Thursday, 1 April 2021: Campaigners criticise government report that says Britain is a model for racial equality, EU takes Poland to court over law undermining judges, Spy scandal in Italy

⊂ UNITED KINGDOM ⊃

Campaigners criticise government report that says Britain is a model for racial equality: A government-commissioned report which found that the UK no longer had a system rigged against minorities has been accused of ignoring black and ethnic minority people’s concerns. The report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities was ordered by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government after widespread Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests last summer, triggered by the death of George Floyd in police custody in the US. Published in full on Wednesday after selective leaks to the media earlier in the week, the report marks a significant shift in government policy, stating its findings present a new race agenda for the country. “Put simply we no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities,” Tony Sewell, the commission’s chairman, said in a foreword to the report. The commission said family structure and social class had a bigger impact than race on how people’s lives turned out. Labour accused the government of downplaying institutional racism, and campaigners said the report laid the blame for inequality on individuals and families. Shadow equalities minister Marsha De Cordova also hit out at the report, saying the government must explain why a passage “which glorifies the slave trade” was published.
bbc.com, reuters.com, independent.co.uk, theguardian.com

Vaccine passports un-British, Keir Starmer suggests: The use of so-called vaccine passports – to gain access to places such as pubs – could be against the „British instinct“, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said. A government review is looking at whether a certification system could help to reopen the economy in England. In an interview with the „Daily Telegraph“, the Labour leader said there could be public opposition to them if the coronavirus is brought under control. He added it would be unfair of the government to leave it to pub landlords to decide if they should make such health enquiries, potentially causing people to feel ostracised.
bbc.com, independent.co.uk

BBC China correspondent moves to Taiwan after threats: The BBC’s Beijing correspondent John Sudworth has left China and moved to Taiwan following pressure and threats from the Chinese authorities. Sudworth’s move to Taiwan comes as Beijing repeatedly expresses frustration with BBC reporting on the Chinese region of Xinjiang, where authorities are accused of carrying out human rights abuses on Uyghur and other ethnic Muslim minorities. China’s foreign ministry said Sudworth did not inform relevant authorities before leaving the Chinese mainland. Spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters during a regular briefing that Sudworth could be facing lawsuits in Xinjiang over his reporting.
bbc.com, cnn.com

Schools: Ofsted to lead urgent inquiry into schools‘ response to sexual abuse theguardian.com
David Cameron and Greensill: What’s it all about? bbc.com
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak admits he argued against September lockdown aimed at stopping second wave independent.co.uk

⊂ POLITJOBS UNITED KINGDOM ⊃

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⊂ EUROPE ⊃

EU regulator sees no evidence to support restriction of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine: The European Medicines Agency EMA said Wednesday that there was no evidence that would support restricting the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in any population in the wake of Germany and France limiting the jab to older populations after concerns about blood clotting incidents. The EMA’s executive director, Emer Cooke, said that in the ongoing review of the cases, experts have advised the regulator that they haven’t been able to identify any specific risk factors for these rare events, such as age, gender or previous medical history of clotting disorders. A further recommendation is expected following a meeting of the EMA’s safety committee on 6-9 April. The EU Commission is planning on having vaccinated 70% of adults against Covid-19 by the end of summer – but most countries are currently a long way from that target. Spain expects digital vaccine certificates to ease travel within the EU will be ready in June at the latest, foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said on Wednesday.
politico.eu, tagesschau.de, reuters.com

EU takes Poland to court over law undermining judges: The European Commission is taking Poland to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over changes to its legal system that it argues undermines judicial independence. At issue is the Polish law affecting the judiciary that came into force in February last year. It prevents judges from referring questions of law to the ECJ. It also created a body that rules on judges‘ independence without regard to EU law. The Commission had previously warned Poland that it might go to the ECJ if the government did not take action to fix the problems with the Polish law on judicial power. “Polish judges are also European judges; they apply EU law and contribute to the mutual trust on which Europe is built,” European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova said in a statement. “National governments are free to reform the judiciary, but while doing so they have to respect the EU treaties,” she said. The Polish government said the Commission’s lawsuit had no legal or factual justification.
dw.com, euractiv.com, reuters.com

Suez Canal blockage could cause months of disruption at European ports: The six-day blockage in the Suez Canal could cause disruptions for months, according to Europe’s second busiest port. Lennart Verstappen, the Port of Antwerp Authority spokesman, has warned that the effects of the Ever Given fiasco could last for weeks, if not months, and they won’t know the extent until the delayed vessels get here.
euronews.com

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Niger says it has foiled coup attempt: A military unit made a failed coup attempt in Niger’s capital Niamey on Wednesday, a government spokesman said, coming just two days before the country’s first ever democratic transition of power. The assailants, from a nearby air base, fled after the presidential guard met their attack with heavy shelling and gunfire, three security sources said, requesting anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to media. The government claimed the security situation was under control, with several arrests having been made. President-elect Mohamed Bazoum is due to be sworn in on Friday — taking over from President Mahamane Ousmane, who disputed the election results.
dw.com, cnbc.com

Germany urges citizens to leave Myanmar: Germany has advised its citizens to leave Myanmar due to „an unpredictable security situation“ amid growing violence following the 1 February military coup that removed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. A lawyer for Suu Kyi said her client appeared in good health during a video meeting on Wednesday, during which only the case against her was discussed. The junta has leveled a range of charges against Suu Kyi, including violations of import-export, telecommunication and disaster management laws, as well as accusations of incitement. A German company that supplies products to make Myanmar bank notes has suspended deliveries.
dw.com, reuters.com, news.yahoo.com

Navalny on hunger strike: Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said Wednesday he has started a hunger strike to protest authorities’ failure to provide proper treatment for his back and leg pains. Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken domestic opponent, was arrested in January upon his return from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Navalny said the August poisoning made him wonder about the cause of his current ailments. He said he had no choice but to start a hunger strike because his physical condition has worsened, with back pains having spread to his right leg and numbness in his left leg.
apnews.com

Budapest: Hungary’s Prime Minister Orban, Poland’s Prime Minister Morawiecki and Lega party leader Salvini to form political alliance euractiv.com
EU Parliament unsatisfied: 5.4 billion euros to deal with the economic consequences of Brexit handelsblatt.com
Escape from Libya: EU naval mission “Irini” is not rescuing any migrants spiegel.de
Climate: „Fridays for Future“ calls for realignment of EU agricultural reform zeit.de
European Central Bank is not on top when it comes to “green” monetary policy faz.net
European Space Agency: Calling all astronaut hopefuls: ESA is hiring dw.com

⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃

For many people the real consequences of the referendum are only now starting to sink in.
The EU’s former Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said on Wednesday the reality of Britain’s decision to leave the EU was only now being felt, years after the British 2016 referendum on membership.
reuters.com

⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃

Spy scandal in Italy: Police in Italy have detained an Italian navy officer and a Russian diplomat who are accused of serious crimes tied to spying and state security. The pair were caught swapping confidential documents in exchange for money during a clandestine meeting in Rome on Tuesday night. Later on Wednesday, Italy ordered the expulsion of two Russian officials in connection with the spy scandal. Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio summoned the Russian ambassador and told the Italian Senate the alleged exchange is „a hostile act of extreme gravity“. He did not elaborate on the alleged role of the second Russian in the incident. The Russian Embassy in Rome confirmed the detention of a diplomat stationed in the military attaché’s office, adding only, „we hope it will not affect bilateral ties.“ If proven, this would be the latest of several recent incidents of Russian spying in Europe.
dw.com, npr.org

Court orders Belgium to end coronavirus measures: A Belgian court has ordered the federal government to end all its coronavirus measures within 30 days because it failed to establish a proper legal basis for them, local media reported on Wednesday. The Brussels court of first instance gave the government 30 days to retract the measures, Le Soir reported, or else face penalties. The federal government has said it will appeal the decision. A court in the Czech Republic has overturned a coronavirus testing requirement for people entering the country.
politico.eu (Belgium), au.news.yahoo.com (Czech Republic)

Lockdown extended across whole of France: A partial lockdown already in place in Paris will be extended across the whole of France, President Emmanuel Macron has announced, with schools to close and travel restrictions imposed. In a televised address on Wednesday night, in which he warned that the epidemic was accelerating, Macron announced colleges, schools, nurseries and creches will be closed for three weeks. The curfew running from 7pm to 6am remains in place. A debate is scheduled in parliament Thursday that will address the virus situation and the new measures. In Austria, two provinces that are introducing a coronavirus lockdown over Easter along with Vienna will follow the Austrian capital in extending their restrictions by five days until 11 April. Sweden is extending restrictions on movement across the country in an effort to fight the latest increase in coronavirus infection rates. The Finnish government is holding talks about how to restrict the spread of Covid, Prime Minister Sanna Marin tweeted on Wednesday.
euronews.com (France), reuters.com (Austria), bloomberg.com (Sweden), reuters.com (Finland)

Italy makes Covid vaccine mandatory for all health workers: All health workers in Italy, including pharmacists, must have coronavirus jabs, the government said on Wednesday. Those who refuse could be suspended without pay for the rest of the year. The decree also introduces legal protection for those who administer the shots, a measure doctors and nurses had demanded after medics were placed under investigation for manslaughter following the death of a vaccinated man in Sicily.
reuters.com

Speed not scale key to EU recovery plans: ECB’s Villeroy: The speed with which European governments can get their shared EU recovery plan off the ground is now more important than its size, ECB policymaker Francois Villeroy de Galhau said on Wednesday. “Speed, once more, is our collective handicap. Governments now need to implement the recovery plan to which they have agreed and they need to do so urgently,” he added.
reuters.com

Sweden’s former prime minister Carl Bildt appointed WHO Special Envoy who.int
Germany: Official calls for construction moratorium on Baltic Sea gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 to repair US relations politico.eu
Romania: Agri co-operatives only way to help ailing small farms, says farm minister euractiv.com
Greece: Women activists sing and dance against fracking dw.com

⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃

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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃

EU data watchdog has critical concerns with Parliament’s biometric register: The EU’s institutional data protection watchdog has voiced critical concerns about the European Parliament’s plans to install a biometric register that will allow EU lawmakers to collect their daily allowance and sign in for hearings on the Brussels premises. Analysis by the European Data Protection Supervisor has shown some critical concerns that need to be addressed, including the legal basis of the project and the need for Parliament to further explain the necessity of processing special categories of personal data.
euractiv.com

 

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