Thursday, 2 September 2021: Foreign Office report warned in July of rapid Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, Pope Francis mistakenly quotes Putin instead of Merkel to chide West’s Afghan war, Syrian oil spill moving towards Cyprus


Foreign Office report warned in July of rapid Taliban takeover of Afghanistan: The UK Foreign Office’s own risk assessment warned that the Taliban could return rapidly to power, causing cities to collapse and triggering a humanitarian crisis, less than four weeks before the fall of Kabul. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told MPs on Wednesday that he believed the Afghan capital would remain safe until next year based on an assessment by the joint intelligence committee, a view he said was widely shared by Nato allies. Even though the Taliban’s intent to seize control was clear, Raab said, the West misjudged its capacity to do so as quickly as it did. There were clearly lessons to be learned from what happened, he said. Raab was adamant Britain could have done little to change US President Joe Biden’s mind about the Afghan withdrawal, and was dismissive of the idea an alternative coalition could have been formed without the US.,,

British evacuation of eligible Afghans is nearing end, says Boris Johnson: The prime minister said the vast majority of eligible Afghans have now been flown out. Speaking to broadcasters on a visit to the Permanent Joint Headquarters in north London, where he met military personnel coordinating the evacuation effort, Boris Johnson said the government now faced the challenge of helping the refugees integrate into British society. Afghans who worked for the British military and UK government will be able to move to the UK permanently, the Home Office has announced.,

Ex-chancellor Philip Hammond rebuked over lobbying by sleaze watchdog: Former chancellor Philip Hammond has been rebuked by a sleaze watchdog for lobbying of Treasury officials on behalf of a bank offering Covid software. The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) said that Lord Hammond’s decision to email the second most senior civil servant at his former department was “not acceptable” and broke rules on lobbying by former ministers.

Beer shortages at Wetherspoon as Brexit and Covid hit supply chains
Booster shots: Britain to give third COVID-19 vaccine doses to immunosuppressed
Labour: Staff threaten strikes over potential job cuts
Universal credit: Doctors, charities and Tory thinktank urge PM to drop universal credit cut
Sewell Report: Runnymede Trust wins battle with Tory MPs over race report criticism


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Pope Francis mistakenly quotes Putin instead of Merkel to chide West’s Afghan war: Pope Francis has criticised the West’s two-decade-long involvement in Afghanistan as an outsider’s attempt to impose democracy — although he did it by citing Russian President Vladimir Putin while thinking he was quoting German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “It is necessary to put an end to the irresponsible policy of intervening from outside and building democracy in other countries, ignoring the traditions of the peoples,” the pope said, using his own translation into Spanish. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that the US military intervention in Afghanistan had achieved nothing but tragedy and loss of life on all sides and showed it was impossible to foist foreign values on other nations. David Petraeus, formerly the top US military commander in Afghanistan, warned that the country is facing disintegration after the US troop withdrawal. EU Parliament President David Sassoli said that he was disappointed that EU nations did not open their doors to refugees fleeing the Taliban. Crowds seeking to flee Afghanistan gathered on its borders while long queues formed at banks on Wednesday. Anticipating an influx of refugees from Afghanistan, the Turkish government is pushing ahead with the construction of a wall along the border with Iran. The UN’s humanitarian chief in Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov, has warned of a hunger crisis in Afghanistan. (Pope), (Putin), (Petraeus), (Sassoli), (Afghans fleeing), (Turkey), (Hunger)

EU rejects WHO criticism of Covid booster shots: EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton has pushed back against criticism from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that buying booster shots for Europeans was unfair to poorer countries still waiting for jabs. He said the roughly 300 million to 350 million doses of vaccines needed for potential extra jabs in Europe would amount to just one month of European production. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has criticised China for lack of cooperation in the investigation of the origin of the coronavirus. The WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence was inaugurated Wednesday in Berlin. A primary aim for the hub is to quickly advise public health experts and policymakers around the world when urgent decisions are needed. The EU will provide financial support for vaccine manufacture on the African continent with the specific aim of supplying Africa, as it seeks to fight back against accusations of „vaccine nationalism.“ France will send 10 million doses of vaccines to Africa over the next three months. (Breton); (Ghebreyesus); (Hub);, (Africa)

Russia to deliver weapons to Belarus: Russia will soon deliver a huge military hardware consignment to Belarus, including aircraft, helicopters and air defence systems, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko was quoted as saying on Wednesday by the Belta news agency. The announcement highlights Moscow’s growing support for Lukashenko, whose election to a sixth term in August 2020 triggered months of protests and allegations of a rigged vote from the Belarusian opposition and the West. Meanwhile, Lithuania has opened a military training camp for US troops in Pabradė near the Belarus border., (Belarus); (Lithuania)

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Tunisia’s opposition calls for more EU support: Tunisia’s democrats need more support from the EU and European nations as the north African country faces up to months of government by presidential decree, said Ahmed Gaaloul, an Ennahdha party official and a former youth and sports minister. Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party and the largest caucus in Tunisia’s parliament, was blindsided by President Kais Saied’s announcement in July that he was sacking prime minister Hichem Mechichi, suspending parliament and governing by decree.

Lights out for inefficient bulbs under new EU standards: New ecodesign and labelling rules came into force across the EU on Wednesday, after they were adopted in 2019. The changes include new energy efficiency requirements that will see some fluorescent and halogen lamps banned immediately and more banned in two years’ time. In addition, light bulbs will now need to use a simpler scale to display their energy efficiency. This means ditching the A+, A++ A+++ classes and moving to an A-G system within 18 months for physical retailers and 14 working days for online shops.

Climate and weather related disasters surge five-fold over 50 years: Climate change and increasingly extreme weather events, have caused a surge in natural disasters over the past 50 years disproportionately impacting poorer countries, the World Meteorological Organisation and UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction said on Wednesday. From 1970 to 2019, these natural hazards accounted for 50% of all disasters, 45% of all reported deaths and 74% of all reported economic losses. There were more than 11,000 reported disasters attributed to these hazards globally, with just over two million deaths and $3.64 trillion in losses. More than 91% of the deaths occurred in developing countries.

Healthy, resilient forests: MEPs blast Commission’s flagship forest strategy as vague
European Investment Bank enlists European Central Bank’s Lagarde
Study: EU’s planned carbon border tax to impact Russia the most
Environment: Which European countries recycle the most?
EU regulation of big tech: How much Google, Facebook and Co. spend on lobbying
Trade dispute: EU Parliament threatens China with exclusion from public tenders


In my view, we do not need another such geopolitical event to grasp that the EU must strive for greater decision-making autonomy and greater capacity for action in the world.
EU Council President Charles Michel said the EU needs to pursue decision-making autonomy in the wake of the chaotic evacuations from Afghanistan that ended last week.


Syrian oil spill moving towards Cyprus: An oil spill that originated from Syria’s largest refinery is growing and spreading across the Mediterranean Sea, and could reach the island of Cyprus by Wednesday, Cypriot authorities have said. The spill, likened in size to New York City, threatens the island’s Karpas peninsula, a strip of pristine beaches and verdant hills in the Turkish-controlled north. On Wednesday authorities in Cyprus and Turkey remained on alert as officials continued to monitor the situation amid fears the leak would wreck fragile ecosystems.,

Google appeals €500m French competition fine: Google said on Wednesday it was appealing against a 500 million euro fine imposed by France’s antitrust watchdog in July over a dispute with local media about paying for news content. The competition authority fined the company for not respecting interim measures imposed last year, which required Google to negotiate “in good faith” with the press industry over licensing fees. The watchdog said the US tech group must come up with proposals within the next two months on how it would compensate news agencies and other publishers for the use of their content. If it does not do that, the company would face additional fines of up to 900,000 euros per day. Google had until end of August to appeal the decision and has another month to share its arguments.,,

Denmark scraps all Covid restrictions: Denmark is set to remove all its remaining measures against the spread of COVID-19 on 10 September. This is because the government ruled out extending the status of COVID-19 as a „socially critical disease“, the health ministry said in a statement on Friday. Denmark did not have many measures left in place anyway—just a requirement for visitors to restaurants, bars, cinemas, and some other indoor facilities to prove vaccination, recovery, or lack of infection. In Greece, thousands of unvaccinated healthcare professionals are facing suspension after missing a government-imposed deadline to get vaccinated. Public hospital workers are planning to go on a three-hour strike this Thursday to oppose compulsory vaccination in their professions., (Denmark); (Greece)

Spain raises minimum wage: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said his government wants an immediate increase in the minimum wage this year to protect workers’ spending power as the economy grows and the cost of living rises. “There won’t be an economic recovery if it isn’t a fair recovery, if it doesn’t reach all levels of society,” Sanchez said at a conference in Madrid on Wednesday. The minimum wage currently stands at 950 euros. Even before the pandemic, Spain had one of the developed world’s highest rates of joblessness.

Biden and Zelensky discuss impact of Nord Stream 2: At a meeting on Wednesday, US and Ukrainian Presidents Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky discussed a number of energy issues, including the further elimination of the consequences of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline being put into operation, the White House said in a statement ahead of the meeting. Earlier, Zelensky said that Ukraine counted on guarantees, namely sanctions, from the United States if the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is completed and put into operation.

Georgia: EU criticism over loans for reform programme
Franco-German air transport squadron starts operations
Austria: Corruption prosecutor accepts Strache’s partial acquittals
Netherlands 1: Amsterdam police object to civilians observing stop-and-search trial
Netherlands 2: Dutch blood bank expecting hundreds more donors as it allows queer men to come forward
Spain: Tolls scrapped on more than 550 kilometres of Spain’s freeways


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Europeans want regulation of cryptocurrencies: A majority of Europeans want their own governments to regulate cryptocurrency while a growing number would also support the creation of national digital currencies in order to assert some monetary independence from the EU, a poll carried out for Euronews by Redfield & Wilton Strategies has found. The results come as the EU Commission begins considering new legislation in September to create a new EU-wide regulatory framework for crypto assets.


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