Europe slowly returns to a new normal, with changing health, political and economic priorities

by RPP
Weekly European political updates

Europe slowly returns to a new normal, with changing health, political and economic priorities    

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.    

 

Poland

Poland announced that the first round of its presidential elections will take place on 28 June, with the second round scheduled on 12 July. The election that was originally scheduled for 10 May was called off by the ruling party due to the agreement made with Porozumienie leader Jarosław Gowin, who had objected to holding the vote mid-pandemic. Considering the current pandemic situation, Poles will also be able to vote by correspondence.  Incumbent Andrzej Duda, an ally of the PiS ruling party, is the frontrunner. Running behind are mayor Rafał Trzaskowski from the Civic Coalition and an independent candidate Szymon Hołownia. Recently, the Polish Health Minister has been accused of cronyism when evidence went public showing that his department has purchased over 100,000 masks with fake certificates from a family friend. Allegedly, the transaction was facilitated by Łukasz Szumowski’s brother, CEO of OncoArendi Therapeutics. The accusations were denied by Health Minister Szumowski, who stated that there is not a single fact that would indicate any irregularities as to the procurement of protective masks. 

United Kingdom 

On 9 June the Government reversed its decision to reopen primary schools in England for all ages in the coming months. Schoolchildren aged 4-6 and 10-11 are still being encouraged to return; other ages will not return until the new school year in September. Conservative figures have urged the Government to outline a plan to allow schools to return to allow parents to return to work and reopen the wider economy. Outdoor venues and all non-essential shops in England will reopen on 15 June, and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has indicated that shops in Scotland will follow suit. The Welsh Government is pursuing a ‘health first’ approach and will not reopen shops for several weeks. All devolved nations will enforce the Government’s two-week quarantine for most new arrivals into the UK, which came into force this week. Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford will ensure all arrivals will be ‘entirely self-contained’ through further stringent travel restrictions, while Nicola Sturgeon has pursued a less stringent approach to lockdown and quarantine enforcement. 

France

France is currently in phase 2 of its exit strategy, during which the travel ban on the national territory has been lifted. The pandemic is "under control" according to the Scientific Council President, Jean-François Delfraissy, and the third phase of the exit strategy is set to start on 22 June. The contact tracing application developed by the Government, StopCovid, has been available since 2 June. On 8 June it exceeded 1.25 million downloads, according to the state secretary in charge of digital affairs. Despite claims of success, the app does not work outside of the national territory, which has led to questions around its usefulness once the borders reopen on 15 June. The “Ségur de la Santé », launched by the Government to begin a dialogue process in order to present a hospital reform, is currently taking place. However, many unions denounced a lack of framing, as well as a dialogue parody in which those representing the elderly, for instance, were not listened to. The results of this consultation are expected by the end of July.  Finally, the parliament is currently debating the creation of a branch of the social security to cover autonomy loss for elderly and handicapped people. This aims to give more importance to these people whose fragility and marginalization in the healthcare system was revealed by the Covid-19 crisis. 

Germany 

A new corona test regulation was introduced by Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn and came into force retroactively as of 14 May. The tests will be paid for by the statutory health insurance companies. In Thuringia, the contact restrictions imposed due to the Corona pandemic will be lifted on 13 June. A new basic regulation adopted by the cabinet recommends that people should only meet with one other household or with a maximum of ten people. For this year's organ donation day, Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn calls on all citizens to make a personal decision on organ donation and to document it. Germany had an intense debate on organ donation earlier this year which made the topic more prominent and led to an increase in the number of people who have filled in an organ donor card. The recent race debate has led to resentment among SPD politicians about party leader Saskia Esken. She had called for an independent racism investigation by the police and spoken of "latent racism in the ranks of the security forces". Boris Pistorius, SPD Minister of the Interior in Lower Saxony, sharply rejects Esken's verdict, and criticizes her move, referring to a difference in training and recruitment in Germany and the United States.  

Portugal

The State of Calamity in Portugal will be extended until 30 June, mostly as a preventive measure since June is a month of holidays and “celebration of popular saints”. On 9 June, the government approved amendment to the rules of municipality debt for 2020 and 2021 to account for fallout of COVID-19 within the framework of the Economic and Social Stabilization Program (PEES). It also approved an extension until 31 December of some of the exceptional measures approved in the municipalities to support economic and social stabilisation, which were initially only in place until 30 June. Also, on 9 June, the Ministry of Finance presented the Supplementary Budget proposal for 2020. This has been approved by the Ministers and will be debated in parliament on 17 June. It includes reinforcement of the National Health System (SNS) of €500 million, and the hiring of another 2700 professionals. The budget shows a 13% increase compared to 2019’s budget. It also includes measures in the field of Social Services, as well as economic measures and support for SMEs. Regarding tourism, Portugal was the first EU country to receive the “safe travels” approval, given by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) in early June. This certifies it as a destination that follows hygiene and safety measures needed and aims to ensure confidence in tourists once travel restrictions are lifted.  

 

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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