European Commission
Commission invests €123 million to combat COVID-19 variants
The Commission announced it is using €123 million in Horizon Europe funding, the EU’s research and innovation programme, to begin accelerated research into COVID-19 variants. The announcement follows the earlier creation of the Health Emergency Response Authority (HERA) Incubator on 17 February 2021, the EU’s new bio-defence preparedness project, for which a public consultation is currently ongoing (until 12 May 2021) on the basis of a legislative proposal which is planned for adoption in the third quarter of 2021. The Commission wants the HERA Incubator project to be a powerful research and innovation platform that brings together scientists, industry and public agencies from across Europe together to tackle emerging COVID-19 variants, increase the bloc’s diagnostic capacity, production of vaccines and treatments, and also to strengthen preparedness for epidemics in the immediate and long

term. Since 2020 the Commission has pledged a total of €1 billion in funding to tackle the COVID-19 virus and enhance preparedness for future outbreaks. In a statement accompanying the announcement, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, stated that “We must use our combined strength to be prepared for the future, starting from the early detection of the variants to the organisation and coordination of clinical trials for new vaccines and treatments, while ensuring correct data collection and sharing at all stages.” (link)

Commission urges Turkey to uphold commitments at tense summit
The EU-Turkey summit took place on Tuesday 6 April at Turkey’s presidential palace in Ankara, aiming to build “new momentum” in an often problematic relationship. Yet the summit was largely overshadowed by “sofagate” where Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was sidelined, left sitting alone on a sofa opposite Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, prompting concerns of sexism in a country which has attracted heavy criticism for its record on human rights, particularly women’s rights. In the Commission’s briefing on Wednesday, spokesman Eric Mamer explained von der Leyen “chose to prioritize substance over questions of form or protocol” and von der Leyen’s subsequent statement focussed on EU-Turkey economic and trade ties, the climate change challenge, COVID-19 and refugees and migration. On the latter point, von der Leyen urged Turkey to stand by commitments made in the EU-Turkey statement of 2016, to prevent irregular migration (i.e. migration outside legal and internationally agreed frameworks) and resume return operations from the Greek islands to Turkey. Further, von der Leyen voiced severe concern that Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, a 2011 human rights treaty of the Council of Europe which aims to protect women and children from violence. Turkey had been the first country to ratify this treaty, but President Erdoğan announced his country’s withdrawal on 20 March 2021. (link)

·        France: French police have launched a probe after reports that government ministers flouted COVID-19 restrictions by secretly eating in restaurants in the height of lockdown. (link)

·        Finland: Anni Sinnemäki, Deputy Mayor of Helsinki and Member of the Green Party has urged for professional workers who cannot work remotely, including police officers, be put on the COVID-19 vaccination priority list. (link)

·        Italy and Portugal: Notorious Italian mobster Francesco Pelle has been arrested at a COVID-19 clinic in Portugal. Pelle is part of the ‘Ndrangheta’ crime syndicate, believed to be world’s wealthiest gang, and had vanished two years ago shortly before he was due to be imprisoned. (link)

·        Spain: Three Spanish police officers saved the life of a 62-year-old man who was suffering a cardiac arrest on the terrace of a bar in Calle Donostiarra, Madrid, after 12 minutes of resuscitation efforts. (link)

·        Sweden: 4 out of 10 Swedish police officers are considering leaving their jobs, according to a recent survey. (link)

·        UK: Police in Scotland have launched a drive to recruit more female officers, as the force tackles “under-representation.” (link)

Other news
Northern Ireland police say more than 55 officers injured in week of rising disorder and violence
Riots and profound public disorder intensified across Northern Ireland this week, with sectarian clashes between Unionist and Republican communities ramping up particularly in Belfast. The unrest had been mainly restricted to Unionist neighbourhoods until Thursday, when violence spread to the predominantly Republican Springfield Road area of West Belfast. Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said police are investigating links to paramilitary involvement given the apparent level of pre-planning involved – and described “sustained violence directed towards police officers on both sides of the interface over a period of hours.” More than 55 PSNI officers have been injured so far amidst months long tensions exacerbated by COVID-19 restrictions and post-Brexit border complications, including a growing sentiment among Unionists that they have been cut off from the rest of the UK. On Thursday, UK Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis flew to Belfast to hold urgent talks with community leaders to try to find ways to curb the unrest. (link)

Swedish Police Confederation signs agreement on need to increase police salaries
The Swedish Police Confederation has signed a new agreement with the Swedish Security Service (Säkerhetspolisen, or SÄPO) including a joint declaration to secure more competitive salaries for police officers in the Security Service – to attract more recruits to the force. Specifically, the aim is to ensure officers within the Security Service have access to the same wage appreciations as those in the main Swedish police force. In a statement, Mikael Sjöstedt, Chairman of the Police Association for the Security Police, emphasised that “We now agree that it is extremely important that wage development maintains at least the same pace as within the Police Authority if we are to manage the supply of skills in the future.” (link)

Look Ahead

–        12-13 April: LIBE Committee of the European Parliament meets to discuss new avenues for legal labour migration, the Commission’s 2020 Rule of Law report, fingerprinting of illegal migrants or stateless persons, preventing dissemination of terrorist content online, and the first review of the EU’s implementation of the UN’s Convention against Corruption.

–        13 April: European Firearms Experts (EFE) Plenary Meeting, to discuss criminal and technical cases connected with firearms, in the light of the strategic objectives defined for 2021. Attendees of the EFE include Commission, Europol, Frontex, Interpol and LEWP, the Law enforcement working party of the Council.

–        14-15 April: EU Justice and Home Affairs senior officials meet with US counterparts.

–        5-7 May: CEPOL Research and Science Conference – open to officials of European law enforcement agencies and qualified scholars in the field, registration is now open and the schedule can be accessed here.

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