The Capitals: Great debate in France, no debate in Bulgaria, Novartis-gate in Greece

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PARIS

Cutting taxes faster: Following a three-month debate in France, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe presented the findings generated by 1.5 million contributions to the so-called Great Debate launched by Emmanuel Macron in January to address the “Yellow Vest” crisis. “The debate clearly shows us in which direction we need to go: we need to lower taxes and lower them faster,” Philippe said in a speech in Paris. (EURACTIV.fr)

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SOFIA

No results on high-level corruption: The meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security called by Bulgarian President Rumen Radev to discuss measures against high-level corruption ended without any results, as the political parties didn’t sign the joint statement prepared by Radev’s administration.

The Council was called after a scandal over purchases of luxury properties at favourable prices was unearthed, leading some senior politicians to resign. The meeting brought together the prime minister, key cabinet ministers, security and intelligence chiefs and other high-ranking officials. (EURACTIV’s partner Dnevnik.bg)

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ATHENS

Novartis-gate: Prosecutors requested lifting the parliamentary immunity of socialist lawmaker and former Health Minister Andreas Loverdos (Pasok). Greek media reported he was suspected of having received bribes as part of the so-called Novartis scandal, which has shaken Greek politics.

The prosecutors said the case against four former ministers closed, while it still remains open for EU migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos (EPP), Yannis Stournaras (Governor of the Bank of Greece), Antonis Samaras (former PM- New Democracy ND- EPP) and two other ND former ministers of health. Opposition parties Pasok and ND reacted saying it’s a “conspiracy” by the ruling Syriza party against its political opponents. (Sarantis Michalopoulos, EURACTIV.com).

Dead dolphins: An unusually high number of dead dolphins were reported in the Aegean Sea in recent weeks due to Turkish Naval exercises and excessive sonar use, environmentalists have said. The Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation has said 13 dolphins were found dead just last week. (Theodore Karaoulanis, EURACTIV.gr)

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LONDON

Online harms: The UK government has put forward plans to take out punitive measures against Internet sites should they fail to manage the dissemination of ‘online harms’ including terrorist content.

In addition, a new independent regulator will be established to ensure companies meet their commitments. The body may be afforded powers to issue substantial fines, block access to sites and to impose liability on individual staff members.

In a statement, UK Prime Minister Theresa May said, “online companies must start taking responsibility for their platforms, and help restore public trust in this technology.” (Samuel Stolton, EURACTIV.com)

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BERLIN

Alliance of the far-right: German far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and Italy’s Lega aim to create a new group after the EU elections, the “European Alliance of People and Nations” (EAPN), AfD leader Jörg Meuthen said on Monday (8 April). Currently, the two parties in the European Parliament are still members of different political groups and Meuthen is also the only remaining representative of the AfD in Brussels.

Monsanto buy costs Bayer jobs in Germany: Pharmaceutical and chemical giant Bayer will cut 4,500 jobs (14% of total jobs in Germany) in Germany following the purchase of Monsanto, EURACTIV’s partner Der Tagesspiegel reported. (Claire Stam, EURACTIV.de)

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MADRID

Online piracy or programmer? As Europe recovers from the heated discussion about the copyright directive, Alberto García Sola, head of the largest network of online piracy in Spain, said he was innocent of breaching intellectual property rules. García Sola founded ‘Seriesyonkis’, one of the most popular websites in Spain where Internet users could watch series and movies breaching copyright rules. But in a long court hearing he claimed that he was only the “programmer” of an online page where users posted links to ‘illegal’ content.

The prosecutor thinks otherwise and accuses him of profiting from the alleged illegal activity. He and other members face up to two years in prison. (Jorge Valero, EURACTIV.com)

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WARSAW

Controversial money handouts: Polish families get €120 a month for each child starting from the second one and now Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS/ECR), promised farmers that they will also be paid for their animals. Cows will reportedly be worth at least €120, while pigs €23. It’s not clear yet whether these will be monthly payment and a ruling party lawmaker said the handouts would be covered from the CAP’s rural development pillar, not from the state’s budget.

Teachers’ strike: Most schools in Poland were closed on Monday, as the government and teachers’ unions failed to reach a deal on a pay rise. Teachers protested against too low wages and against the education reforms implemented by the government. (EURACTIV.pl)

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BRATISLAVA

Families of murdered journalists want Kövesi to head the EPPO: The families of murdered journalists Jan Kuciak from Slovakia and Daphne Caruana Galizia from Malta called on the EU Council to support Romanian candidate Laura Codruța Kövesi as EU chief Public Prosecutor. “We call on the Council to choose the bravest and most distinguished candidate for the job, a woman made from the same mould as Daphne and Ján: Laura Codruța Kövesi,” the families wrote in a letter. (Zuzana Gabrižová, EURACTIV.sk)

>>Read more about the case

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PRAGUE

39 is the number: The Czech interior ministry has confirmed that 39 groupings will run in the EU elections, including all nine parties currently represented in the lower house of the parliament. The centre-right TOP 09 and Mayors and Independents (STAN) are running as a coalition, like in the previous elections in 2014, when a total of 38 groupings were competing for the 21 seats. (Ondřej Plevák, EURACTIV.cz)

Transport minister leaves the cabinet: Transport Minister Dan Ťok is leaving the government and politics. He told Novinky.cz that he was tired of being attacked all the time. Recently he was heavily criticised for failing to find a new operator for the tolling system on Czech highways. (Aneta Zachová, EURACTIV.cz)

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BUCHAREST

After 30 years: Former Romanian president Ion Iliescu has been officially charged with crimes against humanity in what is called “the Revolution file”. Prosecutors have finally concluded a lengthy investigation into the anti-communist revolt of December 1989, but no date has been set for trial. Iliescu, 89, underwent heart surgery last week. (EURACTIV.ro)

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LJUBLJANA

Japanese robots from Kočevje: Japanese company Yaskawa has opened Europe’s first robotics factory in Kočevje, which will manufacture robots for the car industry. Slovenian PM Marjan Šarec emphasised the importance of the investment as well as the significance of the EU-Japan free trade agreement last year.

Yaskawa Electric Corporation is the world’s largest manufacturer of industrial robots. The new manufacturing plant and the new European Robotics Development Centre, which is planned to be built in the next few years, will cover approximately 80% of the market demand for robots in Europe, the Near East and Africa. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)

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ZAGREB

Populists losing ground: According to the latest polls, HDZ (EPP) will get five seats in the European Parliament, while the socialist SPD will get three. Human Shield, which is in alliance with Italy’s Five Star, fell from two to one seat. Far-right Most and the Amsterdam Coalition (ALDE) will get one seat each. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)

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SARAJEVO

Without representative in Council of Europe: The deadline for appointing a delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) expired on 6 April and despite previous warnings, BiH did not nominate its representatives because of internal clashes in forming the government. This practically means that BiH will not have its five representatives in the Assembly of the Council of Europe this year, which is also already the case in the OSCE and NATO Parliamentary Assemblies. Read More. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)

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BELGRADE

CS Week starts: The International Civil Society Week (ICSW) 2019 will be held 8-12 April in Belgrade under the slogan “The Power of Unity”. More than 700 CS representatives will attempt to respond to international challenges in the fields of rule of law, democracy and development. (Beta-EURACTIV.rs)

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[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos and Sam Morgan]

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