Thursday, 13 August 2020: UK in deepest recession of any major economy, EU foreign ministers to discuss Belarus, Turkey and Lebanon, Germany says Russian vaccine has not been sufficiently tested, Namibia rejects German compensation offer over colonial violence


UK in deepest recession of any major economy: Economic output shrank by 20.4% in the second quarter of 2020, the worst quarterly slump on record, pushing the UK into the deepest recession of any major global economy. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the government was grappling with something unprecedented and that it was a very difficult and uncertain time. Many more people would lose their jobs after hundreds of thousands already had. Labour’s shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds blamed the government for failing to take enough action to prevent mass unemployment, saying a downturn was inevitable after lockdown, but a jobs crisis wasn’t.,,

Johnson says Scottish train incident is very serious: At least three people have died, including the driver, after a passenger train in Scotland derailed on Wednesday. The country declared a major incident. Police said six people had also been taken to hospital to be treated for non-serious injuries. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was saddened to learn of the very serious incident in Aberdeenshire, and thanked emergency services.,

Williamson apologises for school and exam disruption: Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has apologised to every child for the disruption that they have had to suffer due to the coronavirus pandemic. He said the best thing was for every child in England to be back in school in September. He also reiterated that the exams system was fair and robust. A-level and GCSE students will this year have their results based on estimates after exams were cancelled. On Tuesday, the Department for Education announced a last-minute “triple lock” – which could raise replacement grades for exams cancelled in the pandemic. It means pupils could have whichever result is highest from estimated grades, mocks or exams in the autumn.

Commons Defence Committee: UK must anticipate hostile states utilising pandemic
Coronavirus crisis: Johnson to talk up UK unity on Northern Ireland visit this Thursday
Dominic Cummings: MPs ask No 10 to clarify Cummings role in defence review
Home Secretary Patel wants to remove any legal ban on supplying “poppers”
Conservatives: Suspended Tory councillor loses job after blaming immigrants and BAME community for local lockdown


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EU foreign ministers to discuss Belarus, Turkey and Lebanon: EU foreign ministers will hold an extraordinary session this Friday to discuss urgent issues and address Turkey’s gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Belarus presidential elections, as well as developments in Lebanon. Ministers will consider targeted sanctions against Belarus following Sunday’s contested election and subsequent violent crackdown down on protesters. The Belarusian interior ministry on Wednesday confirmed the death of a jailed protester. Riot police have arrested thousands in street clashes across the country. Police have used tear gas, batons, stun grenades, rubber bullets, and even live rounds on crowds. President Alexander Lukashenko has refused dialogue with the opposition and blamed criminals and unemployment for the protests. Lithuania, Poland and Latvia offered to mediate between the Belarusian government and the opposition. (EU ministers);, (Protests); (Lukashenko); (Mediation offer)

German foreign minister in Beirut: Foreign Minister Heiko Maas gave a cheque for 1 million euros to the Lebanese Red Cross upon arrival in Beirut a week after the city’s devastating explosion. The money is intended to help families affected by the blast. Maas said that Lebanon needed a government able to fight corruption and enact reforms as he toured Beirut port, scene of the devastating explosion that has kindled protests and led the government to resign. “Many in Europe have a lot of interest for this country. They want to know that there are economic reforms and good governance,” he added. The Lebanese judiciary wants to question several ministers and former ministers about the explosion., (Maas); (Judiciary)

Germany says Russian vaccine has not been sufficiently tested: German health minister Jens Spahn has criticised Russia’s approval of a coronavirus vaccine. He said Russia’s vaccine had not been sufficiently tested, adding the aim was to have a safe product rather than just being first to start vaccinating people. “It can be dangerous to start vaccinating millions, if not billions, of people too early because it could pretty much kill the acceptance of vaccination if it goes wrong, so I’m very skeptical about what’s going on in Russia,” Spahn said. He added that it was crucial, even during a pandemic, to carry out proper studies and tests and make the results public to give people confidence in the vaccine. A Brazilian technology institute said it expects to produce the Russian vaccine by the second half of 2021, shortly after the state of Parana signed a memorandum of understanding with Moscow. Meanwhile, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute withdrew a report on Wednesday that claimed a coronavirus vaccine was imminent. The public health agency said the document was published in error. (Spahn), (Paraná), (Robert Koch Institute)

Hong Kong suspends extradition agreements with France and Germany: Hong Kong on Wednesday said it had suspended its extradition agreements with France and Germany after the two European powers made the same move to protest a threat to freedoms posed by a new Chinese security law. The introduction of the security law has raised new tensions between China and the West.

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Euro zone industry output rebound disappoints for second straight month
China relaxes coronavirus entry regulations for 36 European countries


Partnering with Russian and Chinese nuclear companies will in fact undermine the Czech Republic’s national sovereignty.
Beijing and Moscow pose a threat Czech energy independence, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday in Prague.


France to bolster Mediterranean military presence: France will increase its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean, President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday, calling on Turkey to halt oil and gas exploration in disputed waters that has heightened tensions with Greece. The French leader voiced concern over unilateral exploration by Turkey in a call with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Prospecting should “cease in order to allow a peaceful dialogue” between the neighbouring Nato members.

Hungary to buy air defence missiles from the US: Hungary has signed a declaration of intent Wednesday to purchase air defence missiles from the United States for around 1 billion dollars. The US Embassy described the deal as Hungary’s largest-ever defence procurement from the United States. According to the Hungarian Defense Ministry, it includes both air-to-air and land-to-air missiles.

Germany worries as coronavirus infection rate hits 3-month high: German Health Minister Jens Spahn has called on people living in Germany to remain vigilant as the country’s public health agency on Wednesday reported a jump of 1,226 in the number of new coronavirus infections. Spahn urged people to stick to the recommended measures to stem the spread of the virus, including wearing masks, keeping a proper distance from others and avoiding close contact in social settings. France has reported 2,524 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, a new post-lockdown daily record. Greece reported 262 new cases on Wednesday, its highest daily tally since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the country. (Germany), (France), (Greece)

Swiss to allow events of 1,000-plus people from October: Switzerland will allow events of more than 1,000 people from 1 October, provided organisers follow hygiene measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the government decided on Wednesday. The government expects a deficit of 20.9 billion Swiss francs for 2020, as the country’s coffers are hurt by lower receipts and costly programmes to offset the virus’s hit to the economy. (Events), (Deficit)

Brussels makes masks mandatory: People will have to wear face masks that cover their mouths and noses in public across the entire Brussels region as of Wednesday, the government announced. Brussels has reached the critical threshold of 50 new coronavirus infections per 100,000 inhabitants per day for the past week.

TUI receives second aid package: German tourism giant TUI has reached an agreement with the German government on an additional aid package worth 1.2 billion euros to provide sufficient liquidity, the tour operator said on Wednesday as the company is hit by the pandemic. The package will help cover TUI’s seasonal swing through winter 2020/21 and beyond or if there are long-term travel restrictions and disruptions related to the pandemic, the company said in a statement.

Bulgaria: Protesters call for Prime Minister Borisov’s resignation
Austria: Former refugee coordinator criticises the government’s asylum policy
Spain: Regional smoking ban because of surge in virus cases
Belgium: Interior minister defends free movement as beach towns ban day trippers
Sweden: Critics urge Sweden to reboot its virus strategy


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Namibia rejects German compensation offer over colonial violence: The Namibian government has rejected a German offer of compensation for the mass murder of tens of thousands of indigenous people more than a century ago. Namibian President Hage Geingob said the German government’s current offer for reparations of 10 million euros was not acceptable to the Namibian government. He added that Namibia would continue to negotiate for a revised offer.,


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