EU announces help for Balkans after criticism

BRUSSELS, March 31 (NNN-AGENCIES) — The EU announced nearly 40 million euros to help Western Balkan countries deal with the coronavirus, after Brussels came under fire for not doing enough for its neighbours.

A further 140 million euros was announced for the European Union’s “eastern partner” countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

The moves come as the EU seeks to fight back in a publicity battle with China and Russia, who have made a great show of their gestures of support to countries struggling with the COVID-19 crisis.

Chinese company Bioeasy Biotechnology's test kits rejected by Europian Countries

PARIS, March 31 (NNN-AGENCIES) — A number of European governments have rejected Chinese-made equipment designed to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Thousands of testing kits and medical masks manufactured by an unathorised Shenzhen based company Bioeasy Biotechnology are below standard or defective, according to authorities in Spain, Turkey and the Netherlands.

EU clears French 1.2 billion euro scheme for small firms hit by pandemic

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission authorized on Monday France’s scheme to support small companies and self-employed people affected by the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the scheme, Paris has pledged a total of 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in subsidies to firms with a maximum of 10 employees and an annual turnover not exceeding 1 million euros.

Coronavirus lockdowns give Europe's cities cleaner air

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Air pollution has decreased in urban areas across Europe during lockdowns to combat the coronavirus, new satellite images showed on Monday, but campaigners warned city-dwellers were still more vulnerable to the epidemic.

Cities including Brussels, Paris, Madrid, Milan and Frankfurt showed a reduction in average levels of noxious nitrogen dioxide over March 5-25, compared with the same period last year, according to the Sentinel-5 satellite images.

EU pushes Britain to extend Brexit talks over virus outbreak

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union expects Britain to seek an extension of its post-Brexit transition period beyond the end of the year, diplomats and officials said on Monday, as negotiations on trade have ground to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Europe has gone into a deep lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of the disease, with more than 330,000 infections reported on the continent and nearly 21,000 deaths.

EU marks 25th anniversary of open-border Schengen pact with closed frontiers

BRUSSELS, March 27 (NNN-AGENCIES) — The European Union marked the 25th anniversary of its open-border Schengen agreement on Thursday with all its land borders shut or subject to heavy checks imposed in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The Schengen agreement, underpinning an increasingly integrated and united Europe, came into force on March 26, 1995.

EU leaders to shield strategic firms from hostile interest amid crisis

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders will on Thursday back plans to defend healthcare, infrastructure and other firms seen as having strategic role from hostile foreign takeovers, draft EU summit conclusions show.

Listed companies worldwide have become easier targets as share prices have crashed during the coronavirus crisis, with vaccine makers and other firms that have emerged as crucial players in the fight against the virus attracting attention.

EU executive moves to formalize suspension of EU budget rules

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union executive moved to formalize an agreement reached by EU finance ministers on March 5 to suspend EU budget rules that put limits on borrowing so that governments have a free hand in fighting the coronavirus.

The European Commission, the guardian of EU rules, proposed late on Friday to activate the ‘general escape clause’ in the rules to respond to the pandemic that has caused lockdowns in most EU countries and the closure of Europe’s borders.

Senior EU official says COVID-19 "not a Chinese virus"

BRUSSELS, March 20 (Xinhua) -- COVID-19 is not a Chinese virus, said a senior EU official on Thursday, as he called for global cooperation in confronting the "massive threat."

"Viruses don't have a nationality and they don't care about borders," tweeted Josep Borrell Fontelles, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy.

He said COVID-19 is not a Chinese virus, as the Spanish flu was not Spanish.

"We all face a massive threat that requires global cooperation and all of us working hand in hand," he said.

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