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EU Agrees €500 Billion Coronavirus Rescue Package

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European Union finance ministers have approved a €500bn (£430bn – $540bn) rescue package to support and aid European countries hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The deal was announced by the Eurogroup president Mario Centeno after lengthy discussions in Brussels, he said “today, we agreed upon three safety nets and a plan for the recovery, to ensure we grow together, not apart, once the virus is behind us.”

Centeno added that “these proposals build on our collective financial strength and European solidarity.”

Moreover, the agreed package is smaller than the European Central Bank (ECB) had urged, the body earlier suggested the bloc may need up to €1.5tn (£1.3tn) to tackle the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the deal eases concerns that the bloc was incapable of uniting behind a common strategy, EU leaders must now ratify the accord amid a continuing climate of mistrust and tension, with divisions emerging between north and south Europe.

Earlier, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte had said the EU might collapse as a project unless all leaders decisively come together to help worst- hit countries fight this pandemic.

Italy has been pushing for a co-ordinated economic response from the EU by allowing debt-sharing, but the proposal is opposed by Germany and the Netherlands.

Spain has Europe’s highest number of confirmed cases, with 152,446. More than 15,000 persons have died.

Health News

General: COVID-19 Vaccines Will Be Ready For Delivery 24 Hours After FDA Authorization

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Four-Star general Gustave Perna who is leading the U.S. government’s operation warp speed, the crash program to develop, produce, and distribute enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to inoculate 300 million Americans, says he is confident vaccines will be “on the streets 24 hours after being authorized by the food and drug administration.

The operation is stockpiling anticipated vaccines made by six different drug makers.

While the first two vaccines to be distributed will likely be from Pfizer and Moderna, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Affairs, Alex Azar, described the news from Astra zeneca’s clinical trials as “very promising” and noted that the company’s vaccine is already being produced in the country so it too can be ready for distribution once authorized by the FDA.

Azar confirmed the drugmaker is already producing mass quantities of the vaccine in the U.S.

Last week, Pfizer applied for authorization from the FDA and a hearing date was set for mid-December.

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Formal Transition Of U.S. Power To Biden Begins After Lengthy Delay

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US president-elect Joe Biden has been informally introducing his cabinet choices as formal transition begins.

Many of the choices, already announced, are Biden’s colleagues from his years in the Obama administration.

Former secretary of state, John Kerry, will be climate envoy, while foreign policy veteran Antony Blinken is nominated for secretary of state.

Avril Haines has been nominated for the post of director of national intelligence.  If confirmed, she will be the first female to hold that position.  Alejandro Mayorkas is named as homeland security boss.  If confirmed, she would be the first Latino in that job.

President-elect Biden has highlighted the need to rebuild alliances, as well as tackling coronavirus and climate change.

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Jamal Khashoggi Killing: Turkey’s Trial Of Saudi Suspects Resumes

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The trial has resumed in turkey of the men accused in the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul two years ago.

Twenty Saudi officials, who are not in turkey, are being tried in absentia.

Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, was said to have been suffocated to death, and then dismembered allegedly by a team of Saudi agents inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

The defendants include two former aides to the prince, who have both denied any involvement.

Egyptian political dissident Ayman Noor, a close friend of Khashoggi, told the court the journalist felt threatened by people close to crown prince Mohammed.

The trial has now been adjourned until march.

Saudi arabia, which rejected turkey’s extradition request, convicted eight persons last year over the murder.  Five of them were sentenced to death for directly participating in the killing, while three got prison sentences for covering up the crime.

The 59-year-old journalist, who went into self-imposed exile in the us in 2017, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in October 2018 to obtain papers he needed to marry his fiancee.

The Saudi government said the journalist was killed in a “rogue operation” by a team of agents.

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