When Krasnik and other towns adopted “free of L.G.B.T.” resolutions in early 2019, few people paid attention to what was widely seen as a political stunt by a governing party that delights in offending its foes’ “political correctness.”

But that changed early last year when Bartosz Staszewski, an L.G.B.T. activist from Warsaw began visiting towns that had vowed to banish “L.G.B.T. ideology.” Mr. Staszewski, a documentary filmmaker, took with him an official-looking yellow sign on which was written in four languages: “L.G.B.T.-FREE ZONE.” He put the fake sign next to each town’s real sign, taking photographs that he posted on social media.

The action, which he called “performance art,” provoked outrage across Europe as it put a spotlight on what Mr. Staszewski described in an interview in Warsaw as a push by conservatives to “turn basic human rights into an ideology.”

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has accused Mr. Staszewski of generating a fake scandal over “no-go zones” that don’t exist. Several towns, supported by a right-wing outfit partly funded by the government, have filed defamation suits against the activist over his representation of bans on “ideology” as barring L.G.B.T. people.

But even those who support the measures often seem confused about what it is that they want excluded.

Asked on television whether the region surrounding Krasnik would become Poland’s first L.G.B.T.-free zone, Elzbieta Kruk, a prominent Law and Justice politician, said, “I think Poland is going to be the first area free of L.G.B.T.” She later reversed herself and said the target was “L.G.B.T. ideology.”

For Mr. Wilk, Krasnik’s mayor, the semantic squabbling is a sign that it is time to drop attempts to make the town “free” of anyone or anything.

But Mr. Albiniak, the initiator of the resolution, vowed to resist what he denounced as blackmail by foreigners threatening to withhold funds.

“If I vote to repeal,” he said, “I vote against myself.”

Anatol Magdziarz contributed reporting.

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An Alliance of Autocracies? China Wants to Lead a New World Order.

President Biden wants to forge an “alliance of democracies.” China wants to make clear that it has alliances of its own.

Only days after a rancorous encounter with American officials in Alaska, China’s foreign minister joined his Russian counterpart last week to denounce Western meddling and sanctions.

He then headed to the Middle East to visit traditional American allies, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, as well as Iran, where he signed a sweeping investment agreement on Saturday. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, reached out to Colombia one day and pledged support for North Korea on another.

Although officials denied the timing was intentional, the message clearly was. China hopes to position itself as the main challenger to an international order, led by the United States, that is generally guided by principles of democracy, respect for human rights and adherence to rule of law.

John Delury, a professor of Chinese studies at Yonsei University in Seoul, said of China’s strategy.

As result, the world is increasingly dividing into distinct if not purely ideological camps, with both China and the United States hoping to lure supporters.

geopolitical competition between models of governance. He compared Mr. Xi to the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, “who thinks that autocracy is the wave of the future and democracy can’t function” in “an ever-complex world.”

He later called the challenge “a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st century and autocracies.”

declared a genocide.

quashing of dissent in Hong Kong, from Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, though a Saudi statement did not mention Xinjiang.

China’s most striking alignment is with Russia, where Mr. Putin has long complained about American hegemony and its use — abuse, in his view — of the global financial system as an instrument of foreign policy.

The Russian foreign minister arrived in China last Monday railing about American sanctions and saying the world needed to reduce its reliance on the U.S. dollar.

China and Russia have drawn closer especially since Mr. Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 was met with international outrage and Western penalties. While the possibility of a formal alliance remains remote, the countries’ diplomatic and economic ties have deepened in common cause against the United States. So have strategic ties. The People’s Liberation Army and the Russian military now routinely hold exercises together and have twice conducted joint air patrols along Japan’s coast, most recently in December.

The two countries announced this month that they would build a research station on the moon together, setting the stage for competing space programs, one led by China and the other by the United States.

“The latest steps and gestures by the Biden administration, seen as hostile and insulting by the Russian and Chinese leaders, have predictably pushed Moscow and Beijing even deeper into a mutual embrace,” said Artyom Lukin, a professor of international studies at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Russia.

report on human rights in the United States on Wednesday, using as an epigraph George Floyd’s plea to the police, “I can’t breathe.”

“The United States should lower the tone of democracy and human rights and talk more about cooperation in global affairs,” Yuan Peng, president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a government think tank, wrote the same day.

From that perspective, Mr. Xi’s outreach to North Korea and Mr. Wang’s visit to Iran could signal China’s interest in working with the United States to resolve disputes over those two countries’ nuclear programs.

Mr. Biden’s administration may be open to that. After the Alaska meetings, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken mentioned both as potential areas where “our interests intersect” with China’s.

sealed trade and investment agreements, including one with the European Union, hoping to box out Mr. Biden.

It didn’t work. The first results of Mr. Biden’s strategy emerged last week, when the United States, Canada, Britain and the European Union jointly announced sanctions on Chinese officials over Xinjiang. China’s condemnation was swift.

“The era when it was possible to make up a story and concoct lies to wantonly meddle in Chinese domestic affairs is past and will not come back,” Mr. Wang said.

China retaliated with sanctions of its own against elected officials and scholars in the European Union and Britain. Similar penalties followed Saturday on Canadians and Americans, including top officials at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government body that held a hearing this month on forced labor in Xinjiang. All affected will be barred from traveling to China or conducting business with Chinese companies or individuals.

Theresa Fallon, director of the Center for Russia Europe Asia Studies in Brussels, said China’s sanctions on Europeans were an overreaction that would drive officials into an anti-China camp.

They could also jeopardize China’s investment deal with the European Union, as many of those penalized are members of the European Parliament, whose approval is required. So could new campaigns by Chinese consumers against major Western brands like H & M and Nike.

Until now, many European Union nations have not wanted to explicitly choose sides, eschewing the kind of bipolar ideological divisions seen during the Cold War, in part because of deepening economic ties with China.

With each new twist in relations, however, clearer camps are emerging. “The Chinese mirror all the time,” Ms. Fallon said. “They always accuse people of Cold War thinking because I think that’s really, deep down, how they think.”

Chris Buckley contributed reporting, and Claire Fu contributed research.

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Serbia Hails Chinese Companies as Saviors, but Locals Chafe at Costs

METOVNICA, Serbia — The well in the retired couple’s yard, their only source of clean water, began to dry up two years ago. Last year, dead fish started washing up on the banks of the river that runs by their home in a bucolic village in southeastern Serbia.

But most disturbing of all for Verica Zivkovic and her husband, Miroslav, are the ever-widening cracks in the walls of the house they built after moving to the countryside more than a decade ago to raise goats.

“We came here for the peace and quiet,” said Ms. Zivkovic, 62, but that all changed when a Chinese company arrived.

In 2018, the company, the Zijin Mining Group, took control of a money-losing copper smelter in the nearby city of Bor and began blasting away in the nearby hills in search of copper and gold.

pro-democracy group Freedom House downgraded Serbia in 2019 from “free” to “partly free,” citing a tightening grip on politics, civil liberties and the media.

In January, 26 members of the European Parliament demanded a review of the “growing impact of China’s economic footprint in Serbia,” including “reckless projects with potentially devastating multiple impacts on the wider environment as well as surrounding population.”

The roots of Serbia’s tilt toward China date to 1999, during the Kosovo war, when U.S. warplanes mistakenly bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, killing three Chinese journalists. On that site now stands a huge Chinese cultural center. A marble memorial stone outside bears inscriptions in Serbian and Chinese hail China’s “martyrs.”

But memories of shared suffering at American hands have faded in places like Bor, site of the Chinese-owned smelter.

Pollution from the Bor plant skyrocketed to many times the legally permitted level in 2019 and 2020, setting off a series of street protests and prompting Zijin Mining’s general manager in Serbia to tell his managers last October that he was “very dissatisfied” with the “frightening” level of pollution, according to leaked minutes of the meeting.

He blamed the bad publicity, which he said had damaged “the government of the People’s Republic of China,” on “people who are in favor of the West and receive support” who “have stood in opposition to our work.”

Bor’s mayor, Aleksandar Milikic, a Vucic loyalist, initially dismissed the protests as the work of political agitators.

But, apparently worried about losing votes, he announced last year that he would file a court case against Zijin for negligence. It is not clear whether he actually did so. The mayor declined to be interviewed. Zijin Mining did not respond to requests for comment.

Milenko Jovanovic, an air pollution expert, said he was fired in November from Serbia’s Environmental Protection Agency after raising concerns about dangerously high levels of sulfur dioxide and arsenic in the air around Bor.

The government, he said, rejected anything that might upset China and its investors. “It lets them do whatever they want to do,” he said.

A court in Belgrade ruled this month that Mr. Jovanovic had been unfairly dismissed and ordered that he be given his job back.

Activists concede that air pollution levels in Bor have fallen since protests, but say that the main danger has now shifted to towns and villages to the south, where hundreds of Chinese workers brought in by Zijin are developing one of the world’s biggest unexploited copper deposits, and digging for gold.

The earth around the new mine trembles from blasting work and the heavy trucks, driven by Chinese workers, that rumble along roads adorned with China’s red national flag. Rivers and streams are discolored by effluent.

The government has added to public anger by issuing expropriation orders so that Zijin can build access roads and expand its mine. Dragan Viacic, a farmer, said he had received a letter from Serbia’s finance ministry informing him that he must sell 13 acres of his land at a fraction of the market price.

“They said this was necessary in the public interest but in reality this is just the interest of the Chinese,” he said.

In Metovnica, a village near the mine, Mr. Zivkovic and his wife used to have 25 goats but, with no clean water on hand after their well dried up, they now keep just one.

“Why don’t we have any water anymore? Why are there no fish in the river?” The answer, he said, is Zijin Mining Group.

Pointing to fissures radiating across the wall of his house that appeared last year after Chinese miners started using explosives, Mr. Zivkovic said: “It was a tiny crack at first but then it spread.”

Confident that it has the support of Mr. Vucic and his officials, the mining company and other Chinese ventures in Serbia have mostly ignored complaints and shrouded their operations in secrecy.

Sasa Stankovic, an environmental activist and elected member of the Bor regional council, said he had tried unsuccessfully to contact Zijin to discuss pollution levels. The copper smelter in Bor, he said, had been hazardous to health for decades, but the dangers jumped sharply after Zijin arrived and ramped up production.

Bor now accounts for a stunning 80 percent of Serbian exports to China, repeating a pattern widely seen in Africa of Chinese firms extracting natural resources for shipment back to China.

At Slatina, a village down the road, Miodrag Zivkovic, a local farmer stood on a rickety bridge over the Bor River, its waters thick with sludge and garbage, and said: “We didn’t go to the Chinese mine but the mine came to us.”

All the same, he said, given the few jobs available in the region, his son would still like to get work at the smelter, which pays relatively well. “Everyone here needs a salary and is ready to risk everything,” he lamented.

Cao Li contributed reporting from Hong Kong and Monika Pronczuk from Brussels.

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Can U.S. Travelers Go To Europe? Here’s What to Know

With the number of people in the United States vaccinated against the coronavirus climbing, Americans are starting to explore their prospects for international travel this summer, a season when Europe is traditionally a big draw.

Most of Europe has been off-limits to most U.S. citizens for over a year, and the continent is currently grappling with a third wave of coronavirus infections and a surge in new, more contagious variants, making it unclear when its borders will reopen. But some European countries have started to welcome vaccinated travelers, including American tourists, and others are making preparations to ease restrictions in time for the summer season.

Vaccine and health certificates that would help speed travel are under development, which could make it easier for tourism to restart. The 27 member countries of the European Union have endorsed the idea of a vaccine certificate. While individual European countries will still set their own rules, the initiative is expected to establish a coordinated approach across the continent.

“Finally, we have a tangible solution to coordinating and harmonizing travel measures,” said Eduardo Santander, chief executive of the European Travel Commission, an association of national tourism organizations based in Brussels. “I think other countries like the U.S. will also come up with their own technological solutions that will be compatible and after a period of trials this summer, a global standard will be established.”

including Albania and Armenia.

As the number of cases has risen in Europe, and vaccination has been sluggish, several European Union countries have gone back into lockdown. France, Belgium and Portugal have reintroduced stringent measures that restrict nonessential travel, even from within the bloc and within what is known as the Schengen Zone, which includes nonmember countries that allow free movement across their borders.

“Right now, in some European countries, it might feel like you are in the middle of a storm, which is how we felt in the U.K a couple of months ago,” said Gloria Guevara Manzo, chief executive and president of the World Travel & Tourism Council, a forum that works with governments to raise awareness about the travel industry.

European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Association. “But right now, we are not talking about Americans visiting Europe.”

American travelers do have some options, though: Having brought the virus under control, Iceland is allowing all vaccinated travelers — including those from the United States — to enter without being subject to Covid-19 testing or quarantine measures.

Greece, one of the most popular European summer destinations for Americans, announced this month that it would reopen for all tourists in mid-May, as long as they show proof of vaccination, antibodies or a negative Covid-19 test result before traveling. All visitors will be subject to random testing upon arrival.

Turkey said it would not require international travelers to be vaccinated this summer and will re-evaluate testing policies after April 15.

Other European countries like Slovenia and Estonia are letting in vaccinated tourists, but not those from the United States.

several cruise lines have announced “staycation sailings” around the British Isles starting in June.

Many Britons traveled last summer when the virus seemed to have ebbed, and a recent study found that they brought a significant number of infections back into the United Kingdom. A ban on British travel abroad for leisure was enacted on Jan. 4 and was expected to expire in May, but the government introduced legislation this week that lays down the legal framework to extend the restrictions until the end of June.

It is not clear when exactly the United Kingdom lift its quarantine requirements for more tourism, but Visit Britain forecasts a slow recovery that will start toward late summer.

Earlier this month, the European Commission proposed a digital travel certificate that would prove that a person has been vaccinated, received a negative Covid-19 test result or recovered after contracting the virus.

States have different quarantine requirements, so travelers should check what their state requires before booking a vacation abroad.

Each country sets its own rules, but most safety protocols are unlikely to change this summer, even for those who have been vaccinated.

Visitors will be expected to wear masks and keep a safe distance in public spaces. Hotels, restaurants and event spaces will have enhanced cleaning protocols in place, and some may impose capacity restrictions.

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Rich Countries Signed Away a Chance to Vaccinate the World

In the coming days, a patent will finally be issued on a five-year-old invention, a feat of molecular engineering that is at the heart of at least five major Covid-19 vaccines. And the United States government will control that patent.

The new patent presents an opportunity — and some argue the last best chance — to exact leverage over the drug companies producing the vaccines and pressure them to expand access to less affluent countries.

The question is whether the government will do anything at all.

The rapid development of Covid-19 vaccines, achieved at record speed and financed by massive public funding in the United States, the European Union and Britain, represents a great triumph of the pandemic. Governments partnered with drugmakers, pouring in billions of dollars to procure raw materials, finance clinical trials and retrofit factories. Billions more were committed to buy the finished product.

But this Western success has created stark inequity. Residents of wealthy and middle-income countries have received about 90 percent of the nearly 400 million vaccines delivered so far. Under current projections, many of the rest will have to wait years.

to help an Indian company produce about 1 billion doses by the end of 2022 and his administration has donated doses to Mexico and Canada. But he has made it clear that his focus is at home.

“We’re going to start off making sure Americans are taken care of first,” Mr. Biden said recently. “But we’re then going to try and help the rest of the world.”

Pressuring companies to share patents could be seen as undermining innovation, sabotaging drugmakers or picking drawn-out and expensive fights with the very companies digging a way out of the pandemic.

As rich countries fight to keep things as they are, others like South Africa and India have taken the battle to the World Trade Organization, seeking a waiver on patent restrictions for Covid-19 vaccines.

as part of their vaccine diplomacy. The Gamaleya Institute in Moscow, for example, has entered into partnerships with producers from Kazakhstan to South Korea, according to data from Airfinity, a science analytics company, and UNICEF. Chinese vaccine makers have reached similar deals in the United Arab Emirates, Brazil and Indonesia.

Canada to Bangladesh say they can make vaccines — they just lack patent licensing deals. When the price is right, companies have shared secrets with new manufacturers in just months, ramping up production and retrofitting factories.

pressured Johnson & Johnson to accept the help and is using wartime procurement powers to secure supplies for the company. It will also pay to retrofit Merck’s production line, with an eye toward making vaccines available to every adult in the United States by May.

Despite the hefty government funding, drug companies control nearly all of the intellectual property and stand to make fortunes off the vaccines. A critical exception is the patent expected to be approved soon — a government-led discovery for manipulating a key coronavirus protein.

This breakthrough, at the center of the 2020 race for a vaccine, actually came years earlier in a National Institutes of Health lab, where an American scientist named Dr. Barney Graham was in pursuit of a medical moonshot.

For years, Dr. Graham specialized in the kind of long, expensive research that only governments bankroll. He searched for a key to unlock universal vaccines — genetic blueprints to be used against any of the roughly two dozen viral families that infect humans. When a new virus emerged, scientists could simply tweak the code and quickly make a vaccine.

In 2016, while working on Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, another coronavirus known as MERS, he and his colleagues developed a way to swap a pair of amino acids in the coronavirus spike protein. That bit of molecular engineering, they realized, could be used to develop effective vaccines against any coronavirus. The government, along with its partners at Dartmouth College and the Scripps Research Institute, filed for a patent, which will be issued this month.

another virus when the outbreak in China inspired his team to change focus. “We just flipped it to coronavirus and said, ‘How fast can we go?’” Dr. Graham recalled.

filed such a lawsuit in 2019 against the drugmaker Gilead over H.I.V. medication.

being lured to the United States.

“We funded the research, on both sides of the Atlantic,” said Udo Bullmann, a German member of the European Parliament. “You could have agreed on a paragraph that says ‘You are obliged to give it to poor countries in a way that they can afford it.’ Of course you could have.”

In May, the leaders of Pakistan, Ghana, South Africa and others called for governments to support a “people’s vaccine” that could be quickly manufactured and given for free.

They urged the governing body of the World Health Organization to treat vaccines as “global public goods.”

Though such a declaration would have had no teeth, the Trump administration moved swiftly to block it. Intent on protecting intellectual property, the government said calls for equitable access to vaccines and treatments sent “the wrong message to innovators.”

World leaders ultimately approved a watered-down declaration that recognized extensive immunization — not the vaccines themselves — as a global public good.

grant language requiring equitable access to vaccines. As leverage, the organization retains some right to the intellectual property.

Dr. Slaoui, who came to Warp Speed after leading research and development at GlaxoSmithKline, is sympathetic to this idea. But it would have been impractical to demand patent concessions and still deliver on the program’s primary goals of speed and volume, he said.

“I can guarantee you that the agreements with the companies would have been much more complex and taken a much longer time,” he said. The European Union, for example, haggled over price and liability provisions, which delayed the rollout.

In some ways, this was a trip down a trodden path. When the H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic broke out in 2009, the wealthiest countries cornered the global vaccine market and all but locked out the rest of the world.

Experts said at the time that this was a chance to rethink the approach. But the swine flu pandemic fizzled and governments ended up destroying the vaccines they had hoarded. They then forgot to prepare for the future.

For months, the United States and European Union have blocked a proposal at the World Trade Organization that would waive intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. The application, put forward by South Africa and India with support from most developing nations, has been bogged down in procedural hearings.

“Every minute we are deadlocked in the negotiating room, people are dying,” said Mustaqeem De Gama, a South African diplomat who is involved in the talks.

But in Brussels and Washington, leaders are still worried about undermining innovation.

During the presidential campaign, Mr. Biden’s team gathered top intellectual property lawyers to discuss ways to increase vaccine production.

“They were planning on taking the international view on things,” said Ana Santos Rutschman, a Saint Louis University law professor who participated in the sessions.

Most of the options were politically thorny. Among them was the use of a federal law allowing the government to seize a company’s patent and give it to another in order to increase supply. Former campaign advisers say the Biden camp was lukewarm to this proposal and others that called for a broader exercise of its powers.

The administration has instead promised to give $4 billion to Covax, the global vaccine alliance. The European Union has given nearly $1 billion so far. But Covax aims to vaccinate only 20 percent of people in the world’s poorest countries this year, and faces a $2 billion shortfall even to accomplish that.

Dr. Graham, the N.I.H. scientist whose team cracked the coronavirus vaccine code for Moderna, said that pandemic preparedness and vaccine development should be international collaborations, not competitions.

“A lot of this would not have happened unless there was a big infusion of government money,” he said.

But governments cannot afford to sabotage companies that need profit to survive.

Dr. Graham has largely moved on from studying the coronavirus. He is searching for a universal flu vaccine, a silver bullet that could prevent all strains of the disease without an annual tweak.

Though he was vaccinated through work, he spent the early part of the year trying to get his wife and grown children onto waiting lists — an ordeal that even one of the key inventors had to endure. “You can imagine how aggravating that is,” he said.

Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Monika Pronczuk contributed reporting.

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A Pro-Europe, Anti-Populist Youth Party Scored Surprising Gains in the Dutch Elections

Lost among the mostly humdrum national elections in the Netherlands this week was the emergence of Volt, an anti-populist, pro-Europe party made up of students and young professionals that snatched three seats in the Dutch Parliament — the first national electoral success in its five years of existence.

Volt wasn’t the only outsider group to win a seat or two in the elections. One politician arrived at Parliament driving a tractor with flashing lights to claim her newly won seat for a farmer’s party. Sylvana Simons, a former TV presenter, won a seat for “Bij1,” an anticapitalist party. A new far right, anti-immigrant party won four seats.

Over the last two decades, however, it was populists and far right parties that played the insurgent role in Dutch politics, promoting anti-immigrant, anti-establishment and anti-European policies. While never a serious threat to seize power, in 2016 representatives of these parties initiated and won a referendum in the Netherlands on an E.U. trade treaty with Ukraine, temporarily halting the deal.

This makes this week’s victory of newcomer Volt all the more remarkable. The party is staunchly pro-Europe, something that most traditional parties had thought was a complete turnoff for voters.

Laurens Dassen, 35, the party’s Dutch leader. “For us, Europe is a fact of life.”

Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose center-right Party for Freedom and Democracy comfortably won the greatest number of seats for the fourth time since 2010, has had a tense relationship with Europe. Last year, for example, he upset Southern European countries when he refused to discuss financial support during the pandemic, and brought a biography of Chopin to the meetings because he wasn’t planning on talking anyway.

The success of Volt in the Netherlands is all the more remarkable in that it isn’t even a Dutch party but an offshoot of a European movement, with 9,000 members scattered across Europe, and a few more in Switzerland and Albania. The main party was established in 2016 by Andrea Venzon, 29, an Italian living in London, and has a presence in every one of the 27 member states of the European Union.

article about Volt, decided to join and gave up my job some months later to really try to get the party started.”

In the Dutch elections Volt piled up heavy vote totals in several Dutch student cities like Delft and Leiden, powered in part by a social media campaign and a broad network of volunteers.

Another pro-European party, the D66, won an extra four seats this week, making it the second largest party in the parliament. Its leader, Sigrid Kaag, is a former United Nations special envoy for Syria and the outgoing foreign minister of trade and development.

Because no party in the Dutch Parliament commands a majority, analysts said the idiosyncrasies of coalition building could bring Volt into the governing bloc along with Mr. Rutte and Ms. Kaag.

Whatever the outcome of that horse trading, analysts think Volt’s future is bright in the Netherlands.

“They could be big here and double their seats if they manage to go even stronger on the climate,” said Felix Rotterberg, a campaign strategist long affiliated with the social-democratic party PvdA. “Volt has the youth, and there will only be more of those in the future.”

The party is on a winning streak in other parts of Europe, though nothing else is as high-profile as its victories in the Netherlands. Volt now has over 30 elected representatives across Europe, mainly in municipalities in Germany and Italy. But it has also won its first seat in the European Parliament, in the person of Damian Boeselager, 33.

rejoin Europe campaign.

Its leaders emphasize Volt’s pan-European character, which they say differentiates it from any other party in Europe.

“Every one of our members, has direct voting rights at the European level, they are able to choose our board and influence our policies directly,” said Valerie Sternberg, 30, the party’s Germany-based co-president. “No matter where you live in Europe, even in Britain.”

The party doesn’t have a youth organization. “Most of us are young ourselves,” she said.

Ms. Sternberg said she cried “tears of joy,” when she learned about the success of Volt’s Dutch chapter, and said the party is now setting its sights on Germany, which is having national elections in the fall.

“Our weak point is in rural areas across Europe, we need to get our message there, now populists are winning there,” she said. “We hope that Covid is showing people that isolation makes us weak and cooperation makes us stronger.”

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Why Biden’s China Policy Faces an Obstacle in Germany

TAICANG, China — German and Chinese flags flutter along tree-lined avenues. Workers are erecting a shopping-and-hotel project with the half-timbered style of architecture more typically found in places like Bavaria or the Black Forest. A nearby restaurant serves Thuringia grilled sausages, fried pork sausages and lots of sauerkraut.

And in Erwin Gerber’s bakery nearby in Taicang, an industrial city a little more than an hour’s drive northwest of Shanghai, hungry customers can buy a loaf of country sourdough bread or a pretzel baked the way they are made in Baden-Württemberg.

“Everything you find in Germany,” Mr. Gerber said, “you will find in my bakery.”

Taicang epitomizes the deep ties between the world’s second- and fourth-largest economies. The Chinese city is so tightly knit with Germany’s industrial machine that some people call it “Little Swabia,” after the German region that the owners of many of its factories call home.

an initial European Union investment protection deal with China, despite objections from the incoming Biden administration. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has defended the agreement as necessary to help European companies make further gains in China. She signaled in January that she does not want Germany to take sides in a new Cold War, telling the World Economic Forum, “I’m not in favor of the formation of blocs.”

Her stance could have broad sway throughout Europe, given Germany’s position as its largest economy. “It’s a swing state in terms of influence,” said Theresa Fallon, director of the Center for Russia Europe Asia Studies in Brussels.

Germany will be under growing pressure in the months ahead to pick a side. The deal with China still requires approval from the European Parliament, where many are hostile to it.

crackdown on the democracy movement in Hong Kong and its detention of as many as a million members of predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, in China’s far west.

“We are not happy about vague promises made in regard to the brutal suppression of the minorities,” said Reinhard Bütikofer, a member of the European Parliament who is the Green Party’s spokesman on foreign policy issues.

recent study by the Bertelsmann Foundation warned, China will no longer need them.

“It won’t be a win-win situation anymore,” said Ulrich Ackermann, director of foreign markets for the Mechanical Engineering Industry Association, known by its German initials, V.D.M.A., which financed the study by the foundation.

Most of the German companies in Taicang are small and midsize manufacturers that make niche industrial products, or the “Mittelstand” companies that underpin the German economy.

Germany’s first roots in Taicang were planted in 1985, when Hans-Jochem Steim, the managing director of a German manufacturer of wire springs, went looking for a place to build a factory. Taicang, little more than a collection of villages then, was a short drive north from Shanghai’s only commercial airport at the time and had a small-town atmosphere that reminded him of the company’s hometown, Schramberg in Swabia.

Kern-Liebers, Mr. Steim’s manufacturer, was the first of what turned out to be over 350 German companies that set up operations in Taicang, drawn by cheap real estate, a nearby airport and cooperative local officials. Mr. Steim encouraged his longtime suppliers to follow him.

“The first 20 German investors were more or less his friends,” said Richard Zhang, the chief executive of Kern-Liebers’s China operations.

Among those early investors was TOX Pressotechnik, which makes machines that join pieces of metal and are used to construct car roofs, chassis and other components. While big companies tended to set up in major population centers, “as a small company, you went to Taicang,” said Susanne Eberhardt, a member of the family that owns the company, which is based in Weingarten in southern Germany.

Chinese employees hired by TOX meshed well with the Germans. “The Chinese people exuded energy and optimism,” Ms. Eberhardt said. “You could feel that China was on the verge of a breakthrough, and they were unbelievably proud to be part of it.”

The Germans taught local managers so well that, these days, Taicang has everything German except a large number of Germans themselves. The vast majority of the customers at Mr. Gerber’s bakery are Chinese. The few expatriates tend to live in Shanghai, which has a German-language school for their children.

German companies in Taicang were usually not big enough to attract a lot of attention from the central government. Several said they did not feel pressure to share technology and trade secrets, a common complaint by larger foreign investors.

“If you don’t touch politically sensitive issues, it’s a very friendly environment,” said Matthias Müller, the managing director of the German Center for Industry and Trade in Taicang.

German investors helped transform Taicang into a city with almost one million people. Workers who once rode bicycles now drive cars.

In 2004, when Klaus Gerlach was setting up operations for Krones, a German maker of machinery for the food and beverage industry, “we had one car in the parking lot, and it was mine,” he said. “Today, the parking lot is full of cars.”

The downside of that growth is that Taicang, like factory towns all over China, is suffering from a shortage of blue-collar labor. Workers tend to job hop frequently unless they receive pay raises and other benefits.

Kern-Liebers has set 5,000 renminbi, or $775, as the monthly pay for entry-level workers, a more than sixteenfold increase from the 1990s. “At that time,” Mr. Zhang said, “we paid 300 and everyone was very happy. Now we pay 5,000 and they are not so happy.”

German companies say they still see room for growth in China. They say the government is not targeting them, because they produce in China and employ predominantly Chinese people.

Vanessa Hellwing, chief financial officer of Chiron, a maker of machine tools used by automakers and the aerospace industry that has a factory in Taicang, said the Chinese economy’s fast recovery from the pandemic had helped compensate for declining sales elsewhere.

Europe remains Chiron’s biggest market, Ms. Hellwing said, but “the most important growth market is China.”

Keith Bradsher reported from Taicang, and Jack Ewing from Frankfurt.

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E.U. Proposes Covid-19 Certificate for Travelers

BRUSSELS — Pressed by member states desperate to save the summer tourist season, the European Union on Wednesday proposed a Covid-19 certificate that would allow people to travel more freely.

The proposed document, known as a Digital Green Certificate, would allow European residents and their family members to travel at will across the bloc, so long as they have proof of Covid-19 vaccination, a negative test result or a documented recovery from the virus.

The certificates would be free and available in digital or paper format.

“The Digital Green Certificate will not be a precondition to free movement, and it will not discriminate in any way,” Didier Reynders, the bloc’s top official for justice, said, adding that the aim was to “gradually restore free movement within the E.U. and avoid fragmentation.”

Freedom of movement is the cornerstone of the bloc, but travel restrictions are traditionally under the purview of national governments. The commission’s plan is yet another bid to coordinate what is now a chaotic patchwork of disparate national measures, significantly hindering travel within the previously borderless zone.

the largest European countries suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over reports of a few cases of serious blood clots among people who received it. The suspension could be lifted soon, but severe production problems have made millions fewer AstraZeneca doses available.

The problems have been an embarrassment for the European Union and its executive arm, the Commission, which took control of the procurement process, although member states are responsible for issuing vaccinations.

But Europeans, held under one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world, are experiencing a deep pandemic fatigue, further complicating the way out of the crisis.

The commission also laid out a long-term strategy to gradually lift the lockdown measures, conditional upon each country’s epidemiological situation. A judgment would be made based on simulations by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the commission said.

“The situation with the virus in Europe is still very challenging,” said Stella Kyriakides, the bloc’s top health official. “It is only through a joint approach that we can return safely to full free movement in the E.U.”

The proposal does not change Europe’s current rules on external travel. The bloc has restricted nonessential travel from countries outside the bloc, with a small number of exceptions, based on infection rates. Travelers who are not E.U. residents could receive a Covid-19 certificate, but only if their visit to Europe falls under one of those exceptions.

In the meantime, some member nations are striking out on their own, eager to reopen to non-European tourists. Greece has already signed an agreement with Israel and is working on similar deals with 10 more countries, including Britain, Canada and the United States.

The Commission’s plan would need to be approved by the European Parliament and a majority of member states. The aim is to make the certificates operational by mid-June, in order to salvage the summer season.

The initial push for some form of a vaccination certificate has come from by countries heavily dependent on tourism, led by Greece, while others, including France and Germany, have been wary of the potential for discrimination between vaccinated and non-vaccinated Europeans, as well as privacy issues.

National governments have also been split over which vaccines should be included in the pass. Hungary is inoculating its citizens with the Russian Sputnik vaccine and the shot made by Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned company, even though neither has been approved by the European Medicines Agency, and other nations are looking to do the same.

In a spirit of compromise, the commission proposed that all shots approved by the E.U. regulator should be included in the pass, but gave member states discretionary powers to recognize vaccines that have not yet been authorized in Europe.

Many countries reintroduced border controls and began requiring quarantine for arriving travelers in recent months, as more contagious virus variants began spreading rapidly, a gloomy replication of the pandemic’s first wave. Some countries, like Belgium, which shares borders with four other E.U. nations, completely banned nonessential travel.

Any discussions of the Covid-19 certificate are likely to focus on data protection and privacy rights, said Juan Fernando López Aguilar, a European socialist lawmaker from Spain. “We need to make sure that every step we make is made compatible with the fundamental rights of the citizen,” he said.

Guntram Wolff, the director of Bruegel, a research group focused on economic policy in Europe, said that verifying vaccination and testing was “absolutely essential” for reopening the tourism sector.

“Once a person is vaccinated and the evidence shows that he or she cannot transmit the virus anymore, how can you justify restricting his or her basic freedoms?” he asked.

“The E.U. has been slow, since countries disagree on what travel should be allowed,” he said. “They even disagree on which vaccines are safe.”

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Europe’s Plan to Save Summer: A Covid-19 Travel Certificate

BRUSSELS — Pressed by member states desperate to save the summer tourist season, the European Union on Wednesday proposed a Covid-19 certificate that would allow people to travel more freely.

The proposed document, known as a Digital Green Certificate, would allow European residents and their family members to travel at will across the bloc, so long as they have proof of Covid-19 vaccination, a negative test result or a documented recovery from the virus.

The certificates would be free and available in digital or paper format.

“The Digital Green Certificate will not be a precondition to free movement, and it will not discriminate in any way,” Didier Reynders, the bloc’s top official for justice, said, adding that the aim was to “gradually restore free movement within the E.U. and avoid fragmentation.”

Freedom of movement is the cornerstone of the bloc, but travel restrictions are traditionally under the purview of national governments. The commission’s plan is yet another bid to coordinate what is now a chaotic patchwork of disparate national measures, significantly hindering travel within the previously borderless zone.

the largest European countries suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over reports of a few cases of serious blood clots among people who received it. The suspension could be lifted soon, but severe production problems have made millions fewer AstraZeneca doses available.

The problems have been an embarrassment for the European Union and its executive arm, the Commission, which took control of the procurement process, although member states are responsible for issuing vaccinations.

But Europeans, held under one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world, are experiencing a deep pandemic fatigue, further complicating the way out of the crisis.

The commission also laid out a long-term strategy to gradually lift the lockdown measures, conditional upon each country’s epidemiological situation. A judgment would be made based on simulations by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the commission said.

“The situation with the virus in Europe is still very challenging,” said Stella Kyriakides, the bloc’s top health official. “It is only through a joint approach that we can return safely to full free movement in the E.U.”

The proposal does not change Europe’s current rules on external travel. The bloc has restricted nonessential travel from countries outside the bloc, with a small number of exceptions, based on infection rates. Travelers who are not E.U. residents could receive a Covid-19 certificate, but only if their visit to Europe falls under one of those exceptions.

In the meantime, some member nations are striking out on their own, eager to reopen to non-European tourists. Greece has already signed an agreement with Israel and is working on similar deals with 10 more countries, including Britain, Canada and the United States.

The Commission’s plan would need to be approved by the European Parliament and a majority of member states. The aim is to make the certificates operational by mid-June, in order to salvage the summer season.

The initial push for some form of a vaccination certificate has come from by countries heavily dependent on tourism, led by Greece, while others, including France and Germany, have been wary of the potential for discrimination between vaccinated and non-vaccinated Europeans, as well as privacy issues.

National governments have also been split over which vaccines should be included in the pass. Hungary is inoculating its citizens with the Russian Sputnik vaccine and the shot made by Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned company, even though neither has been approved by the European Medicines Agency, and other nations are looking to do the same.

In a spirit of compromise, the commission proposed that all shots approved by the E.U. regulator should be included in the pass, but gave member states discretionary powers to recognize vaccines that have not yet been authorized in Europe.

Many countries reintroduced border controls and began requiring quarantine for arriving travelers in recent months, as more contagious virus variants began spreading rapidly, a gloomy replication of the pandemic’s first wave. Some countries, like Belgium, which shares borders with four other E.U. nations, completely banned nonessential travel.

Any discussions of the Covid-19 certificate are likely to focus on data protection and privacy rights, said Juan Fernando López Aguilar, a European socialist lawmaker from Spain. “We need to make sure that every step we make is made compatible with the fundamental rights of the citizen,” he said.

Guntram Wolff, the director of Bruegel, a research group focused on economic policy in Europe, said that verifying vaccination and testing was “absolutely essential” for reopening the tourism sector.

“Once a person is vaccinated and the evidence shows that he or she cannot transmit the virus anymore, how can you justify restricting his or her basic freedoms?” he asked.

“The E.U. has been slow, since countries disagree on what travel should be allowed,” he said. “They even disagree on which vaccines are safe.”

View Source