⊂ EUROPE ⊃
Scottish independence referendum could take place as early as 2022: The Scottish National Party (SNP) is promising to hold a second independence referendum after election results announced Saturday saw pro-independence candidates gain a majority in the Scottish parliament. In her victory speech, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her SNP, which wants to break away from the UK, had delivered a historic and extraordinary win after finishing with 64 seats in the Scottish parliament, one short of a majority. Sturgeon said the results of the Scottish election have delivered a mandate for an independence referendum within the next five years, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would be standing in direct opposition to the will of the Scottish people if he tried to block it. Sturgeon also told Andrew Marr she wouldn’t rule out bringing forward a referendum by spring next year. Johnson invited the leaders of the devolved nations to a summit on how „Team UK“ can recover from the pandemic.
cnn.com, thenational.scot, independent.co.uk, bbc.com
Launch of the Conference on the Future of Europe: French President Emmanuel Macron and European Union leaders kicked off the Conference on the Future of Europe on Europe Day, an annual event to celebrate the unity of the 27-nation bloc. The French president set the tone for the conference, which includes a consultation with EU citizens, by lauding the European model and calling for a unified response to the ongoing pandemic, a year before the next presidential election in France. The executive board will soon set the date for the first conference plenary meeting. Preparations for the citizens’ panels are underway, while the number of participants and events on the conference’s multilingual digital platform continue to grow. The conference is committed to giving maximum space to young people and in this vein, preparations for the European Youth Event organised by the European Parliament in October also continue.
EU rejects US call to waive intellectual property rights for Covid vaccines: EU leaders pushed back against US President Joe Biden’s call to waive intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, saying exporting more shots would be a faster way to help poor countries struggling to contain the coronavirus. At a summit in Portugal, a series of European leaders, including those who had previously appeared open to suspending intellectual property rights, said Biden’s idea was not a priority and expressed frustration at the US president’s attempt to claim the moral high ground. “We don’t think in the short term that it’s the magic bullet,” European Council President Charles Michel said of the proposal to lift patent protections, which could enable companies in developing countries and others to manufacture their own versions of Covid-19 vaccines. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also rejected the idea of waiving Covid vaccine patents. She said a waiver wouldn’t make more vaccine doses available and countries should protect the power of innovation and patent protections.
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EU hasn’t placed any new AstraZeneca orders: The European Union has not yet placed any new orders for AstraZeneca vaccines beyond June when the current contract ends, European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said on Sunday. But he also reassured that the bloc was not closing the door to the British-Swedish firm. „We will have other orders,“ he said. Two weeks ago, the EU said it launched legal action against AstraZeneca for reportedly failing to respect the terms of its contract with the bloc.
EU, India try again to clinch trade deal, sidelining China: The EU and India agreed Saturday to restart negotiations on a bilateral free trade deal, eight years after their first attempt failed and as both sides seek alternatives to China. Speaking at a press conference after closed-door talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, senior EU officials were thrilled by the prospect of closer ties with India. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called it a landmark moment. European Council President Charles Michel said Saturday’s agreement marked a new, important chapter in bilateral relations.
Fight against money laundering: EU Commission wants to ban cash payments over 10,000 euros handelsblatt.com
Green passes to boost tourism on track for June, says EU Commission President von der Leyen politico.eu
Israel: Many injured on second night of clashes in Jerusalem bbc.com
Afghanistan: Bombing near Kabul school kills at least 50 npr.org
⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃
„I say on the contrary, it is the European model that has proven itself in this crisis.“
French President Emmanuel Macron has defended the „European model“ and called for a unified response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃
Spain rings in end of coronavirus curbs with boisterous street parties: With Covid-19 infection rates stabilising and progress in the vaccination drive, most of Spain’s 17 regions are able to relax coronavirus restrictions. Spaniards took to the streets during the early hours of Sunday morning to celebrate the end of 202 days of nationwide coronavirus restrictions. Videos on social media showed groups of people drinking and singing in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, and in Seville local media reported that boisterous crowds broke out into a rendition of “Bella Ciao” as the restrictions expired at midnight. In Barcelona, police had to move people on after the last curfew began at 10 pm but let them back at midnight when it ended for good. Revelers headed to the beach with drinks in hand.
Vaccinated Germans enjoy new freedoms: German residents who are considered fully immune to the coronavirus will no longer be subject to nightly curfews and restrictions on meeting people starting Sunday. The fully immune also won’t need to show proof they tested negative to enter shops and be in quarantine after travel, except in specific cases — for example, if they enter from an area where a variant of the virus is rampant. However, they will still be required to adhere to social distancing measures, including wearing masks in shops and on public transport.
German Greens to oust mayor over racist comments: Leaders of Germany’s Greens voted on Saturday to exclude the mayor of Tübingen, Boris Palmer, from the party over his racist remarks in a social media post about a Black soccer player. Palmer, who has come under fire before for his comments on migrants and minorities, called former German player Dennis Aogo a „bad racist“ in a Facebook post on Thursday, and used a racial slur. His post angered members of his party: „The comments by Boris Palmer are racist and repulsive,“ Annalena Baerbock, the Green’s candidate for chancellor tweeted. She said the mayor repeated provocations, which exclude and hurt people, thereby losing the Green’s support.
Over 1,000 migrants brought ashore on Lampedusa: Several boats carrying an estimated 1,200 people were intercepted in the vicinity of the Italian island of Lampedusa on Sunday, Italian media reported. The small island, situated to the south of Malta and far closer to the Tunisian and Libyan coasts than the rest of Italy, is one of the main landing points for migrants and refugees making their way to Europe.
France: Tens of thousands protest against climate law dpa-international.com
Switzerland: Most Swiss still back treaty deal with EU, poll shows reuters.com
Italy plans to lift quarantine restrictions for some travellers from mid-May reuters.com
Belgium: Large festivals likely to be allowed during the second half of summer brusselstimes.com
Spain: Court prohibits further night curfew on the Canary Islands handelsblatt.com
⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃
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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃
Doctor who treated Navalny goes missing: Alexander Murakhovsky, the doctor who first treated Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny after he collapsed on a flight in Russia last year, has disappeared, Russian police said on Sunday. The physician was last seen leaving a hunting base in a forest in the Omsk region in an all-terrain vehicle on Friday, police said. A search effort was already underway including emergency services, drones, a helicopter and volunteers on the ground.