Tuesday, 24 November 2020: EU urges France to respect freedom of the press, EU states plan joint fight against antisemitism, Trump administration officially authorises Biden transition


EU urges France to respect freedom of the press: The EU Commission weighed in Monday on a controversial French security bill, saying that journalists should be able to do their work freely and in full security. A spokesperson said the Commission would check the final draft to make sure it is in line with European law. The French bill, which will be voted on this Tuesday in France’s lower chamber of parliament, would ban sharing images of police officers for “malicious purposes.” While the government argues it is a necessary step to protect police officers from violent acts, the text is facing outcry from civil liberties groups and press freedom advocates in France who took to the streets by the thousands over the weekend to oppose it.

EU states plan joint fight against antisemitism: European Union leaders will issue a common declaration against antisemitism at a summit meeting in Brussels in December, with a draft text submitted by Germany currently under consideration. Germany, which currently holds the presidency of the European Council, has been pushing for member states to adopt common guidelines for combating antisemitism. Germany’s antisemitism commissioner Felix Klein said one could see how antisemitic prejudices were being openly lived out online and on the streets – especially during the current Covid-19 pandemic. He added that it was a great success that all 27 EU member states wanted to set an example at a time of conspiracy theories and taboo-busting.

Trump administration officially authorises Biden transition: After weeks of delay, the head of the General Services Administration (GSA), Emily Murphy, informed US President-elect Joe Biden on Monday that the official governmental transition process has been approved. Trump and the GSA had faced increasing pressure as a growing number of Republican lawmakers began to publicly call for Biden to be granted access, citing national security concerns. Democratic lawmakers had also begun calling for Murphy to testify before Congress. The ascertainment letter was sent Monday after Michigan formally certified its election results earlier in the day and more Trump lawsuits were dismissed. Meanwhile, Biden made official his picks for a number of high-level administration and cabinet positions, including former Secretary of State John Kerry to be his special presidential envoy for climate and Antony Blinken as secretary of state. Alejandro Mayorkas will be nominated as homeland security secretary, Linda Thomas-Greenfield as US ambassador to the United Nations and Avril Haines as director of national intelligence. Jake Sullivan will serve as Biden’s national security adviser. Biden also plans to nominate Janet Yellen to be treasury secretary. Kerry, a longtime senator who was the 68th secretary of state, helped to bring about the Paris Climate Agreement, which Biden has pledged to rejoin once he takes office in January. „America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is,“ Kerry tweeted.
nbcnews.com, cnn.com, nbcnews.com

Netanyahu held secret talks in Saudi Arabia: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly visited Saudi Arabia on Sunday for talks with senior officials, Education Minister Yoav Gallant confirmed on Monday. Gallant said that Netanyahu had met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It is the first such meeting between Israeli and Saudi leaders to be reported widely in Israeli media, and could be a signal that Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration are coordinating their stance on Iran before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. However, Saudi officials strongly denied reports that a meeting took place. „No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi,“ Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan tweeted.
dw.com, npr.org

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Turkey protests German search of Libya-bound ship: Turkey summoned top diplomats representing the European Union, Germany and Italy on Monday after a German frigate that is part of a EU mission enforcing an arms embargo against Libya intercepted a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean sea and carried out what a senior Turkish official dismissed as an “illegal” search. Germany’s Defence Ministry said Turkey ordered a halt to the search, forcing the German personnel to depart before completing their work. During their search, the German team had found no cargo that contravened the arms embargo, German Defence Ministry spokesman Christian Thiels told reporters in Berlin. The spokesman said the decision to search the vessel had been taken by the „Irini“ mission command in Rome. The search was ended when word came from Turkey that it refused permission.
apnews.com, dw.com

Sarkozy bribery trial postponed: The trial of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy over allegations of corruption and influence-peddling was postponed on Monday for three days. The lawyer of Gilbert Azibert, a co-defendant, had applied to have the trial postponed due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, news broadcaster BFMTV said. Azibert had not appeared before the court yet. Prosecutors have said Sarkozy tried to bribe Azibert with the promise of a job in Monaco in return for information about a separate case of financial impropriety.
dw.com, politico.eu

Lockdown looms for Luxembourg: Luxembourg is set to enter lockdown after being hit hard by Covid-19. The country reported over 1,000 new cases this weekend and still has the worst rate of infections per population in Europe. Six deaths were reported over the weekend. Proposed measures include an extended curfew and the closure of bars, restaurants, cinemas and fitness centres. The aim is to get below 500 new cases per day in order for the healthcare system to be in a better position.

Hospital in Bulgaria using robots to help doctors carry out surgery: The Saint Marina University Hospital in Varna is at the heart of a European project for personalised medicine. The 1,300-bed university hospital is modernising its infrastructure to become a centre of competence and hi-tech research, within 5 years. The transformation has already begun with, among other things, the arrival in December last year of surgical assistance robots.

Poland: Arrests during protests against stricter abortion law rp-online.de
Sweden: Covid-19 case surge forces Sweden to rethink strategy praised by US conservatives nbcnews.com
Slovakia: Dispute over mass testing handelsblatt.com
Spain: Restaurants, cinemas and theatres in Barcelona reopen nau.ch
France: President Macron to outline 3-step path out of lockdown france24.com
Germany set to ban New Year’s Eve fireworks to protect hospitals theguardian.com


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France’s „feminist diplomacy“: lots of talk, little action: The term „feminist diplomacy“ used by France since 2018 remains unclear, according to a report by the country’s High Council on Gender Equality presented to the government on 18 November. “Is it a simple language game, and thus a communication issue, or is it a matter of raising awareness about the importance of integrating equality into France’s foreign policy at the highest level and hence a major step forward?” This was the question posed in the High Council on Gender Equality’s report.


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