⊂ EUROPE ⊃
International help for India amid deadly Covid wave: India has seen a massive surge in Covid-19 cases in recent days, with hospitals turning away patients after running out of medical oxygen and beds. On Sunday, India recorded a new daily high of 349,691 coronavirus cases and 2,767 deaths, the worst toll since the start of the pandemic. India’s health services are struggling to cope with the outbreak. The European Commission has activated its EU Civil Protection Mechanism and is seeking to send oxygen and medicine to India after receiving a request from Delhi. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she was alarmed by the situation in India. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday that her government was also preparing emergency aid. The German Defence Ministry is assessing the possibility of providing a mobile oxygen generator and other medical equipment. The UK, meanwhile, has said it was sending more than 600 pieces of medical equipment to India, including ventilators and oxygen concentrators.
dw.com, politico.eu, reuters.com
Czech prime minister under fire after Commission audit published: The European Commission has confirmed its conflict-of-interest charges against Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis‘ business empire. On Friday, the Commission published the final results of a years-long audit process of EU subsidies granted to the Agrofert agricultural conglomerate that Babis founded. It concluded that Babis remains the owner of the company and could potentially influence the distribution of EU subsidies for his own benefit. His company must repay an estimated €11 million, the sum of the EU subsidies it has received since February 2017, when his assets were put into two trust funds.
EU confident of herd immunity by summer: European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton told Greek weekly newspaper „To Vima“ on Sunday that the EU would be able to produce enough Covid-19 vaccines to achieve herd immunity of the EU’s adult population by the middle of July. „We are confident that we will be able to produce a sufficient number of vaccines to achieve the goal of collective immunity, which means that 70% of the adult population would have been vaccinated by mid-July,“ Breton said. According to the Commissioner, more than 400 million doses were expected to be distributed in the second quarter.
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EU blames China for endangering peace in South China Sea: The European Union called out China on Saturday for endangering peace in the South China Sea. It highlighted a 2016 international arbitration that had ruled in favour of the Philippines while invalidating most of China’s claims in the South China Sea. The EU, which last week released a new policy aimed at stepping up its influence in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China’s rising power, urged all parties to abide by the 2016 tribunal ruling.
Ban facial recognition in Europe, says EU privacy watchdog: Facial recognition should be banned in Europe because of its non-democratic intrusion into people’s private lives, EU privacy watchdog the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) said on Friday. The comments come two days after the European Commission proposed draft rules that would allow facial recognition to be used to search for missing children or criminals and in cases of terrorist attacks. The privacy watchdog said it regretted that the Commission had not heeded its earlier call to ban facial recognition in public spaces.
Digital proof of vaccination: EU countries agree on technical details heise.de
EU Trade Policy Day 2021: Presentation of new EU trade strategy this Monday boersennews.de
European cloud project Gaia-X: Data protectionists fear access by US authorities handelsblatt.com
Dead migrants in the Mediterranean: Rescue groups and Pope decry inaction by Italy and Libya as 130 die at sea euronews.com
⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃
„As much as one would wish there were less burdensome ways to break and reverse the third wave – they don’t exist.“
German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended tough new coronavirus restrictions in a video address on Saturday, urging German citizens to do what is necessary to slow the Covid pandemic.
⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃
Biden recognises Armenian genocide, Turkey summons US ambassador: US President Joe Biden on Saturday officially recognised the Armenian genocide, fulfilling a campaign promise and taking a step that his recent predecessors have avoided while in office. “The American people honour all those Armenians who perished in the genocide,” Biden said in a statement. Turkey’s foreign ministry denounced Biden’s statement and summoned the US ambassador in Ankara. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted that Turkey would not take lessons from anyone on its own history. Turkey maintains the number of those who died between 1915 and 1923 is inflated and denies the characterisation of the events as genocide. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has hailed Biden’s move. The decision comes among continuing tensions in the region. Pashinyan announced Sunday that he was resigning to clear the way for new parliamentary elections. He has been facing calls for months to step down over defeat in last year’s war with Azerbaijan.
politico.eu, euronews.com, france24.com, politico.eu
Thousands protest decision not to try Jewish woman’s killer: Crowds gathered in Paris and other French cities on Sunday to denounce a ruling by France’s highest court that the killer of a Jewish woman, Sarah Halimi, was declared unfit to stand trial because he was judged to have suffered a psychotic episode caused by cannabis use. French courts have recognised the killing as an antisemitic crime but declared that the killer, currently in a psychiatric hospital, could not be tried as he was in the grip of a drug-induced “delusional fit” and not in control of his actions. Under French law, people cannot be held criminally responsible for actions committed while experiencing a loss of judgment or self-control due to a psychiatric disorder. President Emmanuel Macron has called for a change in French law to address this issue. Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti tweeted on Sunday that he will present a bill in May to plug a legal vacuum in French law regarding the consequences of the voluntary use of drugs. Meanwhile, an anti-terrorism investigation has been launched in France after a female police officer was killed Friday in a knife attack at a police station in a Paris suburb.
euronews.com, theguardian.com, cnn.com
Italy reaches deal with EU on recovery plan: Italy has reached a deal with the European Commission over its Recovery Plan, Prime Minister Mario Draghi told the cabinet late on Saturday, paving the way for it to be submitted to Brussels by the end of April. Italy plans to spend more than €220 billion from EU and national funds to revive its coronavirus-battered economy. The Next Generation EU package of grants and loans will provide €191.5 billion for the recovery plan, making Italy the biggest beneficiary of the EU fund. Italy will borrow directly on the markets to raise a further €30.6 billion for complementary projects that don’t fit neatly into the European Commission’s criteria. Italy’s parliament will scrutinise the plan this week, ahead of a 30 April deadline to submit it to the EU Commission. The plan aims to address Italy’s long-standing structural weaknesses and lists investments under six headings: ecological transition, digitalisation, infrastructure, education and research, social inclusion and health.
Czech president criticises Russia: Czech President Milos Zeman said his country shouldn’t be quick to punish Russia, a week after the government sparked a row with Moscow by saying it suspected that two Russian spies accused of a nerve agent poisoning in Britain in 2018 were also behind a 2014 ammunition dump explosion in the Czech Republic that killed two people. Zeman said there were two theories: The first was that there was an explosion resulting from inexpert handling of explosives, and the second that it was an operation of a foreign intelligence service. „I hope that we will determine the truth and find out whether this suspicion [of Russian intelligence involvement] is justified,“ Zeman said. „If that is the case – although I support fair relations with all important countries – the Russian Federation would have to pay the price of this presumed terrorist act.“ If the police probe confirms the sabotage, the consequences could include barring Russia’s Rosatom Corp from a planned $7 billion tender for a new nuclear reactor, he said.
bloomberg.com, reuters.com, rferl.org
Albanian Socialists narrowly ahead according to exit polls: Albania’s ruling Socialist Party (PS) was projected to narrowly win the parliamentary election with 46.9% of the vote, according to an exit poll published Sunday evening. The Top Channel poll predicted that the opposition Democratic Party (PD) was expected to come second with 43.5% of the vote, while the Socialist Integration Movement would come third with 6.9% of the vote. Sunday’s election took place after a bitter campaign and violence between rival supporters, due to frustration with the politics and economy of the country, which is hoping to launch full membership talks with the EU later this year.
Germany offers Greece contribution to refugee costs zeit.de
Italy is lifting further Covid restrictions this Monday tagesspiegel.de
Slovakia to extend state of emergency tagesschau.de
Germany debates freedoms for the vaccinated dw.com
Belarus: President Lukashenko wants to position son as successor rp-online.de
⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃
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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃
Giraffes rescued from sinking island: Longicharo Island in Kenya’s Rift Valley is sinking due to rising water levels, making survival for the group of giraffes that once lived here impossible. The giraffes, originally from the mainland, were transported to Longicharo Island ten years ago as part of a conservation project to expand the species into a wider area. Kenya currently has a population of around 800 Rothschild’s giraffes whose existence is mainly threatened by loss of habitat, predation and poaching.