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 “EU recovery fund should hit €1.5 trillion, Gentiloni says.’
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.
EU’s Libya naval mission to begin work ‘within days’. The EU’s delayed naval mission to enforce an arms embargo on Libya will be ready to begin work in the coming days, EU officials confirmed on Wednesday (29 April), two days after Libyan militia commander Khalifa Haftar terminated a 2015 UN agreement, reducing the chances of a political solution to the conflict. Alexandra Brzozowski has the story.
In today’s news from the Capitals:
LISBON. Portugal’s Infrastructure Minister Pedro Nuno Santos said on Wednesday (29 April) that any injection of state funds in the Portuguese flag carrier TAP “will imply” that the government will have more say in the company’s major decisions in the near future. EURACTIV’s partner Lusa.pt takes a closer look.
Neo-nazi charged with politician’s murder. Federal prosecutors have charged the Hessian neo-Nazi Stephan Ernst together with his accomplice identified in German media as Markus H for the murder on 1 June 2019 of municipal politician Walter Lübcke of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). As the president of the Hessian city of Kassel, Lübcke had become the lightning rod for far-right hatred when he supported housing refugees in the city in October 2015.
In other news, state and federal family ministers have agreed to a “careful and gradual” plan to reopen Germany’s daycare centres. While the relaxation plan sets out four phases that will be accompanied by studies, concrete dates for each step will be decided at the next meeting between the federal government and state leaders.
French unions urge Amazon to resume activities gradually. In a joint statement released on Wednesday (29 April), the CGT, CFDT and SUD, three of France’s largest groups of trade unions, proposed that Amazon France’s management gradually resume its activities after the US logistics giant closed its French centres until 5 May.
“Contrary to what you see everywhere, the trade union organisations, almost unanimous, have no other goal than to protect the health of employees, temporary workers, employees of outside companies working in the warehouses and the relatives of all these workers,” the three unions said. (EURACTIV.FR)
Start of deconfinement confirmed. The first phase of the exit plan can start next Monday, as “experts say the evolution of the epidemic allows it”. The experts also insist that “the protective measures – testing and contact tracing – should be operational as soon as possible,” Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès confirmed. The start of the deconfinement measures comes as public support for lockdown measures is slipping, according to a recent poll. Alexandra Brzozowski has more details.
UK media watchdog director joins Facebook. A top official has been poached by Facebook from the UK’s media watchdog, the Office of Communications (Ofcom). The move comes at a time when the UK is readying broad legislation to crack down on offensive content online. Samuel Stolton digs deeper.
Plans to boost the Austrian economy. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler rolled out a plan to boost the Austrian economy at a joint press conference on Wednesday (29 April). While the pair outlined the three main areas of their proposal, which include tax reductions for low and middle-income workers, relief for the economy to “save, maintain and create” new jobs, as well as investments in climate and digitalisation, they did not give concrete details on implementation. (Sarah Lawton | EURACTIV.de)
Will the murder of Olof Palme finally be solved? Thirty-four years after Sweden’s former Prime Minister, Olof Palme was murdered in February 1986 in the centre of Stockholm, a breakthrough in investigations may be close at hand. Pekka Vänttinen reports from Helsinki.
De-escalation at different speed. Spain’s coronavirus lockdown will be lifted in stages although de-escalation could progress at different speeds at provincial level, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said in a televised address Tuesday (28 April), without giving fixed dates for each stage. “By the end of June we will be in a new normality if the evolution of the pandemic is brought under control in all of our territories,” he added. EURACTIV’s partner EFE reports.
Centre-right governors challenge government. In open defiance of the government, the president of Calabria region, Iole Santelli, issued an order that will allow customers to go to bars and restaurants as from today (30 April), if served in areas with outdoor seating. Open-air markets will resume their activities too, while citizens will be permitted to travel in the whole territory of the region and to practice individual outdoor sports. Gerardo Fortuna reports.
NATO helicopter crashed. A NATO Sikorsky CH-124 Sea King helicopter reportedly crashed Wednesday (29 April) west of the island of Corfu. The helicopter, which had six passengers, was operating inside the Rome FIR and Italian authorities did not ask for any assistance from Greece until they located its wreckage. The cause of the crash is still unknown and unconfirmed reports suggest that a dead person has been identified. (Sarantis Michalopoulos)
New Covid-19 data recommends facial covering. The obligatory use of facial masks or covers once restrictions are gradually rolled back as of 4 May follows the most recent data on the Covid-19 pandemic, the Health Ministry’s coronavirus spokesman Sotiris Tsiodras said on Wednesday.
Tsiodras opposed the use of medical masks by the public, warning that they could create more infection problems. Read more on Athens-Macedonian News Agency.
First easing of restrictions. “The defence stage is over,” announced Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán in a social media post. “We will try, together with you, we may try to restart life in Hungary, but we must proceed gradually and according to a strict schedule,” said Orbán.
With the exception of Budapest and its surroundings, shops, beaches, as well as the open-air areas of cafes and restaurants can reopen, the PM announced. Wearing masks on public transport and in shops will now become mandatory, while the 1.5 metre social distancing rule will continue to apply. “Аnd one more thing, from Friday, flower shops can stay open without restrictions since we are preparing for Mothers’ Day,” the PM added. (Vlagyiszlav Makszimov | EURACTIV.com)
Roma children say a policeman beat them. In one of the quarantined Roma settlements in Krompachy in eastern Slovakia, a police officer on duty to monitor the site allegedly beat a group of five children after catching them collecting firewood and playing outside the marked area.
The children told local TV the policeman had used a truncheon and showed bruises on the back of their legs. According to one girl´s account, the policeman also pulled out a gun shouting he would shoot the kids if they didn’t stop running. While the officer has already been removed from the site despite denying any wrongdoing, the interior ministry’s inspectorate will be leading investigations into the case. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)
Worst drought in 500 years. The current drought in the Czech Republic has been “catastrophic” for the agriculture sector, Czech Environment Minister Richard Brabec said on Wednesday (29 April), adding that his ministry intends to invest to fight it. Most groundwater resources are unusually low, which impacts soil moisture and plant growth. (Ondřej Plevák | EURACTIV.cz)
Poland proposes ‘Netflix Tax’ amid calls for broader digital levy. Poland will introduce a 1.5% levy on the revenue of streaming platforms including Netflix and Amazon, its finance minister said on Wednesday (29 April). The proposal comes as calls mount for broader taxation on the operation of digital giants in Europe as a means to mitigate the economic fallout from the coronavirus. Samuel Stolton reports.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
No sports events for months. As of Thursday (30 April), Slovenia will abolish the general restriction of movement after the country entered lockdown mode on 20 March. However, mass events and major sporting competitions will not be possible until a vaccine or medicine for COVID-19 has been found, Prime Minister Janez Jansa said after a cabinet session. (Zoran Radosavljevic | EURACTIV.com)
Grants for the small business affected by the pandemic. A total of 173 million levs (€88.4 million) will be given to small and micro companies that registered a decrease of at least 20% in their turnover this April compared to the same period of 2019. EURACTIV Bulgaria’s Krassen Nikolov has the story.
Reopening borders for tourists? Croatian Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli and his Slovenian counterpart, Zdravko Pocivalsek, met in Zagreb on Wednesday (29 April) for talks on the pandemic’s impact on the tourism industry and focused on the possibility of reopening borders for Slovenian tourists. Pocivalsek noted that Slovenians own about 110,000 summer houses or second homes in Croatia and that it would be “suitable to allow them to visit their summer homes.” Read more.
In other news, the Croatian parliament concluded on Wednesday (29 April) that if parliamentary elections are to be held in July, the legislative house should decide on its dissolution in May. Both the ruling party and opposition are willing to uphold that decision if the epidemiological situation allows it and if free movement and assembly are possible. EURACTIV Croatia’s Karla Junicic has the details.
Serbia offers minimal budget information. Having dropped eight slots, Serbia now ranks 70th of 117 countries included in the Open Budget Index (OBI), Transparency Serbia reported on Wednesday (29 April). The 2019 research gave Serbia a transparency score of 40 out of 100, and the drop pushes the country into a group of those offering minimal budget information. Read more.
No policy change towards Western Balkans, says US ambassador. US Ambassador to Serbia, Anthony Godfrey, said on Wednesday (29 April) that his country’s policy toward the Western Balkans had not changed due to the coronavirus pandemic and that resuming the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina remains important for Washington. EURACTIV Serbia has more.
Threats and attacks against Serbian Journalists multiply. The number of attacks against the media in Serbia, including death threats against journalists, went up in 2019, according to an annual report published by the Council of Europe’s Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists. Read more.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox]