Friday, 3 April 2020: EU apologises to Italy, US bought out masks meant for France, Three EU member states broke law over refugee quotas

⊂ EUROPE ⊃

EU apologises to Italy: EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has apologised to Italy for a lack of solidarity from Europe in tackling the coronavirus crisis, but promised greater help in dealing with the economic fallout. “It must be recognised that in the early days of the crisis, in the face of the need for a common European response, too many have thought only of their own home problems,” von der Leyen wrote in Italy’s “La Repubblica” newspaper. This was harmful and could have been avoided, she wrote, adding: “Today, Europe is rallying to Italy’s side.” Von der Leyen told “La Repubblica” that the EU would allocate up to 100 billion euros to the hardest-hit countries, starting with Italy, to help cover the cost of lost wages and to preserve jobs. She stressed that the Commission wanted to make sure that every euro still available in the EU’s annual budget was spent on tackling the crisis, saying the next EU budget should take the form of a new “Marshall Plan” to stoke Europe’s recovery from the crisis.
ec.europa.eu, reuters.com, france24.com, nytimes.com

US bought out masks meant for France: Chinese protective masks bound for France were rerouted to the United States on the runway after Americans offered three or four times the price in cash, French officials have complained, amid a global battle for protective equipment. Jean Rottner, the head of France’s Grand Est region, said a ferocious tussle was taking place to bag the masks before they leave Chinese soil. “It’s complicated, we’re fighting 24 hours a day,” the official, a doctor, told a radio station. Rottner would not identify the buyers, but another French official also involved in procuring masks from China said the buyers were acting for the US government. “The icing on the cake, there is a foreign country that paid three times the price of the cargo on the tarmac,” said Renaud Muselier, the head of the south-eastern Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. A US administration official, however, said the US government had not purchased any masks intended for delivery from China to France.
telegraph.co.uk, theguardian.com, foxnews.com

EU chief concerned about Hungary’s virus emergency law: The EU Commission told Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban that emergency powers he has assumed to combat the coronavirus outbreak risked upending democracy and must be subject to proper parliamentary and media scrutiny. While saying EU countries may need extraordinary measures to tackle the pandemic, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen added: “I am concerned that certain measures go too far – and I’m particularly concerned with the situation in Hungary.” The Hungarian parliament, dominated by Orban’s ruling party, handed the prime minister the power to rule by decree until his government decides the virus crisis is over. As a result, thirteen of Europe’s centre-right political leaders have asked Donald Tusk, the leader of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) in the EU Parliament, to expel Orban’s Fidesz party from its ranks.
reuters.com, france24.com (Leyen); euractiv.com (EPP)

Three EU member states broke law over refugee quotas: The European Court of Justice has ruled that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic breached their obligations under EU law by refusing to take in refugees. Furthermore, Poland and the Czech Republic also failed to uphold a voluntary system previously set up to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers. The court rejected the legal argument that the three countries were entitled to disregard EU law in order to maintain public safety, law and order. None of the countries had proved it was necessary to invoke that opt-out clause in the EU treaties, the court concluded. The EU Commission is now entitled to embark on legal action to impose fines on the three member states. In the meantime, Greece has quarantined a migrant camp after 23 asylum seekers tested positive for the coronavirus. Greece has also started processing asylum applications again, following a temporary asylum stop.
euronews.com, theguardian.com, euractiv.com (Court); reuters.com, orf.at (Greece)

Amazon not liable for trademark breaches: Amazon cannot be held liable for unwittingly stocking items that infringe on trademarks, the European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday. The court’s decision followed a legal battle over the sale of bottles of unlicensed Davidoff perfume. The German arm of beauty company Coty – which owns the Davidoff brand – went to court in a bid to stop Amazon storing and delivering the unlicensed products. But the court decided that mere storage of trademark-infringing goods was not the same as trademark infringement itself. In a separate case, a court justice said EU consumers should be able to sue carmakers in their national courts if they have bought cars with emission cheat devices installed. The opinion raises the possibility that Volkswagen could face legal complaints from consumers across the EU. The court has also decided that European cities cracking down on short-term rentals of private homes like those on Airbnb have the right to vet such rentals to tackle the shortage of long-term housing.
telegraph.co.uk, bbc.com (Amazon); euractiv.com (Dieselgate); reuters.com (Airbnb)

Incident over Greek Aegean Sea: Turkish air force pursued Danish Frontex aircraft welt.de
Corona crisis: EU Commission probes coronavirus apps in Europe euractiv.com
European Central Bank: Strategy review delayed amid pandemic nytimes.com
ESM boss Regling: “The moment for solidarity in Europe is now” faz.net
Online platforms: EU under pressure to broker online terrorist content agreement euractiv.com
Yemen: UN seeks to continue peace talks nytimes.com

⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃

We expect a vaccine to be available on the market much sooner, possibly by autumn.
EU Research Commissioner Mariya Gabriel has raised hopes that a coronavirus vaccine could soon be available.
handelsblatt.com

⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃

Spain’s coronavirus deaths rise above 10,000: Spain’s death toll from the coronavirus rose above 10,000 on Thursday after a record 950 people died overnight, but health officials were encouraged by a slowdown in daily increases in infections and deaths. “There’s light at the end of the tunnel,” Health Minister Salvador Illa told parliament. Spain has been in lockdown since 14 March, and as of this week only employees in essential sectors are permitted to travel to and from work. Nursing homes, whose elderly residents are highly vulnerable to the disease, have been particularly hard hit. The unemployment figures in Spain are another sign of the dire impact the pandemic is having. Some 900,000 workers have lost their job since mid-March, with those on short-term contracts in tourism or construction among the hardest hit. Catalan Health Minister Alba Verges has requested help from the emergencies branch of the Spanish army to combat the pandemic.
reuters.com (Deaths); bbc.com, reuters.com (Unemployed); politico.eu (Catalonia)

French market to convert refrigerated hall to hold coffins: Europe’s largest food market will begin storing coffins holding the bodies of people who have died from the coronavirus, as France’s morticians struggle to keep up with the mounting death toll. The refrigerated hall of the wholesale food market Rungis, located in a southern suburb of Paris of the same name, has been taken over by city authorities to be used for this purpose, according to Paris police. At least 884 elderly people have died in nursing homes in France since the start of the epidemic, health chiefs reported on Thursday. It is the first time that figures for non-hospital deaths have been revealed. People in France can start using a digital pass to go outside for essential business starting Monday. At the moment, people are only allowed to go outside for good reason – for example to go shopping. A new paper form must be filled out each time someone leaves their home. France has extended its border controls, which were introduced long before the coronavirus outbreak, by another half a year.
dw.com (Food market), thelocal.fr (Deaths), finanzen.net (Digital pass), handelsblatt.com (Border controls)

Study suggests Italy death toll is higher than assumed: Italy’s daily death toll from coronavirus on Wednesday was the lowest for six days, authorities said, but the overall number of new infections grew and the government extended a national lockdown until at least the middle of April. The Civil Protection Agency said 727 people had died over the last 24 hours, bringing total fatalities to 13,155. In the hardest-hit area around the city of Bergamo, some 4,500 people died of coronavirus in March, according to data analysis firm InTwig, while only 2,060 were included in the data provided by the Civil Protection Agency. Most of the elderly victims died in their homes or in old peoples’ homes and, because they never made it to hospital, were never tested for the virus, according to the study based on data from doctors and overseen by a professor at Bergamo University. The city of Milan on Thursday shut its main crematorium for the rest of the month to deal with a surge of bodies that have accumulated in the course of the pandemic.
reuters.com, france24.com

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Ski resort Ischgl is source of Austria’s biggest coronavirus cluster: The Austrian ski resort of Ischgl and its surroundings are the source of the country’s biggest cluster of virus cases, involving more than 600 infections and possibly twice as many abroad, a public health official confirmed on Thursday. The Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety’s head of public health, Franz Allerberger, told a news conference that “patient zero” was a Swiss waitress at Kitzloch who brought the illness in from Switzerland and first had symptoms on 5 February.
reuters.com

Czech microbreweries call for beer paramedics amid lockdown hangover: Czechs are among the world’s biggest beer drinkers and a call has gone out for them to step up amid the coronavirus crisis. Hundreds of the country’s microbreweries face a bleak future after a nationwide shutdown of bars and restaurants began in mid-March. It has deprived the craft brewers of customers, starved them of revenue and left them with a stock of soon-to-expire beer. A website has been launched urging Czechs to order the discounted beer online and provide vital income for microbreweries.
euronews.com

Germany: African entrepreneurs hard hit by Germany’s coronavirus crisis dw.com
Poland: Government to allow postal votes in presidential election zeit.de
Belgium: Red Cross and health authorities launch large-scale test campaign for coronavirus antibodies n-tv.de
Portugal: Airports closed over Easter tagesschau.de
Romania: Doctors and nurses receive a bonus of 500 euros a month welt.de
Sweden: The country’s easy-going approach to the virus is slowly coming to an end zeit.de

⊂ 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 Parliament could be turned into a hospital: The European Parliament has offered the city of Brussels the use of one of its buildings, as well as its vehicles, to help in the fight against coronavirus. Officials said other options to provide help to Belgium are being studied. The parliament’s buildings are mostly empty after parliament president David Sassoli brought in measures to stop the spread of the virus, including banning visitors and sending most staff home.
politico.eu

 

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