Thursday, 17 December 2020: Belarusian opposition receives 2020 Sakharov Prize, EU reveals new cybersecurity strategy, Parliament approves seven-year EU budget

⊂ EUROPE ⊃

Belarusian opposition receives 2020 Sakharov Prize: The European Parliament has awarded its top human rights prize to the democratic opposition in Belarus. The Sakharov prize, which recognises human rights activists and dissidents around the world, is awarded annually in memory of Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov. This year, it was awarded to ten members of Belarus‘ opposition for their courage, resilience and determination during recent unrest. EU Parliament President David Sassoli said the whole world was aware of what is happening in Belarus. „We see your courage. We see the courage of women. We see your suffering. We see the unspeakable abuses. We see the violence. Your aspiration and determination to live in a democratic country inspires us.“ Accepting the prize, the main opposition candidate Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya said: „Belarusians have been marching every week since the 9 August election. They march for their future and the future of those who cannot be there. They march for the freedom and dignity of Belarusians, of Europeans, yours and ours. Without a free Belarus, Europe is not fully free either.“ She noted that Belarusians had overcome „an invisible wall of fear“ during the 2020 protests.
europarl.europa.eu, bbc.com

EU countries to launch vaccination programmes on same day: The EU’s 27 member countries aim to start Covid-19 vaccinations on the same day in a sign of unity, possibly a day or two before Christmas, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday. Noting that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has decided to expedite its hearing on the efficacy and safety of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine from 29 December up to the 21st, von der Leyen expressed confidence that the virus could be beaten. She emphasised that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was the first of six potential vaccines for which the EU has secured contracts.
france24.com, dw.com

Von der Leyen sees narrow path toward Brexit deal: EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen gave some cautious optimism over the prospects for a post-Brexit trade deal on Wednesday, when she updated MEPs on the state of play in negotiations with the UK. Von der Leyen confirmed that the major sticking points had been reduced to just two — fair competition in the EU market and fishing rights for EU vessels in UK waters. Even though she still spoke only of a very narrow path to a deal, she added that “I can tell you that there is a path to an agreement.” It was far more optimistic than previous comments coming from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and even any assessment in the past few months.
euronews.com, apnews.com

Facebook Live: IJP-AfricaTalk #7 – Agriculture and Food Security: Does COVID-19 have an impact on access to food? COVID-19 pandemic movement restrictions have implications on food security. The measures are likely to exacerbate food security challenges. Meanwhile, certain agricultural regions were already in trouble, facing floods, conflicts and decreasing prices. What needs to be done to achieve adequate food supply in periods of crisis? Facebook Live-Discussion with Renate Künast (MdB, Die Grünen) on Thursday, 10 December 2020, 09:45 UTC +01. facebook.com

EU reveals new cybersecurity strategy: The EU has unveiled plans to revamp the bloc’s dated cybersecurity rules. The EU’s current Network Information System regulations date from 2008, and the European Commission’s new proposals aim to bring them up to date and allow the EU to impose hefty fines on operators who break the rules. Among the initiatives is the use of AI-enabled Security Operations Centres established across the EU to create a „Cyber Shield“ that detects signs of attack and can launch early preventative action. The plans also include a cyber unit to respond to incidents and threats, and beefing up cooperation between countries and with organisations like NATO. The plans must now be debated by EU countries and the EU Parliament.
euronews.com, apnews.com

Parliament approves seven-year EU budget: The EU Parliament has passed the budget for 2021-2027 by an overwhelming majority. The 1.8 trillion euro budget and coronavirus recovery package includes a new mechanism linking EU funding to rule of law criteria and an interinstitutional agreement on budgetary matters. The road to getting the budget passed was dogged by issues related to Hungary and Poland, who threatened to veto it due to opposition to a mechanism that would make some funds conditional on a member state’s respect for core European values. But a compromise was reached, with the mechanism suspended while the EU draws up plans for how it could be used. MEPs also approved extra aid for EU regions to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and its social and health care consequences.
europarl.europa.eu, euronews.com, politico.eu, europarl.europa.eu

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Coronavirus response: Tackling non-performing loans to enable banks to support EU households and businesses ec.europa.eu
European Court of Justice: Investor losses in rescue of Cypriot banks were legal handelsblatt.com
EU agrifood relations with Africa: What lies ahead? euractiv.com
Russia: Foreign Minister Lavrov says Navalny poisoning reports ‚funny to read‘ cnn.com
United States: Trump has been whining about fake fraud—and ignoring a real cybersecurity crisis slate.com

⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃

Let us begin together and united to eradicate this terrible virus.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told European parliamentarians that all 27 member states could be able to begin vaccination programmes on the same day.
rnd.de, dw.com

⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃

Fourteen guilty in 2015 Paris terror attacks trial: A French court on Wednesday found 14 people guilty of complicity in the January 2015 attacks on the satirical magazine „Charlie Hebdo“ and a kosher supermarket. The attacks in Paris had left 17 dead along with the three gunmen. Three of the 14 were tried in absentia after fleeing to Syria. Eleven others were present and all were convicted of the crime, with sentences ranging from 30 years for Boumeddiene and Ali Riza Polat, described as the lieutenant of the virulently anti-Semitic market attacker, Amédy Coulibaly, to four years with a simple criminal conviction.
dw.com, apnews.com, bbc.com

France plans to start vaccinations in the last week of December: France will begin with the first Covid-19 vaccinations before the end of the year. The country will receive around 1.16 million vaccine doses by year end, Prime Minister Jean Castex said Wednesday. He told parliament that the vaccination campaign in France would be stepped up in January and he confirmed that the elderly would come first in the queue. Meanwhile, French theatres, cinemas and other venues said on Saturday they would go to court to force the government to allow them reopen. The government has imposed a curfew from 8:00pm to replace its lockdown measures.
reuters.com, euronews.com

Romanian court scraps law banning gender studies: Romania’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday annulled legislation adopted by parliament last June that effectively banned gender studies in the educational system. The law was initiated by the Popular Movement Party, PMP, the party of former president Traian Basescu, and prohibited the spread of theories or opinions based on the notion that gender is a concept different to biological sex. The law was condemned by several civil society organisations and academics.
balkaninsight.com

Sweden ups defence budget: Sweden’s Parliament has approved a 40% increase in the defence budget for 2021-2025 because of tensions in the Baltic Sea region in recent years, with officials saying Russia is the main reason for the move. Defence Minister Peter Hultquist said the increase was “because of the new security situation with Russian aggression toward Georgia, annexation of Crimea, the conflict in Ukraine, activities in Belarus, upgrading of Russian military capability, very complex exercises, activity in the Arctic and in the Baltic Sea area.” Hultquist told the assembly before the series of votes that it was the largest investment since the 1950s.
apnews.com

Germany resumes deportations to Afghanistan despite Covid: Germany is resuming deportations of rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan, which had been suspended with the first wave of coronavirus in March. Around 40 failed asylum seekers from Afghanistan boarded a plane to Kabul on Wednesday. Among them was a 21-year-old whom the German refugee organisation „Flüchtlingsrat Berlin“ describes as a heavily traumatised individual. The young Afghan is currently in prison for various petty crimes and was due to be released in January. „We don’t want to belittle his crimes,“ the organisation writes in a press statement. „But we think it is irresponsible of Germany — at a time of an international pandemic — to rid itself of an individual who came to Berlin as an underage refugee, after having suffered traumatising events in his childhood.“
dw.com

Germany: Chancellor Merkel says her party doesn’t want property tax to cover pandemic costs reuters.com
Slovakia: Lockdown starts Saturday handelsblatt.com
France: President Macron and the citizens’ convention divided on climate issues euractiv.com

⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃

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⊂ AT LAST ⊃

UK pets will need certificate to enter EU and Northern Ireland after Brexit: British pets including dogs, cats and even ferrets will lose their current EU passports after Britain leaves the bloc at the end of the transition period on 31 December. Pets will also have to have been microchipped, vaccinated against rabies, and treated for tapeworm. The rules will apply to pets travelling to Northern Ireland from Britain as well.
dw.com, politico.eu

 

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