© AFP / RTL / Unsplash
Your Weekly Recap for 23 - 27 January.
Here's 5 things you should know about at the end of this week:
- Germany greenlights Leopard tank deliveries to Ukraine
- New developments in Luxembourg's 'super-election-year'
- A highly anticipated petition calling for two home office days was discussed in the Chamber
- Finland might consider joining NATO without Sweden
- The Health Fund now reimburses psychotherapy and all contraception
1. Germany greenlights Leopard tank deliveries to Ukraine
On Wednesday Berlin approved the delivery of 14 powerful German-made tanks to help Ukraine repel Russia's invasion.
- In addition, Germany is granting approval for other European countries to send Leopards tanks from their own stock.
- The aim is to quickly assemble two tank battalions with Leopard 2 tanks.
Big turning point for Germany. The country has drawn criticism from Ukraine, as well as testing the patience of allies, for its cautious approach to delivering weapons to Kyiv. The idea of supplying tanks had long been resisted by Ukraine's Western partners out of fear of antagonizing the Kremlin.
Economic Forum in Davos. Last week Scholz vowed ongoing support for Ukraine "as long as necessary", however without mentioning tanks. With international pressure growing, some had expected the announcement in Davos where several EU leaders pushed for a decision at the Economic Forum event.
More countries agreed to send tanks. Several other European countries, including Finland and Poland, have said they are ready to provide their stocks, with Washington leaning toward sending a significant number of Abrams M1 tanks to Ukraine. In earlier weeks, some reports suggested that Germany would only agree if the US followed suit with a similar move.
All inclusive. The package agreed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz would also offer training of Ukrainian forces on using the tanks in Germany, as well as logistics, ammunition and maintenance for the battle tanks.
Read also: France studying whether to send Leclerc tanks to Ukraine
2. New developments in Luxembourg's 'super-election-year'
On Monday, nine political parties signed an agreement on how to regulate both election campaigns set to unfold this year.
Last Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Paulette Lenert announced she will run as the LSAP's main candidate in the legislative elections in October.
François Bausch endorses Sam Tanson as lead candidate for the Green in the general elections, while Luc Frieden is expected to be nominated as CSV lead candidate.
No to disinformation and damaging opponents. The nine parties thereby committed themselves to deal with campaigns in a "factual" manner and to refrain from personal insults against candidates during debates or on social networks.
Including press, internet, radio, and cinema advertising. The parties declared that they will not spend more than €100,000 on election promotion. Production costs are however not included in the agreement.
At the top. Lenert made major gains in the Politmonitor poll due to her successful handling of the pandemic, ending at the very top of the list.
Sparking rumours. Even if it has not been officially confirmed yet, the rumours of Luc Frieden as CSV lead candidate for the legislative elections have already sparked numerous reactions.
Actively helping. Bausch on the other hand will run in the elections and is willing to accept a Chamber mandate, however he does not want to take on a mandate in the administration.
Read also: 6.7% of foreign residents registered to vote on local elections.
3. A highly anticipated petition calling for two home office days was discussed in the Chamber
On Wednesday morning, the highly anticipated debate on the petition calling for two days of home office per week took place in the Chamber of Deputies. The petition had garnered close to 14,000 signatures, way past the threshold of 4,500 for the topic to be discussed by MPs.
The initiator behind the petition, Katia Sabrina Litim, an employee at Quintet Private Bank, pointed out the existing inequalities between Luxembourg residents and cross-border workers and argues that the petition's demand for two days of home office per week for all is "a minimum requirement for the business world".
- After the petitioners presented their arguments, the government stated that it is working "slowly but surely" on the issue.
No limits for residents on working from home. Cross-border workers however are subject to two limits: One imposed by the European social threshold of 5%, and the other imposed by the tax threshold specific to each country.
Not enough. At this stage, this tax threshold represents "six hours of home office per week" for Belgian and French cross-border workers, compared to "only four hours per week" for a German cross-border worker. An agreement on social security with Germany is 'well under way'.
A threat to Luxembourg. Luxembourg's ability to attract new talent is in danger, with jobs being relocated since the salary alone isn't enough anymore. Right now Luxembourg is also facing "cross-border employees who go back to work in their own country because of transport and the low number of home office hours."
However, the government officials also pointed out that remote work is not a right. On the other hand, many Luxembourgish employers are in favour of home office.
Read also: Iris Dudek's opinion on why we are still debating working from home.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto / © AFP
4. Finland might consider joining NATO without Sweden
Finland, who shares a 1,300-kilometre border with Russia, applied to join NATO with Sweden last year after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
- Turkey has indicated in recent months that it has no major objections to Finland's entry into NATO, it is however blocking Sweden's bid. Until now, Finland refused to speculate about joining without Sweden.
- The Danish-Swedish far-right politician Rasmus Paludan set fire to a copy of the Koran on Saturday in front of Turkey's embassy in the Swedish capital, angering Ankara and Muslim countries around the world.
Fresh crisis. Due to the demonstrations and burning of the Koran in front of the embassy, Turkey cancelled a visit by the Swedish defence minister on Saturday as Sweden tries to convince Ankara to not block its bid.
Assessment. Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said that Finland is still trying to asses the situation to see if Sweden will indeed be prevented from going ahead in the long term.
No speculations. Sweden's Foreign Minister on the other hand is trying to find out what Finland means by their statement. Haavisto later clarified his comments, claiming that both countries are making progress and are committed to the joint application, that still remains the 'first option'.
Until Turkish elections. The anti-Turkey protests have "clearly put a brake on the progress" and according to Haasvisto a delay from Turkey can be expected.
Key demand to approve Helsinki's NATO bid. On Wednesday, Finland's defence ministry said the country had issued the first commercial export licence for military material to Turkey since 2019. The concerned steel would be used for amour.
5. The Health Fund now reimburses psychotherapy and all contraception
Despite legal uncertainties, psychotherapy will be reimbursed with a fixed rate of €144/h starting 1 February.
On TuesdayMinister Claude Haagen overruled the opinion of the Council of the State that argued that the regulation on the reimbursement of psychotherapy exceeds the authority of the legislative framework on which it is based.
- Last Friday, the Council of State also approved a draft bill which will see the age limit scrapped for free contraception in Luxembourg.
Five years. That's how long the Health Fund negotiations took before psychotherapy was eventually reimbursed.
Females aged 30 and under. Currently, the National Health Fund (CNS) only reimburses 80% of contraceptive prescriptions and only for women under 30.
'Without age or method limits'. The government and the CNS have agreed to scrap the above limits in favour of providing free universal contraception, including the contraceptive pill, the implant, IUDs and the morning-after pill, among others.
Read also: 513 mastectomies and 223 reimbursed reconstructions in 2022
Climate Change 🌍
- More help for shrinking bee populations. The EU on Tuesday announced proposals to try to reverse an "alarming decline" in the number of bees -- and other insects that pollinate the bloc's crops -- including by rewarding organic farming.
An investigation has been launched. The Sûre river has been affected by an oil spill in Belgium, causing hydrocarbon pollution as far as the Luxembourgish border.
And in case you missed it ⚠️
More resources investing in special-needs children. On Monday, Minister of Education, Children and Youth Claude Meisch presented a new report focusing on the education of special-needs children in Luxembourg. Right now it takes ten months on average before care of a special-needs child starts.
- Growing influence of right-wing parties. Eight years after facing a refugee crisis in 2015, the European Union is still struggling with how to reform its asylum system -- just as migrant entries are once again rising. EU interior ministers reached "consensus" Thursday to warn outside countries refusing to take back irregular migrants they risked tighter visa restrictions to Europe.
- Falsified checks for personal financial gain. The prosecution in the Hesperange embezzlement trial put forward its recommended sentences for the three people involved in the case on Monday morning, recommending an eight-year prison sentence for the main defendant.
- Imminent frost risk - the dangerously slippy road leading from Clausen up to Cents is about to be equipped with an automatic road-salting system.
Your Weekly Recap is published every Friday at noon. Read earlier versions.
This week's edition was brought to you by Alannah Meyrath.