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News from the Capitals

News from the Capitals #54


Direct Access to nurses and doctors: Senate Passes Rist Bill
The Senate adopted this Tuesday, the text for direct access to certain nurses, and physiotherapists. Deputies and Senators will now try to agree on a common text in a joint committee. In the fight against medical deserts, the bill proposed by Renaissance deputy Stéphanie Rist also aims to expand the missions of advanced practice nurses (APNs), who would now be authorized to make certain prescriptions for care and medication. Patients would thus be able to go to these caregivers without going through a doctor, but always within the framework of a “coordinated exercise”. However, this law continues to be debated by doctors’ unions, who denounce the defamatory remarks made by practitioners against their profession. Beyond the distrust of this text by the profession, the day of mobilization of this Tuesday made it possible to claim again an increase of the tariffs of consultation to 50 euros. 

French government launches plan to tackle medicine shortages
The plan, which will include several projects, will serve as the basis for a roadmap to address health product shortages over the next several years, which will be presented in June. Antiseptics, anti-epileptics, antibiotics, and anti-diabetics are among the medicine categories affected by supply shortages that have become a daily headache for pharmacists and hospital doctors. Faced with this situation, the government has announced the launch of a steering committee on drugs to lay the foundations for a new strategy for the prevention and management of shortages.

Haute Autorité de Santé ( HAS): Publication of the 2022 results of quality of care indicators in healthcare institutions
Finally, the French National Authority for Health (HAS) has published the results of the quality of care indicators in healthcare institutions for the year 2022. The national indicator results show some signs of deterioration but reflect the efforts made by professionals to maintain a good level of quality of care. The HAS wants to initiate a reflection with its institutional partners on new measurement tools that will make it possible to evaluate the level of access to care in the country and to support the decision-making of public decision-makers. 

Last March, the HAS college published an open letter to those who work for the quality of care and support. In it, the HAS expressed its concern about the system’s ability to provide quality care throughout the country.


Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announces her resignation  
Nicola Sturgeon announced her resignation as Scottish first minister in a surprise press conference in Edinburgh on Wednesday after serving in the role for more than eight years as Scotland’s longest-serving first minister and the first woman to hold the Scottish leadership post. Sturgeon has faced both criticism and praise in recent months over legislative reform led by the SNP, which would make it easier for people to change their legal gender and lower the age at which they can do so, from 18 to 16. She has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks over her stance on transgender women being jailed in women’s prisons. 

In her resignation speech, she acknowledged that she had become a polarizing figure, adding that another member of the SNP would be better placed to lead the party ahead of next year’s expected general election. 

What does this mean for the UK?  
Under the UK policy of devolution, the Scottish parliament controls domestic issues including education, health, justice, housing, and transport. It also set its lockdown and border policies during the Covid-19 pandemic. A big political change here means a political change in Westminster as well. Sturgeon was an ardent supporter of Scottish Independence and her departure places doubts over the strength of national feeling and uncertainty over the next steps for independence. Uncertainty for SNP voters and the future of independence could see more of a gain in popularity for the Labour Party, potentially proving crucial for an outright Labour majority in next year’s UK elections. 

Sturgeon’s departure has now triggered a leadership contest, set to last around 4 months, with Kate Forbes, the Scottish finance secretary, an untested but popular early contender.


Rerun elections in Berlin – Who will govern next?
On Sunday, February 12, voters took part in the repeat elections in Berlin. The Berlin House of Representatives and the Bezirksver-ordnetenversammlung (BVV) had to be newly elected. 

Initially, elections took place in September 20021. On the day itself, a lot of mistakes happened, e.g., polling stations did not have enough ballot papers, remained open longer than they should have, or voters receiving incorrect ballot cards. In November 2022, the Berlin Constitutional Court declared the elections in 2021 for invalid and the elections needed to be repeated within 90 days. 

The Christian Democrats (CDU) have won the elections with 28% of the vote. This was an increase of 10 percentage points in comparison to the elections in 2021. According to CDU’s top candidate, Kai Wegner, the results show that “Berlin chose changes”. Making Berlin secure again has been the central topic in the election campaign by the CDU. A topic that caught voters’ attention after the youth riots that erupted on New Year’s Eve in Berlin. 

The Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens both scored 18.4%. The Linke reached 12,2% and the FDP 4,6%. The Greens and the Linke both governed the German capital in a coalition with the SPD. The current mayor of Berlin and member of the SPD, Franziska Giffey did not receive a direct mandate. She acknowledged the election defeat and that people in Berlin are not happy with how things are in Berlin and are looking for a change. She added that the CDU would still need a stable majority to govern the city. Kai Wegner sees in the election outcome a clear mandate for his party to form a state government. He invited both the SPD and the Greens to exploratory talks over possibly forming a new coalition.

Despite the CDU winning the election, the current coalition still has a majority in the city of Berlin’s House of Representatives.

At this point, no coalition has been formed and it remains unclear who will govern Berlin next.

Recommendations for a new reform to relieve emergency care in Germany
In Germany, the number of emergency patients has increased drastically over the past few years. In 2019, 27.8 million emergencies were treated. That is three million more than in 2009. The number of emergency patients treated by the hospital alone has increased by almost 30 percent to 14.9 million within ten years.

The consequences are overcrowded emergency departments in hospitals, overworked staff, and patients annoyed by long waiting hours. In December last year, representatives of emergency doctors, the fire brigade, and Caritas expressed their concerns that the system could collapse soon. 

A reform shall relieve the burden on employees working in emergency care. To provide fast and efficient care for emergency patients, existing structures need to be changed, so Federal Minister for Health, Dr. Karl Lauterbach. 

A commission of experts, who were appointed by Dr. Karl Lauterbach, makes suggestions on how medical staff can be relieved. The reform has two key points.

The first recommendation is a new integrated emergency hotline. Medically qualified specialists that can conduct a standardized and initial scientific assessment of the emergency are going to work at the emergency hotline. Through this, the person calling will be referred to the most suitable emergency structure and an over- or undersupply of emergencies could be prevented.

The second recommendation is to establish Integrated Emergency Centers in hospitals. These centers are planned to consist of the emergency room of the hospital, a statutory health insurance practice, and a central decision-making office. The idea behind the structure is to refer the care-seeking patient to the emergency room or the statutory health insurance practice, depending on the severity of their illness or injury. The decision is planned to be taken by the central decision-making office.

It will be mandatory for hospitals and statutory health insurance doctors to participate in the emergency centers. 

Dr. Karl Lauterbach was satisfied with the recommendations and considers them to be a good basis for a reform.


Berlusconi: The Italian Political Maverick Whose Epic Story Reads Like a Shakespearean Tragedy
Silvio Berlusconi, the man, the myth, the legend. His epic story, filled with scandals, trials, and low-level jokes, will be declaimed by posterity as the Odyssean epic of the third millennium. The successful entrepreneur, known for his prowess in advertising and communications, has been in politics since 1994, and despite his numerous controversies, he remains a force to be reckoned with.

A close friend of Bettino Craxi, Berlusconi is the standard-bearer of the most conservative government Italy has ever seen since the birth of the Republic in 1946. But in a country where things always seem to go differently than in the rest of Europe, Berlusconi has found himself in hot water within the EPP. His recent declarations against Ukraine’s President Zelensky were just too strong and clear not to mobilize European allies to put aside this dubious caricature character – who is also known to be an intimate friend of Russian President Putin.

While in Europe, poker is child’s play compared to Italian politics. Even the great Don Quixote himself would have a hard time keeping up. Berlusconi’s party has in fact held up well in the regional elections of Lazio and Lombardy. Furthermore, his recent acquittal for a probative defect in the trial where he was accused of aiding and abetting prostitution after the events of the “Elegant dinners” where underage girls were present, has only served to corroborate his stay in the creaky Italian political landscape.

So, will Berlusconi remain in Italian politics until death do them part? Only time will tell. But one thing is for sure – love him or hate him, he is a character that will never be forgotten in the annals of Italian politics.

Inquiry Commission on Covid Emergency Management. Three proposals under examination aimed at clarifying the decisions made, purchases made, and the lack of a pandemic plan.

The parliamentary process officially began yesterday for the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the management of the Covid epidemiological emergency. Yesterday, three proposals were presented in the Social Affairs Commission of the Chamber of Deputies by Lega, Fratelli d’Italia, and Azione-Italia Viva. The three proposals have similar content, differing only in part on the competencies attributed to the Commission to be established, as well as on the duration of the Commission and the resources provided for its operation.

Firstly, about the duration of the Commission, the Fratelli d’Italia proposal provides for a duration of 18 months, while the other two propose a duration corresponding to that of the 19th legislature. All three proposals provide that the Commission will approve a report at the end of its work and other reports whenever it deems necessary.

Regarding the composition of the Commission, all three proposals provide that it be composed of twenty senators and twenty deputies, respectively appointed by the President of the Senate and the President of the Chamber of Deputies in proportion to the number of members of the parliamentary groups. The Lega proposal (Article 2) and the IV-AZ proposal (Article 3) specify that the presence of a representative for each existing group in at least one branch of Parliament must be ensured and that the members are appointed considering the specificity of the tasks assigned to the Commission. The IV-AZ proposal also provides that balance in gender representation is favoured and that the members of the Commission, within ten days of their appointment, declare to the Presidency of the relevant Chamber any conflict of interest related to the subject of the inquiry.


The Spanish Congress approves a new ‘Trans Law’ 
The transgender law is a reality in Spain: The Congress of Deputies has given its final approval to the law that recognizes the self-determination of the gender of trans people and no longer considers them to be ill.

When it comes into force, the law will put an end to the medical and judicial guardianship of trans people, so that their will, will be the only requirement to change their sex and name in the Civil Registry.

The turmoil continues in the field of healthcare.
The dissatisfaction of health professionals and citizens regarding the primary care conditions in the Spanish National Health System continues. This was made clear last Sunday, February 12, in a march in Madrid called by 74 social and neighborhood groups. According to the Government Delegation, 250,000 people attended, a figure that the organizers have raised to one million.


The Debate around Belgian’s pension reform:
On Monday, Belgian Pension Minister Karine Lalieux presented her reform plan for the national pension system. The main novelty is that the pension amount shall no longer be calculated on retirement age, but instead on the career length. The minimum retirement age of 62 shall be abolished in favour of a pension after 42 years of working. Further, the proposal shall harmonize pensions between the public and private sectors and tackle gender inequality. The reform is crucial for Belgium to become eligible for funding out of the EU recovery fund. However, and unsurprisingly with a seven-party coalition government, the Lalieux proposal was not universally well received. 

The case Eva Kaili: Star lawyer Sven Mary takes up the challenge: 
On Monday, Belgian lawyer Sven Mary declared his willingness to defend former Vice-President of the European Parliament Eva Kaili in the legal aftermath of the Qatargate corruption scandal. 

Mr. Mary is no stranger to out-of-the-box trials: He was the defender of Salah Abdeslam, the sole surviving terrorist of the 2015 attacks in Paris, during the Bataclan process. Prior, he defended Fouad Belkacem, a young Jihadi that had been recruited to fight for the Islamic State. In Belgium, Mr. Mary is well-known for defending the family of Sanda Dia, a black student that died during one of the brutal initiation rituals carried out by an exclusive club at KU Leuven university. 

From MEP to prison inmate: Marc Tarabella in custody: 
Instead of traveling to the current EP plenary session in Strasbourg, Marc Tarabella embarked this week on another journey: To the prison of Saint-Gilles in Brussels. After having been arrested on Saturday on charges of corruption, money laundering, and membership in illegal groups, this marks the spectacular downfall of one of Belgium’s 21 MEPs. In the meantime, Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino has been arrested in Naples on Friday. 

Finale of Miss Belgium 2023: Police stops terrorist attack: 
On Sunday, federal police arrested a 46-year-old man from Limburg that carried multiple guns and a bullet-proof west with him while trying to enter the amusement park Plopsaland on the Belgian coast where the final of the 2023 Miss Belgium election would take place. Given the circumstance that the man had valid entry tickets, it is suspected that he intended a terrorist attack on the beauty competition. 

Other News in Brief:

  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited the port of Zeebrugge on Valentine’s day during a rendez-vous with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo. The port is of crucial importance for Europe’s LNG supply. Both countries agreed to expand the existing supply infrastructure. 
  • During his ‘tour de Bruxelles’ last week, Ukrainian Prime President Volodymyr Zelenskyy presented Belgian King Philippe with a controversial gift: A piece of metal from a shot-down Russian military plane. 
  • From Wednesday onwards, the Flemish regional parliament no longer serves alcoholic beverages to MPs. This break of habits follows a controversial budget debate in December during which minister Ben Weyts seemed to be drunk. Thus, the only Belgian parliament which continues serving alcohol during work hours is federal in Brussels. 

Worries in the House of Representatives regarding the privatization of Intravacc
Minister Kuipers is determined to propose the privatization of Intravacc to the highest bidder and maintains only the rule not to sell it to a country that’s on the sanction list. Kuipers thinks privatization will lead to more investment from commercial parties and could lead to better development as well argues that this is a good step to fulfil the EU’s vaccine supply determinacy. However, Minister van den Berg argues that more strict requirements are needed that maintain their operations. The opposition parties argue that it does not make sense to sell the partially public Intravacc as it already sold its production department to India. Minister Kuipers argues that the privatization of Intravacc would not lead to a loss of knowledge as it is guaranteed by universities and hospitals.

A report from an official stated mainly that there are more cons than pros for the privatization


Promoting innovation and securing medicine supply
During an interview on 12 February, the Greek Health Minister, Thanos Plevris highlighted that via the new “my health application” every patient can receive their medical results as soon as 24 hours after the test. Moreover, he underlined that soon the hospitals will be interconnected, meaning that when someone goes to a hospital, they will be able to immediately see what tests they have had and their medical records in general. Finally, the minister announced that the drug shortage that was associated with the outbreak of viral infections in the previous months has been completely resolved.

Momentum for a fresh start on Greek-Turkish relations
The catastrophic earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria created a unique momentum for the amelioration of the bilateral relations between Greece and Turkey. During the visit of the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, on Sunday 12 February, in Turkey where he flew over the affected areas, accompanied by his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Greek official stated that “I would like to subscribe to what M. Cavusoglu said, we don’t need to wait for natural disasters to improve our relations”. In this context, after the earthquake, in addition to sending humanitarian aid, channels were opened at many different levels (presidential, prime ministerial, diplomatic, civil protection) and, it seems, will remain so for the near future.

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