River, bridge of Macedonia. Image grabbed from Reuters video
Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) sealed a historic agreement on Sunday, putting an end to years of disputes over the use of the name Macedonia.
According to the preliminary accord signed by the two countries’ foreign ministers, they agreed to rename the Balkan nation the Republic of North Macedonia, despite strong protests over the deal from both sides.
The signing ceremony took place at the Prespes lake region on the border at the presence of the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn and the representative of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo.
The move by the two neighboring states has paved the way for Skopje’s admission to the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Both countries have been working towards settling the decades-old dispute. The issue began in 1991 when FYROM declared independence from Yugoslavia, choosing the name Macedonia, which is also the name of a northern Greek province.
Greece is worried that the use of the same name by the neighboring state could lead to territorial claims.
Sunday’s ceremony was held under draconian security measures as hardliners in both countries object to the deal because they regard it as a national sellout.
The ratification of the agreement needs to go through a series of procedures, including getting approval from parliaments of both countries and a Macedonian referendum in which voters will have a say. — Reuters
Europe is currently in eye of the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the number of cases nearing a million, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) European regional director said on Thursday (April 16).
Speaking in an online media briefing, the WHO’s Hans Kluge said this meant that about 50% of the global burden of COVID-19 was in Europe. More than 84,000 people in Europe had died in the epidemic, he said.
He called for “solidarity between countries”, adding: “It is the time to step up and display both responsive and responsible leadership to steer us through this storm.”
U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday (April 14) a halt in U.S. funding to the WHO, saying it had “failed in its basic duty” in allowing the pandemic to take hold.
Reported cases of the coronavirus crossed 2.05 million globally and more than 136,600 people have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 0200 GMT on Thursday. (Reuters)
Thousands of shops across Austria reopened on Tuesday (April 14) as the landlocked country becomes one of the first in Europe to loosen its coronavirus lockdown, but the government is still telling the nation it is “not out of the woods” yet.
Austria acted early in its outbreak to close schools, bars, theatres, restaurants, non-essential shops and other gathering places roughly four weeks ago. It has told the public to stay home and work from there if possible.
It has fared relatively well so far, having reported 368 deaths in total, fewer than some larger European countries have been suffering each day. The daily increase in confirmed cases is in low single digits in percentage terms and hospitalisations have stabilised.
Last week, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz outlined a step-by-step plan to reopen parts of the economy, starting with shops of up to 400 square metres (4,300 square feet) — roughly twice the playing area of a singles tennis court — as well as all home-improvement and garden centres on Tuesday.
They are due to be followed by shopping centres, larger shops and hairdressers from May 1. Restaurants and hotels could reopen progressively from mid-May. (Reuters)
(Production: Matteo Witt, Michele Sani and Elena Gyldenkerne)
Dozens of travelers from Europe arrived at Dulles International Airport near Washington on Thursday (March 12), a day after U.S. President Donald Trump announced sweeping restrictions on travel from the continent as he responded to mounting pressure to take action against the spread of the coronavirus.
Trump restricted certain travel from Europe for 30 days to the United States in a televised address on Wednesday (March 11), and on Thursday, weary and confused travelers rushed to airports to board the last flights back to the U.S.
Arriving from Amsterdam after cutting short their spring break trip, Virginia Tech students Havisha Annamreddy and Kayleigh Stevenson said they rushed to the airport as soon as they heard of the new travel restrictions.
“We panicked and half of us went to the airport trying to stand on the American Airlines line, our friend’s dad immediately started trying to look for tickets. Everyone’s parents were really panicking. We didn’t even like check out of the hotel, we have wet clothes in some of our bags,” Annamreddy said.
Stevenson said she was adapting to a new normal of trying to avoid catching coronavirus.
“I think just being kind of aware of the situation around me, like if people are coughing a little bit more like not covering their mouths, maybe like standing somewhere else,” Stevenson said.
U.S. citizens and permanent residents returning from Europe will be screened for the virus and asked to go into “self-quarantine” for 14 days as part of new travel restrictions that affect 26 nations but exempt Britain and Ireland, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said in an interview with CNN.
Trump on Thursday defended his decision to impose the measures, which go into effect at midnight on Friday and last for 30 days. Speaking to reporters at the White House, he said the ban could be lengthened or shortened.
The travel restrictions will heap more pressure on airlines already reeling from the pandemic, hitting European carriers the hardest, analysts said. (Reuters)
(Production: Kevin Fogarty, Liza Feria and Njuwa Maina)
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