The Letter n°930

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The Letter n°930
The Letter
Wednesday 7th April 2021
issue 930
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Protecting the checks and balances to save the Rule of Law
Author : Eric Maurice
Eric Maurice
While the European democratic system is subject to hybrid threats from outside, it is being challenged from within by the current governments in Hungary and Poland and their systemic undermining of checks and balances and guarantees of political alternation. Independent judges and an unfettered press remain the last two bulwarks against power grabs and authoritarian temptations. For the European Union, it is essential to act as a priority to preserve these checks and balances.
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Elections : Parliamentary elections reveal the extreme fragmentation of the Bulgarian political scene
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Prime Minister Boïko Borissov's Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party, which ran in coalition with the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), came first in the Bulgarian parliamentary elections of 4 April, with 26.14% of the vote. Such a People Exist, a populist party created by singer and TV presenter Slavi Trifonov, came second with 17.73%, ahead of the Socialist Party (15.02%) which lost its status as the first opposition party. Boyko Borissov, who is leading for the fifth time, is expected to have difficulties this time in forming a government coalition as the vast majority of other parties have indicated that they will not form an alliance with him... Read more

Foundation : Table of Health Measures and Travel Conditions in Europe
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France extended curfews, closure of non-essential shops and travel restrictions to the whole country for 4 weeks, and closed schools. Germany is strengthening land controls with France, Denmark and Poland. In Spain, travel between regions is banned until 19 April. Italy imposed a 5-day quarantine on travellers from other EU countries and placed all regions in a red or orange zone until 30 April. Portugal is reopening museums and colleges. To follow the evolution of the situation, the Foundation offers you a summary of the sanitary measures in place and the conditions for travel throughout Europe. An essential, regularly updated resource for a better understanding of the situation... Read more
Belarus: chronology of a revolution in progress
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While the repression continues in Belarus, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel reiterated the need for political dialogue and free elections in the country during a meeting with Vladimir Putin on 30 March. To follow the crisis since the August 2020 elections, the Foundation offers a chronology of events and links to European response and initiatives... Read more

Commission : Rule of law: Poland referred to the Court of Justice
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The Commission referred Poland to the European Court of Justice on 31 March over the law on justice that came into force at the beginning of 2020. It considers that the disciplinary procedures against judges and the lifting of their immunity "seriously undermine" the independence of the judiciary and the legal order of the Union. Pending the final ruling of the European Court of Justice, the Commission calls on Poland to suspend immediately the Disciplinary Chamber of the Polish Supreme Court, as well as the effect of decisions already taken by this chamber and measures taken in Poland to prevent judges from applying certain provisions of EU law... Read more
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Authorisation for the recapitalisation of Air France
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On 4 April the Commission authorised the French State's €4 billion contribution to the recapitalisation of Air France. The Commission found that the aid was "necessary, appropriate and proportionate" and attached several conditions to its authorisation, including the transfer by Air France of slots at Paris Orly airport... Read more
Further disbursement by the SURE programme
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On 30 March, the Commission disbursed €13 billion in back-to-back loans to the Czech Republic (€1 billion), Belgium (€2.2 billion), Spain (€4.06 billion), Ireland (€2.47 billion), Italy (€1.87 billion) and Poland (€1.4 billion), as part of the SURE programme, which aims to support the financing of short-time working measures. It has also proposed an additional €3.7bn in assistance to Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania and Malta. SURE, with an overall envelope of €100bn, will provide a further €5.7bn in assistance after this additional funding... Read more
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Financing of new migrant centres in Lesbos and Chios
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On 29 March, the Commission awarded a €155 million grant to Greece for the construction of new reception centres for migrants on the islands of Lesbos and Chios. The funding will provide accommodation facilities, medical containers for immediate health care, safe areas for unaccompanied children and adolescents, as well as playgrounds and educational spaces. A separate area will be dedicated to asylum processing and return operations... Read more
Good conclusion to talks on data adequacy with Korea
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The European Union and the Republic of Korea reached an adequacy finding on 30 March to promote high standards of data protection worldwide. This agreement opens new possibilities for closer cooperation between the EU and Korea. The Commission will now launch the procedure for the adoption of this decision... Read more

Parliament : Complaint to the European Ombudsman about the absence of Parliament sessions in Strasbourg
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The Collectivité européenne d'Alsace (CEA) announced on 26 March that it would refer the matter to the European Ombudsman concerning the absence of plenary sessions of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The CEA considers that the reason of the health crisis invoked by the Parliament is not tolerable, as a strict health protocol could have been put in place and the sessions take place in Brussels. The ECA calls for the return of monthly sessions as well as compensatory measures, such as holding additional or longer sessions in Strasbourg... Read more
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Council : Meeting of Transport Ministers
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Transport ministers and European Commissioner Adina Valean held a video conference on 30 March, the day after the launch of the European Year of Rail Transport 2021. They mainly discussed the need for investment in this sector... Read more
Agreement on the distribution of vaccinations
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Member States agreed on 1 April on the distribution of a stockpile of 10 million doses of bioNTech-Pfizer vaccine to be delivered on an accelerated basis. 19 Member States will receive doses in proportion to their population. Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia, which are behind in vaccination, will receive an additional 2.8 million doses in proportion to the quota of 19. Austria, Slovenia and the Czech Republic have refused to make part of their quota available to the 5 states... Read more

Diplomacy : Conference on the future of Syria
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The European Union and the United Nations co-chaired the 5th Brussels Conference "Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region", which took place on 29-30 March and brought together more than 80 countries and international organisations. The conference addressed the current situation in Syria, mobilising support for Syrians inside the country and in neighbouring countries, including for host communities, with pledges totalling €5.3 billion for 2021 and beyond. The conference also highlighted the challenges faced by host countries and communities such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq that are showing solidarity in the region... Read more
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Meeting between Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin
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On 30 March, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. They discussed the health situation and possible cooperation on the Sputnik V vaccine. They discussed the fate of Alexei Navalny, asked Russia to commit to stabilising the ceasefire in Ukraine and called for an inclusive dialogue in Belarus. The three leaders agreed to coordinate their efforts on the Iranian nuclear issue... Read more
Document on strategic autonomy whilst protecting an open economy
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On 24 March, Spain and the Netherlands published a joint paper on strategic autonomy. This " non-paper " argues that it is necessary more than ever before to reach a consensus on how to strengthen Europe's open strategic autonomy with a view to making the continent a resilient global player responsible for its own future. Strategic autonomy does not mean isolation or withdrawal, but rather a reformulation of the way sovereignty is understood, moving towards operational sovereignty, i.e. the ability to promote its own agenda... Read more
Operational capacity of Task Force Takuba
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The French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, and her Estonian and Czech counterparts, Kalle Laanet and Lubomir Metnar, visited Mali on 31 March to confirm the full operational capability of Task Force Takuba, the European special forces unit deployed to train the Malian army in the framework of Operation Barkhane. Takuba also includes Italian and Swedish troops... Read more
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ECB : Results of the emergency purchase programme
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In a blog, the President of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, assesses the Emergency Pandemic Purchasing Programme (EPPP) put in place one year ago. She notes that the programme has helped to stabilise markets and preserve financing conditions for economic activity and stresses that as the outlook remains uncertain, the ECB remains ready to adapt the continuation of the programme according to needs... Read more

Spain : Women dominate after government reshuffle
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The president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sanchez, announced on 30 March a ministerial reshuffle following the decision of the second vice-president of the government and leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, to leave the executive to run in the Madrid regional elections on 4 May. Nadia Calvino, Minister of Economy and Enterprise, has been promoted to second vice-president, while the Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, has been promoted to third vice-president... Read more

France : Command of American Task Force 50
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On 31 March, France took command of Task Force (TF) 50, one of the components of the US naval forces deployed in the Arabian Gulf region. It will remain in command while the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is present in the area. The TF50 is currently integrated into Operation Inherent Resolve, which is fighting the Daesh terrorist group... Read more
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Slovakia : New government led by Eduard Heger
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The government of new Prime Minister Eduard Heger was sworn in on 1 April. He was appointed the day before by President Zuzana Caputova to replace Igor Matovic, who resigned after his coalition government challenged his decision to buy 2 million doses of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V. Igor Matovic remains in government and succeeds Eduard Heger as finance minister. All ministers in the outgoing government will remain in office, except for the Minister of Health... Read more
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Armenia : Resignation announced by the Prime Minister
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Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian announced on 28 March his intention to resign in April, while continuing to serve as interim Prime Minister until the early parliamentary elections scheduled for 20 June. On 25 February, the army general staff called for his resignation, blaming him for the military defeat against Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh in autumn 2020. Although supported by President Armen Sarkissian, the chief of staff had to resign. But opposition demonstrations had also called for Nikol Pashinian's resignation... Read more

Kosovo : Vjosa Osmani enters office as President
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Vjosa Osmani was elected President of Kosovo by the Parliament on 4 April with a simple majority of 71 votes out of 120 members in the third round of voting. This is the second time a woman has become President of Kosovo. The 38-year-old Vjosa Osmani, a member of the centre-right Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), formed an alliance with Prime Minister Albin Kurti's left-wing reformist movement Vetëvendosje (VV)... Read more
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Council of Europe : Guidelines to counter terrorism
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On 1 April, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted guidelines to help the competent authorities in the Member States to better detect links and cooperation between organised crime groups and terrorist organisations and thus better combat and prevent terrorism... Read more
Recommendation to strengthen national human rights institutions
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The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted on 31 March a recommendation to Member States on the development and strengthening of national human rights institutions with a view to enhancing the promotion and protection of the latter... Read more
Call for the re-establishment of freedom of the press in Hungary
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The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, called on Hungary on 30 March to restore journalists' freedom. She said that media pluralism is eroding in Hungary, due to a politically controlled media regulatory authority. To counter this, the Commissioner urged Hungary to change the legislation so that the competences of the Media Council are shared between several bodies. She recalled that "Hungary must comply, in law and in practice, with the Council of Europe's standards on media pluralism". Finally, she stressed that Hungary should ensure freedom of political debate in view of the 2022 parliamentary elections... Read more

Studies/Reports : Short term outlook for the agricultural markets
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On 30 March the Commission published a report on the short-term outlook for EU agricultural markets. The first edition of 2021 concludes that the agricultural sector has shown resilience throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Moreover, the outlook is favourable with dynamic global demand and the expected reopening of food services (restaurants, bars, cafés) once the vaccination campaign is sufficiently advanced. Recent trade developments, particularly with the US, are reducing the uncertainty surrounding the EU's trade relations, which will benefit the agricultural sectors... Read more
2020 report of the European Defence Agency
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The European Defence Agency (EDA) published its 2020 Annual Report on 30 March, giving a comprehensive overview of the work carried out in the different areas of activity. The report takes stock of the implementation of the Union's defence initiatives as well as the launches of new instruments and incentives for defence cooperation with the EDA's role in the Union's wider policies... Read more
2021 Report on the gap between men and women
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The Gender Gap Report 2021, published by the World Economic Forum on 30 March, highlights that gender inequality has increased with the pandemic. The gender parity index has fallen to 68%, a 0.6 point drop from 2020. According to the World Economic Forum's calculation, it would take 135.6 years to close the gap, four years longer than before the crisis... Read more
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Culture : The name of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing associated with the Orsay Museum
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On 29 March, French Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot announced that the name of former President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, who died on 2 December 2020, will be added to the name of the public establishment of the Musée d'Orsay and the Musée de l'Orangerie. This decision, she explained, "pays tribute to President Giscard d'Estaing's commitment to the creation of this great museum institution". It was Valéry Giscard d'Estaing who decided in 1977 to convert the former Orsay station into a museum of the arts of the second half of the 19th century... Read more
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ENTRE, a new European media
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France Médias Monde and Deutsche Welle, in partnership with media outlets in six European countries, are launching ENTR, a new digital medium aimed at 18-34 year olds. From now until the summer, ENTR will cover topics that affect young people through reports, portraits, features or videos on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook in six languages: French, German, English, Polish, Portuguese and Romanian... Read more
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City and Landscape in Vienna
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The Albertina Museum in Vienna is hosting the exhibition "City and Landscape. Between Dream and Reality", devoted to key artists of romantic landscape painting over five centuries, such as Bruegel, Rembrandt and Canaletto. The exhibition is complemented by Austrian watercolours from the 19th century, featuring the Viennese cityscape by Jakob Alt... Read more
Concert by the National Orchestra of Spain in Madrid
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The National Orchestra of Spain is holding an extraordinary concert on 9 April at the National Music Auditorium in Madrid. The programme includes Felix Mendelssohn's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in E minor, the overture to The Marriage of Figaro and Mozart's Symphony No. 41... Read more
Virtual Day for Families at the Comic Opera
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The Opéra comique de Paris is organising a special family day online on 11 April. Activities, workshops and musical moments are on the programme for children and their parents... Read more
Living Abstraction in Basel
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Until 20 June, the Kunstmuseum Basel is presenting the Living Abstraction retrospective on the artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp, known for illustrating the 50 Swiss franc note. The exhibition, organised in cooperation with the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate in London, is dedicated to this pioneer of abstraction, one of the great figures of the modern avant-garde... Read more
Concert by the Philharmonic of Krakow
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The Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra and its Capella Cracoviensis Choir are offering several concerts in April, including Acis and Galatea by Georg Friedrich Handel on 8 April. The concert will take place at 19:30 and will be available online and live. The orchestra will be conducted by Marek Toporowski, and the choir by Piotr Piwko... Read more
On line concert at the Milan Scala
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On 11 April, the La Scala Theatre in Milan is offering an online concert on its Facebook site and on Youtube at 8 pm. Soprano Aleksandra Kurzak, accompanied by Tomasz Wabnic on violin and Marek Ruszczynski on piano, will perform works by Frédéric Chopin, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky... Read more
Bayeux Tapestry on line
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The Bayeux Tapestry Museum offers an exploration of the work in high definition to admire it in all its details. Created in the 11th century, the 70-metre long tapestry, listed in UNESCO's "Memory of the World" register, tells the story of William the Conqueror's invasion of England in 1066... Read more
"Paroles citoyennes" online
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From 6 to 28 April, the Théâtre Antoine and the Théâtre Libre are organising the 4th edition of "Paroles citoyennes", a festival where the voices of contemporary authors meet those of great witnesses from civil society. This year, the meetings can be followed live on Facebook... Read more
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Napoleon's Bicentenary : Napoleon as novelist
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This brilliantly original study uncovers a side to Napoleon Bonaparte which has hitherto been ignored by biographers - that of the aspiring novelist and man of letters. In this illuminating, witty and elegantly written book, Andy Martin reveals how this neglected aspect of Napoleon's remarkable life actually provides the key to understanding it... Read more

6Apr
6-11 Avril 2021

Videoconference

IMF and World Bank Spring Meeting

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