⊂ EUROPE ⊃
EU top court rules Polish judges can appeal nominations: The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that Poland’s legal reforms could violate EU law, in that they remove the possibility of judicial review in the Supreme Court nomination process. Judges applying to join Poland’s Supreme Court should have the right to appeal against the opinions of a body which reviews candidates, the European Union’s top court ruled on Tuesday. The ruling underlines the ongoing rift between the EU institutions and the Polish government over the rule of law. Poland is in a long-running row with the EU over reforms that the bloc says hurt court independence by increasing political control over judges. The judgment set off furious reactions in Poland. Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro criticised the EU court ruling as unacceptable. But many opposition figures welcomed the decision. Opposition Civic Platform party leader Borys Budka said the verdict was a triumph of law over lawlessness.
Austria and Denmark break ranks with EU on vaccines: Austria and Denmark, chafing at the slow rollout of Covid-19 vaccines within the EU, have joined forces with Israel to produce second-generation vaccines against mutations of the coronavirus. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said it was right in principle to take a European-wide approach to inoculation. However, he maintained that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) had been too slow to approve vaccines, and drew attention to production problems and delivery failures. „We must prepare for further mutations and should no longer be dependent solely on the EU in the production of second-generation vaccines,“ Kurz told the Austria Press Agency. Danish Prime Minister Danish Mette Frederiksen was also critical of the EU’s vaccine programme. Meanwhile, the EMA will likely authorise the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for the EU on 11 March.
reuters.com, dw.com, orf.at
COVAX initiative starts: The COVAX vaccine-sharing programme said on Tuesday it will deliver 237 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 shot to 142 countries by the end of May as it steps up the global roll-out of its vaccine supplies. COVAX is the World Health Organisation-backed programme to provide vaccines for poor and middle-income countries. It began its roll-out last week with the first deliveries of shots to Ghana and Ivory Coast.
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EU and US impose sanctions on Russia over Navalny poisoning: The United States and the European Union announced coordinated sanctions on Russia Tuesday for the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his arrest and detention that followed. The EU imposed bans on travel and froze the assets in Europe of Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Igor Krasnov, the prosecutor general, Viktor Zolotov, head of the National Guard, and Alexander Kalashnikov, head of the Federal Prison Service. The US sanctioned seven mid-and senior-level officials, including Krasnov and Kalashnikov.
Myanmar police fire rubber bullets at protesters: Protesters in Myanmar took to the streets again on Tuesday to protest the ousting of Aung San Suu Kyi’selected government. Police repeatedly used tear gas and rubber bullets against crowds protesting last month’s coup. Authorities have escalated their crackdown on the protests in recent days. The United Nations said it believed at least 18 people were killed on Sunday when security forces fired into crowds, while a rights group said more than 1,000 people were detained over the weekend, including an Associated Press journalist. Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held an informal meeting with a representative of Myanmar’s military junta later on Tuesday via video conference. Ahead of the meeting, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said his ASEAN counterparts would be frank and would tell a representative of Myanmar’s military that they were shocked by the violence.
apnews.com, dw.com, reuters.com
ECB has flexibility to counter undesired yield rise: The European Central Bank (ECB) has the flexibility to counter any undesired rise in bond yields, the bank’s vice president Luis de Guindos told a Portuguese newspaper after several policymakers called on the bank to act. “We will have to see whether this increase in nominal yields will have a negative impact on financing conditions,” de Guindos told Público on Tuesday. The ECB may nudge up its 2021 inflation projections at its policy meeting next week but much of this year’s rise will be temporary, so the bank is not very concerned about rising prices in the short term, de Guindos added.
Coronavirus: This Wednesday, EU Commission discusses economic and financial policy after the pandemic sueddeutsche.de
International Women’s Day 2021: Women leading the fight against Covid-19 europarl.europa.eu
Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): Portuguese presidency calls trilogue to seek CAP breakthrough euractiv.com
Study: Three in four EU citizens want a more sovereign Europe euractiv.com
Assassination of journalist Khashoggi: RSF files criminal complaint against Saudi crown prince in Germany dw.com
⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃
„It’s not a secret, for the strengthening and deepening between the EU and Georgia it is key to solve this political crisis.“
After his visit to Tbilisi and unexpected mediation of the deepening political crisis in Georgia, European Council President Charles Michel said progress in talks between the ruling party and the opposition will be assessed in two weeks.
⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃
Sarkozy says could take corruption appeal to European human rights court: France’s former president Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday that he might consider taking his appeal against a corruption conviction to the European Court of Human Rights. „I can’t accept being convicted for something I didn’t do,“ Sarkozy told the French daily „Le Figaro“ a day after he was found guilty of corruption and handed a three-year prison sentence. The sentence includes two years suspended and the remaining year to be served at home with an electronic bracelet. The court found that Sarkozy had formed a corruption pact with his former lawyer and friend Thierry Herzog to convince a judge, Gilbert Azibert, to obtain and share information about a legal investigation.
Hungary must pay compensation to refugee family: The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Hungary violated the rights of a family of asylum seekers in 2017. The court ordered Hungary to pay 4,500 euros in compensation to each of the three children and 6,500 euros to each parent. Between April and August 2017, the family of five lived in Röszke on the Serbian-Hungarian border in a cramped and overheated 13-square-metre container. During this time, the family’s children did not get adequate food. The court also found a violation of the „right to liberty and security“ as there was no strictly defined legal basis for detaining the family.
EU probes Germany’s move to pay for coal plant closures: The EU Commission said Tuesday it has opened a probe into whether Germany’s plans to compensate owners for the early shutdown of coal-fired power plants by 2038 is in line with the bloc’s rules on state aid to businesses. Germany agreed last year to pay utility companies 4.35 billion euros to speed up the closure of their coal-fired plants as part of the country’s efforts to fight climate change. Many of the plants use lignite, a particularly polluting coal mined in Germany. Environmental campaigners say that the companies benefitting from compensation — RWE and LEAG — would likely have to close the plants soon anyway because generating electricity from burning coal is becoming more expensive than renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.
Germany to extend lockdown until 28 March: Germany will extend its coronavirus lockdown until 28 March, according to a draft agreement for talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s states. The draft still needs to be agreed on and discussions are set to take place on Wednesday. The plan is to allow shops to reopen in areas where the number of coronavirus infections is considered reasonably low. In spite of the proposed lockdown extension, small private gatherings of people from multiple households may be allowed to take place from Monday 8 March. Under current rules, each household can only socialize with one other person. Hairdressers across the country reopened for business on Monday, following nearly two-and-a-half months of closures due to Germany’s strict lockdown rules. This is on the proviso that they follow rigorous hygiene measures and operate on a bookings-only system.
Dutch bar owners and sex workers protest against virus lockdown: With tough coronavirus measures shutting Dutch cafes and restaurants since mid-October, a protest on Tuesday saw an unknown number of cafes across the country symbolically open their terraces. Elsewhere, stores in one eastern village opened briefly in the morning and a group of sex workers staged a demonstration and set up a peep show outside parliament in the afternoon.
France approves AstraZeneca vaccine for over-65s: The French government said Tuesday older people with pre-existing conditions can now get AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, revising its stance on the issue. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is widely used across the UK, but several EU countries are still limiting it to the under-65s, including Germany. Last month France approved use of the vaccine for under-65s only, citing lack of data for older people. Since then, studies have shown the jab is highly effective among the elderly.
Portugal to table proposals to resume intra-EU travel as soon as possible: Portugal’s minister of economy and digital transition, Pedro Siza Vieira, told an informal meeting of EU ministers with responsibility for tourism that, as holder of the EU Council presidency, the country would propose measures to resume as soon as possible movement between European Union member states. He said that measures would be proposed for the short, medium and long term aiming to resume as soon as possible movement within the EU.
Behind Moroccan-German diplomatic crisis, a list of grudges dw.com
Spain’s governing partners show bad blood in public politico.eu
Italy: Five Star popularity surges with Conte’s frontman role bloomberg.com
Austria: Suspected „Ibiza video“ mastermind to be delivered to Austria welt.de
German rescue ship „Sea-Watch 4“ is allowed to leave port of Palermo faz.net
⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃
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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃
Eurovision Song Contest still hopes for show with an audience: Artists from 41 countries will appear live at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in the Netherlands under plans set out by the event’s organisers. Executive supervisor Martin Osterdahl told the BBC it was necessary for participants to travel to Rotterdam. „This isn’t a holiday trip, this is actually a job that needs to be done,“ he said, adding that a decision had yet to be made on a possible live audience. Last year’s event was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.