Tuesday

11th May 2021

Agenda

EU leaders seek to speed up vaccinations This WEEK

  • The first batch of Moderna vaccines arriving in Bulgaria on 6 January (Photo: European Commission)

Amid frustration around the sluggish roll-out of vaccines and fears over the new Covid-19 mutants in Europe, EU leaders are holding a videoconference on Thursday (21 January) to discuss ways to speed up inoculating their citizens.

Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen and Finnish premier Sanna Marin both wrote to EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen last week.

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They urged the EU executive to make good on the bloc's early investment in pharmaceutical companies developing vaccines and ramp up production and shipments to member states.

"We as the member states and our citizens, expect faster and more efficient action," Marin wrote in a letter.

Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban has meanwhile piled pressure on his country's health authority to decide on approving Covid-19 vaccines from China, saying western versions negotiated by the EU were too slow to arrive, Bloomberg reported.

EU leaders have been holding regular videoconferences during the pandemic, but the perceived slow vaccination roll-out has given extra weight to this meeting.

MEPs on Tuesday (19 January) in a debate on vaccines will call again for more clarity and transparency regarding vaccine contracts, authorisation, availability and deployment of Covid-19 vaccines.

So far MEPs have access to only one contract, with CuraVac, whose vaccine is not yet approved by the EU regulator - because it is the only company that agreed to have the contract be reviewed by lawmakers.

Portuguese questions

On Wednesday (20 January), US president-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated in Washington amid unprecedented security measures following the storming of the US Capitol by militant loyalists of Donald Trump, in which five people died.

On the same day, MEPs will debate the future of EU-US relations, which the EU is hoping can be reset after Trump's "America first" policy.

On Wednesday morning, MEPs will discuss with Portugal's prime minister António Costa and von der Leyen the programme of the Portuguese EU presidency, which hopes to put social issues in the centre of the economic crisis management.

In the afternoon, MEPs will turn their attention to the concerns over the lack of transparency surrounding the appointment of the Portuguese prosecutor to the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO), which lawmakers worry could undermine the EU prosector's office.

Disconnect

MEPs are set to call in a resolution on Thursday for an EU law granting workers the right to disconnect digitally from work without facing consequences from employers.

They consider the right to disconnect a fundamental right that allows workers to refrain from engaging in work-related tasks and phone calls, emails and other electronic messages outside their working hours.

MEPs will also debate and vote on Thursday on three resolutions proposing measures to enhance gender equality, better protection for women's rights especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, and tackle the digital gender pay gap.

EU legislators will insist in a resolution on the respect for human-rights principles and meaningful human control in the use and development of AI and to warn of threats to fundamental human rights and national sovereignty because of its use in mass surveillance.

On Thursday, MEPs will debate and vote on a text condemning the Chinese crackdown on the democratic opposition in Hong Kong.

EU leaders to discuss vaccine roll-out this month

EU leaders regularly held video-conferences to coordinate the pandemic reaction last year, but countries and EU institutions recently began a blame-game over the sluggish roll-out of vaccines.

Poland and Hungary battle to eradicate 'gender' in EU policies

The efforts by the two nationalist-conservative governments, which have both attacked LGBTIQ-rights and women' rights at home, is causing angst among several member states, who see it as a possible roll-back on gender rights.

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On Thursday, MEPs in the Democracy, Rule of Law, and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group meeting will hear from Polish judges, prosecutors, and government representatives on the situation of the judiciary in Poland.

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