A member of the parliamentary intelligence committee said the agency did not specify which drugmakers were targeted but said there was no damage from the hacking attempts. EPA-EFE/MARTIN JOPPEN / SANOFI / HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

A handout photo made available by Sanofi shows ampoules of a possible Covid-19 vaccine during the production in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 15 September 2020 (issued 22 September 2020). If all clinical testings are successful, Sanofi expects application for approval oft he vaccine in the first half of 2021. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>North Korea attempts to hack South Korean coronavirus vaccine firms

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epa08688476 A handout photo made available by Sanofi shows ampoules of a possible Covid-19 vaccine during the production in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 15 September 2020 (issued 22 September 2020). According to Sanofi, clinical testing of this vaccine candidate began in early September. Last week, Microsoft found that hackers working for Russia and North Korea targeted pharmaceutical companies and vaccine researchers in Canada, France, India, South Korea and the United States. According to Sanofi, clinical testing of this vaccine candidate began in early September. The pharmaceutical company Sanofi officially started the production of its potential vaccine against COVID-19 in Frankfurt on 22 September 2020 to ensure that protection against corona infection is immediately available at the time of approval. North Korea has not confirmed any coronavirus infection, but the NIS had said an outbreak there cannot be ruled out as the country had active trade exchanges with China before closing the border in January. EPA-EFE/MARTIN JOPPEN / SANOFI /

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South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) foiled North Korean attempts to hack into South Korean companies developing coronavirus vaccines, lawmakers said on Friday. If all clinical testings are successful, Sanofi expects application for approval oft he vaccine in the first half of 2021. The pharmaceutical company Sanofi officially started the production of its potential vaccine against COVID-19 in Frankfurt on 22 September 2020 to ensure that protection against corona infection is immediately available at the time of approval. The hacking attempt was part of a series of “unreasonable” actions taken by North Korea due to COVID-19 “paranoia”, the lawmakers said. In July, Chinese-backed hackers were also accused of targeting Moderna in a bid to steal vaccine research data.

Previously, the ferry service was only with Azerbaijan, where they exported oil, grain, metal, imported consumer goods, and building materials. These are the first tugs of our port.   The advantage of the ferry service is that the cargo can be sent to the consumer directly without additional ships. Also, this year, agreements were reached on the construction of two-grain terminals. KURYT.KZ

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NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan – Kazakhstan has opened a new sea ferry route that connects the Kazakh port of Kuryk with the Iranian Amirabad and the port of Anzali, the Kazakh TV channel Khabar 24 reported on November 26. “This year we bought 2 tugs. The occupancy of one ferry is 32-euro trucks with perishable goods. The automotive infrastructure of Kuryk today receives and promptly serves transit and export-import cargo. Port representatives believe that the Kuryk-Amirabad / Anzali ferry line will be interesting for both Iranian and Kazakh businessmen. The first ship to enter the sea harbor was the Composer Rachmaninov. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Kazakhstan opens new sea ferry route with Iran

By Kulpash Konyrova

Kuryt Port Development in Kazakhstan. We see that there is a certain logic in purchasing our own fleet and operating it from our port. One in the territory of Kuryk, and the other on the territory adjacent to us, but all these cargoes will be handled through us,” Kuryk Port General Director Serik Akhmetov said.

Also discussed were the projects for pipeline gas supplies from Russia to China via the Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline across Mongolia, via the western route, and from Russia’s Far East, Gazprom said. Miller and Houliang reviewed a wide range of issues related to their current and future cooperation during a video call recently. In August 2020, a Memorandum of Intent was signed to set up a special-purpose company. In 2020, Gazprom started to assess the possibility of gas supplies across Mongolia in the amount of up to 50 billion cubic meters of gas per year. GAZPROM

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Russian gas monopoly Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) Chairman Dai Houliang have considered the possibility of increasing gas deliveries via the Power of Siberia pipeline by an additional 6 billion cubic meters after the supplies under the existing Agreement level off. In particular, exports of Russian pipeline gas from the Chayandinskoye field to China via the Power of Siberia gas trunkline were discussed. The trunkline supplies gas to consumers in Russia’s Far East and China. The meeting also touched upon joint efforts in the areas of underground gas storage, gas-fired power generation, sci-tech cooperation, use of gas as a vehicle fuel, staff development, standardisation, and equipment certification. On May 21, 2014, Gazprom and CNPC signed the 30-year Sales and Purchase Agreement for Russian gas to be supplied via the eastern route. Stable and flexible gas supplies are essential to achieving China’s environmental goals that call for reduced use of coal by industrial and residential consumers. The document provides for a joint assessment of the feasibility of the project for pipeline gas supplies from Russia to China across Mongolia. It has an export capacity of 38 billion cubic metres of gas per year. Gazprom and CNPC in 2016 signed the Memorandum of Understanding on underground gas storage and gas-fired power generation in China. Gazprom and the Mongolian government signed in December 2019 a Memorandum of Understanding. In 2015, Gazprom and CNPC inked the Heads of Agreement for pipeline deliveries of natural gas from Western Siberian fields to China via the western route. It was noted that gas is being supplied consistently and in excess of the planned amounts. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Gazprom may boost gas supplies to China via Power of Siberia

By New Europe Online/KG

Gas metering station of Power of Siberia in Amur Region. Gazprom’s main partner in China is CNPC, a state-owned oil and gas company. The company will be established in Mongolia with the purpose of conducting a feasibility study for a gas trunkline construction and operation project. On November 12, the surplus in daily volumes hit a record high of 25%. In line with the Sales and Purchase Agreement, Gazprom is preparing to further ramp up the gas supplies in 2021. In October and the first twenty days of November, the daily average volumes exceeded the contractual amounts upon requests from the Chinese party, Gazprom said. Power of Siberia is the largest gas transmission system in Russia’s East. In December 2017, Gazprom and CNPC entered into the Heads of Agreement for natural gas to be supplied from Russia’s Far East to China.

style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>EU-Southern Mediterranean: Working towards prosperity and stability for all

By Oliver Varhelyi
European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement

epa08843824 (L-R) High Representative for the European Union Josep Borrell, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya and Jordan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Ayman Safa, host the 5th Union for the Mediterranean Regional Forum in Barcelona, Catalonia, north eastern Spain, 26 November 2020. As we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Barcelona Process, launched in 1995 to reinforce cooperation on both sides of the Mediterranean, we are also reflecting together on how we want to take forward our partnership priorities in the next years, in light of today’s challenges and opportunities. The forum marks the 25th anniversary of the Barcelona Process launched in 1995 with the aim of strengthening such relations between Europe and the Southern Mediterranean countries. We will work together to mobilise private sector on both sides of the Mediterranean to help us respond to the market needs and to promote new business models all across the Southern Mediterranean region. A principle this Commission takes seriously. We need a Southern Neighbourhood that emerges from the crisis as a prime location for investments, offering growth and jobs in a sustainable way and providing for stronger societies that give hope and opportunity to the young generations to find their future in the region. EPA-EFE/Quique Garcia

The High Representative for the European Union Josep Borrell, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya and Jordan's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Ayman Safa, host the 5th Union for the Mediterranean Regional Forum in Barcelona, Spain, November 26, 2020. A future where sustainable and balanced development and equal opportunities can be provided for all will mitigate the necessity of undertaking perilous journeys in search of a better future, only to fall in the hands of traffickers and organised crime. Digitalisation also offers previously unseen opportunities, for companies – especially small and medium-sized enterprises – and public service delivery. These challenges have been coupled by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is severely impacting the economies, particularly when it comes to external trade, tourism and youth. EPA-EFE//QUIQUE GARCIA

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The Mediterranean region’s strategic importance for the European Union is beyond any doubt. This will underpin our economic goals. Any crisis management can be successful only if shared with the neighbours. We will liaise with our partners and continue to work closely with the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), an enhanced Euro-Mediterranean intergovernmental framework that has since 2008 provided a privileged platform to promote dialogue and cooperation between Europe and its Southern neighbours, the creation of an area of peace and stability, shared economic progress, democratic principles and human rights. We want to help to increase education and vocational training opportunities in the Euro-Med region to guarantee skills match the labour market needs. That is why we are preparing a dedicated economic development strategy for our Southern neighbours, which will draw on the new next long-term EU budget. Creating more resilient economies and societies all around is a common interest for Europe and for our neighbours. Only by working together can we ensure prosperity and stability for all of us, fully respecting our mutual interests and responsibilities. We must strengthen our bilateral and regional cooperation with the Southern Neighbourhood to better manage systemic challenges and to boost economic development and recovery. A review of EU trade policy priorities in the region would further support this process. At the same time, our renewed partnership will also put emphasis on areas such as justice and rule of law more broadly, the fight against corruption and organised crime, the role of independent media and civil society and the prevention of radicalisation leading to violent extremism. The past decade was a turbulent one: democratic changes after the 2011 uprisings, political and socio-economic crises, conflicts in Syria, Libya and the lack of solution in the Middle East Peace Process, stark inequalities, and a looming environmental crisis as a result of climate change. For example, the disruption of global value chains by the pandemic opened an opportunity for a regionalisation of production and shorter value chains for strategic products, which can benefit the Southern Neighbourhood and provide employment for the young. We are partners faced with shared challenges, working for the same goals. We will help build economies that work for people, in particular the youth. Our ties and cooperation with our Southern partners have grown stronger over the years, underpinned by Association Agreements and other instruments which still have the potential to deliver more. The EU has already put on the table a first package of more than €2.3 billion to help our Southern Mediterranean partners address the immediate needs in the health sector and to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic. While digitalisation offers SMEs opportunities to innovate and grow, it also has consequences for skill requirements for workers. Our plan will be built together with our partners, reflecting the needs and specificities of each of our partners.

Do not politicise courts. EPA-EFE//RADEK PIETRUSZKA

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On November 20, the ruling Law and Justice party adopted a resolution supporting the government’s announcement to veto to link EU funds to the respect of the rule of law. EU funds, if spent wisely, matter and Poland is still a net beneficiary of its membership. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>The Polish government versus the rule of law

By Marek Tatala
Vice President, Civil Development Forum (FOR)

epa08780605 Leader of the Polish Law and Justice (PiS) ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczynski speaks during a parliamentary debate in Sejm (lower house) in Warsaw, Poland, 28 October 2020. Do not abuse the prosecutorial office to fight with political opponents. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”
The resolution serves domestic purposes. In 2019, Poland received €11 billion of net transfers from the Union’s budget. The EU should be aware that the situation is urgent and the rule of law in Poland, Hungary and other member states matters not only for the citizens of these countries but also for the future of the European project as a club of countries with high-quality democratic institutions safeguarding human rights and individual liberties. This approach – not the veto – is the interest of Poland and the European Union. According to Poland’s prime minister, the rule of law is only a propaganda mechanism for the EU that resembles Communist times. EPA-EFE/Radek Pietruszka POLAND OUT

Leader of the Polish Law and Justice (PiS) ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczynski speaks during a parliamentary debate in Sejm (lower house) in Warsaw. The vast majority of the opposition voted against this resolution. In sum, do not violate the rule of law and the EU funds will keep coming, Poland position in the EU and the Single Market will be stronger, and economic growth – essential for the post-Covid recovery, will be higher. All in all, if Poland’s government is worried that the rule of law conditionality will be triggered to reduce the inflow of some EU funds, there are some simple remedies. The Law and Justice party likes to present itself as a defender of “sovereignty” and “traditional values” endangered by the European integration. But Poland’s membership in the Single Market is even more important than the cohesion funds. Moreover, a solid level of the rule of law is important for entrepreneurs as it enables to build a stable environment for doing business and economic growth. The Law and Justice positions itself as a defender of Polish national interest. Do not attack the independence of the judiciary. The European Commission responded by recommendations under the Rule of Law Framework, by triggering Article 7(1) and by infringement procedures before the Court of Justice. But at the same time, thanks to full access to other European economies, Poland’s GDP was €56 billion euros higher. This is no surprise, since both governments have been frequently and rightly accused of violating the rule of law and abusing political powers. Reverse the policies that weakened Poland’s institutional system. Jaroslaw Kaczynski accused the opposition of inciting the mass protests that have spread across Polish cities after a top court abortion ruling. But Poland’s actual interest is to maintain a strong position within the EU and the prevalence of the rule of law – irrespectively whether it is linked to EU funding. The rule of law mechanism is far from perfect but it is better than nothing. The opening words of this political manifesto reads that “the Parliament of the Republic of Poland notices and reminds that the Republic of Poland is a democratic and sovereign state ruled by law.” The governing party’s desire to tell the world that the rule of law is present in Poland recalls the words of Margaret Thatcher that “being powerful is like being a lady. In order to strengthen the Single Market and challenge the intra-EU protectionism, Polish authorities should have a stronger position in the EU. That is not possible while the rule of law, expressed in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, is under constant attack. While the rule of law conditionality requires a qualified majority in the Council, both the Polish and Hungarian government decided to use their veto powers in the final stage of EU budget talks that set the parameters for the new rule of law mechanism. Apart from showing the muscles on Polish soil, the ruling party, in tandem with Viktor Orban’s government in Hungary, threatens to block the 2021-27 EU financial framework and coronavirus recovery fund. Since 2015, there have been many attacks on the independence of the judiciary and individual judges in Poland which led to the deterioration of Poland’s position in various indices measuring the rule of law, individual liberties, and the quality of democratic institutions.

Don’t expect the UN to call on Hezbollah to disarm. Last June the Council condemned Israel five times.   With good reason, the EU has prioritized fighting misinformation. The annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations is being held without the usual heads off state in attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic. More often than not, EU countries unfortunately still give a thumbs up when the only Jewish state in the world is singled out. Actual human rights offenders like China were spared entirely. But the joke was on them. 123 in favor, 68 abstentions, and 23 opposed.” Eban’s words hold true to this day. EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE

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Next month the United Nations General Assembly will pass a litany of one-sided resolutions against Israel. Together with DRP, the Division for Palestinian Rights, CEIRPP receives €2.3 million annually. The Council’s imbalance was best articulated, if inadvertently, at the height of the Syrian civil war in 2013. Instead, it only rewards Palestinian intransigence. It’s baked into the UN system dominated by repressive regimes that weaponize institutions like the World Health Organization or the UN Human Rights Council. This final month of Germany’s EU presidency seems as good a time as any to turn a fresh page. In 2006, the Council replaced the Human Rights Commission which was founded in the wake of World War II. Earlier this month, EU members voted collectively against the renewal of three key Palestinian UN agencies. Eleanor Roosevelt must be spinning in her grave at the thought of her noble creation having been reduced to a soapbox for dictators. Six more resolutions are headed straight to the world body’s plenary. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Europe, do better at the UN

By Michael Sieveking
Deputy Director, AJC Transatlantic Institute

epa08688469 A model of United Nations headquarters at the start of the General Debate of the 75th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York, New York, USA, 22 September 2020. Instead, look out for Israel to be censured for an oil slick on the Lebanese shore. How else to explain most of the bloc in 2017 declaring “null and void” the irrefutable fact that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital? In comparison, the world’s worst human rights abusers will get away with a slap on the wrist: Only seven other country-specific resolutions will cover the likes of Iran, North Korea, and Syria. After yet another slew of anti-Israel epithets, unaware that her microphone was on, a French interpreter gasped: “There’s other really bad sh*t happening, but no one says anything about the other stuff.” Officials guffawed at the indiscretion. It does nothing to advance a negotiated two-state solution. Or take the alphabet soup of specialized UN agencies targeting Israel, like “CEIRPP,” or, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. This must be followed by a concerted push to abolish it altogether. Adding insult to injury, the EU sees no conflict in locating its diplomatic mission to the Palestinian Authority in East Jerusalem. With Europe, it’s a different story altogether. Europe under Germany’s temporary stewardship hasn’t substantially changed its voting pattern. CEIRPP was established on November 10, 1975, the same day the UN shamefully equated Zionism – the Jewish people’s liberation movement – with racism. Meanwhile, without Council comment, China herds millions of Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps and Iran’s leaders take to Twitter to threaten a second Holocaust. But why, in the first place, does the UN single out ad absurdum the Jewish state? And yet, at the UN, where bald-faced lies and hair-raising omissions abound, Europe hasn’t mustered the courage to call them out. Europe, for the most part, supported in committee a whopping eleven texts lambasting the Middle East’s lone democracy. There is no question that the organization has spectacularly failed to live up to this goal. This mouthful is supposed to “mobilize international support” and serves today as a networking platform for supporters of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. As the late Abba Eban, Israel’s former UN envoy, quipped: “If Algeria introduced a resolution to the General Assembly that the earth is flat and that Israel has flattened it, you could predict the vote. To be fair, the EU is taking a tougher stance on Item 7. For this, as well, Europe deserves praise. The UN Charter calls for equal treatment of all member states. And yet, the UN’s obsession with Israel is no laughing matter. In this final stretch of Berlin’s EU presidency, it’s worth recalling the words of Foreign Minister Heiko Maas last year: “Germany stands, also in the UN, shoulder to shoulder with Israel.”
So far, there is little evidence to support this contention. The chorus of condemnations against Israel isn’t accidental, either. The 17 texts targeting Israel include omissions of Palestinian terror and references to the Temple Mount only by its Islamic name, Haram al-Sharif, attempting to erase the millennia-old Jewish ties to Jerusalem. Regardless of who occupies the White House, America will continue to have Israel’s back thanks to its tradition of bipartisan support for her closest ally. Epitomizing its antisemitic double-standard, the Geneva-based body even has its own segregated agenda item – number 7 – exclusively dedicated to demonizing Israel at every session. The latter’s bias against the Jewish state is as egregious as it gets.

Some have openly ignored the restrictions, while others have opted to bar entry to travelers solely based on their citizenship, rather than where they’ve arrived from. Entry is also approved exceptions for some European business travelers, investors, academics, students and journalists. More than 12.5 million people in the US have now been infected by the coronavirus, and more than 259,000 people have died from COVID-19. The White House, the Department of Homeland Security and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have not, however, commented on the matter. In mid-March, the entry ban was extended to included 26 Schengen countries, a measure that deeply angered most of Europe’s heads-of-state as well as the EU’s decision-makers in Brussels. Administration officials who have said that the travel measure no longer serves any purpose as most other countries around the world are not subject to the entry ban. The plan has won the backing of the White House coronavirus task-force members, public health and other federal agencies, those briefed on the matter said. The Trump administration first issued travel restrictions on anyone coming from China, which were imposed on January 31. This is largely due to the fact that some of the 26 Schengen members, along with other associated countries, have interpreted the ban differently. Since the original round of restrictions were announced, the outbreak in the United States has spiraled out of control. The United States is in the middle of a third surge, recorded an all-time high in daily new cases. The US has seen a surge of coronavirus COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. EPA-EFE//MICHAEL REYNOLDS

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The White House is considering ending its entry ban on non-US travellers entering the country from certain countries, including the 26 European countries of the borderless Schengen Zone, as well as the UK, Ireland and Brazil, according to several officials. The US has spent months as the country with the most virus cases and deaths in the world. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended against travel during the Thanksgiving Day period, which is typically the busiest travel time of the year. The latter has been widely criticized for being blatantly discriminatory policy by some of the EU’s members as it appears not to be aimed at following epidemiological guidelines but is instead a politically motivated retaliatory measure that is directed at singling out American citizens, regardless of their point of departure. The ban, imposed by the outgoing Trump administration to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, will remain in place for most non-US citizens who have recently been to China or Iran. Lifting the ban could boost US airlines, which have come under extreme financial hardship amid the 70% decline of international travel since the pandemic began in March. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>US is looking to lift its travel ban on Schengen passport holders soon

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

epa08839474 Travelers walk through a terminal at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, USA, 24 November 2020. EPA-EFE/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

Travelers walk through a terminal at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia. That said, the State Department has been granting some “national interest exceptions” to allow travelers from Europe to cross the border if their purpose of travel is related to “humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security”. For his part, as a lame-duck president, Trump has not yet indicated whether he supports the lifting of the ban and, as of yet, there is no clear date for when an easing might take place. The European restrictions have, however, been implemented in a scattershot manner and with a typically Brussels-esque ambiguity that has left most travelers confused about the regulations. Not long after the Americans put their ban in place, much of Europe likewise restricted entry from those traveling from the US. In May, the US’ entry-ban list was again amended to also include Brazil. For the US, their restrictions currently bar entry of most non-American residents who have been in countries that appear on the no-entry list in the previous 14 days.

In September, the head of the Kazakh government, Prime Minister Askar Mamin, during a trip to Turkmenistan, reported that Kazakhstan was considering the possibility of purchasing Turkmen gas for the domestic market. “This year, the total production is expected to reach 21.7 million tonnes, which is lower than in 2019. “Regarding Turkmen gas, currently no decision has been made on this issue, negotiations are underway with the Turkmen side,” the Ministry of Energy said in a response, which was published on the e-government portal as part of the Ministry of Energy’s Internet conference. “In 2021, it is planned to supply gas through the Saryarka gas pipeline in the amount of about 300 million cubic metres per year,” the ministry added. He specified that this figure corresponds to the level of 2020. The Minister of Energy of Kazakhstan Nurlan Nogayev previously reported that a decision to extend or remove restrictions on OPEC + could be made in December 2020. While gasification of the capital will be carried out at the expense of Kazakh gas, the department specified. According to Karabaev, the company’s budget for 2021 is based on the price of $40 per barrel of Brent. Turkmenistan may supply Kazakh capital with gas
Meanwhile, Kazakhstan is considering the possibility of gasifying its capital by buying Turkmen gas, the Kazakh Ministry of Energy said at an internet conference on November 23. KMG

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In 2020, Kazakhstan’s national oil and gas company KazMunayGas (KMG) plans to produce oil at the level of 21.7 million tonnes, and at the same level – in 2021, the deputy chairman of the Board for Economy and Finance at KazMunayGas, Dauren Karabayev, said during an online press conference. He noted that if there are no restrictions from OPEC + or they are weakened, then production will be slightly higher. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>KazMunayGas plans to produce 21.7 million tonnes of oil in 2021

By Kulpash Konyrova

KazMunayGaz oil production in Kazakhstan. “It is difficult to give specific figures, it will depend on the ongoing negotiations within the OPEC + group,” he added. In 2021, if OPEC + restrictions remain, production will most likely be at this level,” Karabaev said.

Under the new measures, city and intercity public transportation will be halted, and shopping malls, as well as restaurants and cafes, will also be closed, except for delivery service. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Georgia begins second lockdown

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epa08691577 A health worker takes a swab sample for a COVID-19 detection test in Tbilisi, Georgia, 23 September 2020. Schools and universities are also required to go fully remote, with the exception of medical universities. Countries around the world implemented measures to stem the widespread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease. During the New Year celebrations, from December 24 to January 15 they will be in effect only on weekends. Georgia confirmed 3,801 new cases on Thursday, taking the total number of infections to 118,690. EPA-EFE/ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE

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Georgia’s government announced a multi-phased plan for putting the largest cities into 2-months lockdown starting from Saturday. The new restrictions will be in force from November 28 till December 23. EPA-EFE/ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE

A health worker takes a swab sample for a COVID-19 detection test in Tbilisi, Georgia, 23 September 2020. Countries around the world implemented measures to stem the widespread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease. The government also strongly recommended that all people 70 years or older should stay at home. The announcement comes as the country struggles to slow a second wave in COVID-19 infections.

style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Manufacturing error raises doubts about AstraZeneca vaccine

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epa08612068 A general view of AstraZeneca?s headquarters in Sydney, Australia, 19 August 2020. Surprisingly, the group of volunteers that got a lower dose seemed to be much better protected than the volunteers who got two full doses of the vaccine. They added that a difference in manufacturing processes led to later phases of the trials having a half-dose given instead of a full one. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australians will be among the first in the world to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, if it proves successful, through an agreement between the government and UK-based drug company AstraZeneca. EPA-EFE/DAN HIMBRECHTS

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British drugmaker AstraZeneca and its partner, the University of Oxford, faced criticism about their Covid-19 vaccine trial results after acknowledging a manufacturing error. Oxford researchers said they are not certain why a smaller dose would be more effective and that they are working to uncover the reason. EPA-EFE/DAN HIMBRECHTS AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

A general view of AstraZeneca?s headquarters in Sydney, Australia, 19 August 2020. When it was apparent that a lower dose was used, it was discussed with regulators, and an agreement was reached to push ahead with the two regimens, Oxford said. Earlier this week, Astra and Oxford said their shot was 70% effective on average in a late-stage study. Experts questioned the way in which the results were reported by the companies. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australians will be among the first in the world to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, if it proves successful, through an agreement between the government and UK-based drug company AstraZeneca. Either way, approval based on current data means people will be inoculated with a vaccine the true efficacy of which is unknown”, an analyst explained. The decision to pool results from two groups of participants who received different dosing levels to reach an average 70% effectiveness added to the confusion. “The most likely explanation for the divergent efficacy in its interim analysis is either chance or patient demographics. Astra said the vaccine was 90% effective when a half-dose was given before a full-dose booster, while in the group that got two full doses, the vaccine appeared to be 62% effective.

Due to coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak it is relatively quiet in the streets of Norway's capital. Solberg said that, even though there are some positive signs, it is still early to lift nationwide restrictions, which include masks, limiting public gatherings to 20 people and quarantining people arriving from abroad. There are, however, regional disparities in the country. Due to coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak it is relatively quiet in the streets of Norway’s capital. EPA-EFE/HAKON MOSVOLD LARSEN NORWAY OUT

A man protecting himself with a mask carries shopping bags on a street of Oslo, Norway, 13 March 2020. On November 6, the capital Oslo shut theatres, cinemas, training centres and swimming pools, with bars and restaurants no longer able to serve alcohol, causing many to close altogether. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Norway to keep virus restrictions until mid-December

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epa08291576 A man protecting himself with a mask carries shopping bags on a street of Oslo, Norway, 13 March 2020. She added that the government could offer vaccines to vulnerable groups early next year. The number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in Norway was 150.9 as of Tuesday, the fourth-lowest in Europe. “There is light at the end of the tunnel. Norway, which is not a member of the European Union, plans to acquire vaccines obtained by the EU, thanks to Sweden, which is an EU member and will sell some of its own to Norway. EPA-EFE/HAKON MOSVOLD LARSEN

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Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg said on Wednesday that the country needs at least another three weeks to assess whether its current coronavirus restrictions can be lifted. We must hold on”, Solberg said.

Government forces also said they have surrounded Mekelle. But the last comment we heard from the TPLF leadership refuted that claim. Abiy said the army has been ordered to move on the embattled Tigrayan capital, Mekelle, and warned its residents to “stay indoors”. Again, Tigray military leadership have refuted that claim”, a statement said. Thursday’s announcement comes hours after an ultimatum for the Tigrayan forces to surrender expired. EPA-EFE/ALESSANDRO DI MEO

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The Ethiopian military will begin the “final phase” of an offensive in the northern Tigray region, prime minister Abiy Ahmed said on Thursday. “Prime Minister Abiy said thousands of Tigrayan fighters have surrendered in the last three days. Abiy ordered air strikes and sent soldiers into Tigray on November 4 after accusing the TPLF of revolt and an attack on a government base. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Ethiopia to begin ‘final phase’ of offensive in Tigray region, says PM

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epa07306599 Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during a press conference at Chigi Palace in Rome, Italy, 21 January 2019. Abiy Ahmed is for an official visit in Rome. “The 72-hour period granted to the criminal TPLF clique to surrender peacefully is now over and our law enforcement campaign has reached its final stage”, Abiy tweeted, referring to the local ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Nearly 43,000 Ethiopian refugees have fled into neighbouring Sudan, and large numbers are on the move within Tigray to avoid the fighting. Abiy Ahmed is for an official visit in Rome. EPA-EFE/ALESSANDRO DI MEO

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during a press conference at Chigi Palace in Rome, Italy, 21 January 2019. The United Nations has said it was preparing for as many as 200,000 refugees to flee into Sudan in the coming months.

style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>US looking to lift travel ban on Schengen passport holders soon

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

epa08839478 Travelers walk through a terminal at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, USA, 24 November 2020. The first restrictions targeted China and were imposed on December 31, while Iran followed in February. It was in mid-March when the entry ban also included 26 Schengen countries and in May when Brazil was added to the list. EPA-EFE/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

Travelers walk through a terminal at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, USA, 24 November 2020. The ban, imposed by the Trump administration to contain the spread of the pandemic, does not consider lifting separate entry bans on most non-US citizens who have recently been in China or Iran, according to the officials. EPA-EFE/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

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The White House is considering ending its entry ban on non-US travellers entering the country from certain countries, including Brazil, the UK, Ireland and 26 European countries, several officials told Reuters. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended against travel during the Thanksgiving Day period, which is typically the busiest travel time of the year. The restrictions currently bar entry of most non-US residents who have been in those countries in the previous 14 days, but the State Department has been granting some “national interest exceptions” to allow travellers from Europe related to “humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security,” while it has also approved exceptions for some European business travellers, investors, academics, students and journalists. The US has seen a surge of coronavirus COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.   While Trump has yet to make a final decision, the plan has won the backing of of White House coronavirus task-force members, public health and other federal agencies. Lifting the ban could boost US airlines, which have seen international travel fall by 70%, according to airline industry data, with administration officials citing that the measure is of no point anymore, as most countries around the world are not subject to the entry ban.

Through the agreement, the renewable energy provided to Novartis will avoid the annual emission of around 96,400 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Enel Green Power is a global leader in the green energy sector with a managed capacity of around 46.4 GW across a generation mix that includes wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower, and is at the forefront of integrating innovative technologies into renewable power plants. Enel Green Power, within the Enel Group, is dedicated to the development and operation of renewables across the world, with a presence in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania. “With this deal, Novartis is showcasing the possibilities that Pan-European VPPAs can offer to companies committed to fighting climate change in the continent.”
Novartis Chief Sustainability Officer at Novartis Montse Montaner said at his company environmental sustainability is aligned with Novartis’ purpose to reimagine medicine to improve and extend people’s lives. As Enel Green Power, we are very proud to be a strategic partner and the Green Enabler of part of a major milestone of their journey to be carbon neutral across operations and the company’s supply chain,” said Javier Vaquerizo, head of Global Commercial Office for Enel Green Power. This Pan-European VPPA will start in January 2022 and will help Novartis achieve its goals for 100% renewable electricity and carbon-neutrality across its European operations by 2025, Enel said in a press release on November 19. The energy through this VPPA will be generated by the 179.9 MW TICO Wind Farm, located in the Spanish province of Zaragoza, which will be operational in early 2022. “Novartis is a leading company in environmental and sustainability matters. “Energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions are the cornerstones of our strategy for reducing emissions. The company aims to drive sustainability through its operations, as well as those of its suppliers, and has set ambitious targets to minimise its impacts on climate, waste, and water, the press release read. ENEL

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Italy’s Enel Green Power, the renewable energy subsidiary of Enel Group, and Swiss-based Novartis, the global medicines company, have signed a 10-year, 100% renewable Virtual Power Purchase Agreement (VPPA) for 78 MW of renewable power, Enel said. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Enel Green Power, Novartis ink 10-year 100% renewable energy deal

By New Europe Online/KG

Enel solar energy production in North America. We are proud to be joined by Enel Green Power and other like-minded partners on our environmental sustainability journey,” he said. This agreement is part of the Novartis commitment to environmental sustainability by helping make the company both energy and climate-resilient. Novartis is committed to using resources efficiently and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which affect the climate.

More than 2,000 people have died since the fighting broke out on September 27, including many civilians. Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics, have been involved in a territorial conflict since they gained independence in the 1990s. Azerbaijan’s prosecutor-general Kamran Aliyev said that his office has “initiated an investigation into inhumane treatment of Armenian servicemen that were taken prisoner”. During the latest fighting, videos circulated on social media that allegedly showed executions of Armenian prisoners of war by Azerbaijani troops. EPA-EFE/AREG BALAYAN / ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY /

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Azerbaijan’s prosecutor general said on Wednesday that the country is investigating alleged war crimes committed by Armenian and Azerbaijani forces during six weeks of fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but is historically an ethnic Armenian region, has been the focal point of the conflict between the two nations. Armed clashes erupted on 27 September 2020 in the simmering territorial conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory along the contact line of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (also known as Artsakh). Azerbaijan is a law-based state and we are reacting to such facts”, he said, adding that Azerbaijan had also initiated 73 criminal cases of Armenian forces shelling civilian targets in Azerbaijan. “There are many fake videos. Armed clashes erupted on 27 September 2020 in the simmering territorial conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory along the contact line of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (also known as Artsakh). style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Baku to probe alleged war crimes by both Azerbaijan, Armenia

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epa08724841 A handout photo made available by the Armenian Foreign Ministry shows a part of a rocket shell stucked in a street in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh, 06 October 2020. EPA-EFE/AREG BALAYAN / ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY / HANDOUT MANDATORY CREDIT / HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

A handout photo made available by the Armenian Foreign Ministry shows a part of a rocket shell stucked in a street in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh, 06 October 2020. Fighting has surged to its worst level since the 1990s, when about 30,000 people were killed. But we must say frankly that there also are videos which could be authentic.