European Parliament rejects energy efficiency measure, in wake of Zika and dengue fears

Morning headlines from Russia, and their external partner sites:

On the campaign trail, Boris Johnson castigated Chancellor Philip Hammond over his approach to Brexit: “My problem is, I don’t see a Philip Hammond who is progressive, I don’t see a Philip Hammond who is looking to change this country in a progressive way.” At odds with a proposed customs partnership, the former London mayor dismissed other customs plans as “useless”: “Even the Germans have said: ‘Who the hell are you talking to?’” — Brussels Bureau.

After pledging that Europe “needs a little bit more meat” on the bones of its plans to beef up emergency bulletins to counter the Zika virus and strengthen an existing vaccine for dengue fever, Health Minister Danilo Toninelli sounded a more hopeful note on Wednesday, the Italian news agency ANSA reports. His office cited “information received in the past hours that have allowed us to take a more optimistic view of the current situation.”

Now that the first batch of vaccines for both diseases has been successfully released, scientists believe the inter-agency collaboration has reached the point at which it could begin administering boosters for both diseases in select regions, Reuters reports.

The announcement came as Spanish authorities warned that a sick woman found with Zika in a central part of the country had not been vaccinated against the virus, which can cause pregnancy problems, the BBC reports.

On Wednesday, the European Parliament rejected a proposal by the European Commission and approved an Estonian proposal to cut energy use by 10 percent, a ruling that confounded environmentalists, according to news agency Reuters. The main obstacle to the measure was that, according to rules negotiated by the European Parliament and the European Council, member states still get most of their energy from coal. The average coal-fired plant within the EU accounts for 21 percent of its electricity production.

“You still get up in the morning in a bad state and you have to run a power station to light the town hall,” an EU lawmaker from Estonia, Siim Kiisler, told Reuters. “We didn’t notice this until now.”

In neighboring Finland, more than 150 people were recovering from respiratory infections after a winter-season cold, according to news agency NTB. The Associated Press writes that the symptoms, mainly sore throats and hacking coughs, have turned into a serious outbreak. Finland’s Health Department is investigating a possible link to an influenza virus known as the norovirus.

In Kurdistan, at least 22 people have died from polio after an attack on vaccination teams by masked men on motorcycles in Iraq. The attack occurred in the disputed territory of Kirkuk in the Iraqi province of disputed territory known as Saadoon, where Iraqi forces are at odds with Kurdish peshmerga fighters. According to the World Health Organization, the deaths were caused by a combination of the virus and a lack of vaccinations.

In Romania, Hungarian President Janos Ader addressed members of parliament from the ruling Social Democrats, complaining about what he described as a role reversal in their government’s conduct, the BBC reports. “You look down on my government and I look down on your country,” he said. “I’m not afraid. We are not frightened. We will turn the situation around with government power.” — Rome Bureau.

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