Victor Shokin, the former Ukrainian Prosecutor General who played a prominent role in a number of scandals over the extent of the United States’ influence over domestic Ukrainian issues, has filed a complaint with the European Commission, asking that the institution recognize that his rights were violated when he was fired in March 2016 after less than 14 months in post.
The submission is Shokin’s latest attempt to secure justice for what he sees as his unlawful 2016 dismissal by then-Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. After exhausting all available legal mechanisms in Ukraine, Shokin filed a complaint against Kyiv with the European Court of Human Rights in 2017, a case which is still ongoing. In this most recent attempt to seek redress, Shokin argues that his dismissal violated a number of his rights, including his right to work and his right to a fair trial, and that the case violated Ukraine’s right to self-determination as well.
The application, sent to Commissioner European Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and the Capital Markets Union, Mairead McGuinness, is certain to draw renewed attention to a saga which played a significant role in former US President Donald Trump’s first impeachment and at times threatened to derail the 2020 presidential election in the United States. While much of the circumstances surrounding Shokin’s dismissal are shrouded in controversy, one central element is unquestioned by all sides—US President Joe Biden, then the vice president under the Obama administration, encouraged Poroshenko to fire Shokin, including by suggesting that dismissing the top prosecutor could unlock $1 billion in financial assistance from Washington.
US officials have argued that they were dissatisfied with Shokin’s progress cracking down on corruption and pointed out that other countries and international bodies, including the EU, had also advocated for Shokin’s sacking. Shokin, on the other hand, maintains that he was forced to resign after he started investigating the Ukrainian oil and gas company Burisma, where Joe Biden’s son Hunter was a member of the board of directors until 2019.
However, Shokin’s recent application to the European Commission focuses less on his theories about why he was fired and more on his belief that US officials’ call for his dismissal constituted “interference in internal affairs of Ukraine by a foreign state”. European officials’ first task will undoubtedly be to determine whether the European Commission has the jurisdiction to hear Shokin’s appeal, as the former prosecutor believes they do under the Association Agreement which Ukraine and the EU ratified in 2014.
Coronavirus: Commission signs contract to procure monoclonal anti-body treatment
Yesterday (27 July), the Commission signed a joint procurement framework contract with the pharmaceutical company Glaxo Smith Kline for the supply of sotrovimab (VIR-7831), an investigational monoclonal antibody therapy, developed in collaboration with VIR biotechnology. It is part of the first portfolio of five promising therapeutics announced by the Commission in June 2021, and is currently under rolling review by the European Medicines Agency. 16 EU member states are participating in the procurement for the purchase of up to 220,000 treatments. Sotrovimab can be used for the treatment of coronavirus patients with mild symptoms who do not require supplemental oxygen, but who are at high risk for severe COVID-19. Ongoing studies suggest that early treatment can reduce the number of patients that progress to more severe forms and require hospitalisation or admission to the intensive care units.
Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “We committed in our COVID-19 Therapeutics Strategy to have at least three new therapeutics authorised by October. We are now delivering a second framework contract that brings monoclonal antibodies treatments to patients. Alongside vaccines, safe and effective therapeutics will play a pivotal role in Europe's return to a new normal.”
Monoclonal antibodies are proteins conceived in the laboratory that mimic the immune system's ability to fight the coronavirus. They attach to the spike protein and thus block the virus' attachment to the human cells. The European Commission concluded nearly 200 contracts for different medical countermeasures worth over €12 billion.
Under the current framework contract with Glaxo Smith Kline, member states can purchase sotrovimab (VIR-7831) if and when needed, once it has received either emergency use authorisation in the member state concerned or a (conditional) marketing authorisation at EU level from the European Medicines Agency. Further information can be found here.
Water management: Commission consults to update lists of pollutants affecting surface and ground water
The Commission has launched an online public consultation to seek views on the upcoming review of the lists of pollutants occurring in surface and ground waters, as well as on corresponding regulatory standards. This initiative is particularly important for implementing the recently adopted Zero Pollution Action Plan as part of the European Green Deal, and wider efforts to secure the more efficient and safer use of water.
Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “All Europeans should benefit from clean water. Ensuring good quality of surface and groundwater in Europe is paramount for human health and for the environment. Pollution caused by pesticides, manmade chemicals or from residues of pharmaceuticals must be avoided as much as possible. We want to hear your views on how this can best be achieved.”
A recent evaluation (‘fitness check') in December 2019, found EU water legislation to be broadly fit for purpose. However, improvement is needed on aspects such as investment, implementing rules, integrating water objectives into other policies, administrative simplification and digitalisation. This revision aims to address some of the shortcomings in relation to chemical pollution and the legal obligation to regularly review the lists of pollutants, as well as to help accelerate implementation. The public consultation is open for feedback until 1 November 2021. More information is in this news release.
COVID-19 vaccines: Launch of the interactive map on vaccine production capacities in the EU
The Commission has published an interactive map showcasing COVID-19 vaccine production capacities in the EU, along the entire supply chain. The mapping tool is based on data gained through the work of the Task Force for Industrial Scale-up of COVID-19 vaccine production, on data collected during the matchmaking event organised by the Commission in March, as well as publicly available information and information shared by member states. This data will be complemented and updated as further information becomes available.
Commissioner Breton, responsible for the Internal Market and head of the Task Force, said: “With more than one billion vaccine doses produced, our industry has helped the EU become the world's most vaccinated continent and the world's leading exporter of COVID-19 vaccines. This interactive map, featuring hundreds of EU-based manufacturers, suppliers and distributors, shows the breadth of the industrial ecosystem, as well as the potential for new industrial partnerships to further boost our health emergency preparedness.”
The Task Force categorized the companies based on their main area of activity, thus companies may have more capacities than those reflected in the map. The Task Force for Industrial Scale-up of COVID-19 vaccine production was set up by the Commission in February 2021 to ramp up production capacity for COVID-19 vaccines in the EU, acting as a one-stop-shop for manufacturers seeking support, and to identify and address bottlenecks in terms of production capacity and supply chain. The interactive map is available here.
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