Monday, 15 June 2020: Johnson sets up racism inquiry, Four EU nations sign deal for coronavirus vaccine, Polish president calls LGBTI ideology more harmful than communism, Commemoration of first prisoner transport to Auschwitz 80 years ago


Johnson sets up racism inquiry: Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that he is setting up a commission to look at all aspects of inequality. Writing in the “Telegraph”, the PM said there was much more that needed to be done to tackle racism but the UK should not try to re-write the past by removing historical symbols. He said no-one who cared about this country could ignore the anti-racist demonstrations sparked by the killing of George Floyd in US police custody. However, he added the UK’s heritage should be left in peace. Johnson also condemned the far-right activists involved in violent protests on Saturday, which saw more than 100 people arrested in London after thousands gathered saying they were protecting statues. Monuments have become a focal point for protesters on both sides in the UK, following the removal by protesters last week of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol. Saturday’s right-wing protests marked the start of a backlash with far-right activists shouting racial slurs and vowing to protect English culture. Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy has accused Johnson of inaction over the injustices highlighted by Black Lives Matter protests, saying the prime minister’s focus on the vandalism of statues was a deflection from a lack of real progress.,,,

UK might be able to change quarantine rules for travellers: The government is looking at options for its two-week quarantine for people entering the country and might be able to make changes to the rules, Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said on Sunday. The government has come under heavy pressure from the travel industry and other sectors over the quarantine policy which it introduced last week. Sunak also announced that the UK’s two-metre social distancing rule will be reviewed very soon because of the impact it has on businesses. He said companies had told him that the public health measure made it harder for them to operate. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “people should shop, and shop with confidence” when non-essential stores reopen in England this Monday. He said retail staff were excited and had done a huge amount of work to allow for safer shopping. But he said people must continue to respect social distancing measures.,,

Johnson and Starmer mark third anniversary of Grenfell fire with online tributes: Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer marked the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire in video messages as the commemoration moved online because of the coronavirus pandemic. The survivors of Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people, have said nothing has changed three years after the disaster. Those who escaped from the west London tower block said they feel left behind and disgusted by a lack of progress in making other buildings safe.,

Coronavirus 1: Labour MP Lammy condemns “buried” BAME coronavirus recommendations
Coronavirus 2: PM Johnson has not hosted a Cobra emergency committee for over a month
Irish parties hope to reach coalition deal on Monday, finance minister says


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Four EU nations sign deal for coronavirus vaccine: Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands have signed an initial deal with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for over 300 million doses of a promising coronavirus vaccine currently still in the experimental phase. Doses of the vaccine would be distributed to countries relative to their population as soon as it is ready, Germany’s health ministry said on Saturday, adding that all EU members can participate in the programme. The vaccine is expected to be finished by the end of 2020. Many countries in the world had already secured vaccines, Europe had not yet, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said. Rapid coordinated action by a group of member states would create added value for all EU citizens in the coronavirus crisis.

Travel in Europe in times of the coronavirus: Poland has reopened all its EU borders for the first time in nearly three months. Almost all other EU countries will follow this Monday. Germany ended its border controls at midnight Sunday. The country’s foreign ministry also removed travel warnings for 27 European countries from its website. However, warnings are still in place for Spain, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Germany had already opened its borders to the neighbouring states of Austria, Switzerland, and France on 16 May with tightly controlled measures. Spain will reopen its borders to most European visitors from 21 June, ten days earlier than previously planned, the government said on Sunday. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Spain’s land border with Portugal would remain closed until 1 July because Lisbon had requested it. German tourists will be allowed to start visiting Spain’s Balearic Islands from Monday as a test programme. German Chancellery Minister Helge Braun warned of the infection risks during the upcoming travel season.,,,

Migrant crossings into Europe spiked in May: European border agency Frontex recorded a sharp increase in migrants hoping to enter the EU last month, German media reported. In May, there were almost 4,300 illegal border crossings, almost three times as many compared to the previous month. The spike comes after coronavirus lockdowns and widespread border closures cut the number of potential asylum-seekers able to reach Europe. As a result, traffic along the continent’s main migration routes reached record lows in April.

Spain backs its economy minister to head Eurogroup: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said he would look favourably on Spain’s Economy Minister Nadia Calvino becoming a candidate to lead the euro zone’s group of finance ministers. Sanchez said Spain would be very interested in leading the Eurogroup, adding it was an honour that Calvino had been tipped as a leading candidate after Portugal’s Mario Centeno said he would step down from the post.

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Brexit: EU Commission President von der Leyen and British PM Johnson to hold talks this Monday
EU Commission Vice-President Dombrovskis: EU has enough firepower to deal with crisis
United States: Atlanta police chief resigns after fatal shooting of African American man during arrest
Israel approves funding for new “Trump Heights” settlement


For the first time, we, the EU, are borrowing money from our children. Our investments today must therefore bear fruit for our children.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has urged Italy to use the EU’s proposed 750 billion-euro recovery plan to tackle long overdue reforms. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Saturday that Italy could not afford to return to normality after the coronavirus emergency but should turn the crisis into an opportunity to reform the country.,,


Polish president calls LGBTI ideology more harmful than communism: Polish President Andrzej Duda accused the LGBTI rights movement Saturday of promoting a viewpoint more harmful than communism and said he agreed with another conservative politician who stated that “LGBT is not people, it’s an ideology.” Duda made his comments in the small southwestern town of Brzeg as he campaigns for reelection in Poland. Gay rights is emerging as a key campaign theme in the presidential election as the race grows close between Duda, backed by the nationalist conservative ruling party, and Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, who has called for tolerance for gays and lesbians. The Left’s presidential candidate, Robert Biedron, the first Polish politician to openly identify as gay, called on Duda to “be done with this hatred”. The Trump administration on Friday finalised a regulation that will erase protections for transgender patients against discrimination by doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies., (Poland); (US)

France’s president announces more easing: French President Emmanuel Macron has announced a number of coronavirus restrictions are being lifted. From Monday cafes and restaurants can open across France and travel to other European countries will be allowed. People will also be able to visit family members in retirement homes, which have been hit particularly hard by the Covid-19 outbreak. In a televised address, Macron said France had won its first victory, but warned the virus could return. Macron also said France would not be tearing down statues or rewriting its history in response to pressure from anti-racism activists. “We must instead lucidly look together at our history, and in particular our relationship with Africa,” Macron said in a televised address. France’s top administrative court has suspended a ban on demonstrations, part of the government’s ongoing coronavirus restrictions.,,

Spain plans auto sector aid package: Spain plans a 3.7 billion euro aid package for its automobile sector, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, to promote investment and the purchase of vehicles, specially electric models, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Sunday. Sanchez said details of the plan, which will also include fiscal and research measures, would be announced this Monday.

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Austria plans investment subsidy for firms: The Austrian government plans extra investment subsidies and tax breaks to help companies hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Economy Minister Margarete Schramboeck announced on Sunday. Companies that commit to investments in the next six months could get 14% of it back as a subsidy, she told broadcaster ORF ahead of a two-day cabinet meeting on more stimulus measures. Leaders of the conservative-Greens coalition also announced plans for one-off payments to jobless people and more help for families with children.

Commemoration of first prisoner transport to Auschwitz 80 years ago: Eighty years ago, on 14 June, 1940, the first 728 prisoners arrived at Auschwitz. The camp was initially meant for Polish resistance fighters, but from 1942 it played a central role in the Nazi genocide of Jews. The Polish prisoners were victims of a German occupation policy that aimed to wipe out the Polish elites. After German troops invaded Poland on 1 September, 1939, the Nazi regime incorporated the western regions of Poland into the Third Reich. By July 1940, the occupiers had murdered 50,000 Poles and deported the same number to concentration camps as part of a genocidal operation mostly targeting intellectuals.

Germany: Thousands of people participate in human chains to protest racism
Parliamentary election in Serbia: Is the country facing an election boycott?
Bulgaria relaxes rules despite increasing number of coronavirus cases


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Italian farmers pay to fly in workers: Due to the coronavirus pandemic farmers in Italy have resorted to chartering private planes to bring back seasonal workers from Morocco to help with the summer harvest. The workers usually return to their hometowns during the winter months and fly back for the next cycle in early spring. It has been like that for many years, but no one anticipated the pandemic. Just days before their due return to Italy in March, international borders were shut down.


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