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Ireland has third lowest rate of psychiatric beds in the EU

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Ireland only has 34 psychiatric care beds per 100 000 inhabitants.

The figure is the third worst in Europe at a time of increasing focus on mental health.

New figures from Eurostat show that smaller countries like Latvia and Malta have a higher proportion of psychiatric beds than Ireland.

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Tim Hayes of the European Commission says the rate in Ireland is way behind the EU average.

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European elections

Germany’s far-left party eager to join coalition while others steer clear

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Co-leader of the Left Party Susanne Hennig-Wellsow speaks at a press conference during a convent of Germany's left party 'Die Linke' in Berlin. Copyright  Credit: AP

While Angela Merkel (pictured) avoided political campaigning for much of the election, as it became increasingly clear that her party was trailing in the polls, she went after her centre-left deputy with an old attack line, writes Lauren Chadwick

“With me as Chancellor, there would never be a coalition in which the Left is involved. And whether this is shared by Olaf Scholz or not remains to be seen,” Merkel said in late August.

Scholz also had criticism for Die Linke -- the Left Party -- but stopped short of completely rejecting the possibility of a coalition with them. He told German daily Tagesspiegel the far-left party would be required to commit to NATO and the transatlantic partnershipIt’s now been a constant attack line from the Christian Democrats in what some say is a last-ditch effort to grab moderates on the fence between Merkel’s centre-right party and the centre-left Social Democrats, who are leading in the polls.

Voters see “behind” the attack line from the CDU, said Dr Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck at the University of Mannheim, as it is “so old hat".about:blank

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Schmitt-Beck added it was a “sign of desperation” the CDU was resorting to this attack line once again as candidate Armin Laschet has failed to galvanise voters, polls show.

A possible governing coalition?

Although experts say a coalition involving the far-left Die Linke is not what Social Democratic leader Scholz wants, he is not likely to completely rule out the possibility.

That’s because if current polling is correct, the future government coalition in Germany will need to be formed with three political parties for the first time, meaning the Left Party has never been closer to receiving a possible spot in a coalition.

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The party is currently polling at around 6% nationally, making them the sixth most popular political party in the country.

Die Linke party co-leader Susanne Hennig-Wellsow even told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung in early September: “The window was as wide open as ever before. When if not now?” in regards to a possible coalition with the Social Democrats and Greens.

Many saw her words as demonstrating the party’s high hopes and preparations for entering government.

But while the current Left Party has become more mainstream since it was officially formed in 2007 - its direct historical ties to communism and hard-left foreign policy might forever keep it out of government.

Communist history and hard-line views

Die Linke was formed as a merger of two parties: the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and a newer Labour and Social Justice party. The PDS is the direct successor of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, the communist party that ruled in East Germany from 1946 to 1989.

“There are many people in Germany who see this legacy as a big problem," said Dr Thorsten Holzhauser, research associate at the Theodor Heuss House Foundation in Stuttgart.

"On the other hand, the party has been de-radicalising for a couple of years or even decades now. It's shifted towards a more left-wing social democratic profile in the last years, which is also something that many people have recognised."

But Die Linke is quite polarised internally with more moderate politics in East Germany and more radical voices in some West German regions.

While a younger generation of voters is more connected to the social justice issues and hot political topics such as the climate, feminism, anti-racism and migration, other parts of the party appeal more to populism and compete with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), experts say.

The party currently has one state minister-president: Bodo Ramelow in Thuringia.

But some of the party’s hard-line foreign policy views make it an unlikely choice for a governing partner.

“The party always said that it wants to get rid of NATO, and it is a party that stems from East Germany, from a very pro-Russian political culture, a very anti-Western political culture, so this is in the DNA of the party,” says Holzhauser.

Die Linke wants Germany out of NATO and no foreign deployment of Germany’s military, the Bundeswehr.

“We will not participate in a government that wages wars and permits combat missions by the Bundeswehr abroad, that promotes armament and militarisation. In the long term, we are sticking to the vision of a world without armies,” the platform reads.

Die Linke also rejects treating Russia and China as “enemies” and wants closer relations with both countries.

‘Unlikely’ to join a coalition

“There is a chance. It's not a very big chance, but there is a chance (Die Linke could join a coalition)," says Holzhauser, yet traditionally the “scare tactics by Conservatives have been very strong at mobilising against a left-wing alliance”.

Die Linke, which used to poll ahead of the Greens and Alternative for Germany (AfD) could have a problem garnering support in the future, he said, as it becomes less of a populist party and more establishment.

“While in the past, Die Linke has been quite successful as a somewhat populist force that mobilised against the West German political establishment, nowadays, the party is more and more part of the establishment,” says Holzhauser.https://www.euronews.com/embed/1660084

“For many voters, especially in East Germany, it has successfully integrated into the German party system. So this is the flip side of the coin of its own success, that it is getting more integrated and established but at the same time it loses attraction as a populist force.”

On social issues, it's more likely to have similar demands to the Greens and Social Democrats, however, including a wealth tax and higher minimum wage. They are platform ideas that haven't come to fruition in the current SPD/CDU coalition.

But whether that means they will enter government remains to be seen, despite the perceived high hopes of the party's leaders.

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coronavirus

US-EU agenda for beating the global pandemic: Vaccinating the world, saving lives now, and building back better health security

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Vaccination is the most effective response to the COVID pandemic. The United States and the EU are technological leaders in advanced vaccine platforms, given decades of investments in research and development.

It is vital that we aggressively pursue an agenda to vaccinate the world. Co-ordinated US and EU leadership will help expand supply, deliver in a more coordinated and efficient manner, and manage constraints to supply chains. This will showcase the force of a Transatlantic partnership in facilitating global vaccination while enabling more progress by multilateral and regional initiatives.

Building on the outcome of the May 2021 G20 Global Health Summit, the G7 and US-EU Summits in June, and on the upcoming G20 Summit, the US and the EU will expand cooperation for global action toward vaccinating the world, saving lives now, and building better health security.  

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Pillar I: A Joint EU/US Vaccine Sharing Commitment: the United States and the EU will share doses globally to enhance vaccination rates, with a priority on sharing through COVAX and improving vaccination rates urgently in low and lower-middle income countries. The United States is donating over 1.1 billion doses, and the EU will donate over 500 million doses. This is in addition to the doses we have financed through COVAX.

We call for nations that are able to vaccinate their populations to double their dose-sharing commitments or to make meaningful contributions to vaccine readiness. They will place a premium on predictable and effective dose-sharing to maximize sustainability and minimize waste.

Pillar II: A Joint EU/US Commitment to Vaccine Readiness: the United States and the EU will both support and coordinate with relevant organisations for vaccine delivery, cold chain, logistics, and immunization programs to translate doses in vials into shots in arms. They will share lessons learned from dose sharing, including delivery via COVAX, and promote equitable distribution of vaccines.

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Pillar III: A Joint EU/US partnership on bolstering global vaccine supply and therapeutics: the EU and the United States will leverage their newly launched Joint COVID-19 Manufacturing and Supply Chain Taskforce to support vaccine and therapeutic manufacturing and distribution and overcome supply chain challenges. Collaborative efforts, outlined below, will include monitoring global supply chains, assessing global demand against the supply of ingredients and production materials, and identifying and addressing in real time bottlenecks and other disruptive factors for global vaccine and therapeutics production, as well as coordinating potential solutions and initiatives to boost global production of vaccines, critical inputs, and ancillary supplies.

Pillar IV: A Joint EU/US Proposal to achieve Global Health Security. The United States and the EU will support the establishment of a Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF) by the end of 2021 and will support its sustainable capitalization.  The EU and United States will also support global pandemic surveillance, including the concept of a global pandemic radar. The EU and the United States, through HERA and the Department of Health and Human Services Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, respectively, will cooperate in line with our G7 commitment to expedite the development of new vaccines and make recommendations on enhancing the world's capacity to deliver these vaccines in real time. 

We call on partners to join in establishing and financing the FIF to support to prepare countries for COVID-19 and future biological threats.

Pillar V: A Joint EU/US/Partners Roadmap for regional vaccine production. The EU and the United States will coordinate investments in regional manufacturing capacity with low and lower-middle income countries, as well as targeted efforts to enhance capacity for medical countermeasures under the Build Back and Better World infrastructure and the newly established Global Gateway partnership. The EU and the United States will align efforts to bolster local vaccine manufacturing capacity in Africa and forge ahead on discussions on expanding the production of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and ensure their equitable access.

We call on partners to join in supporting coordinated investments to expand global and regional manufacturing, including for mRNA, viral vector, and/or protein subunit COVID-19 vaccines.

More information

Joint statement on the launch of the joint COVID-19 Manufacturing and Supply Chain Taskforce

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European Commission

Reviewing EU insurance rules: Encouraging insurers to invest in Europe's future

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The European Commission has adopted a comprehensive review of EU insurance rules (known as Solvency II) so that insurance companies can scale up long-term investment in Europe's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today's review also aims to make the insurance and reinsurance (i.e. insurance for insurance companies) sector more resilient so that it can weather future crises and better protect policyholders. Moreover, simplified and more proportionate rules will be introduced for certain smaller insurance companies.

Insurance policies are essential for many Europeans and for Europe's businesses. They protect people from financial loss in the case of unforeseen events. Insurance companies also play an important role in our economy by channelling savings into financial markets and the real economy, thereby providing European businesses with long-term financing.

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Today's review consists of the following elements:

  • A legislative proposal to amend the Solvency II Directive (Directive 2009/138/EC);
  • a Communication on the review of the Solvency II Directive, and;
  • a legislative proposal for a new Insurance Recovery and Resolution Directive.

Comprehensive review of Solvency II

The aim of today's review is to strengthen European insurers' contribution to the financing of the recovery, progressing on the Capital Markets Union and the channelling of funds towards the European Green Deal. In the short term, capital of up to an estimated €90 billion could be released in the EU. This significant release of capital will help (re)insurers ramp up their contribution as private investors to Europe's recovery from COVID-19.

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The amendments to the Solvency II Directive will be supplemented by Delegated Acts at a later stage. Today's Communication sets out the Commission's intentions in this regard. 

Some key points from today's package:

  • Today's changes will better protect consumers and ensure that insurance companies remain solid, including in difficult economic times;
  • consumers (“policyholders”) will be better informed about the financial situation of their insurer;
  • consumers will be better protected when buying insurance products in other Member States thanks to improved cooperation between supervisors;
  • insurers will be incentivized to invest more in long-term capital for the economy;
  • insurers' financial strength will take better account of certain risks, including those related to climate, and be less sensitive to short-term market fluctuations, and;
  • the whole sector will be better scrutinised to avoid that its stability is put at risk.

Proposed Insurance Recovery and Resolution Directive

The aim of the Insurance Recovery and Resolution Directive is to ensure that insurers and relevant authorities in the EU are better prepared in cases of significant financial distress.

It will introduce a new orderly resolution process, which will better protect policyholders, as well as the real economy, the financial system and ultimately taxpayers. National authorities will be better equipped in the event of an insurance company becoming insolvent.

Through the establishment of resolution colleges, relevant supervisors and resolution authorities will be able to take coordinated, timely and decisive action to tackle problems arising within cross-border (re)insurance groups, ensuring the best possible outcome for policyholders and the broader economy.

Today's proposals build extensively on technical advice provided by EIOPA (the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority). They are also aligned with the work that has been carried out at international level on the topic, while taking into account European specificities.

An Economy that Works for People Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said: "Europe needs a strong and vibrant insurance sector to invest in our economy and to help us manage the risks that we face. The insurance sector can contribute to the Green Deal and the Capital Markets Union, thanks to its dual role of protector and investor. Today's proposals ensure that our rules remain fit for purpose, by making them more proportionate.”

Mairead McGuinness, the commissioner responsible for financial services, financial stability and Capital Markets Union, said: “Today's proposal will help the insurance sector step up and play its full part in the EU economy. We are enabling investment in the recovery and beyond. And we're fostering the participation of insurance companies in the EU's capital markets, providing the long-term investment that is so vital for a sustainable future. Our growing Capital Markets Union is essential for our green and digital future. We're also paying close attention to the consumer perspective; policyholders can be reassured that they will be better protected in future if their insurer runs into difficulties.”

Next steps

The legislative package will now be discussed by the European Parliament and Council.

Background

Insurance protection is essential for many households, businesses and financial market participants. The insurance sector also offers solutions for retirement income and helps channel savings into financial markets and the real economy.

On 1 January 2016, the Solvency II Directive entered into force. The Commission monitored the application of the Directive and consulted extensively with stakeholders on possible areas for review.

On 11 February 2019, the Commission formally requested technical advice from EIOPA to prepare for the review of the Solvency II Directive. EIOPA's technical advice was published on 17 December 2020.

Beyond the minimum scope of review mentioned in the Directive itself, and after consulting stakeholders, the Commission identified further areas of the Solvency II framework that should be reviewed, such as the contribution of the sector to the European Union's political priorities (e.g. the European Green Deal and the Capital Markets Union), the supervision of cross-border insurance activities and the enhancement of the proportionality of prudential rules, including reporting.

More information

Legislative proposal for amendments to Directive 2009/138/EC (Solvency II Directive)

Legislative proposal for the recovery and resolution of (re)insurance undertakings

Communication on the review of the Solvency II Directive

Question and answers

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