Hold on to your vaccination cards: Americans who have been fully immunized could be allowed to travel to Europe this summer, the president of the European Commission recently told The New York Times.
While the European Union hasn’t yet announced the formal requirements to enter its 27 member nations, it’s likely that Americans will need government-issued vaccine certificates. For now, neither EU nor US officials have specified whether people will need to show the white vaccination card issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other documentation.
Lisa Lee, a public-health expert at Virginia Tech, said European countries will probably have patchwork of different rules for US travelers.
“Some have said they’re only going to accept electronic [vaccine records] so it can be verified,” Lee told Insider. “Other people are afraid that the CDC cards are too prone to fraud and they won’t accept the paper cards.”
In an interview with Ouest France, French President Emmanuel Macron said foreign tourists could visit France with a “health pass” starting June 9. Macron didn’t expand on what that pass would look like, though. Spain’s tourism secretary, meanwhile, said this week that the country is prepared to let travelers back in in June – as long as visitors show proof they’ve been vaccinated, recently tested negative for the coronavirus, or recently recovered from COVID-19. And UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested earlier this month that British people could start traveling internationally on May 17.
“One thing is clear: All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by EMA,” Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, told The Times, referring to the European Medicines Agency. The EMA has authorized all three vaccines used in the US: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.
Already, a few European countries – including Greece and Iceland – are allowing visitors from the US. Their policies could offer a hint at what to expect from other nations moving forward.
The US still doesn’t recommend travel to Europe
The CDC currently recommends avoiding all international travel to European countries, with the exception of Iceland. (The agency says Americans can travel there for essential visits only.) Similarly, the US is denying entry to visitors from the EU or UK unless they’re US citizens.
The Biden administration hasn’t said whether it will remove these restrictions in the near future, but travel and aviation groups are pushing the US government to open its borders to more countries, with testing requirements in place.
For now, the US also requires fully vaccinated Americans to test negative before reentering the country.
Lee said this policy helps protect the population from highly transmissible coronavirus variants that are more prevalent in other countries and might evade protection from vaccines.
“These vaccines are incredibly effective, but they’re not 100% – and they’re certainly not 100% or as effective against strains that we don’t know about yet that might be developing through transmission, so it’s still a good time to be somewhat cautious,” she said.
Greece and Iceland are accepting CDC cards as proof of vaccination
As of April 19, Greece is welcoming US travelers with a few stipulations: Visitors are asked to fill out a locator form at least one day before entering or leaving the country. Americans must also provide proof that they’ve been fully vaccinated – a CDC card is sufficient – or present a negative PCR test within 72 hours of their arrival.
US travelers don’t need to quarantine under this policy, a change that came with the new rule. Previously, Americans entering Greece had to isolate for a week. If a person tests positive upon arrival, however, they’ll be transported to a hotel, where Greek authorities will confirm the test results and ask them to stay inside for 10 days. After that, they can be released following a negative PCR test.
US travelers to Iceland can also avoid the nation’s mandatory quarantine by presenting a CDC card that shows they are fully vaccinated. Alternatively, a person can provide proof that they’ve had COVID-19 already – either through a positive PCR or antibody test result.
But those going to Iceland still need to take another COVID-19 test upon arrival, then wait at their accommodation until the results are back (which can take up to 24 hours). Hotels in Iceland may ask to see your CDC vaccination card as well.
Croatia, Georgia, Montenegro aren’t requiring US travelers to quarantine, either, if they show proof of vaccination.
Travel requirements aside, an international trip brings risks
Just because a country is accepting US travelers doesn’t mean a visit is low-risk. For Americans trying to decide whether to travel or where to go, Lee recommended that fully vaccinated people look at two key metrics: low levels of transmission and case numbers that are declining day over day.
“If you look at Portugal, for example, the incidence is a lot lower than Spain and they’re right next to each other,” Lee said.
On average, Spain is recording nearly 180 daily cases per 1 million people, while Portugal is recording around 45 daily cases per 1 million people. The CDC defines low transmission as fewer than 5 cumulative new cases per 100,000 people over the prior 28 days, and moderate transmission as fewer than 50 cumulative new cases per 100,000 people over 28 days.
If you’re looking to lower your risk of infection, choose less crowded locales where you’re unlikely to bump into people who haven’t been vaccinated. Opt out of large events like concerts or soccer matches, too.
“If you’re planning a trip to the countryside, that’s a very different calculus than if you’re planning a trip to the middle of a bustling city,” Lee said.
Of course, outbreaks can also change course quickly, so a country that looks safe now may have high levels of transmission in three months.
“Check the requirements frequently, right up until the departure date, as every country’s policies are going to be changing in response to the way the epidemic evolves,” Lee said.
The website Skyscanner offers real-time updates on countries’ travel restrictions and quarantine requirements. Make sure to prepare the necessary documentation for each country you plan to visit.
“You don’t want to get from one place to another and discover, ‘Oh, whoops, they need this piece of paper or that piece of software and I don’t have that,'” Lee said.
The EU has adopted a new, controversial law that requires tech companies to delete what authorities deem “terrorist content” within an hour, or risk a fine.
The European Parliament formally adopted the law on Wednesday even as lawmakers and experts warned that it would not be practical to implement and could harm people’s privacy and free-speech rights.
The law requires companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter to immediately remove content that authorities believe incites terrorism, tries to recruit terrorists, “glorifies terrorist activities,” or gives advice on how to make dangerous items like explosives and firearms.
The law calls on the tech firms to remove the content within an hour of being told to do so by authorities, or the countries could punish them with a fine.
The law is to come into force 12 months after it is published in the EU’s official journal, then adopted by each member state, The Verge reported.
Some parliament members who voted against it said the law could amount to censorship.
Reuters reported that Marcel Kolaja, the vice president of the European Parliament, said: “We really are risking censorship across Europe. Hungarian and Polish governments already demonstrated they have no issues removing content that they disagree with.”
Other parliament members said they worried that the legislation could leave governments free to define what they think terrorism is, and police online content as a result.
And Jacob Berntsson, the head of policy and research at Tech Against Terrorism, told Euractiv: “The one-hour removal deadline will be nigh on impossible for most small platforms to implement effectively.”
The European Commission is suing AstraZeneca, saying the drugmaker delayed deliveries of its COVID-19 vaccines to the bloc.
Stella Kyriakides, the European commissioner for health and food safety, tweeted Monday: “Our priority is to ensure #COVID19 vaccine deliveries take place to protect the health of [Europeans].”
“This is why @EU_Commission has decided jointly with all Member States to bring legal proceedings against AstraZeneca. Every vaccine dose counts. Every vaccine dose saves lives.”
AstraZeneca had delivered far fewer doses to the EU than promised in its contract. In January, the drugmaker told the EU that supply-chain issues meant that it had to cut its first-quarter deliveries by 60%.
Politico first reported on Thursday that the EU was preparing legal proceedings against AstraZeneca on the grounds that it under-delivered COVID-19 vaccines to the bloc.
This is a developing story. Please check back for more updates.
The European Union will allow Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to visit Europe this summer, a top official told The New York Times on Sunday.
It would be a change from policies that have been in place for more than a year. In March of 2020, EU leaders restricted most foreign travelers from entering Europe. Even when the bloc’s borders were partially opened in the summer, the US was excluded from that list, as its coronavirus outbreak deemed too risky.
“The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU’s executive branch, told The Times. “This will enable free movement and the travel to the European Union.”
All three vaccines authorized for use in the US, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, have been approved by the EU’s drugs regulator.
“All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by E.M.A.,” von der Leyen said.
The Times reported US and EU officials have been in talks over acceptable vaccine certificates that would allow tourists to prove their vaccination status.
Last month, the EU proposed a vaccine passport system that would allow vaccinated EU citizens to travel more easily within the bloc by summer, Insider’s Marianne Guenot reported.
The EU official did not give The Times a timeline for when it might open for US tourists, noting that it will depend on the coronavirus situation in the US.
Daily coronavirus case numbers remain relatively flat in the US, though some states are seeing a rise, while vaccination rates remain high, with about 3 million people per day on average receiving a shot.
Despite being one of the leading nations when it comes to vaccinations, the US could struggle to reach herd immunity, depending on the pace of reopenings and coronavirus variants, Insider’s Aria Bendix reported. Vaccine hesitancy is another obstacle and could make it difficult for the US to keep up its current rate of vaccinations.
Mathias Döpfner: You’re looking great, and healthy too. So, is life enjoyable despite the pandemic?
Henry Kissinger: I wouldn’t say enjoyable, but I came through the period well.
Döpfner: How has you pandemic experience been so far? How has your life changed over the last 14 months?
Kissinger: Well, my life has changed in that I took for granted seeing people socially or in the office. So I miss that easy contact. I have lost an intangible relationship with people around the world. I have a series of Zooms, but it’s not the same. The immediacy of human relationships has been lost.
Döpfner: You are living quite isolated in your country home at the moment?
Kissinger: Yes. We have had nobody over for dinner in over a year.
Döpfner: Do you think that we will appreciate personal interaction more once this pandemic is under control and people are vaccinated? Or do you think that, in the long run, it could change social interaction, with people traveling less, meeting less, having less personal conversations?
Kissinger: Videoconferences are going to replace meetings more than in the pre-pandemic period. Since I have been vaccinated, I am now freer to have an almost normal life. And my wife Nancy and I are planning to spend a month or so seeing friends. I have already had a dinner with old friends in New York. It was about a month of preparation. But things like that will be much more spontaneous from now on.
Döpfner: What is the pandemic experience going to change in the political context in the long run? Will safety win versus individual freedom? Will autocratic systems gain ground versus democratic centrist systems?
Kissinger: In this country, the majority of people have had health and safety concerns that they’ve never experienced before. And they have been very occupied with maintaining a lifestyle that they used to take for granted. At the same time, there are groups who are systematically urging a new governmental and national philosophy. And while they are not the majority or even close to a majority, they continue pursuing their convictions – while the rest of the country is focused more on day-to-day life, or on very short-term political issues.
Döpfner: Politicians had to make difficult decisions in the context of the pandemic. For example, legal restrictions concerning border controls and traveling that were considered to be impossible were suddenly possible. You might even say that authoritarian measures had to be implemented in order to save lives. The pandemic has reinforced political authority. And in a couple of countries, at least to a certain degree, people have been very supportive of that. Do you think that democracies are going to be more authoritarian?
Kissinger:A great deal will depend on the impact of vaccinations, where there is already a wide gap between America and Europe. In the US, daily deaths from COVID-19 have been receding; young people are now being vaccinated; businesses and restaurants are beginning to reopen. Much of Europe remains locked down and fearful. Vaccination is beginning to pick up in Europe, but it remains several months behind America. The exception, of course, is the UK. So, to return to the question of political stability, if vaccination successfully reduces the incidence of the disease then the pandemic will be perceived mostly as a health problem that was overcome. The danger is less that emergency measures taken to fight the pandemic will persist than that if infections remain high for a prolonged period, on either side of the Atlantic, we would then witness a crisis of confidence in leaders and institutions.
Döpfner: Talking about Europe, the EU has not been very successful, to put it mildly, in deploying vaccinations. The situation is pretty disastrous, and we are lagging behind America, England, even smaller countries like Israel or Chile. Europe seems to be a dysfunctional player in the crisis. Symbolically, it’s interesting that the Biden administration has restricted European travel to the US even more than Trump did. What impact do you think that will have on the current opportunity to re-establish a strategic transatlantic relationship between America and Europe?
Kissinger: In America, there has been growth in national consciousness in this period. It was already developing, encouraged by the previous administration. But more in the sense of indifference to foreigners rather than an active hostility towards foreigners. By contrast, in the period immediately following World War II, and for about 30 years afterwards, the idea that America and Europe were fundamentally linked was widespread, certainly in the educated classes. And contact with foreign countries in that period, especially contact with Europe, was a matter of course. This idea is much less prevalent nowadays. You don’t read reports on European elections in American newspapers anymore, and of course they don’t cover them on television. So, in that sense, a certain psychological separation has taken place.
Döpfner: You once said that, if Europe and America do not re-establish an intense transatlantic relationship, Europe will end up as an appendix of Asia. Do you see a concrete danger at the moment that this might happen?
Kissinger: On the American side, there may be a temptation – certainly in the immediate post-pandemic period – to believe that we can operate in a more isolated manner on the basis of our reasonably good performance towards the end of the pandemic period. The current administration has been making useful pronouncements – with which I agree – about the importance of relinking America and Europe. That’s important, but I don’t think we’ve found our way yet to a new practice of the Atlantic relationship. The nature of that linkage is often defined as a return to American leadership. But it may turn out that what Europe seeks is collaborative autonomy, not guidance.
Döpfner: But do you think that we might be facing disappointment ahead because we have naive expectations for the re-establishment of the transatlantic axis?
Kissinger: At the moment, what we are seeing from the administration is more the expression of an attitude than a detailed policy. There is a general desire to be linked again, and there is an amorphous concept that if we link in dialogue, then some level of operational cohesion will emerge automatically. But the differences between Europe and America did not just appear in the Trump administration. They had been growing already in the previous period, and on both sides.
Döpfner: In a way you could say that Obama took office at the start of America’s Pacific period?
Kissinger: Yes. In the immediate post-war period, there was a common thread, and there was also the common task of rebuilding Europe and of redefining the American attitude to its foreign policy. These were important national endeavors. But even in the Nixon period, when attempts were made to redefine formal links, it proved relatively easy to do that in the strategic field. But it proved difficult to develop an Atlantic Charter of political objectives. There was no hostility, but there was also a reluctance by Europe to define an organic relationship. Now this problem will reappear in relation to the fact that the challenges of the world have become global. There is no localized threat to European identity. So, in defining our global roles, I could foresee a possible temptation on the part of Europe to pursue a kind of separate policy from the United States.
Döpfner: What are the consequences?
Kissinger: In the short run, I can actually see many benefits for both sides. But in the long run, my fear is that an emphasis of both sides on autonomy will do two things. It will reduce Europe to an appendage of Eurasia. And through this, Europe will become preoccupied by the tensions that derive from the competition of Asian and Near Eastern countries with each other. And Europe could become exhausted by these efforts. At the same time, if that happens, America could strategically become an island at the conjunction of the Pacific and the Atlantic. It would then conduct the foreign policies typical for island countries vis-à-vis continental land masses, that is to play off the weaker against the stronger, which means there will be more focus on divisions than on the construction of the world. And even if that separation between Europe and America is very friendly, we and Europe should not exhaust our energies in a struggle about how to define common purposes. We don’t have to agree on every economic policy on every local issue, but we should have a common concept of the direction we want the Atlantic regions to go, historically and strategically.
Döpfner: The EU has not delivered on its promises: no over proportional growth for its economies, weak in managing security challenges, disappointing in its management of the euro crisis. Most importantly, the two big international challenges of the recent past have been very poorly managed by the EU. One is the refugee crisis. And the second one is now the pandemic, particularly vaccination. Could that become an existential threat for the EU?
Kissinger: The EU has not yet managed to create a political identity and a political consciousness as an organic unit. The decisions are made by balancing political preferences in an essentially administrative manner on a case by case basis. So, at least from my perspective, there is no vision that can be described as a specifically or uniquely European vision.
Döpfner: What could the European vision be?
Kissinger: For hundreds of years, Europe has contributed ideas about political structure and political vision. Many of the great ideas about freedom and democracy originated in Europe. At that time on the philosophical level, Europe was largely unified. Now, it seems the EU has a greater ability to concentrate on economic and technical issues than on historic issues. But if Europe is to participate in some unified sense in international affairs, it needs to develop the capacity to generate ideas that are at the same time specifically applicable to European circumstances and also of relevance to the rest of the world. My vision and dream of the European-American relationship has always been that we will manage to establish a unique conceptual relationship within which tactical differences can exist – and should and will exist – but in which they do not become the anchor point of the policy on each side of the Atlantic.
Döpfner: Which America is Europe going to deal with? I am curious to find out how you see the conceptual changes of the current Biden administration, both with regard to domestic and foreign policy.
Kissinger: The leading groups driving foreign policy within the administration are trying to restore what they consider the traditional pattern of the European-American relationship based on frequent, even constant, consultation with some consensus emerging. They have not yet fully addressed the fact that significant internal changes have taken place in the last 20 years on both sides of the Atlantic. And that these changes emphasize national interest more than is common in American conceptual thinking about foreign policy. Thus the content of the dialogues with America has flattened out while they’re still taking place, and while the institutions remain. The previous administration accentuated differences because of its conviction that America could not be mobilized without an emphasis on national interest. The dilemma with that way of thinking is that in the present technocratic world, the national interest requires a global basis. It’s no longer possible to have a national interest that is confined to the immediate circumference of one’s own country. And that is a task in which America has to engage itself as it pursues the Biden-type policy.
Döpfner: What are you thinking about?
Kissinger: When I was in office, because of the Vietnam War which we inherited, the divisions were very intense and, for policymakers, occasionally painful. But in a way they were family divisions. The leaders of the liberal Democratic side were personal acquaintances with whom I had gone to Harvard and met regularly. In the present period, there is a systemic questioning of the historic values of America. There is a point of view to the effect that American society has been immoral from its very beginning. Advocates of this view maintain that the American internal challenge derives from the historic structure of American society and history. They believe America’s institutions – the Senate, the Supreme Court, perhaps even the Constitution itself – have to be remade from the ground up. This is a revolutionary frame of mind which is being pursued very systematically and very effectively. It is not a view that is held by close to 50% of the population. But it is a view that is intensely held and is perhaps dominant in the academic and media community. It is therefore becoming extremely influential.
Döpfner: Would you say there is a growing intolerance for different views in those circles?
Kissinger: With respect to the issues that the adherents consider most important, there is very limited tolerance. It’s a revolutionary view in the sense that it aims for victory, not compromise. And those who hold different views are ejected from participation.
Döpfner: By the year 2028, the expectation is that China will replace the US as the largest economy. A couple of days before Biden took office, the EU signed an investment and trade protection deal with China. That must have been perceived in Washington as a provocation. What does that tell us about the future of the American-European relationship versus China?
Kissinger: The administration is trying hard to keep the relationship within traditionally accepted limits. But it faces the situation now where public opinion has become convinced that China is not only a rapidly growing country, which is true, but also that China is an inherent enemy, and that therefore our main task is to confront it and to reduce its capacity to be a major country. But China has been a major country for thousands of years. And in different historical epochs. And so, the recovery of China should be not surprising, and its consequences are that America, for the first time in its history, is facing a country of potentially comparable capacities in economics, and with great historic skill in conducting international affairs. This was not the case with the Soviets. They were actually weaker than the United States in military capacities, and they had no economic position in the international field at all. So, with respect to the current crisis, there is almost a certain nostalgia for the issues of the Cold War.
Kissinger: Yes. The big issue to look upon is not just to prevent Chinese hegemony, but to understand that if we achieve that objective – which we must – the need to coexist with a country of that magnitude remains. Let me say a word about the assumed global domination of China.
Kissinger: There is a big difference between the Chinese perception of history and the Russian perception. Russian leaders have historically been insecure, because they have spent their history defending themselves against potential enemies on all sides. They have therefore, since becoming strong, identified influence with physical domination. China has a more complex view. The Confucian view, which shapes Chinese thinking side by side with Chinese Marxism, implies that if China performs at the maximum level of its capacities, it will generate a majestic conduct which will produce respect in the rest of the world – making it agreeable, at some levels, to Chinese preferences. In the Empire period, foreign countries were graded by the degree of their proximity to Chinese cultural precepts. There existed a department for grading these countries, and it conducted foreign policy. China has historically and recently supported this attitude with military actions to remind adversaries that this is not just a philosophical debate. But if you actually study the Chinese military actions, since the period that the communists took over, they’ve all been for psychological effect. They were often very tough. And we must be prepared to oppose Chinese hegemony. But we, at the same time, should remain open to a policy of coexistence.
In dealing with China, different schools of thought have to be sorted out. There’s a group who thinks the Chinese capacity for foreign policy must be confronted at all levels from economics to Chinese internal politics. It ascribes current Chinese policies to the current Chinese leadership and strives for bringing about a more accommodating group. I, on the other hand, believe that such an attitude generates a maximum of resistance. Of course, free societies must continue to conduct world affairs compatible with their principles and free of the threat of hegemony. But coexistence in the current world of technology is a necessity, because it is impossible to visualize a war between major countries who have significant AI technology that will not destroy cultural life as we know it. So that will be the debate in America and maybe in the world.
Döpfner: A truly reliable alliance between the United States and Europe would be essential for America. Do you think a strategic disagreement with regards to China can be a real threat to the transatlantic relationship?
Kissinger: If Europe pursues a policy of taking advantage of American-Chinese disagreement, it will make confrontations all the sharper and crises all the more overwhelming. I am not in favor of a crusade against China. But I am in favor of developing a common strategic understanding so that the situation will not be inflamed further by constant maneuvering for advantage.
Döpfner: But if China becomes the globally leading economy, it seems very likely that it will also have a major impact on political values and political systems in countries that are economically dependent on China – which will be almost all of the non-American rest of the world.
Kissinger: Well, I don’t think it’s the entire world or even the dominant part of it.
Döpfner: We can debate about Russia. But Europe, Africa, Australia?
Kissinger: No, I am assuming that the societies you mention have enough self-discipline and confidence that they will not permit such an outcome.
Döpfner: You are saying Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has the power to have significant impact on our culture. The new instrument strategically and the new form of warfare is not weapons, it’s basically data. In that regard, China has an unfair advantage. They are collecting tons of personal data as part of their regulative system putting the interest of the Chinese Central State first. The likelihood that China is going to win the race of AI is not small. Are you afraid we might end up with a unilateral AI governance dominated by the Chinese?
Kissinger: Five years ago, I didn’t know anything about AI.
Döpfner: Now you’re writing articles about it, you’re an expert in it.
Kissinger: I am a student of it. It is fascinating not only economically, but also philosophically, because it will change the nature of human thinking about reality, which will affect all of us. The U.S. needs to maintain a high level of performance in AI. But there are two levels: superior AI can mean you can crush any competitor who operates on market principles. But you’re wrong in saying that the Chinese are bound to be superior to us in the AI field. We have many of the assets of creativity in the AI field. But we have to understand AI in its totality. In the world that you envision, there will inevitably be a competition between AI powers. “High-tech powers” is a better way to say it. And the propensity of high-tech is towards monopoly. That needs to be overcome.
Kissinger: And, therefore, there is this propensity to crush the opponent. Now coexistence depends on neither side seeking to destroy the opponent while maintaining its values and objectives, and each side needs to place coexistence ahead of a quest for domination. This requires an understanding between the leaders of high-tech societies. We must learn from history. Europeans in particular know the consequences of wars that can neither be won nor ended.
Döpfner: But do you think there could be peaceful coexistence?
Kissinger: I know it is our duty to attempt it. Right now, in the West, high-tech is developed almost for its own sake. People are fascinated by it, and they keep building it. So, given our propensity for and our demonstrated ability in this field, I am confident that we should be able to maintain a competitive position.
Döpfner: I agree, that that dual competition will remain for the foreseeable near future. However, it is also a realistic scenario that one day a unilateral system with one force basically dominating, either the US or China, will emerge. In this context two questions raise. First, will AI serve the people, or will people be serving AI? Many people like Elon Musk and others, who know AI extremely well are worried about the latter scenario. Second: Is AI serving the economic well-being of big tech platforms and companies, as in the United States, or is AI serving the well-being of a central state, which basically controls and uses AI for the total surveillance and control of its people? And I think this is a very fundamental difference, and it has a huge impact on the consequences of AI.
Kissinger: In the competition between China and the West, a key objective has to be to prevent it from becoming an all-out AI conflict. Which means that, while both sides may have the theoretical capability of winning, neither side chooses to exercise it-they should limit it by some kind of understanding. I’m laying out a task, not a detailed program. Strive for it, because the alternative of an all-out conflict strains the imagination. The United States must always have an adequate defense. But in the high-tech world, it must also work for coexistence. We cannot do it as a unilateral act. This is the challenge of our time.
Döpfner: Europe and particularly Germany play a pretty irrelevant role in that context. A century ago, Germany wanted too much leadership, and today, it doesn’t want enough leadership or doesn’t take enough leadership?
Kissinger: Well, in the 1930s certainly, Germany wanted too much – it wanted dominance. Since the end of the Second World War, Germany has rebuilt itself by reliance on the Atlantic Alliance, and I had the privilege of participating at the margins of that effort. But it has gone through the process of defining a new identity several times since the end of World War II. First to build the Federal Republic of Germany, then for Reunited Germany, then for a European Germany. And now the issue arises of a global Germany, and there is little historical precedent for that role. Germany has the resources and the history to be a major factor in the future. It needs to make up its mind on how it perceives its global role.
Döpfner: At the end, a pleasant topic. There has been one constant over the last almost 100 years and that is that your favorite soccer club is Greuther Fürth. Now, four days before your 98th birthday this year, there is the possibility on the last match day that Greuther Fürth could move up to the Bundesliga. Your favorite birthday gift?
Kissinger: A great birthday gift. I haven’t lived in Fürth in over 80 years. But I follow Greuther Fürth, and I have already made a tentative plan that, if Fürth makes it to the Bundesliga, which does not look very likely, but they are not without a chance, I will travel to Fürth to visit my grandfather’s grave and attend a game if the pandemic permits it.
Döpfner: You should come no matter what happens. If you look back to your childhood, was there a reading experience that was life changing for you? Is there one single book that you could mention that had a particularly strong influence on your way of thinking and your way of living?
Kissinger: No, in my childhood, the preoccupation of my family was how to survive, how to arrive at a situation where one could plan a normal future. Which is why America was such an important element throughout my life. Later on, when I was in America, Spengler’s “Decline of the West” had a major influence on my thinking. Not because of the prediction of decline, but because of the perception of looking at every civilization as a unit and not in terms of separate individual actions. And because of his analysis that the architecture, science, and every other aspect of our culture have certain basic themes.
Döpfner: If you had to decide for the politician of the last 100 years who left the most positive impact on the world who would that be?
Kissinger: Winston Churchill. He saved Europe.
Döpfner: You are, a German who had to leave his home country because Germans organized the Holocaust that killed millions of Jews and many members of your family. You made your career in America and became an international political figure of great influence. And throughout the decades, you have kept this very special interest in Germany and the importance of the American-German relationship. More than that, you have kept a deep emotional affection for Germany. Can you explain why and how that was possible?
Kissinger: I don’t know if I have ever formally addressed this issue. My family suffered more than I did, because I was younger. Despite the losses of close relatives and friends, my father always retained a nostalgic feeling for Germany. In 1965, I received an award from the city of Fürth, and my father came along. To my amazement, he chose to volunteer an extremely conciliatory speech in German emphasizing the positive things he remembered. I never really explored with him how he reached that decision. And in my own personal life at the end of the war, when I was a very young man in counterintelligence who had been entrusted with great powers, I decided that if it was wrong to treat Jews on the basis of their ethnicity, then it was wrong to do that to Germans too. And, by serving in Germany, I had an opportunity to start to work on a new relationship. And it evolved into an important part of my life.
Europe is struggling to gather evidence against Amazon for the antitrust case it has opened against the e-commerce giant for its market dominance and anti-competition practices, the Financial Times reported.
Brussels announced the case in the summer of 2019 on allegations that Amazon was manipulating its algorithm to favor its own products over third-party sellers on its websites.
They have reportedly been unable to access the algorithm and the list of detailed questions they sent to Amazon has not yet received a response.
Antitrust lawsuits have become commonplace as big tech companies come under increasing levels of scrutiny, including in the US.
Parler has also filed lawsuits against Amazon while the gaming giant behind Fortnite, Epic Games, has taken on Google and Apple.
“Cases involving algorithms are complex,” a Brussels-based legal expert told the Financial Times. “But the EU doesn’t have to dictate how a computer code works. It is for the company that uses the algorithm to deliver a fair result.”
If Amazon is found to have breached European law, the company could be fined up to 10% of its annual revenue. The figure stood at $233 billion for 2018, meaning a fine of up to $23 billion, but has since increased.
The lawsuit was followed by a second one in November 2020 over the way Amazon uses data from third-party sellers on its websites.
The Financial Times said the EU had been given evidence that Amazon may not gain anything from disadvantaging third-party sellers as they generate large amounts of profit for the company.
“Why would Amazon want to worsen the customer experience if customers will realize they can get better quality products for cheaper elsewhere?” an insider with knowledge of the defense told the Financial Times.
Those familiar with the case said an investigation could still take years and may still result in a successful outcome for the EU.
Amazon did not respond to the FT’s request for comment and the EU said it was still investigating.
Despite the pandemic, video game revenue reportedly exceeded sport and film combined in 2020.
According to data from the International Data Corporation reported by MarketWatch, the industry surged 20% to $179.7 billion.
The European Union has now approved Microsoft’s $7.5 billion purchase of ZeniMax Media, the parent company of game publisher Bethesda Softworks.
Microsoft’s acquisition is the company’s largest-ever purchase in the video game sector, Expansion reported.
When the tech giant first announced its plans in September, analysts said Microsoft was looking to diversify its business with more revenue from consumer products.
“As a proven game developer and publisher, Bethesda has seen success across every category of games,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a press release announcing the acquisition in September last year. “And together, we will further our ambition to empower the more than three billion gamers worldwide.”
Bethesda is well-known for games including “Fallout,” “The Elder Scrolls,” and “Doom.”
All of Bethesda’s games will now come under Microsoft’s Xbox Studios umbrella.
The company said in September that the release of all PS5 games already announced by Bethesda would continue, but that the remainder of the games would be looked at on a “case-by-case basis,” with some new releases moving exclusively to Xbox.
The tech giant will also be able to incorporate Zenimax’s Bethesda games into its Xbox Game Pass cloud-based video game catalog.
Microsoft first requested EU approval on January 29 and the European Commission has now ruled that it will not pose competition problems to other providers.
European Union nations kicked off a mass effort on Sunday to distribute COVID-19 vaccinations to more than 450 million people.
The first vaccines, expected to go to healthcare workers and vulnerable people, began arriving at hospitals Saturday after the European Medicines Agency approved the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine last week.
EU countries are getting small quantities of the vaccine for now, fewer than 10,000 doses, until a larger distribution planned for January.
European Union nations kicked off a mass effort on Sunday to distribute COVID-19 vaccinations to more than 450 million people, marking another milestone in combatting the pandemic.
Vulnerable people and healthcare workers began receiving shots Sunday morning, The Associated Press reported.
The first vaccines began arriving at hospitals Saturday after the European Medicines Agency approved a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech last week.
AP reported EU countries are getting small quantities of the vaccine for now, fewer than 10,000 doses, until a larger distribution effort that’s planned for January.
Europe has recently faced a growing concern over a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, which first appeared in the United Kingdom in September.
The new variant could be up to 70% more transmissible, and has been reported in EU nations including France, Spain, and Germany, as well as others.
BioNTech’s CEO said last week there’s a “relatively high” chance the vaccine will be effective against the new variant.
Europe’s vaccine roll out comes after the United States and the UK started distributing vaccines earlier this month.
At least 16 million coronavirus infections have been recorded among the 27 nations of the EU since the start of the pandemic and more than 336,000 deaths, AP reported.
Some EU nations have also reinstated lockdowns in recent weeks in response to surges, including Italy.
Healthcare workers at Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases in Rome, Italy were among the first to receive the vaccine.
“Today is a beautiful, symbolic day: All the citizens of Europe together are starting to get their vaccinations, the first ray of light after a long night,” Italian virus czar Domenico Arcuri said, according to AP.
EU countries can each decide how to distribute the doses, with most planning to start by vaccinating the elderly and people in nursing homes, NBC News reported.
“Today, we start turning the page on a difficult year. The #COVID19 vaccine has been delivered to all EU countries,” Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said in a tweet.
“Vaccination is the lasting way out of the pandemic.”
The UK and the European Union have struck a free-trade deal after nearly a year of talks, UK officials announced on Thursday.
With less than a week to go until the end of the Brexit transition period – which is 11 p.m. December 31 in London, or 12 a.m. January 1 in Brussels – UK and EU officials confirmed they had finally agreed on the terms a deal after weeks of intensive talks in London and Brussels. Under the terms of the agreement, there will be zero tariffs and zero quotas on goods.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly spoke on the phone with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen multiple times this week to sign off the agreement after a final day of intensive talks about fishing quotas on Thursday.
“Everything that the British public was promised during the 2016 referendum and in the general election last year is delivered by this deal,” said a UK official who was speaking anonymously.
Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said on Thursday: “It was worth fighting for this deal. We now have a fair & balanced agreement with the UK. It will protect our EU interests, ensure fair competition & provide predictability for our fishing communities. Europe is now moving on.”
Analysis: The end of Brexit uncertainty is a victory for Johnson
The deal brings to an end four years of uncertainty and delay, which economists believe have already marginally suppressed the growth rate of the British economy. It could save the UK from an even worse fate had no deal been signed: KPMG forecast British GDP growth would be 4.4% in 2021 without a deal, but could be as much as 10.1% if their trading arrangements remained largely the same.
Britain got an ugly taste of “no deal” earlier this week when France closed its side of the border with the UK to prevent the spread of the aggressive new coronavirus variant, which appears to have originated in Kent. Up to 10,000 trucks were stuck alongside the roads of Dover for the last four days. France has since reopened its border and the enormous jam is slowly clearing.
It also hands Johnson a significant political victory: He came to power on a promise of “get Brexit done” and at last the dream has become reality. The Conservative party will likely revel in the achievement. But with Brexit off the table as a political and economic issue, the coming year will probably refocus Britain on Johnson’s handling of the economy and the coronavirus crisis – two areas where he has underperformed. The UK was hit worse than most major economies during the pandemic lockdown.
Now, the details
The UK and the EU now face a race against time to put the deal into law before the New Year. The UK parliament is likely to be recalled next week for a vote on the deal, which is expected to pass comfortably given Johnson’s 80-seat majority in the Commons.
The UK negotiating team, led by David Frost, and its EU counterparts, fronted by Michel Barnier, had spent months wrangling over a handful of thorny issues including fishing rights, rules to prevent unfair competition between the two markets (known as the “level playing field”), and how the UK-EU trading relationship would be governed after Brexit.
A no-deal outcome would have resulted in costly tariffs on a range of goods sold between the UK and the EU. That in turn would have led to price rises in UK shops and made it harder for businesses to export their products to Europe.
However, even with a free trade deal agreed, there is still set to be disruption in January due to an array of new checks at Britain’s border with its biggest trading partner.
Britain is probably unprepared for the new terms of trade
Johnson’s government has admitted that thousands of UK businesses, particularly smaller ones, have been too busy dealing with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic to make necessary preparations for Brexit.
UK officials are bracing themselves for more long queues of lorries heading for Dover and ports elsewhere in the country early next year.
The negotiations nearly collapsed at the end of the summer when Johnson tabled legislation designed to unpick parts of Brexit Withdrawal Agreement covering Northern Ireland. His government has admitted that going ahead with the plan would break international law, prompting fury in Brussels and attracting criticism at home.
Johnson’s government agreed to remove the controversial clauses after UK and EU officials reached an agreement on how to implement the post-Brexit protocol for Northern Ireland.
What will the trade deal mean for the UK?
Details of the deal are still emerging and the final text is expected to be over 1,000 pages in length.
However, this is what we know about the key elements of the deal.
Tariff-free trade will continue
A tarriff-free deal will come as a welcome relief to many UK and EU businesses.
In a no-deal outcome, businesses in Britain and Europe would have been required to pay an additional tax on a wide range of goods imported from each one another.
This would make doing trade more expensive and led to companies raising the prices of everyday items like food and drink to make up for the extra cost.
But there will many new border checks
However, there will be a host of new checks on goods crossing the border due to the UK’s decision to leave the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union.
Starting January 1, British businesses that export to Europe will have to submit customs declarations and other paperwork in order to get their goods across the border. UK officials estimate that there will be over 400 million additional customs checks a year on goods going to and from the EU.
There’ll also be costly processes for exporters of food, plant, and animal goods to the EU, due to the bloc’s strict health & safety rules.
This mountain of new red tape is why Johnson’s government is bracing itself for delays at the border early next year.
Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said last month that “inevitably” there would be a “rise” in traffic on Britain’s motorway in January, as businesses adapt to these major new rules and regulations.
The UK government has said there could be queues of up to 7,000 HGVs in a reasonable, worst-case scenario.
It is for these reasons that departing the EU with a trade deal is still set to leave the UK significantly worse off. The country’s long-term, economic output will be reduced by four percentage points, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility’s most recent forecast.
Britain will gain more control of its fishing waters
British fishermen are expected to gain a bigger share of fish caught in British waters as a result of the trade deal.
The exact details of the new arrangement are yet to be confirmed, but UK and EU negotiators have spent weeks tussling over what percentage of the value of fish caught by EU fisherman in British waters should be returned to Britain.
Multiple reports this week said that the two sides were moving towards a compromise of EU boats being allowed to keep around two-thirds. They have also been trying to agree on the length of a transition period during which the new arrangement will gradually come into effect.
Any agreement on fishing will have had to garner the approval of French President Emmanuel Macron, who has warned throughout the Brexit process that he would not sacrifice the rights of France’s fishing industry in a deal with the UK.
Negotiators were also trying to reach a compromise over the length of an adjustment period during which the new rules for the fishing industry would gradually come into effect.
While fishing was seemingly been a make-or-break issue in these negotiations, the industry’s contribution to the UK economy is pretty negligible at less than 1%. However, it has been a totemic issue in the Brexit debate ever since the 2016 referendum campaign, largely due its connotations with sovereignty and control.
Travelling to the EU from the UK will become harder
The UK’s decision to leave the European Single Market doesn’t just impact the movement of goods but that of people, too. This will still be the case despite Britain and the EU striking a free trade agreement.
People making trips to the EU lasting 90 days or more will need to secure a visa, and Brits heading for the continent for any length of time will be required to have their passports stamped when they leave and re-enter the UK.
Those driving to the EU from next year will need to obtain a “green card” and a GB sticker, and in some EU countries will need an International Driving Permit.
Travellers will also need to take out new health insurance to replace the European Health Insurance Card, as the latter will no longer be valid for most Brits from next year.
Changes will affect pets, too. Those planning to take dog, cats, and ferrets with them to the EU will need to get their pets vaccinated at least three weeks before travelling.
They’ll also need to secure Animal Health Certificates at least ten days before departure, as the EU’s pet passports will no longer apply to British travellers.