Tag Archives: COVID19

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.

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.

EUCO: anti-COVID19 plan

The 27 EU leaders decided to offer the eurozone finance ministers two weeks to find a common economic response to the coronavirus crisis, European diplomats said. After more than six hours of discussion by video-conference, the heads of state and government of the 27 EU countries have reached agreement on a draft joint declaration to tackle the crisis caused by the coronavirus.

“We take note of the progress made by the Eurogroup. At this stage, we invite the Eurogroup to present proposals to us within two weeks. These proposals should take into account the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 shock affecting all our countries and our response will be stepped up, as necessary, with further action in an inclusive way, in light of developments, in order to deliver a comprehensive response” the declaration reads.

“The COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an unprecedented challenge for Europe and the whole world. It requires urgent, decisive, and comprehensive action at the EU, national, regional and local levels. We will do everything that is necessary to protect our citizens and overcome the crisis, while preserving our European values and way of life.

“We recognise the burden these measures put on all our citizens and praise their sense of responsibility. We express our deepest sympathy with the victims of the pandemic and their families. We commend the dedication and tireless efforts of the healthcare professionals at the forefront of the outbreak and the contribution of those who provide essential services to the population.

“We will cooperate with the international community and our external partners in combating the global pandemic.

“We will continue to work along the five strands defined at our videoconferences on 10 and 17 March 2020 and do what is necessary to overcome the crisis.”

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte did not accept the draft conclusion at a video conference Summit of EU27 to find a common economic response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Italian government sources. Italy wants the European Union to acquire “innovative financial instruments that are truly adapted to war”, according to the Italian agency Agi, which quotes the entourage of the Prime Minister. In this response to the economic catastrophe that threatens the EU, the proponents of greater financial solidarity, the countries of the south, less virtuous in budgetary matters, and those of the north, confront each other.

COVID19: G20 pivotal role in global coordination

Today, Thursday 26 March 2020, the President of the European Council Charles Michel and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen participated in the extraordinary G20 Leaders’ videoconference called by Saudi Arabia that currently holds the G20 Presidency.

Against the backdrop that Europe currently is at the epicentre of the global COVID-19 crisis, the Presidents thanked all G20 leaders for the solidarity shown to the European Union and its Member States most affected by the crisis.

They also underlined that the European Union is committed to international cooperation in tackling this pandemic and will continue to assist vulnerable countries and communities around the world, especially in Africa.

The Presidents of the Council and the Commission stressed that unprecedented events call for unprecedented action and that fast, massive and coordinated global action is necessary on the health and economic fronts to save lives and avoid a further economic crisis.

The G20 has a pivotal role in ensuring such global coordination.

The Presidents insisted that G20 countries should coordinate their macroeconomic policies, mobilising all instruments available, to mitigate the economic downturn, support workers and companies most affected.

President Michel and President von der Leyen also stressed that in order to limit the economic impact on our economies – and to maintain our ability to manufacture and provide the necessary protective and medical equipment, it is imperative that we keep trade flows and supply chains open and avoid any new restrictions.

The EU called on G20 members to assist each other in repatriating citizens stranded abroad who wish to return home.

The European Union thanked the G20 Presidency for its focus on global coordination towards enhancing our collective pandemic preparedness and welcomed the fact that the G20 asked the WHO, working closely together with relevant organizations, to come up quickly with a global initiative on pandemic preparedness and response.

In this context, Europe stands ready to set up an international online pledging event to ensure adequate funding to develop and deploy a vaccine against COVID-19.

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