Tuesday, 14 September 2021: UK government threatens to suspend Northern Ireland protocol, UN Afghanistan donor conference, Uber drivers are employees, Dutch judge rules


UK greenlights coronavirus jabs for kids aged 12 and over: The British government confirmed Monday it plans to offer COVID-19 vaccines for all children aged 12 and over, following a recommendation from chief medical officers. Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told parliament that the government would “now move with the same sense of urgency we’ve had at every point in our vaccination programme” in implementing the decision. Some members of the Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations have criticised extending third jabs beyond the most elderly and vulnerable as unnecessary. But, quizzed on a visit to the East Midlands, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “That’s going ahead – that’s already been approved.” This Tuesday, he will tell Britons in a press conference at Downing Street that mandatory facemasks could be reintroduced, and work from home guidance reinstated, if a third wave of coronavirus infections surges this winter. Meanwhile, the government terminated its contract with vaccine producer Valneva for allegedly breaching its supply obligations, according to the company.
politico.eu, independent.co.uk, politico.eu

Government threatens to suspend Northern Ireland protocol: The UK government has issued a new warning to the EU that it will not shy away from unilaterally suspending the Northern Ireland protocol agreed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last year. Brexit Minister Lord Frost told the House of Lords on Monday night that the EU should take the UK’s proposals to renegotiate part of the protocol seriously if it wanted to avoid the protocol collapsing. Frost said he was concerned by EU comments which suggests it does not want a real negotiation on Northern Ireland. The UK wants fundamental changes to the NI Brexit deal known as the Protocol. EU Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic has said the EU is looking for further flexibilities but will not renegotiate. Lord Frost said it would be a significant mistake to think the UK would not trigger Article 16. That is the part of the Protocol which allows parts of the deal to be temporarily set aside if they are causing „serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade.“
theguardian.com, bbc.com

Sturgeon asks UK government to agree to second Scottish independence referendum: Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has asked the UK government to agree to another Scottish independence referendum „in the spirit of co-operation“. At the SNP party conference on Monday Sturgeon said that „democracy must – and will – prevail“, to allow the country another vote on its future. She added: „My approach to government and to politics will be, as far as possible, co-operation not confrontation. Sturgeon said the evidence from other countries of Scotland’s size showed that independence worked, arguing that neighbours in north-west Europe were wealthier than the UK and more equal, with lower levels of poverty, higher productivity and stronger public finances.
news.sky.com, theguardian.com

Universal credit: Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey under fire for universal credit cut gaffe independent.co.uk
Priti Patel: Ministers meet business people ‚by accident‘, says cabinet colleague amid claims Home Secretary Patel broke ministerial rules at hotel meeting news.sky.com
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer bids to woo trade union leaders with pledge on workers‘ rights news.sky.com
Grenfell Tower inquiry: Grenfell survivors call for urgent ban on combustible building materials theguardian.com


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UN Afghanistan donor conference: A United Nations-hosted international aid conference for Afghanistan raised more than 1 billion dollars in aid for the suffering population, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Monday. The United Nations had estimated that Afghanistan needs more than 600 million dollars up to the end of the year to avoid malnutrition and a collapse in public services. Food scarcity has worsened dramatically since the Taliban takeover of the country last month. Funding for emergency shelters is also requested as 3.5 million Afghans are internally displaced. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germany had increased its humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and the region by 100 million euros. He added that Germany planned to provide another 500 million euros to support Afghanistan and its neighbouring states. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pushed back Monday against Republican criticism of the handling of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying the Biden administration inherited a deal with the Taliban to end the war, but no plan for carrying it out.
dpa-international.com, dw.com, apnews.com

Auditors highlight flaws in EU migrant deportation programme: The European Court of Auditors (ECA) said Monday that the EU’s programme for deporting migrants is not working well but they warned that any attempts to force countries to take their citizens back by coercion could be counterproductive. In a new report, the ECA said of about 500,000 people who have been ordered to leave the EU since 2008, only 29% were finally deported. But just 19% – barely one in five – who entered from outside continental Europe have been sent back.

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MEPs’ draft report on sustainable farming future sparks controversy: Lawmakers in the European Parliament’s agriculture and environmental committees have staked their preliminary position on the EU’s green farming ambitions, voting in favour of a draft report which includes a number of controversial amendments. The statement calls for enhanced sustainability in all stages of the food chain. The report was passed in full, including 48 compromise amendments, several of which have sparked strong reactions from the agricultural community. This includes one stressing the need for a binding nature of reduction targets for pesticides, nutrient losses and fertilisers. Other controversial amendments included one which calls for set maximum levels for sugar, fats and salt in certain processed foods, while another proposes a sustainable food tax.

European Court of Justice: Protecting data or fighting crime? zdf.de
EU refugee policy: An unfulfilled promise tagesschau.de
Paypal introduces new fees between UK and EU independent.co.uk
EU-US relations: In search of common ground? euractiv.com


We will only start the normalisation process when we are confident of reliably reaching our inflation target.
European Central Bank (ECB) policymaker Isabel Schnabel said the ECB was in no rush to tighten its policy unless inflation rose to its target sooner than expected.


Opposition projected to win election in Norway: Norway looks headed for a change to the left, after initial projections on Monday evening put the centre-left Labour Party ahead of Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s Conservative Party in the country’s parliamentary election. Projections put Labour winning 26% of the vote, with the Conservatives coming in at around 20%. Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Stoere is projected to become the next prime minister. The 61-year-old millionaire has campaigned against social inequality. Stoere’s Labour Party also wants a gradual, rather than immediate, reduction in the Norwegian economy’s reliance on oil and gas sector, unlike parties further to the left that may form part of a ruling coalition. Norway is an affluent, oil-rich country that is not an EU member state.

Uber drivers are employees, Dutch judge rules: Dutch Uber drivers should be classified as employees rather than self-employed, a Dutch judge ruled on Monday. According to the judge, the legal relationship between Uber and the drivers aligns with all the characteristics of an employment relationship: work, salary and authority. The ride-hailing platform will have to employ drivers in the country and pay them by the rules of the collective labour agreement of the taxi industry. The case was brought to court by union FNV, which said the ruling means Uber drivers are entitled to more pay and have more rights if they are ill or have their employment terminated. Uber has plans to appeal the ruling.
politico.eu, apnews.com

Merkel sees long road for Western Balkan states to EU membership: Western Balkan states have a long way to go to achieve EU membership but it’s Germany’s goal that they do, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday. Merkel’s two-day visit to the region comes just weeks before she is due to leave office. Speaking alongside Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Merkel urged for progress towards EU membership to continue, but also noted that changes need to be enacted. Merkel said the Serbian president vowed to make progress by the end of the year towards judicial reforms that are pre-requisites for membership in the 27-member bloc. The German chancellor has previously voiced optimism for six Western Balkan states – Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and North Macedonia – becoming EU members.
reuters.com, dw.com

Far-right journalist Zemmour quits French TV show amid election rumours: French far-right journalist and commentator Éric Zemmour has stepped down from his nightly TV show, heightening speculation that he could make an outsider bid to run in next year’s French presidential election. Zemmour holds convictions for inciting hatred and is best known for his TV diatribes against immigration and Islam. Described by critics as making the far-right, anti-immigration Marine Le Pen look soft, Zemmour has been attacked by rights groups, who say he incites racial hatred.

Netherlands abolishes Covid rules, Greece launches mandatory testing for unvaccinated workers: According to several media reports, the Netherlands could ease the majority of Covid restrictions, introducing a Covid passport that would then have to be shown to prove vaccination, recovery or a negative COVID-19 test. Starting on 25 September, distance rules and other restrictions could be abolished. Full theatres and cinemas as well as sold-out football stadiums would then be possible again. Denmark has already lifted the last of its coronavirus restrictions, effectively declaring that the virus was no longer a “critical threat to society.” Greece on Monday introduced mandatory weekly testing for all unvaccinated workers. Some 56% of Greece’s residents have been fully vaccinated, while the average rate in the EU is just over 60%. The Greek government also announced that it will pump more money into its economy to prop up businesses and households battered by the pandemic.
wdr.de (Netherlands); nytimes.com (Denmark); abcnews.go.com, reuters.com (Greece)

Pope Francis expresses shame over Holocaust victims in Slovakia: Pope Francis honoured Slovakian Holocaust victims and atoned for Christian complicity in wartime crimes as he sought to promote reconciliation Monday in a country where a Catholic priest was president of a Nazi puppet state that deported tens of thousands of its Jews. Speaking at a former Jewish neighbourhood in the capital Bratislava, Francis sharply criticised „the frenzy of hatred“ in World War II as well as continuing antisemitism. „Let us unite in condemning all violence and every form of anti-Semitism,“ he said.
apnews.com, dw.com

Germany: CDU candidate Armin Laschet presents 100-day programme dw.com
Spain: Thousands flee blaze near Costa del Sol town bbc.com
Austria: FPÖ criticises public prosecutor’s office after former parliament member’s house is raided derstandard.at
Croatia can already mint euro coins de.euronews.com


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Macron’s disgraced ex-bodyguard Benalla goes on trial: A former security aide to French President Emmanuel Macron has gone on trial in Paris on multiple charges. Alexandre Benalla is accused of assaulting two young demonstrators during an anti-capitalist protest in 2018, illegally wearing a police badge and carrying a weapon. The former bouncer was wearing a police helmet, even though he had only been given leave to attend the protest as an observer. The presidency was accused of a cover-up for failing to report Benalla to the police until French daily Le Monde revealed the existence of the video two months after the incident.
france24.com, euronews.com


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