European Union mulls move to welcome vaccinated travelers from U.S., other countries

European Union mulls move to welcome vaccinated travelers from U.S., other countries

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FILE – In this March 18, 2021 file photo, empty tables are seen on a deserted square in normally very busy old town of Cologne, Germany, Thursday. The European Union statistics agency Eurostat announces first-quarter growth figures for the 19 … more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Monday, May 3, 2021

The European Commission proposed Monday to open member countries to vaccinated tourists from the U.S. and other places by early summer, while including an “emergency brake” in case the COVID-19 picture suddenly worsens from aggressive new variants.

Many European nations rely heavily on tourism revenues in their overall economy, and the 27-nation bloc had been working on ways to improve movement within its vast territorial reach. Monday’s announcement was a way to demonstrate the EU‘s splendors will be open to countries elsewhere as vaccines reach more and more arms.

“This reflects the latest scientific advice showing that vaccination considerably helps to break the transmission chain,” the commission said.

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The picture was not all bright: In Germany, the state of Bavaria confirmed Monday it will cancel Oktoberfest, known locally as “Wiesn,” for a second year instead of welcoming revelers from Sept. 18 to Oct. 3 as planned. Other major tourist draws, including the famed running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, have already been scrubbed because of COVID-19 concerns

“The risk is simply too great that people could be infected with the coronavirus here,” Munich’s Lord Mayor Dieter Reiter told reporters. “I know how hard this is not only for the visitors, but also how much it affects all those who work at the Wiesn and now have to do without income once again — from the waiters and waitresses to the stall operators, showmen and innkeepers. But the Wiesn can only exist completely or not at all.”

The festival involves vast crowds of beer drinkers gathered around tables in a party atmosphere.

More broadly, however, EU officials sent out a message Monday that the bloc wants to welcome tourists back onto its streets, cathedrals and picturesque beaches.

A person would be considered fully vaccinated 14 days after receiving the last recommended dose of a vaccine that has received market authorization in the EU. Children of vaccinated people would be admitted with a negative test.

The plan, which will be debated this week, also envisions making it easier for unvaccinated people to visit by raising the threshold for what’s considered unacceptable transmission in their home countries. For instance, Chinese tourists might not be immunized with an EU-approved vaccine but they could still enter if their country continues to maintain a tight lid on domestic transmission rates.

Individual EU members can still require a negative test from travelers, though the Monday’s proposals were designed to encourage nonessential trips instead of banning tourists and other travelers outright.

“Time to revive Flag of European Union tourism industry & for cross-border friendships to rekindle — safely,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted. “We propose to welcome again vaccinated visitors & those from countries with a good health situation.”

Like other places, the EU issued lockdowns, canceled big events and limited travel throughout the year-plus pandemic. Parts of Southern Europe such as Italy and Greece are particularly dependent on travelers to keep their struggling economies afloat.

Europe is working on a vaccine passport, or Digital Green Certificate, to facilitate the proposal.

“Until the Digital Green Certificate is operational, [EU states] should be able to accept certificates from non-EU countries based on national law, taking into account the ability to verify the authenticity, validity and integrity of the certificate and whether it contains all relevant data,” the commission said.

The commission said it remains concerned bout dangerous mutations in the virus and has prepared a fallback plan to tighten things again as necessary.

“The emergence of coronavirus variants of concern calls for continued vigilance,” it said. “Therefore as counter-balance, the commission proposes a new ‘emergency brake’ mechanism, to be coordinated at EU level and which would limit the risk of such variants entering the EU.”

The threat of variants from elsewhere is the main threat to countries seeing progress due to vaccination. That’s why the U.S. and other places banned travel from India as New Delhi sees an unprecedented surge that may be fueled by variants.

Australia recently took things to an extreme, saying as of Monday even its citizens could not enter from India. The decision outraged Indian Australians and others who said it was without precedent.

100 years old: Low-key centenary for Northern Ireland

100 years old: Low-key centenary for Northern Ireland

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A display on grass celebrating the 100 year centenary of Northern Ireland, in Ballyduff, Newtonabbey, Northern Ireland, Monday, May 3, 2021. Queen Elizabeth II has stressed the need for “reconciliation, equality and mutual understanding” as she sent her “warmest best … more >

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By PAN PYLAS

Associated Press

Monday, May 3, 2021

LONDON (AP) – Northern Ireland marked what is widely considered to be its centenary on Monday, with Queen Elizabeth II stressing the need for “reconciliation, equality and mutual understanding” as she sent her “warmest good wishes” to its people.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on a visit to London, said the U.S. will continue to encourage the U.K. and the European Union “to prioritize political and economic stability in Northern Ireland” as they work through their post-Brexit relationship.

Northern Ireland was created on May 3, 1921, when the Government of Ireland Act came into effect and partitioned the island of Ireland into two separate entities. Northern Ireland became part of the U.K. alongside England, Scotland and Wales, while Ireland would later that year become what was then known as the Irish Free State.

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Much like the day that Northern Ireland was founded 100 years ago, there were no huge celebrations or grand ceremonies Monday, given the sharply differing views on its creation and subsequent history. Restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic have also led to all commemorations this year being scaled back.

Since its creation, Northern Ireland society has been split between those who want to remain in the U.K. and those who wish to see Northern Ireland become part of the Republic of Ireland. For decades, that fissure fueled sectarian violence: the so-called Troubles, which resulted in around 3,500 deaths.

The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 formalized power-sharing arrangements between unionists and nationalists. It’s not always been a smooth process politically, with the two sides often unable to reach agreement on how to govern, and there’s been sporadic outbreaks of violence.

“This anniversary reminds us of our complex history, and provides an opportunity to reflect on our togetherness and our diversity,” the queen said in a statement.

“It is clear that reconciliation, equality and mutual understanding cannot be taken for granted, and will require sustained fortitude and commitment,” she added.

The queen also referred to “treasured” memories she shared in Northern Ireland with her late husband, Prince Philip, who died last month at 99.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also marked the date, describing it as a “very significant” anniversary and stressed the importance of reflecting on the “complex history” of the past 100 years.

“People from all parts of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and across the globe, will approach this anniversary in different ways, with differing perspectives,” he said.

In recent weeks, there have been outbreaks of violence across Northern Ireland, with the unionist community particularly aghast at post-Brexit trade rules that took effect this year. These imposed customs checks on some goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K., which did not exist when the U.K. was part of the EU.

Blinken urged all politicians and parties to prioritize peace and stability.

“The United States remains a steadfast supporter of a secure and prosperous Northern Ireland, in which all communities have a voice and can enjoy the gains of the hard-won peace,” he told reporters on Monday.

Although no major celebrations were held, plans to mark the centenary this year included tree-planting projects. Every school was given a native tree to plant in their grounds and many will explore what the future will look like in the next 100 years.

“Across generations, the people of Northern Ireland are choosing to build an inclusive, prosperous, and hopeful society, strengthened by the gains of the peace process,” the queen said. “May this be our guiding thread in the coming years.”

Conservatives lash out at Liz Cheney over Trump criticism

Conservatives lash out at Liz Cheney over Trump criticism

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In this Dec. 17, 2019, file photo, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) more >

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By MARY CLARE JALONICK and ALAN FRAM

Associated Press

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) – House Republicans facing electoral uncertainty in November turned on one another in a private meeting on Tuesday, as a small group of conservative lawmakers confronted House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney over what they said was disloyalty to President Donald Trump.

The lawmakers called out Cheney for her support of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, and for supporting a primary challenger to Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., according to people familiar with the closed-door meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss it. Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio noted Cheney’s criticism of Trump on defense and foreign policy and accused her of not supporting the president on his coronavirus response.

Leading the criticism was Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who recounted the confrontation on his podcast, “Hot Takes with Matt Gaetz,” shortly after it happened. He also tweeted about Cheney, who is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and said she should step down from her post as head of the GOP conference.

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Liz Cheney has worked behind the scenes (and now in public) against @realDonaldTrump and his agenda,” Gaetz tweeted. “House Republicans deserve better as our Conference Chair. Liz Cheney should step down or be removed. #MAGA.”

Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. retweeted Gaetz’s message and wrote, “We already have one Mitt Romney, we don’t need another… we also don’t need the endless wars she advocates for.” Utah Sen. Mitt Romney has been one of the only Senate Republicans to regularly separate himself from Trump and voted to convict him on one article of impeachment earlier this year.

The confrontation comes as the president has struggled with a response to the coronavirus pandemic and Republicans in Congress have been somewhat split on his handling of the crisis. As Trump has pushed to quickly reopen the economy and played down the importance of coronavirus testing, some have indicated they disagree with him on those points. Others such as Gaetz and Jordan have rushed to defend him.

Cheney, R-Wyo., didn’t back down in the meeting and did not apologize for breaking with Trump, according to one of the people familiar with the exchange. At a GOP news conference later in the day, she told reporters that she “absolutely” still supports Fauci, who she said she has known for many years. She also noted that Trump Jr. is “not a member of the Republican conference.”

She said she takes her position seriously and had a “great conversation” with Massie after the conference meeting.

“I think the beauty of our system, and frankly the magnificence of this country and one of the things that the founders fought for, and that so many throughout history have died for, is our freedom of speech and the right for all of us to have this kind of healthy exchange and debate,” Cheney said.

Cheney has shot up to the No. 3 GOP leadership spot since she was elected in 2016. While she has voted mostly in step with the president, she has sometimes differed with him on foreign policy as he and his allies have argued against “endless wars.” She has rarely criticized Trump by name but has separated from him on that issue and others, including the pandemic.

In a June tweet, for example, Cheney alluded to Trump’s frequent refusal to wear a mask by featuring a photo of her masked father. “Dick Cheney says WEAR A MASK. #realmenwearmasks,” she wrote.

Republican leader Kevin McCarthy stood alongside Cheney at the afternoon news conference and said he was honored to have her as conference chair. “She does an amazing job,” he said.

In addition to Gaetz and Jordan, Cheney’s critics at the meeting included Texas Reps. Chip Roy and Louie Gohmert, Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs and Massie himself. Cheney had donated money to Massie’s primary opponent, Todd McMurtry. Massie won that primary in June.

Roy specifically criticized Cheney for her support of Fauci and asked her “to consider the full breadth of research out there on the coronavirus,” according to a person close to Roy. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation.

All the members who criticized Cheney are members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus that often clashed with leadership when Republicans were in the majority.