France looks at new economic decline

The Capitals. [EPA/IAN LANGSDON]

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 Commission calls for ‘good faith’ in Greece-Bulgaria deals with North Macedonia by Sarantis Michalopoulos.


The EURACTIV Network is keeping you up-to-date with how Europe’s capitals are dealing with the new school year, changing travel restrictions and varying epidemiological situations. Click here to find out more about what’s going on in your capital.


EU INSTITUTIONS

Edging closer to deal on recovery plan. After six weeks of talks, EU governments represented by current chair Germany and the European Parliament have narrowed down their differences to a binding timetable for introducing new EU taxes, more money for certain projects and conditions attached to disbursements. Read more.

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Migration talks are back. EU interior ministers will have the first attempt at discussing the European Commission’s recently unveiled new migration pact proposal when they meet virtually on Thursday (8 October). The German presidency is keen on a quick agreement by the end of the year.


In today’s news from the Capitals:

PARIS

Towards a tough autumn. Economic activity in France could decline once again this autumn due to the recently imposed health measures, according to the latest economic outlook note from the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), which also warned that  “forecasts for the end of the year are becoming more uncertain”. Read more.

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BERLIN

New push for mandatory COVID-19 tests. While there have already been mandatory COVID-19 tests for travelers coming from foreign countries considered to be coronavirus risk areas, those rules could now apply for people traveling within Germany as well.

Following a video conference of state leaders and the federal government, 11 states want to enact similar restrictions for residents of Germany who live in areas with high infection rates, according to a draft resolution. This would also include a ban on accommodation unless the person traveling can produce proof of a negative test result that is no more than 48 hours old.

(Sarah Lawton | EURACTIV.de)

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BRUSSELS

Stricter measures in Brussels. Belgium’s capital is shutting down bars and cafes as additional COVID19 measures for a month, as the government aims to combat the rising infections and ensure that Brussels hospitals can cope with COVID-19 patients, Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort (PS) announced on Wednesday (7 October). Restaurants are allowed to remain open.

In other news, eight months into the crisis Belgium has appointed Pedro Facon, director-general of the federal public health ministry, as the country’s first coronavirus commissioner. His role will be to streamline Belgium’s regionally fragmented COVID-19 policies. (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)

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VIENNA

Negotiations with Germany over travel warnings. Austrian Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger is currently negotiating with the German government with the goal of easing Germany’s travel warnings for certain Austrian areas. These are damaging to the already ailing national tourism and gastronomy industry, especially with the crucial skiing season approaching. For now, however, Köstinger could not confirm whether any significant progress was made. (Philipp Grüll | EURACTIV.de)


UK AND IRELAND

LONDON

‘Cards on the table’, says Michel. European Council President Charles Michel said on Wednesday that it is “time for the UK to put its cards on the table” over a post-Brexit trade deal following a call with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

After the meeting, a Downing Street spokesperson said Johnson had “reiterated that any deal must reflect what the British people voted for and that businesses and citizens needed certainty very soon on the terms of our future relationship.” Read the full story here.

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DUBLIN

Brexit talks in Dublin. European Council President Charles Michel drops down in Dublin on Thursday for talks with Taoiseach Michael Martinas, where they are expected to discuss the next steps ahead in the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

The meeting comes ahead of an EU Brexit summit in mid-October, amid EU concerns that London is undermining commitments laid out in the Withdrawal Agreement with the introduction of the Internal Market Bill, which the EU feels could threaten the Northern Ireland protocol. (Samuel Stolton | EURACTIV.com)


NORDICS

HELSINKI

No to ‘Fortress Europe’ and strategic capitalism. Over the last two years, bigger EU member states, including France in particular, have shown willingness to ease regulations on state aid and by doing so defend European industrial and commercial global interests. In a small country like Finland, which has put its trust in open and fair markets, this kind of discussion is causing concern, as its EU Minister Tytti Tuppurainen said the EU is moving towards a fortress-like structure. Read more.

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COPENHAGEN

Denmark proposes pathway for ‘sustainable’ biomass. The Danish government and a majority coalition of eight parties have proposed stricter legal requirements for wood biomass used for heat and electricity in the country. Read the full story here.


EUROPE’S SOUTH

ROME

Face masks now mandatory indoors and outdoors. The Italian government made mandatory on Wednesday the wearing of face masks at all times when indoors, unless within the vicinity of one’s home, as well as outdoors in cases where people not living together come into close contact.

The measure was adopted as part of the current decree that is valid until 15 October, which also prevents regional administrations from adopting softer measures than the ones enforced by the government, but allows them to adopt stricter ones if necessary. (Alessandro Follis | EURACTIV.it),

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MADRID

Spanish PM hopes to create 800,000 jobs with EU Recovery Fund. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez proposed on Wednesday (7 October) that €72 billion of Spain’s share of the EU Recovery Fund be invested over the next three years to create 800,000 jobs, EFE reported.

Sánchez said the initial investment of over half the money allocated to Spain would accelerate the transformation of the Spanish economy and help its GDP grow by 2.5%. Read the full story here.

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ATHENS

Greek court convicts neo-nazi Golden Dawn. Greece’s neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn was branded a criminal organisation on Wednesday (7 October) in a landmark court ruling hailed as a victory of democracy for which the announcement of the sentences are expected on later Thursday (8 October).

Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos, and former lawmakers Elias Kasidiaris, Giannis Lagos, Panagiotis Germenis, Elias Panagiotaros and Nikos Papas were found guilty of directing a criminal organisation. Another 17 members were convicted of being members of a criminal organisation. Read the full story here.


VISEGRAD

WARSAW

Ombudsman vote cancelled. The parliamentary vote on the new Ombudsman (Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich) was cancelled due to the increase in COVID-19 cases across the country and among MPs, which shortened the parliament’s plenary session to just one day. Read more.

Read also: Poland slaps €6.45 billion fine on Gazprom over Nord Stream 2 pipeline

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BUDAPEST

Budapest mayor would ‘happily’ welcome back the CEU. “I am under no illusion as to whether the government will repent and invite CEU back but Budapest would happily welcome the University, its teachers and students back,” Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony (united opposition) posted on Facebook. His comments came after the European Court of Justice struck down on Tuesday the Hungarian education law that had pushed the Central European University (CEU) to move out of Budapest. But according to CEU founder and main backer George Soros, the ruling came too late for the university to return to Budapest.

Read: “Hungary breached obligations to uphold academic freedom, EU top court ruled

In other news,  Hungary will reintroduce a lower value-added tax rate of 5% on housing projects until the end of 2022 to boost the construction sector and help recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, said Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Reuters reported.

Hungary, whose standard 27% VAT rate is the highest in the EU, applied a 5% rate on housing projects from 2016 until the end of last year. The measure fuelled a housing boom in Budapest of a kind not seen since before the 2008 global financial crisis and helped boost Hungary’s economic growth rate to around 4% to 5%. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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PRAGUE

Tikhanovskaya coming to Czechia. Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaya will take part in next week’s international Forum 2000 conference in Prague, which is set to focus on democracy, human rights, civil society and tolerance. On Tuesday (13 October), Tichanovskaya will be discussing the situation of her country with Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek. (Ondřej Plevák | EURACTIV.cz)

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BRATISLAVA

Feminist organisations left without support. Slovak Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family led by the nominee of a conservative “We are family” (Identity and Democracy) party quietly amended the grant scheme for the gender equality agenda. Read more.

In other news, eleven hospitals equipped for treating COVID-19 patients in Slovakia are gradually reaching their capacity limits. As Slovakia is experiencing increases in COVID-19 infections almost every day, some hospitals are having to place patients in different wards, while planned surgeries are being postponed. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)


NEWS FROM THE BALKANS

ZAGREB

‘Secret club’ scandal plot thickens. After the media reported that the wife of another suspect in the JANAF scandal, involving among others the CEO of the Adriatic pipeline operator, works in the judiciary as a judge, the Supreme Court confirmed that the judge in question had informed the court that her husband was arrested as soon as she learned of the arrest. Read more.

Read also. Croatia’s ‘secret club’ scandal exposes cronyism, corruption

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In other news, a part of the parliamentary opposition said that the government-sponsored bill on the rehabilitation of credit institutions and investment companies made life easier for Croatian citizens and should therefore be supported. This is something very rarely seen in Croatian Parliament. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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LJUBLJANA 

Opposition in talks to form an alternative government. The leaders of the four centre-left opposition parties – LMŠ, SAB (RE), SD (S&D) – and Levica (radical left) have confirmed they have launched talks to form an alternative to the conservative government of Prime Minister Janez Janša. Read more.

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SOFIA

Record number of coronavirus cases in Bulgaria. Record-high 436 COVID-19 infections were confirmed in the 24 hours until Tuesday midnight through 5431 PCR tests. Bulgaria’s authorities have so far confirmed 22,306 cases, 6,134 of which are active. 971 are hospitalized patients, 57 of them are in intensive care. The total death toll is 862. (Krassen Nikolov, EURACTIV.bg)

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BUCHAREST

New records come with new restrictions. Just a day after the announcement of the closure of restaurants, cafes and theatres, Bucharest authorities said that bars, pubs, dance clubs, discos and casinos will also close. However, the government said schools will remain open, despite an increase in the number of coronavirus cases all over the country. According to current rules, schools switch to online courses if the incidence rate goes past a certain level.
Over the previous 24 hours, 2,958 coronavirus infections and 82 deaths were reported in Romania, both representing the highest daily tallies, according to the government official data. (Bogdan Neagu, EURACTIV.ro)

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BELGRADE 

Authorities urged to prevent abuse of state power during campaigns. The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), urged Serbian authorities on Wednesday to prevent the abuse of state resources during election campaigns. It also called on state authorities to prevent voter pressure, revise the voters’ register, as well as improve transparency with regard to financing election campaigns. Read more.

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PODGORICA 

Growth of unemployment. Montenegro recorded 43,380 unemployed by the end of September, which is 0.7% more than in August, according to data from the Employment Bureau. Read more.

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In other news, German Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble told visiting Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović that “the change of government, which happened for the first time in Montenegro, is always a challenge”, according to the Montenegrin press office.

“In that process, the president has a special responsibility, which is why we wish him success. The Bundestag will continue to develop cooperative relations with the new majority and the future opposition, thus confirming the importance it attaches to all elements in Montenegro’s political structure,” Schäuble has said. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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TIRANA

Government to include Venice Commission recommendations. A new media law will be approved based on recommendations of the Venice Commission, said Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who earlier said the law was approved by the OSCE and will go into parliamentary procedure. Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Linde advised the Albanian government “to consult with journalists and civil society on media law,” stressing the importance of “protecting media freedom”. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

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[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Zoran Radosavljevic]

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