Featured Image: Polish President Andrzej Duda in May, 2019. Attribution: photo by Piotr Drabik shared under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license
Welcome to This Week in Europe, a new series on All Abroad. Every Friday brings you a rundown of the biggest or most interesting stories in Europe from the week.
- Polish President Andrzej Duda was re-elected
- Estonia launched a digital nomad visa
- reproductive rights in Slovakia took a hit
- Apple was exempted from paying €13 million to Ireland
Polish incumbent Andrzej Duda wins election
On Sunday, Polish president Andrzej Duda was re-elected for another five-year term as Polish head of state. The race was close, with 51.21 percent going to Duda and 48.79 percent to the centrist mayor of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski. With Duda holding onto power, the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), which supports Duda, has another three years to push its radical reform agenda.
With Duda and PiS still in power, it could mean more restrictions on free media, clashes with the EU over reforms to the legal system, and continued divisions within Polish society. Duda and his supporters claimed his victory was an important step for ensuring stability in the coronavirus-ravaged Poland, but the opposition says Duda will let the PiS run rampant in pushing their reforms.
Estonia launches digital nomad visa
On Wednesday this week, Estonia launched its new “Digital Nomad Visa” which targets non-Europeans who work remotely as freelancers. The tiny Baltic country is hoping that attracting digital nomads will aid in its economic recovery post-coronavirus. To obtain the visa, applicants have to prove they’re making at least €3,504 per month and provide evidence of their profession. The visa will be granted for 12 months, including up to 90 days of travel across Europe’s Schengen zone.
Previously, freelancers who travel from one country to another have been in precarious situations legally. They often deal with complex travel and immigration laws to be able to live and work from where they want. The digital nomad community is excited by the news of this new Estonian visa, but the scheme isn’t without its downsides. Borders are still partially closed across Europe and an international pandemic calling the nomadic lifestyle into question. Estonia might not see as many applicants as they were hoping for. Still, Estonian officials and global freelancers see the new visa as a positive step for the future of remote workers.
In the ongoing saga of European women’s limited access to reproductive health during the pandemic, Slovakia looks to tighten restrictions on abortion
The coronavirus pandemic has jeopardized women’s access to abortion and reproductive health across Europe. Even where abortion is legal, women have struggled to get the reproductive medical care they need during the pandemic. Hospitals in Romania stopped all non-emergency surgeries and for many, that included abortions. In April, a tightening of abortion restrictions in Poland shone a light on reproductive justice during the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, the battle is playing out in Slovakia.
The Slovakian parliament this week introduced four new bills that would further restrict women’s access to abortion in the country. One bill proposes changing the “waiting period” from 48 hours to 96. Activists have come down on both sides of this issue. Some spoke out against these new bills. They argue that Slovakia already has a low abortion rate and that public support for these changes is low. Opponents also want parliament to deal with more pressing matters like the economy or COVID-19 pandemic.
Apple doesn’t have to pay €13 million to Ireland
On Wednesday, the EU General Court reversed a decision that would’ve required Apple to pay €13 million to Ireland for taxes plus interest. In 2016, EU competition czar Margrethe Vestager decided that Ireland was effectively granting Apple an illegal subsidy. Ireland was in the wrong by not taxing the majority of Apple’s global profits that were funneled through Ireland. Vestager’s decision was heralded as a success for EU competition, clamping down on member-states offering special deals to multinational corporations in the Big Tech sphere.
When the courts outright annulled the decision Wednesday, it was a huge blow for Vestager and her efforts to regulate the influence of tech giants like Apple and Facebook in the EU. The Apple-Ireland case was a lynchpin in the European Commission’s strategy for enforcing its competition rules throughout the bloc. Concerns over non-European companies cornering digital markets in the EU also played a part in the original decision. Now that the courts reversed the decision, the Commission worries about its ability to enforce competition rules.
Read last week’s edition of This Week in Europe.
More interesting stories
The community of Tervuren, east of Brussels, is protesting plans for a new McDonald’s.
The first-ever 3D-printed house was made in Antwerp.
The UK goes back on its Huawei decision, banning the 5G network.
Rules on facemasks in public tighten in countries across Europe, including Belgium, Britain, and France.
Spain holds a national commemoration ceremony to honor COVID-19 victims.