst anti-Semitic attack in post-war German history, the trial of the alleged attacker, known in the German press as Stephan B., began on Tuesday (21 July). The suspect stands accused of killing two in a kebab shop in the eastern city of Halle after he had failed to get inside a synagogue, as well as 68 counts of attempted murder.
The trial is now taking place in the largest courtroom in the state to accommodate the large number of plaintiffs and media representatives. EURACTIV Germany’s Sarah Lawton has more.
Masks are back in Austria. Wearing face masks will become mandatory again as of Friday (24 July) in grocery stores, post offices and banks. Previously, masks had been mandatory in all shops up until mid-June. Several new COVID-19 clusters have started to appear, mostly in slaughterhouses and churches, pushing the number of daily infections above 100. EURACTIV Germany’s Philipp Grüll has more.
Options for extinguishing local COVID-19 flare-ups. After health authorities reported a daily rise in COVID-19 infections by 89% to an average of 184, Belgium’s Consultation Committee has discussed the tightening of measures and weighing scenarios for a potential second wave, including reduced social contacts, local lockdowns and increased contact tracing. EURACTIV’s Alexandra Brzozowski has more details.
COVID-19 found in wastewater. The virus is “found in almost all wastewater and a sharp increase of its concentration is observed in the south of the country,” according to a recent report published by the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST).
“These observations corroborate the evolution of the number of cases confirmed by clinical tests carried out on a large scale in the Grand Duchy and confirm that the water monitoring method is an effective early warning system for the resurgence of the virus in the population,” the report concluded. (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.com)
Finland content with EU deal. In line with Finland’s negotiation targets, a third of all funding will be used for measures against climate change and there will be some 25% more funding for research. “It was sensible to build up a whole that is sustainable and acceptable to all, but also defend national interests,” said Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin at Tuesday’s (21 July) press conference in Brussels.
Sanna was particularly satisfied with the extra funding of €400 million for Finland’s agriculture sector and with the €100 million for the country’s northern and eastern sparsely populated areas. (Pekka Vänttinen | EURACTIV.com)
Britain nears abandoning Brexit trade deal hope. Britain and the EU will fail to sign a post-Brexit trade deal, with only a few days left before Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s July deadline, The Telegraph reported on Tuesday (21 July).
The UK government’s assumption is that there will not be a deal, though it remains possible that a “basic” agreement could be reached if the EU gives ground in the autumn, the newspaper said, citing government sources. London expects it will trade with Europe on World Trade Organisation terms when the transition period ends, the report added.
Ireland set to ease travel restrictions with 15 European countries. The Irish government on Tuesday (21 July) said it had decided to drop the restriction for people coming from countries with a similar or lower rate of infection and was planning to drop a 14-day quarantine requirement for travellers arriving from a “green list” of 15 European countries.
Arrivals into Ireland from Malta, Finland, Norway, Italy, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus, Slovakia, Greece, Greenland, Gibraltar, Monaco, and San Marino will not have to restrict their movements. Passengers from other countries, including the US and neighbouring Britain, are asked to restrict their movements for 14 days.
Majority hails “victory” in Brussels. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was satisfied to come out with a deal which leaves the total numbers of the recovery fund unchanged and grants almost €209 billion to Italy, which is even more than anticipated.
“We are satisfied with the outcome of the negotiations”, Conte said, adding that “now we will create a task force for the implementation of the reforms”. EURACTIV Italy’s Alessandro Follis looks into Italian reactions.
Portugal to receive €45 billion. Portugal will collect €15.3 billion in grants from the EU recovery fund, as well as €29.8 billion in subsidies from the EU’s long-term budget. The country has earmarked €300 million for the Algarve region (south) due to the drop in tourism.
Portugal “is fighting to continue to contain the pandemic, to keep companies, jobs and family incomes alive” said Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa, adding that there is also a need to give “extra energy” to the country.
The Portuguese government presented on Tuesday the “Strategic Vision for the 2020/2030 Recovery Plan”, which serves as basis for the plan to be presented to the European Commission in October.
(Ana Matos Neves and Denise Fernandes, Lusa.pt)
Ankara should halt ‘provocations’ in eastern Mediterranean, German FM says. “Regarding Turkey’s drilling in the eastern Mediterranean, we have a very clear position — international law must be respected, so progress in EU-Turkey relations is only possible if Ankara stops provocations in the eastern Mediterranean,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said during a visit to Athens. Read more here.
Prime minister safe in government reshuffle. “The success of the negotiations has shown that our isolation in the EU is a myth; it is also a myth that we are not able to build coalitions,” PiS party chief and Poland’s de facto leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, told the Polish Press Agency. Read more here.
Automotive as a priority. The Czech automotive industry was severely hit by the pandemic so the government wants to support the industry with money from the recovery fund. Other investment priorities are health care and digitalisation.
“We need to solve our automotive industry facing big problems. We need to restructure the health care system and invest a lot in it. We need to tackle digitisation. We need to primarily support the construction sector. We must invest to get out of the crisis,” Czech PM Andrej Babiš said on Tuesday (21 July).
(Aneta Zachová, EURACTIV.cz)
Historic deal, plagiarism and a plum cake. After Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovič came back pleased from the summit, a scandal regarding his plagiarised master’s thesis was waiting for him.
After landing in Bratislava, Matovič told reporters that the media had jeopardised “hundreds of millions of euros”, by publishing the story while on his way to the summit on Thursday (16 July), as “leaders could have not have wanted to negotiate with some plagiarist”, he claimed, although he has fessed up to the accusations. EURACTIV Slovakia takes a closer look.
Orbán proclaims himself victor. “All attempts aimed at linking EU funds to the rule of law criteria have been repelled,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told a joint press conference together with his Polish counterpart on Tuesday (21 July) morning.
“We didn’t just manage to get a good package of money but we defended the pride of our nation and made clear that it is not acceptable that anybody, especially those who inherited the rule of law, criticise us, the freedom fighters,” Orbán added.
(Vlagyiszlav Makszimov | EURACTIV.com)
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
€22 billion for Croatia. The newest EU member state has ‘surpassed’ its goals at the summit by securing a total of €22 billion through recovery fund (€9.4 billion) and the long-term budget €12.7 billion).
As Croatia is the only EU country to have used only one financial package in its EU membership, €400 million has also been allocated for cohesion and regional development. EURACTIV Croatia’s Tea Trubić Macan has more.
Government survives no-confidence vote. A no-confidence vote calling for the removal of Boyko Borrissov’s third cabinet on corruption grounds proposed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party was rejected by the country’s parliament. The votes from the socialist party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) turned out to be insufficient.
Although Borissov himself was not present during the parliamentary debate given that he had attended the European Council summit in Brussels, no MRF members spoke during the parliamentary vote discussions. The opposition suspects the MRF could be a hidden partner in the power of the prime minister. (Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)
Potential regional lockdowns. As the number of new COVID-19 cases in Romania reached almost 1,000 as of Tuesday (21 July), Prime Minister Ludovic Orban warned that the authorities could start forcing local communities into quarantine if these show significant spikes in cases.
While no Romanian town has yet recorded such surges, the country’s health authorities nevertheless confirmed that of the 39,000 cases recored since the start of the pandemic, 994 people had tested positive for the virus in the past 24 hours on Tuesday (21 July), the highest daily number of new cases. When it comes to COVID-19 related deaths, Romania reported 36 new deaths of the total 2,074 on Tuesday. This is the country’s second highest daily death toll, and the largest since mid-April at the height of the pandemic.
(Bogdan Neagu | EURACTIV.ro)
Arms export creates diplomatic tensions. Commenting on the latest trade affair involving the export of Serbian arms to Armenia, Serbian Trade Minister Rasim Ljajic confirmed on Tuesday (21 July) that it had been green-lit by three ministries and Serbia’s Security and Information Agency (BIA) and carried out by a private company, the name of which could not be made public. The value of the shipment was under €1 million.
Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry expressed deep disappointment that Serbia had transferred a large quantity of grenade launchers and other various caliber arms to Armenia, which had later been used to attack Azerbaijani police officers on the border between the two countries. Azerbaijan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov told Serbia’s Ambassador to Baku, Danica Veinovic, that this case “casts doubt on the friendly ties and cooperation at the highest level between the two countries.”
In other news, some 350 doctors are calling for the dismissal of the National COVID-19 response team in an open letter sent to the Serbian government and other relevant institutions under the informal group known as “United against COVID”. In the letter, the group stresses that Serbia has been faced with a public health disaster. EURACTIV Serbia has the details.
Meanwhile, the Quint ambassadors and the head of the EU Delegation to Serbia told Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić in a meeting that the rule of law and particularly the right to assemble and media freedom are crucial for Serbia’s EU path, according to the presidency. Read more here.
[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Sam Morgan]