While Covid-19 takes all the headlines, deals are made and laws are passed, with hardly anyone noticing. Many will change our lives for years or forever. Today, we launch UnderCovid, a news monitoring service that keeps track of these stories.
The Hungarian government is planning to introduce legal provisions that would disallow changing one’s gender. According to the planned provisions, transgender people will not be able to register their chosen names to reflect changes in their gender identity.
Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén submitted to Parliament a bill that would classify an agreement between the Hungarian government and China regarding the reconstruction of the Budapest-Belgrade railway. The project is expected to be worth an investment of US$ 2.1bn and be paid 15% from the Hungarian state budgets and 85% through a loan from the Chinese Eximbank. The content of the agreement was made secret for at least ten years. The Prime Minister Viktor Orban argued that “Hungary’s ability to pursue its foreign policy and trade interests without undue external influence” will be threatened if the agreement was made public.
Miklós Vaszily, a Hungarian entrepreneur who serves as chairman at the pro-government TV2 channel, acquired a 50% stake in Indamedia, the company that serves as an ad sales house for Index.hu, a large news portal, and one of the few independent news outlets left in Hungary. Vaszily headed Origo.hu, another major news portal that has been openly supportive of the Orban government since 2014.
According to a new bill, prisoners in Romania who have been sentenced to less than seven years in jail will have the possibility to execute their sentence at home.
A bill has been submitted to Parliament will extend the mandates of the mayors and local council presidents in Romania. The bill was sponsored by the MPs Călin Popescu Tăriceanu, Marcel Ciolacu, Victor Ponta and Kelemen Hunor.
The president Igor Dodon alluded that the presidential elections in Moldova, slated to take place in the upcoming fall could be postponed because of the Covid-19 crisis.
Parliament approved a set of six decisions by simply accepting MPs personally taking responsibility in front of Parliament. The decisions, related among other things to a decrease of the fees for companies in the extraction industry or the delay in introducing new smoking regulations, are allegedly aimed at protecting the businesses of the companies close to the current government.
Bulgaria is planning to sign contracts of over US$ 600,000 with China’s National Pharmaceutical Corporation for Foreign Trade for products related to the Covid-19 treatment.
President Andrzej Duda said if there are no guarantees for people’s safety by May 2020, the presidential election in Poland, planned for 10 May 2020, will be postponed. “There’s no need at the moment to announce a state of natural disaster or a state of emergency,” Duda said.
Swedbank AB is likely to get an administrative fine of SEK 4bn (€360m) for badly managing money laundering risk in its operations in the Baltics. The news comes after investigations into Swedbank AB and its Estonian subsidiary conducted jointly by the Swedish and Estonian financial supervision authorities.
Estonia announced that it wanted to introduce a package of economic measures aimed at mitigating the effects of the coronavirus. The package is to cost €2bn, which represents nearly 7% of GDP. The government is to also temporarily stopped contributions to the second pillar pension fund, Estonia’s head of government Jüri Ratas said.
Avia Solutions Group announced the acquisition of a full stake in Bluebird Nordic, a cargo airliner based in Iceland. It bought Bluebird Nordic from BB Holding EHF.
The government on 3 April endorsed an amendment to the Law on Emergency Situation and State of Exception that allows the executive extend a state of emergency several times.
Latvia’s parliament, the Saeima, appointed Jānis Vitenbergs of the Who Owns the State, a populist, anti-establishment party, as the new Minister of Economics. Vitenbergs, 35, studied tourism management. He was elected MP after a stint with a catering supplies firm.
Marguerite, an investment fund, on 1 April 2020 sold its more than 29% stake in AS Conexus Baltic Grid, a natural gas transmission and storage operator in Latvia, to Japan’s MM Capital Infrastructure Fund 1.
Social network Twitter announced that it scrapped almost 9,000 accounts whose purported mission was to promote the Progressive Party, in power in Serbia, and its leader, President Vucic. According to Twitter, these accounts violated the network’s policy on manipulation and spam.
Turkey’s three largest metropolitan municipalities, Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir, came under attacks from President Recep Tayip Erdogan who accused them of running a “parallel state.” The three cities are all run by opposition parties. The accusations follow an order of the Interior Ministry banning municipalities from collecting their own donations to use in assisting people hit by the pandemic.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said that it found that a top ministry official emailed secret documents to unknown people. The documents refer to plans by the country’s defense ministry, border guard and law enforcement agencies to protect Ukraine’s strategic interests in the Black and Azov Seas, and the Kerch Strait.
The National Bank of Ukraine paid US$ 1.55bn to the state budget. The money represents profits made by state-owned banks. The amount was higher by US$ 72m than previously planned. The state-owned banks are the largest and most profitable financial institutions in Ukraine. Some 90% of their profits goes every year into the state coffers.
The region Nizhny Novgorod region in Russia rolled out a QR code pass system to allow its 3.2 million residents to leave their homes during the lockdown triggered by the spread of the coronavirus. Residents can receive such a code after registering on a special government website. Moscow authorities were also planning to introduce a similar system.
Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, signed legislation that impose harsh sanctions including up to five years in prison, for people who spread false information about the coronavirus. Those who break coronavirus quarantine rules risk up to seven years in prison, according to the same law.
The former advisor to the Madrid authorities, Francisco Granados asked a judge to reject plans by the Anti-corruption Prosecutor’s Office to indict Esperanza Aguirre, the former head of the regional government in Madrid.