Tuesday, 20 October 2020: EU agrees to intensify Brexit talks, Police operations in France after teacher’s beheading, Mayor of Copenhagen steps down over sexual harassment


EU agrees to intensify Brexit talks: The European Union has agreed to intensify Brexit talks with the UK and start negotiations based on legal texts as required by London, following a phone call between the chief negotiators. Michel Barnier spoke with his British counterpart David Frost by phone on Monday to agree on the structure for subsequent talks about the future relationship between the UK and the EU. Barnier said in a tweet issued after the call that the EU remained available to intensify talks in London this week, on all subjects, and based on legal texts. Speaking in the House of Commons shortly afterward, the UK’s Cabinet Minister Michael Gove described the EU’s move as constructive and a reflection of the strength and resolution shown by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

German Covid app also works in Italy and Ireland: The European Commission has launched an EU-wide system devised to link national Covid-19 tracing apps together. Three national apps — Germany’s Corona-Warn-App, Ireland’s COVID tracker, and Italy’s immuni — are now linked through the so-called interoperability gateway. According to the Commission, these three apps have been downloaded by around 30 million people, the equivalent of two-thirds of all tracing app downloads in the EU.

ECB’s Lagarde wants to discuss permanent EU debt: European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde wants EU governments to consider the possibility of making EU debt a permanent fixture of the bloc’s economic response to crises, she told Le Monde in an interview published Monday. Speaking of the €750 billion debt-fueled response to the coronavirus crisis, which the EU Commission is going to borrow on financial markets and disburse as grants and loans to EU countries, Lagarde said this stimulus tool responded to an exceptional situation. The possibility of it remaining in the European toolbox should be discussed, so that it could be mobilised again in equivalent circumstances.

EU falls short of targets to protect nature: The EU Commission has published its latest assessment of the state of nature in the European Union. Decline of protected habitats and species still continues, caused mostly by intensive agriculture, urbanisation, unsustainable forestry activities and changes to freshwater habitats. Pollution of air, water and soil also impacts habitats, as well as climate change, over-exploitation of animals through illegal harvesting and untenable hunting and fishing.
ec.europa.eu, reuters.com

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EU Commission Vice-President Timmermans: Adhere to climate targets despite pandemic de.euronews.com
Eurostat: Almost 170,000 more deaths during the first Covid wave handelsblatt.com
Human rights: EU to improve sanctions for human rights violations handelsblatt.com


They often work in industries which are particularly affected by the economic consequences of the pandemic, such as retail, logistics or the hospitality sector.
The German government commissioner for integration, Annette Widmann-Mauz, has highlighted the plight of asylum seekers and people with immigration backgrounds during the coronavirus pandemic.


Police operations in France after teacher’s beheading: French police have launched operations against dozens of individuals suspected of having links to radical Islam following the murder of French schoolteacher Samuel Paty, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Monday. The minister told Europe 1 radio that about 80 police investigations were underway into online hate messages that glorified the attack. Friday’s attack came after Paty showed his students cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad as part of a class discussion about freedom of speech. Darmanin said the father of a schoolgirl and a known Islamist had apparently launched a fatwa against the teacher. The two men are among eleven people currently in police custody. The European Parliament held a minute of silence to pay tribute to Paty.
dw.com, europarl.europa.eu

Mayor of Copenhagen steps down over sexual harassment: Frank Jensen, who was mayor of Denmark’s capital Copenhagen for over a decade, resigned as mayor and as deputy of Denmark’s governing Social Democratic Party on Monday after admitting to several episodes of sexual harassment. Jensen’s exit came after two women, one of them employed by the Social Democrats, described being sexually harassed by Jensen in 2012 and 2017. Jensen said on Facebook he had been part of a harmful and old culture in the Social Democratic Party. “I would like to apologise to the women I have offended,” Jensen told a news conference on Monday.

Italy and Austria tighten coronavirus restrictions: The two countries have introduced stricter measures to curb the rise in new Covid-19 cases. Late Sunday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced new restrictions on public life, including midnight closing times for bars and restaurants. Meanwhile, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz followed suit on Monday, announcing more restrictions on private gatherings. Romania’s capital Bucharest closed schools, restaurants and theatres from Tuesday and widened the compulsory use of face masks to all outdoor spaces across the city as infection rates soared. Slovenia’s government on Monday declared a 30-day state of emergency after Covid cases more than doubled in the past week from the previous week. Poland’s government is transforming the National Stadium in Warsaw into a temporary field hospital to manage the pandemic.
politico.eu (Italy and Austria), reuters.com (Romania), reuters.com (Slovenia), euronews.com (Poland)

Lithuanians with Covid can vote in drive-ins: Lithuanians started voting Monday in the second round of a national election, with some of them casting ballots from their cars in special drive-in polling stations amid a local spike in Covid-19. There are four such drive-in stations in Lithuania. Only those in isolation and on an official list can vote that way until Thursday.

Sweden’s coronavirus strategy: Has “culture of conformity” saved the country from Covid fatigue? euronews.com
Kaliakra: A showcase of environmental illiteracy in Bulgaria euractiv.com
Portugal: Why is Europe’s prodigious bike producer slow to ride them? euronews.com


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Finger pointed at Swiss yodelling superspreader concert: The coronavirus pandemic has not deterred the Swiss from sending yodels echoing across their mountain valleys, but a concert attended by 600 people is believed to have made one canton a European virus hotspot. At the late September yodelling event in the rural Schwyz canton, people in the audience were asked to maintain social distancing, but mask-wearing was not required.


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