Brussels closes bars and cafes for a month to curb infections

Just hours after Belgium’s new federal government announced that private gatherings were limited to a maximum of four people and that bars and restaurants had to close at eleven o’clock across the country, Brussels has decided to go further. As of this Thursday and for a month, cafeterias, bars (including those in all sports centers, whether or not they serve alcohol) and tea rooms will not be able to lift the blind. The measure is extended to party and event halls, although it will not affect restaurants nor will it mean a change for night shops and gambling halls, which must continue to close at ten at night.

The minister-president of Brussels-Capital, Rudi Vervoort, announced the new package of restrictive measures for the entire region (with nineteen municipalities) when the cumulative incidence of coronavirus infections already stands at 502 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on average in recent years 14 days, which is almost double the average for the entire country, 245.8 (77% increase in one week). In fact, Yves Van Laethem, specialist in infectious diseases and inter-federal spokesman for the fight against coronavirus in Belgium, has stressed that the spread of the pathogen is being very fast in Brussels, to the point that it is already the second European capital with the highest incidence behind Madrid, exceeding the infection rate in Paris.

Until last week, health officials in Brussels were confident that the infection curve would stabilize, but the figures have continued to rise, including hospital admissions. The pressure begins to be accused in some centers, which are already delaying other scheduled activities. In the country as a whole, 84 people are hospitalized on average every day.

In the seven days, an average of 2,466 new cases (with three days in which 3,000 were exceeded), 57% more than the previous week. Brussels-Capital leads with 540 diagnosed infections. In the last twenty-four hours, eleven people have died from Covid-19. The total number of deaths since the outbreak of the health crisis stands at 10,092.

“Radical” measure

On Tuesday, the new Prime Minister of the country Alexander de Croo, already warned that the epidemiological situation in Belgium is being “worrying”. He even spoke of “serious” to justify the new restrictions of state application that he announced after leading his first Crisis Council for the coronavirus. Among the advertisements, the recommendation that a person’s close (family) contacts do not be with more than three people and always the same for a month and that the meetings that take place outside the home are limited to a maximum of four people keeping the known safety measures, including the use of a mask. It also decreed the closure of bars and cafes at eleven at night.

Brussels has chosen to go one step further by imposing a total closure that will be effective from seven in the morning this Thursday. From the sector there is talk of a “radical” measure and the responsible administrations are criticized for “not doing anything against clandestine, private night parties”, many of them organized through social networks. The Horeca association claims to have detected at least seventeen calls of this type. “The economic losses will be considerable, a tragedy,” stressed a spokesman for the group at a press conference.


France SUV tax mainly affects Porsche, Audi and Mercedes

FAs of next year, France will declare war on particularly heavy cars, including many SUVs, with a special tax. However, the concept has been changed in the past few months in such a way that it now mainly affects German and other foreign manufacturers, while the French carmakers are hardly affected.

The SUV tax is levied in France from a curb weight of 1800 kilograms, for each kilo more then ten euros are due. That can quickly add up to a few thousand euros per vehicle.


German start-ups prefer to go to Wall Street

Düsseldorf While more and more tech companies are going public in the USA and China, there is an ebb of IPOs in Europe, especially in Germany. More and more German start-ups are consciously deciding not to go public at home. Why are the American stock exchanges so much more attractive? We spoke about it with equity analyst Ulf Sommer.

We also evaluated the results of the EU summit in Brussels with our EU correspondent Hans-Peter Siebenhaar. The corona virus, the natural gas dispute between Greece and Turkey – and above all the Brexit. In any case, there was enough discussion for the heads of state and government of the countries. In today’s episode of Handelsblatt Today you can find out whether there is a solution to all of these problems.

If you have any comments, questions, criticism or praise about this episode, please write to us by email [email protected].


Sanctions are no longer newcomers – Kommersant newspaper No. 190 (6911) dated 16.10.2020

The poisoning scandal of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has led to the first real consequences for Russian officials. The European Union has published an updated sanctions list, which includes six more Russians and one organization. Among the new defendants are the first deputy head of the presidential administration, Sergei Kiriyenko, FSB director Alexander Bortnikov, and two deputy defense ministers. All of them in Brussels are considered accomplices in the assassination attempt on Mr. Navalny with the use of chemical weapons. According to a Kommersant source in the Russian presidential administration, being included in the West’s sanctions lists in the Kremlin is still perceived as a reward.

Six plus GosNIIOKhT

The decision to impose new sanctions against a number of Russians was taken by the foreign ministers of the EU member states, who on Monday discussed at a meeting the situation with the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. The EU relies on the data of laboratory studies carried out in Germany, France and Sweden, and are sure that a poisonous substance from the Novichok group was used in the assassination attempt on the oppositionist. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Thursday that the Russians on the sanctions list “can be considered responsible” for what happened to Alexei Navalny.

The list (.pdf) released on Thursday includes six names and one organization. The document contains a table with the personal data of the new defendants (name, date and place of birth), as well as a short explanation of why this person came under the sanctions. For example, it mentions that the Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration (AP) of the Russian Federation Sergey Kirienko oversees internal politics. It is further stated that Alexei Navalny “was subjected to systematic attacks and reprisals from state and judicial authorities because of his leading role in the opposition,” and the substance with which he was poisoned “is available only to the state authorities of the Russian Federation.”

«Under these conditions, there is reason to conclude that the poisoning of Alexei Navalny was possible only in agreement with the presidential administration, ”the document says.

Thus, Mr. Kiriyenko, given his leadership position, was found guilty of encouraging and supporting the assassination attempt.

The inclusion of the FSB director on the lists is explained in a similar way. Alexandra Bortnikova, Plenipotentiary of the President in the Siberian Federal District Sergey Menyailo and the head of the department of internal policy (ODP) AP Andrey Yarin.

“By this decision, the EU Council harmed relations with our country. Moscow will undoubtedly analyze the situation and will act in accordance with its own interests, – said the press secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov on Thursday. – Unfortunately, this is a deliberate unfriendly step towards Russia. Mr. Peskov also denies information that a special working group was created in the RF Presidential Administration to discredit Alexei Navalny, as the authors of the sanctions list write about it. Recall that in March 2017, on the eve of the presidential elections, unknown persons poured green paint on Alexei Navalny in Barnaul, and in April of the same year, a similar attack was carried out in Moscow. Then the oppositionist received a chemical burn to his eye. The politician himself claimed that the attack was organized by the AP through the Kremlin-controlled movements such as GCD. The media, citing sources in the administration, in turn, wrote that the Kremlin categorically denies that anyone could have sanctioned such attacks on any of the politicians. The officials promised to give a command to all regions about the inadmissibility of such actions. The attacks did stop shortly after these statements.

At the same time, according to Kommersant’s information, the AP is really trying to informationally “work out” loud reasons associated with Alexei Navalny.

However, usually such information support is supervised not by the Office of the Interior Ministry, headed by the new person involved in the EU blacklist, Andrei Yarin, but by the structures responsible for the information block. The tasks of Mr. Yarin and the department headed by him include supervising the regions during the inter-election period, interaction with regional authorities and parliamentary parties. The official regularly appears personally at public events of United Russia. At times, Andrei Yarin is also responsible for interaction with law enforcement agencies. The interlocutor of Kommersant, close to the AP, believes that the appearance of Mr. Yarin on the list indicates a “tip” from the oppositionist himself. According to him, all the evidence is limited to the fact that Andrei Yarin was allegedly responsible for countering and fighting Alexei Navalny: “But this is like saying that two times two is four: of course, an official in charge of domestic politics is obliged to monitor the actions opposition “.

In addition to two representatives of the Presidential Administration, two Deputy Defense Ministers of the Russian Federation were also sanctioned Pavel Popov and Alexey Krivoruchko, as well as the State Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology (ГосНИИОХТ). The authors of the EU list note that the Ministry of Defense “was responsible for the storage of chemical weapons left over from the times of the USSR, and their safety up to their disposal,” and FSUE GosNIIOKhT took part in the disposal of these chemical weapons. Information on the institution’s participation in the disposal of chemical weapons is also available on its official website. They did not respond to Kommersant’s request to comment on the inclusion of the institute in the sanctions list. Since a poisonous substance “accessible only to the authorities” was used against Mr. Navalny, it means that the EU is arguing that the case is either a malicious act or the negligence of the Ministry of Defense, as well as the fact that the institute has not completely disposed of the chemical weapons entrusted to him.

Sergei Menyailo, who in 2014 worked as the acting governor of Sevastopol (and then lost the prefix acting), was included in the sanctions lists of the EU in the same spring, and then the USA, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and Australia. The reason was the referendum on the independence of Crimea. Alexander Bortnikov also got into the black lists of the EU, Switzerland, Canada and Australia – in connection with the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The other persons involved in the updated list were under sanctions for the first time.

Award from Brussels

“Comrade Navalny, to all appearances, dictated him (blacklist – Kommersant) to his Brussels comrades, guided by his own phobias and antipathies. We will write down the one who does not like it. Out of any connection with reality or with conscience, ”said Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the international affairs committee of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, on Thursday.

However, from the point of view of European officials, there was still some logic in compiling the list. The basis for the imposition of sanctions was the EU Council Regulation 2018/1542, approved in October 2018. Then, six months after the poisoning in the British city of Salisbury of ex-GRU officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, the European Union approved a new regime of sanctions for the use of chemical weapons. According to the regulations, personal sanctions, along with a ban on entry and freezing of funds, can be imposed against those who directly used chemical weapons, as well as those who provided financial, technical or material support, as well as helped or otherwise encouraged such actions. The new regime made it possible in early 2019 to impose sanctions against the leadership of the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces (formerly the GRU of the Russian Federation), as well as the alleged employees of this structure, Anatoly Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin. New suspects were added to the same list on Thursday.

In theory, getting under the sanctions is debatable.

“The standard is as follows: if a person wants to challenge his being on the sanctions list, then the EU Council will have to prove to the court that, firstly, from the reasoning part of the document, the person involved in the list understood why he was restricted in his rights and, secondly, that there were grounds for adding a person to the list, “Sergei Glandin, an advisor to the Pen & Paper bar association, told Kommersant. According to him, all the details are not indicated in the motivation part of the document, however, new persons on the list can now request a more detailed dossier on themselves. “If necessary, the Council of the European Union can provide this dossier to the person involved or to the EU Court, otherwise the decision of the Council may be canceled by the court and it will be necessary to compensate for legal costs as well. By the way, judging by practice, inclusion in the sanctions list is indeed quite often canceled, ”said the source of Kommersant.

Meanwhile, a Kommersant source close to the Presidential Administration doubts that officials will try to officially challenge the sanctions imposed on them.

And the interlocutor of Kommersant in the Presidential Administration claims that such restrictions are still perceived in the Kremlin as a reward.

Sergei Menyailo told Kommersant that in his case we are talking about the third or fourth sanctions list in which he is included. “It will not affect my work or my daily life in any way,” he said, adding that he never had real estate or other assets abroad.

Galina Dudina, Andrey Vinokurov, Kira Dyuryagina; Daria Reshetnikova, Novosibirsk


Brussels authorizes to cover up to 3 million business costs

Companies that face a collapse of at least 30% of their turnover will be able to receive public aid of up to three million euros to withstand the stakes of the coronavirus. Brussels thus decides to further loosen its regulatory framework for state coverage, which since March 19 has given the states freedom to turn on the tap to the private sector. Without a pandemic, these aids would be prohibited, but with it there are no restrictions and the use of all available tools is imposed to accelerate the exit from the crisis.

The measure announced by the Competition Commission, Margrethe Vestager, allows that public money to support part of the fixed costs of companies that require assistance. Up to 90% in the case of SMEs and up to 70% in larger companies going through a difficult situation. In all cases, the cap will be at those three million euros. “We are introducing a measure that allows companies to be supported with part of their fixed costs discovered,” stressed Vestager.

It is the main novelty of a predictable ad: Brussels will maintain an open bar for another six months for governments to come to the rescue of their companies. Until June 30, 2021. And that, for now, because returning to the macro magnitudes prior to the outbreak of the pandemic crisis will still cost at least two more years.

Coverage will be 90% for SMEs and 70% for larger companies in difficult situations

June 30, 2021 will also be the final date to maintain the flexibility of public standards to support exports. Specifically, that they can support credits on “negotiable risks” in the short term (a maximum of two years). All countries are authorized to deploy this umbrella after suspending a regulation with more than five years that prohibited state insurers from assisting in this type of operation.

Exit of shareholders

The more extended will be the time margin for recapitalizations (the exit of the shareholders). Brussels gives until September 2021. The aim, according to the communication from the European Commission, is to allow the Administration to withdraw from the capital of private companies through an independent valuation, “while restoring its previous participation and maintaining the safeguards for preserve effective competition in the single market ‘.

The volume of state aid (all must be validated by the European Commission) gives a clear vision of the potential of both to face the impact of this crisis. Last May the first data was offered: the measures applied by Germany accounted for 51% of the total in the EU compared to 17% in France or 15.5% in Italy. Belgium (3%) and Poland and Spain (2%) closed the top of the list. That progression has varied slightly in the last five months. Germany would already reach 52.7%; Italy 15.2%, France 14.1% and in the case of Spain, just 5%.


Brussels appeals the ruling that exempted Apple from returning 13,000 million

Brussels moves on. The European Commission has announced this Friday the presentation of an appeal before the Court of Justice of the European Communities to try to correct the ruling of the General Court of last July 20 that exempted the multinational Apple to make a refund of more than 13,000 million euros in outstanding taxes to the Irish coffers; a refund that the European Commission claimed in 2016 on the grounds that the Cupertino company had benefited from exemptions that contravened state aid rules that govern the EU. That ruling was a triumph for the Government of Ireland and the company itself, which, together, appealed to European justice to overturn the decision of the Community Executive in the first instance.

The European Commission has presented the appeal within the two months and ten days set in that court ruling. And its head of Competition, Margrethe Vestager, was in charge of unveiling this step with a statement in which she insists that she considers that the July opinion “raises important legal questions that are of importance to the Commission in its application of the rules. on state aid to tax planning cases. The Commission also considers – it adds – that the General Court has made several errors of law. ‘

Danish politics insists that the European Commission will continue to use all available tools to “ensure that companies pay their fair share of taxes”. Otherwise, he argues, “the public purse and citizens will be deprived of funds for much-needed investments, the need of which is even more acute now to support Europe’s economic recovery.”

In August 2016, after two years of investigation, Brussels concluded that Ireland had granted undue tax advantages to two companies of the Apple group, with more than 6,000 workers in the country. Specifically to Apple Sales International and Apple Operations Europe with tax headquarters in Dublin. The multinational had achieved significant tax benefits. Specifically, reference was made to a disbursement of an effective corporate tax rate of 1% on profits generated across Europe in 2003, which was progressively reduced to 0.005% in 2014. Irish corporate tax is already per yes one of the lowest in the EU, 12.5%.

The General Court, the Brussels Executive remarks, has repeatedly confirmed the principle that, although the Member States have competence to determine their tax legislation, “they must do so in compliance with EU legislation, including the rules on aid. state ». The argument that weighs now is that if Member States grant certain multinationals tax advantages that are not granted to their rivals “this undermines fair competition in the European Union, violating the rules on state aid”. And Apple, it is stressed, benefited from selective tax treatment. “We have to make sure that all businesses, including digital ones, pay their share of taxes where they are owed,” Vestagher emphasizes.


Brussels sounds the alert on the rule of law in the EU

In an unpublished report, Hungary and Poland are again pinned. But they are far from the only ones.

The Vice-President of the European Commission Vera Jourova and the European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders during their press conference yesterday in Brussels.
The Vice-President of the European Commission Vera Jourova and the European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders during their press conference yesterday in Brussels. OLIVIER HOSLET / AFP

Correspondent in Brussels

Will the rule of law be the surprise guest of the meeting of the Twenty-Seven which begins this Thursday in Brussels? Tensions around the issue – flammable if there ever was one – of respect for fundamental democratic standards have, in any case, increased a notch in recent days within the bloc, to the point of becoming a drag, as well for the German EU Presidency than for the Commission. And probably soon for the Twenty-Seven.

Indeed, the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, as well as his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, did not waver in the face of criticism and threats from the EU against their country. And, one like the other, will undoubtedly display a shadowy expression when they arrive at the European Council at the beginning of the afternoon to attend this crucial summit where the burning Turkish and Belarusian issues are however a priority. “There is no formal point on the rule of law but it will definitely be a subject, worries a diplomat

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EU Commission wants to relax state aid rules even longer

WBecause of the Corona crisis, the EU Commission wants to relax the rules for state aid by the middle of next year. To this end, the Brussels authority sent a corresponding proposal to the member states, as it announced on Friday.

Adjustments to the otherwise strict regulations on subsidies from EU countries for companies or research institutions are intended to help facilitate such aid in the current economic downturn. Originally, the special regulations should have expired at the end of the year – according to the Commission, they should now apply until the end of June 2021.

In addition to the extension in time, the amount of allowable aid could also be increased. For example, EU countries should be allowed to cover certain costs of companies in which there is a drop in sales and further financing is at risk in view of the “continuing economic uncertainty”. This should also secure jobs.

Almost three trillion euros in possible aid

It also deals with rules for state participation in companies. Normally, such points are more strictly regulated in the European internal market in order to avoid distortions of competition between the state and the private sector as well as between individual states.

According to EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, the easing so far has meant that since the pandemic has spread to Europe, the way has been cleared for almost three trillion euros in possible aid for companies in need.

She emphasized: “The effects of the crisis will remain with us for a while.” The EU had already expanded its subsidy rules. Small and medium-sized companies should also receive greater support in this way.


Italy: turning point for Matteo Salvini and the Lega

AThe trial of the Italian opposition leader Matteo Salvini begins on Saturday in the Sicilian city of Catania. The head of the right-wing Lega party is accused of having committed deprivation of liberty at the end of July 2019, when he was still interior minister. At that time he had forbidden the “Gregoretti”, a ship of the Italian coast guard with 130 rescued migrants on board, for five days to dock on the Italian mainland.

It almost sounds as if Salvini is happy about the start of the process, which is moving him back to the center of the national debate after a long Corona-related absence from the headlines.


Brussels wants to reform asylum and migration policy

A week before the European Commission presented its proposal for reforming asylum and migration policy on September 23, its president, Ursula von der Leyen called for a “European system of migration governance” during his State of the Union address to MEPs on Wednesday September 16.

→ READ. Revival, Turkey, migrants, climate… Ursula von der Leyen’s battle plan

Concretely this supposes“Abolish the Dublin regulation” and create “Common structures for asylum and return”, she clarified.

What is the Dublin Regulation?

The Dublin regulation, amended several times since 1990, entrusts responsibility for asylum requests to the countries of entry of migrants into the European Union. It had a dual objective: on the one hand to prevent asylum seekers from being returned from one country to another and, on the other, to prevent the same person from abusing the system by submitting requests for asylum. asylum in several states.

→ MAINTENANCE. Fr Maurice Joyeux: “We had to expect the Lesbos camp to end in flames”

This was a first step in establishing common asylum coordination rules with the idea, in accordance with the Maastricht agreements, that states would gradually delegate their sovereignty in this area to the benefit of a European policy. .

Why is he criticized?

When more than a million Syrians and Afghans fleeing their country arrived in Europe in 2015, this management, which was meant to be rational, showed that it worked poorly in times of crisis, by placing a disproportionate responsibility on the countries entry into the EU.

“However, instead of allowing the development of a European asylum policy, the crisis has on the contrary shown the fragility of the system, the dissensions between States and the bankruptcy of solidarity”, recalls Hélène Thiollet, researcher specializing in migration policies at the CNRS. “It was a real negative political test. The countries have all fallen back on national strategies. Italy and Greece let asylum seekers go, the other states have closed their borders ”, specifies the researcher.

→ READ. Migrants: desolation, anger and destitution in Lesbos

Since then, all reform projects, which require the unanimity of the Member States, have come up against the individualism of the States and have failed. In March 2016, the Commission proposed to make the modest European Asylum Support Office (EASO) a true European asylum agency responsible for the status of refugees for all Member States, with possible recourse to of a European Court of Appeal.

Even the ad hoc measures which were fiercely negotiated on a case-by-case basis were not respected by the Member States. Of the 100,000 relocations planned from Italy and Greece from 2015 to 2017, barely 35,000 had been.

Can a reform see the light of day today?

In order not to implode the EU, as opposition to migrants has strongly fueled Euroscepticism, including in states where migrants are not present, Brussels has found a way out by stepping up its outsourcing policy. “The 2015 crisis gave a real boost to this migratory diplomacy which was no longer limited to the management of irregular migration but was extended to people eligible for asylum”, explains the researcher.

The March 2016 agreement with Turkey closed the EU route to Syrians. At the same time, the development agreement negotiated with Afghanistan, formally signed on February 13, 2017, legitimized the return policy to this country still at war and reduced the rate of recognition of refugees. The 50,000 Syrian refugees trapped in the war in Libya are trickled out to Niger, waiting for a host country, etc.

→ READ. Catholic organizations call to welcome disaster-stricken refugees from Lesbos

“There is no longer any migratory pressure, we have returned to a period of normal management. This more favorable situation can potentially create a window of opportunity to think about an operational functioning ”, Hélène Thiollet wants to believe, even if, she warns, this extreme politicization of migration issues and the amalgamation between asylum and migration constitute real obstacles.