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 “Fraud with agricultural funds in Bulgaria: Will EU prosecutor take notice?” by EURACTIV Bulgaria.
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.
In today’s news from the Capitals:
No Brexit deal could risk terrorism in Northern Ireland. A no deal Brexit risks an increase in terrorism, UK lawmakers warned in a report published on Monday (5 October).
In a statement accompanying their report, lawmakers on the cross-party Intelligence and Security Committee, which scrutinises the UK’s police and intelligence network, said that “Northern Ireland-related terrorism has not gone away.” Benjamin Fox reports from London.
COVID-19 cases in EU institutions on the rise. The number of COVID-19 cases in the EU institutions have exploded, EURACTIV.com has learnt. In the European Commission, more than 170 cases have been reported while at a dinner organised outside the EU Parliament by MEPs and assistants of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), 17 people contracted the virus. (EURACTIV.com)
Four Berlin boroughs are now risk areas. Four of Berlin’s 12 boroughs have been classified as coronavirus risk areas after clocking more than 50 new infections per 100,000 in the past week. Some German states like Schleswig-Holstein and Rheinland-Pfalz say that visitors from these boroughs will have to go into quarantine.
On Monday (5 October), Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) criticised lax adherence to the coronavirus rules in the city, citing partial adherence to mask rules in restaurants and illegal parties. “This does not fit in with the infection situation in a city like Berlin,” he said. (Sarah Lawton | EURACTIV.de)
*INTERVIEW WITH COMMISSIONER SCHMIT: EU must stop rise of low-quality jobs in wake of pandemic
New restrictions for the French capital. Following the resurgence of COVID-19 in Paris and its surroundings, the capital is now a maximum alert zone and there are new restrictions in place. While bars will be closed from now on, a general ban on gatherings of more than 10 people in public will apply at all times, unless in markets and shops, COVID-19 testing centres, queues, demonstrations and funerals.
However, restaurants may remain open during the usual opening hours “subject to compliance with a new health protocol”. These new measures will be maintained until 19 October, according to the Paris City Council. (Louise Rozès Moscovenko | EURACTIV.fr)
Brussels hospitals ask for the transfer of patients to other provinces. Most of the new COVID-19 infections come from the Brussels-Capital Region and Walloon provinces, according to inter-federal COVID-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht. Brussels hospitals are pleading for the transfer of patients to less busy hospitals outside of Brussels in neighbouring provinces, Belgian media reports.
The practice could become widespread if the number of hospitalisations continues to increase. Brussels hospitals are far from saturation, but according to them, the measure is necessary if they want to continue to operate normally. If the pandemic worsens, Brussels plans to dedicate re-dedicate 50% of intensive care beds to COVID patients. (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)
‘Only vaccines will bring a clearer outlook’. Even though the Finnish economy has been less struck by the coronavirus pandemic than many other nations, the country’s economy will nevertheless shrink by 4.5% this year, according to an economic survey published by Finland’s finance ministry on Monday. Predicted is a slow recovery which might gather pace if the pandemic can be harnessed and a possible COVID-19 vaccine becomes available. More.
Government rejects health advice. The Irish government has rejected, for the first time, coronavirus health advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), as the country continues to battle the spread of the virus. Read more.
After COVID case in chancellory, government tests negative. A close associate of chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday afternoon. All government members who were at risk were tested immediately and their appointments for Tuesday cancelled. The final results came in early Tuesday morning: the chancellor and all ministers tested negative. Kurz will still conduct his appointments today by phone.
New measures. The Italian government is working on a new set of anti-coronavirus measures to be included into a decree. Not only does the government want to make the use of face masks mandatory outdoors, but it also wants to impose earlier closing hours on bars and allow fewer people to gather at private meetings. Read more.
Spanish regions adopt new partial lockdowns. The regional government of the the largest Spanish autonomous community, Castilla y León, decided yesterday (5 October) to implement partial lockdowns in León and Palencia for 14 days to curb the quick surge in COVID-19 infections reported in both cities in past weeks, EFE reported.
Castilla y León’s president and health minister, Alfonso Fernández Mañueco (Popular Party) and Verónica Casado respectively, confirmed the decision yesterday over Twitter. Read more.
Energy giant shift. The Public Power Corporation (PPC) – one of Greece’s biggest energy companies and one of the few real economic giants in a rather small economy – announced a new strategy based on investments in renewable energies with major foreign players, better economic results, a competitive commercial policy, as well as a new corporate identity. Read more.
Changes in government postponed. Four members of the Polish government are currently in quarantine after having come in contact with recently nominated Education and Science Minister Przemysław Czarnek who tested positive for COVID-19. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki as a result asked President Andrzej Duda to postpone the swearing-in of the new cabinet, which was supposed to take place on Monday (5 October).
The announcement of new ministers will thus be held today (6 October), the president confirmed. “Sanitary restrictions” will be taken into account, a presidential spokesman informed, thus suggesting that those who aren’t self-isolating will be sworn-in today, while others will have to wait for their quarantine period to elapse. (Joanna Jakubowska | EURACTIV.pl)
Controversial water canal approved. The Czech government approved on Monday (5 October) the first part of a planned canal system connecting the Danube river with the North Sea after the idea was first tabled in a memorandum signed in 2017 by Czech, Polish and Slovak ministers. Read more.
New, free news portal. The media website telex.hu, which was launched by former Index.hu journalists who resigned because they saw Index’s independence and integrity undermined, is now online. A statement read: “The journalists who resigned from Index.hu at the end of July are launching a new portal called Telex.hu. Our goal is to fill the growing void on the Hungarian media landscape and give readers back the freedom to get informed, to have something they can read.” Read more.
In other news, the Hungarian government’s economic policy is focusing on seven areas to mitigate the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic and to put the economy on a fast growth trajectory, Márton Nagy, the Prime Minister’s chief advisor on economic policy, told the daily Világgazdaság that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has set three main targets: restarting the economy after the coronavirus pandemic, protecting families, and developing rural areas, said Nagy, adding that all economic policy measures will have to be aligned with these goals. Read more.
Meanwhile, the wages of nurses and other skilled healthcare employees should be increased at a similar rate as the recently announced salary hike for doctors, trade union MESZK has said. In a statement, the union said that healthcare staff was overburdened both physically and mentally due to the coronavirus pandemic, and warned that it could compromise their own security, and that of patients’. “An uncertain outlook has resulted in extreme tension among staff,” the statement said. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Reform plan in the making. The finance ministry has unveiled its long-awaited and wide-ranging plan of reforms, though the government still needs to pick which ones will be available for financing under the Recovery and Resilience Facility.
While the Slovak government has promised to include public debate in the process, the deadline for submission to the European Commission of these reform plans – which EU member states set for 15 October – will not be met, Finance Minister Eduard Heger acknowledged. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Prime minister quarantined. Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban went into quarantine after he came in contact last week with TV show host Silviu Manastire, who ended up testing positive for the virus. While the prime minister has tested negative for the virus, he confirmed he would be staying in isolation until Thursday, ten days after he participated in the TV show.
The elected mayor of Bucharest, Nicusor Dan, who also attended a talk show anchored by Manastire and participated at several events together with the prime minister, announced he will self-isolate until Friday. Dan, who also tested negative, did not cancel a news conference scheduled for Monday morning (5 October), despite saying he found out about the journalist’s infection late Sunday.
In other news, the Romanian authorities banned religious pilgrimages and reintroduced the obligation to quarantine for people arriving from countries with a higher incidence rate than Romania to try and contain a more aggressive wave of COVID-19 infections. Read more.
Agriculture Minister resigns. Slovenia’s Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec stepped down from her post on Monday (5 October), following her recent resignation as the leader of the Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS). She resigned just a few hours before the National Assembly was to vote on her dismissal and after presenting her take on the fallout with DeSUS. Read more.
Meanwhile, Czech MEP Alexandr Vondra has apologised to his Slovenian counterparts for a tweet in which he labelled Slovenians “opportunistic pigs” after being urged to do so by all of Slovenia’s eight MEPs. Franc Bogovič (SLS-EPP) accepted the apology but warned that Vondra had not erased the tweet. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Contracts signed for 88% of Slavonia project allocation. Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that project contracts worth 16.53 billion kunas (€2.8 billion) had so far been signed for the “Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem” project, which is 88% of the total allocation, and that 6.6 billion kunas (€870 million) had been paid. Read more.
In other news, Plenković met in Zagreb with Oleksii Reznikov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine. While the Croatian prime minister had expressed support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and its European path as well as the importance of peaceful resolution of conflicts, Plenković reiterated Croatia’s willingness to relay to Ukraine its experience with the peaceful reintegration of the Danube region, which was completed on 15 January 1998, three years after the end of the 1991-1995 Homeland War.
Croatia’s Prime Minister had a similar statement at the beginning of his first mandate (2016-2020) that caused a very sharp reaction in Russia. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Support for the ruling coalition in Bulgaria continues to decline. Nearly 66% of the country’s people support protests that insist the government and Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev resign, which have been going on for 89 days. Read more.
Vučić nominates Brnabić to be new prime minister-designate. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić nominated yesterday (5 October) Prime Minister Ana Brnabić for the position of new prime minister-designate.
Vučić said at a press conference in Belgrade that there had been more candidates, but confirmed he had opted Brnabić because she had taken her job seriously and had not kowtowed to foreign powers. Read more.
A hundred respirators stored for five months. Hundreds of respirators bought by the Federation of BiH (one of the two BiH entities) amid the pandemic are still in storage because no qualified company has been found to verify them, make them operational and service them. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Đukanović called for consultations on the prime minister-designate. Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović invited leaders of the list of coalitions – Zdravko Krivokapić of “For the Future of Montenegro”, Aleksa Bečić of “Peace is our nation”, Dritan Abazović of “Black and White” – for consultations on the prime minister-designate for the composition of a government. “The date scheduled for the consultations is Thursday (8 October) starting at 11 am”. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Discontent with changes of Electoral Code. “We take note of the parliament’s adoption of further amendments to the electoral code. We recall that these are unrelated to the implementation of the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations on electoral reform as referred to in the March council conclusions. We regret that no compromise could be reached in the political council before the amendments were voted on in parliament. Despite the positive outcome of the agreement on OSCE/ODIHR recommendations reached on 5 June 2020, the political dialogue in the country needs to be improved”, tweeted Delegation of the EU to Albania. More.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Sam Morgan]