Monday, 24 February 2020: Coronavirus puts Italy in crisis mode, Assange trial in London, Hanau protests against racism after terror attack

⊂ EUROPE ⊃

Coronavirus puts Italy in crisis mode: Italian authorities have announced sweeping closures in the country’s north, as Italy grapples with the worst coronavirus outbreak outside of Asia. Italy’s confirmed cases surged from three on Friday morning to more than 130 by Sunday morning. There are 110 cases in the northern Italian region of Lombardy alone. A third person has died from the virus. The regional councilor of Lombardy, Giulio Gallera, said the victim was an elderly woman from the town of Crema, east of Milan, who was also suffering from cancer. The last two days of events at the Venice Carnival were cancelled on Sunday. Schools and museums will be closed until the end of the month. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) will review its risk assessment. Austria suspended train services over the Alps to Italy for about four hours late before restarting them after two travellers tested negative for the virus. Turkey and Pakistan have both closed their borders with Iran, with Turkey also halting incoming flights, after Iran reported 43 cases of the disease. South Korea has raised its coronavirus alert to the “highest level” as confirmed case numbers keep rising.
cnn.com, dw.com, handelsblatt.com (Italy); reuters.com (Austria); theguardian.com (Iran); bbc.com (South Korea)

Assange trial in London: The extradition trial of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will begin this Monday. A court in London will have to clarify whether the extradition request is politically motivated. The court will not deal with the question of guilt itself. The United States reportedly requested extradition last June to answer a number of charges, including conspiring to hack government computer networks and the unlawful receipt of sensitive information. Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders are worried that the charges against Assange set a chilling precedent for freedom of the press. On Saturday, hundreds of Assange supporters rallied in London to call for his release. More than 40 attorneys from the United States, Britain, France and other countries have called on the British government not to extradite Assange to the US.
euronews.com, npr.org, nytimes.com

Macron not sure of UK-EU trade deal by end of year: French President Emmanuel Macron has said he is not sure a UK-EU trade deal will be struck by 31 December, the end of the Brexit transition period. Macron said negotiations starting in March will be tense, with fishing rights a key point of contention. The UK has said it will consider a deal on fisheries, but it must be based on the notion that British fishing grounds are first and foremost for British boats.
bbc.com

ECB wants to talk about inflation: European Central Bank experts are in for a dose of real life as they meet audiences ranging from students to clergy this year to get their views on inflation and feedback on the central bank’s work, six officials told “Reuters”. The series of events, called “ECB Listens”, will start in Brussels on 26 March, according to the sources who are on or close to the ECB’s Governing Council. Each of the eurozone’s 19 national central banks has been asked to hold at least one such meeting by the summer.
reuters.com

Syria war: Turkish President Erdogan announces summit with Putin, Merkel and Macron politico.eu
European Army: German SPD proposes armed forces for the EU welt.de
“Muzzles” for the judiciary: Poland’s reforms put the EU in a bind orf.at

⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃

It’s about selfishness and not about the necessary European ambitions.
After the failed EU budget summit, the group leader of the Christian Democrats in the EU Parliament, Manfred Weber, sharply criticised the union’s member states.
faz.net

⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃

Hanau protests against racism after terror attack: Thousands of people in the German city of Hanau marched against right-wing extremism and racism on Saturday in the wake of a double shooting that killed eleven people. The alleged gunman killed nine people in two different shisha bars in Hanau last Wednesday. He was found dead hours later at home, along with the body of his mother, in what appeared to be a murder-suicide. Investigators said all of the victims in the shisha bar attack were of immigrant origin — some were German nationals, while Turkey has said at least five had Turkish citizenship. German authorities confirmed that the suspect behind the shootings showed signs of a deeply racist mentality. Support for the far-right AfD party has fallen by two percentage points since the attack, according to a poll published on Saturday. Violence from the far-right has been on the rise over the last year and this is the third major incident in nine months.
dw.com, euronews.com

SPD wins Hamburg election: Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) won most support in a vote in the northern city of Hamburg on Sunday and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives came third. Nearly all parties lost support or stayed roughly the same compared to the last election, except for the Greens, which are set to gain almost twelve percentage points. The most closely watched result of the night was for the AfD, with early results indicating that the party might not garner enough votes to remain in Hamburg’s state parliament. It is the first state election since the furor over the ousting of the socialist Left party state premier in the state of Thuringia, which spurred accusations that the CDU and the FDP had co-operated with the AfD.
reuters.com, politico.eu, dw.com

Macron vows to defend France’s farmers: French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday promised to safeguard European farm subsidies and secure compensation for wine producers hit by US tariffs. Opening the annual Paris farm show, Macron said France would continue to oppose cuts to agricultural subsidies, a day after discussions broke down on a new EU budget. Macron spent over twelve hours at the Paris farm show, a major event for politicians in the EU’s biggest agricultural economy. There were glimpses of wider tensions in France, with a heated exchange with a woman about pension reform and police violence in street protests. Macron said that he would meet a structured group of “Yellow Vest” protesters for an hour in the Elysee Palace if the woman would organise it.
nytimes.com, reuters.com, theguardian.com

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Hungarians march to protest Orban’s anti-Roma campaign: More than 2,000 Hungarians marched to parliament on Sunday to protest against the government’s refusal to pay compensation to Roma children who had been unlawfully segregated in a school in eastern Hungary. Lower courts have ordered the state to pay damages in a lawsuit that has been dragging on for almost a decade. Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party has said people connected with Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros helped Roma launch the lawsuit. Fidesz has campaigned for years against Soros, who promotes liberal causes. By Sunday, close to 500 psychologists had signed a petition saying that the government campaign could fuel hatred between Roma and non-Roma.
reuters.com

Austria: Foreign Minister Schallenberg in Iran orf.at
Bulgaria: Nazis from all over Europe in Sofia nytimes.com, de.euronews.com

⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃

Bitkom sucht Referent europäische Digitalpolitik (w/m) *** Int. Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory seeks Innovation Project Manager *** Int. Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory seeks Project Assistant for EU Funded Projects *** PwC seeks Public Affairs Senior Manager Belgium *** Johnson & Johnson seeks Policy Assistant, Government Affairs & Policy EMEA *** Public Policy Manager, Connectivity *** Ryanair offers Public Affairs internship
politjobs.eu, politjobs.eu/submit (Inserat schalten)

⊂ MALFUNCTION ⊃

EU Commission to staff: Switch to “Signal” messaging app: The EU Commission has told its staff to start using “Signal”, an end-to-end-encrypted messaging app, in a push to increase the security of its communications. The instruction appeared on internal messaging boards in early February, notifying employees that “Signal” had been selected as the recommended application for public instant messaging. Commission officials are already required to use encrypted emails to exchange sensitive, non-classified information, an official said. The use of “Signal” was mainly recommended for communications between staff and people outside the institution. The move to use the application shows that the Commission is working on improving its security policies.
politico.eu

 

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