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.
***LEAK: EU member states and the European Commission should “thoroughly analyse the experiences gained from the COVID-19 pandemic” in order to inform future policies across the entire spectrum of the digital domain, leaked Council documents seen by EURACTIV reveal.
**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.**
In today’s news from the Capitals:
LISBON. The former vice-president of the European Central Bank, Vítor Constâncio, believes that the EU’s most rapid and effective economic response to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic would be for the European Commission to issue bonds to finance programmes.
According to Constâncio, that ‘fits in’ with the EU’s budget rules, under the emergency clause of Article 122(2) of the EU Treaty, which stipulates that when a member state is in difficulties or is seriously threatened with difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control, the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, may, under certain conditions, grant financial aid from the Union to the member state concerned.
Almost 32,000 Portuguese companies have already applied for the simplified ‘lay-off’, a mechanism to safeguard jobs put in place to support companies during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a government report published on Saturday (4 April). EURACTIV’s partner Lusa has more.
S&D group calls for coronabonds. Iratxe García, president of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament, and Dutch MEP Paul Tang wrote an op-ed for EURACTIV: “Coronabonds for a Europe of solidarity, not charity“.
They argued the EU is being hit by a symmetrical shock caused by COVID-19 and that “this renders the instruments developed to address the 2008 financial crisis as unfit for purpose.”
‘Laxity’ is the new buzzword. ‘Laxity’ has become the new buzzword in France, as people have been wandering the streets too much over the weekend, according to Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, who urged people not to go out on Sunday night (5 April), adding that “laxity is an ally of COVID-19, laxity threatens to overwhelm hospitals”.
While there are a total of 70,048 COVID-19 cases and 8,078 deaths as of Sunday (5 April) and the government has decided to ask people to wear masks despite the lack of mask stockpiling, the start of the Easter holidays and the bright sun and heat has tempted a lot of people to step outside. (EURACTIV.FR) Read about the latest coronavirus developments in France here.
Demand for open borders. German business associations have called for open borders for the movement of goods. In the past few weeks, it has become clear that “border controls and restrictions on the free movement of people exacerbated the crisis” rather than served as a solution, according to Holger Bingmann, president of the German Federation of Wholesale and Foreign Trade (BGA). Christina Goßner reports from Berlin.
‘Encouraging data’, but still early. In a new video message, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès (MR) asked Belgians to continue following social distancing efforts, after experts agreed that the measures have had an impact on the evolution of the coronavirus spread in the country. Alexandra Brzozowski has more.
Government asks for extra powers. The government proposed a bill on Saturday (4 April) that would give it a mandate to act bypass normal parliamentary procedures, showing that the coronavirus crisis is also shifting the balance of powers between political institutions in Sweden. As of Sunday afternoon (5 April), the number of COVID-19 infections was 6,830 with 401 deaths. EURACTIV’s Pekka Vänttinen looks into it.
Churches open for Easter Sunday? The leader of right-wing party Lega, Matteo Salvini, has proposed to re-open Catholic churches on Easter Sunday. “I support the requests of those who want to attend the Easter Mass, albeit neatly, with safe distances, perhaps a little at a time, in four or five,” he said. But Veneto regional governor Luca Zaia, who’s affiliated to Lega, nixed the idea saying that the National Health Institute recommends not to allow people attending mass and that there were cases of mass contagions during religious celebrations in the past. (Gerardo Fortuna | EURACTIV.com)
Stay in the loop of the COVID-19 situation in Italy: here.
Spain to extend state of alarm as daily deaths decrease. The Spanish government intends to extend the country’s state of alarm until 26 April amid a decline in the number of daily coronavirus deaths. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is due to ask Spain’s lower house, the Congress of Deputies, for approval to extend measures to contain the pandemic in the coming days, political sources told EURACTIV’s partner EFE on Saturday (4 April).
While Spanish health authorities reported 809 deaths in the last 24 hours, the lowest daily figure in seven days, bringing the total number of deaths to 11,744, there were 7,026 new confirmed infections overnight, taking the tally to 124,736 and more than 30,000 recoveries. EURACTIV’s partner EFE takes a closer look.
Greece quarantines second migrant camp. Greece has quarantined a second migrant facility on its mainland after a 53-year-old man tested positive for the coronavirus, the migration ministry said on Sunday (5 April). Read the story here.
Relocating unaccompanied minors from Greece. Ten European countries have so far expressed interest in relocating unaccompanied minors from Greece, with the first transfer involving eleven children in Luxembourg over the next two weeks. Read more on Athens-Macedonian News Agency.
UK AND IRELAND
5G coronavirus conspiracy theory is dangerous fake nonsense. A conspiracy theory that links 5G mobile telecommunications masts to the spread of the novel coronavirus is dangerous fake news and completely false, the UK said on Saturday (4 April) after masts in several parts of the country were torched. Read more.
UK PM Johnson hospitalised. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to hospital for tests on Sunday (5 April) after suffering persistent coronavirus symptoms 10 days after testing positive for the virus, though Downing Street said he remained in charge of the government. Read the story here.
Doctor Varadkar steps up to COVID-19 frontline. Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar will return to serve as a doctor in his country’s fight against the ongoing spread of the deadly coronavirus, the leader’s office announced on Sunday evening (5 April). Read Samuel Stolton’s story.
In other news, Ireland’s ‘chase around the world’ for stocks of a reagent vital for coronavirus testing has received a boost after the country obtained a supply of the substance from international markets. EURACTIV’s Samuel Stolton has the story.
Elections postponed? Poland’s ruling conservative party, Law and Justice (PiS), has been pushing for presidential elections to be held in May via mail but the small coalition party Porozumienie, which has enough votes to erase PiS’ majority, is opposed. Read more.
Free parking. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced on Sunday (5 April) that all public parking is to become free in Hungary starting Monday. “One of the most important tools for fighting a coronavirus epidemic is to maintain a safe distance between people. As this is not or only in part possible on crowded public transport, it is important that those who can use their own car,” the PM told state news agency MTI. But opposition mayors have said that the measure is directed at cutting municipal funding sources. “Slowly, all of our revenue will be taken away citing the epidemic,” said Krisztina Baranyi, the opposition mayor of Budapest’s 9th district, Index reported. (Vlagyiszlav Makszimov | EURACTIV.com)
More detailed information about the coronavirus in Hungary is to be found here.
Hanau shooter trained in Slovakia. The perpetrator of the terrorist attack from Hanau, which resulted in the killing of 11 people (including himself and his mother) on 19 February, followed a firearms course at an unnamed security company in Slovakia, according to German magazine Der Spiegel. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)
One president criticises another. The EU has failed to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and the epidemic will certainly weaken it, Czech President Milos Zeman told Blesk tabloid yesterday, pointing out that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had spoken against states closing their borders.
“The European Union absolutely failed and especially the European Commission. […] When von der Leyen recommended opening the borders, she supported the increase of the epidemic,” he added. (Ondřej Plevák | EURACTIV.cz)
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Easing the measures. As Bulgaria is expected to reach its coronavirus peak around Easter (19 April in the Orthodox world), the parliamentary legal committee on Sunday (5 April) revised the fine for violating anti-pandemic rules, reducing it from 5,000 levs (€2,500 euros) to between 300 (€150) and 1,000 levs (€500). The country’s state of emergency was extended until 13 May on Friday (3 April), and the parliament is expected to pass these amendments today. (Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)
Read more about the measures Bulgaria has been taking to mitigate the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak.
Confinement to continue for 2-4 weeks. The confinement measures in Slovenia will remain in place at least two to four more weeks, government spokesman Jelko Kacin said on Sunday (5 April). “The curve of infection looks much better in Slovenia compared to some other EU countries but we should not be blinded by this. The strict measures and social distancing will have to continue, at least two to four more weeks,” Kacin told a regular press briefing.
“And when we do start relaxing the measures, this will have to be well thought through and measured, step by step, knowing that we will have to live for some time with the virus and will have to adapt our lives all the time,” he added. (Zoran Radosavljevic | EURACTIV.com)
To stay up-to-date with the situation in Slovenia, find out more here.
COVID-19 crisis rating. After three months of low public support, the ruling Croatian Democrats (HDZ) are topping the opinion polls with 28.4%, while the Social Democrats (SDP), are now polling at 27%. Former candidate for the president’s position, Miroslav Skoro, with his Homeland Movement party have fallen back slightly to 10.9%.
The favourite among politicians is Health minister Vili Beros (HDZ), who is heavily involved in the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. While only 2% of the public supported him a month ago, he is now polling at 30%, which represents the greatest month-on-month jump in 16 years, since the CRO Demoskop measurement began. But what about the other politicians? Click here to find out.
To stay abreast with the latest COVID-19 developments in Croatia, check out this link.
Agreement to provide €4.9 million to assist Serbia signed. As part of the EU’s €93.4 million financial aid package for emergency, short and mid-term measures to alleviate the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak, an agreement was signed in Belgrade, on Friday (3 April) to provide for €4.9 million to help Serbia fight the pandemic. EURACTIV Serbia has more.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox]