⊂ EUROPE ⊃
EU launches legal action against AstraZeneca due to vaccine shortages: The European Union confirmed Monday it’s taking legal action against AstraZeneca over shortfalls in the deliveries of its coronavirus vaccine. The Anglo-Swedish drug company said it could not deliver as many vaccines as the EU was counting on, both during the first and second quarters. This has delayed the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines across the 27 EU nations. EU Commission spokesperson Stefan De Keersmaeke said Monday that terms of the contract had not been respected, and the company had not been in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure the timely delivery of doses. AstraZeneca shot back Monday in a statement saying that the company should deliver almost 50 million doses total to the EU by the end of April, in line with its forecast. But AstraZeneca also acknowledged that it has faced manufacturing challenges. The United States will begin sharing its entire stock of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines with the world once it clears federal safety reviews, the White House said Monday. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have kicked off an initiative aimed at strengthening post-marketing monitoring of the safety, effectiveness and impact of Covid vaccines.
cnbc.com, politico.eu, apnews.com, ema.europa.eu
EU, UK and US offer support to India: The EU, UK and the US have pledged to help India as the country battles a devastating surge of Covid-19 infections. For the fourth straight day, India on Sunday set a global daily record of new cases, spurred by an insidious new variant that emerged here. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Monday that Germany is racing to get oxygen and medicine to India. The UK on Sunday sent a first shipment of about 600 pieces of medical equipment, including ventilators and oxygen concentrators, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told ITV.
EU chief felt hurt and alone at meeting with Turkish leader: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Monday that she felt hurt and alone during a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this month and that she was treated poorly simply because she is a woman. Von der Leyen told the European Parliament that video footage of the incident earlier this month, dubbed “Sofagate”, spoke for itself. Entering the room, European Council President Charles Michel and Erdogan had taken the two chairs laid out, leaving her standing alone. “I cannot find any justification for (how) I was treated in the European treaties. So, I have to conclude that it happened because I am a woman,” von der Leyen said. “Would this have happened if I had worn a suit, and a tie?” She also pointed out that she did not see any shortage of chairs in previous meetings of EU top leaders with Erdogan. Michel apologised Monday for the incident. He said he should have given up his seat but that he was concerned about sparking a broader diplomatic incident, especially given the poor state of relations between Turkey and the EU.
apnews.com, theguardian.com, politico.eu
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Breton to meet chipmaker execs: European industry chief Thierry Breton will hold discussions with the chief executive of chipmaker Intel and a top executive of Taiwanese competitor TMSC on 30 April, as the EU seeks to shield itself from shocks in the global supply chain. Sources in Brussels say Breton is keen to attract a leading chipmaker to site a major fabrication plant in the EU that would help realise the Commission’s ambition of gaining access to the most advanced production over the next decade.
Vaccinated US tourists will be allowed to visit the EU this summer: American tourists who have received both doses of a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are likely to be allowed to visit the EU this summer. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen did not give exact dates, but noted the US was on track to inoculate 70% of adults against Covid-19 by mid-June. Speaking to „The New York Times“, von der Leyen added that a large deciding factor was the EMA green-lighting the same vaccines as the US. These include the Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson jabs.
EU rejects redrawing of Western Balkans borders: EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell has rejected a discussion about redrawing borders in the Western Balkans, after an unofficial diplomatic note proposed to break up Bosnia and merge Kosovo with Albania. The document, which has been seen by Reuters and has been circulating among EU officials, proposes incorporating parts of Bosnia into Serbia and Croatia to help the region’s EU integration. Following a meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels, Borrell underlined the continuous and unequivocal support of the EU to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as much as to the other countries of the Western Balkans. He said the focus should be on things that work in a constructive dialogue needed to move Bosnia and Herzegovina forward on its European path, and not to debate about ideas that distracted from bringing the whole of the Western Balkans into the EU.
Military spending rises worldwide despite the pandemic: Global military spending increased by 2.6% to 1.637 trillion euros last year, despite the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic. The United States continues to spend the most on its defence, followed by China, but military spending also rose by 4% across Europe, according to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
European Central Bank is expanding emergency bond purchases wiwo.de
Experts: What will the world look like after the pandemic? euronews.com
Accession: Brussels steps up pressure on Serbia over Kosovo talks euronews.com
EU Parliament: This Tuesday, leading MEPs on EU-UK relations will hold press conference on final consent vote on the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement europarl.europa.eu
⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃
„The green transition is not just a necessity to fight climate change. The green transition is the biggest economic opportunity of our times and can be the engine of our recovery, simultaneously in Europe and in Africa.“
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has called for the creation of an African Green Deal.
⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃
Draghi says recovery plan holds key to Italy’s destiny: Prime Minister Mario Draghi presented a multi-billion-euro economic recovery plan to parliament on Monday, telling lawmakers it held the key to Italy’s future wellbeing after the pandemic. “The destiny of the country lies in this set of projects,” Draghi told the lower house of parliament. Most of the money will come from the EU, to be spent on schemes to improve Italy’s fragile infrastructure, boost environmentally sustainable development and encourage digital innovation.
Macron and Putin discuss Navalny and Ukraine: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron discussed Ukraine and jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny in a phone call on Monday, the Kremlin said. Russian prosecutors on Monday suspended the activities of Navalny’s political organisation ahead of a court ruling that could see the Kremlin critic’s movement branded “extremist.” Navalny ally Leonid Volkov said via messaging service Telegram that the move was made “so that we don’t publish investigations, organize protests or participate in elections. At any price.” According to media reports, the Dutch parliament’s foreign affairs committee was fooled into holding a video call with someone using deepfake tech to impersonate Volkov.
reuters.com, politico.eu, engadget.com
Germany to let everyone apply for vaccine by June: Germany will be doing away with vaccine prioritisation by age group by June, Chancellor Angela Merkel said after discussing the vaccination drive with the heads of Germany’s 16 states on Monday. They also discussed whether people who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 should be exempt from restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the virus, though no decision was made. Citing a study from the country’s official Robert Koch Institute, Merkel said that fully vaccinated people and those who have recovered, no longer pose a relevant infection danger. Merkel did not comment on when the relaxations might be introduced but said the government would prepare a decree setting out its proposals, which will then be discussed in parliament.
No Covid deaths in Portugal for the first time in nine months: Portugal on Monday reported no coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours for the first time in nearly nine months as the country emerges from a two-month lockdown, the country’s health authority said. The last time Portugal reported no coronavirus-related deaths was on 3 August.
Spanish tourism minister receives blood-stained knife: Spanish tourism minister Reyes Maroto has received a letter containing a bloody knife, a senior Socialist official has said. It is the latest in a series of threatening parcels that have been sent to left-wing figures, just a few days before crucial regional elections in Madrid. Last week, the leader of the left-wing Podemos party, Pablo Iglesias, the interior minister and the head of the Civil Guard received threatening letters. The threats have been strongly condemned by Spanish politicians, including Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
Lockdown eases in Italy and Scotland: Italian coffee bars, restaurants, cinemas and theatres partially reopened in most regions on Monday as part of a phased springtime relaxation of Covid lockdowns. 14 of the country’s 20 regions have been designated yellow zones, meaning there is a relatively low risk from Covid-19. In the yellow zones, coffee bars and restaurants are now allowed to serve customers outdoors after a near-total shutdown of about six weeks. In Scotland, shops, gyms, swimming pools, pubs, restaurants and cafes are reopening after a four month-long winter lockdown.
Bulgaria’s anti-elite party says will not lead a government, snap election likely: Bulgaria’s new anti-establishment party, There Is Such A People (ITN), said on Monday it would not try to form a government despite a surge of support in this month’s parliamentary election, bringing the Balkan country closer to snap polls in the summer. Popular anger at widespread corruption boosted support for ITN and two smaller anti-graft parties at this month’s parliamentary election, but even together the three groupings would not have a majority in the fragmented parliament.
Romania kicks out Russian embassy official dw.com
Italy expelled two Russian diplomats last month: Russia expels Italian diplomat, calls in envoy reuters.com
Germany and France praise European solidarity against Covid dw.com
German and French finance ministers jointly present national Covid development plans de.marketscreener.com
Greece confirms last coal plant will be shut in 2025 euractiv.com
⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃
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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃
Ukraine urges global solidarity to prevent Chernobyl repeat: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday urged the international community to work together to ensure nuclear security and prevent a repeat of the Chernobyl disaster on the 35th anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear accident. He made the comments during a trip to the Chernobyl exclusion zone, an area spanning a 30-kilometre radius around the nuclear power plant that was evacuated in the aftermath of the accident and has been deemed unsafe for humans to live for thousands of years.