Before you start reading today’s edition of the Capitals, feel free to have a look at the article LGBTI discrimination still going strong in Europe, warns EU rights body by Beatriz Rios.
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An EU Strategic Stockpile will need €5 billion to realistically tackle climate change and pandemics, Nicolae Ștefănuță, member of the European Parliament’s Environment and Public Health Committee, has told EURACTIV.com.
“None of us, no matter how rich we are, will really be able to deal with climatic catastrophe or pandemic event,” he said.
In today’s news from the Capitals:
Vaccine controversy in France. French President Emmanuel Macron indicated on Thursday (14 May) he plans to meet Sanofi company officials next week to clear the air regarding the controversy surrounding a COVID-19 vaccine. Earlier this week, Sanofi’s Chief Executive Officer Paul Hudson had suggested – to the dismay of the French and Europeans – that if the French pharmaceutical giant were able to successfully develop a COVID-19 vaccine, the US may obtain a first shipment of it before the rest of the world. Company officials, meanwhile, rowed back on their statements, blaming a misunderstanding. Read more details here.
Another coronavirus aid package. The German Bundestag reached an agreement on Thursday (14 May) on another coronavirus aid package, which the Bundesrat is expected to approve Friday. The package includes additional funding to increase testing, provide more personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, as well as more money for those who were forced into short-time work. The country’s health crisis will lead to a €98.6 billion fall in tax revenue this year, but German finance minister Olaf Scholz is not thinking about savings. (Sarah Lawton | EURACTIV.de)
EURACTIV Germany’s Philipp Grüll has the full story.
Open borders soon? Belgium aims to reopen its borders to tourists by 15 June, but this would largely depend on neighbouring countries’ decisions, according to Belgian interior minister Pieter De Crem. Alexandra Brzozowski has more.
Gove cries foul on UK citizens’ rights. The UK says that the EU is in danger of breaching the terms of the Brexit agreement by failing to uphold the rights of British expats. Benjamin Fox has the details.
Opposition criticises Chancellor Kurz for holding lockdown event. When Chancellor Sebastian Kurz visited a village in the far-west of Austria on Wednesday (13 May), he had been followed by a crowd of villagers, many of whom had failed to respect the mandatory one metre social distance rule between one another. Although Kurz asked them to stand further apart, the images of him holding an event during the lockdown infuriated the opposition. Philipp Grüll has more.
Read also: EU files charges against Austria
Face masks made of fabric only give 20-40% protection. While proper respirators made of polyester can remove some 90% of the droplets in the air, the level of protection afforded by fabric face masks lies somewhere between 20% and 40%, according to a new study published on Thursday (14 May) by the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. EURACTIV’s Pekka Vänttinen takes a closer look.
Digital platform outcry. A new government measure to relieve the Italian tourism sector provides for a contribution of up to €500 per family for accommodation expenses in hotels and bed and breakfast on national territory.
However, Airbnb and Booking.com warned against potential discrimination towards the online platforms as the decree seems to exclude the use of those digital services from this measure. (Gerardo Fortuna | EURACTIV.com)
Aegean, Air France gradually reintroduce flights. Aegean Airlines will start to gradually increase domestic flights as of 18 May it said on Thursday, while it will restart basic itineraries abroad interrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Starting late in May, the airline will start connecting with main hubs in Europe – Munich, Zurich, Frankfurt and Geneva – with a limited number of flights, and increase the number of flights to Brussels, the only foreign destination it did not cancel during the lockdown. Air France will also gradually relaunch its flights to Greece on May 23. Read more on Athens-Macedonian News Agency. (Sarantis Michalopoulos, EURACTIV.com)
Over 50.000 health workers infected with COVID-19. The number of Spanish health workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 reached 50,088 on Thursday (14 May), of which 1,228 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours, according to the latest data released by Spain’s Health authorities. The latest figure shows a significant increase in the number of infections reported among health personnel. By comparison, the country now registers a total of 229,540 confirmed cases.
In other news, the latest “seroprevalence” analysis across Spain shows that no Spanish community or region is fully protected by herd immunity, meaning that such an indicator could not be used as a reference for the next phases of lifting lockdown measures, the director of the Centre for Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies, Fernando Simón, said on Thursday (14 May). According to the latest study only 5% of the Spanish population has antibodies against the coronavirus, Simón said. (EUROEFE)
Faith restored. Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa publicly reaffirmed his confidence in Finance Minister Mário Centeno after an €850 million transfer aimed at recapitalising a bank was made despite the PM having said it would not be made until the conclusions of an audit were known. (Pedro Morais Fonseca, Lusa.pt)
Back to school? It remains unclear whether Polish students will return to regular school classes for this school year, particularly as the government’s guidance on their re-opening appears to be conflicting. EURACTIV Poland’s Anna Wolska explains why.
State of emergency may end by late June. The Hungarian government hopes it could end the ‘state of danger’ by the end of June, Minister of the Prime Minister’s office, Gergely Gulyas, said on Thursday (14 May). While movement restrictions had been relaxed across the country, except for Budapest and its surrounding county, restrictions will now be relaxed for the county as the government is yet to decide about Budapest itself.
In other news, the government also discussed the German constitutional court’s ruling that the country is not bound by the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) ruling on ECB bond-buying.“We do not think that this court decision is a victory of Central over Western Europeans. But any sovereign state that has joined as a sovereign state can feel itself a winner,” said Gulyas. Read more details here.
Ombuswoman fails to get support in parliament. After Slovakia’s ombudswoman, Mária Patakyová, presented her annual report of the Office of the Public Defender of Rights before the country’s parliament, only 34 MPs voted for the motion to formally acknowledge the report, while 50 voted against and 46 abstained. EURACTIV Slovakia’s Zuzana Gabrižová reports.
Foreign workers’ rights on the ECJ table. Czech MEPs Martina Dlabajová (RE) and Tomáš Zdechovský (EPP) have welcomed the European Commission’s lawsuit filed before the European Court of Justice against Austria over its child benefit system. According to the Commission, the Austrian system, which is based on indexing the benefits for the children of foreign workers, results in less money for those from poorer countries, is discriminatory and contravenes EU law.
(Ondřej Plevák | EURACTIV.cz)
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Restrictions fatigue. Nearly 60% of Bulgarians say they observe only part of the measures for physical distance or do not observe them at all despite calls for voluntary social distancing, according to a study conducted by social and market research agency Afis. EURACTIV Bulgaria’s Krassen Nikolov takes a closer look.
Illegal restrictions? While judges confirmed that the government’s ‘state of alert’, set to begin on Friday (15 May), can only be enforced by parliament, by sending the draft law to parliament too late, the government appears to have now botched the transition from the ‘state of emergency’ to the ‘state of alert’ – it cannot enter into force earlier than Monday (18 May), despite the state of emergency having already ended on Thursday (14 May). To avoid a complete removal of restrictions, the National Committee for Emergency Situations declared a ‘state of alert’, for the first time ever in Romania. Read the full story here.
Slovania declares end of epidemic. The Slovenian government late on Thursday (14 May) called an official end to its coronavirus epidemic, becoming the first European country to do so, after authorities confirmed fewer than seven new coronavirus cases each day for the past two weeks. Read more here.
In other news, the Slovenian government has decided to temporarily suspend customs duties and VAT on imported personal protective equipment, like gloves and masks. The government also said it would send aid to Italy in the form of disinfectants worth around €92,000. (Zoran Radosavljević | EURACTIV.com)
Aid package for earthquake survivors. Croatia’s government has announced a finance package for people who have lost their homes in the Zagreb earthquake, which shook the city on 22 March and caused major material damage. A maximum of HRK70 (approximately €10) per square metre will be paid so that citizens who do not have other accommodation within 20 kilometres of the damaged property can pay rent. EURACTIV Croatia’s Tea Trubić Macan has the story.
New mine to provide coal for next 60 years, says president. The Kolabura mine is the heart of the country’s energy system and a new open-pit mine will provide coal for the next 60 years, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Thursday (14 May). “Nearly €500 will be invested in this mine, which will guarantee around 60 years of coal supplies from the mine, until its further expansion,” the president said after a visit, adding it is meant to produce between 13 and 13.5 million tons of coal a year.
In other news, Vucic said on Thursday (14 May) that he was in no hurry to hold elections. He also said that each year, his political opponents accused him of wanting to recognise Kosovo’s independence, noting that no talks were being held on Kosovo at the moment. EURACTIV Serbia has more.
[Edited by Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox]