European Union

Regional News • Europe • European Union
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.

Regional News • Europe • France
Macron orders France into second national Covid-19 lockdown
French President Emmanuel Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron Credit: Twitter Reproduction

"Hospitals won’t manage if we don’t take drastic measures,” said French President Emmanuel Macron in a prime-time televised address Wednesday, when he announced new lockdown measures for France.

Macron said that under the new measures, starting on Friday, people would only be allowed to leave home for essential work or medical reasons, that EU borders would still be open. Still, travel between regions in the country is banned.

The French government had been loath to impose a new lockdown that will pummel the economy even harder, and business chiefs have warned a total shutdown will force another wave of layoffs and bankruptcies.

Governments across Europe have been under fire for lack of coordination and for failing to use a lull in cases over the summer to bolster defences, leaving hospitals unprepared and forcing people on to packed public transport to get to work.

Regional News • Europe • United Kingdom
British House of Lords rejects Single Market Act by a large majority
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson Credit: Annie Mole (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The British House of Lords rejected the Single Market Act by a large majority. It voted 395 to 169 against the draft. If the law passes at a later point Boris Johnson's government could use the law to cancel parts of the exit agreement between London and the EU.

Climate & Environment
Most key habitats in Europe are in poor or bad condition
Most key habitats in Europe are in poor or bad condition
Credit: R Boed (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

80% of Europe's key habitats are found to be in bad or poor condition according to the State of Nature in the EU 2013-2018 report by the European Environment Agency (EEA). About one-third of the 233 listed habitats is in an unfavourable condition and getting worse, while the condition is unfavourable but stable in about the same number of habitats.

At the same time, only a quarter of Europe's species are found to have good conservation status. Reptiles and vascular plants are faring best among species types. The situation is improving for mammals, while it's getting worse for birds and fish.

Urbanisation, pollution and lack of water are playing a role in the loss of habitats and biodiversity. But the biggest reason is intensive farming, which tends to be favoured by the EU's common agricultural policy (CAP). An upcoming CAP reform will be voted on in the European Parliament and EU council. But groupings on the political right are expected to reject most measures that would prioritise the environment. According to WWF's Jabier Ruiz, "the future of the CAP looks grim".

Regional News • Europe • European Union
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.

Climate & Environment
European Parliament about to decide over EU's Common Agricultural Policy
European Parliament about to decide over EU's Common Agricultural Policy
Credit: Tobias Nordhausen (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

The European Parliament and the council of member states are about to decide over the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for the years 2021-2027. With the animal farming industry in Europe emitting more CO2 than all EU cars and vans combined, this will be an important decision for the environment, biodiversity and small farms.

Until now, the CAP has mostly benefitted large agribusinesses while failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or the loss of biodiversity. Between 2005 and 2013, almost 3 million small to medium-sized had to close down. Existing ecologic measures implemented in the CAP have not proven to be effective.

In the current negotiations, a coalition of political groups in the European Parliament led by the right-wing EPP is trying to keep the CAP this way, while environmentalist groups are calling for a "greener" CAP that serves the environment, farmers and rural communities.

Regional News • Europe
Two foreign ministers test positive for Covid-19 after EU meeting in Luxembourg
Sophie Wilmes post on Twitter announcing the test result
Sophie Wilmes post on Twitter announcing the test result Credit: Twitter Reproduction

Alexander Schallenberg and Sophie Wilmes, foreign ministers of Austria and Belgium, have tested positive for coronavirus after attending a meeting in Luxembourg earlier this week. Both announced their test results, separately, on Saturday.

Wilmes announced her positive test in a post on Twitter: "My COVID test result is positive. Contamination probably occurred within my family circle given the precautions taken outside my home."

A spokeswoman for Austria’s Foreign Ministry stated: "It is suspected that Schallenberg might have been infected at the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg on Monday."

Regional News • Europe
Ursula von der Leyen in self-isolation after staffer tests positive for Covid-19
Ursula von der Leyen
Ursula von der Leyen Credit: Global Panorama (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, left a summit of EU leaders after an aide tested positive for Covid-19. The President is self-isolating as a precautionary measure.

In a post on Twitter, von der Leyen wrote: "I have just been informed that a member of my front office has tested positive to COVID-19 this morning. I myself have tested negative.

However as a precaution I am immediately leaving the European Council to go into self-isolation."

Regional News • Asia
Kyrgyzstan: President resigns to end post-election crisis
President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbai Jeenbekov during a meeting with President of Russia Vladimir Putin, 2018
President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbai Jeenbekov during a meeting with President of Russia Vladimir Putin, 2018 Credit: Kremlin.ru / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0)

Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov has resigned on Thursday to bring an end to the unrest following a disputed election. Protests had erupted after the October 4th election was won by parties local to Jeenbekov. There had been “credible allegations of vote buying remain a serious concern,” Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said.

Jeenbekov said he was not clinging to power and that he refused to go down as a president who "allowed bloodshed and shooting on its people." Over 1200 people were injured in the protests between security forces and protesters.

Regional News • Europe • European Union
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.

Regional News • Europe
European Union negotiates over new sanctions against Russia over Navalny poisoning

At a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday, the foreign ministers agreed to begin the necessary preparations, as the German Press Agency learned from several diplomats.

Austria's foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP) confirmed on Monday that there was a "fundamental consensus" among EU countries to impose "sanctions against individuals directly connected with these chemical weapons" in the Navalny case. No details on possible concrete measures have been given so far. According to Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, the preparation of a sanctions list could take several more weeks.

Climate & Environment
EU climate law approved with emission reduction now aimed at 60%
EU climate law approved with emission reduction now aimed at 60%
Credit: unsplash.com / Martin Sepion

The European Parliament has ratified the latest proposals regarding environmental protection. Greenhouse gas emissions are now targeted to be reduced by 60% compared to 1990 levels. Previously adopted goals for 2030 had aimed at a 40% reduction.

Regional News • Europe • European Union
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.

Regional News • Europe • European Union
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.

Business • Economy
European Central Bank preparing for possible digital euro launch in 2021
European Central Bank preparing for possible digital euro launch in 2021
Credit: DXR / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The European Central Bank is currently preparing a concept for an official digital currency that would complement hard cash as a payment method. "Towards the middle of 2021 we will decide whether to launch a digital euro project." states the official website of the project.

Regional News • Europe
Cyprus withdraws veto on sanctions for Belarus

Cyprus has withdrawn its veto against the sanctions at the EU summit in Brussels in the night to Friday. According to Council leader Charles Michel, they should come into force immediately.

With the sanctions, the EU wants to put additional pressure on the leadership in Belarus and send a signal of solidarity with the people living there. In the former Soviet republic there have been protests and strikes against Lukashenko, who has been in power for 26 years, since the presidential election on August 9.

Regional News • Europe • European Union
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".

Regional News • Europe • European Union
European Union announces legal action against Great Britain
European Union announces legal action against Great Britain
Credit: © European Union 2019 – Source: EP / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0)

The European Union is taking legal action against Great Britain for violation of the withdrawal agreement. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced that the EU Commission has sent a letter to the British government over the new British Market Act passed by the House of Commons which is intended to override parts of the already valid withdrawal agreement with the EU.

Regional News • Europe • United Kingdom
Environment Department in the UK considers total ban on fur sales after Brexit
Environment Department in the UK considers total ban on fur sales after Brexit
Credit: unsplash.com / Juliane Liebermann

According to reports Zac Goldsmith, minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is considering a ban on all fur sales in the United Kingdom following the leave of the European Union's single market.

A spokesperson for the department has commented on the reports that "fur farming has rightly been banned in this country for nearly 20 years. Once our future relationship with the EU has been established there will be an opportunity for the government to consider further steps it could take in relation to fur sales".

Regional News • Europe • European Union
EU Commission removes upload filters from digital package
Archive - protest against European Upload Filters in 2019
Archive - protest against European Upload Filters in 2019 Credit: unsplash.com / Markus Spiske

In a new proposal the legislators at the European Commission have removed a general filter obligation for uploaded content to digital platforms.

The original proposal would've required operators of digital communication platforms who want to continue to enjoy freedom from liability - the non-responsibility for content published by users - should proactively check for violations. This includes checking for copyright infringements or illegal content such as child pornography.

Whether and what replaces the filter obligation is currently still open.