The Letter n°924

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The Letter n°924
The Letter
Tuesday 23rd February 2021
issue 924
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The Union's external borders: a European debate revisited
Author : Stefanie Buzmaniuk
Stefanie Buzmaniuk
The management of the European Union's external borders is currently the subject of heated debate. The mission of Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, is essential to meet the security challenges facing the Union. Arrangements to protect both borders and human rights exist, and should be used to the fullest.
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Elections : Outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte favourite in the general elections in the Netherlands
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From March 15 to 17, the Dutch are being called upon to renew the 150 members of the House of States General after a campaign without meetings because of the pandemic. 37 parties are in the running. According to the latest opinion poll, the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) of liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte is due to come out on top with 38 seats. It is due to be followed by the PVV of right-wing populist Geert Wilders (22 seats), the Christian Democrats of the CDA (20), the centrists of D66 (15), and the Social Democrats of the PvdA (12)... Read more

Foundation : Migration and Asylum: what can Europe do?
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The Foundation is organizing a videoconference on February 25, in partnership with the Institut Catholique de Paris, on the theme of migration and asylum in Europe. The speakers will be the Vice-President of the Commission, Margaritis Schinas, the Executive Director of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, and the Member of the European Parliament, Fabienne Keller... Read more
Table of Health Measures and Travel Conditions in Europe
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While the vaccination campaign continues in Europe, Member States are maintaining the restrictions and curfews. The Foundation offers you a summary of the health measures in place and travel conditions across Europe. An indispensable and regularly updated resource for you to understand the situation... Read more
Belarus: chronology of a revolution in progress
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In view of the continuing protest movement, the Belarusian regime has stepped up its repression, with raids on journalists and association leaders on February 17 and the sentencing of two journalists on February 18. These acts were condemned by the Union and the Council of Europe. To follow this crisis, the Foundation offers you a chronology of events and links to European reactions and initiatives... Read more

Commission : Open, sustainable and assertive Trade Policy
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On February 18, the Commission presented its new strategy for trade policy, which aims to be green and digital, strengthening multilateralism and placing the rules of sustainability and equity at the centre of attention. The strategy calls for a reform of the WTO to make it greener, fairer and less burdensome. The Commission wants to be firmer on the implementation and monitoring of trade agreements and wants to combat unfair trade... Read more
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Plan of Action for synergies in European Industry
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On February 22, the Commission presented an action plan on synergies between the civil, space and defense industries to strengthen Europe's technological lead and support its industrial base. The plan has three objectives: to increase complementarity between relevant EU programmes and instruments, to encourage European funding for research and development, and to facilitate the use of research results from civil industry and innovation... Read more
HERA Incubator: anticipating the threat of virus variants together
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On February 17, the Commission launched the "HERA incubator", a European plan for bio-defense preparedness against coronavirus variants. The plan aims to prepare Member States for health emergencies, speed up vaccine production and accelerate the regulatory approval of suitable vaccines. It will involve researchers, biotech companies and public authorities in Europe and worldwide... Read more
Vaccines: contract with Moderna and Covax contribution
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On February 17, the Commission signed a second contract with the pharmaceutical company Moderna for 300 million additional doses of vaccine. This contract provides for the possibility of donating the vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, or to other European countries. The EU has ordered a total of 2.6 billion doses. On 19 February, the Commission also announced the doubling of the EU's contribution to COVAX, an initiative to ensure fair access to vaccination against covid-19 in 200 countries, to €1 billion... Read more
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Common list of rapid Covid-19 tests
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On February 18, the Union's Health Security Committee approved a common list of 19 rapid antigenic tests, some of which will be mutually recognized in all Member States, and a common set of data to be included in certificates of results... Read more

Council : Meeting of Economy and Finance Ministers
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On February 16, the Ministers of Economy and Finance discussed the economic situation and measures to address it. They discussed with the Commission the implementation of the European Recovery Plan and the SURE employment support programme... Read more
Meeting of Education Ministers
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On February 19, the Ministers of Education discussed the practices to be implemented to ensure access for all to education and training and social inclusion, particularly in the context of the pandemic. They examined the draft strategic framework for European cooperation towards a European Education Area and beyond (2021-2030)... Read more
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Meeting of Fisheries Ministers
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On February 22, the Ministers in charge of Fisheries discussed the future negotiations with the United Kingdom on fishing quotas after Brexit. They indicated that they wanted a rapid agreement respecting the fair conditions and the three principles of the Common Fisheries Policy: social, environmental and economic... Read more

Diplomacy : G5 Sahel Summit
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The leaders of the 5 Sahel countries and France, met on February 15 and 16 in N'Djamena and online to take stock of 8 years of French military intervention in the region. They welcomed the political developments in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, but stressed that lasting peace will only be ensured by the return of the State and its services to the neglected territories of the region. They discussed strengthening the fight against terrorism, particularly against groups affiliated with al-Qaida. French President Emmanuel Macron said that there would be no reduction in the number of military personnel in the Sahel "for the time being"... Read more
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G7 Meeting
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The G7 leaders met by videoconference on February 19. They called for solidarity and strengthened international cooperation to defeat Covid-19 and to combat climate change. They pledged to decide on concrete actions on these priorities at the G7 summit to be held in the United Kingdom next June... Read more
Strategy regarding the Union's role in the multilateral system
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On February 17, the Commission presented its proposals to strengthen the defense of the Union's values and interests within the multilateral system. This involves supporting the modernization efforts of global organizations such as the WTO, WHO and the UN in the areas of taxation, the digital environment and artificial intelligence, but also establishing new partnerships with third countries, regional organizations, as well as dialogue with the private sector, social actors and civil society to develop a rules-based multilateralism... Read more
EU-Tajikistan Cooperation Council
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The Cooperation Council with Tajikistan met on February 19 to review the development of bilateral relations and the country's political and socio-economic developments, as well as trade relations, investment and energy. The parties discussed the impact of the pandemic and the Union's financial support during the health crisis. Good governance, the rule of law, human rights and the strengthening of civil society were also discussed... Read more
Meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers
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Foreign ministers, meeting on February 22, discussed relations with Russia and agreed to prepare sanctions against those responsible for the "persecution" of the opponent Alexei Navalny. They exchanged with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on cooperation with the United States. They discussed the situation in Iran and recent developments in the nuclear field. They agreed on a series of short- and long-term actions in response to the situation in Hong Kong, and expressed their readiness to apply sanctions against the military responsible for the coup in Burma... Read more

Court of Justice : Aid in support of airlines is not discriminatory
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On February 17, the Court of the Union rejected two appeals by the airline Ryanair concerning support for airlines in France and Sweden. Since March 2020, France has granted tax deferrals to companies holding a French license. In Sweden, companies holding a Swedish license benefit from loan guarantees. The judges found that these measures, taken in the context of the crisis caused by the pandemic, were proportionate and therefore non-discriminatory... Read more
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Appointment of five judges and an Advocate General
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The representatives of the Member States appointed 4 Judges and an Advocate General to the Court of Justice on February 18 for a 5-year term of office beginning on October 7. They also appointed a new Judge to the General Court of the European Union until August 31, 2025... Read more

ECB : Publication of annual accounts
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On February 18, the European Central Bank published its annual accounts for 2020, showing a profit of €1.643 billion, compared to €2,366 billion in 2019. The decrease is mainly due to lower net interest income from foreign reserve assets and securities held for monetary policy purposes. In addition, total assets increased by €112.2 billion to €569.3 billion, mainly due to operations under the new Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program (PEPP) and the Asset Purchase Program (APP)... Read more
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European Agencies : Mission on Mars
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The mobile robot Perseverance successfully landed on Mars on February 18 with the aim of finding evidence of ancient life on the planet, thanks to rock and soil samples that will be taken there. The Mars 2020 mission is an international cooperation led by NASA, in which Europeans are participating. The European Space Agency has provided the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, which helps Perseverance communicate with Earth. The French Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), and the University of Valladolid, together with the Los Alamos National Laboratory (USA) have designed the SuperCam, a tool for analyzing rocks. The MEDA station was designed by the Centro de Astrobiología, (CAB) in Spain... Read more
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Decline in Asylum Requests in 2020
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Due to the pandemic asylum requests in the Union decreased by 31% to 461,300 in 2020 compared to 2019, the lowest level since 2013, announced the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) on February 18. Syrians accounted for 14% of all applications, followed by Afghans and Venezuelans... Read more
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Germany : Munich Conference on Security
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At the Munich Security Conference, held online on 18 February, US President Joe Biden assured that "America is back" and that the link with the Union remains the "cornerstone" for meeting the world's challenges. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for strengthening multilateralism and establishing a common agenda between the Union and the United States. French President Emmanuel Macron stressed the importance of developing the Union's strategic autonomy within the framework of the transatlantic relationship. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson recalled his ambition of a "Global Britain" working with its European and American partners... Read more
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France : Launch of three Franco-German industrial projects
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On February 16, the French and German Ministers of the Economy announced the launch of three major projects of common European interest (PIIEC) concerning hydrogen, cloud computing and microelectronics. These 3 projects, financed by the European Recovery Plan, are intended to combat the dependence of European industry on Asia, which the two ministers considered too strong... Read more

Italy : Mario Draghi wins the confidence of Parliament
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The new President of the Italian Council, Mario Draghi, presented his government programme to both chambers of Parliament. He won the confidence of the deputies on February 18 by 535 votes, 56 against and 5 abstentions, and on February 15 of the Senate by 262 votes, 40 against and 2 abstentions... Read more
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Poland : Visegrad Group Summit
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The Prime Ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary met on February 17 at Wawel Castle in Krakow to mark the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Visegrad Group. At the end of the summit, which was attended by the President of the European Council Charles Michel, they declared that they wanted to strengthen intergovernmental cooperation, the European Union and NATO. They signed a Declaration on digital cooperation... Read more
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UK : David Frost appointed Ministers for Relations with the Union
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On February 17, David Frost was appointed to replace Michael Gove, Minister for Institutional and Strategic Relations with the European Union. As of March 1, he will become Co-Chairman of the Partnership Council and the Joint Committee of the Withdrawal Agreement, alongside European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic... Read more
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Georgia : New Prime Minister
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Irakli Garibashvili of the Georgian Dream Party was sworn in as Prime Minister by the Georgian Parliament on February 22. He succeeds Giorgi Gakharia, who resigned on February 18 in protest against the pre-trial detention of political opponent Nika Melia, accused of organizing mass violence in 2019... Read more
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ECHR : Demand for the liberation of Alexei Navalny
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On February 17, the European Court of Human Rights called for the immediate release of Russian opponent Alexei Navalny. The judges took into account "the nature and extent of the risk to the applicant's life"... Read more
Germany acquitted after deadly strike in Afghanistan
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On 16 February, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a German air force bombing that claimed several victims in Afghanistan in 2009 did not constitute a violation of the right to life guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court found that the German officer responsible for the strike was convinced that no civilians were present at the targeted location... Read more

NATO : Meeting of Defence Ministers
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On 18 February, NATO Defense Ministers reiterated their support for the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan to combat the Islamic State Organization (ISO). They confirmed their willingness to increase from 500 to 4,000 the number of alliance forces engaged in Iraq, and decided not to withdraw from Afghanistan on May 1 as planned... Read more

Studies/Reports : Report on the work of the committees in 2019
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On February 19, the Commission released its report on the work of the committees in 2019, which provides an overview of the development of the comitology system and a summary of the committees' activities. Comitology is the procedure governing the exercise of the implementing powers conferred on the Commission. The report concludes that in 2019 the activity of the 318 committees remained at the same level as in previous years... Read more

Culture : Glasgow Film Festival
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The Glasgow Film Festival will be held online from February 24th to March 7th. South Korea is the country to be honored at this edition, with in particular The Man Standing Next, by director Woo Min-ho, a political thriller candidate for the Oscars. The festival also offers a selection of Scottish films... Read more
Tiepolo in Milan
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Until May 2, the Gallery d'Italia in Milan is hosting "Tiepolo. Venice, Milan, Europe", an exhibition of more than 70 works by the artist and his contemporaries, retracing his career, from his debut in Venice to the major commissions of the European Courts of Germany and Spain, and his experience in Milan... Read more
Sounds like Kandinsky
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The site of the Centre Pompidou in Paris is offering until December 31 "Sounds like Kandinsky", a virtual exploration of the life and work of the painter of abstraction with, among other things, an interactive experience on the link between painting and music... Read more
Alexei von Jawlensky in Madrid
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Until May 9 the Mapfre Foundation of Madrid is offering a retrospective "The Landscape of the Face", devoted to the Russian painter Alexei von Jawlensky, whose art is inspired by German Expressionism and the contemplation of the face. Nearly one hundred works are presented, including a dialogue with works by André Derain, Henri Matisse and Gabriele Münter... Read more
The Twilight of Mankind at the Leopold Museum
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Until April 5, the Leopold Museum in Vienna is hosting the exhibition "Twilight of Mankind" devoted to Viennese modernism between 1918 and 1938. The exhibition highlights 11 artists of this period such as Alfons Walde and Albin Egger, and their work on colours and their search for sobriety... Read more
European Art Collection
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The European Cultural Centre Europeum at the Cracow Museum is offering an exhibition of European art which brings together more than 100 works of painting and sculpture from Western Europe... Read more
FAME, International Soundtrack Festival
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For its 7th edition, the International Music Film Festival, FAME 2021, is taking place online on the mk2 Curiosity platform until February 25th. Nine films are in competition, 5 are presented out of competition and 3 associated programs can also be viewed... Read more

23Feb
23 February 2021

Videoconference

Meeting of European Affairs Ministers

25Feb
25 February 2021

Videoconference

Meeting of Ministers responsible for the Internal Market and Industry

25Feb
25-26 February 2021

Videoconference

Meeting of the Union's heads of State and government

26Feb
26 February 2021

Videoconference

Meeting of Research Ministers

26Feb
26-27 February 2021

Videoconference

Meeting of G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bankers

1Mar
1 March 2021

EU-Albania Stabilisation and Association Council

Videoconference

Meeting of Tourism Ministers