COVID-19's political consequences: a crumbling European landscape

by RPP
Weekly European political updates

COVID-19's political consequences: a crumbling European landscape   

Europe is a colourful continent in terms of policies and outcomes. It is essential to stay updated on how these policies may impact your work to build better regulatory frameworks, enhance your message and enhance communication with stakeholders. Here you can find a summary of the major European political updates of this week.    

 

Italy

Free movement and travel between regions started again on 3 June. From that date on, EU citizens will also be allowed to travel to Italy without having to quarantine – although most neighboring countries are still sticking to the decision of reopening the borders of countries within Schengen on 15 June. Health Minister Roberto Speranza has warned that this does not come without risks, as the pandemic is still ongoing. Regions and mayors may intervene to close public places or restrict movement again if needed. The Italian government has come under renewed pressure as the minister of justice, Alfonso Bonafede (Five Stars Movement), faced two motions of no-confidence on 20 May over the release of several hundred mafia members from prison to house arrests on grounds of ill health in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate finally rejected the motions of no-confidence thanks to the final support of Italia Viva (the party founded by the previous Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi). However, this shows the high instability within the current Italian governmental coalition. 

United Kingdom 

The weekly excess death rate across the UK fell to its lowest since March in the week up to 22 May. Low infection and mortality rates supported the Government’s decision to further ease lockdown measures in England on 1 June. Lockdowns across the union have been eased over the last week in conjunction with the launch of devolved ‘test and trace’ systems to combat COVID-19. The Government’s strict plan for a two-week quarantine for new arrivals into the UK, to be initiated on 8 June, has come under fire from industry groups and political figures within the ruling Conservative Party. Home Secretary Priti Patel is likely to extend the exemption list to over 40 key sectors, though the initial country exemption list will only comprise Ireland and the Channel Islands. The Government will work to establish ‘air bridges’ with countries with low infection rates over the coming months. 

France

The number of infected people is still decreasing in France, and no more areas are classified as red. Only three areas are in orange: Mayotte, La Réunion, and Île-de-France. France thus starts phase 2 of its lock-down lift strategy on 2 June, until 22 June. Regarding the municipal election on 28 June, the deadline to file the official electoral list for the upcoming second ballot was 2 June. The political campaign will start 5 days before the election. The Scientific Council will table a decision on 13 June to confirm holding the election. New political alliances have formed in this context. In Paris, the current mayor Anne Hidalgo (Socialist Party) has forged an alliance with the Green Party (EELV) and become a front-runner in the upcoming second round. In Lyon, the EELV candidates will forge an alliance with the Socialist Party as well. In Bordeaux, the Republican Party (LR) has forged an alliance with the presidential party (LREM), against EELV. These alliances are forming in a context of political turmoil for the Presidential Party (LREM): recently, two new political groups have formed at the National Assembly ("Ecology, Democracy and Solidarity" and "Acting together") resulting in the loss of the absolute majority (289 seats) for the LREM group, which now holds 282 seats. 

Germany 

On 2 June, the leaders of the coalition of the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD) are discussing an economic stimulus package of up to 80 billion euros to boost the German economy. The proposals of the parties are aligned with the respective party programmes. Aid for municipalities is controversial as well as views on minimum wages and corporate taxes. After an approximately nine-hour meeting, the parties postponed their deliberations late in the evening. An interesting note comes from an online survey conducted by the institute YouGov on behalf of the German Press Agency, which shows that one third of Germans want to abolish or at least relax the current obligation to wear masks. The opinions derived from the survey are also divided about vaccination.  In other national political news, the leader of the CSU Markus Söder expects a decision on the Union's candidacy for chancellor in January 2021. In December, the CDU will elect a new party leader. As the CDU party leader is traditionally often the Union’s candidate for chancellor, this development will be important for political trajectories. bAt EU level, the website of the German EU Council presidency starting on 1 July is now online and available in German, English in French. It will show important updates and developments regarding Germany’s targets and priorities regarding the presidency.     

Spain

Spain has not registered any COVID-19 deaths for two days in a row. President Pedro Sánchez has nonetheless tabled a sixth and last extension of the state of emergency in the Congress from 7 June until 21 June. The extension is expected to go through after the government reached an agreement with other political forces. Under this last extension, regions under phase 3 will now be fully responsible for managing the lifting of containment measures throughout the exit strategy. The Ministry of Health will regulate mobility and coordinate with autonomous communities on other matters. Madrid, Cataluña and Castilla y León have requested the Ministry to move forward to phase 2, while 8 other regions (currently in phase 2, up to 70% of the population) have applied for a transition to phase 3. Phase 3 might allow mobility across provinces, including islands, and even regions also in phase 3, which could translate into restarting domestic tourism. The Ministry of Economic Affairs has indicated the Gross Domestic Product will decrease by 9% and economic recovery will begin as of Q4 2020 for a minimum period of 2 years. In light of this situation, the government approved the universal basic income from 1 June aimed at tackling poverty in 850,000 households and 2 million individuals. 

 

You can find more information on European news in our EU national elections heatmap, where we provide an overarching perspective with key political insight for individual countries. Make sure to check it here

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