European Union

Regional News • Americas • Brazil
Merkel warns Amazon deforestation threatens EU-Mercosur deal
Angela Merkel meets Emmanuel Macron
Angela Merkel meets Emmanuel Macron Credit: Bundeskanzlerin (Public Domain)

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated she has "considerable doubts" about backing the EU-Mercorsur deal due to environmental concerns. The chancellor met Thursday climate campaigners in Berlin.

Steffen Seibert, spokesperson for the German government, told reports that "Serious questions have arisen due to the ongoing environmental concerns "as to whether the implementation of the agreement in the intended spirit would be guaranteed at present."

The trade deal between the EU and the Mercosur states of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, would create the world's largest free-trade zone.

Regional News • World
EU and US agree on tariff cuts for first time in two decates
Phil Hogan
Phil Hogan Credit: EU2017EE Estonian Presidency (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The European Union and the United States announced on Friday an agreement to remove and reduce the tariffs they impose on a number of products.

With the first negotiated rate cut in more than two decades, the two blocs are putting aside the disputes of recent months and sending a signal of reconciliation that aims for continuity.

The joint statement signed by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan says: "We intend this package of tariff reductions to mark only the beginning of a process that will lead to additional agreements,"

Both sides encompass this step in an attempt to "improve US-EU relations".

Regional News • Europe
European Union rejects the results of Belarus presidential election
Belarus protesters in Minsk on August 15
Belarus protesters in Minsk on August 15 Credit: Melirius (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The European Union rejected the result of the Belarusian presidential election and planned sanctions on those behind violence against protesters.
The President of the European Council stated: "The members of the European Council condemn the disproportionate and unacceptable violence displayed by the state authorities against peaceful protesters. Violence must be avoided and, all those unlawfully detained must be immediately and unconditionally released. Civil society and opposition actors engaged in discussions of political transition must be protected from arbitrary arrests and violence. The EU expects a complete and transparent investigation into all alleged abuses."
Alexander Lukashenko and Russian officials point to EU "interference" in the Belarus Protests.

Regional News • Europe
Opposition candidate Svetlana Tichanovskaya left Belarus

After the presidential election in Belarus, the opposition candidate Svetlana Tichanovskaya left the country and is now in the EU country Lithuania. The 37-year-old is now safe, said the Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius on Twitter. The minister had previously expressed concern for the safety of the mother of two in view of the violence in Belarus.

Technology • Internet & Web
Google will prevent minors in the UK and EU from seeing ads for unhealthy food and drinks from October on
Google will prevent minors in the UK and EU from seeing ads for unhealthy food and drinks from October on
Credit: / Robin Stickel

Google has updated its "Other restricted businesses policy" and will start "to restrict the serving of High Fat Sugar Salt (HFSS) Food and/or Non-Alcoholic Beverages (F&B) advertising for minors in the United Kingdom and European Union".

The policy will be applied to the Google Display Network and YouTube and there apply to all people under the age of 18. Google stated that the new policy will be enforced from the 6th of October.

Some examples for the products that fall under these advertisement restrictions are sweetened beverages, cakes, pizza, salt, butter, pork and a number of other products.

Technology • Internet & Web
Telegram files EU antitrust complaint against Apple’s App Store
Telegram files EU antitrust complaint against Apple’s App Store
Credit: Yuri Samoilov (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Telegram, the messaging app, filed a formal antitrust complaint to the EU over Apple’s App Store. The company joins Spotify and Rakuten in complaining the app store represents a monopoly power, given that developers have to accept Apple’s terms, including a 30 per cent commission on in-app purchases.

In its complaint, Telegram took issue with Apple’s argument that the App Store commission keeps it running. Pavel Durov, Telegram founder, stated "Every quarter, Apple receives billions of dollars from third-party apps. Meanwhile, the expenses required to host and review these apps are in the tens of millions, not billions of dollars. We know that because we at Telegram host and review more public content than the App Store ever will".

Regional News • Middle East
US pressures Assad with new round of sanctions

The US has introduced new sanctions on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The sanctions fall under the Caesar Act, which went into effect in June, 2020 and targets industries and entities that deal with the Assad administration, including those in Iran and Russia. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the purpose of the sanctions is to pressure Assad into ending the war, which has entered its ninth year.

Syria is currently facing an economic crisis, with many struggling to find food and other basic goods. Syrian officials have blamed the worsening conditions on American and EU sanctions.

Kelly Craft, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, stated the sanctions are not meant to harm civilians, nor do they target humanitarian efforts.

Business • Health Care
EU secures 30,000 doses of Covid-19 drug
Remdesivir Credit: Dimitri Karastelev

Despite uncertainties in the effectiveness of treatment with Remdesivir, the European Commission has secured from US-based Gilead 30,000 doses on a 63 million contract.
Remdesivir is the first drug to be approved in the European Union for the treatment of Covid-19.

Technology • Internet & Web
Slack files EU competition complaint against Microsoft
Slack files EU competition complaint against Microsoft
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler – Logo via Slack, Microsoft Teams (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The complaint details Microsoft’s illegal and anti-competitive practice of abusing its market dominance to extinguish competition in breach of European Union competition law. Microsoft has illegally tied its Teams product into its market-dominant Office productivity suite, force installing it for millions, blocking its removal, and hiding the actual cost to enterprise customers.

Regional News • Europe
EU leaders reach deal on €750 billion coronavirus recovery package
EU leaders reach deal on €750 billion coronavirus recovery package
Credit: EU2017EE Estonian Presidency (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Following the fourth night of talks, EU leaders have struck a deal on a huge post-coronavirus recovery package involving €750 billion in grants and loans to counter the impact of the pandemic in the 27-member bloc. The deal includes as well as a seven-year €1 trillion EU budget.

Member states were split between those hit hardest by the outbreak -- Spain and Italy --, and those more concerned about the costs of the recovery plan --Sweden, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and Finland. While the first group wanted a minimum of €400 billion in grants, the later set €375 billion as their upper limit.

The €390 billion figure was suggested as a compromise, and "frugal" nations were reportedly won over by the promise of rebates on their contributions to the EU budget.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Germany has systematically violated arms export regulations for 30 years
A Leopard 2 tank in a NATO exercise
A Leopard 2 tank in a NATO exercise Credit: Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

A new study by the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF) claims Germany, since 1990, has authorized and exported weapons and military equipment to be used in countries with human rights violations and ravaged by war.

According to the EU criteria, the recipient of arms must respect human rights and international law, as well as maintain peace and stability in their region. However, Germany has repeatedly struck deals with nations with a poor human rights record, such as Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, and Indonesia, oftentimes selling off old Bundeswehr hardware, PRIF notes.

The study states there have been "wars fought with German weapons and serious human rights violations.".

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Germany: Seehofer continues blockade against racism study within the police
Horst Seehofer
Horst Seehofer Credit: Martin Rulsch (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

According to information from SPIEGEL, Horst Seehofer maintains his blockade against an independent racism study within the police. He sees no structural racism problems that should be examined. The German Police University had submitted a project application to the Interior Ministry to investigate "right-wing extremist attitudes and actions", but the three-year project is now on hold.

Not only Seehofer, but the CSU is also opposed to a study recommended by the EU.

Lower Saxony's Minister of the Interior Pistorius now wants to commission a study in cooperation with other federal states.

Climate & Environment
Portugal adjusts plans to end energy from coal by 2021
Portugal adjusts plans to end energy from coal by 2021
Credit: Paulo Valdivieso from Lisboa, Portugal / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

According to the energy company EDP its Sines coal power plant will be shut down in 2021, accelerating the original 2023 shutdown plans. This will make Portugal the third country in the European Union to end the energy production from coal-fired power plants.

EDP has stated that they are "now evaluating the development of a green hydrogen production project in Sines" and are "committed to fulfill all labor obligations towards the 107 workers at the plant".

Regional News • Americas • Brazil
Brazil: Slash-and-burn will be paused in the rainforest
Brigadistas of Prevfogo / Ibama participate in joint operation to fight fires in the Amazon
Brigadistas of Prevfogo / Ibama participate in joint operation to fight fires in the Amazon Credit: Ibama from Brasil / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

By decree, Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro and Minister of the Environment Ricardo Salles have banned the slash-and-burn practice in the Amazon rainforest for 4 months.

A study published by the US science journal "Science" shows that about a fifth of Brazil's annual soy and beef exports to the European Union come from illegally cleared areas. Around 500,000 tons of soy from illegal deforestation in Brazil was exported into the European Union between 2009 and 2017. Bolsonaro is repeatedly criticized for its environmental policy by economy and environmentalists. At the moment, investors distancing themselves from his environmental policy and are calling on the government to take concrete steps against the destruction of the rainforest.

60 per cent of the world's tropical rainforest is located in Brazil. This year 25 per cent more forest was destroyed than in the same period in 2019.

Second Ebola vaccine receives approval by European Commission
Second Ebola vaccine receives approval by European Commission
Credit: Government of Prince Edward Island (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The medical and pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson has received approval for their Ebola vaccine by the European Commission.

Both components of the two-dose vaccine for the prevention of the virus have been approved and the company hopes that this will lead to "accelerated registration" in African countries. J&J is the second company to receive approval for an Ebola vaccine after Merck.

Business • Economy
Apple wins court case against European Commission over 13 billion euros in unpaid taxes
Apple wins court case against European Commission over 13 billion euros in unpaid taxes

Apple has won the appeal against the European Commission over whether the company owed €13 billion in Irish taxes. The European Union's general court ruled that the European Commission wasn't able to prove that Apple had gotten an advantage by the Irish government.

Regional News • Europe • European Union
Merkel: Approval of EU Covid-19 recovery fund this week unclear
Merkel: Approval of EU Covid-19 recovery fund this week unclear
Credit: FinnishGovernment / © Bernhard Ludewig / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

According to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel it is unclear if the European Union will manage to agree on a multi-year budget and a recovery fund for the economic consequences from Covid-19 during this week.

She stated that "What we want now, the recovery fund or the next generation EU program, it has to be staggering, something special. Because the task at hand is huge, and therefore the answer has to be big as well".

Regional News • World
The German Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee calls the new UN agreement for aid to Syria as a "failure of the West all along the line"
Norbert Röttgen in 2021
Norbert Röttgen in 2021 Credit: Wolfgang Henry / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)

On Saturday the UN Security Council agreed to continue the humanitarian aid to Syria only in a limited way. Due to the new regulation, only one border crossing for aid deliveries from Turkey to Northern Syria is planned, before there were two. According to aid organizations, this new regulation could endanger the care of millions of people in need.

Norbert Röttgen, the german chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, calls this decision a "failure of the West all along the line".

He further said to the newspaper "Die Welt": "This failure is due to the withdrawal of the United States and the subsequent vacuum that Russia was happy to fill. And it is the utter reluctance of Europeans not to represent their own interests in the region. The consequences of the displacement and killing of civilians by Assad and Putin, now with China's support in the UN Security Council, affect Europe. The displaced persons will seek protection from us through Turkey."

United States surpass European Union in number of Covid-19 deaths

The United States has recorded 134,814 Covid-19 deaths and surpassed the death count of the European Union that stands at 134,309 Covid-19 deaths. The number of total recorded cases in the United States had already surpassed the total number of the European Union on the 26th of April. Both have 3,25 million and 1,28 million confirmed Covid-19 respectively.

Regional News • Europe
European Parliament: Politicians report theft of technical equipment
European Parliament: Politicians report theft of technical equipment
Credit: / Charles Büchler

Allegedly up to 100 offices of members of the European Parliament have been broken into during the Covid-19 lockdown. Several politicians have reported the theft of computers and valuables within the past 6 weeks. The Germany member of parliament Nico Semsrott stated that dozes and possibly 100 offices could have been broken into.

Internal investigations are currently underway and suspicions of internal perpetrators are obvious.

Thomas Waitz of the Austrian Greens party has stated that "The theft of electronic items is annoying. But the bigger problem is that neither the offices are secure and sensitive data and documents can be easily stored in the office, nor can it be guaranteed that the offices are not bugged. What is needed here is a quick solution and a new security concept from the administration".