Tag Archives: pandemic

COVID19: EU travel Certificate

Brussels 29.04.2021 Today, the European Parliament adopted its negotiating position on the proposal for a certificate to reaffirm the right to free movement in Europe during the pandemic. The MEPs agreed that the new “EU COVID-19 certificate” – instead of Digital Green Certificate, as proposed by the Commission – should be in place for 12 months and not longer.

The document, which may be in digital or paper format, will attest that a person has been vaccinated against coronavirus or, alternatively, that they have a recent negative test result or have recovered from the infection. However, EU COVID-19 certificates will neither serve as travel document nor become a precondition to exercise the right to free movement, MEPs have underlined.

The legislative proposal covering EU nationals was approved with 540 votes to 119 and 31 abstentions, while the one on third-country nationals passed with 540 votes to 80 and 70 abstentions.

The vote took place on Wednesday, April 28, with results announced on Thursday morning. Both Parliament and Council are now ready to begin negotiations. The aim is to reach an agreement ahead of the summer tourist season.

Following the vote in plenary, Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES), Chair of the Civil Liberties Committee and rapporteur, said: “We need to put in place the EU COVID-19 Certificate to re-establish people’s confidence in Schengen while we continue to fight against the pandemic. Member states must coordinate their response in a safe manner and ensure the free movement of citizens within the EU. Vaccines and tests must be accessible and free for all citizens. Member states should not introduce further restrictions once the certificate is in force.”

No additional travel restrictions and free COVID-19 tests
Holders of an EU COVID-19 certificate should not be subject to additional travel restrictions, such as quarantine, self-isolation or testing, according to the Parliament. MEPs also stress that, in order to avoid discrimination against those not vaccinated and for economic reasons, EU countries should “ensure universal, accessible, timely and free of charge testing”.

Parliament intends to ensure that the EU certificate works alongside any initiative set up by the member states, which should also respect the same common legal framework.

Member states must accept vaccination certificates issued in other member states for persons inoculated with a vaccine authorised for use in the EU by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) (currently Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen), MEPs say. It will be up to the member states to decide whether they also accept vaccination certificates issued in other member states for vaccines listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for emergency use.

Data protection safeguards
The certificates will be verified to prevent fraud and forgery, as will the authenticity of the electronic seals included in the document. Personal data obtained from the certificates cannot be stored in destination member states and there will be no central database established at EU level. The list of entities that will process and receive data will be public so that citizens can exercise their data protection rights under the General Data Protection Regulation.

Affordable vaccines allocated globally
Finally, MEPs underline that COVID-19 vaccines need to be produced at scale, priced affordably and allocated globally (AM 21). They also voice concern about the serious problems caused by companies not complying with production and delivery schedules. (AM 22)

EU economy plunges into deep recession

The EU economy will experience a deep recession this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, despite the swift and comprehensive policy response at both EU and national levels. Because the lifting of lockdown measures is proceeding at a more gradual pace than assumed in our Spring Forecast, the impact on economic activity in 2020 will be more significant than anticipated.

The Summer 2020 Economic projects that the euro area economy will contract by 8.7% in 2020 and grow by 6.1% in 2021.
The EU economy is forecast to contract by 8.3% in 2020 and grow by 5.8% in 2021.

The contraction in 2020 is, therefore, projected to be significantly greater than the 7.7% projected for the euro area and 7.4% for the EU as a whole in the Spring Forecast.

Growth in 2021 will also be slightly less robust than projected in the spring.

NATO civil-military response to COVID-19

NATO Policy Directors for Civil Preparedness met by secure video conference on 8 July, to exchange views and best practices in their response to the COVID-19 crisis and how to strengthen national resilience.

They welcomed the decision by NATO Defence Ministers at their meeting on 18 June 2020 to update NATO’s baseline requirements for resilience, covering critical sectors such as energy, telecommunications and the security of supply chains. The updated baseline requirements will help Allies prepare for possible further pandemic waves, and support a common approach to current and future challenges in the interests of the security of populations across the Alliance.

Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană opened the session and highlighted the contribution by the Alliance and Allies’ military forces to the COVID-19 response.

“COVID-19 has demonstrated the indispensable role of civil-military cooperation for resilience and preparedness. Between the months of March and May 2020, over half a million military personnel, supported by innumerable military assets, have worked side-by-side with our civilian authorities in managing the crisis and in serving our citizens”, he said.

Policy Directors also discussed NATO’s approach to learning lessons from COVID-19, including the importance of further cooperation with partners and the EU.

Borrell on travel restrictions for Turkey

“Turkey is not only a close neighbour for the European Union, especially for some Member States – it is clear it is a closer neighbour to Greece than to Portugal for example, or Ireland – but it is a key partner, it is a candidate country for accession, and the fact that we in Europe discuss extensively and frequently about Turkey just reflects the importance that we attach to this relationship” said the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell, at the press conference following his meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Çavuşoğlu in Ankara, Turkey.

“The advantage of our talks, dear Minister [[of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu], is that we can talk openly, frankly, in a constructive approach. Because currently the situation is far from being ideal. There are many serious issues that require our immediate attention. I want to change for the best the dynamics in our relationship because I believe that we have a mutual interest to get out of this situation and chart a new and positive trajectory, avoiding any kind of incident that could spark more troubles.

“First, the Eastern Mediterranean is a key region for Europe. It is time to tackle this, in order to create a way forward, conductive to confidence building, dialogue, good neighbourhood relations, stability and security. And this cannot be done by unilateral actions but requires cooperation and dialogue.

“The COVID-19 requires cooperation, unhappily it has not been the case worldwide, there is more confrontation than cooperation, but among us we should try to look for more cooperation than confrontation. I will have also the opportunity to discuss with the Minister of Defence [of Turkey, Hulusi Akar]. We are going to talk about the deterioration of the situation in the Aegean Sea, in the Eastern Mediterranean and what it means for EU-Turkey relations…

“…Let me just say that I understand the preoccupations of Turkey about the travel restrictions. I just want to say that Turkey has not been included in this list because we are adopting a progressive lifting of the travel restrictions on non-essential inbound travel. Only 15 countries have been selected to be part of this list, the approach that the Commission’s services in charge of these issues has followed is based on objective criteria related primarily to the health situation. These criteria are objective, applying them is not a mechanical exercise, it involves some qualitative judgement that is not set in stone. It will be revisited at least every two weeks, taking into account the evolving health situation.

“Moreover, not being on the list does not mean a complete travel ban. Citizens and people with an essential reason to come to Europe should be allowed to travel. As I said at least every two weeks we are going to reassess the situation according with the data provided by the health authorities of the states with which we would like to open our borders as soon as possible”.

Amsterdam Red Light district reopens

Amsterdam’s Red Light district has reopened after coronavirus pandemic shutdown, with sex professionals and clients having to observe new sanitary rules to prevent contamination.

The Netherlands ordered all brothels closed in mid-March and had originally planned to keep them shut until September, but recently changed the date forward as Covid-19 cases dropped.

The workder of the district are glad to be back to work, Dutch media reports. Many of sex-services faced financial problems during long periond of forced lockdown.

Dutch deputy Prime minister Hugo de Jonge said that a “new phase in the approach to coronavirus begins” but urged people to remain vigilant, and respect strict sanitary norms.

The Netherlands legalised prostitution in 2000 and sex workers have to register with the local chamber of commerce and pay income tax. Around 7,000 now work in Amsterdam, manily in the historic Red Light district according to official statistics.

Sassoli: «time to deliver» recovery

Parliament President David Sassoli urged EU leaders to take action on Europe’s recovery in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.
Sassoli addressed heads of state and government at the start of a video conference of the European Council on 19 June to discuss the recovery plan and the EU’s next long-term budget.

“Time is a luxury we cannot afford,” he said. “We need to act urgently and courageously, as EU citizens, businesses and economies need an immediate response. Our citizens expect bold action. Now it is time for us to deliver.”

Sassoli called the Commission proposal “ambitious” but added: “In our view it only scratches the surface of what needs to be done.”
The President also spoke out against issuing loans as part of the recovery plans. “Parliament is keen to stress that any common debt issued must be repaid fairly, without burdening future generations,” he said.

“Let us not forget that providing support solely in the form of loans would have an asymmetric impact on the indebtedness of the individual member states and would be more costly for the Union as a whole. We have an opportunity now to refashion Europe and make it more equal, greener and more forward-looking. To this end, we should seize our chance to introduce a basket of new own resources.”
Sassoli called the introduction of new own resources for the EU “an essential prerequisite” for any overall agreement on the EU’s long-term budget.

Stressing the importance of an ambitious recovery plan and budget, he said: “Now is not thetime to water down our ambitions. We need to show our citizens the value of Europe and our ability to come up with solutions that matter in their lives.”

The President also addressed the ongoing EU-UK talks on future relations. The previous day Parliament had adopted a report setting out its views. “We will push for an ambitious, overarching and comprehensive agreement in line with the joint commitments undertaken in the political declaration. We believe that this is the best possible outcome for both sides and, despite the limited time available, with goodwill and determination, it is still possible. We have every faith in our negotiator, Michel Barnier.”

СOVID19: Russian Prime minister test positive

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov will serve as acting Prime minister until Mikhail Mishustin recovered from the novel coronavirus illness. At present Mishustin is suffering from high fever, and other symptoms of COVID-19, he does not feel well, Russian newspaper Kommersant reports.

It has just been revealed that my coronavirus tests have come back positive,” Prime said Mishoustin during a video conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “In light of this and in accordance with Rospotrebnadzor (Russia’s consumer watchdog – TASS) requirements, I should self-isolate and follow doctors’ orders.” Mishustin added, “it is necessary to safeguard colleagues.”
“The government will continue working as normal, I plan to be in active contact via phone with colleagues on all key issues,” he noted, adding that he will be constantly available for video calls with Putin. He also assured the Russian leader that the government “is taking and will continue to take all the necessary measures” to fight the virus.

In the current conditions, I would like to once more address all the citizens of our country to ask them to treat the coronavirus infection and its spread with utmost seriousness,” he noted.

“I am certain that together we can defeat this infection and return to normal life.”
I ask you to remember that the date when our country can return to full-fledged life depends on the discipline and willpower of every one of us. Take care of yourself and your loved ones!” the prime minister concluded.

Putin signed executive order to appoint First Deputy Prime Minister Belousov as acting PM until Mishustin recovery from coronavirus.
The Russian leader has extended wishes of speedy recovery to the Russian Prime Minister. “I would like to wish you a speedy recovery, get well soon,” Putin stressed.

Mishustin also addressed the nation, urging them to stay home to curb the spread of the virus.

COVID19: ERC regrets Prof.Ferrari resignation comments

“The ERC’s Scientific Council notes with regret the statement made by Mauro Ferrari concerning his resignation on 7 April. We here present the facts of the situation.

On Friday 27 March, all 19 active members of the ERC’s Scientific Council individually and unanimously requested that Mauro Ferrari resign from his position as ERC’s President.

This request was made for four reasons:

During his three-month term in office, Professor Ferrari displayed a complete lack of appreciation for the raison-d’être of the ERC to support excellent frontier science, designed and implemented by the best researchers in Europe. Although voicing his support for this in public pronouncements, the proposals he made to the Scientific Council did not reflect this position. He did not understand the context of the ERC within the EU’s Research and Innovation Programme Horizon 2020.
Since his appointment, Professor Ferrari displayed a lack of engagement with the ERC, failing to participate in many important meetings, spending extensive time in the USA and failing to defend the ERC’s programme and mission when representing the ERC.
In contrast, Professor Ferrari made several personal initiatives within the Commission, without consulting or tapping into the collective knowledge of the Scientific Council, and instead using his position to promote his own ideas.
Lastly, Professor Ferrari was involved in multiple external enterprises, some academic and some commercial, which took a lot of his time and effort and appeared on several occasions to take precedence over his commitment to ERC. The workload associated with these activities proved to be incompatible with the mandate of President of the Scientific Council.
Professor Ferrari subsequently resigned on 7 April 2020. Therefore, his resignation in fact followed a written unanimous vote of no confidence. In contrast, Professor Ferrari has stated that the reason for his resignation is that the Scientific Council did not support his call for the ERC to fund a special initiative focused on the COVID-19 virus. To address this point specifically, we did not support a special initiative because that is not our remit and the Commission’s Research and Innovation Directorate General, with which we are connected, was already very active in developing new programmes to support this research through the appropriate channels.

Indeed, many ERC funded researchers have been active for some time in researching the coronavirus family and many other equally dangerous pathogens. Over 50 ongoing or completed ERC projects supported for a total value of about EUR 100 million are contributing to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing insights from several different scientific fields such as: virology, epidemiology, immunology, paths for new diagnostics and treatments, public health, medical devices, artificial intelligence, social behaviour, crisis management.

In addition, as stated on its website in reaction to the COVID-19 crisis, the ERC offers ‘grantees the flexibility to adjust their research project”. This is an efficient measure because several ERC grantees already enquired about the possibility of addressing COVID-19 related research in their ongoing ERC project. All this information is publicly available on the ERC website, which also includes testimonies from funded ERC grantees on how bottom-up frontier research is critical to deliver new – and sometimes unexpected – insights relevant for better understanding and fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as for providing social behaviour and crisis management related solutions.

However, the ERC does not make calls for specific topics, since a guiding principle of ERC is that our researchers are free to pursue the goals they define and to decide on what they wish to work. In our view, this is a crucial way to generate the best science.

The Scientific Council wishes to clarify, in case of any doubt, that they absolutely endorse the view that scientific research will provide the best solutions to tackling pandemics, such as COVID-19.

Therefore, we regret Professor Ferrari’s statement, which at best is economical with the truth. This Scientific Council remains dedicated to pursuing the mission for which the ERC was established: the support of bottom-up ground-breaking research. It is also worth noting that despite the pandemic, the ERC Executive Agency is struggling against the odds to actively process applications for our Consolidator Grants and Starting Grants, which will support researchers throughout Europe to make the discoveries of the future.”

The ERC Scientific Council

#COVID19: Boris Johnson admitted to hospital

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been admitted to hospital for tests, as the symptoms of his coronavirus infection persist for 10 days. Johnson is one of nearly 48,000 Britons to have caught the novel virus.

“On the advice of his doctor, the Prime Minister has tonight been admitted to hospital for tests,” Downing Street said in a statement on Sunday evening. “This is a precautionary step,” the statement continued, “as the Prime Minister continues to have persistent symptoms of coronavirus ten days after testing positive for the virus.”

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.

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