Monday, 25 May 2020: Johnson backs Cummings in lockdown row, Eurogroup leader Centeno praises Franco-German recovery plan, Beijing says US is pushing China to brink of a new Cold War, Italy starts large antibody study

⊂ UNITED KINGDOM ⊃

Johnson backs Cummings in lockdown row: Prime Minister Boris Johnson has backed his key adviser Dominic Cummings, amid a row over the aide’s travel during lockdown. Johnson said that Cummings had no alternative but to drive 260 miles across England to stay with his parents while his wife was sick with Covid-19 symptoms, insisting he acted responsibly, legally and with integrity. Johnson’s statement followed calls from several Tory MPs for Cummings’ resignation. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Johnson’s decision to take no action against Cummings was an insult to sacrifices made by the British people. Three members of SPI-B, the Sage subcommittee providing advice from behavioural scientists to government on how the public might respond to lockdown measures, reacted with disdain to Johnson’s defence of Cummings.
bbc.com, theguardian.com, cnn.com

Sunak authorises bailout plan to rescue strategically important companies: Finance Minister Rishi Sunak has authorised a bailout plan to rescue companies that are seen as strategically important, with the state expected to buy stakes in crucial businesses that are facing acute financial problems, the “Financial Times” reported. Under the plan, the finance minister has raised the Treasury’s capacity to handle bespoke bailouts of viable companies which have exhausted all options, including government loan schemes, the newspaper reported.
ft.com, uk.reuters.com

Johnson accepts some English primary schools may not return on 1 June: Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pressing ahead with plans to reopen schools on 1 June but moved to appease councils and teaching unions by acknowledging for the first time that primary schools in England won’t have to reopen to more pupils until they are prepared. Johnson took notice of the controversy the 1 June reopening date has sparked among local authorities, parents and teachers, with many saying it was too early, especially in those areas of the north-east of England where coronavirus infection rates remain high. Johnson also named a later date for secondary school pupils to return, with only year 10 and year 12 – pupils in their first year of GCSE and A-level studies – able to meet their teachers from 15 June.
theguardian.com

Twitter: Rogue civil service tweet causes storm theguardian.com
Huawei: Fresh UK review into Huawei role in 5G networks bbc.com
Wales: Women in politics face daily abuse on social media bbc.com

⊂ POLITJOBS UNITED KINGDOM ⊃

Association of Directors of Children’s Services seeks Policy Officer *** The Royal Society seeks Senior Policy Adviser (Education) *** ITV Cymru Wales seeks Public Affairs Manager *** Independent Age seeks Public Affairs Officer *** Dogs Trust seeks European Policy Advisor (Publish your job ad)

⊂ EUROPE ⊃

Eurogroup leader Centeno praises Franco-German recovery plan: Eurogroup chief Mario Centeno said plans by Germany and France to set up a 500 billion euro recovery fund to cope with the coronavirus pandemic would be a step towards a fiscal union of the EU and a properly functioning currency union, even if the recovery fund was only temporary. The two biggest EU countries had unveiled the proposal last week, aimed at offering grants to EU regions and sectors hit hardest by the pandemic. Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden put forward a counterproposal to France and Germany’s plan, seeking a unique emergency fund to re-strengthen the EU’s economy. The counterproposal stated that the EU Commission should raise the money for the emergency aid on the financial markets and give it to member states as cheap loans.
reuters.com, dw.com

US hopes for in-person G7 summit end of June: Any in-person meeting of G7 leaders will take place at the end of June, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said on Sunday. US President Donald Trump had scheduled the Group of Seven summit for 10-12 June at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. But in March, he announced he was cancelling the annual meeting because of the pandemic and that the leaders would confer by video conference instead. Trump on Wednesday said he may seek to revive the idea of a face-to-face meeting of G7 leaders near Washington, saying it would send a message that the world is heading back to normal.
reuters.com

Beijing says US is pushing China to brink of a new Cold War: Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi said on Sunday that relations between China and the US were at risk of deteriorating to the point of a new Cold War becoming a reality. The Chinese foreign minister made several jabs at Washington, telling reporters that Trump’s administration is tarnishing relations with Beijing with what it calls a smear campaign. Both US President Donald Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have accused China of a lack of transparency over the coronavirus outbreak, and repeatedly said the virus was leaked from a Wuhan laboratory, an accusation China vehemently denies. Meanwhile, the Trump administration discussed last week whether to conduct its first nuclear test explosion since 1992, the “Washington Post” reported late on Friday. The topic surfaced at a meeting of senior officials representing the top national security agencies after accusations from the administration that Russia and China are conducting low-yield nuclear tests. Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong Sunday to oppose the Chinese government’s move to impose a controversial national security law, which threatens the city’s autonomy and civil liberties.
dw.com (Wang); washingtonpost.com, reuters.com (Nuclear test); cnn.com (Hong Kong)

Netanyahu goes on trial in Israel: Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday became the first serving Israeli prime minister to go on trial. Netanyahu was indicted in November in cases involving gifts from millionaire friends and for allegedly seeking regulatory favours for media tycoons in return for favourable coverage. Netanyahu is accused of offering to help improve the circulation of Israeli newspaper “Yediot Ahronot” in exchange for positive coverage. He is also accused of receiving gifts – mainly cigars and bottles of champagne – from powerful businessmen in exchange for favours. The hearing on Sunday lasted an hour. The court excused Netanyahu from appearing in person at the next hearing, set for 19 July. Israeli analysts say the trial could last months or even years.
reuters.com, bbc.com

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Coronavirus crisis: More than two million coronavirus cases in Europe afp.com
EU and Africa: Coronavirus makes things more difficult dw.com
Afghanistan: President Ghani accepts ceasefire with Taliban pbs.org

⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃

Protests in Spain, tourists welcome in July: Spain will re-open its borders to tourists in July and its top soccer division will kick off again in June, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday, marking another phase in the easing of one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. Sanchez’s dual announcements coincided with calls for his resignation over the lockdown’s impact on the economy from the far-right Vox party, which called protests in cities across Spain. Protests against the lockdown first started in Madrid’s wealthy Salamanca neighbourhood last week, where people started banging pots and pans. But Saturday’s procession marked the first organised protest against the government since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
reuters.com, france24.com

Italy starts large antibody study: Italy will test 150,000 people for antibodies to the coronavirus in order to find out how many people may have been infected. For this purpose, the health ministry and the statistical authority will take blood tests of people from 2,000 locations. Selected participants will be asked for their help over the phone. The blood tests are voluntary, the data is anonymised for the researchers. In the meantime, many Italians have used their new freedoms over the weekend for beach visits and nightly celebrations in front of bars. Politicians in cities, regions and the government in Rome expressed concerns that the celebrations could lead to more viral infections.
spiegel.de, rnd.de

France urges citizens to vacation near home this summer: France is urging its citizens to vacation near home this summer — and refrain from foreign trips as the coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne said. French health officials have noted that the pandemic was far from over — even in France, where there have been fewer cases in recent weeks. Borne said that the country will be announcing plans to ease lockdown measures, including the current order that no one travels farther than 60 miles from their homes. Meanwhile, Air France will have to drastically reduce its domestic air traffic in exchange for state loan guarantees, Borne said on Sunday.
nypost.com (Vacation), france24.com (Air France)

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Sweden was wrong not to shut down, says former state epidemiologist: Annika Linde, the predecessor of Sweden’s state epidemiologist, has broken her silence on the country’s controversial coronavirus strategy, saying she now believes the authorities should have put in place tougher restrictions in the early stages of the pandemic to bring the virus under control. Linde said she had changed her mind as a result of Sweden’s relatively high death toll compared with that of its neighbours, Denmark, Norway, and Finland. For two days last week Sweden had the highest per capita death rate in the world on a seven-day rolling average, and the overall death toll is expected to pass 4,000 this weekend.
theguardian.com

US ambassador to Germany reportedly stepping down: Richard Grenell will step down as US ambassador to Berlin in a few weeks, according to German newspaper “Die Welt”. US President Donald Trump in February called Grenell back to Washington to take over as head of US intelligence on an interim basis, replacing former acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. In early March, the “Daily Wire” reported that Grenell had informed the White House that he did not wish to return to Berlin once his interim role in Washington was over. At that time though, there was no official confirmation either from the White House or from the embassy in Berlin. On Sunday, there was still no confirmation of the “Welt” report.
politico.com

Over 100 Isis fighters return to Germany: Germany’s interior ministry said Sunday that over 100 members of the so-called “Islamic State” terrorist group have returned to the country following the jihadi networks failed incursions in Iraq and Syria. The ministry added that the number of open investigations is in the two-figure range. German authorities are taking a holistic approach to the handling of the returnees, which besides criminal prosecution includes deradicalisation and re-integration, according to the ministry.
dw.com

Czech Republic: Further easing of coronavirus measures this Monday tagesschau.de
Switzerland: Gastronomy will only achieve 40% of its usual revenue after the lockdown rnd.de

⊂ 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 ⊃

Austrian president apologises after breaking coronavirus curfew: Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen apologised Sunday after he and his wife were caught by police breaking curfew rules at a restaurant. The country has mandated that restaurants and bars shut down by 11 pm as a coronavirus prevention measure, but police said the couple still had drinks at their table after midnight on Saturday night. The restaurant — which was officially shut down at the time — could face a fine of up to €30,000 for breaking the rules.
politico.eu

 

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