⊂ EUROPE ⊃
Biden sworn in as US president: Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, urging the country to come together at a perilous time in American history. „We’ll press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities,“ Biden said. He highlighted the struggles that the country must still overcome, including the coronavirus pandemic, domestic terrorism, white supremacy and racial injustice. Biden has announced that he will sign an executive order after the inauguration to begin the process for the US to rejoin the Paris Agreement, which requires countries to create emissions targets aimed at keeping global warming under 2 degrees Celsius. „Welcome back to the Paris Agreement!“ French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted. „We will be stronger to face the challenges of our time. Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet.“ German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered her warmest congratulations to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris through her official spokesman on Twitter. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also congratulated Biden and Harris, saying it was a big moment for the UK and the US and their joint common agenda. Johnson added that he looked forward to working with the US on tackling climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.
cbsnews.com, euronews.com, npr.org, politico.eu, bbc.com
EU calls on Biden to form transatlantic pact: The European Union called on incoming US President Joe Biden to form a “new founding pact” with Europe working on issues such as peace, security, prosperity, freedom and human rights. European Council President Charles Michel stressed that transatlantic relations had greatly suffered under former President Donald Trump and the world had grown more complex, less stable and less predictable. “Today is more than a transition. Today is an opportunity to rejuvenate our transatlantic relationship,“ Michel said. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Europe was ready for a new start with its oldest and most trusted partner.
euractiv.com, reuters.com, europarl.europa.eu
Italy considers legal action over vaccine delivery delays: Italy is considering legal action against Pfizer after the US drugmaker announced a further cut in coronavirus vaccine deliveries, the country’s Covid-19 special commissioner Domenico Arcuri said. The company told Italy last week that it was cutting its deliveries by 29%. On Tuesday, it said it was not in the position to make up the 29% shortfall next week and that it was planning a further slight reduction in deliveries, Arcuri added. The drugmaker said last week it was temporarily slowing supplies of its coronavirus vaccine to Europe to make manufacturing changes that would boost output. Russia has applied for registration of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in the EU.
reuters.com (Italy), euractiv.com (Russia)
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MEPs call to halt Russia pipeline over Navalny arrest: German Green MEPs led calls to halt Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline over the arrest of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, while others urged the EU to invoke its new Magnitsky Act against Russian oligarchs. Germany ought to stop its Nord Stream 2 project with Russia, German Green Sergey Lagodinsky told fellow MEPs and EU foreign relations chief Josep Borrell at the EU Parliament hearing. A Moscow court on Wednesday postponed the start of the trial against Navalny on charges of defaming a World War II veteran, his lawyers said, because Navalny is currently in virus quarantine after returning from Germany on Sunday and being immediately put behind bars.
EU fines game distributor Valve and five others: The EU Commission has fined Valve, owner of the online PC gaming platform Steam, and the five publishers Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax 7.8 million euros for breaching EU antitrust rules. Valve and the publishers restricted cross-border sales of certain PC video games on the basis of the geographical location of users within the European Economic Area. The Commission said these practices were aimed at maintaining certain price differences between eastern and western European countries and blocking users from shopping around in the EU’s single market.
Halloumi trademark rift heats up: The European Court of Justice has dismissed the claim of a Cypriot producers’ organisation who challenged the trademark validation of Bulgarian halloumi-sounding products arguing that they could deceive consumers. The court decided that there was no likelihood of confusion for the relevant public between the collective mark „halloumi“, reserved for the members of a Cypriot association, and the sign „BBQloumi“ which serves to designate the entire line of products of the Bulgarian company.
EU border chief refuses to quit over pushback claims: The head of the EU border agency Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, will not step down, a Frontex spokesman said, as the agency’s board met Wednesday to air claims guards were involved in illegal migrant pushbacks. The online managing board meeting was due to continue Thursday and discuss an internal report on allegations that Frontex guards helped force migrants out of EU waters and back to Turkey. The EU’s independent corruption watchdog confirmed this month that it was investigating Frontex over the allegations.
Google’s advertising practices targeted by EU antitrust probe euractiv.com
Amazon sues EU antitrust regulators for letting Italian case go ahead reuters.com
European Central Bank and EU Commission unite to consider potential pitfalls of the digital euro coindesk.com
EU video summit on the Covid pandemic this Thursday tagesspiegel.de
Covid tests: EU states agree on mutual recognition of rapid tests tagesschau.de
⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃
„Once again after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.“
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday that Joe Biden will be taking over as president of the United States.
⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃
Gas explosion in Madrid kills four: A powerful gas explosion tore through a residential building in central Madrid on Wednesday, killing at least four people and injuring eleven. All available evidence pointed to the blast being caused by a gas leak, Madrid’s Emergency Services said. The Spanish government’s representative for the Madrid region, José Manuel Franco, confirmed three casualties and the Catholic parish that owned the damaged building said the fourth victim was an electrician, a father of four, who was working on the boiler and had initially been considered missing.
French students protest against Covid restrictions: French university students protested Wednesday in Paris to demand to be allowed back to class, and to call attention to suicides and financial troubles among students cut off from friends, professors and job opportunities amid the pandemic. Students have increasingly been sharing their woes on social networks under such hashtags as #suicideetudiant and #etudiantphantomes, or ghost students. Student mental health resources, such as counsellors, have been overwhelmed by the numbers seeking help in recent weeks. In the last two weeks alone, two undergraduates in Lyon have tried to take their lives.
Netherlands bans flights from UK, plans to introduce curfew: The Dutch government announced Wednesday that it will ban flights from the UK, South Africa and South America as of Saturday in an effort to prevent more virulent strains of the coronavirus from taking hold across the country. Prime Minister Mark Rutte also announced plans to impose a curfew from 8:30 pm to 4:30 am. However, the government needs the support of a majority of MPs to implement the curfew given that the cabinet is in caretaker mode after resigning last week. Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge will discuss the new measures in parliament this Thursday.
Portugal’s Covid cases hit record: Portugal’s new daily Covid-19 cases jumped to more than 14,600 to set a new national record Wednesday, as the country weathers one of the worst pandemic surges in the world. The surge shows no sign of easing, with the government and health experts predicting it will peak next week. The pandemic has gained momentum in Portugal since Christmas, when restrictions on gatherings and movement were eased for four days.
Germany to ban chick shredding: Germany will ban the slaughter of day-old male chicks starting in 2022, becoming the first country to do so. Chicken farms across the world traditionally slaughter male chicks by the millions, but German farmers will have to stop the practice. Instead, they will be required to use technology to prevent male chicks from being born in the first place, by identifying the sex of the animal before it has hatched.
⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃
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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃
Trump’s waxwork already removed from display at Paris‘ Musee Grevin: The Musée Grévin in Paris is scrapping its statue of the outgoing American president without waiting for the official end of his term of office and the inauguration of his successor Joe Biden, whose statue is in the process of being made. Donald’s Trump’s statue „cost a lot of hair“, said the museum’s director-general, Yves Delhommeau. Visitors had a particular penchant for taking photos with their fingers up Trump’s nose, resulting in the need for repeated repairs to the statue’s nose, which was a first for the museum.