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Europe's week: Macron's vaccine push, EU's green plans and deadly floods

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By Euronews
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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen unveils proposals to govern the transition to low carbon economy dubbed "European Green Deal"
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen unveils proposals to govern the transition to low carbon economy dubbed "European Green Deal"   -   Copyright  JOHN THYS/AFP
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It's difficult to gauge the impact of a country's leader's speech to the nation – let alone back it up with numbers.

Yet, in France this week, French President Emmanuel Macron succeeded in triggering an enormous reaction.

The reason: Macron is done politely pleading with the French to get vaccinated.

He is now playing hardball and came with the shock announcement that life for the unvaccinated will become miserable.

"From the beginning of August, the health pass will apply to cafés, restaurants and shopping centres, as well as in hospitals, retirement homes and medical and social establishments, and also on planes, trains and buses for long journeys. Again, only those who have been vaccinated and tested negative will be allowed access to these places," Macron said earlier this week.

The prospect of not being able to do anything fun during the summer and beyond made people jump into action.

In the first 24 hours after the speech, more than a million people booked vaccination appointments – 20,000 per minute. A record since the start of the campaign.

Brussels' bid to reduce carbon emissions by 55% by 2030

The European Commission announced an ambitious package of new climate policies on Wednesday that could have profound consequences for citizens and entire industries.

Dubbed Fit for 55, it is designed to reduce carbon emissions by 55% by 2030.

No one else in the world is entertaining policies that would include the elimination of sales of new gas- and diesel-powered cars or new tariffs on countries with looser climate rules.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pulled all the stops to sell the proposals to the public, depicting them as a necessary step forward in a global competition in which she believes Europe has one advantage: smartness.

“We cannot always compete with the sheer size of our competitors, or for example, the amount of natural resources they have. But we can rely on the most precious renewable resource in the world, and this is our ideas, our ingenuity, our innovative power of our people," von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels.

If all goes through, airlines and cargo ships will require cleaner fuels; steelmakers and other manufacturers will need to pay more for emission credits; and electricity providers will be pushed to speed up the switch to wind, solar and hydropower instead of coal.

Now begins the process of what could be bruising negotiations between the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament.

Ska Keller, the co-chair of the Greens in the European Parliament, told Euronews that she is pleased with the proposals, but they still don't go far enough.

"It's high time that we put our measures on the table. So, I'm very happy that the Commission has come forward with this package," the German MEP said. "However, what we see right now is that while we would put some question marks on whether this is enough in order to fulfil the commitments that we have altogether taken in the Paris climate agreement, there, we see some shortcomings.

"But overall, it's really important to now put some measures behind the targets that the EU has."

Germany floods

And just in case von der Leyen hadn't got her message across about the need for action on climate change, parts of Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands saw record amounts of rainfall, causing devasting floods.

Hundreds are feared dead and missing and as of Friday, it is still impossible to estimate the level of destruction.

Christine Defraigne, the acting mayor of Liege, told Euronews that they still don't have a grip on things.

“The situation is not totally and fully under control because now we have to see all the aftermath and the consequences. So we expect to find corpses, bodies victims. So my thoughts are going to all the victims and the families who have losses, and who have lost everything also," Defraigne said.

The EU has now activated the Civil Protection Mechanism, which is used when an emergency overwhelms the response capabilities of a country in Europe and beyond.

France, Austria and Italy are sending helicopters, ships and teams to Belgium and Germany.