Tag Archives: pandemic

Gibraltar cancels Xmas

Brussels 17.11.2018 Gibraltar’s government officials announced that all Christmas events, parties, official receptions and similar gatherings have been cancelled.

The general public was also advised to avoid social events and parties for the next four weeks. For all group activities, outdoor spaces are recommended over indoor ones, touching and hugging is discouraged, and mask wearing is advised, and social distance is recommended.

Gibraltar’s entire eligible population is vaccinated, but amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, Gibraltar officials are taking no chances with Christmas mass events.

“The drastic increase in the numbers of people testing positive for COVID-19 in recent days is a stark reminder that the virus is still very prevalent in our community and that it is the responsibility of us all to take every reasonable precaution to protect ourselves and our loved ones,” Health Minister Samantha Sacramento said.

EUCO: Summit addresses energy prices

Brussels 22.10.2021 The European Council addressed the recent spike in energy prices and considered the impact of the price rises on citizens and businesses, especially our vulnerable citizens and SMEs, striving to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The toolbox presented in the Commission Communication on tackling rising energy prices contains useful measures for both the short and the longer term.

The European Council invites:

– the Commission to study the functioning of the gas and electricity markets, as well as the EU ETS market, with the help of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA). Subsequently, the Commission will assess whether certain trading behaviours require further regulatory action;
– the Member States and the Commission to urgently make the best use of the toolbox to provide short-term relief to the most vulnerable consumers and to support European companies, taking into account the diversity and specificity of situations of Member States;
– the Commission and the Council to swiftly consider medium and long-term measures that would contribute to energy at a price that is affordable for households and companies, increase the resilience of the EU’s energy system and the internal energy market, provide security of supply and support the transition to climate neutrality, taking into account the diversity and specificity of situations of Member States; and

– the European Investment Bank to look into how to speed up investment in the energy transition, within its current capital headroom, with a view to reducing future disruption risks and meeting Europe’s global connectivity ambitions.The extraordinary meeting of the TTE Council (Energy) on 26 October 2021 will take this work forward immediately. The European Council will keep the situation under review and revert to it in December.

EUCO: EU Summit conclusions on pandemic

Brussels 22.10.2021 European Council conclusions on COVID-19:
“Vaccination campaigns around Europe have brought about significant progress in the fight against COVID-19. Nevertheless the situation in some Member States remains very serious. In order to further increase vaccination rates throughout the Union, efforts to overcome vaccine hesitancy should be stepped up, including by tackling disinformation, notably on social media platforms. It is necessary to remain vigilant regarding the emergence and spread of possible new variants.

“In light of the development of the epidemiological situation, the European Council calls for further coordination to facilitate free movement within, and travel into, the EU, and for a revision of the two Council recommendations. It encourages the Commission to accelerate its work regarding mutual recognition of certificates with third countries.

“Based on the experiences of the COVID-19 crisis, the EU’s resilience to and horizontal preparedness for crises must be strengthened. To ensure better prevention of, preparedness for and response to future health emergencies in the EU, the European Council calls for the conclusion of the negotiations on the Health Union legislative package and for ensuring that Member States are adequately involved in the governance of the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA). It recalls the need to swiftly take work forward on access to medicines across Member States.

“The European Council reiterates the EU’s continued commitment to contributing to the international response to the pandemic and to ensuring access to vaccines for all. It calls for the rapid removal of obstacles hampering the global roll-out of vaccines, and invites the Commission to further engage directly with manufacturers in this respect. This will allow Member States to speed up the delivery of vaccines to countries most in need. The EU will continue to support the production and uptake of vaccines in partner countries.

“In the context of the upcoming G20 meeting and in view of the special session of the World Health Assembly in November, the European Council underlines its support for a strong, central role of the World Health Organization in future global health governance and for the objective of agreeing an international treaty on pandemics”.

EU aid to Iran and Pakistan vulnerable

Brussels 13.07.2021 This week the Commission has announced renewed support for those most in need in Iran and Pakistan with €22 million in humanitarian aid. This package will assist those most affected by man-made crises, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate induced and other natural disasters in the region.

“Iran and Pakistan are both highly vulnerable to recurrent natural hazards, with both countries’ situations aggravated by a severe coronavirus pandemic. Iran and Pakistan are also the principal host countries of Afghan refugees worldwide. The EU is boosting support to humanitarian organisations in both countries at this critical time” Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič said.

Of the €22 million allocation, €15 million will focus on supporting humanitarian organisations working in Iran to assist the most vulnerable Iranians and Afghans in the country. Part of the funding will support the country’s battle against the severe coronavirus pandemic, including the provision of urgent medical equipment. EU humanitarian funding also supports Iran’s commendable efforts in assisting Afghans on its territory and host communities, on education, health, protection and livelihood.

€7 million will go to humanitarian organisations in Pakistan, focusing on the most vulnerable local populations, Afghans as well as host communities. Assistance will comprise Afghans and Pakistanis, affected by conflict, displacement, COVID-19 and natural disasters, including malnutrition.

All EU humanitarian aid is strictly monitored and only provided to established humanitarian organisations such as United Nations agencies, NGOs and international organisations.

Image above: illustration, Qom city, Iran.

EU supports WHO PANDEMIC TREATY

Brussels 20.05.2021 The Council adopted today a decision to support the launch of negotiations for an international treaty on the fight against pandemics. The World Health Assembly, the main governing body of the WHO, is expected to back the establishment of a process for a Framework Convention on Pandemic Preparedness and Response during its (virtual) meeting which starts on 24 May. The proposal for an international treaty on pandemics was first announced by the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, at the Paris Peace Forum in November 2020. (Image above: Brussels).

The objective of the Council decision is to assure the participation of the EU in the negotiations addressing matters falling within Union competence, in view of the Union’s possible accession to the treaty.

The proposal to conclude a treaty on pandemics is discussed in the context of international efforts to reinforce global health security, in particular on preparedness and response to health emergencies, in light of lessons learnt from the pandemic.

At the European Council of 25 February 2021 EU leaders underlined the need for global multilateral cooperation to adress current and future health threats and agreed to work on an international treaty on pandemics within the WHO framework and to advance global health security.

On 30 March 2021, leaders from all around the world joined the President of the European Council and the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in an open call for an international treaty on pandemics.

The European Union has an informal observer status at the WHO.

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.

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