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Covid-19 drug buyout: US’s EU representative denies ‘America First’ policy on Remdesivir

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Ronald Gidwitz, the Acting US Representative to the European Union, speaks to FRANCE 24 about the European "ban" on US citizens entering EU states; tells us why President Donald Trump is planning to relocate a quarter of the US troops currently based in Germany; and pushes back on a claim from the EU's Trade Commissioner that Washington is launching politically motivated attacks on European exports to the US. Asked about the US buying up doses of Remdesivir, a drug believed to cut recovery times for Covid-19 patients, Gidwitz denies the existence of an "America First" policy.

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We also discuss renewed tensions between Washington and its allies in Paris and Berlin over the Read More – Source

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Migrants leave Ocean Viking rescue ship in Sicily after tense wait

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Almost 200 migrants rescued by a humanitarian aid boat in the Mediterranean Sea began to leave the vessel in Sicily late on Monday after nine days stuck on the ship.

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An AFP journalist aboard the Ocean Viking watched as the migrants, in single file and carrying backpacks, regained dry land at Porto Empedocle on the Italian island's western coast.

Police escorted them a short distance to another vessel, where they will be quarantined to prevent the possible spread of coronavirus.

The arrival of the boat chartered by charity group SOS Mediterranee capped a tense few days onboard marked by migrants jumping overboard, a suicide attempt and bouts of violence.

After being rescued in four separate operations on June 25 and 30, the migrants waiting on the ship became increasingly agitated, according to SOS Mediterranee, as the charity awaited the go-ahead from either Italy or Malta to dock at a safe port.

However, approval did not arrive until Sunday, after the group declared a state of emergency on board, adding it could no longer guarantee the safety of the migrants or the crew.

Soon after 8:00 pm (18:00 GMT), the Ocean Viking docked at the port directly in front of Italian ferry Moby Zaza, where the migrants will wait out a two-week quarantine period.

Tensions mount

Earlier on Monday, a separate group of 169 migrants disembarked from the Moby Zaza after a two-week quarantine.

Thirty of the group — all of whom were rescued last month by Sea-Watch, another humanitarian group — tested positive for coronavirus and will remain on the ferry in an isolated "red zone" area.

SOS Mediterranee spent most of Monday waiting roughly four kilometres (2.5 miles) from the coast before being allowed to dock, as it warned that tensions were rising and the long wait was "amplifying risks on board".

From the deck of the Ocean Viking, migrants who have waited for more than a week to disembark could make out both the Sicilian coast and the immense ferry, the Moby Zaza, according to an AFP reporter on board.

The mayor of Porto Empedocle, Ida Carmina, told reporters that the migrants' arrival was too much for the economically suffering community to support.

"Now that we&#Read More – Source

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Forecasts predict worse EU recession since WWII

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New forecasts show the post-coronavirus slump will be worse than expected in the European Union. FRANCE 24s business editor Stephen Carroll says the EU Commission is predicting the worst recession since World War II.Read More – Source

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Reaching the bottom of the barrel: Coronavirus pandemic batters European wine production

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It's an ancient beverage turned cultural icon, so cherished in France that the legendary Victor Hugo once provocatively wrote: “God made only water – but man made wine”. Aside from being a staple at many family dinner tables, wine is also a massive European industry – and one thats going through its own coronavirus-induced crisis. This in a sector that was already battling against 25% tariffs imposed by Donald Trump in 2019 that have seen exports slump.

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Up to one third of French vineyards are believed to be in potential danger – in a sector that employs around 700,000 people in France alone.

FRANCE 24 has been investigating how winemakers have been coping – as some say they might end up forced to give up altogether.

Vincent Bouzereau, winemaker: "I think were going to have to pick up the pieces. We are all going to pay. I always say to my children, 'we can always tear up a vine, and put sheep out to graze, and then we can eat the sheep'.”

"We are farmers – thats where we began, as farmers."

Aubert Lefas, winemaker and secretary-general of the Bourgogne winemakers confederation warns that small family vineyards will go under as they do not have the resources to pay for wages and outgoings.

"If their land is valuable, theyll be sold to big international groRead More – Source

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Child sex abuse warning as coronavirus school closures continue

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Child sex abuse offenders are "taking advantage" of the coronavirus pandemic to make and share more abusive material online. That warning from Catherine De Bolle, head of European law enforcement agency Europol. In an interview with FRANCE 24, she explains that with millions of children at home, many are going unsupervised, using outdated and poorly secured software which leaves them at greater risk from exploitation.

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"You have to be aware, when your child goes on the internet, the child has access to the world – but also the world has access to your child. You have to be aware of this, and you have to protect your child in this situation."

Catherine De Bolle says that organised criminals have exploited the pandemic in other areas too, with a "huge impact" on cyber crime; with counterfeit and sub-standard goods, and property crime also singled out.

The Europol Executive Director also cautions for the coming months of economic crisis in Europe, saying that the end of the pandemic will not be the end of pandemic-related crime.

"We are convinced that criminal organisations will try to make profit out of the pandemic, long after the pandemic. They will make use of the economic downturn, they will make use of economic sectors in difficulty, like tourism,Read More – Source

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Who is Jean Castex, Frances new prime minister?

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French President Emmanuel Macron has named Jean Castex the country's new prime minister after the resignation of former PM Édouard Philippe's cabinet. Rather unknown to the public, Castex “comes from the mainstream right-wing party Les Républicains and is best known as "Monsieur Déconfinement" (Mr Post-lockdown) since April, when he was put in charge of organising Frances gradual exit from lockdown, something that has sRead More – Source

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Macron is putting himself back in control by naming Jean Castex prime minister

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French President Emmanuel Macron has named Jean Castex the country's new prime minister after the resignation of former PM Édouard Philippe's cabinet. Rather unknown to the public, Castex came to some prominence in early April when appointed to head the government's strategy for ending coronavirus lockdown measures. “This is about strategy”, Andrew Smith, professor of phRead More – Source

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Air France to cut 7,580 jobs at French flagship carrier and regional unit Hop!

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Air France confirmed plans to cut some 7,500 jobs including 1,000 at sister airline Hop! on Friday, as staff protested over its response to the collapse in travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The French flag carrier, part of Franco-Dutch group Air France-KLM, said it had lost €15 million a day during the worst part of the crisis, which also saw its revenues plunge by 95 percent. It did not see traffic returning to 2019 levels before 2024.

As a result, Air France plans to cut 6,560 or 16 percent of jobs at the main airline by the end of 2022, more than 3,500 of which will come through natural departures, it said after union talks.

Another 1,020 jobs will go over the next three years at Hop!, representing 42 percent of staff at the regional carrier based in the coastal city of Nantes, which has also been hit by job cuts at plane manufacturer Airbus.

The French government – which granted Air France €7 billion ($7.9 billion) in aid, including state-backed loans, to help it to survive – has urged the airline to avoid compulsory layoffs, though it has conceded Air France is "on the edge”.

"A successful labour reorganisation is one where there are no forced departures," junior economy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told Sud Radio on Friday.

In its statement, Air France said it would give priority to voluntary departures, early retirement and staff mobility. It did not rule out compulsory redundancies, however.

The reconstruction plan will be presented at the end of July, together with a plan for the wider Air France-KLM Group.

This is not how I wanted to leave

Some 100 union members and employees, from cleaning staff to check-in assistants, demonstrated earlier outside the airline's base at Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris against plans to cut staff after receiving state aid to absorb the pandemic fallout.

Air France employees gather to protest a restructuring plan that includes thousands of job cuts in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis outside the French airline's headquarters in Roissy-en-France near Paris on July 3, 2020. The sign at right reads, "Not born to end up in the dumpster.” © Gonzalo Fuentes, Reuters

"It's scandalous. The government is putting in €7 billion and the compRead More – Source

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French court opens inquiry into former PM Philippe in handling of Covid crisis

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A French court is opening an inquiry into former prime minister Édouard Philippe and two other ministers over their handling of the coronavirus crisis, a prosecutor said Friday.

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The inquiry, which is being opened after nine complaints filed against the ministers were deemed admissable, will be led by the Law Court of the Republic (CJR), which deals with claims of ministerial misconduct, said senior public prosecutor François Molins.

Along with Philippe, who was reRead More – Source

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Germany assumes EU presidency as Merkel pushes for massive bloc-wide recovery plan

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Germany takes over the European Union's six-month presidency Wednesday, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel staking her legacy on a massive economic recovery plan to help the bloc cope with the coronavirus fallout.

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Merkel's last major role on the international stage comes as the 27-member club faces its deepest recession since World War II, triggered by a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 people globally.

The crisis has galvanised Europe's most powerful leader who, with just over a year left in her final term, has ditched her usual wait-and-see approach to call for "extraordinary measures" to weather the storm.

"Europe's future is our future," Merkel said Monday as she stood beside French President Emmanuel Macron to push for a 750-billion-euro ($843 billion) coronavirus recovery fund.

Analysis: German EU presidency brings 'sigh of relief' to coronavirus-ravaged Europe

The proposed fund would controversially be financed through shared EU borrowing and marks a stunning U-turn for Germany after years of opposition to debt pooling.

The EU's rotating presidency is Merkel's "last chance" to make her mark as one of Europe's great leaders, Der Spiegel weekly wrote, adding that it was time for Germany to shoulder more responsibility as the bloc's biggest nation and top economy.

"For years the chancellor put off dealing with the chronic problems of the EU and the euro. Now, towards the end of her political career, she has the opportunity to make up for past mistakes," Spiegel wrote.

There will be no shortage of challenges to tackle in the months ahead.

Post-Brexit negotiations, a more assertive China, rocky transatlantic ties, climate change and the conflicts in Libya and Syria will all be jostling for attention, even if the pandemic promises to dominate the agenda.

'Extraordinary solidarity'

Germany kicked off its EU custodianship by projecting the words "Together for Europe's recovery" onto Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate late Tuesday.

After 15 years in office, Merkel is the bloc's longest-serving leader and held the EU presidency once before, in 2007.

But the stakes are higher this time.

A first major test will come at a July 17-18 EU summit, where Merkel hopes leaders will reach an agreement on the 750-billion-euro rescue fund put forward by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen — Merkel's former defence minister.

The money is expected to come mainly in the form of grants for countries hardest hit by the pandemic, such as debt-laden Italy and Spain.

But so-called frugal nations including Austria and the Netherlands want to reign in the sRead More – Source

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