Thursday, 19 November 2020: EU Parliament against concessions in dispute over rule of law, Danish farm minister quits over mink scandal, Berlin protest against virus rules


EU Parliament against concessions in dispute over rule of law: The European Parliament will make no concessions on the conditionality of EU funding to respect for the rule of law to Hungary and Poland, which have vetoed the recovery plan, EU Parliament David Sassoli and the leaders of political groups in the parliament announced on Wednesday. France warned there might be a way of proceeding without the two countries. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki defended his country’s decision to veto the plan and warned that imposing new conditions for funding could lead eventually to a break-up of the EU. He said a European oligarchy was trying to bully weaker EU members, while his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban called the conditionality plan a form of blackmail against member states opposed to immigration. Meanwhile, Polish judge Igor Tuleya had his immunity from prosecution removed by the Polish Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Chamber. Tuleya is critical of the ruling nationalists’ judiciary reforms and is facing disciplinary proceedings after he allowed media access to a sensitive court ruling in 2017 regarding a parliamentary vote on the budget criticised for not having opposition politicians present.,,

EU recommends use of rapid Covid tests: The European Commission has asked EU member states to use rapid antigen tests for the diagnosis of Covid-19 as winter approaches and Europe struggles to contain a second wave of coronavirus infections. Antigen tests are less reliable than the standard PCR coronavirus tests, but they cost less and help track-and-tracing efforts due to producing results more quickly. EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides called testing a decisive tool to slow down the spread of Covid. To increase EU coordination on testing methods, the Commission is providing guidance on the use of rapid antigen tests and support to increase member states‘ testing capacity.,

Commission calls for targeted fiscal spending during pandemic: Euro zone governments should keep spending next year to support an economic recovery from the slump caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, but make sure the extra stimulus is temporary and targeted, the EU Commission recommended on Wednesday. The Commission also recommended that governments maintain the credit channels to the economy and support viable companies as long as necessary during the unprecedented crisis. To help banks, which will see a rise in the number of loans that are no longer serviced, the Commission suggested that governments develop secondary markets for non-performing loans.

Council of Europe’s anti-graft body not satisfied with Hungary’s fight against corruption: Hungary has made no progress on implementing recommendations on corruption concerning members of parliament, judges and prosecutors, the Council of Europe’s anti-graft body said in a report released on Tuesday. Corruption is widespread in Hungary according to 87% Hungarians surveyed in a Eurobarometer survey published in June 2020, above the EU average of 71%.

US imposes new Iran sanctions: The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions targeting Iran, blacklisting the Foundation of the Oppressed controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Treasury Department said it was freezing any US interests of the foundation, describing it as a multibillion-dollar economic empire and key patronage network for Khamenei that operates without government oversight. The Treasury Department also imposed sanctions on Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi and accused his ministry of playing a role in serious human rights abuses against Iranians, including during last year’s protests. In the meantime, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said Iran would fully implement its 2015 nuclear deal if US President-elect Joe Biden lifts sanctions on Tehran. Zarif described Biden as a foreign affairs veteran, whom he has known for 30 years. The Iranian ambassador has confirmed to the IAEA that Iran has admitted a further breach of the 2015 nuclear deal by firing up advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges installed at its underground plant at Natanz.,,,,

Israel launched airstrikes on Syria: Israel launched air raids against what it called a wide range of Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria on Wednesday. Israel said it was retaliating for an Iranian-sponsored operation in which Syrians planted explosives near an Israeli military base in the occupied Golan Heights. Israel has frequently attacked what it says are Iranian-linked targets in Syria in recent years, and stepped up such attacks over the past year in what Western intelligence sources describe as a shadow war to reduce Iran’s influence.

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When deciding on our future presence in Afghanistan, we should and must consider the situation on the ground and especially the safety of the soldiers that are there at our behest.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has voiced concern that a planned withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan could have a negative impact on ongoing peace negotiations between Taliban rebels and the government.


Danish farm minister quits over mink scandal: Denmark’s Agriculture Minister Mogens Jensen said on Tuesday he will step down after facing intense pressure for mishandling the country’s planned cull of its mink. Denmark decided to cull the animals, which are farmed for their fur, because of fears a mutated version of the coronavirus, passing from minks to humans, could jeopardise the efficacy of a future vaccine. The government on Tuesday reached a deal with other parties on creating a retroactive legal basis for the cull but critics had been arguing Jensen had acted unconstitutionally.

Berlin protest against virus rules: German police used water cannons and pepper spray Wednesday to disperse people protesting coronavirus restrictions in Berlin’s government district, after crowds ignored calls to wear masks and keep their distance from one another in line with pandemic regulations. Police officers in riot gear also lined up to stop demonstrators from getting too close to the parliament building. Some 190 protesters were arrested and nine police officers were hurt in the clashes that ensued, Berlin police said. The protests came as German lawmakers debated a bill that would provide legal underpinning for the government to issue social distancing rules, require masks in public and to close stores and other venues to slow the spread of the virus.,

Switzerland increases Covid aid: The Swiss government has proposed more than doubling a fund for hard-hit companies to 1 billion Swiss francs from 400 million francs previously. Short-time working compensation schemes would be extended, the government said, to include trainees and temporary staff. The government also detailed a 350 million Swiss franc loan scheme for top soccer, ice hockey and other clubs who have lost income after virus restrictions forced them to play without spectators.

Greece makes vaccination plans: Greece plans to set up more than 1,000 vaccination centres as it awaits a successful vaccine against Covid-19, Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said on Wednesday. Greece has seen an aggressive spike in novel coronavirus cases since early October that forced it to impose a nationwide lockdown, the second since the pandemic broke out. Greece will get vaccine doses under an EU plan. The country expects the first deliveries in early 2021, the government has said.

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French government calls on giant retailers to delay Black Friday sales: French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has called on supermarkets and online retailers to postpone the Black Friday sales shopping day due to take place on 27 November as France remains in a nationwide coronavirus lockdown. Small shops, which were ordered to close by the government, have raised concerns they will suffer from competition from giant online retail companies that are allowed to operate and deliver goods during the lockdown.


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