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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.

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 joins NATO

North Macedonia became NATO’s newest member on March 27, upon depositing its instrument of accession to the North Atlantic Treaty with the US State Department in Washington DC. NATO Allies signed North Macedonia’s Accession Protocol in February 2019, after which all 29 national parliaments voted to ratify the country’s membership.

North Macedonia is now part of the NATO family, a family of thirty nations and almost one billion people. A family based on the certainty that, no matter what challenges we face, we are all stronger and safer together“ said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in his welcome address from Brussels Headquarters.

North Macedonia is a long-standing contributor to our Euro-Atlantic security, including by participating in NATO-led missions in Afghanistan and in Kosovo.

A flag-raising ceremony for North Macedonia will take place at NATO Headquarters on 30 March 2020, in the presence of the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, and the Chargé d’Affaires of the Delegation of North Macedonia to NATO Mr. Zoran Todorov.

The flag of North Macedonia will be simultaneously raised at the Allied Command Operations in Mons (Belgium) and at the Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk (US).

Image: archive – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev in Brussels NATO Headquarters,

Boris Johnson COVID19 positive

British Prime Minister Johnson said he has developed mild COVID-19 symptoms during 24 hours, including a temperature and cough.

Prime Minister explained he will now self-isolate in No 10 but will “continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus”.

Boris Johnson was last seen on 26 March at night, as he clapped outside No 10 as part of a nationwide gesture to thank NHS staff.

In a video on his Twitter account, Mr Johnson said: “I’m working from home and self-isolating and that’s entirely the right thing to do.
“But, be in no doubt that I can continue thanks to the wizardry of modern technology to communicate with all my top team to lead the national fightback against coronavirus.

“I want to thank everybody involved and, of course, our amazing NHS staff.”

He was tested at No 10 by NHS staff, on the personal advice of England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, Downing Street said.
Prime Minister will still be in charge of the government’s handling of the crisis, the statement added.

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