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Five stories you may have missed due to coronavirus

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Anti-Brexit activists' EU flags are pictured alongside the Union flags of pro-Brexit activists. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP/ file)
Anti-Brexit activists' EU flags are pictured alongside the Union flags of pro-Brexit activists. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP/ file)   -   Copyright  TOLGA AKMEN/AFP or licensors
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European democratic values being put to the test, a Van Gogh masterpiece missing, and what’s happened to Brexit? – Here are the stories you may have missed this week due to coronavirus.

1. EU court rules three member states broke law over refugee quotas

Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic failed to comply with EU law by refusing to take in their share of asylum seekers that arrived in southern Europe during the height of the 2015 crisis, the European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday.

AFP or licensors
Refugees and migrants in the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos on March 16, 2020. (Photo by Manolis Lagoutaris / AFP)AFP or licensorsMANOLIS LAGOUTARIS

The ECJ says in its ruling that these countries had failed to accept their share of 120,000 asylum seekers who had arrived in Italy and Greece, under a relocation programme agreed by the European Council.

2. Hungary under scrutiny for emergency measures

Hungary’s parliament granted Prime Minister Viktor Orban sweeping new powers on Monday, which have been criticised by rights groups as an attack on democracy.

Hungary’s parliament, which Orban’s right-wing Fidesz party holds a two-thirds majority, voted to extend the “state of danger,” an emergency measure which is being used during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban votes on the government's bill on the protection against the new coronavirus COVID-19 (Photo by Zoltan MATHE / POOL / AFP)AFP or licensorsZOLTAN MATHE

As well as allowing Orban to rule by decree, those who are found guilty of spreading ‘false information’ about the virus could be imprisoned for up to five years.

On Thursday, a group of 13 EU member states said they were “deeply concerned” by the move. While European Commission chief Ursula von de Leyen said she was “concerned that certain (emergency) measures go too far” and that she was “particularly concerned with the situation in Hungary".

3. EU party tells UK to extend Brexit transition period

Brexit may not be the first thing on European leaders’ minds but it’s not totally forgotten.

The most powerful political group in EU parliament urged the UK to extend the Brexit transition period on Monday, as the coronavirus pandemic takes a toll on the negotiation period.

The European People’s Party (EPP), who holds the largest group of MEPs in the EU parliament, said in a statement that an extension would be the “responsible thing to do”.

AFP or licensors
Anti-Brexit campaigners are seen in Westminster, central London on February 26, 2020. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)AFP or licensorsDANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS

Under the current terms of the Brexit deal, an extension of up to two years is possible if Brussels and London agree to one before July 1.

The Brexit transition period is currently set to end on 31 December 2020, which halts the British membership of the EU single market and customs union.

4. Climate change is still happening

While nature may be returning to Europe’s streets due to humans being locked up and pollution levels dropping, the bad news is there’s still no end in sight to climate change.

Copernicus, the EU's climate monitoring service, has revealed that from mid-February to mid-March, nitrous dioxide levels over northern Italy were declining at a rate of about 10% every week.

AP John Mcconnico
an iceberg melts in Kulusuk, Greenland near the arctic circle. File photo, 2015.AP John Mcconnico

"That's not the same as climate change, I'm afraid," said Euronews’ space and science correspondent Jeremy Wilks.

"I've just been talking to experts about this very question, and [this won't affect climate change] in any way,” he added.

5. Van Gogh masterpiece stolen from Dutch museum

A painting by Dutch master Vincent van Gogh was stolen from a museum closed in order to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, police have confirmed.

The thieves took Van Gogh’s "Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring" after smashing through the front glass door of the Singer Laren museum, located 32 kilometres south-east of Amsterdam.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
The thieves took Van Gogh’s "Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring".Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

By the time officers arrived, the thieves had left.

The burglary occurred on what would have been the painter's 167th birthday at around 3 a.m. CEST.

An investigation has been launched involving forensic investigators and art theft experts, police added, calling on nearby residents and shops to provide them with any security footage they may have.