⊂ EUROPE ⊃
Von der Leyen criticises lack of EU solidarity in coronavirus crisis: EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has criticised the lack of solidarity between member states facing the coronavirus outbreak. She especially pointed to EU member countries failing to co-ordinate their initial response to the outbreak, particularly with regard to sharing medical supplies. “When Europe really needed to be there for each other, too many initially looked out for themselves,” von der Leyen said during a debate in the EU Parliament about the bloc’s response to the crisis. Although she didn’t name specific countries, von der Leyen’s comments were a clear reference to Germany, France and other countries that took steps to limit exports of masks and other personal protective equipment to other EU countries. Von der Leyen also told European countries that it made no sense to shut borders in a borderless crisis. The EU Commission has taken extraordinary measures, von der Leyen said. “Since then things are improving.” EU Parliament President David Sassoli asked EU member states to allow joint debts in the corona crisis. He said whether the instrument bears the name “bonds” was secondary, it was simply important that countries had the necessary funds to fight the crisis.
politico.eu, euobserver.com (Leyen); nau.ch (Sassoli)
G20 leaders pledge $5tn in response to corona crisis: Leaders of the Group of 20 major economies pledged on Thursday to inject over $5 trillion into the global economy to limit job and income losses from the coronavirus and do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic. Emergency measures aimed at protecting health will be targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary, G20 leaders said during a video call. They also expressed concern about the risks to fragile countries, notably in Africa, and populations like refugees, acknowledging the need to bolster global financial safety nets and national health systems. G20 leaders, whose countries account for 80% of the world’s GDP, have been criticised for failing to produce a quick response to the pandemic of the quality of that in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash. During the G20 video-summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed a moratorium on sanctions related to essential goods.
reuters.com, theguardian.com, nytimes.com
EU to launch new Libya sea patrols: EU nations reached an agreement on Thursday to launch a naval mission in the Mediterranean Sea to enforce a UN-mandated arms embargo on Libya. The new operation “Irini” will replace the EU’s current military mission “Operation Sophia”, which stopped deploying ships a year ago. The operation was discontinued as countries such as Austria and Italy argued that it acted as a pull factor for asylum seekers, encouraging migrants attempting to reach Europe via Libya to set out to sea in the hope of being rescued. With hundreds of thousands making the perilous crossing from North Africa each year and thousands dying at sea, EU ships are required under international law to rescue those in trouble. The breakthrough for the launch of operation “Irini” came after Greece offered its ports as disembarkation points for migrants saved at sea by the mission’s warships. The EU also agreed that the ships would not be deployed in the central Mediterranean, but much further east, far from the migrants’ route in the Mediterranean.
bloomberg.com, reuters.com, tagesspiegel.de
Top EU court rejects file by Polish judges over judicial reforms: The European Court of Justice on Thursday rejected a complaint by Polish judges on the legality of judicial reforms in the country. The court ruled that the question of whether the new Polish disciplinary code for judges is compatible with the right to effective judicial protection was currently not a case for the highest EU court. The European court’s ruling addresses changes introduced by Poland’s conservative government in 2017 concerning how judges are punished. Two judges feared rulings they were about to make could lead to disciplinary proceedings against them.
ECB ends limits on its bond-buying plan: The European Central Bank ECB has given itself an unprecedented level of flexibility in its plan to buy €750 billion in additional bonds to contain the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Almost all constraints that applied to the ECB’s previous asset-purchase programmes have been removed or significantly loosened, according to the legal decision detailing the ECB’s latest plan. The document paves the way for the ECB to hold more than a third of any one country’s debt – a level that it is close to reaching with benchmark bond issuer Germany and some smaller countries including Portugal. It will also allow the ECB to focus its stimulus where it is most needed and extend it for as long as it wants without resorting to its emergency bond purchases.
Pandemic’s economic consequences: EU countries want to develop new model for a common rescue package faz.net
Privacy activists: Coronavirus surveillance either ineffective or questionable euractiv.com
Greek refugee camps: EU Interior Commissioner Johansson hopes migrants will be relocated soon faz.net
Iran: Government is said to have covered up thousands of corona cases spiegel.de
Consumer rights: European Court of Justice confirms revocation of loans faz.net
Venezuela: Leader Maduro is charged in the US with drug trafficking nytimes.com
⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃
“As long as the virus continues to rage, there is no alternative to protecting people.”
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has rejected loosening coronavirus restrictions for economic reasons.
⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃
Italian scientists investigate possible earlier emergence of coronavirus: Researchers in Italy are looking at whether a higher than usual number of cases of severe pneumonia and flu in Lombardy in the last quarter of 2019 may be a signal that the virus might have spread beyond China earlier than previously thought. Adriano Decarli, an epidemiologist at the University of Milan, said there had been a significant increase in the number of people hospitalised for pneumonia and flu in the areas of Milan and Lodi between October and December last year. The number of coronavirus cases reached a half-million worldwide on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers. Italy reported the most infections in the last five days, with 8,215 deaths from the virus and 80,539 confirmed cases. An increasing number of politicians and government officials are starting to doubt the statistics, saying that the official infection and death rates are likely much higher than reported. Italian trade unions have been pressing the government to revise a list of industries allowed to remain open, amid mounting concerns over workers’ health and safety. German hospitals with spare capacity will take in at least 47 coronavirus patients from Italy in a sign of European solidarity.
reuters.com (Decarli); nypost.com, bloomberg.com, bbc.com, welt.de (Infection rates); dw.com (Unions); reuters.com (Germany)
Spain apparently received faulty test kits from China: Spanish health officials have recommended that physicians stop all use of rapid response coronavirus test kits after a batch bought from China failed to identify contagious people. Test kits from the Chinese firm Bioeasy presented a sensitivity of 30%, meaning that only 30% of those who have coronavirus tested positive for it. The Chinese embassy in Spain distanced itself from Bioeasy after the announcement was made. Chinese officials said they did not recommend Bioeasy products to Spain and noted that China’s National Administration of Medical Products had not approved the company for sales. Spain extended its coronavirus lockdown on Thursday and said it was fighting a real war over medical supplies to contain the spread of the virus. Spanish hospitals are being forced to make agonising life-or-death decisions about who gets admitted as corona cases overwhelm the country’s health care system.
washingtonexaminer.com, reuters.com, nypost.com
Corona emergency in French region of Alsace: Employees of the German Institute for Disaster Medicine have written an alarming report about the situation in the French coronavirus epicentre. According to the report, patients older than 80 years are no longer being ventilated. Instead, doctors in Alsace are providing care for the dying with opiates and sleeping pills. French health authorities reported 365 new deaths from coronavirus on Thursday, taking the total to 1,696. French police are threatening to stop enforcing lockdown measures unless they are given more protective equipment.
faz.net, reuters.com, thelocal.fr
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Romanian health minister resigns as corona outbreak advances: Romanian Health Minister Victor Costache has resigned and will be replaced by his deputy Nelu Tataru, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban announced on Thursday. Costache had prompted an uproar on Wednesday by saying the ministry plans to test the entire population of Bucharest, more than 2 million people, for the virus. The country as a whole has only tested about 12,000 people so far. Years of underfunding have left Romania’s health-care system among the most exposed to the virus.
Norway’s sovereign wealth fund loses more than 100 billion due to corona: Norway’s sovereign wealth fund has lost $124 billion this year as stock markets tanked due to the coronavirus pandemic. The wealth fund is worth $930 billion – though that is down from $1.17 trillion in early February, before stock markets fell. Its investment portfolio dropped 16.2%, all but erasing the 20% gains made last year, while its stock market portfolio – its main asset class – has lost 22.8% of its value, it said.
Czech Republic: Shipment of protective suits to Italy and Spain stol.it
Portugal: Sharp increase in coronavirus deaths focus.de
Hungary: Foreign Minister Szijjarto calls for better protection of EU’s external borders against illegal migrants handelsblatt.com
Bulgaria: Prime Minister Borisov proposes to take over EU truck cargo and drive it to Turkey euractiv.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 ⊃
EU demands access to Donbas for international organisations during coronavirus restrictions: Russian-backed armed formations in the breakaway Donbas region are denying access to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s mission monitoring the conflict, Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service reported on Tuesday. The border guard service said that the militias have also turned back 29 individuals of the 429 let through by the Ukrainian forces to the so-called “grey zone” between the checkpoints, although some of them have permanent residence in the war-torn eastern territories.