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Europe’s Proposed Artificial Intelligence Law Could Cost Its Economy $36 Billion 

A new law proposed for the European Union designed to regulate artificial intelligence could cost the nation up to 32 billion euros; about $36 billion. The payments would be spread out over five years according to a report from the Center for Data Innovation, a Washington-based think tank. 

The Artificial Intelligence Act is a proposed law put forward by the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU. The act is said to be the :world’s most restrictive regulation of AI” according to the center. 

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“It will not only limit AI development and use in Europe but impose significant costs on EU businesses and consumers.”

The Center for Data Innovation argued that a small or midsize enterprise with a turnover of 10 million euros will face compliance costs of up to 400,000 euros if it was to deploy an AI system deemed “high risk.” These systems are ones that the commission defines as “affecting people’s fundamental rights or safety.” 

“That designation sweeps in a broad swath of potential applications — from critical infrastructure to educational and vocational training — subjecting them to a battery of requirements before companies can bring them to market,” the center said.

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The center argues that “compliance borders” will cost European businesses 10.9 billion euros per year by 2025, or 31 billion euros over the next five years. Ben Mueller, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation and author of the report suggested that this would be more harmful than helpful to many sectors of the economy. 

“The Commission has repeatedly asserted that the draft AI legislation will support growth and innovation in Europe’s digital economy, but a realistic economic analysis suggests that argument is disingenuous at best.”

“The rosy outlook is largely based on opinions and shibboleths rather than logic and market data,” he added, explaining that AI is already being used by major companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook, but lawmakers in Europe aren’t even aware of the impact this new law could have. 

Mueller explained that the technology has the potential to improve healthcare and climate modeling for the nation, however, it can also be used to give every citizen a “social score.” The law is still in the works and the debates over its actual benefits are ongoing.

US Airline Companies Want Government Leaders To Lift Covid-19 Travel Restrictions 

Major airline companies are urging the United States government to move quicker when it comes to lifting travel restrictions between the US and Europe. Many countries within the European Union have opened up their borders for international travel, causing many US airline leaders to urge our nation to do the same. 

This week, the heads of several major airline companies held a virtual news conference to discuss the easiest way to ease and fully remove travel restrictions, specifically between the United States and United Kingdom, where Covid-19 has been prominent. 

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The call included chief executives of Heathrow Airport, group leaders in the US Travel Association, as well as the CEOs of American Airlines, IAG unit British Airways, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and JetBlue. 

The US has barred nearly all non-US citizens who have been to the UK from coming back to the country since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Airline officials have claims that no change is expected to occur, so they’re taking matters into their own hands by calling on government leaders. 

This past Friday France announced, however, that vaccinated Americans will be able to travel to the country starting June 9th. American Airlines President Robert Isom said: 

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“We know there is tremendous pent-up demand for service. We have a lot of capacity to be ready to go for European travel, so we’re going to take it whenever it comes.”

Many airline officials believed that May 2021 was going to be the month in which international travel would really be able to resume with many individuals getting vaccinated, however, the government has yet to make any major changes to the current restrictions and requirements. 

The White House is mainly focused on bringing US vaccination rates to where President Joe Biden initially planned for it to be by the 4th of July; 70% of Americans having at least one vaccine. Additionally, the Biden administration is focusing on getting younger Americans vaccinated, as adolescents currently account for 25% of all Covid-19 cases in America. 

“We certainly understand the desire of many Europeans to come to travel the United States and vice versa. We can’t respond to public pressure or even emotion. We have to rely on the guidance of our health and medical experts,”  White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

AstraZeneca Vaccine

European Union Sues AstraZeneca Over Vaccine Delivery Delays 

The European Union (EU) announced this week that it will be launching legal action against the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca after claims that it repeatedly under-delivered on its Covid-19 vaccine shipments throughout the continent. 

The 27 nations within the European Union have all reported a relatively slow rollout of vaccinations for citizens due to delays in delivery from AstraZeneca. The union claims that tens of millions of doses have fallen through, and the company has barely upheld their end of the contract with the EU to get every citizen vaccinated. 

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The EU initially ordered 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, with an optional 100 million doses, of which the union has gone without. 

AstraZeneca released a statement in which they claimed that they “regret” that the European Commission is choosing to take action against the company, but it would be strongly defending itself in a court setting. 

AstraZeneca and the EU in general have already been dealing with some major tensions as many citizens refused to get vaccinated, so that combined with the company’s own failures to deliver the agreed upon doses has led to a major feud between the government and pharmaceutical company. 

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Stefan De Keersmaecker, health spokesperson of the European Commission, was the one who initially announced that a lawsuit had been launched, arguing that “the terms of the EU-AstraZeneca contract had not been respected, and the company has not been in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure timely delivery of doses.”

“We want to make sure that there is a speedy delivery of a sufficient number of doses that European citizens are entitled to, and which have been promised on the basis of the contract. All 27 countries support this legal action.”

AstraZeneca released their own statement this Monday: “Following an unprecedented year of scientific discovery, very complex negotiations, and manufacturing challenges, our company is about to deliver almost 50 million doses to European countries by the end of April, in line with our forecast.”

The company added that “AstraZeneca has fully complied with the Advance Purchase Agreement with the European Commission and will strongly defend itself in court. We believe any litigation is without merit and we welcome this opportunity to resolve this dispute as soon as possible.”

France Is Testing Digital Covid Travel Certificates For Vaccinated Individuals

France has become the first member state of the European Union to begin testing a digital Covid-19 travel certificate as a part of Europe’s larger plan to allow people to travel between countries more easily once they’re vaccinated.  

The TousAntiCovid app is a part of the nation’s overall contact tracing program, which has recently been updated to store negative Covid-19 test results on travelers’ mobile phones. The app is now being trialed on flights to Corisca and overseas to accommodate for vaccinated individuals as well. 

The trial is being extended from April 29th in order to include vaccination certificates as more citizens receive them. If the trial runs end up being successful, the application could eventually be used for entry into public events like concerts, festivals, and sporting events; officials did mention that the technology would not be used for entry into bars and restaurants. 

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Cedric O, the minister for digital transition discussed how the trial in France will become one part of a larger more standardized system to be used all throughout Europe. Several other EU member states are already in talks with France over expanding the technology to reach more countries. 

The European commissioner for justice, Didier Reynders, said last week he expected “the EU’s digital green certificate to be operational by June 21st because the certificate is an urgent priority for southern European member states whose economies have been devastated by the pandemic.”

The program has not been referred to as a “vaccine passport” so that citizens know its not being created to discriminate against those who haven’t been vaccinated yet, especially since it’s original purpose was to carry negative Covid tests for travelers. 

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Ideally, those who have a certificate of approval will be able to travel without quarantining, and will have proof of vaccination, negative testing, or antibodies all on their phone. Those in France being vaccinated this week, and the weeks after this, will receive a text message or email that will give them access to a state-certified online document that can be downloaded or printed out, or stored in the TousAntiCovid app. 

According to reports “the app will generate a secure QR code containing a range of information including the traveler’s name, the date and type of their test or vaccine, and details of the relevant doctor or laboratory, all of which can be checked against a national database.”

Several EU member states are already working on similar programs for their citizens, which has some experts concerned over how well multiple systems will work together. Data security and privacy is also being viewed as top concern. 

So far every app and digital proof of vaccination/negative Covid tests is in its trial phase, and they will likely continue to advance as vaccinations continue throughout the world.

Europe Facing Another Easter Full Of Covid Restrictions

Despite the rollout of multiple vaccines, European nations are about to endure another holiday weekend full of restrictions to combat the spreading of Covid-19 and its variants.

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Greece Is Hoping To Reopen For Tourists In May 

Greece is hoping to reopen its doors for tourists and travelers in May, the 14th of May to be more specific. The country’s tourism minister recently made the announcement of what he claimed was a “much-awaited date for the tourist season to officially begin.”

Haris Theoharis told the world’s largest tourism fair, the IBT Berlin Tourism Fair, that anyone who’s been vaccinated for Covid-19, possesses antibodies, or has tested negative for Covid-19 will be able to visit Greece anytime after May 14th. 

“We aim to open tourism by May 14th with specific rules and updated protocols. Until then, we will gradually lift restrictions if conditions allow.” 

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This reopening makes sense considering tourism is one of the largest sectors of the economy in Europe, but especially Greece. Athens specifically has been struggling greatly to cope with the loss of income and revenue that normally comes with tourism season. Authorities in Greece have even called upon the European Union to create vaccination certificates so that individuals who have received their doses can travel more easily. 

This week the European Union commission’s vice president, Margaritis Schinas, claimed that he believed a digital vaccination pass would be available by the summer.

“I think after the last summit there is convergence on the need for this digital vaccination certificate. It will be a European product and will be the same throughout Europe.”

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Ursula von der Leyen, the commission’s president, however, also warned that there are a lot of legal and technical dangers with creating digital vaccination certificates, so it will have to be methodically planned out to ensure every citizen’s identity remains safe. 

One in five Greek residents work in tourism, in fact, it’s the country’s largest economic sector. The government has claimed that it’s aiming to attract at least 50% of the 31.3 million people who typically visit Greece annually in non-pandemic circumstances. 

According to the UK government the May 17th is the earliest date that the nation will allow international travel to occur. This projection was a part of the government’s roadmap for navigating its third national lockdown. UK tourists are Greece’s second largest source of visitors as well, so officials from Athens have been working closely with Britain on distributing vaccines and creating updated travel guidelines. 

Theoharis claims that once all elderly and vulnerable individuals are vaccinated it could begin bringing back employees to its tourism sector. The government in Greece also said that it expects the country will be able to meet this goal once it receives its order of more than 2 million Covid-19 vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer.

Vaccine Covid

Europe Calling On Surrounding Countries To Help Combat Delays In Vaccine Rollout

The European Union’s 27-member-state vaccine strategy is rolling out the Covid-19 vaccines at a much slower rate than initially anticipated.

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Covid-19 Vaccine Delays Are Hindering Europe’s Pandemic Recovery

Health officials in Europe are threatening legal action against the two vaccine makers as a means of introducing export controls on doses.

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European Union Agrees On $2 Trillion Relief Package 

Leaders of the 27 member states that make up the European Union reached a final agreement this week that would pass a $2 trillion relief package “designed to rebuild the bloc’s faltering economies” as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The package itself is made up of the multi-annual Financial Framework which accounts for $1.3 trillion to be paid to every member state and distributed across the bloc over a seven-year period. The rest of the $2 trillion comes from an additional $858 billion Covid recovery fund, which will go towards every financial market in Europe as well as take the form of grants and loans to certain member states. 

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The European Union (EU) initially reached this agreement deal back in July, however, member states have since struggled to reach a unanimous agreement on how the funds will be distributed. Disparities among the member states first appeared after the EU demanded the funds be withheld from states that were deemed in violation of the rule of law. 

Poland and Hungary immediately vetoed the agreement after that demand was met due to the fact that both countries are under investigation for violating the rule of law; specifically the suppression of political opposition and undermining the independence of judges. 

Poland and Hungary, however, reached a compromise deal at a recent meeting in Brussels which stated that if enough member states believe that the two states aren’t meeting the EU’s agreed rules and standards, they can then vote to determine what funding should be distributed there. Vera Jourova, the vice president of the European Commission, recently released a statement in which she said she was “satisfied that the legal text of the Regulation on Rule of Law conditionality remains untouched and that there is qualified majority voting in the decision of the Council.”

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“Some Member States might want to seek full legal certainty on this important matter before the European Court of Justice. This is their right. I expect the proceeding to go fast. In my view, we are talking about months rather than years.” Jourova isn’t sure if these proceedings will satisfy all individuals on both sides, however, all parties can agree that there isn’t time to argue over political ideologies when the world is enduring one of the worst health and economic crisis’ in history. 

Poland’s Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has recently released a statement as well in which he claimed that he intends to take the EU to the Court of Justice eventually. Jakub Jaraczewski, legal officer at Democracy Reporting International, spoke with the media recently about this major contention in Europe. 

“There is a concern that the padding added to the rule of law conditionality mechanism will delay its effective use. If Member States will be able to challenge the proposed regulation before the European Court of Justice, it might take a lot of time before the conditionality mechanism could be effectively implemented.”

For European citizens, this agreement will act as a huge relief in terms of the struggles they’ve faced from the Covid-19 pandemic. The money will help member states build back their economies, and thus, return to a greater sense of normalcy.

Europe & British Union Flags

How Will Brexit Affect American Travelers?

After several years of debate the United Kingdom is still trying to secure its deal for leaving the European Union, and following Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party securing victory in their general election just before Christmas, it seems Britain can finally leave the European Union on 31st January 2020. However many travelers are worrying about how this may affect them when traveling to the UK and Europe.

The good news is that nothing should change straight away. Although the official date is 31st January 2020 both the European Union and Britain has until the end of the year to finalize all the details. But for travelers there could be an issue at the borders.

Currently travelers have been able to move from one country to another without having to use customs or passport control, however once Britain has officially left this could all change. In fact one of the major issues causing the delay in the agreement has been the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The former will remain a member of the EU as it is not part of the UK and there have been concerns that some people could abuse the “back door” entry into the country.

So far the effect that Brexit may have on the country’s politics and economy is unclear yet there appears to be more certainty on how the post-Brexit world will impact travelers.

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The main concern is air travel and how this could be disrupted between America and Britain. There is currently an agreement known as an EU open skies agreement between America and the European Union, allowing airlines from both regions into each other’s areas. However Britain has already created bilateral open-skies agreements with several other countries, including Iceland, Morocco, Albania, Switzerland as well as the United States. They are also in talks with other countries to enable replica agreements to be set up.

Having the open-skies agreement already in place with America means that airlines are still able to fly between the two countries after January 31st.

Ninan Chacko is a former chief executive at the Travel Leaders Group, a corporation that represents over 50,000 travel agents in North America and believes that “the UK is taking all the steps necessary and is rolling out the welcome mat.”

But what if you are traveling and want to fly from Britain to any of the countries in the EU? There should not be many changes for Americans, as they will still have to pass through both customs and immigration in Britain as well as the country they are visiting or leaving, just as they always have done.

The main changes will be for European Union or British nationals who can travel between the different countries only showing a national ID card and a passport when entering Great Britain. However they will now be forced to use their passport across the EU and European Citizens will not be able to only use their national cards when entering the UK at the end of the year.

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The British government and the European Commission are currently discussing whether British nationals could be allowed to travel within the EU for short trips of up to 90 days within a 180-day period. However the proposal from the EU will only allow this if the same privilege has been returned to their citizens. If this is the case all citizens will receive a specific stamp in their passports.

Another issue that could affect Americans travelling between Britain and the EU is the use of trains and ferries. Currently the French passport control for the Eurotunnel is on the British side of the channel and the British government has confirmed that all trains, ferries, cruises as well as bus and coach services will continue to run without any changes.

Another change that had been thought to occur is the Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004, which is the European Union’s reimbursement scheme for any passengers who have had a delayed or canceled flight. This scheme is open to all travelers, whichever country they are from, and it has been confirmed this should not change.

Christian Nielsen, Chief Legal Officer at AirHelp, has confirmed that it is anticipated that Brexit will not impact travelers’ protections under EC 261, even if the airline they are using is a British airline. Nielsen commented “since the UK has previously acknowledged European air passenger rights laws like EC 261 – and then incorporated them into the UK Withdrawal Act of 2018 – passengers’ rights will remain protected.”

At the moment, Americans are not required to hold a visa when visiting Britain and this is expected to remain the same. However passports will need to be valid for the entirety of the trip. If they are traveling into the Schengen area – the area comprising of the 26 European countries that allow travelers to cross their borders – the passport will need to be valid for six months after their trip has ended.

A new security system to screen visa-free travelers will be in place from January 2021. Although not related to Brexit all Americans, Britons and travelers from other countries will have to register with the European Travel Information and Authorization System. The authorization is relatively easy to do online and only costs a small fee.