In this issue: Full impact of pandemic on jobs is yet to be known, Tracing apps troubles, WHO vaccine allocation plan
- European Investment Bank (EIB): EIB president Werner Hoyer has warned that the bank requires more money from governments if it is to play a major role in the EU’s recovery scheme. The bank is already nearing its lending limits and Hoyer has warned his board of governors that it will need “a double-digit figure in order to meet the EIB’s risk metrics.” This could further complicate the EU’s budget discussions. [Source: POLITICO]
- European Central Bank (ECB) speaks on pandemic’s job impact: The full impact of the pandemic on jobs is yet to be known says ECB President Christine Largarde. She spoke at the EU leaders’ summit last Friday, warning that “the worst impact on labour markets is still to come.” She noted that unemployment could rise to 10% and stressed the need for swift agreement on the EU’s recovery measures.
Mobility, Transport, and Trade
- Iberian border dispute: Spain will delay opening its border with Portugal until 30 June the government announced this week, instead of the originally planned 22 June. Portugal is the only Schengen country that Spain is continuing to restrict movement with, even as British tourists are allowed to visit without quarantine measures.
- Tracing app troubles: The UK’s tracing app will postpone its countrywide launch so it can be re-engineered to use technology provided by Google and Apple. While there is no official release date, it is likely to be in autumn. After initially balking at the American tech giants’ apps that keep the data decentralised, officials have acknowledged that the UK’s attempt had not been accurate in identifying if people had been in contact with someone who has had COVID-19.
- (More) tracing app troubles: France is also struggling with its app – 1.9 million French people have downloaded it – but only 68 positive COVID-19 tests results were entered into the app, and only 14 users were notified of an at-risk encounter. French junior minister for digital affairs, Cédric O, said that 460,000 people deleted the app in the past three weeks and expressed concerns about the app’s centralised approach which makes it incompatible with apps from nearby countries. France’s app development team is working on a new version expected to debut in the first half of July.
Vaccine Development & European Health Resilience
- WHO vaccine allocation plan: The World Health Organisation has presented its Global Allocation Framework for a COVID-19 vaccine, which aims to reduce mortality and protect health systems. The WHO estimated that four billion doses were needed to protect the three priority populations it has identified: healthcare workers, those over 65, and those with comorbidities.
- Updating the corona timeline in Europe: The Italian Instituto Superiore di Sanità has announced that the novel coronavirus was found in wastewater samples taken from Milan and Turin on December 18, more than a month before the first documented case appeared in Italy. This news, along with similar discoveries elsewhere in Europe, confirm that COVID-19 was circulating globally before it was first flagged by Chinese authorities on 31st
- German re-lockdown: Authorities in North-Rhine Westphalia have been forced to put an entire district around the city of Gütersloh under lockdown to try to contain a COVID-19 outbreak at a slaughterhouse where 1500 workers have tested positive. The lockdown affects hundreds of thousands of residents and is in place until 30th Armin Laschet, prime minister of the region, previously resisted harsh lockdown measures and drew criticism for xenophobic remarks where he appeared to blame Bulgarian and Romanian workers for spreading the disease.
- The office isn’t over yet, and the economy isn’t done tanking: The International Labor Organisation (ILO) has said that while the pandemic has brought forward the “future of work”, remote working will still not be the new normal in the majority of cases. The ILO estimates that in high-income countries, only 27% of workers could work from home and noted both positives and negatives of remote working. The ILO also stressed that historically, at times of economic shocks, pandemics, and wars, inequality has increased, calling for workplaces to move in the direction of equality. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released a revised forecast predicting a 4.9% contradiction of the global economy. For the eurozone, the outlook is even bleaker, standing at 10.2%. Those figures are tentative, the IMF notes, and says that developments could continue to the worse.
- Supporting the auto sector: ACEA, CECRE, and CLEPA have issued a call for political support for the auto sector to EU heads of state and government. The three automotive associations called for a swift agreement on the EU budget, purchase and investment incentives, quicker deployment of charging and refueling infrastructure, and a delay in regulatory compliance deadlines.
- COVID vs competition: The pandemic has already stripped away some of the EU’s building blocks of market-driven economics like limits on public debt and state aid regulation, now business-as-usual competition policy is being revisited. Calls to review competition rules, especially by France and Germany, have grown in recent years, and with the pandemic they are becoming deafening. The EU’s focus on building “European champions” and the pandemic making it clear that external supply chains are not the most reliable business model has led to an increase in calls for re-shoring key industries. While Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is set to launch a consultation on the market definition rules, the rest of the EU’s competition reform remains to be seen. [Source: POLITICO]
- COP delayed (again): for the second time, COP26 has been delayed, this time until November 2021 in Glasgow. Under the Paris Agreement, the signees were supposed to update and increase their emission reduction pledges this year. COP26 President Alok Sharma stated that “despite this postponement we must not lose momentum in our work to accelerate global climate action.”