⊂ EUROPE ⊃
Denmark becomes first country in Europe to abandon AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine: Denmark on Wednesday became the first country in Europe to stop using AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine altogether over a potential link to a rare but serious form of blood clot. Sören Broström, director of Sweden’s health agency, said despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) favouring the use of the AstraZeneca jab, Denmark’s vaccine campaign would continue without it. In Denmark, two recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine have suffered severe blood clots, one of which was fatal. Meanwhile, European countries diverged Wednesday on whether they would push ahead with giving their residents Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine after reports of very rare blood clots in a handful of recipients in the US. The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Italy have suspended the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The EU Commission is launching talks with BioNTech/Pfizer for a third coronavirus vaccine contract to secure up to 1.8 billion more doses for the EU between 2021 and 2023. Looking to the future, mRNA vaccines are a top priority for the EU. European governments reached a deal Wednesday on technical standards for so-called vaccine passports, advancing the effort to boost travel to and within the bloc in time for the summer season.
euronews.com, apnews.com, reuters.com, reuters.com, politico.eu, euractiv.com, bloomberg.com
NATO decides to withdraw troops from Afghanistan: Foreign troops under NATO command will withdraw from Afghanistan in coordination with a US pull-out by 11 September, NATO allies agreed on Wednesday, pledging to mirror American plans to start removing troops on 1 May after two decades of war. Almost all Nato troops in Afghanistan, along with those from Australia and New Zealand – just under 7,000 in total – are now expected to leave along with the Americans. President Joe Biden said Wednesday he will withdraw remaining US troops from the “forever war” in Afghanistan, declaring that the 11 September terror attacks of 20 years ago cannot justify American forces still dying in the nation’s longest war.
reuters.com, apnews.com, independent.co.uk
European powers warn Iran over uranium enrichment: France, Germany and the UK on Wednesday expressed dismay at Iran’s decision to enrich uranium at 60% purity, a huge increase that brings Tehran closer to weapons-grade fuel levels. “This is a serious development since the production of highly enriched uranium constitutes an important step in the production of a nuclear weapon,” the three countries said in a joint statement. “Iran has no credible civilian need for enrichment at this level.” The decision comes at a delicate time, as Iran is currently negotiating in Vienna with all three European countries over resurrecting a 2015 nuclear deal that curbed Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said that enrichment would now be ramped up as a response to the West’s „wickedness“.
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UK to respond to EU legal action over Northern Ireland by mid-May: Britain has agreed with the EU that it will respond to the bloc’s legal action over how it has introduced new trading rules for Northern Ireland by mid-May, a spokeswoman for the government said on Wednesday. The EU launched legal action against Britain in March for unilaterally changing trading arrangements for Northern Ireland that Brussels says are in breach of the Brexit divorce deal agreed with London last year. Britain has denied that the move undermines the part of the Brexit deal that governs trade to the British province, saying it extended the grace period for checks on goods moving to Northern Ireland to ease their passage.
EU to borrow around 150 billion euros annually for recovery fund: The EU Commission has urged the 27 member states to speed up the ratification process of the EU’s 750 billion euro recovery fund. Hahn underlined that the Commission is ready to go to the financial markets by June in order to raise the money for the fund, also known as Next Generation EU, and distribute it among member states. The Commission plans to borrow around 150 billion euros annually until 2026 to finance the bloc’s unprecedented plan to make its economy greener and more digitalised, making it the biggest debt issuer in euros, the Commission said on Wednesday. The amount of the EU economic plan was agreed at 750 billion euros in 2018 prices, but now totals around 807 billion euros in current prices.
Strategy on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings: EU is boosting its response against smuggling networks dw.com
Ryanair loses court challenges to SAS, Finnair state aid in new setbacks reuters.com
Consultants: EU Parliament to look into Commission’s multi-million bill with consultancy firms euractiv.com
EU’s Arctic policy: Climate protection, sustainable development and cooperation de.euronews.com
Myanmar charges doctors over civil disobedience protests apnews.com
⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃
„This crisis is a major test for multilateralism and for the very concept of foreign aid.“
OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría has warned that the global vaccine distribution facility COVAX remains severely underfunded.
⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃
Germany says Russia is seeking to provoke: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Joe Biden called on Russia to pull back troops from the Ukrainian border to de-escalate the situation in the region, a German government spokesman said on Wednesday. The United States and NATO allies have been alarmed by the large buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine and in Crimea, the peninsula that Moscow annexed from Kyiv in 2014. Russia and Ukraine held simultaneous military drills on Wednesday as NATO foreign and defence ministers began emergency discussions on the massing of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border. German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has accused Russia of seeking provocation with its troop buildup in the occupied Crimean Peninsula and along the border with Ukraine, while rejecting Moscow’s claim that it was responding to threats from NATO.
Romania’s health minister dismissed following Covid dispute: Romania’s Prime Minister Florin Citu sacked Health Minister Vlad Voiculescu on Wednesday, in a move he said was in response to the country’s coronavirus epidemic but which threatens the future of his governing coalition. The departure of Voiculescu, who has promised to make the workings of Romania’s healthcare sector and hospitals more transparent, marks the first big shift in the coalition formed after a parliamentary election in December. It comprises junior USR-Plus, Citu’s centrist Liberal Party and ethnic Hungarian Party UDMR. The three groups control roughly 56% of parliament, but without USR-Plus that falls to around 38%. Voiculescu was in the process of replacing the heads of the health insurance agencies that control billions of euros in healthcare funds, many of whom observers say are political appointees. He had faced a backlash from politicians and politically appointed health service managers over his reform plans.
Sweden’s ex-PM angers Norway and Denmark with Nazi resistance tweet: Sweden’s former prime minister Carl Bildt has angered neighbours Norway and Denmark by questioning how much resistance they put up to Adolf Hitler. Carl Bildt, who led Sweden from 1991 to 1994, caused the controversy with a tweet, marking the 81st anniversary of the invasion of Denmark and Norway. „The defence forces of Sweden in 1940 weren’t stellar, but still stronger than Norway and in particular than Denmark,“ Bildt stated. „Had [Adolf] Hitler decided to invade Sweden it would have been a fight,“ he added. The remarks drew strong criticism from both countries, who questioned Sweden’s neutrality during World War II.
Ireland to probe Facebook following massive data leak: The Irish Data Protection Commission on Wednesday opened an investigation into Facebook after data on more than half a billion of the platform’s users appeared online. The trove of data — which includes phone numbers, Facebook IDs, full names and birth dates — was discovered by Alon Gal of the cybercrime intelligence firm Hudson Rock this month after it was made available online for free. In a statement, the Data Protection Commission (DPC) said it is launching an inquiry because it believes Facebook may have infringed the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. The social media firm denies that it has.
Switzerland and Belgium to relax Covid restrictions: The Swiss government announced further easing of its Covid-19 restrictions on Wednesday, allowing restaurants to reopen outdoor terraces from next week and sports events to take place with audiences. The government said cinemas, theatres and concert venues will also be allowed to readmit guests from Monday, although visitors will have to wear masks and keep a safe distance apart. Universities and adult education centres will be allowed to resume in-person classes at reduced capacity. Belgium will also begin easing coronavirus restrictions over the coming weeks starting next Monday, when schools will start to reopen and a ban on non-essential travel will be lifted, the government said Wednesday.
Sofagate: Turkish President Erdogan criticises comments by Italian Prime Minister Draghi calling him a dictator spiegel.de
Greece: Covid pandemic plunges Athens deep into debt handelsblatt.com
Poland prioritises Olympic participants and national soccer players in vaccination campaign rp-online.de
⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃
+++ECOS sucht Partnerships & Development Manager (m/f/d)+++Science Europe seeks Junior Communications Officer (m/f/d)+++GIZ sucht Leiter:in des Projekts Wertschöpfungskettenförderung (m/w/d)+++GIZ cherche Conseiller:e (h/f/a) spécialisé:e en politique fiscale et administration des finances publiques+++bitkom sucht Referent:in EU Public Affairs (m/w/d) +++GIZ seeks Head of Component (m/f/d) „Improving Regional Trade in Seed Potatoes in East Africa“+++European Business Summits seeks Communications, Programme and Research Assistant (CIP) (m/f/d)+++Jobs at politjobs.eu +++ Don’t miss any jobs with the politjobs.eu job alert +++
⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃
Europeans value privacy above all for digital euro: The European Central Bank’s public consultations on a digital euro have revealed that privacy is valued above all other features for any new form of the currency. The top priority for 43% of citizens and professionals who responded was for their payments to remain private, according to a report published by the institution on Wednesday. Other features that were considered important included security, usability across the euro area, the absence of additional costs, and offline use.