Tuesday, 26 January 2021: EU to hold off on new Russia sanctions for now, EU to require advance registration of Covid vaccine exports, Italy’s Prime Minister Conte resigns


EU to hold off on new Russia sanctions for now: The European Union will hold off from imposing fresh sanctions on Russian individuals if the Kremlin releases pro-democracy campaigner Alexei Navalny, EU foreign ministers said on Monday. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters that the EU will wait for the court’s decision to see whether Navalny is set free after 30 days. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he would go to Moscow next week to press the Kremlin to free demonstrators and Navalny. The opposition leader was arrested on 18 January as he returned to Russia following a five-month convalescence in Germany after a nerve agent attack. Thousands of protesters across the country were detained after rallying in numerous cities to demand his release at the weekend. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected a claim by Navalny that a luxury Black Sea property belongs to him. „Nothing that is listed there as my property belongs to me or my close relatives, and never did,“ Putin said during a video call, in reference to a video that Navalny’s team published last week.
reuters.com, euronews.com, dw.com

EU to require advance registration of Covid vaccine exports: The export of coronavirus vaccines should be authorised at the EU level before leaving the bloc, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Monday. „It would be a good idea if companies had to obtain a license to export vaccines so that we could monitor which vaccine leaves the EU after having been produced or bottled in Europe,“ the minister said in an interview with DW. Spahn’s comments came as the EU Commission seeks answers on announced reductions of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine deliveries to the EU. Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides has asked AstraZeneca to clarify why deliveries of the vaccine are expected to be lower than anticipated. The Commission said it will require pharmaceutical companies producing Covid-19 vaccines in the EU to register in advance any exports of doses to third countries. „The EU will take any action required to protect its citizens and its rights,“ Kyriakides said.
politico.eu, dw.com, theguardian.com, reuters.com

China’s Xi urges cooperation to reboot global economy: Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday said that governments worldwide must do more to work together and put the global economy back on track. Speaking at a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum, Xi said the global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic was rather shaky and the outlook remained uncertain. Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier has said it was not a mistake to have agreed the China-EU investment deal just a few weeks before US President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Speaking to CNBC’s Geoff Cutmore via videoconference, Altmaier said the EU’s new investment deal with China was in large parts a twin of arrangements the US already had with China and was about creating a level playing field.
dw.com (Xi), cnbc.com (Altmaier)

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Kerry: US will make up for four years of lost action on climate: The world must take decisive action to build resilience to the devastating effects of climate change, US climate envoy John Kerry told a global virtual summit Monday, pledging that Biden’s new administration would play its role. In a video message to the Climate Adaptation Summit hosted by the Dutch government, Kerry said the US was proud to be back in the Paris climate accord. He added that the Biden administration is working to announce its own more ambitious target for cutting emissions soon. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Joe Biden agreed in a phone call on Monday that the Covid-19 pandemic and other global challenges could only be tackled through closer cooperation, a German government spokesman said on Monday. The two leaders also spoke about foreign policy issues and Merkel welcomed Biden’s decision to return the US to the Paris climate deal.
apnews.com, reuters.com

Biden reverses Trump ban on transgender people in military: US President Joe Biden on Monday repealed a controversial Trump-era ban on transgender people serving in the US military. The new order immediately prohibits any service member from being forced out of the military on the basis of gender identity. The text of the order says there is substantial evidence that allowing transgender individuals to serve in the military does not have any meaningful negative impact on the armed forces. In July 2017, former President Donald Trump caught military leaders by surprise, tweeting that the government wouldn’t accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the military because of the „medical costs“ that this would entail. Meanwhile, the House impeachment managers have formally triggered the start of Trump’s second impeachment trial Monday evening. The Justice Department’s internal watchdog announced that it has launched an investigation into whether top officials at the department engaged in any impropriety in connection with challenges to the results of last year’s presidential race. An election technology company that has been the focus of consistent conspiracy theories by Trump and his allies has sued the former President’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani for defamation.
npr.org, apnews.com (Transgender); cnn.com (Impeachment); politico.com (Justice Department); cnn.com (Giuliani)

ECB sets up climate change centre: The European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) are increasing their commitment to climate protection. The ECB has decided to set up a climate change centre to bring together the work on climate issues in different parts of the bank. “Climate change affects all of our policy areas,” said ECB President Christine Lagarde. “The climate change centre provides the structure we need to tackle the issue with the urgency and determination that it deserves.” The ECB also said it would invest some of its own funds, reserves and provisions in a green bond fund run by the BIS. Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, however, cautioned that price stability not saving the planet remained the ECB’s top priority.
ecb.europa.eu, reuters.com

EU states no longer recognise Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president: The EU’s 27 states said on 6 January they could no longer legally recognise Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president after he lost his position as head of parliament following legislative elections in Venezuela in December, despite the EU not recognising that vote. Guaido is a “privileged interlocutor” but no longer considered interim president, EU states said in a statement on Monday, sticking by their decision to downgrade his status.

Covid: EU proposes more travel restrictions to stop virus variants apnews.com
EU weakens passenger rights: Less money for travellers in the event of train cancellations n-tv.de
Human rights: Experts call for the EU-China agreement to be stopped spiegel.de
Migration: Pandemic intensifies migration pressure on EU handelsblatt.com


The Russian constitution gives everybody in Russia the right to express their opinion and to participate in protests.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has called on Russia to release the people who were detained during demonstrations in support of longtime Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.


Italy’s Prime Minister Conte resigns: Giuseppe Conte will resign this Tuesday, his office said. What will happen after he offers his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella remains unclear. Conte could remain in charge, heading a new governing coalition with a different lineup of parties, but the possibilities also include a reorganisation under a different prime minister, or even elections to choose a new parliament. On Monday, a third Conte government seemed, at least publicly, to be the governing coalition’s first choice. Nicola Zingaretti, the leader of the Democratic Party, wrote on Twitter that he was with Conte for a new government. The anti-establishment Five Star movement said another government led by Conte was the only solution.
nytimes.com, wsj.com

Dutch PM Rutte condemns curfew riots: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has condemned the weekend riots against newly imposed coronavirus restrictions. Demonstrators attacked police and set fires to buildings and vehicles as a protest against a nighttime curfew, implemented to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. „It is unacceptable,“ Rutte said on Monday. „This has nothing to do with protesting, this is criminal violence and that’s how we’ll treat it.“ He stressed that this weekend’s violence and rioting will not have any effect on measures in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus. “The curfew remains necessary. It is the virus that is robbing us of our freedom,” he said.
bbc.com, dw.com, politico.eu

Kallas becomes Estonia’s first female PM: Kaja Kallas of the centre-right Reform party became Estonia’s first female prime minister on Monday after parliament approved her nomination. Kallas is taking over following predecessor Juri Ratas’ resignation over an inquiry into a property development. Ratas’ centre-left Centre party remains in the government as Reform’s partner, despite corruption charges filed by prosecutors who allege the party’s general secretary agreed to a donation of up to one million euros from a businessman in exchange for a permit to build on public land. Ratas denies knowledge of any wrongdoing by his party.

Tentative start to Turkey-Greece talks: The first talks aimed at reducing tensions between Turkey and Greece in five years took place behind closed doors on Monday. The exploratory talks in Istanbul were the 61st round of meetings between the frequent rivals since discussions were launched in 2002. Confrontation in the seas around Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete last summer saw warships shadowing one another, leading to a collision between Turkish and Greek vessels on one occasion. As well as addressing tensions, Turkey hopes the talks will smooth relations with the EU and convince the new Biden administration of its reliability as an international partner.

Anger on Czech border as Germany demands virus tests: Long queues of cars formed at the Czech-German border on Monday as tighter restrictions for travel into Germany came into force. As the Czech Republic is now classed as high risk by Germany because of an elevated coronavirus infection rate, anyone arriving from there must show a negative coronavirus test result. In the case of people crossing the border into the German state of Bavaria, the test must have been taken within the past 48 hours – meaning that commuters will need to take a test every other day.

Serbia turns to China for vaccine relief: Serbia has set up some 200 coronavirus inoculation centres across the country. This has been made possible with international help — but not from the West. Beijing has sent a million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to Serbia. This inactivated vaccine (or killed vaccine) has several advantages: It is cheaper to produce and less perishable than the mRNA vaccines developed by BioNTech-Pfizer or Moderna. However, the Sinopharm vaccine has an efficacy of only 75% to 80%, according to reports from China, Bahrain, Brazil and Peru.

France probes violent Paris attack that left 15-year-old in a coma euronews.com
Spain: Record increase in new infections over the weekend reuters.com
Germany: Portugal classified as Covid mutation zone rtl.de
Hungary: Government orders disclaimers on books with gay content nbcnews.com


+++Digital Currencies Governance Group seeks Political Advisor in Economic Affairs (m/f/d)+++Greenpeace is seeking a EU Communications Officer (m/f/d)+++GIZ cherche un Conseiller/e (h/f/a): Renforcement des capacités de la Cour des Comptes en Côte d’Ivoire+++PensionsEurope seeks Policy Officer/Policy Adviser (m/f/d)  +++Center for Data Innovation seeks Senior Policy Analyst – AI Policy (m/f/d)+++Menthal Helath Europe seeks Advocacy and Policy Officer (m/f/d)+++
European Business Summits seeks Communications, Programme and Research Assistant (CIP) (m/f/d)+++Jobs at politjobs.eu +++ Don’t miss any jobs with the politjobs.eu job alert +++


Vaccine greed causes trillions in economic losses: The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has warned that the global economy could suffer trillions of dollars in losses if richer countries secure the majority of Covid-19 vaccines and developing countries go largely empty-handed for the time being. The ICC said vaccines not being distributed fairly around the world could reduce global economic output by up to 7.6 trillion euros this year alone, with about half of the losses occurring in industralised countries.


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