Thursday, 11 June 2020: EU takes action against disinformation online, German foreign minister warns Israel against annexation plans, Italian prosecutors to question Conte over handling of virus


EU takes action against disinformation online: EU Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova warned online platforms like Google and Facebook on Wednesday to step up the fight against fake news coming notably from countries like China and Russia. Unveiling a plan to fight disinformation linked to the coronavirus, Jourova said she wanted online tech companies to provide far more detailed reports each month than currently on the action they are taking to prevent a fake news infodemic. The EU Commission warned that false information about the coronavirus could prove deadly, saying it was planning on strengthening its response to the problem. “I’m afraid the disinformation flow will continue,” Jourova said, adding that vaccination seems to be the next big topic subject to misinformation. She cited a study showing that the willingness in Germany to take up vaccination decreased by almost 20 percentage points in less than two months. Meanwhile, the European Data Protection Board said it had doubts that using facial recognition technology developed by US company Clearview AI is legal in the EU., (Disinformation); (Clearview AI)

Europe to accelerate trials of gene-engineered Covid-19 vaccines: European officials aim to speed up trials for coronavirus vaccines containing genetically modified organisms, two EU sources told “Reuters”. The EU Commission is expected to put forward the plans as early as next week. They are part of a wider EU strategy aimed at securing enough doses of a possible vaccine for the EU as it fears lagging behind the United States and China.

EU proposes members reopen external borders from 1 July: The EU Commission will recommend EU member states begin to reopen their external frontiers to travellers from outside the bloc from 1 July, diplomatic chief Josep Borrell said Wednesday. The decision on easing restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus rests with national governments, but Borrell said the EU suggested a gradual and partial lifting of the ban. At the weekend, the interior ministers of the 27 member states agreed to coordinate a gradual reopening to travellers from outside the Schengen area, Britain and the EU.

Support package for Jordan and Lebanon: As part of the EU’s global response to the coronavirus outbreak, the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis has mobilised an additional €55 million for refugees from Syria and vulnerable persons in Jordan and Lebanon to fight the pandemic. It will provide critical and targeted support in key areas such as health, water, sanitation and hygiene. EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said Jordan and Lebanon were showing huge resilience and solidarity in hosting Syrian refugees. It was the EU’s duty to continue supporting them, especially in the current pandemic situation.

Asylum applications in EU plummet during pandemic: Asylum applications in Europe fell to the lowest level in April for over a decade as borders closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The number of asylum applications declined to 8,730 during April, an 86% drop from 61,421 in February, according to figures from the European Asylum Support Office. The office’s executive director Nina Gregori said the situation for those in need of asylum had undoubtedly been very challenging. Already fleeing violence and persecution, the Covid-19 crisis had compounded their situations.

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German foreign minister warns Israel against annexation plans: Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Wednesday warned Israel that its plan to begin annexing parts of the West Bank would violate international law, but he offered no details on how Germany or Europe would respond. The annexation plan has come under harsh criticism from some of Israel’s closest allies, including Germany, who say that unilaterally redrawing the Mideast map would destroy any lingering hopes for establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Maas said Germany and the European Union pointed out that Europe considers annexation incompatible with international law. But he said the Europeans were still seeking a dialogue with Israel to learn more about its plans and said there were no immediate threats to punish Israel. Following talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Maas met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Benny Gantz. Ashkenazi claimed US President Donald Trump’s controversial Mideast plan had its upsides and presented an opportunity. Netanyahu told Maas that any realistic plan must recognise the reality of Israeli settlement in the territory and not foster the illusion of uprooting people from their homes.,,,

Italian prosecutors to question Conte over handling of virus: Prosecutors will question Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the health and interior ministers over how the government handled the coronavirus pandemic, news agencies reported Wednesday. The prosecutors from Bergamo, the city in the northern Lombardy region worst hit by the virus, have launched an investigation into the crisis, which has killed over 34,000 people in Italy.

France to end emergency health powers on 10 July: France will end special government powers brought in to deal with the pandemic on 10 July, although the government will retain the ability to curb gatherings and freedom of movement for four months. People are still being encouraged to wear face masks when outside and stay at least one metre apart while most employees are continuing to work from home. The French government is expecting that 800,000 jobs will be lost in the coming months due to the pandemic, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire announced on Wednesday. In Paris, air pollution is approaching levels similar to before the coronavirus lockdown, when they fell due to a halt in road traffic. (Emergency powers), (Jobs), (Paris)

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Bulgaria cuts VAT taxes: Bulgaria’s parliament on Wednesday approved government plans to cut value added tax (VAT) on food provided by restaurants and catering services to 9% from 20% from July to help an industry hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. The cut would run through 2021 as a temporary measure to help the sector recover. The deputies also voted to cut VAT on books, some baby foods, and diapers to 9% from July until the end of next year.

Public broadcaster in Poland accused of government propaganda: Polish state broadcaster TVP faced increasing criticism Wednesday for its negative coverage of the main opposition candidate in this month’s presidential election, Rafal Trzaskowski, who is challenging right-wing populist President Andrzej Duda. TVP is taxpayer funded and required to be politically neutral. But TVP and other publicly funded media have recently been trumpeting achievements of the governing nationalist conservative party, Law and Justice, and criticising political opponents. Reporters Without Borders has called Poland’s public media “government propaganda mouthpieces”.

Sweden drops probe into 1986 murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme: Sweden ended its investigation into the murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme on Wednesday after it was revealed that the main suspect in the case is already dead. Palme was shot dead on February 28, 1986, after leaving a movie theater in Stockholm with his wife. Prosecutors identified the main suspect in the case as Stig Engstrom, a Swede who opposed Palme’s leftwing policies. Engstrom was questioned as a witness early on into the investigation since he was near the murder scene, but he was deemed to be an unreliable witness by police since he changed his story frequently.

Germany: Government confirms US considering troop cuts in Germany
Hungary: Government opposes homeless accommodation in Budapest City Hall
Spain adopts coronavirus rules for the “new normal”
Austria: All borders open from 16 June, travel warning for Lombardy
Poland to open EU borders on Saturday, PM says
Ukraine: Former president Poroshenko faces ten years in prison


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, (Inserat schalten)


Netherlands sends herrings to Germany as coronavirus thank you: The Dutch Fish Marketing Board on Wednesday said that 2020’s first catch of herrings will be presented as a gift to the neighbouring German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The decision was to show gratitude for German assistance treating some Dutch coronavirus patients. North Rhine-Westphalia in early April took in coronavirus patients from three EU member states, including 28 from the Netherlands, to help overburdened intensive care units.


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