Friday, 20 March 2020: EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Barnier tests positive for coronavirus, Italian army drafted in to help move corpses, Germany plans aid for freelancers and small companies

⊂ EUROPE ⊃

EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Barnier tests positive for coronavirus: The corona crisis has made the Brexit negotiations between the EU and Britain more difficult. Talks planned for this week have been postponed because of the outbreak, and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier announced Thursday that he has tested positive for the virus. Barnier had been leading the second phase of negotiations between the EU and the UK. European diplomats and officials say increasingly in private that they do not see how a Brexit agreement can be reached by the end of this year. The chair of the EU Parliament’s UK Coordination Group, David McAllister, called on Britain to extend the Brexit transition phase, saying Europe was ready to do so.
uk.reuters.com, faz.net, cnbc.com

European Parliament to roll out distance voting for MEPs: The EU Parliament will hold an extraordinary plenary session next Thursday to allow for implementation of special measures in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. Administrative staff at the parliament have been tasked with rolling out technology that will facilitate the remote participation of MEPs during the prolonged period of remote working brought on as a result of the outbreak. The EU’s Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative will make €37 billion of the Cohesion funds available to member states to address the consequences of the crisis. There is also a legislative proposal to extend the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund to cover public health emergencies. The parliament has scrapped its plenaries in Strasbourg in May, June and July because of coronavirus, and will replace them with shorter sessions in Brussels.
europarl.europa.eu, euractiv.com, politico.eu

Nato expects allies to maintain defence spending despite virus: Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has encouraged the alliance’s member countries to maintain their military spending despite the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic, suggesting that military can play a role in helping to mitigate the crisis. “We see that in many allied countries, the armed forces are providing support,” he said, citing logistics, border security, military hospitals and other medical support. Several European countries have used their armed forces to enforce checks after introducing border controls to restrict travel across the EU in an attempt to contain the outbreak. Nato is scaling down military exercises in Europe to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but alliance missions are continuing, including the drawdown of the US-led force in Afghanistan following a peace agreement last month.
euractiv.com, nytimes.com

EU plans stockpiling medical gear: The EU Commission decided Thursday to set up a stockpile of face masks, intensive care equipment and other essential medical gear to tackle shortages in Europe in the face of booming demand caused by the coronavirus crisis. The measure comes after EU countries failed for weeks to find a seller of face masks and goggles after they launched a joint procurement for these items at the beginning of March. The Commission will finance 90% of the stockpile. The Emergency Response Coordination Centre will manage the distribution of the equipment to ensure it goes where it is needed most. The initial EU budget of the stockpile is €50 million, of which €40 million is subject to the approval of the budgetary authorities.
reuters.com, ec.europa.eu

Netflix to reduce traffic on European networks: The streaming giant has agreed to lower the quality of its videos to help reduce internet congestion, following discussions between EU Commissioner Thierry Breton and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. Netflix said lowering the picture quality would reduce data consumption by 25%. But it said viewers would still find the picture quality good. Breton praised the prompt action by Netflix, saying it would preserve the smooth functioning of the internet during the corona crisis.
politico.eu, bbc.com

Employers accused of abusing EU data privacy rules to hinder trade unions: The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation GDPR is being misused by employers across Europe to deny trade unions access to information required to recruit and organise workers, a study by the European Trade Union Confederation has found. The survey highlights the plight of workforce collectives to mobilise by reaching out to employees digitally and attempt to campaign for better working conditions and fair remuneration.
euractiv.com

Returning home because of coronavirus: EU pledges to help stranded citizens krone.at
Chinese doctors: Europe’s doctors are repeating errors made in Wuhan bloomberg.com
EU Commission corrects figures: Fewer refugee children in the Aegean Sea zdf.de

⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃

The reactions of countries are not addressing the global scale and complexity of the crisis.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Thursday that a global recession is a near certainty.
reuters.com

⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃

Italian army drafted in to help move corpses: Italy’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak eclipsed China’s on Thursday. The country recorded a total of at least 3,405 deaths, or roughly 150 more than in China, a country with a population over 20 times larger. The army was brought into Italy’s worst affected city to remove dozens of coffins piling up in churches or filling morgues beyond capacity. A column of military vehicles was seen snaking through the streets of northern city of Bergamo to collect around 60 coffins to be transferred to central Italy for cremation. “I want to appeal to the sense of responsibility of all citizens,” Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese told daily “La Repubblica”. “Stay at home, go out only if there is a strict necessity to do so.” The small Italian town of Vo, where the first coronavirus death occurred in the country, has become a case study that demonstrates how scientists might neutralise the spread of the virus. The town tested all of its 3,300 inhabitants, including asymptomatic people. On the second round of testing, the number of positive results dropped significantly to 0.3%.
apnews.com, independent.co.uk, bloomberg.com, theguardian.com, independent.co.uk, ft.com

German army on standby to help with coronavirus crisis: The German military is making preparations to help tackle the crisis should other civil servants become overwhelmed with the outbreak, Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced Thursday. The military has already contacted hundreds of medical reservists and will be able to protect critical infrastructure and distribute medical equipment, medicines and masks should this become necessary. It could also assist with setting up makeshift hospitals with intensive-care beds and open its own medical centres, where 60-70% of patients currently are civilian, to members of the public needing medical attention after contracting the virus.
reuters.com, ft.com

Germany plans aid for freelancers and small companies: The government is planning a massive bailout programme for individual freelancers and small companies with up to yen employees that have been hard-hit by the coronavirus crisis, according to the “Spiegel” newspaper. The programme could amount to a total of 40 billion euros. Ten billion would be given as direct grants to ailing one-person operations and small businesses. The remaining 30 billion would be given in the form of loans. The programme is needed because freelancers and the smallest businesses are unlikely to be able to tap the financial aid presented by the government last week. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz wants to organise a special government fund that the self-employed can turn to for loans.
spiegel.de

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Belgium forms government amid health crisis: Belgium has finally found a new government with one and unique specific task: to deal with the coronavirus. The new emergency government will be led by Sophie Wilmes – who took over as caretaker prime minister at the end of October last year – and will have special powers to cope with the virus.
euronews.com

Portugal shuts down to tackle coronavirus: The Portuguese government on Thursday announced new measures to fight the pandemic, calling for all non-essential activity outdoors to be avoided and shutting down most shops. Prime Minister Antonio Costa requested that everyone stay at home and only go outside in case of an emergency or to go to grocery stores, pharmacies or to walk their pets. All other shops should be closed and restaurants should only provide takeaway. Mandatory isolation is imposed for people who are sick or are being monitored by health authorities. Companies and civil servants should organise teleworking to perform their jobs at home if possible.
politico.eu

Spain: In Madrid, 80% of people expected to get coronavirus, official says cnn.com
France: President Macron says coronavirus vaccine not before end of 2021 politico.eu
Austria: Penalties of up to 3,600 euros for those who break curfew de.euronews.com
Sweden: Criticism of apres ski parties – concern about corona spread spiegel.de
Poland: Traffic chaos at German-Polish border dw.com

⊂ 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 ⊃

Dutch PM tells citizens to stop worrying about toilet paper: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has offered reassurances amid the global coronavirus outbreak, telling citizens on Thursday that there was no shortage of toilet paper. “Yes, I have enough,” Rutte told a shopper in an informal exchange while visiting a supermarket to show support for workers. “There’s enough in the whole country for the coming ten years. We can all poop for ten years.”
reuters.com

 

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