EU Parliament president sidelined in coronavirus talks

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  • Euractiv.com

07.04.2020.

EPA
IAN LANGSDON

EU Parliament sources confirmed to EURACTIV.com that although Sassolie holds daily teleconferences with von der Leyen and Michel, he doesn’t take part in videoconferences. The same sources said it was “bizarre” considering that the EU House is a key EU institution.

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 this report on the fight against coronavirus in the Faroe Islands, where the salmon fishing industry has surprisingly helped identify cases en mass: “Coronavirus secrets of the Faroes“.

Also read the story “Gentiloni: Virus crisis highlights importance of digital tax” by Samuel Stolton.


***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.***


In today’s news from the Capitals:

EU INSTITUTIONS. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have excluded European Parliament President David Sassoli from talks on the EU response to the coronavirus crisis, El Pais reported.

“The main community leaders held a second videoconference on the coronavirus crisis on Monday (6 April) with the notable absence of the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli,” the Spanish daily reported.

“The leader of the only institution chosen by universal suffrage has been deliberately excluded once again from the forum in charge of preparing the roadmap for a comprehensive recovery plan […] Germany and the Netherlands lead the exclusion of Sassoli,” the newspaper added.

EU Parliament sources confirmed to EURACTIV.com that although Sassoli holds daily teleconferences with Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, he does not take part in videoconferences. The same sources said it was “bizarre” considering that the EU House is a key EU institution.

Sarantis Michalopoulos has the full story.

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BERLIN

German ministers call for “spirit of solidarity”. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) have called for a “clear expression of European solidarity in the corona pandemic”. “We, therefore, propose that we work together quickly to ensure sufficient liquidity in all European Union countries,” Scholz and Maas wrote in a guest article published by five European newspapers yesterday, adding that the “funds must not come with any unnecessary conditions attached”. 

Instead of responding to the demand from Italy, France, Spain and other European countries to create coronabonds to mutualise debts, they reaffirmed their government’s position that the ESM, in particular, should be used as an instrument. 

In other news, Angela Merkel said that the EU is now facing its greatest challenge since its foundation, adding that “we have to defend our Europe, we have to strengthen it”. Merkel reiterated her support for the use of the ESM and the SURE funds but also pointed out that after the crisis an economic recovery programme will be needed(Christina Goßner | EURACTIV.de

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PARIS

The worst recession since 1945. France is likely to experience its worst year of economic recession since the end of World War II, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told a hearing before the Senate Economic Affairs Committee on Monday.

“The worst growth figure experienced by France since 1945 was in 2009 after the great financial crisis of 2008: -2.2%. We will probably be much higher this year,” the minister said, adding that the figure was later revised to -2.9% and that France will even do worse this year, Bercy was told. “This shows the extent of the economic shock we are facing,” Le Maire insisted, as many sectors will come to a total standstill due to the containment. (EURACTIV.FR)

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VIENNA

Virus exit strategy. As Austria was a pioneer in enacting strict restrictions on social life, it will be able to ‘open up’ sooner as it aims “to get out of the crisis faster than others”, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Monday. To read the full story, click here. (Philipp Grüll | EURACTIV.de)

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BRUSSELS

Belgium updates measures. Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès announced a new expert group dubbed Exit Strategie, which is meant to develop a plan on how lockdown measures could be loosened in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the Belgian crisis centre launched a new interpretation of coronavirus guidelines. Alexandra Brzozowski has the details.

Read also: Belgian start-up scene calls for ‘life support’ amid COVID-19 crisis

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HELSINKI

Russian propaganda carries on. Russia is planning to organise events around the world to highlight its National day and “Russian spiritual values”. Of the thirty-three events, almost half are said to take place in Finland, including six exhibitions and “two dialogues and workshops”. EURACTIV’s Pekka Vänttinen reports from Helsinki.


UK AND IRELAND

LONDON

Too early to consider ending lockdown. The government has no plans to end the lockdown, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Monday. Raab, who is deputising for Boris Johnson after the prime minister was taken to intensive care on Monday evening, said that the measures would have to remain in place until the UK was past the peak of the pandemic.

“At that point, I think it [will be] possible to have a serious discussion about all the things we need to do, step by step, to move to the next phase of managing this,” he added. Reports suggest that ministers are divided over how quickly the lockdown can be ended. (Benjamin Fox | EURACTIV.com)

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DUBLIN 

Health data concerns. A report from the Irish data protection watchdog has said that health organisations in the country could be sharing sensitive data about personal illnesses with tech platforms such as Google or Facebook.

The Irish DPC noted that they were concerned “details of illnesses or conditions” that a user may search for on particular health websites, “is being shared with parties such as Google and Facebook through the use of either explicit profiles of logged-in customers, or through predictive profiles based on unique identifiers.” Read more.

In other news, the number of those relying on income support has risen to over 700,000, according to new figures from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. Coronavirus unemployment support payments of €350 per week began to be issued on Friday (3 April), for which there were 507,000 recipients. (Samuel Stolton | EURACTIV.com)


EUROPE’S SOUTH

ROME

ESM no, eurobonds yes. On the eve of a crucial Eurogroup, Italian PM Giuseppe Conte dismissed again the idea that Italy could resort to a credit line within the eurozone’s bailout fund (ESM). “Eurobonds are the solution: a serious, effective, adequate response to the emergency we are experiencing,” he told a press conference. (Gerardo Fortuna | EURACTIV.com)

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LISBON

EU Marshall Plan within grasp. Portuguese University professor and former minister Poiares Maduro believes the EU has a Marshall Plan within its grasp to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by issuing debt securities backed by an agreement on new resources such as carbon taxes and the digital economy. Meanwhile, more than 100,000 self-employed workers in Portugal, who saw their economic activity reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have applied for the government’s extraordinary support.

Portugal’s Medical Association advocated on Monday (6 Apil) for the criteria for universal use of personal protective masks by health professionals and the general population should be reviewed to better prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In Portugal, according to the balance sheet made on Monday by the Directorate-General of Health, there were 311 deaths and 11,730 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

While Portugal continues to be in a state of emergency until 17 April, Portugal has since 1 March conducted 110,000 tests to diagnose the virus, the secretary of state for health announced on Monday. (Lusa.pt)


VISEGRAD

WARSAW

The end of dreams? Presidential elections due on 10 May are likely to go ahead as the ruling conservative PiS party had hoped. PiS had managed to benefit from a rebellion in the ranks of its small coalition partner Porozumienie on Monday morning – which only partly opposed holding the elections – and a vote in favour passed at second time of asking. EURACTIV Poland’s Łukasz Gadzała looks into what the opposition-led Senate will do with the bill.

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BRATISLAVA 

Kuciak´s murderer sentenced to 23 years. Miroslav Marček, who confessed to the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, was sentenced to 23 years in prison yesterday. Marček had been cooperating with law enforcement and was crucial in building the case against others charged in the murder case, which led to anti-corruption protests that brought down the government of long-time prime minister Robert Fico two years ago.

While the court decided on a milder sentence because of Marček’s collaboration, the prosecutor has already appealed the decision. Still, the trial of alleged mastermind and intermediary in the murder is still ongoing. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk

PRAGUE

New strategy? The head of the Czech Republic’s Central Management Team for COVID-19, Roman Prymula, said that a large part of the country’s healthy population should catch the disease to create herd immunity, despite him having previously advocated for relatively strict measures.

It is also the first time that Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš expressed disagreement with Prymula’s advice, calling the herd immunity idea “very risky”, noting that the Czech way of fighting off the coronavirus involves implementing a “smart quarantine” system based on tracking past contacts of infected people. (Aneta Zachová | EURACTIV.cz)

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BUDAPEST

A new set of economic measures. PM Viktor Orbán announced a new set of economic measures with a focus on job retention and creation, promising an additional set of measure later on. “The goal is to create as many jobs as are destroyed by the virus,” Orbán said.

The government plans to reallocate 18-20% of GDP including programmes launched by the Central Bank and will increase the country’s budget deficit from 1% to 2.7% this year. EURACTIV’s Vlagyiszlav Makszimov looks into it.


NEWS FROM THE BALKANS

SOFIA

No pay until the end. The ruling GERB party has asked MPs in Bulgaria’s parliament not to take salaries until the end of the state of emergency, consensus for which was reached after several serious scandals. After Bulgarian MPs got a €2,500 salary increase on 1 April, parliament Speaker Tsveta Karayancheva explained that MPs need this money to donate more to the poor. The next day, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov ordered his party to vote on a salary freeze, after which the speaker apologised. (Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)

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BUCHAREST

Romania to extend state of emergency. As Romania reported 193 new cases of coronavirus yesterday, bringing the total number of infections to 4,057 – of which 20% are medical personnel – Romanian President Klaus Iohannis announced the extension of the state of emergency for another month. While Iohannis is expecting suggestions from the government on what the new decree should look like this week, he has also promised new medical supplies will arrive this week.

In other news, the government allocated €100 million for risk bonuses that will be granted to medical personnel fighting COVID-19, the EU funds minister said 75,000 people will receive  €500 per month as bonuses. Romania will also use a total of €1.5 billion from EU funds for various measures to fight the virus, including payments for partial unemployment, investments in emergency systems, but also acquisitions of protective equipment and tests, the minister said. (EURACTIV.ro)

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LJUBLJANA

Parliament to debate police powers for army. Slovenia’s parliament will debate later today (7 April) a motion by Janez Janša’s government to give soldiers limited police powers to assist in patrolling the southern border with Croatia. Opposition parties are against the proposal.

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ZAGREB    

Media sector undermined. Journalism is threatened by a 2008-like crisis, while additional job cuts, cuts in journalism rights, as well as the decline in the value of work are on their way, the Union of Journalists of Croatia (SNH) warned in a statement, emphasising the importance of preserving jobs in the media. “Democracy in Croatia cannot allow for a new erosion of the media sector, as citizens’ awareness with it also disappears,” according to the SNH. EURACTIV Croatia’s Karla Junicic takes a closer look.

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BELGRADE 

Vučić plays the Chinese card. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić is playing the Chinese card as part of his political tactics to extract more from Serbia’s western partners, Atlantic Council research fellow Dimitar Bechev told RFE on Monday. “Vučić is saying what the people in Serbia want to hear and that way he mobilises public opinion. EURACTIV Serbia has more.

In other news, members of Serbian NGO Women in Black (Zene u crnom) commemorated on Monday the siege of Sarajevo on its 28th anniversary, N1 reported. Read more.

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[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Sam Morgan]