25th Mar 2023


New Covid-19 variant fears shake EU This WEEK

  • Third booster shots are being rolled out in Europe to help immunisation before the Christmas season (Photo: The Focal Project)
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As the fourth Covid-19 wave hits the EU, an increasing number of member states are taking measures to curb the number of infections, and hospitalisations.

A new variant, which emerged in South Africa but has already made its way to Belgium, caused worry across the bloc, with several EU countries blocking flights from the southern part of Africa.

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The new variant is three times as contagious as the original Covid-19 virus.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen spent the weekend in Latvia and Lithuania with Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg to discuss the hybrid attack from Belarus, which is pushing asylum-seekers onto the two Baltic countries.

On Monday (29 November), MEPs in the civil liberties committee will discuss the impact on fundamental rights of the Pegasus spyware which has been used across the world to spy on journalists and human-rights defenders.

Lawmakers will hear from Laurent Richard, founder and executive director of Forbidden Stories, a consortium of investigative journalists which has revealed the Pegasus scandal.

MEPs will also discuss the issue with Etienne Maynier from Amnesty International, and Wojciech Wiewiorowski, the European data protection supervisor.

On Tuesday (30 November), the European Parliament's subcommittee on tax matters will discuss with economy commissioner Paolo Gentiloni tax avoidance and other tax issues.

On Thursday (2 December), senior EU officials will pay tribute to former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing in Strasbourg.

Von der Leyen, and EU parliament president David Sassoli will meet with French president Emmanuel Macron on the occasion.

The EU foreign ministers' meeting on Monday in Geneva - originally aimed to discuss trade issues in the margins of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) 12th ministerial conference - was postponed due to fears around the new Covid-19 variant.

Central Europe struggles with new Covid-19 wave

A new wave of Covid-19 infections has been sweeping through central Europe, where the vaccination rate is generally below the EU average - partly due to low trust in institutions.


Talks to strengthen EU virus-alert agency stall

Closed-door negotiations to strengthen the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control appear to be faltering, according to an internal EU document that spells out the so-called trilogue positions of the co-legislators.

Omicron shows need for pandemic global pact, WHO says

The emergence of the new and more-contagious Omicron variant has revealed how "perilous and precarious" the Covid situation is and "why the world needs a new accord on pandemics," the chief of the World Health Organisation said.

EU summit zooms in on global roles This WEEK

Competitiveness is expected be on the top of the agenda of EU leaders after the EU Commission last week rolled out a series of proposals to boost the bloc's capacity in green tech.


Okay, alright, AI might be useful after all

Large Language Models could give the powers trained data-journalists wield, to regular boring journalists like me — who don't know how to use Python. And that makes me tremendously excited, to be honest.


EU's new critical raw materials act could be a recipe for conflict

Solar panels, wind-turbines, electric vehicle batteries and other green technologies require minerals including aluminium, cobalt and lithium — which are mined in some of the most conflict-riven nations on earth, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, and Kazakhstan.

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