EU Parliament denies Hungarian request to speak at debate on Orbán’s corona law

Parliament President David Sassoli says justice minister can't attend, but the prime minister can.

EU Parliament denies Hungarian request to speak at debate on Orbán’s corona law

The European Parliament has refused a request from the Hungarian foreign minister to speak at a debate on her country’s controversial coronavirus law, according to letters seen by POLITICO.

The Parliament will on Wednesday hold a discussion involving MEPs, the European Commission and EU countries on legislation that allows the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree without a set time limit. The rules were brought in because of the coronavirus pandemic, but critics say emergency measures to address the crisis should be temporary and time-limited to allow for checks and balances.

On Monday, Judit Varga, Hungary’s justice minister and a former adviser at the European Parliament, wrote to Parliament President David Sassoli asking if she could address the session to defend her country.

Lorenzo Mannelli, Sassoli’s chief of staff, responded on Tuesday by writing to Tibor Stelbaczky, Hungary’s EU ambassador, saying that any “intervention” from a member country could only take place at “the level of heads of state and government.” He added that “no remote participation” would be possible at the session, “despite exceptional circumstances.”

The Parliament has held two mini-plenary sessions since the start of the outbreak, with only a few MEPs showing up to deliver speeches while the majority of others followed along online. On Wednesday, the Parliament will stick to the same format, with e-voting and no online speeches, a Parliament spokesperson told POLITICO.

Varga wrote back to Sassoli on Tuesday, blaming him for sticking to procedures rather than abiding by “the most fundamental element of the principle of fair treatment.” The Council and Commission, she said, “usually participate in plenary discussion at a level inferior to the level of presidents.”

She also criticized the institution for not letting her participate remotely.

“Not only does the Parliament decide to hold such a debate in these exceptional times, when all our energy should be focused on tackling the pandemic, but it refuses to ensure fair representation, which however is fundamental in any democratic debate,” Varga wrote.

But Sassoli refused to budge. In a letter to Orbán on Tuesday, seen by POLITICO, the Italian said while he considered it “positive” that the Hungarian government gives its side of the story, only Orbán himself would be allowed to take part. Sassoli asked the Hungarian leader if he intended to turn up in Brussels for the event. At the time of publication, no response had been received.

Source : Politico EU More   

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Brussels Airlines slashes jobs, fleet size and destinations

The airline is losing €1 million a day after suspending normal operations on March 21.

Brussels Airlines slashes jobs, fleet size and destinations

Brussels Airlines announced a restructuring plan on Tuesday that will see it lay off about a quarter of its staff, reduce its fleet of aircraft by about a third and slash the destinations it offers in an effort to survive the crisis unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This unprecedented crisis has worsened our financial situation, obliging us to take substantial and indispensable measures,” said Brussels Airlines CEO Dieter Vranckx.

“The company is confident that with its turnaround plan it will be able to safeguard 75 percent of its employment and grow again in a profitable way as soon as the demand for air travel has recovered to a new normal, which is expected as of 2023,” the airline said in a press release.

Brussels Airlines has been losing €1 million a day since normal flight operations were suspended on March 21; it expects demand for air travel to be about 25 percent lower in 2021 than before the crisis.

The announcement comes as Lufthansa, the Belgian airline’s German parent company, is in talks with the Belgian government over a €290 million state support package. The Belgian government wants to impose strict requirements on a rescue, including possibly taking a stake in the carrier, while Lufthansa is leery of governments getting involved with management in return for rescue cash.

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr is due in Brussels this week to meet with Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès and Finance Minister Alexander De Croo, Belgian press reported.

Brussels Airlines currently employs over 4,000 people, and has a fleet of 54 airliners, which will be reduced to 38. It will also cut a number of unprofitable destinations.

Vranckx said that discussions with labor unions over the restructuring started Tuesday morning. The goal will be to avoid layoffs by first ending freelance and temporary contracts and encouraging early retirements as well as voluntary and unpaid leave schemes.

Vranckx told reporters that the airline had already faced difficulties because of the bankruptcy of Thomas Cook last year, as the holiday operator had fed passengers to Brussels Airlines. That, plus the pandemic, “put the airline’s back against the wall. We have to survive, in our current structure we will not,” he said.

That means destinations like Lanzarote, Bristol and Sicily would be cut. The fleet reduction could also lead to lower frequencies on other routes.

As it downscales its fleet, the airline will first get rid of its oldest and most polluting aircraft.

Vranckx stressed that in addition to the restructuring plan, Brussels Airlines needs help from Lufthansa as well as from the Belgian government. If that happens, he said he was confident the airline would be “competitive in the market, structurally healthy and be there to participate in the growth when it picks up again.”

Source : Politico EU More   

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