Wednesday, 24 February 2021: EU questions border closures in several countries, Iran has increased stocks of enriched uranium, UK gives EU extra time to ratify Brexit trade deal


EU questions border closures in several countries: The European Commission has complained that the border control measures implemented by Germany in February to combat the spread of the coronavirus were disproportionate and unjustified. Germany introduced checks at its borders to the Austrian state of Tyrol, the Czech Republic and Slovakia on 14 February, citing the risks of coronavirus variants in neighbouring countries. The Commission wrote that it believed that less restrictive measures could have achieved the goal of protecting public health. The bloc’s executive has previously sent similar letters to Belgium, Hungary, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, whose border restrictions have been met with disapproval in Brussels. Draft conclusions for an EU leaders video-conference on Thursday and Friday, seen by Reuters, said countries would agree non-essential travel in the bloc must remain restricted because the risk of Covid-19 contagion remains serious and new variants of the virus pose additional challenges. Meanwhile, the South African Covid variant has been identified in the French border region of Moselle. French Europe minister Clement Beaune told Reuters that Berlin and Paris had given themselves 48 hours to coordinate health measures such as increased testing in the Moselle region to avoid shutting their border there.,

Iran has increased stocks of enriched uranium: Iran has produced 17.6 kg of uranium enriched to up to 20% – the point at which it is highly enriched – roughly in line with the 10 kg a month required by a law that made it start that process in January, a United Nations nuclear watchdog report showed on Tuesday. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued an extra report, alongside its regular quarterly one to member states, on Iran’s nuclear activities. The second report said Iran had not yet answered questions on uranium particles found at two sites inspected last year. Iran said it was open to a European proposal that would bring its officials together with American negotiators for the first time since the US withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018, even as Tehran took another step to violate the accord by limiting international monitoring of its nuclear activities.,

UK gives EU extra time to ratify Brexit trade deal: The British government accepted an EU request for extra time to ratify the Brexit trade deal, after Brussels said it needed two more months to scrutinise it in 24 languages. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove announced the decision Tuesday, saying a delay in ratification was not the UK’s preferred outcome „given the uncertainty it creates for individuals and businesses.“ He added he hoped this would be enough and that no further extensions would be sought by the EU.

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EU envoy warns that Ethiopia Tigray crisis is out of control: Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto warned Tuesday that the crisis in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region appears out of control, after visiting the country on behalf of the EU. “You have come to the situation which is militarily and human rights-wise, humanitarian-wise very out of control,” Haavisto told journalists in Brussels. Tigray has been the theatre of fighting since early November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced military operations against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), accusing them of attacking federal army camps.

G7 countries condemn Myanmar crackdown on protesters: Members of the G7 have called for an end to the intimidation and oppression of those opposing the coup staged by Myanmar’s military in early February. They also urged the military to exercise utmost restraint and respect human rights and international law. Three people have been killed in protests opposing the takeover. In the meantime, Malaysia has returned nearly 1,200 migrants from Myanmar in defiance of a court order and appeals from human rights groups to halt the process.,

MEPs to quiz CEOs of vaccine companies: EU lawmakers will debate how to increase capacity and improve delivery of Covid-19 vaccines with pharmaceutical companies and Commissioners Thierry Breton and Stella Kyriakides. On Thursday, members of the Public Health (ENVI) and Industry (ITRE) committees will hear from representatives of the pharmaceutical industry involved in developing, manufacturing and deploying the EU’s portfolio of vaccines against Covid. The German government has said it was open to new talks about an EU vaccination certificate following a study on virus transmission by vaccinated people.,

More expensive services lead euro zone inflation rebound in January: More expensive services and industrial goods led a rebound in inflation in January after months of falling prices, offsetting the downward pull of cheaper energy, data showed on Tuesday. Eurostat confirmed earlier estimates that consumer prices in the 19 countries sharing the euro rose 0.2% month-on-month for a 0.9% year-on-year increase, as expected by economists.

Uighurs: EU foreign policy chief Borrell urges China to grant United Nations access to Xinjiang; Canada votes to recognise China’s treatment of Uighur population as genocide;
Navalny: Polish MEP slams EU’s new Russia sanctions
Catalan separatists: Legal Affairs Committee in the EU Parliament has lifted the immunity of former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont
GameStop trading frenzy: Online platforms like Robinhood that offer commission-free share trading to retail investors would be illegal in the EU, officials said
Illegal pushbacks: EU Parliament forms Frontex committee of inquiry


The 2020 losses will not be recovered as quickly or at the same pace across the EU and it is therefore essential that the 27 member states work together in a joint and strong European response.
EU Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn has warned that not all EU countries will recover from the economic losses of 2020 at the same pace.


Man sentenced to 15 years for murder of Maltese journalist: One of three men accused of carrying out the 2017 assassination of Maltese anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia pleaded guilty on Tuesday and was sentenced to 15 years in jail. Vincent Muscat is the first person to be convicted of the killing, which has embroiled Malta’s ruling Labour party in political scandal and led to the resignation of its prime minister in late 2019. Muscat was arrested in December 2017 with two others over the case that rocked Malta, setting off a chain of events that led to the resignation of Joseph Muscat (no relation) as prime minister.,

FDLR rebels deny killing Italian ambassador to DR Congo: The Democratic Republic of Congo has accused the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) of killing the Italian ambassador to the country on Monday. But the rebels shifted the blame to the armies of DR Congo and neighbouring Rwanda. A FDLR spokesperson said that more than 100 militias operated in the region, and he did not know why his group had been singled out by DR Congo officials. Ambassador Luca Attanasio died of his injuries after the World Food Programme convoy in which he was traveling came under gunfire near Goma, the capital of eastern North Kivu province on Monday. His bodyguard and a driver in the WFP convoy were also killed.,

Georgia raids opposition party HQ, detains leader: Georgian police have stormed the party offices of opposition leader Nika Melia using tear gas and detained him early on Tuesday, just days after the prime minister resigned over a disagreement on whether to arrest him or not. Melia, chairman of the United National Movement (UNM), has been accused of inciting violence at street protests in June 2019. Live television footage showed Melia being dragged from his party headquarters. Meanwhile, hundreds of riot police used tear gas against his supporters and the leaders of the country’s opposition parties, who have been camped out in the building since Wednesday, Mtavari TV live pictures showed. Several opposition supporters were detained.

Ukraine takes Russia to Europe court over targeted assassinations: Ukraine has accused Russia of targeted assassinations of perceived opponents in a case lodged at the European Court of Human Rights. The case, which was filed last week, accuses Russia of carrying out state-authorised assassinations in Russia and on the territory of other states outside a situation of armed conflict, the court said Tuesday. Ukraine also accuses Russia of failing to investigate the assassinations and of deliberately mounting cover-up operations aimed at frustrating efforts to find the persons responsible.

Meat-free school meals spark furor in France: By taking meat off the menu at school canteens, Lyon Mayor Gregory Doucet has kicked up a storm of protest and debate. Children in Lyon who were regularly offered such choices as beef and chicken in rich sauces found their meat option missing this week when they returned from school holidays. In its place: a meatless four-course meal that Lyon City Hall says will be quicker and easier to serve to children who, because of the coronavirus pandemic, must be kept apart during lunch to avoid infections. City Hall insisted that the meatless meals are temporary and that school canteens will again offer meat options when social distancing rules are relaxed and children once again have more time to dwell on their food choices and to eat.

Netherlands and Ireland extend Covid measures: The Republic of Ireland is to continue at its highest level of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions until at least 5 April, the cabinet decided on Tuesday. But primary schools will re-open on Monday for the four young youngest ages groups, the equivalent of primaries one to four. The Netherlands is extending its nighttime curfew for another three weeks in an attempt to further reduce the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, but will also relax other measures, outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced Tuesday. The Danish parliament has approved a new epidemic law that allows for far-reaching restrictions to contain infectious diseases. (Ireland), (Netherlands), (Denmark)

Spain: Thousands continue to protest against arrest of rapper Pablo Hasél
Germany: Cabinet set to extend Afghanistan mission into 2022
Poland: Attacks on abortion rights and breaches of the rule of law
Greece: Lesbos: Winter brings more suffering for refugees


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Free period products for students in France: Health services on campus and French student hostels will install dispensers offering free tampons, menstrual pads and other items in coming weeks, higher education minister Frederique Vidal announced on Tuesday. One-in-three female students would benefit, she said, with 13% among 6,500 respondents in a recent survey saying they had had to choose between buying period protectives and other everyday items such as food in the past.


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