⊂ EUROPE ⊃
Stricter climate targets in the European Union: The EU has adopted ambitious new targets to curb climate change, with a pledge to make them legally binding. The European climate law will guide the bloc’s regulations in the coming decades. It includes a target to reduce net emissions at least 55% by the end of the decade from 1990 levels – lower than the 60% goal sought by the European Parliament – to steer it towards reaching zero net emissions by 2050. The deal still needs formal approval from parliament and national governments and comes ahead of a virtual summit of world leaders later this week, where the US is expected to announce its own climate targets for 2030. EU Commission Vice-President Frans Timmerman described the agreement as a landmark moment for the EU and a strong signal to the world. However, Greens MEP Michael Bloss tweeted that the climate law was a „big disappointment“, adding: „We fought hard but achieved little“.
EU launches AI blueprint: The European Commission has unveiled the world’s first plans to regulate artificial intelligence on Wednesday. The Commission proposal is structured around developing trust in this technology by proposing a legal framework intended to regulate artificial intelligence applications at European level. The proposed rules aim to rein in “high-risk” uses of AI such as facial recognition or software to process job applications that, in the EU’s view, pose the greatest potential threat to society and individuals. The proposals also include a prohibition in principle on “remote biometric identification,” such as the use of live facial recognition on crowds of people in public places, with exceptions only for narrowly defined law enforcement purposes. “With these landmark rules, the E.U. is spearheading the development of new global norms to make sure AI can be trusted,” Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission’s executive vice president for the digital age, said in a statement. “By setting the standards, we can pave the way for to ethical technology worldwide and ensure that the EU remains competitive along the way.” In any case, years could pass before the rules, in whatever form, come into effect: the Commission must first start negotiations with the EU states and the European Parliament.
euractiv.com, nbcnews.com, politico.eu
More than 1,000 Russians arrested at pro-Navalny rallies: Thousands of supporters of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny marched in central Moscow on Wednesday as part of nationwide demonstrations calling for his freedom. More than 1,000 people were arrested across the country in connection with the protests, according to a human rights group that monitors political repression. International and domestic scrutiny of Russia’s treatment of Nalvany has ramped up in the past week, as reports of Navalny’s poor health amid his hunger strike circulated, with one spokesperson saying last week Navalny could die at any moment. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the West on Wednesday not to cross Russia’s “red lines”, saying Moscow would respond swiftly and harshly to any provocations and those responsible would regret it. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has invited Putin to meet in eastern Ukraine, where long-simmering tensions have resurged in recent weeks. The Czech Republic demanded on Wednesday that Russia should allow its expelled diplomats to return to Moscow, threatening that otherwise more Russian diplomats would be asked to leave Prague.
cnbc.com, forbes.com (Navalny); reuters.com, cnn.com (Putin); washingtonpost.com (Czech Republic)
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Merkel calls for treaty changes in the area of health policy: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday she is open to making changes to the EU’s founding treaties, particularly in the area of health policy, and urged the bloc to find ways to make its foreign policy more efficient. „I believe that Europe needs more competencies in the area of health. This will probably also require changes to the treaties,“ Merkel said at an event organised by her centre-right pan-EU political family, the European People’s Party (EPP). „I have always been open to treaty changes if they make sense,“ she continued, adding: „This is not an end in itself. And you can also do a lot of things through coordinating policy, at intergovernmental level, but it certainly makes sense to also have European competencies for certain situations, especially pandemics.“
EU has exported more Covid shots than its nations have received: The EU has exported about 37 million more doses of Covid-19 vaccines than it has shared out among its own 27 countries, two sources told Reuters citing figures from the bloc’s data. The EU is buying most of its vaccines together as a bloc and, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control nearly 133 million doses have been distributed among EU states. That compares to 136 million doses exported since the end of January to 43 countries, the sources said. French vaccine producer Valneva has announced that it is deprioritising negotiations with the EU Commission after more than six months of talks have yielded no results. EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders has announced that a regulation proposal for a Covid vaccine passport for travel in the EU will be presented in June.
reuters.com (Exports), politico.eu (Valneva), de.euronews.com (Reynders)
Covid-19: How Europe is financing its pandemic recovery with multi-billion bond sales euronews.com
Chanel loses EU court battle over Huawei logo bbc.com
EU Court of Justice: Two judges and two advocates-general appointed consilium.europa.eu
Vienna: Some progress in nuclear talks, interim deal possible -Iranian officials reuters.com
EU Commissioner Schinas: EU will unveil anti-Semitism strategy as part of anti-racism programme euractiv.com
⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃
„The new EU climate law does more than just point the way. It makes climate protection in the EU binding and irreversible.“
German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze welcomed the new EU climate target.
⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃
German court rejects bid to block EU recovery fund: Germany’s federal constitutional court on Wednesday rejected a request to block the EU’s recovery fund from coming into effect. The complaint argued that the fund is against Germany’s budgetary sovereignty, enshrined in the country’s constitution. The court said the complaint is „neither inadmissible from the outset nor manifestly unfounded,“ but that granting an injunction which would prevent Germany’s president from ratifying the fund, thus stalling the process for the entire bloc, outweighs the risk of breaching Germany’s constitution. The court will still assess the complaint’s merits, but Wednesday’s decision means the German president can now ratify the Own Resources Decision — a step that all EU countries have to complete before the European Commission can issue debt on capital markets.
Spain makes plea for flexibility in EU recovery plan: Spain is seeking flexibility from the EU Commission on the sensitive topic of state aid to help companies battered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Spain’s Economy Minister Nadia Calvino said flexibility from Brussels is being seen as essential in Madrid for the implementation of the recovery plan. If Spain accelerates the roll-out of ambitious structural reforms, it could receive the first of two or three tranches of a total of 140 billion euros from the EU recovery fund by the end of the year. Half of the money, to be paid out over the next three years, will come in the form of grants, with the rest being paid in loans.
German parliament approves national coronavirus rules: The German parliament on Wednesday approved changes to the Infection Protection Law meant to give Berlin more power over the country’s coronavirus restrictions, overruling loud criticism from opposition parties. The federal government has been technically in charge of restriction measures, but, in Germany’s decentralised structure, the 16 states were free to implement those guidelines as they saw fit. Increasingly, the states have diverged on how to implement measures — leading to huge disparities across state borders on what rules were in place. Faced with such inconsistency, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government introduced this legislation to legally obligate states into specific action in certain circumstances. Under the amendments, a so-called emergency brake would be triggered when an area has more than than 100 new coronavirus infections per 100,000 inhabitants over seven days, requiring that area to impose more restrictions.
Several European countries ease their restrictions: Denmark is opening up faster than initially planned and allowing restaurants to serve customers indoors starting this Thursday, providing they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus or can show a negative test result. France is on track to easing itself out of lockdown over the coming weeks, a government’s spokesperson told reporters on Wednesday. Nurseries, primary schools are expected to reopen next week and secondary schools the following week. People will also no longer need a valid reason for travelling more than 10 kilometres from their homes. Poland will reopen hair salons and let some children return to schools in 11 of its 16 regions from Monday, as daily Covid-19 case numbers start to fall. Switzerland will also push ahead with further openings, while limitations in Italy will be lifted gradually and some will remain in place, however, including a nationwide 10 pm curfew.
euronews.com (Denmark), politico.eu (France), reuters.com (Poland), spiegel.de (Switzerland), reuters.com (Italy)
⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃
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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃
Super League already collapsed again: Conceding that the controversial football Super League was officially dead in the water, Juventus chief Andrea Agnelli searched for a scapegoat and landed on … Brexit. The Juventus chairman, reportedly one of the leading architects of the rebel league, told Reuters he had heard speculation that „if six teams would have broken away and would have threatened the EPL [English Premier League], politics would have seen that as an attack to Brexit and their political scheme.” While admitting that the concept was no longer feasible, Agnelli claimed people had lied to him about their interest in the project.