Wednesday, 18 November 2020: Germany remains optimistic after EU budget veto, Pakistan plans sanctions against France, Rising number of Covid deaths in Europe


Germany remains optimistic after EU budget veto: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Tuesday voiced confidence that a quick solution could be found after Hungary and Poland triggered a political crisis in the EU by blocking approval of the bloc’s long-term budget and the accompanying Covid rescue fund. The two countries had blocked the budget package because it included a clause which makes access to money conditional on respecting the rule of law. Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn warned against making concessions to Hungary and Poland when it comes to tying access to EU funds to compliance with the EU’s basic democratic standards. He said young people in both countries in particular expected the EU not to give in. Asselborn pointed out that before the fall of the Iron Curtain, the people in Hungary and Poland had to deal with conditions like the lack of separation of powers and the ban on freedom of expression.,,

Kramp-Karrenbauer advocates more European responsibility in the world: German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Tuesday said it was an illusion to think that Europe could go it alone on security without the United States and NATO. It would take decades for Europe to build up its conventional and nuclear military forces to compensate for what the US and NATO currently contribute to the continent’s security, she added. Among other things, Kramp-Karrenbauer said Europe relied on the US heavily for its missile defence and nuclear weapons. However, she said that there was a general political consensus that Germany and Europe should take on more responsibility, and that the change of administration in the US provided new chances as well as new challenges. Her remarks come after French President Emmanuel Macron criticised an op-ed by Kramp-Karrenbauer in „Politico“ earlier this month in which she espoused much the same viewpoints.,

EU states reject common rules on rapid tests at airports: Many EU governments oppose common rules on the use of rapid Covid-19 tests, an internal document seen by Reuters says, in a new blow to airlines which are betting on fast-track testing to help bring the travel industry back to life. A large number of member states made clear that discussions on common minimum standards and criteria were premature, the paper says. The document will be on the table when EU leaders discuss coordination in fighting the pandemic in a video conference on Thursday.

US reduces troops in Iraq and Afghanistan: Acting Pentagon chief Christopher Miller said Tuesday that the United States will reduce its military presence in Afghanistan to 2,500 troops and 2,500 troops in Iraq by 15 January. White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said it is President Donald Trump’s hope that all US troops will be home from Afghanistan and Iraq by May. NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg warned that leaving Afghanistan too soon or in an uncoordinated effort could present unintended consequences: „Afghanistan risks becoming once again a platform for international terrorists to plan and organise attacks on our homelands. And ISIS could rebuild in Afghanistan the terror caliphate it lost in Syria and Iraq,” the NATO chief said. Shortly after the US announcement of a troop withdrawal, rockets hit the Green Zone in Bagdad, just 600 metres from the American Embassy, Iraq’s military said, killing a child and wounding at least five people.,,

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There is so much money involved which so many countries in the European Union need and are waiting for, that we not only need a solution but we need it quickly. I am sure that we will be able to do that.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Tuesday he was confident of finding a quick solution to Poland and Hungary’s blockage of the 2021-2027 EU budget and the Covid recovery fund.


Pakistan plans sanctions against France: A far-right Pakistani religious political party said it has called off a sit-in protest in the capital Islamabad after the government agreed to discuss its demands for downgrading diplomatic ties with France over the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The group said it signed a deal with the government early on Tuesday to disband the protest, after extracting promises to consider expelling the French ambassador to Pakistan and to boycott French goods.

Rising number of Covid deaths in Europe: Countries across Europe are seeing a resurgence in Covid cases after successfully slowing outbreaks early in the year. Luxembourg is preparing for a new lockdown as part of the fight against the pandemic, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said on Tuesday. Despite almost three weeks of shutdown measures, the situation in Switzerland’s intensive care units remains critical. And in Sweden, around 10% of deaths in the first six months of 2020 were due to Covid. The disease caused by the coronavirus was the third leading cause of death in the country.,,,

Germany’s November coronavirus aid package will cost 14 billlion euros: German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday that the government’s coronavirus aid package to compensate firms affected by lockdown measures in November will amount to roughly 14 billion euros. Scholz said the government was ready and willing to help firms affected by the lockdown measures, but he also cautioned that the government needs to consider carefully which relief measures make sense.

Thousands protest Slovakia’s Covid restrictions: Thousands of Slovaks protested against the government and its anti-coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday. Public gatherings in Slovakia are still limited, retail shops face some curbs and restaurants and many schools remain closed. Protesters, many defying mask-wearing rules and carrying Slovak flags, gathered on Tuesday in various areas of the capital Bratislava and other cities, including outside government offices where police had installed security fences.

Greek protesters clash with police: Greek police used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon in Athens on Tuesday to break up a demonstration to commemorate a 1973 student uprising against the military junta that was banned because of the pandemic. The 17th of November is a treasured anniversary for many Greeks, recalling a crackdown that killed 24, including many students of the Athens Polytechnic. But this year Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis‘ conservative government banned the public demonstrations as Greece faces mounting coronavirus cases.

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Germany 1: Police arrest suspects in Dresden museum heist
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Germany hails couch potatoes as heroes of pandemic: The German government on Saturday released an online video praising an unexpected hero in the country’s fight against the coronavirus: the couch potato. The short video begins with an elderly man recalling his „service“ to the nation back in the day when he was a young student „in the winter of 2020.“ He adds in a serious tone: „We did nothing. Absolutely nothing. Being as lazy as raccoons.“ A government message then reads: „You too can become a hero by staying at home.“ The videos are intended to motivate young people in particular to stay at home as much as possible during the Covid pandemic.


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