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Europe, U.S. tied at 8-8 heading into Solheim Cup’s final day



The U.S. team fought back in the fourballs on Saturday to level the scores at 8-8 heading into the final day of the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles.

Three of the four fourball matches were decided on the final hole.

Americans Danielle Kang and Lizette Salas beat Carlota Ciganda and Azahara Munoz with a birdie on the 17th to go two up.

Gusty conditions with winds clocked at over 50 kilometres per hour (kph) made it difficult for both teams to get going and players also received warnings for slow play.

“It was a tough day, a battle for everyone,” Europe’s captain Catriona Matthew said.

“But the first two days has shown how close both teams are. Sunday will come down to the odd shot that will get momentum going one way or the other.”

The match between Europe’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Caroline Masson and Americans Lexi Thompson Marina Alex finished all square after both teams won three holes each to halve the points.

Americans Brittany Altomare and Annie Park and Europe’s Georgia Hall and Celine Boutier won their respective matches.

This helped to ensure both teams were level heading into Sunday’s singles matches where 12 points are up for grabs.

“It was just back and forth the whole day,” Park said. “Both teams played some great golf in these conditions.

“It was tough out there. I’m so glad I played the Scottish Open. It was like this, maybe even worse. But I’m glad that I got that practice out.”

Earlier, Europe held a slender one-point advantage over the U.S. with a 6-1/2 to 5-1/2 lead after the foursomes saw the teams share two wins each.

The American Korda sisters, Jessica and Nelly, picked up where they left off on Friday at the PGA Centenary Course with a dominant 6 & 5 victory over Ciganda and Bronte Law.

Struggling Bronte and Law failed to sink a single birdie as the Americans claimed a point to level the overall score.

Europe, who were leading 4-1/2 to 3-1/2 after Friday’s fourballs, then had Charley Hull and Azahara Munoz to thank for their 4 & 3 victory over Danielle Kang and Megan Khang.

They were also boosted by Georgia Hall and Celine Boutier whose 3 & 2 victory over Lizette Salas and Ally McDonald at the 16th hole gave them two points.

But Americans Morgan Pressel and Marina Alex, who trailed Anna Nordqvist and Anne Van Dam by four after six holes, stunned the Europeans.

They took seven of the next nine for a 2 & 1 victory.

Defending champions U.S. need 14 points to retain the Solheim Cup while Europe must score 14-1/2 to win the title for the first time since 2013.(Reuters/)

(Edited by Olawale Alabi)


Roundup: FAO, European countries mark World Environment Day by calling for protecting biodiversity




United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and a string of European countries Friday marked World Environment Day, calling for steps to make the world more resilient as it emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.


Qu Dongyu, director-general of the Rome-based United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), speaking at a virtual World Environment Day event, said protecting the environment leads to better health outcomes.

“Biodiversity provides the necessary infrastructure that supports life on earth,” Qu said. “We have to build up biodiversity. We now have an excellent opportunity to rethink the relationship between humans, animals, and the environment.”

“Better nature means better human health,” Qu concluded.

At FAO, the day was marked with a focus on biodiversity and a special “virtual” event.

“We are focused on the big global problem of the day, which is the coronavirus pandemic,” Berhe Tekola, the director of FAO’s Animal Health and Production Division, told Xinhua.

“But by protecting biodiversity, by advising people in poor countries on how they can eat more safely and how they can avoid environmental damage,” Tekola said, “we can have better health outcomes, and the world would be safer from some of the contagions that cause certain kinds of disease.”


Sergio Mattarella, Italy‘s president, made a similar point on the occasion of World Environment Day, themed “Time for Nature” this year.

“The dramatic events that have recently touched the whole of our planet demand that we acknowledge the essential link between the equilibrium of nature and our survival,” he said.

“To emerge from the difficulties that we are faced with today, we have an extreme need for research and for long-sighted policies that can imagine and render accessible a near future of sustainable prosperity,” the president continued.

Albanian President Ilir Meta also appealed for more efforts on environmental protection. Via a Twitter post, Meta said that no one should allow mismanagement of urban waste and air pollution to damage citizens’ lives.

“Albania lacks nothing to be the ‘diamond’ of the Mediterranean and Europe,” Meta said, calling for everyone’s contribution in protecting the country’s nature.

In neighboring North Macedonia, the government also reaffirmed commitment to preserved biodiversity.

“North Macedonia abounds with natural rarities and is fortunate to be endowed with rich biodiversity, but at the same time, it is our duty to preserve it,” the government said in a statement.


To mark World Environment Day, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis presented a plan for promoting electromobility. The target is for one in three new vehicles in the country to be electric by 2030.

Under the plan, the state would offer financial incentives for switching to electric vehicles. The incentives would cover about 25 percent of the cost for about 14,000 new electric cars, Mitsotakis said.

He said the funds allocated for this purpose would reach 100 million euros (113 million United States dollars) over 18 months.

Electric cars would also be exempt from parking fees for two years, and charging costs would be deductible from taxable income, the Greek leader said.

The government also aims to increase the number of electric buses on Greek roads. In an upcoming tender for new buses to be used in public transportation in Athens and Thessaloniki, a significant percentage would have to be electric vehicles.


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Airline SAS to resume more flights to Europe after COVID-19 halt




Stockholm, June 5, 2020 Scandinavian carrier SAS said on Friday it was to resume flights to 20 more destinations in Europe, amid the easing of coronavirus measures.

From its hub in the Danish capital Copenhagen the airline plans after mid-June to resume flights to 16 destinations in Belgium, Croatia, the Faroe Islands, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland,  Lithuania and Spain.

Flights would also later in June begin to operate from the Swedish capital of Stockholm to Palma de Mallorca in Spain, Nice in France, Athens and Thessaloniki in Greece, and some domestic destinations.

SAS is one of numerous airlines severely affected by the fall in demand in air travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sweden’s current recommendation to avoid non-essential foreign travel is valid until July 15, while the Danish Foreign Ministry’s general advice against non-essential travel remains in place until Aug. 31.

Denmark was from June 15 to reopen its borders for tourists from neighbouring Germany, Norway and Iceland.


Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)

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European Commissioner “optimistic” about Portugal’s economic recovery




European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit said on Thursday that he is “reasonably optimistic” about Portugal‘s “rapid recovery” after the crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Portuguese Lusa News Agency.

“We anticipate that the economic recovery in Portugal will happen relatively quickly, which will also allow unemployment to fall faster than what happened in the previous crisis. At the moment, I am reasonably optimistic about Portugal,” he said in an interview with Lusa.

Schmit believed that the situation will now be different from the “euro crisis” 10 years ago, “which had very serious contours in the country and affected especially young people, some of whom having to leave the country.”

The European Commissioner praised Portugal for being able to “control the pandemic quite well.”

“It was not one of the countries most affected and I think this is a positive element for Portugal and for the tourism sector,” he was quoted as saying.

Schmit recalled that Portugal “is also a beneficiary” of the European Commission’s proposal for a Recovery Fund of 750 billion euros (843.36 billion U.S. dollars), of which it will receive 26.3 billion euros (29.57 billion U.S. dollars) to “shorten this severe recession.”

“We are already seeing an increase in unemployment — because people are already losing their jobs — but it is necessary to put in place the right measures to limit it and to help Portugal to recover vigorously,” said the official.


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Italy lifts national and European travel ban as pandemic slows down




People in Italy will be allowed to move freely within the country from Wednesday and the travel restrictions were also eased the same day with travelers from European Union (EU) and Schengen countries, as well as the United Kingdom, Andorra and Monaco being allowed to visit the country without subjecting to quarantine.

“A month from May 4, when we reopened our manufacturing and construction sectors, we can say the numbers are encouraging,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a nationally televised press conference on Wednesday evening.

“The trend of new cases is constantly decreasing in all our regions,” said the prime minister. “This shows the strategy we adopted is and has been the right one.”

As of today, European tourists can also travel to Italy,” he added. “They can visit our country without subjecting to quarantine.”

He added the government is hard at work to ensure Italy is once again “the safe and coveted destination of the tourists of Europe and the whole world.”

“The acute phase of the health emergency is behind us, but now we face the economic and social emergency,” Conte said.

“This crisis must also be an opportunity to design the country we want — to innovate from the ground up, to overcome structural problems we’ve been dragging for years,” Conte said.

He said “we have a historic opportunity” because the EU is planning a multi-billion-euro Recovery Fund and Italy will likely receive a lot of this money as one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe.

“We must know how to spend this money well,” Conte said as he outlined his “Recovery Plan” for Italy, which he said “rests on several pillars.”

He listed modernization, digitalization, innovation, tax and justice reform, cutting red tape, transitioning to sustainable energy, and building a high-speed train network linking the south of Italy to the rest of the country as key elements of the plan.

Meanwhile Health Minister Roberto Speranza sounded a note of warning to his fellow citizens.

“We must proceed with caution and continue to follow the rules we have learned … because they are the key in the battle against COVID-19,” Speranza said in reference to social distancing in a statement released on Wednesday, as the last remaining restrictions on personal freedoms were lifted.

“The virus is still very dangerous,” Speranza warned.

Italy reported 71 new COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s toll to 33,601, out of total infection cases of 233,836, according to fresh figures on Wednesday.

Nationwide, the number of active infections dropped by 596 to 39,297 cases, according to the Civil Protection Department.

Of those who tested positive for the new coronavirus, 353 are in intensive care, 55 fewer compared to Tuesday, and 5,742 are hospitalized with symptoms, a decrease of 174 patients compared to Tuesday.

The remaining 33,202 people, or about 84 percent of those who tested positive, are isolated at home with no symptoms or only mild symptoms.

Recoveries rose by 846 compared to Tuesday, bringing the nationwide total to 160,938.

The overall number of COVID-19 active infections, fatalities and recoveries has risen to 233,836 cases over the past 24 hours, an increase of 321 cases from 233,515 recorded on Tuesday.

The overall fatalities include 167 doctors, according to the National Federation of Orders of Surgeons and Dentists (FNOMCeO), which is keeping a running tally of MDs who died fighting the virus.

As the pandemic slowed down visibly in recent weeks, Italy further eased the 10-week lockdown on May 18. Shops, restaurants, bars, barbershops, beauty salons, museums, and beachfront operators were all allowed to reopen, provided that they respect rules for social distancing and disinfect facilities.

Also on Wednesday, the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, home to masterpieces by Botticelli, Caravaggio, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and many more exquisite Renaissance artists, reopened its doors to visitors.

The museum occupying the first and second floors of a palace built in the late 1500s and designed by Giorgio Vasari is a magnet for tourists worldwide.  


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Germany lifts travel warning for European countries from June 15




Germany’s travel warnings for member states of the European Union (EU), Schengen associated states as well as for Britain would be lifted on June 15 and be replaced by individual travel advice, Foreign Office announced on Wednesday.

As entry restrictions by Norway and Spain would apply beyond June 15, the lifting of Germany’s travel warning for these two countries was delayed and would be adjusted later, according to German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

There had been “intensive talks” with Germany’s European partners in recent weeks, Maas said after a government meeting on Wednesday. Across Europe, lockdown measures were being gradually lifted and hotels and restaurants were reopening.

In many places, the spread of COVID-19 was under control, Maas said, adding that this “positive development” had been taken into account. The decision to lift travel warnings to European countries would “awake great hopes and expectations.”

However, Maas stressed that travel warnings for certain countries or regions could be reactivated again. If more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within one week were recorded in a certain country or region, Germany’s Foreign Office would reevaluate the situation.

An emergency mechanism, which was reached between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany‘s states, uses the same benchmark for deciding whether the partial easing of COVID-19 restrictions has to be reverted.

“We must not lull ourselves into a false sense of security,” stressed Maas. “The pandemic is far from over and together we must prevent a resumption of tourism from leading to a second wave in Germany and elsewhere.”


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Roundup: Europe-based airlines start to resume services as countries try to revive tourism




Europe-based airlines are starting to resume services step by step as countries try to revive tourism as a way to bring their economies battered hard by the COVID-19 pandemic back to life.

Alitalia, Italy‘s flagship airline, formally launched long-haul flight from Rome to New York on Tuesday, a day before the country opens its borders to other Schengen countries. The eight-hour flight will run twice a week.

Since early March, the lockdown has all but shut down the airline aside from some cargo flights and a few flights used to repatriate Italians from coronavirus hotspots.

The airline will also restart flights between Rome and the Sardinian cities of Alghero and Olbia on Wednesday, as well as flights between Rome and Spanish cities of Barcelona on Wednesday and Madrid on Thursday.

All the flights will take place with social distancing rules in effect, meaning that flights will be capped at 33 to 50 percent capacity depending on the type of aircraft.

Germany’s biggest airline Lufthansa announced on Tuesday that it is going to make wearing mouth-nose cover on board mandatory starting from June 8. This change would initially apply to Lufthansa, Eurowings and Lufthansa Cityline and will preliminarily apply until Aug. 31, 2020.

Lithuania lifted on Monday the 14-day self-isolation rule for travellers from 24 European countries.

Travellers coming from Malta, Ireland and Spain are still subject to mandatory self-isolation for 14 days while travel is still prohibited from Belgium, Sweden, Portugal and Britain, where the number of COVID-19 patients exceeds 25 cases per 100,000 population.

Up to now, Lithuania has resumed regular flights to Latvia, Estonia, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands and plans to resume flights to Denmark, Israel and Finland in the upcoming week.

From July 1, Malta will reopen its airport for some European countries and Israel. The lifting of restrictions applied only to direct flights, and passengers have to guarantee that they have stayed in the same country for four weeks prior to the flight.

In Cyprus, airports are scheduled to reopen on June 9 when flights are expected to resume with 19 countries considered by Cypriot authorities to be relatively safe as far as COVID-19 is concerned.

Most hotels are offering big discounts, but have announced on their websites that accommodation will not be available before June 20, when travellers from Greece, Malta, Bulgaria, Norway, Austria, Finland, Slovenia, Hungary, Israel, Denmark, Germany, Slovakia and Lithuania will travel freely without having a proof for a negative COVID-19 test, those from six other countries will still need the proof.

As the summer tourism season is about to start in the coming weeks, the Greek government gave more information on the the conditions under which Greece will welcome tourists.

The Ministry of Tourism announced last Friday the first list of 29 countries, including China, which can send tourists to Greece as of June 15 to the airports of Athens and Thessaloniki.

The list was drafted based on epidemiological data and European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announcements, following recommendations from Greek scientists. These travelers will be subject only to sample testing for COVID-19 upon arrival.

In addition, the country also opens to visitors from other countries as of mid-June. But at least until June 30, all the tourists originating from an airport on the EASA list of affected areas with high risk of transmission of COVID-19, are obliged to be tested upon arrival and will have to spend one night at a designated hotel.

If the test is negative then the passenger has to self quarantine for seven days, while if the test is positive, the passenger is quarantined under supervision for 14 days, according to Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis.

Greek authorities will focus on the departure airports but not the nationality of the travelers, the minister stressed.

As of July 1, international flights are allowed into all airports in Greece and visitors are subject to random tests upon arrival, while additional restrictions regarding certain countries will be announced at a later date.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said on Sunday that there has been a slight easing of world travel restrictions introduced in response to COVID-19.

The Madrid-based agency stressed the importance of international tourism in promoting sustainable economic growth.

“The timely and responsible easing of travel restrictions will help ensure the many social and economic benefits that tourism guarantees will return in a sustainable way. This will contribute to the livelihoods of many millions of people around the world,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said.

“The sector is a driver of sustainable development and a pillar of economies. UNWTO stresses the need for vigilance, responsibility and international cooperation as the world slowly opens up again,” he added.

On May 7, the organization predicted that international tourist numbers would fall by between 60 and 80 percent in 2020 due to the effects of COVID-19.


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V4 PMs discuss with European Council president about EU funds




The prime ministers of the Visegrad group (V4), namely the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, spoke on Tuesday with European Council President Charles Michel about European Union (EU) funds allocated to their respective countries, according to Czech Government Office.

The group discussed the EU Reconstruction Fund and the Multiannual Financial Framework, stressing the necessity to clarify the conditions of loans distributed by the European Commission (EC), said the Government Office in a release.

The Prime Ministers of the V4 identified the allocation criteria as an absolutely key issue. All Member States are facing a major economic downturn, so the distribution of funds should not disadvantage countries that have managed the pandemic well,” said the release.

The Czech Republic is expected to receive nearly 20 billion euros (22.4 billion U.S. dollars) from an extraordinary EC fund meant to prop up the economies of the EU members affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to local media reports.

The EC allotment comes from a 750 billion-euro (840 billion U.S. dollars) proposal for direct payments and loans to affected countries.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis criticized certain factors in determining the distribution of these funds, for example, unemployment, which the Czech Republic has had at a markedly low level for several years.

“I do not agree with the criterion of the unemployment rate in 2015-2019, for example, because it is not related to the problems caused by the coronavirus crisis,” said Babis.


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Iran urges Europe to stand against United States sanctions




Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday urged the European Union to stand against U.S. “illegal” sanctions against the Islamic republic, Press TV reported.

The United States has threatened the lives of 83 million Iranians by imposing “cruel sanctions and preventing the transfer of medicine and essentials to Iran” at the time of novel coronavirus pandemic, Rouhani said in a phone conversation with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto on Tuesday.

Washington has violated international regulations by increasing sanctions against Iran, he said.

“Under the ongoing circumstances, the European Union, particularly Finland, should carry out its duty by condemning the illegal measures of the United States,” Rouhani was quoted as saying.

Since its unilateral exit from the Iranian nuclear deal in 2018, Washington has been mounting pressure on Tehran through a series of sanctions. Iran has maintained a tough stance and scaled back its nuclear commitments in response.


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Spotlight: As restrictions ease further, Europeans mark Children’s Day with messages of hope




European countries took another step to normalcy on Monday with a further easing of anti-coronavirus restrictions, as part of the continent celebrated the International Children’s Day with public figures sending messages of consolation and hope for better days ahead.

In a phased approach, lockdown measures have been lifted cautiously by European governments, with a new phase of easing often coming on Mondays. Across Europe, businesses are reopening and many children are back in school.

An online dashboard, maintained by the WHO European Region, showed that 2.16 million confirmed COVID-19 cases had been reported in 54 countries, with 180,650 deaths as of 10:00 a.m. CET (0800 GMT) on Monday.


Starting on Monday, more than 10 European countries further eased their coronavirus lockdown restrictions, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Romania, Cyprus, Greece, Finland and Albania.

In the Belgian capital of Brussels, the iconic Atomium building reopened its doors to the public, after having been closed since March 14 when Belgium imposed a nationwide lockdown to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Built on the occasion of the 1958 Universal Exhibition and representing the conventional iron crystal mesh magnified 165 billion times, the Atomium is on the verge of bankruptcy, with an estimated loss of 3 million euros (3.3 million United States dollars) due to the lockdown measures.

Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said the Atomium’s reopening marked the return of some degree of freedom. Even if masks and social distance were necessary, she noted, this “should not keep us from enjoying the culture,” Brussels Times reported in an online story.

Also on Monday, the Netherlands reopened restaurants, cafes, theaters, concert halls, museums and cinemas after two and a half months.

“We are taking the second step in easing the anti-coronavirus measures today,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Twitter. “Only if everyone adheres to the measures can we take a step forward.”

Greece also took another step to normalcy with the reopening of primary schools and kindergartens, open-air cinemas, hotels and swimming pools among other businesses which had closed since March.

In Italy, lovers of archeology and antiquity were rewarded by the reopening of the Colosseum Archeological Park and its monuments — which include the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the remains of the Emperor Nero’s Palace, the Domus Aurea — all of which are on the UNESCO World Heritage list as sites of “incomparable artistic value.”


June 1 is the International Children’s Day in more than 10 European countries, including Romania, Portugal, Albania, the Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria, and Serbia.

In Romania, this year Children’s Day has become a big day for people of all ages, since it’s the first day that most of the anti-virus measures were lifted.

When the Grigore Antipa National Museum of Natural History opened at 11 a.m., there was already a long queue at the gate. Zoos and parks in Romania were also favorite choices for children. In parks, children can be seen happily playing with rollers and skateboards.

In Portugal, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa visited the Sagrada Familia Social Complex, where he met children from daycare centers and schools in the metropolitan region of Lisbon.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa published a message on his social media as the country entered the third phase of de-confinement.

“On the day that we celebrate another Children’s Day, we return to socializing in pre-school establishments. Fifteen days ago, we reopened the daycare centers, demonstrating that … we could have our children in these establishments again,” wrote Costa in his tweet.

The Polish government and organizations helped the children celebrate the International Children’s Day with various online activities. The authorities organized a number of online readings for children, including Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki who read a Polish children’s poem for kids.

In Albania, authorities lifted restrictions for citizens to visit parks and playgrounds. The Children’s Day was celebrated with fun activities dedicated to children at the newly reconstructed “Rinia” park in the center of the capital.

Children accompanied by their parents enjoyed the new playgrounds, toys, the concerts with songs and dances, sports games, circus and other fun activities organized by Tirana Municipality.

Albanian President Ilir Meta paid a visit to an orphanage in Tirana, where he donated books and drawing notebooks to the children.

Meta commended New beginnings orphanage for helping some 200 abandoned children, orphans or children from families with major social or financial problems, for 25 years.

“Your mission throughout these years has been to help, support and invest in the children with major social problems, and have them educated and get them out of…poverty, preparing them for the challenges of the future,” he said.


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