Europe

Sweden king attacks the Government on coronavirus crisis
Europe

Sweden king attacks the Government on coronavirus crisis

Sweden king attacks the Government: In Stockholm, it is not to exclude that Crown Princess Victoria, second child Madeleine, and Prince Carl Phillip, all modern digital and global young people, full of social sensitivity, have inspired their father. But the seriousness of the blow taken by Löfvén is all there: the opposition is demanding his resignation. In a press conference, the premier can’t do anything else than embarrassed agree with his Majesty. Neither he nor any minister will fall, while in the country that has chosen a no lockdown and laissez-faire policy against Covid-19, infected and dead continue to increase.

“This 2020 has been a terrible year the government has failed in the coronavirus strategy. We have all failed. The Swedish people have had a very high number of deaths as a result of this and have suffered terribly,” the 74-year-old ruler said in a televised speech to the nation. He spoke gravely, like if Sweden, at peace for over 200 years, had suddenly entered the war.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, Sweden, one of the most postmodern and organized countries in Europe, has refused any lockdown and left public places open and public transport without the obligation of mask, focusing on the sense of responsibility of citizens. The result has been and continues to be devastating: over 7800 deaths per 10 million inhabitants, that is double that in Germany with 80 million, overcrowded emergency wards, fears even for pregnant women. The whole “Tsar of public health,” the epidemiologist Ander Tegnell, supported by Löfvén, decided.

It had never happened in the 20th century, or until today, that a Swedish monarch attacks the government in office because the king or queen in modern and contemporary Sweden is symbolic representative figures of national unity, and politics leave it to the parties. It had never happened until today, because the coronavirus drama prompted Charles XVI Gustavo to condemn the minority executive headed by the Social Democratic Prime Minister Stefan Löfvén with unprecedented harshness.

According to Worldometer, from the beginning of the pandemic, Sweden recorded 367,120 covid-19 cases and nearly 8,000 deaths, twenty only yesterday. The king also confessed his fears, speaking with dignity and a human face. When asked if at the age of 74 he feels particularly in danger, he calmly replied: “The virus, due to this bankruptcy policy, has become closer to everyone every day, including me.”

Denmark toughens its Rape Law, criminalizes sex without consent
Europe

Denmark toughens its Rape Law, criminalizes sex without consent

Denmark toughens its Rape Law: In a landmark decision on Thursday, Denmark toughened its rape law. The law now has criminalized sex without ‘explicit consent’, emerging as a long awaited victory for human rights activists and sexual assault survivors. 

The law, which will be coming into effect January 1 onwards, was unanimously approved by lawmakers. Justice Minister Nick Haekkerup said, “Now it becomes clear that if both parties do not agree to sex, then it is rape.” 

The original law was required to present a proof of violence, threat or an evidence that the victim was unsuccessful in resisting the assault, in order to bring a rape charge. But the revised legislation has defined the clauses more explicitly. 

On a global scale, Denmark has been a clear leader on gender equality and justice access indices. The country’s already existing laws against sexual assault have criminalized marital rape, and also the legal explanation of rape to include acts “other than sexual intercourse”. But the women in Denmark have long accused the country’s lawmakers and justice department of lacking in offering victim protection. Moreover, last year Amnesty International called Denmark’s law “a pervasive rape culture and endemic impunity for rapists.” 

The “revised legislation” has been welcomed by women rights groups and assault survivors. Kirstine Holst, a freelance journalist said, “Rape is violence in itself. You shouldn’t need other types of violence to prove it.” 

The “consent based clause” in the law was initially opposed by few politicians, but now they have changed their standpoint and welcomed the law amid right groups campaigning for the law. Pape Poulsen, a conservative lawmaker, was initially against the “unpractical” law, but came out in its support last year after hearing plight of an assault survivor. 

He tweeted in March 2019, “Dear @amnesty. Thanks so much for putting this on the agenda. We must ensure that Danish legislation reflects the fact that sex shall always be voluntary. It is utterly important to bring justice to sexual assault victims.”

Amnesty International’s women’s rights researcher Anna Blaus said, “This is a great day for women in Denmark as it consigns outdated and dangerous rape laws to the dustbin of history and helps to end pervasive stigma and endemic impunity for this crime.” 

Amnesty reports that with this law, Denmark has become 12th European country to criminalize non-consensual sex and consider it as rape. 

End-of-year holidays closing for Covid in Europe
Europe

End-of-year holidays closing for Covid in Europe

Covid in Europe: European countries are trying to prevent Christmas and the end of year holidays from turning into the antechamber of the third wave of Covid. For this reason, several nations, not yet out of the second wave, intend to tighten the measures planned for the holidays. In the wake of Germany, which to counter the virus has decided to adopt a total lockdown until January 10.

The Italian government will introduce new blocks for the holidays, despite a downward epidemic curve. The Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte confirmed today a total lockdown with a ban on travel between municipalities from 24 to 26 December, as well as from December 30 to 3 January, with the possibility of extending the restrictions until seven if necessary. The decision depends on the progress of the infections. To avoid also travel except for motivated reasons.

On Wednesday, the restrictions announced last weekend by Chancellor Merkel come into force. In addition to bars, restaurants, gyms, cinemas, theatres, museums already closed since November 2nd, all non-essential shops will also close next week in Germany. Except for pharmacies, grocery stores, and banks. Schools will also be closed. Employers are recommended to put their employees into smart working or to stop their activities, an indication not given in the first wave of the pandemic.

Netherlands also closes during holidays. Yesterday Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced a hard lockdown for at least five weeks after noting that the softer measures did not stem the infections. Stop at schools, non-essential shops, museums, theatres, and hairdressers. Bars and restaurants, already closed from mid-October, will remain so. Contact professions, except medical ones, are suspended. The announcement, live on television, sparked some protests under the government building, drastic measures to counter the increase in infections around 10 thousand a day.

The easing of anti-Covid measures in London lasted less than two weeks. The British Minister of Health, Matt Hancock, announced that from yesterday the capital of the United Kingdom returned to semi-lockdown to cope with the increase in infections: London passes to level 3 of restrictions, the highest; it was already at level 2, which provides for a ban on meeting people outside their own family, if not outdoors.

The squeeze provides for a new closure of restaurants, pubs, theatres, and some shops. The crackdown, also extended from Wednesday to the neighboring county of Hertfordshire, will remain in effect until December 23, when all of Great Britain – including London – will be relieved of 5-day Christmas restrictions. Mayor Sadiq Khan called the decision “disappointing” and asked the government to implement compensation measures for all those sectors severely damaged by the new closures.

In France, the first free mass screenings started this week with the Minister of Health, Olivier Vèran, who presented the operation as a new attempt to control the infections given the reopening. In fact, from yesterday, the lockdown ended. The curfew from 20 to 6 will replace it. French can circulate without self-certification throughout the territory, even if the number of daily cases remains far from the authorities’ objective of 5,000 per day.

The mass testing program is sparking controversy in Austria. Started two weeks ago, only 20% of the population participated in the screening. A number very far from the 60% expected by Vienna government. The Social Democrats attack the executive accusing it of an amateur campaign. According to local media, a new round of testing will start on January 8. And the government could offer incentives to the population to take the test.

It will, therefore, be different holidays to close such a difficult year.  Concerns for the many lonely elderly people or to those who cannot reach their family for the Christmas dinner or the end of the year. Many workers will not be able to return to their cities due to the new closures. Perhaps the coronavirus will help many rediscover the true spirit of these holidays, alone.

European Union Comes Heavy On Tech Giants Over Service Regulations
Europe

European Union Comes Heavy On Tech Giants Over Service Regulations

Tech Giants: The EU bloc is extremely serious about American tech companies adhering to fair taxation practices. What has started from the pre-pandemic times continues to put pressure on tech giants like Google and Facebook; a wave of change that even Joe Biden’s taking office will not be able to change. 

Post a congratulatory message to Biden for his elect win, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was quick on her feet to send a message of caution out –‘we are not retreating from our stances and it is not personal.’

EU bloc had been troubled with Trump’s childish moves of isolating itself over WHO funds and blame game in the past. Ms. Leyen unveiled  formal antitrust charges against Amazon for abusing its dominance in online shopping, while opening a second investigation into the company’s business practices.

The EU Commission has now released a set of draft policies that will force companies to change their business practices. It amounts to the most aggressive legislative to rein-in tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook. Further, the Digital Service Act, is all abiding for the mammoth social media companies and e-commerce sites that are now obligated to remove illegal and harmful content from their platforms. 

The new Digital Markets Act which is under consideration stage, will ensure there is fair competition where big conglomerates cannot access business user data to get an edge and advantage over their competition.  

Companies that don’t adhere to the set down content policy guidelines could actually see to a six percent deduction from their global revenues. Further, repeat offenders wouldn’t be spared either. Such companies could see their platforms temporarily banned. There are existing powers to levy antitrust fines of up to 10% of global revenues. These are expected to be extended to more areas. In near future, offenders could be forced to sell parts of their business if they continue to break the rules.

Making a public media statement, Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner leading the charge on tech issues, substantiated that, “The two proposals serve one purpose: to make sure that we, as users, have access to a wide choice of safe products and services online. And that businesses operating in Europe can freely and fairly compete online just as they do offline.” 

New coronavirus strain shuts down London
Europe

New coronavirus strain shuts down London

Coronavirus strain: There is a new Coronavirus strain spreading in London and Kent, South East England. And so, London closes everything. From Wednesday to dawn, the lockdown returns in the British capital. The UK Minister of Health Matt Hancock confirmed on Monday, speaking to the Parliament. “About a thousand people are infected with this new variant. That is developing mainly in south-east England, in Kent, and which has now also reached London.” Hancock said, adding that the 60 local districts found the variation of COVID-19, and the contagion numbers are quickly growing.

The characteristics of this new strain of the coronavirus are not well known yet. The British minister explained that it doesn’t seem to be more dangerous or deadly than the previous wave, but it sure is spreading faster than other variants. Will Pfizer’s vaccine and others be effective against this strain as well? Hancock responded that from clinical studies, it seems highly unlikely that the vaccine will not be able to make people immune to this latter mutation. “But this shows that we must be vigilant and follow the anti-Covid rules and restrictions because we must stop the spread of the virus.” He spoke.

Also, for this new strain and the exponential growth of cases in London, 24 thousand new contagions in a week, even worse than Manchester and Liverpool, the capital is back to “Tier 3,” the maximum alert level in the UK, which corresponds to a local lockdown. All pubs, restaurants, and bars will be closed again. These activities will only be able to do takeaways and deliveries. But they cannot serve alcohol. Any meeting with people outside the family is forbidden indoors, and gatherings are also forbidden outside. Hotels, stadiums are closed. Travel outside the residency area is not recommended. Schools, gyms, and essential shops remain open, even if Mayor Sadiq Khan is thinking to stop all elementary schools due to the significant increase in cases among children between the ages of 10 and 19.

In all this, the “free all” Christmas announced by the Central government remains in force. Boris Johnson decided that, from 23 to 27 December inclusive, three permanent families will be able to meet in private homes, without limits or obligation of social distancing. A measure that pleased many because they will be able to spend the Xmas holidays with the family, but which has triggered the wrath of scientists and doctors: for them, these five days of “freedom” could trigger outbreaks throughout the country and therefore cause a third national lockdown in January 2021. The royal family remains silent. Queen Elizabeth has not yet recorded her speech to the Nation for Christmas. According to The Sun, the queen is waiting to see the government’s next moves, in particular on Brexit and vaccine.

Investigation reveals Russian agents who pursued Putin’s nemesis Navalny before he was poisoned
Europe

Investigation reveals Russian agents who pursued Putin’s nemesis Navalny before he was poisoned

Putin’s nemesis: On Monday, reports of a joint investigation caried out by CNN and Bellingcat, the online investigative outfit, were published blaming and naming Russian intelligence agents for pursuing Vladimir Putin’s nemesis Alexei Navalny and poisoning him with the nerve agent Novichok. 

Navalny was poisoned in August with Novichok as he collapsed mid-flight on his flight from Tomsk, the last lag on his trip to Siberia. 

The investigation implicates FSB agents in the poisoning incident of Navalny. The Navalny team, as investigation reveals, was constantly under watch of Russia’s FSB – the successor of KGB, Soviet Union’s secret police force. Investigation also revealed that Navalny was followed by FSB agents on over 30 trips since 2017 to and from Moscow. 

Navalny’s anti-corruption campaign lead, Maria Pevchikh, was followed in flight from Moscow to Novosibirsk, Serbia, by Oleg Tayakin. Tayakin is an FSB member and belongs to its team specializing in nerve agents and toxins. The following of Pevchikh a week before Navalny too was supposed to reach Serbia links the sequence of events. In fact, the very morning several FSB agents made their way to Serbian city. Navalny, the Putin’s archrival, was to arrive in Novosibirsk the next day.

The investigation reveals that these agents usually followed Navalny in groups of three and would take parallel flights to the destination. In the initial years, the agents were using their original names but later switched to using their spouse’s maiden names and changing their birth dates to next year. 

Report has identified the three men who had “entailed” Navalny to Tomsk where he was poisoned, also revealing phone and travel data which “strongly suggests the August poisoning attempt on Navalny’s life was mandated at the highest echelons of the Kremlin”. 

Following the revelations, Navalny, who was released from Berlin hospital post treatment in September, tweeted, “Case closed.” 

There has been no response yet from Kremlin about the investigation and revelations. 

The group named in report is FSB Criminalistics Institute, also known as Research Institute – 2 or Military Unit 34435.Investigators could track their phone and travel records which also proved that they were entailing Navalny since three years. The report said, “Beginning in 2017 – after Mr Navalny announced his plan to run for the presidency – operatives travelled with the opposition figure on more than 30 flights in a three-year period.” 

The three named agents who travelled with Navalny to last destination where he was poisoned are medical doctors Alexey Alexandrov and Ivan Osipov, and Vladimir Panyaev. 

Phone tracking of these agents reveals that when Navalny was poisoned, they were just few minutes away from him. There are also messages and calls between agents and supervisors at specific times including just after Navalny fell sick in flight. Three FSB agents also booked flights to Kalinigrad city where Navalny had travelled with his wife Yuliya, who had also developed similar minor symptoms in the July trip.

The report thus concludes, “Given this implausible series of coincidences, the burden of proof for an innocent explanation appears to rest purely with the Russian state.” 

Paris municipality sanctioned for having appointed too many women
Europe

Paris municipality sanctioned for having appointed too many women

Paris municipality sanctioned: The municipal team of the socialist Anne Hidalgo is pinned by the state for having hired too many female officials. As reported by our colleagues of Le Monde, the city of Paris will have to pay a fine of 90,000 euros because it did not respect, in 2018, the Sauvadet law of March 12, 2012, which imposed a minimum rate of each sex for appointments to managerial positions in the public service. For the Civil Service Ministry, in fact, equality between women and men works both ways. The city of Paris has just learned it in a hard way. In 2018, Anne Hidalgo’s team appointed more women than men to senior positions. Unbalanced promotions are now sanctioned, even though the public service is still too slowly feminized.

In France, only one-third of managerial jobs in the public service are held by women. To fight against this under-representation, the Paris town hall thought it was doing well by appointing 11 women and 5 men as directors and deputy directors in 2018. No, replies the ministry, for whom these promotions result in non-compliance with the legal objective of 40% of appointments of people of each sex within the public service, imposed by the Sauvadet law of 2012. Indeed, thanks to These assignments, the rate of female appointments that year rose to 69%. But despite these appointments, the percentage of female senior executives at Paris City Hall was 47%. 

A situation not so unbalanced…

In 2017, the town hall of Lille and the city of Bourg-en-Bresse were victims of the same situation. Conscious of missing the spirit of the law, the government ended up integrating a new provision in 2019. It provides for an exemption from penalties for employers who appoint more men or women if this does not result in an imbalance among the jobs concerned. But for the city of Paris, this measure comes too late. In the eyes of the state, the town hall remains required to pay 90,000 euros in penalties for 2018. A gruesome situation that fortunately does not discourage the municipal team of Anne Hidalgo, who wishes to continue to act to increase the proportion of women in trades traditionally occupied by men.

At Le Monde, Anne Hidalgo deputy in Human Resources, Antoine Guillou, wonders about this fine of 90,000 euros, deeming paradoxical to reproach appointments, which make it possible to catch up with a delay. As the French newspaper notes, the City of Paris is stepping up its efforts to promote gender diversity in the city’s jobs, especially those that are generally occupied by men, such as engineers (who today are only 40% of women) and garbage collectors (5%).

With deadlock resolved, bloc breaks the stalemate with EU budget and Covid-recovery fund
Europe

With deadlock resolved, bloc breaks the stalemate with EU budget and Covid-recovery fund

Covid-recovery fund: European Union had chalked out a budget and Covid-19 recovery fund for the bloc as €1.8tn, but the deal had faced a deadlock after Poland and Hungary had threatened to veto the budget. The two nations had warned to veto over clause that tied the decided the EU budget with rule of law adherence. The deal has now been struck right after EU leaders reached a deal with Poland and Hungary. 

The unprecedented seven year budget of €1.8tn along with the coronavirus pandemic is now unblocked of the raised objections regarding payments and their link with maintaining rule of law. Hungary and Poland, the multi-annual financial framework, or the pandemic recovery fund, known as Next Generation EU. Post months of tensions, the compromise tabled by Berlin was accepted by Hungary’s and Poland’s prime ministers, Viktor Orbán and Mateusz Morawiecki, respectively, during a summit in Brussels.

Charles Michel, European Council President tweeted, “Now we can start with the implementation and build back our economies. Our landmark recovery package will drive forward our green and digital transitions.” 

Poland and Hungary had said that a “rule of law” condition on funds distribution which is designed to block corruption, was legally unclear and vague and could come back to bite Warsaw and Budapest on the back as a punishment over recent rows and differences ranging from issues like migration to laws regarding treatment of LGBTQI+ communities. The plan was finally backed by the two countries after addition of a text assuring that conditions would only be applicable to future spending was added. 

Furthermore, the tool legality will be ruled by the European court of justice, if challenged. The EU’s supreme court will place its judgement before commission publishes guidelines regarding triggering mechanism. This will delay clause implementation beyond 2022 – the year when Orban is due for national elections. 

The bloc’s remaining 25 member states had warned Poland and Hungary of going ahead with recovery fund agreement if they continued to block it. Many countries, including Sweden and Netherlands had insisted on keeping the clause conditions as such, arguing that they could not and should not ignore poor governance anymore. 

The EU had agreed in July on the €1.1tn budget for 2021-2027, and further €750bn as coronavirus stimulus fund. But the package required a unanimous support by all EU bloc members. 

Johnson urges businesses to prepare for no-deal Brexit scenario
Europe

Johnson urges businesses to prepare for no-deal Brexit scenario

No-deal Brexit scenario: British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, for the first time admitted that Brexit no deal was a stronger possibility and urged his people to start preparing for the no-deal scenario. Johnson, who had earlier committed to his country that he would “go the extra mile” to get the deal, expressed disappointment in his tone after crunch meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday. Johnson said that EU left UK in a difficult spot, wherein no-deal Australia-style model looked like a more viable option.

“It was put to me that this was kind of a bit like twins, and the UK is one twin the EU is another, and if the EU decides to have a haircut then the UK is going to have a haircut or else face punishment. Or if the EU decides to buy an expensive handbag then the UK has to buy an expensive handbag too or else face tariffs,” he said.

He added, “Clearly that is not the sensible way to proceed and it’s unlike any other free trade deal. It’s a way of keeping the UK kind of locked in the EU’s … regulatory orbit.”

He added on Thursday: “I do think we need to be very, very clear. There is now a strong possibility – a strong possibility – that we will have a solution that is much more like an Australian relationship with the EU than a Canadian relationship with the EU.”

Back home, British PM has been facing immense pressure from senior Tory leaders to bring back a deal as they said that no-deal would not only impact UK’s economy but also increase its security threat. Analysts believe that in case of Australia-style trade deal, UK would directly lose 2% of GDP along with facing huge tariffs on wide range of goods. 

Besides, as Tobias Ellwood, the chair of the defence committee, pointed out, no-deal would have huge security implications as well. He said, “There will be economic repercussions but also security ones. Our Channel waters are being buzzed by Russian submarines, our airspace by Russian jets. We need alliances – and Europe needs to stand and work together. This would be us turning the other way, just as we assume the G7 presidency.”

Johnson assured his country that the Brexit negotiators would not stop talks, and “continue to negotiate” but added “looking at where we are I do think it’s vital that everyone now gets ready for that Australian option.” Trade deal between Australia and EU is governed World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, though the former is still negotiating for a free trade deal with EU.

Highest Efficacy Vaccine Regulatory Documents Hacked From EMA Server
Europe

Highest Efficacy Vaccine Regulatory Documents Hacked From EMA Server

Highest Efficacy Vaccine: The regulatory submission by the two prominent companies in race to get their respective vaccine candidate a go-ahead were accessed in a cyberattack, confirmed the European Medicines Agency (EMA). While this does not affect the timeline of the approvals to come in and respective dosage deliveries, it does pose a certain worry. 

EMA has not said anything explicitly about the attack but BioNtech has expressed concern over the fact that their documents were indeed accessed. Both documents pertaining to the regulatory submission of Pfizer and BioNtech were accessed. 

It is however known that EMA has made this news public in the interest of the world in order the data is not reused inappropriately. EMA is also assessing the viability of the Moderna vaccine, whose records apparently were not accessed in the cyber-attack. 

A few months back, a similar cyber-attack disturbed the trials of the Oxford University vaccine candidate. It was later discovered that indeed, Kremlin might have instigated the attack indirectly through well-known Russian cyber attackers. 

The Pfizer and BioNtech doses are both being considered the most effective in fighting the corona virus. Inoculations have already started in the UK. European Union has not been happy about Britain’s stand to go all out in the dissemination of a vaccine that had not received a full clearance from EMA anyway. 

The cyber-attack comes the day before the agency is due to update the European Parliament on the progress of the vaccine assessments.

The only big worry now is that if the documents have been downloaded or copied in the attack, they could be extremely valuable to other countries and companies rushing to develop vaccines. At the moment ,Russia is struggling to make its Sputnik V vaccine to work for its country, while the vaccine has only been tried and tested on a few participants and its efficacy isn’t effective. 

Elaborating on the risks of information being misused, Marc Rogers, founder of a volunteer group fighting Covid-related breaches, CTI-League made a media statement stating that, “When it comes to the data submitted to these kinds of regulatory bodies, we are talking confidential information about the vaccine and its mechanism of action, its efficiency, its risks and known possible side effects and any unique aspects such as handling guidelines.” Further,  ‘it can also provide detailed information on other parties involved in the supply and distribution of the vaccine and potentially significantly increases the attack surface for the vaccine.’

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