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In today’s news from the Capitals:
Italy’s ruling parties are still bickering over whether to make use of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. Money, both grants and loans, from the much-awaited Recovery Fund is expected in the second semester of 2021 and until then, EU member states can only use loans from several already agreed tools, such as ESM.
However, these loans will add to the countries’ public debt, which causes fear in many EU member states. The European Commission’s projection for Italy’s debt is at 159% of GDP.
Moreover, ESM loans come with conditionality attached and at the political level, the word bailout is rife with negative connotations and “banished”, especially in Europe’s south.
Nicola Zingaretti, leader of the Democratic Party, has urged coalition partners from the Five Star Movement (M5S) to stop wasting time and accept the ESM as it can provide “resources we have never seen before. EURACTIV Italy’s Alessandro Follis takes a closer look.
Plans to increase the minimum wage. Yesterday (30 June), Germany’s independent minimum wage commission laid out its plans to raise the minimum wage in the coming years from the current €9.35/hour to €9.50/hour from 1 January 2021 and to €10.45 from 1 July 2022. To put these changes into effect, the German government will have to issue new regulations which are generally based upon the commission’s recommendations.
While many welcomed the increases, some, such as the Social Democrats (SPD), said that €10.45/hour by 2022 does not go far enough. “Good that [the minimum wage] is to be increased now […] It is also clear that this is still too little! […] We are fighting for a minimum wage of at least 12€!” tweeted SPD General Secretary Lars Klingbeil. (Sarah Lawton | EURACTIV.de)
Meanwhile, Germany wants stronger AI regulations on the EU level, according to a statement released yesterday. Philipp Grüll looks into it.
Macron reshuffles cabinet as PM gets elected. After the defeat of French President Emmanuel Macron’s party at the municipal elections on Tuesday (30 June), the president will have a new government before 8 July, France Info reported.
That is because the current prime minister, Édouard Philippe, will be heading back to Le Havre (Normandy), where he has been re-elected last weekend. To fill in his spot, Macron is expecting proposals from the presidents of the Senate, the Assemblée Nationale and the Economic, Social and Environmental Council. The Greens, however, have already refused to be part of Macron’s new cabinet despite making significant gains in the municipal elections.(Anne Damiani| EURACTIV.fr)
New tool to test event health safety. As a ministerial decree approving the next phase of relaxation of COVID-19 lockdown measures from 1 July has been published, all event organisers in Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia will be able to test their event for possible health risks online via the COVID Event Risk Model (CERM), the so-called “event matrix”. The CERM was developed to facilitate the restart of the event sector and is applicable to all sporting, cultural, tourist or business events. The model was approved by GEES (the pandemic expert group that advises the government) and is based on 20 parameters to measure the safety risk. (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)
Defence minister defends reform plans. After Defence Minister Klaudia Tanner’s new vision for the Austrian military (ÖVP) was met with a wave of protests last week, she defended her plan and insisted on the need for reform on Tuesday (30 June) but admitted her way of communicating it could be “debated”.
Since last week’s announcement, Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen has requested an ad-hoc discussion and many others have criticised the minister’s plan for taking away conventional defence activities from the military and investing them with more tasks related to cybersecurity, anti-terrorism and disaster management, which, according to her, pose more realistic threats. (Philipp Grüll | EURACTIV.de)
Minority government showing cracks. Partners in the Swedish minority government, often referred to as a “forced marriage” of the Social Democrats (SDP) and the Green Party, are not seeing eye to eye on the issue of migration. The two usually rely on support from the two opposition parties – the Center Party and the Liberals – to block the Sweden Democrats (SD).
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s SDP is pushing for parliament to adopt new legislation that would define and tighten immigration limits, which the Greens strongly oppose. The SDP is, therefore, relying on the main opposition party, the liberal-conservative Moderate Party, to vote in favour, thus side-tracking its coalition partner, the Greens. While it remains to be seen how this will affect the minority government in the long-term, one thing is for certain: No one wants new elections. (Pekka Vänttinen | EURACTIV.com)
Government will have to nationalise TAP, says minister. The Portuguese government said it will have to nationalise national flag carrier TAP after the state’s proposal for a loan of up to €1.2 billion with conditions had been rejected on Monday (29 June) by the company’s board of directors.
The proposed contract for the loan will still be submitted to the private partner, Atlantic Gateway, whose representatives abstained from voting on the board of directors.
“If the partner does not accept the conditions of the Portuguese state, we will have to intervene in the company, nationalise the company, yes,” said Infrastructure Minister Pedro Nuno Santos. The Portuguese airline posted losses of €395 million in this year’s first quarter as it was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Maria João Pereira and Diogo Caldas, Lusa.pt)
COVID-19 crisis heavily impacts GDP. The Spanish economy slumped 5.2% in this year’s first quarter compared to the previous one as a result of the coronavirus crisis, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported. This marks an unprecedented decline of the local economy, Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE) reported.
The GDP’s decrease is even bigger than the impact of the 2008-2009 crisis as investments fell by 5.7% since last March as the economy went into “hibernation” during the state of alarm from 14 March to 21 June. EURACTIV’s partner EFE reports.
Information on travel to Greece as of 1 July. As the summer season officially launches today in Greece, the government has presented detailed information about those who wish to travel to Greece this summer. See all the details here.
Elections conducted in professional manner. The first round of Poland’s presidential elections, which took place on Sunday (28 June) and sent President Andrzej Duda (43.5%) and Warsaw mayor Rafał Trzaskowski (30.46%) into the run-off, was conducted in a professional manner despite the lack of a clear legal situation. This is according to the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
ODIHR noted, however, that “the public broadcaster became a campaign tool for the incumbent president, and some media messages were clearly xenophobic and anti-Semitic”. It also noted that “the campaign itself was characterised by negative rhetoric on the part of the leading candidates, which further exacerbated the already confrontational atmosphere”. (Łukasz Gadzała | EURACTIV.pl)
Sassoli responds to Czech government criticism. “I wish to take the opportunity to recall that the EU Treaties give the European Parliament the power and the duty to give or deny the discharge to the European Commission on the implementation of the EU budget, in the exercise of its powers as a budgetary authority and of its function of democratic oversight,” European Parliament President David Sassoli wrote to Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. The official letter was sent following a wave of criticism coming from the Czech government after the Parliament voted in favour of a resolution slamming the Czech PM over alleged conflicts of interest related to EU subsidies received by his former business empire.
“The resolution adopted by the European Parliament is, therefore, to be considered as part of this process and as an act stemming from its powers of budgetary control and democratic oversight, that should be regarded by all EU actors with the utmost respect,” the European Parliament chief added.
In other news, the Czech Republic decided to reduce the EU’s list of 15 non-EU states from where travel to Europe will be possible starting today (1 July). Czech borders only opened for Serbia, Montenegro, Thailand, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea, meaning that Algeria, Georgia, Morocco, Rwanda, Tunisia and Uruguay – which all feature on the EU’s list – have been left out.
“We want to motivate the countries to start treating us the same, to enable our citizens to travel there without conditions. This is why foreigners from these countries are not able to travel to the Czech Republic for the time being. But we are prepared to react very flexibly to a changing situation. This is the introduction of reciprocity,” Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček said. (Aneta Zachová | EURACTIV.cz)
‘Black Lives Matter’ slogan is racist. Czech President Milos Zeman has described the “Black Lives Matter” slogan as racist. “I say that the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ is a racist slogan because all lives matter,” AFP quoted Zeman as saying on Tuesday at the US embassy in Prague.
Ruling party proposes to retroactively reevaluate all academic theses. As a solution to the plagiarism of politicians, all academic theses would have to undergo a control test, whose result would apply retroactively, according to a proposal made by Prime Minister Igor Matovič’s ruling OL’aNO party. Those who do not pass the test would lose their academic degrees. “Should this mean people would lose their jobs, so be it,” the PM added.
This comes after a scandal involving parliament Speaker Boris Kollár (We are family), who, despite media reports pointing out that he had largely plagiarised his master’s thesis, would not be affected by such a reform because his position does not require a university education. However, Education Minister Branislav Gröhling (Freedom and Solidarity) has already said this proposal is practically impossible. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Europol should intervene in Bulgarian PM threats against MEP. EU socialists chief Iratxe Garcia has sent a letter to EU Parliament President David Sassoli calling for the intervention of Europol in alleged “threats” by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov against a member of the EU House, Elena Yoncheva.
“Such a reaction from the Bulgarian authorities is highly regretful. Especially when taking into account that Bulgaria is, according to Transparency International, the country with the highest level of corruption in the European Union, and Ms Yoncheva, also a former journalist, has for a long time been actively engaged in the fight against it, in particular in a campaign to expose corruption at the highest government levels,” Garcia said. (Sarantis Michalopoulos)
See the letter here.
Romania’s major goals in budget negotiations. Romania’s main objective in the EU budget negotiations is to obtain the highest possible allocations for the cohesion and farming policies, President Klaus Iohannis told European Council chief Charles Michel on Tuesday.
Romania wants the traditional policies of the EU to continue to play a big role in the EU’s future budget, given that they are the most important, well-oiled instruments to finance investments in the EU, and they can be very efficient in crisis situations, according to a news release of the presidency, published following a videoconference between the two leaders after the EU Summit of 18-19 June. EURACTIV Romania’s Bogdan Neagu reports from Bucharest.
In other news, Romania’s parliament selected a new seven-member board for the country’s agency in charge of applying the Romanian and EU anti-discrimination legislation – the National Council for Combating Discrimination, or CNCD.
The board consists of some returning members, including current president Asztalos Csaba, but also new faces, such as an MP who notably made a grammar error in his candidacy papers and a former police officer who had been charged with car theft. A total of 26 candidates ran for the seven positions, but two of them – including former MEP Doru Frunzulica (S&D) – withdrew their candidacies before the parliament vote. (Bogdan Neagu | EURACTIV.ro)
TV clash ahead of parliamentary elections. Ahead of parliamentary elections due on 5 July, HDZ president and Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković, and SDP president and Restart Coalition leader Davor Bernardić clashed in a TV debate broadcast on RTL television on Monday evening (29 June).
While the two candidates opposed the formation of a grand coalition and claimed their first move would consist of adopting a law for the post-earthquake reconstruction of Zagreb, they clashed on minimum wage issues, the country’s COVID-19 response and European policies. Plenković even accused Bernardić of lacking knowledge about European topics. Read more about the debate here. (Karla Juničić, EURACTIV.hr)
Interior minister quits over police raid. Slovenia’s interior minister Aleš Hojs and the country’s police director Anton Travner resigned on Tuesday (30 June) because of surprise police raids on houses of several government officials, investigating the purchase of medical ventilators. EURACTIV’s Zoran Radosavljević has the full story.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Zoran Radosavljević]