The German presidency’s road to recovery - challenged by spikes in COVID cases?

by RPP
Weekly European political updates

The German presidency’s road to recovery - challenged by spikes in COVID cases? 

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.    

 

Germany

The federal parliament has postponed the planned reform of electoral law, and a proposed coalition of opposition parties (the Greens, the FDP and “Die Linke”) was rejected after the government could not reach an agreement. The reform would reduce the size of the parliament, which has grown significantly in recent years. The reform is a reaction to a scandal involving CDU Deputy Philipp Amthors, who advocated for a US company in return for stock options without disclosing his personal involvement. At EU level, the German government met on 3 July with the European Commission to discuss the priorities of Germany’s Presidency. The priorities comprise overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery, climate action, and digitalisation. Angela Merkel named the overcoming of the coronavirus pandemic the major item on the agenda of the upcoming European Council meeting. Regarding COVID, the German Corona warning app is now available for download in all European Member states, the UK, Norway, and Switzerland. The app has been downloaded more than 15 million times and has been praised for its decentralised approach and high data protection standards.  

France 

Following the results of the second round of municipal elections on 28 June, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe handed over his resignation on 3 July and will return to his position as mayor of Le Havre. Jean Castex was appointed prime minister in his place, and presented his new government. At the Ministry of Health, Olivier Véran, the current minister, remains in place. He will be supported by Brigitte Bourguignon as Minister Delegate for Autonomy, who will oversee matters relating to old age. Gérald Darmanin has been appointed to the Ministry of the Interior and Jacques Dupond-Moretti to the Ministry of Justice. This is causing an approar among women's rights activists because Darmanin is currently accused of rape and Dupond-Moretti is publicly against #MeToo. The new government was eagerly awaited in light of the strong environmentalist results of the municipal elections, which were in line with the recommendations of the Citizens' Climate Convention. However, many have been disappointed by the lack of environmental commitment from Macron and Castex with this new right-wing government. 

United Kingdom 

On 8 July, Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a mini summer Budget to restart the UK economy. £2 billion will be pledged for a Kickstart Scheme to support young people in entering the workforce – employers will be paid grants of around £6,500 per head for jobs created for 16-24-year olds, covering six months’ wages and administrative costs. The scheme will supplement new places on traineeship and apprenticeship schemes. A £2 billion Green Homes Grant will be instituted to fund green home conversions. VAT on food, accommodation and attractions will be cut from 20 percent to five percent, while a new hospitality scheme will cover 50 percent of the cost of a meal bought in participating eateries on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays through August. Most decisively, stamp duty on new houses sold for under £500,000 will be suspended, up from a threshold of £150,000, to stimulate the housing market. 

Greece 

The EU Commission forecasts a slightly smaller recession for the country, as the economy is set to shrink by 8% this year instead of 10% as predicted. The predictions revealed that the year 2020 will end with a GDP decline of 9%, followed by a 6% increase in 2021. Thus, on 7 July, the eurozone agreed that the new debt relief measures for Greece will total about 750 million euros as part of the country’s post-bailout program. Apart from the recession, the country also faces the constant arrival of undocumented immigrants. Some European countries including Portugal, Germany, Luxembourg, and Finland, have agreed to help the country and will take unaccompanied children. Regarding Covid-19, on 6 July Greek authorities announced that there have been new spikes in cases of coronavirus due to tourism. Thus, while Greece will open its airports to direct flights from the United Kingdom on 15 July, the borders will close to Serbian citizens on 6 July. 

Spain

Up to 300,000 people have been put back into lockdown after a spike in COVID-19 infections in several regions in Spain including Catalonia and Galicia. Regional elections will be held in Galicia on 12 July and the regional executive expects the local lockdown to be lifted by then. Regarding the spikes, the Ministry of Health Salvador Illa stated that a second national lockdown will be considered, should COVID-19 cases increase across the territory. The Ministry of Health has also made public the results of the national seroprevalence study, which show that only 5% of the Spanish population has developed antibodies against COVID-19. This confirms herd immunity will not be reached in the short term. The government is currently in negotiations related to the state budget for 2021, which will presumably be healthcare focused, with political forces. While Unidas Podemos, member of the government coalition, prefers an agreement with the Catalan Republican left, it has also recently showed willingness to negotiate with centre-right Ciudadanos, providing its support to the government during the last extensions of the state of emergency. Negotiation talks with Catalan pro-independence forces will most likely have an impact on potential upcoming regional elections in Catalonia during autumn this year.   

 

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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