Recovery fund faces new hurdles with first disbursements

Recovery fund faces new hurdles with first disbursements

The European Commission could find it difficult to transfer the first tranche of the recovery funds to all member states according to its calendar, as most plans are expected to be approved at the same time and there will be limited capacity to borrow from the markets. Last July, the EU’s € 800 billion recovery fund was greeted as a historic deal. But its slow implementation, doubts about its size, problems with its ratification in some member states, especially Germany and Poland, and difficulties in drawing up national recovery plans…

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Sales of drinks soar in England as pubs reopen terraces

Sales of drinks soar in England as pubs reopen terraces

After three months of lockdown, pubs in England hit record sales of beer, wine, and sparkling wine, which were 113% higher on 12 April than on the same day in 2019, the last comparable date before the pandemic took hold. Despite being limited to trading outdoors – just under 40% of premises in Britain have outdoor spaces – this marks a good start for the hospitality sector, according to food and drink insight company CGA. “The first day of trading after England’s lockdown showed a fairly solid performance and demonstrates…

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Free ports and the blockchain come together to speed up seamless trade

Free ports and the blockchain come together to speed up seamless trade

Some say they can boost manufacturing while others claim they are used to launder money and avoid tax. The issue of “free ports” has never been more topical, not least in the post-Brexit era. But are freeports really all they appear to be? What exactly is a free port? Typically, when goods enter a country, they have to follow the import regulations of that country. This often involves a tariff—a tax on those imports. A free port or “free zone” is an area that is inside the geographic boundary of…

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What Belgium’s two ‘milestones’ for relaxations mean

What Belgium’s two ‘milestones’ for relaxations mean

Besides a decreased number of patients in intensive care, two “milestones” in Belgium’s vaccination strategy should also lead to further relaxations, the Consultative Committee decided on Wednesday. Following the restart of schools and the lifting of the non-essential travel ban on 19 April, and the end of the “Easter pause” on 26 April, the next relaxations will be based on milestones in the vaccination campaign, announced Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. First milestone: 70% of over-65s vaccinated “The first milestone is when seven out of ten people over 65 years…

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Ban cycling and walking to help Brussels’ taxis

Ban cycling and walking to help Brussels’ taxis

The recent decision to ban Uber from the streets of Brussels was very clearly a political move to support the taxi industry and the transport unions. As such, it makes sense to also introduce some extra measures to support the taxi industry further – namely by removing any extra unfair and undue competition from the streets. To this end, I propose that Minister President Rudi Vervoort should also consider banning other competition to the cities taxis. Namely; cycling, driving and walking. Such measures could just as easily be justified for…

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French farmers protest to give ‘first warning to government’

French farmers protest to give ‘first warning to government’

As farmers’ protests calling for a fair income increase across France, farmers will protest on the streets of Île-de-France Friday (2 April) to denounce the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). “France, do you still want your farmers?” Those are the words used to describe the protest organised on Friday in the Greater Paris region by the French agricultural union FDSEA. Ile-de-France farmers “attached to the future of their profession” will protest to give a “first warning to the government”, according to a press release from the FDSEA and…

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EU countries squabble over 10 million extra doses of Pfizer vaccine

EU countries squabble over 10 million extra doses of Pfizer vaccine

EU nations fell out Thursday (1 April) over how to divide up 10 million extra doses of coronavirus vaccine, with Austria, Slovenia and the Czech Republic refusing to help five struggling countries. A deal was agreed late in the day to distribute nearly three million doses to “those most in need”, said Portugal, which holds the rotating European Union presidency. But Austria, Slovenia and the Czechs had insisted on receiving their full quota of vaccines under the general shareout system according to population, said a statement from the presidency. A…

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UK inflation rate falls as clothes prices drop

UK inflation rate falls as clothes prices drop

The UK’s inflation rate unexpectedly fell to 0.4% in February, down from 0.7% in January, as the cost of clothes and second-hand cars tumbled. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said there had been a rise in the cost of petrol and diesel. But that impact on consumer prices was more than offset by downward pressures, which also included falls in the cost of travel and toys. February is traditionally a month where clothing prices would rise. However, ONS deputy national statistician, Jonathan Athow said: “The impact of the pandemic…

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Commission seeks to calm fears over Europol’s decryption platform

Commission seeks to calm fears over Europol’s decryption platform

The European Commission has issued assurances to MEPs that Europol’s new decryption platform will not be used to abuse data protection standards and will maintain closely guarded access rights over the data retrieved. However, some MEPs remain unconvinced that the operation of Europol’s technology will be completely free from abuse, particularly in countries where the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary has been called into question. Since Europol launched its decryption platform in December last year, MEPs in Brussels have been seeking clarification on whether the technology…

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Police peacefully disperse young people gathered in Leuven town square

Police peacefully disperse young people gathered in Leuven town square

Dozens of young people came together in a square in the centre of Leuven last night, in what seemed to have been a largely coronavirus-compliant gathering. At least for the first part of the evening, groups were kept to a maximum of 10 people and police officers reported that most were adhering to the social distancing measures intended to lessen the spread of the virus, according to De Standaard. “It was busy, but not too bad,” one of the young people in attendance told reporters. “We really enjoyed this. We…

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