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BioNTech and Pfizer pledge 75m additional doses to EU
BioNTech and Pfizer pledge 75m additional doses to EU
Credit: Pfizer, BioNTech

On Monday, BioNTech and Pfizer said they would increase their Covid-19 vaccine delivery the European Union in the second quarter of 2021, pledging an additional 75 million doses. Both BioNTech-Pfizer and AstraZeneca have recently experienced production delays, resulting in slower vaccine distribution schedules in the EU.

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Russia offers Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine doses for 50 million people
Russia offers Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine doses for 50 million people
Credit: Ashley Winkler for Pendect

The state-owned Direct Investment Fund, which co-finances the vaccine and markets it abroad, announced in Moscow on Friday that Russia wants to help out the European Union with its vaccine. In the second quarter, 100 million doses of the vaccine Sputnik V could be delivered, which would allow 50 million people to be vaccinated. The prerequisite is that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approves the active ingredient.

Independent studies testing the efficiency of the vaccine are outstanding.

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Redacted contract between European Commission and AstraZeneca now published
Screenshot of the contract between European Commission and AstraZeneca
Screenshot of the contract between European Commission and AstraZeneca

Following the renewed request from the European Commission on 27 January 2021, pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has agreed to the publication of its partially redacted contract with the EU. Redactions were made mainly in those places where it concerns deadlines for promised deliveries and their scope.

Following the surprise announcement that it would deliver only 31 million units by the end of March instead of the agreed minimum of 80 million, Astra Zeneca promised 39 million doses earlier this week. However, the EU had judged this offer to be insufficient as the vaccine delivery was still fifty percent below the originally agreed figure.

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EU to impose export restrictions on vaccines
EU to impose export restrictions on vaccines
Credit: Illustration by Ashley Winkler for Pendect (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

On Friday, the European Commission is set to decide on a "transparency and authorization mechanism for the export of vaccines" from the EU after vaccine manufacturers had to reduce vaccine supply for EU countries.

"Any exporting company would send into the national authorities their plan what to export, when, to whom and so on, and what amount, and the national authorities will then be allowed to check that and to give an authorization or a refusal. That, of course, has to happen very quickly, so it's a question not of weeks, but the question of hours." one EU official said.

Another official told reporters that the EU is "not proposing to impose an export ban" but rather plans to "monitor how the funds that we paid from the EU budget have been used and how the advanced purchase agreements that we concluded with pharmaceutical companies are producing vaccines for our citizens."

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EU considers restricting cash payments
EU considers restricting cash payments
Credit: unsplash.com / Markus Spiske

The EU Commission considers a uniform upper limit for cash payments to be sensible. Currently, 10,000 euros is considered the likely maximum amount.

To make it more difficult for criminals to handle cash, the group would prefer to introduce an EU-wide cap on cash payments of a maximum of 10,000 euros, although individual member states could also introduce lower limits.

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EU threatens Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers with export ban
EU threatens Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers with export ban
Credit: Ashles Winkler for Pendect

The EU Commission is threatening pharmaceutical companies with a ban on exports of Covid-19 vaccines to countries outside the EU. This is the Brussels-based authority's reaction to the surprising announcement by AstraZeneca that it will initially supply significantly less vaccine than contractually agreed.

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EU demands insight into Astrazeneca data amidst vaccine supply shortages
EU demands insight into Astrazeneca data amidst vaccine supply shortages
Credit: Ashley Winkler for Pendect

The EU Commission is demanding insight into the data of the pharmaceutical company Astrazeneca. "The EU is demanding information from the company by Jan. 29 at the latest on why it wants to supply fewer vaccine doses to the EU," EU Commission circles said Monday evening after another meeting of company representatives with members of the EU states. There was not enough clarity and explanation from Astrazenecas, EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said on Twitter.

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Refugee rescue ship Ocean Viking is allowed to bring 370 refugees to Sicily
Refugee rescue ship Ocean Viking is allowed to bring 370 refugees to Sicily
Credit: Von Daniel Leite Lacerda - http://volfegan.deviantart.com/art/Ocean-Viking-anchored-245729067, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The rescue ship "Ocean Viking" is allowed to bring more than 370 boat migrants rescued from distress at sea to Augusta in Sicily. This was announced by the operator organization SOS Mediterranee on Sunday evening. Italy had assigned the crew the port near Syracuse. A heavily pregnant woman had reportedly been flown to the island of Lampedusa earlier by Italian authorities.

After that, there were still 373 people on board who had been rescued by four inflatable boats off Libya in recent days, he said. The crew had appealed to Malta and Italy to take them in. The arrival is expected for Monday.

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EU Commission orders up to 300 million more vaccine doses from BioNtech
EU Commission orders up to 300 million more vaccine doses from BioNtech
Credit: Ashles Winkler for Pendect

The EU Commission has concluded a contract for up to 300 million more doses of the Corona vaccine from the Mainz-based company BioNtech and its US partner Pfizer. 75 million doses of this should be available as early as the second quarter of 2021, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in Brussels on Friday.

Back in November, the EU Commission ordered up to 300 million doses of vaccine from BioNtech/Pfizer for all 27 states - a firm order for 200 million doses and an option for 100 million more, which was recently pulled.

In Germany, BioNtech is currently working on a new production site in Marburg. If this goes into operation in February as planned, the company will be able to massively expand vaccine production.

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BioNTech founders warn of Covid-19 vaccine supply issues in EU
BioNTech founders warn of Covid-19 vaccine supply issues in EU
Credit: Ashley Winkler for Pendect

BioNTech is working flat out with partner Pfizer to boost production of their Covid-19 vaccine, its founders said, warning there would be gaps in supply until other vaccines were rolled out. The German biotech start-up has led the vaccine race but its shot has been slow to arrive in the EU due to relatively slow approval from the bloc’s health regulator and the small size of the order placed by Brussels.

The delays have caused consternation in Germany, where some regions had to temporarily close vaccination centres days after the launch of an inoculation drive on December 27th.

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European Medicines Agency issues "positive scientific opinion" on BioNTech Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine
European Medicines Agency issues "positive scientific opinion" on BioNTech Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter

The president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has announced via Twitter that the European Medicines Agency has "just issued a positive scientific opinion on the #BioNTech / @pfizer vaccine". She now expects that the European Commission will decide "by this evening" if the vaccine will be permitted.

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European Parliament sets deadline for Brexit deal until Sunday
European Parliament sets deadline for Brexit deal until Sunday
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter / Manfred Weber

The European Parliament has given the negotiations on a possible trade pact with Great Britain until Sunday. With just two weeks to go before the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December, the European Union is still negotiating a follow-up deal with Britain that would avoid tariffs and serious trade barriers. However, according to British government sources, the negotiating parties are still very far apart on key issues.

The European Parliament has given the negotiations on a possible trade pact with Great Britain until Sunday. If a finished text is available by midnight, it is prepared to schedule a special session for ratification, according to a decision by the parliament's leadership.

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Covid-19: Germany hopeful of earlier EU vaccine decision
Jens Spahn
Jens Spahn Credit: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

After the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced it would issue its decision on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on December 21, German Health Minister Jens Spahn, speaking at a joint press conference with the Robert Koch Institute, the government agency responsible for disease control and prevention, said the report was "good news."

A fortnight ago, BioNTech and Pfizer submitted an application to the EMA for conditional marketing authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine. President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that she welcomed the EMA's decision to bring the meeting forward.

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UK and EU agree to extend Brexit negotiations past Sunday deadline
UK and EU agree to extend Brexit negotiations past Sunday deadline
Credit: TPCOM (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

In a joint statement, the United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said it was "responsible at this point to go the extra mile" and extend Brexit trade talks beyond a self-imposed deadline.

"We had a useful call with Boris Johnson this morning. We agreed that talks will continue," announced von der Leyen earlier Sunday.

The talks were initially extended until Sunday after Wednesday's meeting between von der Leyen and the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, billed as a "last-ditch effort," ended without an agreement.

Earlier this week, a joint statement by Johnson and von der Leyen cited three "critical" sticking points: fishing rights, the UK's ability to diverge on EU standards, and legal oversight of any deal.

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EU leaders agree on 55% climate target by the end of 2030
EU leaders agree on 55% climate target by the end of 2030
Credit: unsplash/Markus Spiske

European leaders agreed to increase the bloc's emission-reduction target to 55 percent by 203 following night-long discussions at their two-day summit in Brussels. The coal-reliant countries Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic are finally supporting the goal after member states agreed that the new target should be delivered collectively.

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Poland and Hungary issued ultimatum by EU over Covid-19 recovery fund
Poland and Hungary issued ultimatum by EU over Covid-19 recovery fund
Credit: unsplash.com / Guillaume Périgois

Three days before the decisive meeting of the heads of state and government, the other 25 EU states are now giving Hungary and Poland an ultimatum: either they drop their veto against the next seven-year EU budget, or the other 25 countries will remove the Covid-19 recovery package from the budget and re-issue it among themselves.

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Germany, Italy, France urge to shut ski slopes until Jan 10; EU waves off
Germany, Italy, France urge to shut ski slopes until Jan 10; EU waves off
Credit: unsplash/https://unsplash.com/photos/vZz5RKpVIyg

Germany joins Italy and France in their demand to ban ski resorts from opening until January 10, stating it would be a "great risk, even crazy, to open ski-slopes."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and multiple prime ministers addressed an appeal to all citizens to refrain from "all not absolutely necessary professional and private journeys, in particular, tourist journeys to foreign countries, especially considering the start of the ski season."

"The Federal Government is asked to come to coordinated regulations at European level in order to prevent ski tourism from being permitted before 10 January", the paper continues.

EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides opposes a Europe-wide ski ban over the Christmas holidays, saying that "there is no formula that applies to all EU countries because every country has a different situation."

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European Union faces crisis as Hungary and Poland vetoed a new seven-year budget
European Union flags
European Union flags Credit: Thijs ter Haar (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The European Union faces a crisis after Hungary and Poland vetoed the bloc's historic €1.8tn budget and coronavirus recovery plan over attempts to link funding to respect for democratic norms.

The move unravels months of negotiations over the scale and terms of the EU's spending and sets the stage for a stormy videoconference meeting of the bloc's leaders on Thursday. The 27 EU heads of state and government had signed off on the broad spending package and the inclusion of a link to respect for the rule of law in July, after days of hard debate.

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German Social Democratic party proposes creation of independent EU army
German Social Democratic party proposes creation of independent  EU army
Credit: unsplash.com / Daniel Stub

According to a paper of the Working Group on Security and Defence Policy, quoted by "Welt am Sonntag", the SPD calls for the introduction of a "28th EU army". The force would be directly subordinated to the European Commission and would be under the responsibility of a newly appointed Commissioner for Defence.

"Our aim is to improve the EU's ability to act, regardless of the tiresome questions of sovereignty," Fritz Felgentreu, defence policy spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, told the newspaper.

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EU to buy 300 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine
EU to buy 300 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine
Credit: unsplash.com / GR Stocks

The European Union will sign a fourth contract with the US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and their German lab partner BioNTech to procure up to 300 million doses of their Covid-19 vaccine, if proven to be safe and effective against the virus.

"As a company founded in the heart of Europe, we are looking forward to supplying millions of people upon regulatory approval," so BioNTech's CEO Ugur Sahin in a statement Wednesday. On Tuesday, Sahin said on a call with reporters that said BioNTech's goal is to ramp up production of their vaccine candidate in the hopes of manufacture up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.

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EU finalizes contract for Covid-19 vaccine
EU finalizes contract for Covid-19 vaccine
Credit: unsplash.com / Guillaume Périgois

The EU Commission has ended talks with the pharmaceutical companies Biontech and Pfizer on the supply of a corona vaccine. The vaccine developed by them prevents in more than 90 percent of cases a disease caused by the corona virus Covid-19, the pharmaceutical companies had announced.

According to the German Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn, the EU has also already concluded agreements with the pharmaceutical companies Astra Zeneca and Sanofi, which are also working on corona vaccines.

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Initiative against terrorism discusses ban on end-to-end encryption in the European Union
Initiative against terrorism discusses ban on end-to-end encryption in the European Union
Credit: unsplash.com / Scott Webb

Germany, Austria and France are planning a joint initiative against terrorism. In terms of content, a ban on end-to-end encryption, the deportation of "extremist conspicuous" people and the training of imams will be discussed.

The German EU Council Presidency has previously prepared a draft resolution on the handling of encryption on behalf of the EU states, as confirmed by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior.

This week, the EU interior ministers' council will also discuss this. However, individual claims have already been publicly denied.

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EU's von der Leyen predicts Covid-19 vaccine for April 2021
EU's von der Leyen predicts Covid-19 vaccine for April 2021
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter

Head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has stated that a Covid-19 vaccine could be available in April 2021.

"The big numbers of supplies are due to start in April," so von der Leyen, adding that up to 50 million doses could be delivered monthly.

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EU to restrict spyware exports
EU to restrict spyware exports
Credit: unsplash.com / Rob Sarmiento

The European Union wants to introduce restrictions on the sale abroad of technologies used for espionage and surveillance. This is reported by "Politico" with reference to informed persons. In the future, facial recognition systems and hacking programs will require a license to be sold outside of the Union. Governments would also have to publish details of the exact nature of the licenses granted to individual companies.

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Mayor of Copenhagen steps down over sexual harassment
Frank Jensen
Frank Jensen Credit: News Oresund (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Frank Jensen, mayor of Copenhagen since 2010, resigned on Monday following several allegations of sexual harassment. Jensen will also step down from his role as deputy leader of Denmark's governing Social Democratic Party.

Jensen's exit came after two women said they were sexually harassed at social events by Jensen in 2012 and 2017, respectively with both saying he touched them without consent.

Denmark’s Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, called Jensen’s resignation the "right decision" in a Facebook post and told the local news agency Ritzau it is "obvious" there are problems in the Social Democratic Party that must change immediately.

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Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin leaves EU summit as contact tests positive
Sanna Marin
Sanna Marin Credit: FinnishGovernment (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Sanna Marin, Finland's Prime Minister, will immediately leave the EU summit in Brussels, return to Helsinki to take a Covid-19 test and self-isolate.

Marin came into contact with Tom Packalenin, who has since tested positive for Covid-19, in the Finnish parliament.

The Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven will represent Marin for the rest of the summit.

On Thursday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen left the summit after a member of her team tested positive, entering voluntary self-isolation "as a precaution".

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EU ministers decide on recommendation for EU wide Covid-19 travel system
EU ministers decide on recommendation for EU wide Covid-19 travel system
Credit: unsplash.com / Eliobed Suarez

On Tuesday the EU European ministers decided on a recommendation for a Europe-wide Corona traffic light. As the EU Council of Ministers announced, travel restrictions are to be coordinated.

For green, the new infections must be below a value of 25, the positive tests below four percent. No restrictions of the member states should apply here. For orange, new infections must be below 50 and the rate of positive tests below four percent. If the new infections are between 25 and 150, the rate of positive tests must be less than four percent for a region to still be classified orange. The traffic light turns red if the new infections are higher than 50 and the rate of positive tests is four percent or higher, or if the new infection rate is more than 150.

For orange and red, the EU states can prescribe quarantine and testing on entry.

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European Court of Justice prohibits bulk data retention
European Court of Justice prohibits bulk data retention
Credit: unsplash.com / ev

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has decided that a comprehensive and flat-rate storage of Internet and telephone connection data is not permissible. Exceptions are only possible when it is a matter of combating serious crime or the specific case of a threat to national security, the ECJ announced in a ruling on Tuesday.

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EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in quarantine
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in quarantine
Credit: European Parliament from EU / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has gone into quarantine following contact last Tuesday with a person who later tested positive, according to the Commission.

Von der Leyen was tested on Thursday with negative results, but had herself tested again on Monday. Von der Leyen had attended the summit of EU heads of state and government on Thursday and Friday.

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European Union drafts Digital Services Act to regulate large technology companies
European Union drafts Digital Services Act to regulate large technology companies
Credit: Corentin Béchade / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The European Commission is working on a new legislative package in order to regulate major online platforms such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and others. According to an internal paper, one of the goals is to prevent "unfair practices". One rule could specify that the platforms would "not be allowed to pre-install their own applications exclusively" such as installing mobile apps on smartphones and preventing users to uninstall them.

In addition, there could be new restrictions on the usage of data generated by their services for their own commercial activities. This kind of data could only be used if made "accessible to other commercial users".