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Covid-19: France and Germany propose €500 billion EU recovery fund

Issued on: 18/05/2020 – 16:30Modified: 18/05/2020 – 16:30

French President Emmanuel Macron and Ger..

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French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel presented a joint plan to spur EU recovery from the coronavirus crisis on Monday, after weeks of debate over how to deploy billions of euros needed to end a painful recession.

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In a joint video conference, Macron and Merkel called for the creation of a 500-billion-euro ($543 billion) recovery fund able to offer grants to the countries and regions hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis.

The leaders of France and Germany also said they were proposing to authorise the European Commission to borrow money on financial markets in the European Union's name, while at the same time respecting EU treaties.

Macron and Merkel propose €500 billion EU recovery fund: Watch their press conference

Macron said this was the first time France and Germany agreed to let the EU raise debt jointly, calling this a "major step foward". He insisted that money from the recovery fund would be made available in the form of grants and not loans.

Merkel said that in all, EU member states and the bloc's executive would mobilise a combined sum of three trillion euros to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

She said France and Germany were also in favour of reforming the EU's merger and competition rules so that the bloc can create stronger European champions after the coronavirus crisis.

RT @StefanLeifert Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron announce a € 500 billion Recovery Fund for the EU's economic recovery after the crisis. The fund will be part of the EU budget and to support the hardest hit regions and branches. And: It should promote Europe's cohesion. 🇪🇺

— Yannis Koutsomitis (@YanniKouts) May 18, 2020

Europe is just beginning to emerge from lockdowns put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has taken a huge bite out of national economies. But divisions among EU members on how to craft an overall response have hampered comprehensive action so far.

Macron said on Monday that the Franco-German initiative was the fruit of extensive talks with other EU member states, including Italy and the Netherlands, which have been at loggerheads in recent weeks.

The recovery debate has again exposed the bloc's divide between northern countries leery of exploding budget deficits, and hard-hit southern countries like Italy and Spain that are desperate for more spending.

The eurozone economy overall is forecast to contract by a whopping 7.7 percent this year, but the damage could be worse in Italy and Greece, which could see their economies shrink by nearly 10 percent, prompting a cascade of bankruptcies and job losses.

"There is no agreement at 27 if there is no agreement between France and Germany".

While the European Commission still takes time before presenting its own plan, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel unveil their joint proposal for a 500 billion Read More – Source

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Europe

Italy reopens to tourists from Europe after economically crippling lockdown

Issued on: 03/06/2020 – 09:02Modified: 03/06/2020 – 09:02

Italy reopens to travellers from Europe ..

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Italy reopens to travellers from Europe on Wednesday, three months after the country went into coronavirus lockdown, with all hopes pinned on reviving the key tourism industry as the summer season begins.

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Gondolas are ready to punt along Venice's canals, lovers will be able to act out "Romeo and Juliet" on Verona's famed balcony, and gladiator fans can pose for selfies at Rome's Colosseum.

But there were fears many foreign tourists would be put off coming to a country still shaking off a vicious pandemic.

"Come to Calabria. There's only one risk: that you'll get fat," the southern region's governor Jole Santelli said on Sunday as the race began to lure big spenders — or any spenders — back to Italy's sandy shores.

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus and has officially reported more than 33,000 deaths.

It imposed an economically crippling lockdown in early March and has since seen its contagion numbers drop off dramatically.

With the country facing its deepest recession since World War II, it needs foreigners to return, and quickly.

But it is still reporting dozens of new cases a day, particularly in the northern Lombardy region, and experts warn the government may be being hasty in permitting travel between regions and abroad.

'Like a leper'

International flights were only expected to resume in three main cities: Milan, Rome and Naples.

And there were concerns that those who usually come in by car, train or ferry from neighbouring countries would go elsewhere on their holidays.

Switzerland has warned its citizens that if they go to Italy they will be subject to "health measures" on their return. The country will open its borders with Germany, France and Austria on June 15, but not with Italy.

Austria is lifting restrictions in mid-June with Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary — but again, not Italy, described last week by Vienna's health minister as "still a hotspot".

Other countries, such as Belgium and Britain, are still advising against, or forbidding, all non-essential travel abroad.

In response to perceived anti-Italian sentiment, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has warned countries not to treat Italy "like a leper".

He said Saturday he would be travelling to Germany, Slovenia and Greece to persuade them Italy is safe for foreign tourists.

Arrivals in Italy from Europe will not be required to self-isolate unless they have recently travelled from another continent.

Too expensive

Italy's lockdown has had a particularly devastating effect on the tourism sector, which amounts to some 13 percRead More – Source

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Covid-19: France records more than 100 new deaths as country’s lockdown eases

Issued on: 02/06/2020 – 21:15Modified: 02/06/2020 – 21:15

France's Covid-19 death toll rose b..

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France's Covid-19 death toll rose by more than 100 for the first time in 13 days on Tuesday, as the country enacts a new easing of lockdown measures.

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The French health ministry said that the number of fatalities had risen by 107, or 0.4 percent, to 28,940, the fifth-highest tally in the world.

It also said the number of Covid-19>Read More – Source

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France denounces Ryanair ‘blackmail’ in employee pay-cut-or-redundancy ultimatum

Issued on: 02/06/2020 – 17:52Modified: 02/06/2020 – 17:52

France on Tuesday denounced as “blackmai..

Issued on: 02/06/2020 – 17:52Modified: 02/06/2020 – 17:52

France on Tuesday denounced as "blackmail" an ultimatum from low-cost carrier Ryanair for its French employees to choose between a five-year pay cut or a number of redundancies in an escalating labour dispute.

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The offer from the Dublin-based no-frills carrier, long accused by critics of abrasive labour tactics, comes as the aviation industry grapples with an unprecedented crisis after the collapse in global demand for air travel due to the coronavirus.

"Blackmail is never an option," Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told RTL radio. "Jobs will be protected by imaginative solutions, but definitely not through blackmail," he said.

The aviation industry is facing drastic losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has closed borders across the world and paralysed air transport.

Ryanair has already announced plans to axe 3,000 pilot and cabin crew jobs, or 15 percent of staff across its European network.

In France, Ryanair operates from hubs including the Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux airports.

The Irish company has told French unions to accept plans to cut wages by 20 percent for pilots and 10 percent for stewards and air hostesses from July 2020, or face the redundancy of 23 pilots and 27 cabin crew staff.

Under current plans, staffers who are earning minimum wage would see their work time cut by 20 percent. Employees would progressively regain their salary up until 2025.

'They're not playing the game'

Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud said she was "shocked" by Ryanair's proposal and said the company must go back to the drawing board and "really talk (with employees), but not blackmail."

Since 2017 companies can open up talks with their employRead More – Source

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