Thursday, 18 February 2021: EU unveils plan to battle against Covid variants, Europe and US begin new consultations on nuclear dispute, UK concerned about missing Dubai princess


EU unveils plan to battle against Covid variants: The new coronavirus variants spreading all over the world represent a shift of paradigm in the fight against the virus, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday as she unveiled a new EU plan to fight the mutations. The EU plan to fight variants, called HERA Incubator, will be a public-private partnership, pooling knowledge from researchers, biotech companies, manufacturers, the health sector and public authorities and regulators. Von der Leyen said the EU Commission will spend at least 75 million euros to support genomic sequencing and develop specialized tests for new variants. Another 150 million euros will be allocated to research and data exchange. Additionally, the Commission wants to speed the approval process for vaccines adapted to the variants so they can reach citizens at a greater speed. Von der Leyen also announced a second contract with Moderna for the purchase of 300 million doses. The first contract, signed last year, covered 160 million doses. German Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters in Berlin Wednesday that the British coronavirus variant now accounts for 22% of all new infections in Germany. Spahn said that Germany must assume the variant will soon become dominant in the country. The percentage of cases resulting from the variant is doubling every week.,, (Leyen); (Spahn)

Europe and US begin new consultations on nuclear dispute: This Thursday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will discuss the situation regarding Iran with his counterparts from Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, said the French foreign ministry on Wednesday. The planned meeting comes after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei demanded action, not words from the US if it wants to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the latest challenge to new President Joe Biden to take the first step towards a thaw. Iran should send positive signals to increase the chances of a return to the 2015 nuclear deal and defuse a standoff with western powers, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told President Hassan Rouhani in a phone call on Wednesday. Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said the German leader told Rouhani she was concerned that Iran was continuing to breach its commitments under the deal.,

UK concerned about missing Dubai princess: Britain has called on the United Arab Emirates to show proof that Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid, one of the daughters of the ruler of Dubai, was still alive after she said in a video message from a bathroom that she was being held captive in a barricaded villa. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was concerned over Latifa’s situation. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said new videos of Latifa in which she said she was being held against her will by her father were very troubling. The fate of Latifa and her tempestuous relationship with her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, has cast a new spotlight on his family affairs and on an international campaign to free his daughter.,

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European Court of Human Rights tells Russia to release Navalny: The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has called for the release of opposition leader and Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, saying his life was in danger in prison. Navalny, seen as the main domestic opponent of President Vladimir Putin, was arrested and jailed upon returning to Russia last month following months of treatment in Germany for a nerve agent poisoning. Russia’s justice minister dismissed the European court’s demand as unfounded and unlawful. The foreign ministry dismissed the order as part of Western meddling in the country’s domestic affairs.,

UN warns of crackdown in Myanmar: Tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets of Myanmar’s biggest city Wednesday, in one of largest protests yet of a coup. The demonstrations came a day after UN rapporteur Tom Andrews expressed alarm at reports of soldiers being transported into Yangon, noting that such movements had previously preceded killings, disappearances and mass arrests. “I am terrified that given the confluence of these two developments­ — planned mass protests and troops converging — we could be on the precipice of the military committing even greater crimes against the people of Myanmar,” he said in a statement.

Epic Games steps up Apple fight with EU antitrust complaint: Fortnite creator Epic Games has taken its fight against Apple to EU antitrust regulators, escalating its dispute with the iPhone maker over its App Store payment system and control over app downloads. The two companies have been in a dispute since August, when the game maker tried to avoid Apple’s 30% fee on some in-app purchases on the App Store by launching its own in-app payment system.

Yellen vows to boost transatlantic cooperation: US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stressed the importance of cooperation with the EU in a call with the European Commission’s vice president for the economy, Valdis Dombrovskis, on Tuesday. Yellen emphasised the importance of the transatlantic partnership and said she aimed to work more closely with Brussels on key challenges, including ending the pandemic, supporting a strong global economic recovery, fighting income inequality, and forcefully addressing the threat of climate change. Yellen committed to re-engaging in discussions on international taxation to forge a timely international accord, and to seek solutions to key bilateral trade issues.

Covid aid: EU court rejects Ryanair lawsuit against airline state aid
Entry ban: EU told to find way to open borders to Americans
Survey: A majority of Britons aren’t satisfied with how Brexit turned out
European Central Bank criticises bank restructuring plans


The agency has done a very good job despite the pandemic and deserves recognition for it.
The EU border protection agency Frontex has come under fire over illegal migrant pushbacks. Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri commented on the allegations in an interview with German newspaper FAZ.,


Slovakia and Croatia in talks with Russia over Sputnik coronavirus vaccine: Croatia and Slovakia are in talks with Russia about buying its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, local media reported Wednesday. Slovakian Prime Minister Igor Matovic said his government will discuss the matter Thursday and that he’s in favour of the jab. Separately, Croatia’s Health Minister Vili Beros has announced that he has agreed cooperation with Russia on the procurement of Sputnik V, according to N1 today. There’s growing evidence the Russian vaccine is effective, but more data is needed to prove it’s safe, he said. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Russia should explain why it’s offering to sell millions of doses of its coronavirus vaccine to other countries while lagging behind the vaccination of its own citizens.,

Draghi promises sweeping reforms, faces vote of confidence in Senate: Prime Minister Mario Draghi sought the backing of lawmakers on Wednesday in a vote of no confidence in the Senate after urging them to unite behind his government. The vote of confidence is a formality in the formation of any new government in Italy. Draghi called on Italians to pull together to help rebuild the country following the coronavirus pandemic and promised his new government would introduce sweeping reforms to revitalise the battered economy. In his maiden speech to parliament, the former head of the European Central Bank said his broad-based administration would throw all its efforts into defeating Covid-19, while looking to leave a stronger, greener nation for future generations.,

Former presidential hopeful goes on trial in Belarus: A trial began Wednesday in Belarus for a bank executive who had aspired to challenge authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in last year’s election but was blocked from running due to criminal charges that he rejected as political. Viktor Babariko, the former head of Russia-owned Belgazprombank, has been jailed since June on corruption and money-laundering charges. He has dismissed the accusations, saying they were intended to prevent him from challenging Lukashenko.

Spanish nurses find way to extract 7 doses from Pfizer vaccine vials: Two Spanish nurses have come up with a way to extract an extra seventh dose from six-dose vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine by removing the remnants of the solution with specialised equipment.

Sweden readies tougher lockdown rules amid third-wave fears
German border controls: New traffic jams in Switzerland and Italy
Austria: Green politician Sigrid Maurer acquitted after publishing obscene messages that were sent to her
Spain: Quarantine for travellers from South Africa and Brazil


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New LGBTI special ambassador for the EU Parliament: Riccardo Simonetti is mostly known as an entertainer. Now, he is going to be the LGBTI special ambassador for the European Parliament and he has one big goal: to create more visibility for his community.


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