Category Archives: European Union 🇪🇺

Embattled EU Chief faces fresh accusations.

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This follows other media reports that said that the raids on Frontex headquarters by OLAF investigators also turned up accusations of fraud and harassment of staff members.

Pressure is growing on the head of the EU’s border patrol agency after new accusations of abuses that were deemed “very worrying” by Brussels.

The damning reports against Fabrice Leggeri come at a time when the Frontex agency is taking on a greater frontline role in patrolling the EU’s borders.

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Migration is a hot-button issue across the EU and a rallying cry for far-right parties that are a rising force in some countries at the ballot box.

Leggeri is in charge of making sure his beefed-up agency can tighten control of Europe’s vast frontiers and he has been given an ever-increasing budget to do so.

But the Frenchman has been the subject of succeeding rounds of accusations both for the methods used to stop migrants as well irregularities in Frontex spending.

The agency is under investigation by OLAF, the EU’s independent corruption watchdog, over allegations of illegal pushbacks of migrants arriving in Greek waters from Turkey.

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MEPs and activists have called for Leggeri to resign over the operations, but he has refused to do so, insisting his agency is key to the fight against human trafficking.

“Investigations are underway and it is normal that we have to report to the political authority. We are becoming a police force,” Leggeri told France’s Europe 1 radio.

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More worryingly for Leggeri personally are accusations of spending irregularities and bad treatment of staff.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 21, 2017 Fabrice Leggeri, head of EU border agency Frontex is pictured during a joint press conference with EU Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos (unseen), in Warsaw, as Turkey threatens to renege on a deal to stem the flow of refugees and migrants to the bloc. – Frontex boss Fabrice Leggeri, called on February 5, 2021 by Brussels to improve the functioning of this agency, which plays a key role in border surveillance, after new accusations of abuses reported in the press. (Photo by JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP)

Documents revealed by ZDF, Le Monde and the Corporate Europe Observatory allegedly show that Frontex has been courted by dozens of defence and tech lobbyists in violation of EU transparency rules.

This follows other media reports that said that the raids on Frontex headquarters by OLAF investigators also turned up accusations of fraud and harassment of staff members.

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According to these reports by French daily Liberation and Germany’s Der Spiegel, the investigators are looking into, among other things, a contract with a Polish IT service provider, which is said to be tainted by irregularities.

The European commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, said on Friday that the latest reports were “very concerning” for an agency that is “going to be, by far, the biggest EU Agency with a lot of power.”

“We need a strong, solid and well-functioning Frontex agency,” she told AFP.

With a mandate reinforced in 2019, Frontex is to have 10,000 agents by 2027 who will be directly employed by the agency and no longer seconded to the force by the member states.

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The Frontex management board — composed of representatives from member states and the European Commission — has set up a working group to investigate the case.

In an unprecedented move, the agency suspended its operations in Hungary at the end of January, following a European court ruling condemning the country’s asylum policy.

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#Newsworthy

European Union Foreign Policy Chief jets to Russia over Navalny’s controversy.

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European diplomats say that any measures, if they come, would likely just target officials and functionaries directly involved in the clampdown

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell jets to Moscow on Thursday under pressure to confront the Kremlin over the jailing of Alexei Navalny and a crackdown on protesters.

The visit — the first to Russia by a top EU envoy since 2017 — has drawn criticism from some European capitals worried Moscow will spin it as evidence Brussels is keen to return to business as normal.

But Borrell insists he will deliver “clear messages” to the Kremlin despite it blanking Western calls to release President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent domestic opponent Navalny, who was on Tuesday given a jail term of almost three years.

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“It is when things are not going well that you must engage,” the former Spanish foreign minister said on Monday.

The EU’s ties with Russia have been in the doldrums since Moscow seized Crimea and began fuelling the war in Ukraine in 2014 — and there are concerns about its involvement in Belarus, Syria, Libya, central Africa and the Caucasus.

Borrell is eager to sound out his veteran counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the chances of cooperation on issues including enlisting Russia’s help in reviving the Iran nuclear deal and tackling climate change.

But it will be the jailing of Navalny and detention of thousands of demonstrators across Russia by baton-wielding security forces that dominates his visit.

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Nonsense, says Kremlin
The EU foreign policy chief is under no illusions that he can pressure Moscow into freeing Navalny — and the Kremlin has already warned him off.

“We hope that such nonsense as linking the prospects of Russia-EU relations with the resident of a detention centre will not happen,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

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Moscow stands “ready to do everything” to develop ties with Brussels, but the Kremlin is “not ready to listen to advice” on the issue of Navalny, he said.

European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell speaks during press conference following a meeting with EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs at the EU headquarters, in Brussels, on January 25, 2021. (Photo by JOHN THYS / POOL / AFP)

The authorities have poured cold water on attempts to set up a meeting with Putin’s nemesis and Borrell will settle for talks with civil society representatives.

Back in Europe calls are growing from some nations for the EU to bulk up on sanctions it slapped on six Russian officials in October over the nerve agent poisoning that left Navalny fighting for his life in Germany.

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EU foreign ministers last week agreed they would revisit the issue if he was not released.

“After this ruling, there will now also be talks among EU partners. Further sanctions cannot be ruled out,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert.

An EU statement said foreign ministers would discuss “possible further action” at a meeting on February 22.

Navalny himself called at the European Parliament last year — two months before his fateful return to Moscow — for sanctions to hit the oligarchs and money-men he accuses of protecting Putin’s wealth.

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But European diplomats say that any measures, if they come, would likely just target officials and functionaries directly involved in the clampdown.

There have also been calls for Germany to halt the highly contentious Nord Stream 2 pipeline project to bring Russian gas to Europe.

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Continental powerhouse Berlin has rebuffed the clamour and Borrell insists Brussels has no power to make Germany pull the plug.

“I don’t think that it is the way to resolve the problem with Navalny,” Borrell said.

“The Russians won’t change course because we tell them we will stop Nord Stream.”

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For Moscow the visit looks set to be used as a chance both to deflect from its own issues and show that the West still wants to talk to it regardless.

‘Not a sign of weakness’
“On the one hand, the Kremlin is eager to portray the EU as a weak actor with a lot of internal problems,” said Susan Stewart from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

“On the other hand, despite official rhetoric, the Kremlin is still keen to demonstrate that western actors are interested in cooperating with Russia, since this increases its status and legitimacy.”

But with European leaders set to debate their overall approach to Russia at upcoming summits in the next few months, diplomats in Brussels insisted this was the right time to visit Moscow.

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“There are reasons to go there to pass on messages,” one European envoy said.

“This mission is not a sign of weakness.”

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: Pfizer pledges over 70,000,000 additional doses to EU.

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These included the completion of modifications at Pfizer’s plant in Puurs, Belgium.

BioNTech and Pfizer said Monday they will ramp up their coronavirus vaccine deliveries to the European Union, pledging to send up to 75 million extra doses to the bloc in the spring.

“Pfizer and BioNTech continue to work toward increased deliveries beginning the week of February 15, ensuring we will supply the full quantity of vaccine doses in the first quarter we contractually committed to and up to an additional 75 million doses to the European Union in the second quarter,” they said in a statement.

The EU has ordered a total of 600 million doses of their Comirnaty vaccine.

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The statement came hours ahead of a national conference called by Chancellor Angela Merkel with vaccine manufacturers amid growing anger over the bloc’s sluggish inoculation campaign.

BioNTech and Pfizer, which will take part in the meeting, said that improvements in their production capabilities would allow them to speed up supplies.

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These included the completion of modifications at Pfizer’s plant in Puurs, Belgium. “Now, we are back to the original schedule of vaccine dose deliveries,” they said.

A healthcare professional draws up a dose of Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to be adminstered at a vaccination centre set up at Thornton Little Theatre managed by Wyre Council in Thornton-Cleveleys, northwest England, on January 29, 2021 as Britain’s coronavirus vaccination campaign continues. – Britain on Friday claimed its streamlined approach to developing Covid vaccines and support for biotech firms helped it to steal a march on other countries still struggling to implement a roll-out. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)

BioNTech’s manufacturing site in the German city of Marburg has meanwhile received a licence to start production this month, as the companies have expanded their network of European supply partners to 13.

“We’re further strengthening this network, and are now in discussions with additional qualified partners on potential new agreements,” they said.

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Their announcement in mid-January that they would delay shipments of the jabs due to the necessary modifications at the Puurs factory sparked ire across the bloc.

Germany at the time urged the European Commission — which undertook joint procurement for the bloc — to “seek clarity and certainty” for upcoming shipments.

And six northern EU nations warned in a letter to the Commission that the “unacceptable” situation “decreases the credibility of the vaccination process”.

The news was followed last week by an announcement from British-Swedish company AstraZeneca that it could deliver only a quarter of the doses originally promised to the bloc this winter because of problems at one of its European factories.

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In the face of a political firestorm, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Sunday that AstraZeneca had now agreed to increase its coronavirus vaccine deliveries to the EU by 30 percent.

An EU source said the first deliveries would start in the second week of February.

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#Newsworthy

Breaking: Erdogan assures reconciliation of EU ties.

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The EU, in turn, has threatened Ankara with sanctions, including ones on arms exports, various times since August.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he wants to improve relations with the European Union, following a longstanding dispute with Greece and recent feuds with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

During a televised meeting with EU ambassadors on Tuesday, Erdogan softened some of his toughest rhetoric and took a conciliatory tone.

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“We are ready to put our relations back on track,” Erdogan told the ambassadors, whom he addressed from his presidential compound in Ankara. “We expect our European friends to show the same goodwill.”


Turkey: Berat, Erdogan’s son-in-law resigns as deputy head of sovereign wealth fund

East Mediterranean: Turkish leader, Erdogan threatens Greece.

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On Monday, in another sign of easing relations, Turkey and Greece said they were willing to resume exploratory talks regarding their disputes over contested East Mediterranean waters and other issues.

“We believe that the exploratory talks … will be the harbinger of a new era,” Erdogan said on Tuesday.

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Regarding France, a country which Erdogan has severely criticised in recent months over its foreign policy and fragile relationship with the Muslim world, he added: “We want to save our relations with France from tensions.”

Last year, Erdogan said Macron needed “mental checks” over his plan to reform Islam in France, while Turkey’s foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya and parts of the Middle East irked several EU countries.

But as Ankara and Athens looked set to address their longstanding disputes at the exploratory talks in Istanbul on January 25, hopes have risen for a more harmonious 2021.

This month’s meeting will be the first since negotiations between the two uneasy NATO neighbours were suspended in 2016 after 60 fruitless rounds of talks stretching back 14 years.

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Plans to restart of discussions last year foundered after disagreement about the Turkish seismic exploration vessel, Oruc Reis, deployed to disputed waters. The ship has since returned.

The two countries are at odds about the limits of their continental shelves, energy rights, air space and the status of some islands.

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Their dispute threatened to spill into open conflict when Turkish and Greek warships collided in August while shadowing Oruc Reis as it surveyed for oil and gas in the waters in west of Cyprus.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan – Turkish President

Turkey rejects the maritime boundary claims of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, saying Ankara is in favour of resolving all issues through international law.

Turkey drives to join EU
Meanwhile, Ankara and EU officials are about to launch a rare round of shuttle diplomacy that could set their relations on a more cooperative course.

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will visit Brussels on January 21 while European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel are expected in Turkey by the end of the month.

Erdogan noted on Tuesday that Turkey’s drive to join the EU – formally launched in 2005 but effectively suspended – could gain fresh impetus after the UK’s departure from the bloc.

“The uncertainty increased with Brexit could be overcome with Turkey taking its deserved place in the EU family,” Erdogan said.

“We have never abandoned full membership (goal) despite double standards and injustice.”

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Turkey’s accession talks have been sidelined by European concerns about Erdogan’s human rights record.

“It is in our hand to make the year 2021 a success in Turkey-EU relations,” he said on Tuesday.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: European Union begin vaccinations

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The new strain, which experts fear is more contagious, prompted more than 50 countries to impose travel restrictions on the UK.

European Union countries on Sunday embarked on a vaccination campaign hailed as the “key” to defeating Covid-19, as the growing spread of a new coronavirus variant intensified fears the pandemic could wreak further devastation.

The jab is a glimmer of hope for a continent still battling the pandemic in earnest, with infection rates again on the rise, lockdowns imposed and Christmas and New Year plans left in tatters for many.

The numbers vaccinated in the initial days with the Pfizer-BioNTech jab are largely symbolic and it will be months before enough are protected to envisage a return to normal from the pandemic that has killed 1.76 million people worldwide since emerging in China late last year.

An AFP count showed the world passed 80 million confirmed coronavirus cases early Sunday.

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In a sign of impatience, some EU countries began vaccinating on Saturday, a day before the official start, with a 101-year-old woman in a care home becoming the first person in Germany to be inoculated and Hungary and Slovakia also handing out their first shots.

A 96-year-old living in a care home in central Spain became the first person in the country to be vaccinated on Sunday, in an event broadcast by national television.

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She felt “nothing” from the shot, Araceli Rosario Hidalgo Sanchez said with a smile after being injected.

In Italy, the EU country worst hit by the pandemic with 71,000 dead, 29-year-old nurse Claudia Alivernini was the first to receive the vaccination Sunday morning.

“It is with deep pride and a deep sense of responsibility that I got the vaccine today. A small gesture but a fundamental gesture for all of us,” said Alivernini.

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“Italy is waking up today,” said Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. “This day will remain in our memory for ever.”

EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a video on her Twitter account that the campaign start was a “touching moment of unity and a European success story” and said the EU had “secured enough doses for our whole population of 450 million people.”

“The vaccination is the key to ending the pandemic,” added German Health Minister Jens Spahn. “This is a hopeful day for Europe.”

– ‘Watching hour by hour’- France is due to begin its campaign in two care homes for the elderly in the Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis, a low-income area hard hit by Covid-19, and also in similar centres in the eastern city of Dijon.

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Focusing its strategy on protecting the elderly and thus taking pressure off the hospital system, the government wants one million of the most vulnerable to be vaccinated by the end of February and 15 million people by the summer.

China, Russia, Canada, the United States, Switzerland, Serbia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia have also begun their vaccination campaigns.

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Britain, which last week finalised the deal on leaving the EU, began its vaccination campaign amid much fanfare on December 8, three weeks ahead of the bloc.

But it was also in Britain that a new strain of the virus emerged and has already reached several other European countries as well as Japan and Canada.

Echoing concerns from officials across the continent, Health Minister Olivier Veran said France has not ruled out imposing a third nationwide lockdown if coronavirus cases continue to rise after the holiday season.

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“We are watching the situation hour by hour,” Veran told the Journal du Dimanche with France registering around 15,000 new infections per day, triple the government’s target of 5,000.

– ‘Not the last pandemic’ – There is concern that wariness among Europeans over the vaccine could impede its effectiveness, with a poll published in the Journal du Dimanche saying 56 percent of French people don’t plan to take the jab.

China, accused of covering up the initial outbreak, has largely curbed the domestic spread of the virus. Its Communist leadership issued a statement hailing the “extremely extraordinary glory” of its handling of the crisis.

In authoritarian post-Soviet Turkmenistan, where the government says no coronavirus cases have been detected, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov claimed that licorice root could cure Covid-19.

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“Licorice stops the coronavirus from developing,” former dentist Berdymukhamedov said, without citing any scientific evidence but emphasising the country has “sufficient reserves” in place.

In a video message World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was time to learn the lessons from Covid-19 as “history tells us that this will not be the last pandemic.”

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#Newsworthy

Just in: Brexit trade deal successful on ‘final trial’

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The EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will provide a briefing on the EU-UK negotiations, the spokesman said.

The United Kingdom and European Union have agreed on a post-Brexit trade deal after months of torturous negotiations, averting the prospect of a chaotic and acrimonious divorce at the end of this year.

The announcement on Thursday came just one week before the UK exits the EU’s single market and customs union on December 31.

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“The deal is done,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted, as he posted a photo of himself with both thumbs raised in celebration.

Delivering a televised address, Johnson hailed striking what he called “the biggest trade deal yet”, adding that Britain had taken back control of its laws, borders, and fishing waters.

“We have completed the biggest trade deal yet, worth 660 billion pounds a year, a comprehensive Canada-style free trade deal between the UK and the EU,” he said.

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His comments came after a Downing Street source said the agreement was “fantastic news for families and businesses in every part of the UK”.

“We have signed the first free trade agreement based on zero tariffs and zero quotas that has ever been achieved with the EU,” the source said.

“We have delivered this great deal for the entire United Kingdom in record time, and under extremely challenging conditions, which protects the integrity of our internal market and Northern Ireland’s place within it.”

EU and British negotiators were up all night working on the deal, reportedly fuelled by takeaway pizzas, as they hashed out final details at the Berlaymont in Brussels, the headquarters of the European Commission.

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Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, meanwhile, spoke several times by phone.

“Parting is such sweet sorrow,” von der Leyen said in Brussels shortly after the deal was announced. “It is time to leave Brexit behind. Our future is made in Europe.

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“We have finally found an agreement. It was a long and winding road but we have got a good deal to show for it.

“It is fair, it is a balanced deal and it is the right and responsible thing to do for both sides.”

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, speaking alongside von der Leyen, said: “Today is a day of relief, but tinged by some sadness as we compare what came before with what lies ahead.

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“The clock is no longer ticking, after four years of collective effort and EU unity to preserve peace and stability on the island of Ireland, to protect the citizens and the single market, and to build a new partnership with the UK.”

The deal comes more than four years after a slim majority of Britons voted to quit the bloc in a June 2016 referendum on EU membership

The agreement document is said to be about 2,000 pages long. In essence, it is a narrow free trade pact surrounded with other agreements on a range of issues including energy, transport and police and security cooperation.

What next?

Both sides now have just days to get the pact ratified before January 1.

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The UK Parliament, in which Johnson’s governing Conservative Party has a strong majority, is expected to sign off on the deal before December 31, when the Brexit transition period ends.

Johnson said he hoped the agreement would be put to MPs for a vote next week, on December 30.

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But things are more complicated on the EU side, with the leaders of its 27 member states required to approve of any agreement before it can then be sent to the European Parliament for its consent – a challenge made more difficult by the Christmas holiday period and amid a worsening coronavirus crisis.

EU law does, however, include a provision for agreements to be provisionally approved by its 27 member states, without its parliament’s consent.

European Parliament President David Sassoli on Thursday confirmed the institution will analyse the deal “in detail” before deciding whether to give its consent in the new year.

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“We will act responsibly in order to minimise disruption to citizens and prevent the chaos of a no-deal scenario,” Sassoli said on Twitter.

European Union ambassadors will meanwhile meet at 10:30am CET (09:30 GMT) on Friday, Christmas Day, to begin reviewing the post-Brexit trade deal clinched on Thursday by the EU and Britain, an EU spokesman said.

“The German EU Council Presidency has just convened a COREPER meeting for tomorrow 10.30am. EU Ambassadors will start reviewing the EU-UK agreement,” an EU spokesman for Germany, which holds the bloc’s rotating presidency, said on Twitter. COREPER is the name given to meetings of EU envoys.

News of a deal has meanwhile brought a sense of relief for many in the UK and across Europe.

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Had the UK and the EU failed to compromise, a no-deal Brexit scenario would have forced them to default to trading under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules from January 1.

WTO rules would have brought financial tariffs, quotas and other regulatory barriers to trade into play.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: European Union approves first ever vaccine

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The European Medicines Agency recommended the vaccine developed by US pharma giant Pfizer and German firm BioNTech for use, and the European Commission formally approved it hours later.

The EU finally gave the green light for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Monday, paving the way for the first inoculations to start across 27 countries just days after Christmas.

The decision was rushed through under pressure from European governments after Britain and the United States authorised the jab weeks earlier.

The European Medicines Agency recommended the vaccine developed by US pharma giant Pfizer and German firm BioNTech for use, and the European Commission formally approved it hours later.

The EMA added that the vaccine would “very likely” be effective against a new strain of the disease spreading through Britain.

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European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said vaccinations would start across the EU on December 27, adding that the vaccine was a “true European success story”.

“This is a very good way to end this difficult year and finally start turning the page on Covid-19,” von der Leyen said in Brussels.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said the decision allowed a “road out of the crisis” while Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said the EMA decision “is the news we have been waiting for”.

‘Historic scientific achievement’
The Amsterdam-based EMA, the drugs watchdog for the 27-nation EU, had moved the decision forward from December 29 under pressure from EU governments, particularly Berlin.

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“It is a significant step forward in the fight against this pandemic that is causing suffering and hardship,” EMA chief Emer Cooke told an online press conference as she announced the decision to recommend the vaccine.

“This is really a historic scientific achievement, within less than a year a vaccine will have been developed and authorised against this disease.”

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The urgency surrounding the virus has increased with the news that a fast-spreading variant is sweeping Britain, prompting a growing number of countries worldwide to suspend flights from the UK.

But EMA officials said they believed the Pfizer-BioNTech jab would be effective against it.

“At this moment there is no evidence to suggest this vaccine will not work against the new variant,” Cooke said.

The EMA’s head of vaccine strategy, Marco Cavaleri, added that while they were waiting for more data “for the time being we are not too worried”.

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“It is very likely that the vaccine will retain protection also against this new variant,” he said.

“What would scare us is if we see multiple mutations”, particularly on the “spike” that the virus uses to enter human cells, but those had not been seen yet, Cavaleri added.

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‘Cause for concern’
The EMA said it took longer than Britain — the former home of the agency — and the US because they used a special, short-term emergency authorisation.

The “conditional marketing authorisation” issued on Monday however lasts for one year and required more rigorous testing, it said.

The EMA also had to contend with a cyberattack in which data from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines was stolen.

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Cooke said the agency had “worked night and day” to speed things up, but needed to make sure the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was safe and effective, in order to avoid any doubts that could affect uptake.

“We know very well that the speed at which these vaccines were developed and authorised is a cause of concern for many Europeans,” said Harald Enzmann, chairman of the EMA committee that took the final decision.

But he said the authorisation followed “one of the largest trials we have ever evaluated for a vaccine” and that it “met the standards for robustness and quality that we have set out”.

The authorisation is for over-16s only and says that the vaccine should be given to pregnant women on a case by case basis, the EMA said.

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Following a “small number” of reports of allergic reactions in Britain and the United States, the EMA had recommended that people should be kept under “close observation” for 15 minutes after vaccination.

A European decision on another vaccine, produced by US firm Moderna, is due by January 6.

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#Newsworthy

Update: Last strive to save “dying” Brexit deal

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European capitals have remained remarkably united behind Barnier through the fraught Brexit process, but some internal fractures have now begun to surface.

British and EU negotiators embark on probably their final two-day scramble to secure a post-Brexit trade deal Sunday, after failing to reach agreement for eight months.

Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost will resume talks in Brussels where they broke off on Friday, calling a pause after a fruitless week of late-night wrangling in London.

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“We will see if there is a way forward,” Barnier tweeted.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will reportedly lobby European leaders, after a call with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen on Saturday ended with the sides still facing “significant differences” on the key issues.

The pair’s next call will be on Monday evening and then the 27 EU leaders will gather in Brussels on Thursday for a two-day summit planned to tackle their own budget dispute, but which will now once again be clouded by Brexit worries.

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Johnson and von der Leyen’s issued a downbeat joint statement after their call.

“Whilst recognising the seriousness of these differences, we agreed that a further effort should be undertaken by our negotiating teams to assess whether they can be resolved,” they said.

While much has been agreed, the sides cannot close out the thorniest debates over fishing rights, fair trade rules and an enforcement mechanism to govern any deal.

– ‘Anything is possible’ -Britain formally left the EU in January, nearly four years after a referendum on membership that split the nation down the middle and two months after Johnson won an election touting what he claimed was an “oven ready” Brexit deal.

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The UK is bound to the EU’s tariff-free single market until a post-Brexit transition period expires the end of the year — an immovable deadline by which time the two sides must try to agree on the exact nature of their future relationship.

“Anything is possible. The three open issues are linked by Britain’s intent to keep sovereignty a priority and Europe’s fear of UK freeloading,” a source with close knowledge of the talks told AFP.

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Without a deal, the bulk of cross-Channel trade will revert to World Trade Organization terms, a return to tariffs and quotas after almost five decades of close economic and political integration.

Talks through this year have finalised most aspects of an agreement, with Britain set to leave the EU single market and customs union, but the three core issues are unresolved.

Johnson has insisted Britain will “prosper mightily” whatever the outcome of the talks, but he will face severe political and economic fallout if he cannot seal a deal.

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“If we fail to get an agreement with the European Union, this will be a serious failure of statecraft,” influential Conservative lawmaker Tom Tugendhat told the Lowy Institute in an interview published Saturday.

On Friday, France threatened to veto any deal that falls short of their demands on ensuring fair trade and access to UK fishing waters, where they have demanded a durable agreement, whereas Britain wants frequent renegotiations.

“We know that 100 percent access to fishing waters in the UK maritime zone is finished,” European Affairs minister Clement Beaune told le Journal du Dimanche.

“But we need lasting access. The British can’t have total access to our EU single market and exclude fish.”

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Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Denmark share Paris’s concerns that the EU side could give too much ground on rules to maintain competition.

There are just days left to finalise a deal, with an EU leaders’ summit on Thursday looming large and the European Parliament repeatedly insisting that it needs time to evaluate and ratify any compromise.

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#Newsworthy

European Union might train forces from Mozambique to help resist Anti-Jihadists.

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Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva asserted his certainty regarding the support the European Union will provide to Mozambique in training its forces in the fight against terrorism — following a letter issued by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mozambique requesting aid in the anti-jihadist resistance in the country’s volatile Cabo Delgado region which has seen a rise in catastrophic insurgencies the last few years.

In an interview with the LUSA news agency in Bissau, Silva recalls that the European Parliament has already discussed the matter and that there was consensus among the deputies, “As Minister of Foreign Affairs of the country that will occupy the presidency of the Council of the European Union from January, I have already had an opportunity to have a formal meeting with the high representative Josep Borrel and one of the themes was the north of Mozambique, support for Mozambique. Based on all this information, I am sure that the European Union’s response will not be delayed, it will be positive, and naturally, Portugal will contribute to it quickly and positively.”

In a recorded speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi outlined the wave of violent attacks by Islamic extremist groups in the country’s north, “They leave people displaced, destroy housing and socio-economic infrastructure, plunder community goods, keep children and women in captivity. As a result of these phenomena, over a thousand people have been murdered and around 250 thousand people are displaced in other districts within the country.”

The province of the gas-rich Cabo Delgado region in Mozambique has been the backdrop of debilitating armed attacks the last three years by forces classified as Islamist terrorists.


#Newsworthy…