Category Archives: News

Europarl extraordinary April plenary

The EP’s President and political group leaders decided to hold an extraordinary plenary to continue with parliamentary work on the special measures to fight the pandemic.
Parliament’s President and political group leaders (Conference of Presidents) held a remote meeting on Thursday morning and agreed to convene an extraordinary plenary session on Thursday 16 and Friday 17 April in Brussels.
(Image archive: Europarliament Brussels)

On the agenda will be a debate with Council and Commission and a vote on a resolution on EU coordinated action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences. The EP is also ready to vote on any legislative or budgetary proposals prepared in time by the European Commission to further address the current situation.

The Conference of Presidents updated the EP’s calendar of activities to introduce additional dates for remote meetings for EP governing bodies, committees and political groups. You can find it here.

Group leaders also raised concerns about the emergency measures recently adopted in Hungary. A majority of the groups asked President Sassoli to relay their concerns in a letter to the Commission, asking them to evaluate the situation and consider activating the Article 7 procedure of the Treaty on European Union (TEU). This procedure would allow the EU to ensure that European core values are not at risk.

Remote voting system and health measures:

The current precautionary measures adopted by the European Parliament to contain the spread of COVID-19 do not affect work on legislative priorities. Core activities are reduced, but maintained to ensure the institution’s legislative, budgetary, scrutiny functions are maintained.

Parliament has agreed to introduce an alternative remote voting system. Based on public health grounds, it will enable votes to take place, with adequate safeguards to ensure that Members’ votes are individual, personal and free.

COVID19: European Commission measures

The EU’s next seven year budget should be a key instrument in the recovery plan to confront the negative economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on April 2.

Some people are talking about a Marshall Plan. The European budget should be the Marshall Plan we lay out together,” von der Leyen said while proposing a package aimed at support of the most affected countries.

A number of member states, including Spain along with the European Council president Charles Michel, have been calling for an EU Marshall Plan to support European economy in the aftermath of the pandemic.

We all know that in this crisis we need quick answers and we cannot take two or three years to invent new tools,” von der Leyen pointed out, “the MFF (Multiannual Financial Framework, the EU’s long-term budget) is the strongest tool we have,” she concluded. 

We want to shape the MFF in such a way that is a crucial part of our recovery plan,” the president added. 

NATO COVID19 response

NATO Foreign Ministers directed NATO’s top commander, General Wolters, to coordinate the necessary military support to combat the coronavirus crisis and to start using fast-track paths through Europe’s airspace for military flights carrying medical supplies, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday (2 April 2020).

NATO was created to deal with crises. So we can help and our Alliance is playing its part”, the Secretary General said. Mr Stoltenberg’s remarks came after a meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers, held by secure videoconference for the first time in NATO’s history. Ministers also agreed to hold an extra-ordinary meeting of Defence Ministers in April to review the support provided to Allies and take decisions on any further steps.

The Alliance is already coordinating and supporting national efforts against the pandemic with logistical, transport and medical help. “I am grateful for the further offers of assistance, which NATO Allies made today and for the substantial support that Allies have already provided”, the Secretary General said, citing the airlift of medical supplies, provision of medical personnel and the use of innovative technologies. Mr Stoltenberg stressed that NATO’s main task remained the protection of NATO’s almost one billion people, and that NATO’s ability to conduct operations had not been undermined.

Today’s meeting also focused on NATO missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and support for Georgia and Ukraine. On Iraq, the Secretary General said that NATO would take on some additional activities including the training and the education of non-commissioned officers, engineers, and federal police. On Afghanistan, the Secretary General welcomed efforts to set up an inclusive team for the inter-Afghan negotiations, calling on the Taliban and all political actors to play their part.

North Macedonia, which on Friday (27 March 2020) became the alliance’s 30th member, attended a NATO Ministerial meeting for the first time as an Ally.

China Shenzhen bans cats&dogs meat

China’s city of Shenzhen (12,5M inhabitants) has just passed a ground-breaking law to ban the consumption and production of dog and cat meat, the first city in mainland China to do so. The ban has been welcomed by long-time anti-dog meat trade campaigners Humane Society International as a watershed moment in efforts to ban the trade across China. The law also addresses the wildlife trade.

The food safety legislation (Shenzhen Special Economic Region Regulation on a Comprehensive Ban on the Consumption of Wild Animals) proposed in February by Shenzhen legislators, comes into effect on May 1.

Unlike the temporary ban on wildlife markets and consumption passed by the national government, Shenzhen’s ban is a permanent prohibition on the consumption, breeding, and sale of wildlife such as snakes, lizards, and other wild animals for human consumption, with heavy fines of up 150,000 yuan (€20 000).

Although advanced in response to the coronavirus outbreak, an unrelated ban on the consumption of “pet” animals was also included in acknowledgement of their status as companion animals. In announcing the ban, a spokesperson for the Shenzhen government said “… dogs and cats as pets have established a much closer relationship with humans than all other animals, and banning the consumption of dogs and cats and other pets is a common practice in developed countries and in Hong Kong and Taiwan. This ban also responds to the demand and spirit of human civilization.”

To further underpin that, the law clarifies those species permitted to be consumed (pig, cattle, sheep, rabbit, chicken etc, with dogs and cats noticeably absent). Therefore from May 1, the sale of cats and dogs for human consumption will now be banned in restaurants and stores throughout Shenzhen, and sale of live cats and dogs for consumption will be banned in markets.

Dr Peter Li, China policy specialist for animal protection charity Humane Society International, welcomed the news, saying: “With Shenzhen taking the historic decision to become mainland China’s first city to ban dog and cat meat consumption, this really could be a watershed moment in efforts to end this brutal trade that kills an estimated 10 million dogs and 4 million cats in China every year.

The majority of these companion animals are stolen from people’s back yards or snatched from the streets, and are spirited away on the backs of trucks to be beaten to death in slaughterhouses and restaurants across China.

Shenzhen is China’s fifth largest city so although the dog meat trade is fairly small there compared with the rest of the province, its true significance is that it could inspire a domino effect with other cities following suit. Most people in China don’t eat dog or cat meat, and there is considerable opposition to the trade particularly among younger Chinese. Although World Health Organization advice is clear that dogs and cats pose no known coronavirus threat whatsoever, it’s no surprise that attention is turning to this trade at this time because it undoubtedly poses a huge human health risk for other diseases such as rabies, as well as causing immense animal suffering.”

Dr. Teresa M. Telecky, vice president of the wildlife department for Humane Society International, said: “Shenzhen is the first city in the world to take the lessons learned from this pandemic seriously and make the changes needed to avoid another pandemic. People around the world are suffering the impact of this pandemic because of one thing: the wildlife trade. Shenzhen’s bold steps to stop this trade and wildlife consumption is a model for governments around the world to emulate. We urge all governments to follow suit by banning wildlife trade, transport and consumption for any purpose.”

Shenzhen ban details:

Article 2 prohibits the consumption of state-protected wild animals and other terrestrial wild animals taken from the wild, as well as captive bred and farmed terrestrial wild species.
Article 3 makes clear that the consumption of “pet” animals such as cats and dogs is not permitted; species that are permitted to be consumed include pig, cattle, sheep, donkey, rabbit, chicken, duck, goose, pigeon, quail and other livestock animals on the list that are raised for food, as well as aquatic animals who are not banned by other law or regulations.
Article 8: prohibits the consumption of animals farmed for medicinal purposes.
Article 17. The production or marketing (sale) of the above mentioned state-protected wild species and their products for consumption purposes will be fined between 150,000 yuan and 200,000 for a value of illegal activity that is under 10,000 yuan; and a fine of between 20 times and 30 times of the value of an illegal activity that is 10,000 yuan or above. For violations involving other wild animals whose value is less than 10,000 yuan, there will be fines between 100,000 yuan and 150,000 yuan (approx.€20 000).

Millions dogs a year are killed across Asia for meat, estimated figure is 30 million animals a year. There are are also to be more than 91.49 million dogs and cats kept as pets in China. An estimated 10 million dogs a year are killed for China’s dog meat trade.

The World Health Organization warns that the dog trade spreads rabies and increases the risk of cholera.

Most people in China don’t eat dogs, in fact dog meat is only eaten infrequently by less than 20% of the Chinese population. A 2017 survey revealed that even in Yulin, home of the notorious dog meat festival, most people (72%) don’t regularly eat dog meat despite efforts by dog meat traders to promote it.

Nationwide across China, a 2016 survey conducted by Chinese polling company Horizon, and commissioned by Chinese group China Animal Welfare Association in collaboration with Humane Society International and Avaaz, found that most Chinese citizens (64%) want to see an end to the Yulin festival, more than half (51.7%) think the dog meat trade should be completely banned, and the majority (69.5%) have never eaten dog meat.

MEPs wish Brexit deadline to shift

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged by a group of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to delay the agreed Brexit deadline taking into consideration the difficulties the coronavirus pandemic caused.

The European Parliament’s largest group of European People’s Party MEPs said the pandemic puts pressure on the chance of securing a trade deal by the planned date.

The British Prime Minister spokesman reacted, indicating that there were no plans to adjust the timetable.

It comes as EU and UK representatives met to discuss implementing the Brexit withdrawal agreement over video.

Under the agreement, the UK enters a transition period where it will continue to follow EU rules until 31 December 2020, by which time both sides say they hope to have agreed a trade deal.

Moscow СOVID19 shopping in style

Moscow luxury store championed 3D-printed face shields for employees – the construction includes frame and a clear plastic shield that covers the entire face. Apparently any 3D printing shop that wishes to help protecting citizens amid COVID-19 pandemic can join the effort, following online instructions.

The plastic shield has many advantages, being easy comfortable in wearing, and easy in clearing, it has been also received with enthusiasm by medics, facilitating their mission.

Essentially face shields are a key piece of equipment for front-line healthcare workers operating in close contact with coronavirus patients. They can protect a healthcare professional from exposure to droplets containing the virus expelled by patients when they cough or sneeze.

In spite of the strict security measures against COVID-19, following the instruction of Moscow Mayor, Tsum store has been closed until 5 April, and continues to function only online.

“From March 28 to April 5, the Central Department Store, DLT, and also the points for issuing orders at the Central Department Store, DLT and Barvikha will be closed. You can make an order in our online store tsum.ru. There is free delivery in Moscow, Moscow Region and St. Petersburg” read the announcment for the clients.

North Macedonia NATO ceremony

Flag raising ceremonies were held simultaneously at Allied Command Operations (SHAPE) in Mons (Belgium) and Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia (United States). North Macedonia became the 30th member of the Alliance on Friday (27 March 2020), when it deposited its instrument of accession to the North Atlantic Treaty with the US State Department in Washington DC.

Standing alongside the Chargé d’Affaires of the Delegation of North Macedonia to NATO, Mr. Zoran Todorov, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “This is a historic moment for North Macedonia. It comes after years of perseverance, determination, and commitment to reform. In the best spirit of the Alliance, and through political courage and vision, North Macedonia and Greece reached a historic compromise over the name issue. The Prespa agreement made NATO accession possible. It has also contributed to good neighborly relations and a brighter future for North Macedonia. Your hard work has made today possible.”

Joining NATO is good for North Macedonia. It is good for the stability of the Western Balkans and it is good for international peace and security,” Mr. Stoltenberg added. “At times like these, friends and Allies are more important than ever and North Macedonia now has the best friends and Allies in the world. We are all safer and stronger together than alone. So, welcome to NATO,” he added.

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