⊂ EUROPE ⊃
Nine European countries call for coronabonds to face coronavirus crisis: Nine euro zone countries, including France, Italy and Spain, sent a letter to the President of the EU Council, Charles Michel, asking for a common debt instrument to mitigate the damage caused by the corona crisis. With coronabonds, funds collected would be targeted to finance the necessary investments in the healthcare system and temporary policies to protect economies in all member states. Coronabonds are a controversial issue that has been dividing the EU. Conservative policymakers in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Austria are often wary of the idea of issuing debt together with highly leveraged nations, such as Italy, Greece and Portugal. European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde asked euro zone finance ministers during a video conference to seriously consider the one-off joint debt issue of coronabonds to help fight the pandemic, officials said. But the ministers instead expressed broad support for the possibility that the euro zone’s ESM bailout fund would extend precautionary credit lines, worth some 2% of a country’s GDP, to member states that would like such a safety cushion. A decision on whether to go ahead with that option will be taken by EU leaders this Thursday.
euractiv.com, cnbc.com, reuters.com
EU warns Hungary over virus bill: The EU Parliament’s civil liberties committee has warned the Hungarian government that any extraordinary measure adopted in response to the coronavirus pandemic must respect the EU’s founding values. The Hungarian government had tabled a bill on Monday which would authorise the executive to rule by decree if adopted. The emergency law has no time limit und would impose prison sentences on journalists deemed by the government to be spreading fake news. Although the Hungarian legislature did not approve the proposal, the governing Fidesz-KDNP alliance can still push the bill through parliament next Tuesday, leveraging its two-thirds majority. The civil liberties committee called on the EU Commission to assess if the proposed bill complies with the values enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on EU and to remind member states of their responsibility to respect and protect these common values.
euobserver.com, europeansting.com, euronews.com
EU develops plan to return to normal life: EU heads of states are expected to call on the EU Commission this Thursday to come up with a comprehensive recovery plan, which will include measures to return to normality following the end of the corona crisis, according to draft conclusions. While the urgency is presently on fighting the pandemic and its immediate consequences, the document says the EU should start to prepare the measures necessary to get back to a normal functioning of societies and to sustainable growth, drawing all lessons from the crisis. This would require an exit strategy, a comprehensive recovery plan and unprecedented investment.
EU Parliament suspends normal plenary sessions until September: The coronavirus has forced the European Parliament to postpone its full four-day plenary sessions in Strasbourg until at least September. The parliament will hold mini-plenary sessions in Brussels, according to a revised calendar seen by “Euractiv”. A new system will be used for the first time this Thursday to allow the remote participation of MEPs, including e-voting. Lawmakers are expected to vote on some of the measures to address the fallout of the virus.
G20 to discuss joint fight against the virus: The leaders of the G20 major economies will hold an emergency video-conference summit this Thursday to discuss the coronavirus pandemic. Countries that are not actually part of the G20 will also participate, as well as the United Nations, the World Health Organisation WHO, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Representatives of regional country groups such as the African Union, the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will also be involved. German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the corona crisis in a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday and they agreed to stay in close contact regarding the pandemic.
theguardian.com, stol.it, reuters.com
Corona crisis 1: Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom to help EU track virus nytimes.com
Corona crisis 2: EU Commission wants to protect European companies from takeovers faz.net
Corona crisis 3: EU states need ten times more coronavirus equipment reuters.com
European Centre for Disease Control: Summer heat unlikely to halt coronavirus reuters.com
Europol: Millions of counterfeit corona drugs seized stuttgarter-zeitung.de
European farmers’ association: Call to keep EU internal market open euractiv.com
Human rights: EU Commission proposes qualified majority voting ec.europa.eu
⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃
“We are only at the start of this crisis.”
France’s Prime Minister Edouard Philippe prepared citizens for a long fight against the coronavirus.
⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃
Spain overtakes China in total death toll: Spain’s coronavirus death toll jumped by 738 overnight to exceed that of China, where the disease originated. With 3,434 fatalities, Spain now has the second highest number of deaths globally after Italy’s 6,820. Emergency wards and nursing homes across the country have been overwhelmed by cases and a skating rink in Madrid has been turned into a makeshift morgue. The government said Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo has tested positive for the virus – the third cabinet member to be infected – but was doing well. Doctors and nurses have complained of a lack of basic protective equipment that has forced them to ration crucial supplies and craft protective shields out of plastic bags. The Spanish health ministry announced that equipment to fight the virus has been ordered from China for 432 million euros. Chinese companies will start delivering the medical equipment this week. The curfew in Spain was extended until the 11th of April.
reuters.com, theguardian.com, stol.it, nau.ch
Bergamo’s funeral houses are overwhelmed: Owners and employees of funeral homes in the province of Bergamo in northern Italy are exhausted and are threatening to stop working unless appropriate measures are taken to protect public safety. The crematorium in the region has been working 24 hours a day for weeks but is unable to meet the demands. At the moment the waiting list for cremation is three weeks long. Images of army trucks transporting the coffins of coronavirus victims out of Bergamo have become symbolic of the drama the city is experiencing. In Italy’s northern region of Lombardy, the death toll from the outbreak has risen by around 296 in one day to some 4,474, according to a source familiar with the data. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has promised further aid to the economy that could double the previously announced aid package worth over 25 billion euros.
euronews.com (Bergamo), nytimes.com (Lombardy), handelsblatt.com (Conte)
France launches army operation to support fight against virus: French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday announced the launch of army “Operation Resilience” to provide support in the fight against the coronavirus. As part of the operation, the army will be deployed to help with logistics and medical support. Additionally, the army will deploy helicopter carriers to help transport patients in overseas French territories in the Caribbean, South America and the Indian Ocean. France is also pulling out its military forces from Iraq. Macron further promised a massive investment plan in the nation’s health care system. The health sector has been demanding a financial boost since Macron became president. Meanwhile, the French government called on employees who are on temporary layoffs to make themselves available to help farmers with seasonal harvests.
france24.com (Army operation), washingtonpost.com (Iraq), politico.com (Health care), euractiv.com (Harvests)
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Switzerland closes borders for tourists and business travellers: Only Swiss citizens and foreigners with a residence or cross-border commuter permit are allowed to enter the country. Tourists have already been staying away in the past few weeks due to the pandemic. The ski season was ended prematurely. While there is no curfew, gatherings of more than five people are prohibited. Schools and all shops except grocery stores and pharmacies will be closed until the 19th of April. Switzerland also introduced temporary restrictions on the export of protective equipment to head off shortages among medical staff and others fighting the outbreak.
Finland restricts movement to and from Helsinki region: The Finnish government decided on Wednesday to issue a three-week blockade of the Uusimaa region around Helsinki, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Finland, to prevent people from travelling and spreading the virus elsewhere in the country. Travelling to and from the Uusimaa region will be prohibited until the 19th of April, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said. The travel restrictions will be enforced by police and conscripts with certain exceptions such as goods deliveries and indispensable work-related commuting.
Germany: Parliament passes historic aid package dw.com
Slovakia: Government allows state access to cell phone data in fight against coronavirus rnd.de
Austria: 5,560 people have fallen ill with the virus; Banks cut back on cash operations vienna.at; oesterreich.orf.at
Belgium: Business sentiment posts biggest drop in history marketscreener.com
Greece: No parade on National Day as the country fights the virus euronews.com
⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃
Bitkom sucht Referent europäische Digitalpolitik (w/m) *** Int. Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory seeks Innovation Project Manager *** Int. Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory seeks Project Assistant for EU Funded Projects *** PwC seeks Public Affairs Senior Manager Belgium *** Johnson & Johnson seeks Policy Assistant, Government Affairs & Policy EMEA *** Public Policy Manager, Connectivity *** Ryanair offers Public Affairs internship
politjobs.eu, politjobs.eu/submit (Inserat schalten)
⊂ MALFUNCTION ⊃
Romanian priests give communion with shared spoon: Footage of Orthodox priests in the Romanian city of Cluj giving communion to a long line of the faithful using a shared spoon was published by a local news platform on Sunday. It wasn’t the first such footage to appear, but coming a day after the country imposed tough new measures to try to halt the spread of coronavirus, it hit a nerve. As millions across Romania largely stayed inside to avoid the spread of the virus, the actions of the priests risked causing the opposite.