Wednesday, 13 January 2021: Trump defends remarks before US Capitol riot, EU defends slow vaccine rollout, Italy avoids political crisis


Trump defends remarks before US Capitol riot: US President Donald Trump told reporters on Tuesday that there was „tremendous anger“ over efforts to impeach him for his role in inciting the deadly attack on the US Capitol. He also did not take responsibility for encouraging his supporters to march on the building. Trump defended the speech he made at a rally last week as „totally appropriate“. Last Wednesday, Trump addressed a crowd of his supporters at a rally in Washington, imploring them to „fight“ to stop the steal of the election. German Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Trump should leave office before Inauguration Day: „He is responsible for what happened at Capitol Hill, there is no doubt about it. And he should take the responsibility and this is why I think he should leave“, Scholz said. The US House of Representatives began voting on Tuesday night to formally call on Vice President Mike Pence to use the 25th Amendment to strip Trump of his powers, as lawmakers warned they would impeach the president this Wednesday if Pence did not comply. Three US lawmakers who had to shelter for safety during the Capitol riot have tested positive for Covid-19. (Trump), (Scholz), (Impeachment), (Covid)

EU defends slow vaccine rollout: The EU’s vaccine negotiator, Sandra Gallina, has defended the Commission’s strategy saying „we bought as much as was offered“. Gallina faced tough questions over the bloc’s slow rollout of vaccinations from MEPs in Brussels on Tuesday. She explained that the number of doses should ramp up by April. MEPs underlined the need for more clarity and transparency regarding vaccine contracts, as well as the decision-making process at EU level. As countries rush to vaccinate their populations against the coronavirus, schemes to verify immunity status — known as „vaccine passports“ — are taking off as a path back to normal life, with Greece pitching an EU-wide scheme. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told the EU Commission that it was urgent to adopt a common understanding on how a vaccination certificate should be structured so as to be accepted in all member states. The EU Commission has concluded exploratory talks with Valneva with a view to purchasing its potential Covid vaccine. AstraZeneca’s vaccine could be available across the EU in mid-February., (Gallina); (Vaccination certificate); (Valneva); (AstraZeneca)

Vaccine data leaked after EU hack: Hacker have posted confidential documents regarding Covid-19 medicines and vaccines on the internet after a data breach late last year at the European Medicines Agency EMA. Timelines related to evaluating and approving Covid medicines and vaccines haven’t been affected, the EMA said in a statement on Tuesday. The agency said it remains fully functional and that law enforcement authorities are taking action on the breach.

Facebook Live: IJP-AfricaTalk #7 – Agriculture and Food Security: Does COVID-19 have an impact on access to food? COVID-19 pandemic movement restrictions have implications on food security. The measures are likely to exacerbate food security challenges. Meanwhile, certain agricultural regions were already in trouble, facing floods, conflicts and decreasing prices. What needs to be done to achieve adequate food supply in periods of crisis? Facebook Live-Discussion with Renate Künast (MdB, Die Grünen) on Thursday, 10 December 2020, 09:45 UTC +01.

Regions want a larger say in the future of the EU-UK relationship: Europe’s local politicians want a bigger role in establishing the future relationship between the EU and the UK. This was the overwhelming feeling among members of the Committee of the Regions at Monday’s meeting of the CoR-UK contact group. The group discussed the significance of the withdrawal agreement specifically for local politics for the first time. And there were a few things to criticise. “The agreement lacks any regional dimension,” said Antje Grotheer, deputy president of Bremen’s parliament. Oldrich Vlasak, former vice president of the EU Parliament, agreed, saying he was disappointed. Maria Prazeres Gomes Isilda, the mayor of Portimão, Portugal, emphasised that in the future relations between the EU and the United Kingdom, decisions need to be made close to and with the people on the ground. This is what local politics can do, she said.

Turkish FM says the EU has over-politicised accession negotiations: The EU has excessively politicised the negotiations between Ankara and Brussels, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Cavusoglu told Euractiv’s partner EFE, calling on the bloc to take a more positive approach. He reiterated his country’s wish to join the EU, shortly before meeting his Spanish counterpart, Arancha González Laya last Friday in Madrid.

EU watchdog opens investigation into border agency Frontex: The EU’s anti-fraud watchdog, OLAF, has opened an investigation into Frontex, the bloc’s border agency, over allegations of harassment, misconduct and migrant pushbacks, according to four EU officials. The investigators are looking into allegations of harassment and misconduct that have led some officials, including at a very senior level, to leave the agency in recent months. However, the probe also involves allegations of pushback — unlawful operations aimed at stopping migrants from reaching EU shores.

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Italy avoids political crisis: The Italian government has decided on a gigantic economic programme to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic. Late Tuesday evening, the cabinet in Rome approved the package of measures with a volume of 222.9 billion euros, Economic Affairs Minister Roberto Gualtieri announced. Minority coalition partner Italia Viva (IV) had said ahead of the cabinet meeting that it was opposed to the programme. IV ministers Teresa Bellanova and Elena Bonetti then abstained during the cabinet vote. IV leader and former prime minister Matteo Renzi also threatened the exit of his party from the coalition before the meeting. The Conte government would lose its majority in the Senate should the IV follow through on this threat.

Germany tightens travel rules in response to new virus strain: Germany plans to tighten controls on people entering the country as part of efforts to bring under control a surge in coronavirus cases which is leading to record numbers of deaths in the country. The proposal would require people arriving from countries with high case loads or where a new, more virulent strain of the virus is circulating to take a test for the disease. Chancellor Angela Merkel had told a meeting of lawmakers from her conservative party that Germany’s current lockdown could last until the start of April. “If we don’t manage to stop this British virus, then we will have 10 times the number of cases by Easter. We need eight to 10 more weeks of tough measures,” the „Bild“ newspaper quoted Merkel as saying. Three participants in the meeting told Reuters that Merkel had not been explicit about this, but had shown concern about new, more virulent strains of the virus such as the one first identified in Britain. A coronavirus variant that was identified in South Africa has been detected in Germany for the first time, the Social Affairs Ministry in the state of Baden-Württemberg said on Tuesday.,

Slovak linked to reporter slaying sentenced in separate case: An appeals court in Slovakia upheld a lower court ruling that sentenced businessman Marian Kocner, who is allegedly linked to the slaying of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, to 19 years in prison in a separate case of forgery. Kocner was charged together with former Economy Minister Pavol Rusko. In September, Kocner was acquitted in a separate trial where he could get a prison sentence of 25 years to life for allegedly ordering the 2018 slayings of Kuciak and his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova. Prosecutors appealed the verdict, but the Supreme Court has yet to rule on that. Kuciak had been investigating possible government corruption and Kocner’s business deals.

Netherlands extends lockdown: The Dutch government has announced a three-week extension of Covid-19 lockdown measures. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a televised address he had no alternative since the number of positive tests, while it had declined for the second week in a row, was not falling fast enough. The government was also extremely worried by the potential consequences of the British variant, Rutte said. “There is light at the end of the tunnel with the arrival of the vaccines, but we are asking you for final effort – this is tough, I realise, but we can reach the finishing line,” he said.,

Italy’s tourism workers protest lack of support: Workers from Italy’s tourism industry have been making noise in Rome over the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Many said they had lost tens of thousands of euros amid travel restrictions and had been abandoned by authorities. According to data provided by Italy’s national statistics agency, ISTAT, foreign tourism in Italy dropped by almost 70% in 2020.

New tool to monitor energy transition progress of French regions: Climate Action Network France launched on Monday its observatory of regional climate-energy targets, a tool that makes it possible to visualise the progress of each French region in terms of energy and climate transition. On its website, progress is presented using three main indicators: greenhouse gas emissions, end-user energy consumption, and renewable energy production within each region. Graphs provide an overview of how far each region has come in achieving its energy and climate objectives.

Greece: Former Foreign Minister Kotzias accuses Mitsotakis‘ government of tyrannical methods
Germany now has a higher Covid death rate than the United States
Sweden: More than 500,000 proven Covid infections
Ukraine asks EU neighbours for more help getting Covid-19 vaccines


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Amsterdam to restrict tourist access to coffee shops: Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema has proposed a new policy that would ban foreign visitors from accessing the city’s coffee shops. Almost a third of coffee shops in the Netherlands are in Amsterdam, which according to Halsema is a major incentive for foreign tourists who often cause inconvenience to residents. Halsema will discuss the measures with Amsterdam’s city council later this month. Joachim Helms, the spokesman for the Association of Cannabis Retailers in Amsterdam, warned that efforts to keep tourists out of coffee shops will push the drug trade on to the streets.,


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