Friday, 30 July 2021: MPs decry shocking conditions at facilities for asylum seekers, EU calls for action to beef up Lithuania’s Belarus border, Malta’s government responsible for murder of journalist Caruana Galizia, inquiry finds

⊂ UNITED KINGDOM ⊃

MPs decry shocking conditions at facilities for asylum seekers: Women with babies and very young children were among 56 migrants held in a cramped room covered with thin mattresses at a unit in Dover, MPs say. Members of the Home Affairs Committee have expressed their shock and serious concern after observing the scenes during a visit in Kent this week. They said it was „wholly inappropriate“ and a clear Covid risk. Yvette Cooper, chair of the home affairs select committee, has written to the home secretary saying there was no social distancing, or mask wearing, and it was hard to see how it was Covid-safe. Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been accused of a “disingenuous and grossly inadequate” response to the abuse of lifeboat volunteers while the government works to push asylum seekers back to France.
bbc.com, theguardian.com, independent.co.uk

Vaccine passport plan: Boris Johnson’s government has been accused of bringing in Covid vaccine passports “by stealth” after a change in the NHS app which allows venues in the UK to seek proof that customers are double-jabbed. The wording on the NHS Covid app has been changed to include a “domestic” section, which tells people they may need to show the pass “at places that have chosen to use the service”. A number of Conservative MPs have told Sky News they do not think the government will follow through and actually introduce domestic vaccine passports. But Dominic Raab said ministers did not want to “hold the country back” just because some individuals were not coming forward to get inoculated, confirming publicly what many suspected about Johnson’s sudden decision to throw his weight behind certification for nightclubs. The number of self-isolation alerts sent by the NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales has risen to a new record of 689,313 in the week up to 21 July.
independent.co.uk, news.sky.com, theguardian.com, bbc.com

Scottish government refuses to publish details about Queen’s secret lobbying: The Scottish government is refusing to publish details about the Queen’s secret lobbying of ministers because it would undermine “the appearance of political neutrality” that the monarch adopts in public. „The Guardian“ revealed on Wednesday that in February, the Queen’s lawyers successfully lobbied Scottish ministers to change a draft law to exempt her private land from a major initiative to cut carbon emissions.
theguardian.com

Brexit: EU and UK criticised for ‚flawed‘ protocol approach bbc.com
Carbon neutrality: Government to invest 338 mln pounds to boost cycling, walking in England reuters.com
Flooding: Record funding for flood defences in England as climate crisis worsens risks theguardian.com
Police: MPs rebuke police for ‘systemic failure’ to improve record on race theguardian.com
Holocaust memorial outside Parliament to go ahead bbc.com

⊂ POLITJOBS UNITED KINGDOM ⊃

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⊂ EUROPE ⊃

EU calls for action to beef up Lithuania’s Belarus border: EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson is urging European Union member countries to help Lithuania beef up surveillance on its border with Belarus and not to give in to political pressure from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Movements of people across the border have spiked dramatically since the EU imposed sanctions this year on more Belarus government officials. Lithuania’s border guard service said it detained 171 people caught crossing in from Belarus on Tuesday night, the largest number in a single day this year. Johansson said 35 officers from the EU’s border and coast guard agency, Frontex, have now been deployed to Lithuania and four to EU neighbour Latvia, which also borders Belarus. More workers are due to be sent to help with border surveillance. Frontex is also providing equipment, including fingerprint scanners. Johansson added that the Commission stands ready to provide €12 million to help meet urgent migrant reception and asylum processing needs, and that Lithuania can also benefit from other material aid including temporary shelter from the EU’s civil protection mechanism.
apnews.com

EU and Cuba clash over condemnation of protest crackdown: The European Union is very concerned about the repression of protests in Cuba and urges the government to release all arbitrarily detained protesters, the EU said on Thursday in its strongest statement to date on the matter. The EU said it unequivocally supports the right of all Cuban citizens to express their views peacefully, to make demands for change, as well as to assemble to give voice to their opinions, including online. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla blasted the EU statement and accused the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell of lying about protests in the country.
consilium.europa.eu, reuters.com, politico.eu

EU extends deadline to approve Hungarian recovery plan: The European Commission and Hungary have agreed to extend until end of September a deadline for Budapest to meet demands on its €7 billion recovery plan, the institution said on Thursday. A spokeswoman said the Commission was working together with Hungary constructively, with an aim of finalising the assessment by the end of September. The EU executive is responsible for paying out the bloc’s €800 billion euro pandemic recovery fund and has yet to give Hungary the greenlight to its investment and reform proposals to unlock €7.2 billion. The stalemate comes after tensions between Hungary and its EU partners blew out into the open over a controversial anti-LGBTQ law that critics say equates paedophilia with homosexuality. The EU insists that its appraisal of the recovery plan does not involve the LGBTQ law and that the delay is due to shortcomings by Hungary on anti-corruption and auditing mechanisms and guarantees on the independence of the courts.
euractiv.com

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Euro zone sentiment hits record high: Euro zone economic sentiment hit a record high in July, estimates from the EU Commission showed on Thursday. The Commission said its monthly survey that sentiment in the 19-country single-currency bloc rose to 119.0 points in July, a record since data began to be collected in 1985, from 117.9 in June, which was already a 21-year high. However, as the positive impact of the reopening of economic activities begins to wane and fears grow around the Delta coronavirus variant, sentiment grew at a slower pace.
reuters.com

Tunisian presidency fires head of national television channel: The Tunisian presidency fired the head of the national television channel Wataniya on Wednesday after two guests were briefly banned from entering its studios to take part in a programme. The dismissal of Wataniya’s CEO Lassaad Dahech comes after president Kais Saied suspended parliament and sacked the prime minister on Sunday, in what opponents have labelled a coup. Saied has said his suspension of parliament and subsequent actions are justified under the constitution, which allows the head of state to take unspecified exceptional measures in the event of an „imminent threat“. On Wednesday, he also issued decrees sacking a long list of senior government officials, including the army’s chief prosecutor. Late on Wednesday the presidency published a video showing Saied telling the head of a business union that „wrong economic choices“ had caused major financial problems. Saied targeted business figure accused of corruption, saying that 460 people had stolen 13.5 billion dinars ($4.8 billion) of public money.
france24.com, cnn.com

Climate: Dispute in Europe over sustainability of nuclear power de.euronews.com
Civil protection: EU Commission braces for more frequent natural disasters deutschlandfunk.de
COVID-19: EU pulls ahead of the US in vaccinations nytimes.com
Code of conduct for online platforms: EU Commission wants more players to join fight against disinformation ec.europa.eu
European Central Bank (ECB): Italian central bank director warns against raising interest rates prematurely handelsblatt.com
G20 culture ministers meet in Rome stern.de

⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃

Malta’s government responsible for murder of journalist Caruana Galizia, inquiry finds: Malta’s government must bear responsibility for the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, an independent inquiry has found. The probe, which was published by the office of Prime Minister Robert Abela on Thursday, said that Maltese authorities had created a „culture of impunity“ that led to her killing. The report described an obvious need to protect Caruana Galizia, who had become the target of sustained abuse by politicians. The failure to protect her could not be simple incompetence or indifference, the judges wrote. The report also said her assassination was clearly linked to her investigative work. Caruana Galizia died in a car bombing in October 2017 as she was allegedly investigating corruption in a business linked to a wealthy businessman, Yorgen Fenech. „The report merits mature analysis beyond partisan arguments,“ Abela said on Twitter. „Lessons must be drawn and the reforms must continue with greater resolve.“
euronews.com, politico.eu

Three more workers found dead at industrial blast site in Germany: The known death toll from an explosion at a German industrial park grew to five Thursday after authorities said the bodies of three more people were recovered from the chemical manufacturing site. Two people are still missing following Tuesday’s explosion at the waste management facility of the Chempark industrial park, located in the city of Leverkusen. The cause of the blast, which also injured 31 people, isn’t yet known. Currenta, the company that operates the industrial park, said the explosion was linked to storage tanks filled with solvents. The explosion sent a large black cloud of smoke into the air and ignited a blaze that took firefighters almost four hours to extinguish. The environmental authority for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia said Wednesday that the smoke contained dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyl and furan compounds. However, it could not yet say how high the concentrations of the chemicals were, dpa reported.
reuters.com

German environment ministry calls for climate damage register: Germany’s environment ministry wants to start systematically collecting data about damage caused by climate change in a register, following the recent devastating floods that hit the country. Environment state secretary Jochen Flasbarth said Germany urgently needed a better knowledge base on the damage and costs of climate change. The recent severe weather catastrophe had made this clear. The register, which is being developed by the Federal Environment Agency, will help forecast potential damage and expected costs of extreme weather events caused by climate change, helping to determine which precautionary measures need to be taken, Flasbarth said. On the same day, the Green Party presented a climate resilience plan to help Germany prepare for extreme weather events in the future. The Greens, like the ministry, call for the systematic recording of damages and risks in a climate damage register. The party also wants to see investments in a climate precaution fund of 25 billion euros over the next ten years, as well as a redefinition of the relationship with nature and a closer look at the health impacts of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves. In Belgium, a public prosecutor will investigate whether manslaughter charges are warranted over the possible failings of an alert system during the recent floods that claimed at least 37 lives.
cleanenergywire.org (Germany), politico.eu (Belgium)

Top German court strikes down Facebook rules on hate speech: Germany’s Federal Court ruled Thursday that Facebook had to reinstate racist comments because it had improperly removed them. The court stated that Facebook’s terms of service regarding the deletion of posts and blocking accounts for violating its community standards were null and void because Facebook does not undertake to inform the user about the removal of an offensive post at least retrospectively, to advise that it is blocking an account, to give a reason for doing so, or to offer the right of appeal. The case in question is from 2018, when Facebook removed posts in which two German users attacked migrants because it said the posts violated its policy on hate speech, and then suspended the users’ accounts for several days. The users complained that the posts‘ removal was a violation of free speech. The court said while Facebook was entitled to set strict content rules banning hateful speech and to block users, the way it implemented its content moderation policy was not proper.
politico.eu, reuters.com

Hundreds in Bratislava block traffic in protest against vaccination law: Hundreds of people blocked traffic in the centre of Slovak capital Bratislava, protesting against a law which gives those who have had the COVID-19 vaccine easier access to public events and spaces, Slovak media reported on Thursday. The protest, while peaceful, has disrupted traffic in the whole city. In Austria, 215 Covid infections have been registered among travellers returning from a festival in Croatia. Authorities believe there are more infected and urged festival-goers to get tested. Portugal will ease anti-coronavirus measures at the weekend thanks to declining infections and progress made in vaccinating the country’s population. Spain’s Catalonia has extended for a second time a nighttime curfew that was imposed on the tourist hotspot to fight a Covid surge.
reuters.com (Slovakia), handelsblatt.com (Austria), rte.ie (Portugal and Catalonia)

Media freedom fears in Poland: Poland’s National Broadcasting Council has suspended the extension of the licence of the independent TVN24 television channel, which is owned and financed by an American company. Negotiations are also underway in parliament on a new bill that would limit the ability of media to operate in Poland if they have large foreign investment. If the bill goes through, TVN would fall into that bracket since it’s part of the American Discovery franchise. Meanwhile, thousands of judges and prosecutors in Poland have signed an appeal urging state and justice authorities to heed recent rulings by Europe’s top court and immediately suspend a chamber disciplining judges.
euronews.com (Media), abcnews.go.com (Judges)

Ruling party in Georgia dumps Charles Michel’s agreement: Georgian Dream, the ruling party in Georgia, withdrew on Wednesday from the agreement to put an end to the protracted political crisis in the country, brokered in April by European Council President Charles Michel. The US embassy slammed the move while Michel repeated that there was no alternative to the agreement.
euractiv.com

Armenia PM calls for Russian troops on border with Azerbaijan dw.com
Israel tells France it is taking Pegasus allegations seriously dw.com
Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania push forward on ‚open Balkans‘ initiative rferl.org
Germany may support fishing companies affected by Brexit with five million euros welt.de
Ever Given reaches Rotterdam after Suez Canal debacle dw.com
Southeast Europe heat wave set to be among worst in decades apnews.com

⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃

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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃

French President Macron sues billboard owner for depicting him as Hitler: French President Emmanuel Macron is suing a billboard owner who depicted him as Adolf Hitler to protest COVID-19 restrictions. The offending poster portrays Macron in the uniform of Nazi leader Hitler, with a small moustache, a lock on his forehead and the acronym of the presidential movement LREM turned into a swastika. A message reads: „Obey, get vaccinated.“ It was shown in recent days on two billboards measuring four metres by three metres located on a four-lane road near the entrance to Toulon. The Toulon Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation for „public insult“ on Tuesday.
euronews.com

 

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