Tuesday, 27 July 2021: London cleans up after flash flooding, EU calls on political actors in Tunisia to avoid resorting to violence, Serbia fumes over Croatia’s plan to put Tesla on euro coins


London cleans up after flash flooding: Londoners were cleaning up Monday after torrential rain left homes, roads and several subway stations flooded, the second unseasonal inundation in as many weeks. The Met Office weather agency said 41.8 millimeters of rain — almost a month’s worth — fell in central London on Sunday afternoon. Multiple stations on the rail network known as the Tube were closed, according to the Transport for London (TfL) website. Whipps Cross Hospital in the northeast of the city cancelled all planned surgery and outpatient appointments on Monday after basement flooding damaged its electrical systems, and was diverting ambulances to other hospitals nearby. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the city was seeing increasing incidents of extreme weather events linked to climate change. “This is not the first time in recent weeks that London has been hit by major flooding,” he said. “Despite having limited powers in the area, it remains a key priority for myself and London’s council leaders that more is done urgently to tackle flooding and the other impacts of climate change.” Earlier this month a wave of storms caused huge flooding damage and left more than 200 people dead in Germany and Belgium.
apnews.com, cnn.com

Woman wearing Charlie Hebdo t-shirt stabbed in London park: London police are looking for witnesses after an attacker slashed a woman with a knife at Speakers’ Corner, the historic spot in Hyde Park where people have gathered to speak and debate for more than 150 years. Video shared on social media appears to show someone dressed in black approaching a woman wearing a Charlie Hebdo T-shirt on Sunday. The woman is later shown with what appears to be blood on her face as police officers help her. Police say her injuries are not considered life-threatening. Following a search of the area, a knife was recovered nearby. Islamic extremists attacked the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, killing 12 people. The attack made the magazine, which had published a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, a symbol of freedom of speech.
apnews.com, euronews.com

UK expands Covid testing to ease shortage of key workers: The government expanded a programme of daily COVID-19 tests on Monday to reduce a wave of staff absence created by a high number of new cases and strict rules on self-isolation for people who might have been infected by them. On Monday Britain’s health ministry said it would set up daily testing at a further 1,200 workplaces including military bases, prisons and pharmaceuticals factories, as well as for refuse workers, essential utilities and tax collectors. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has cautioned against claims that the UK may have passed the peak of its third Covid wave, warning that “we’re not out of the woods yet”. While the drop in daily cases from almost 55,000 on 17 July to fewer than 30,000 on Sunday was encouraging, Downing Street said Johnson believes that the impact of relaxations introduced a week ago could soon start driving numbers back up again. Meanwhile, senior doctors in England will be asked whether they want to consider industrial action over the 3% pay rise offered by the government.
reuters.com, independent.co.uk, bbc.com

Labour: Give workers full rights from day one bbc.com
Police: MPs and campaigners alarmed at UK’s ‘discriminatory’ crime reduction plans theguardian.com
Climate: Governments must agree to end use of coal power, says UK’s Cop26 president theguardian.com
COVID-19: Government refuses to rule out ban on unvaccinated students returning to university independent.co.uk
National Adoption Strategy: £48m to improve services in England bbc.com


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Tunisia’s president declares curfew after ousting the government: Tunisia is experiencing a severe political crisis, triggered by a dispute over the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus is ravaging the country. On Saturday, Tunisia recorded 317 coronavirus-related deaths in 24 hours, a daily record since the start of the pandemic. Following a day of angry street protests against the government’s handling of the pandemic, President Kais Saied sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and ordered parliament closed for 30 days, a move the biggest political party Ennahdha decried as a coup. The president on Monday also sacked the country’s defence minister and announced earlier that he would also remove the justice minister. Saied said the constitution did not allow for the dissolution of parliament, but did allow him to suspend it, citing Article 80 which permits it in case of imminent danger. By Monday morning, Tunisian troops had been deployed to the government palace in Tunis and also surrounded parliament, where they blocked Rachid Ghannouchi, head of the moderate Islamist party Ennahdha and speaker of parliament, from entry. For months, Saied has been engaged in a power struggle with the Islamic conservative Ennahdha party, to which Ghannouchi and the deposed prime minister Mechichi belong. A senior Ennahdha official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, alleged that the protests before the president’s announcement, and the subsequent celebrations, had all been choreographed by Saied. The EU has urged all political actors in Tunisia on Monday to respect the country’s constitution and avoid violence.
reuters.com, france24.com, washingtonpost.com, reuters.com

EU starts legal action against 23 countries over copyright rules: France, Spain, Italy and 20 other EU countries may be taken to court for their tardiness in enacting landmark EU copyright rules into national law, the European Commission said on Monday. The Commission has sent letters of formal notice to the countries group asking for explanations. They have two months to respond to the Commission or receive a warning. The next step is a referral to the EU’s top court in Luxembourg. The copyright rules, adopted two years ago, aim to ensure a level playing field between the European Union’s trillion-euro creative industries and online platforms such as Google and Facebook. Some of Europe’s artists and broadcasters, however, are still not happy, in particular over the interpretation of a key provision, Article 17, which is intended to force sharing platforms such as YouTube and Instagram to filter copyrighted content.

EU demands more transparency from Google: The European Union is pushing for clarity from Google about how the company processes flight and hotel searches. The tech giant must explain why it ranks certain flights and hotels above others and provide more clarity about how it calculates prices, EU regulators demanded Monday, accusing the company of having misled consumers. The final prices that Google displays should include all fees and taxes that can be calculated in advance, regulators said in a statement. The regulators are giving Google two months to propose a fix to the issues or face possible unspecified sanctions.

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Record civilian casualties in Afghanistan: Afghan civilians were killed or injured at record levels in the first half of this year as the United States and its allies began withdrawing troops from the country, the United Nations (UN) said in a new report. The number of deaths and injuries recorded during May and June alone was 2,392, almost as high as the total for the preceding four months. Government forces have been fighting Taliban insurgents, who now control large parts of the country. Most international forces have withdrawn after a mission lasting nearly 20 years. On Saturday, top US commander Gen Kenneth McKenzie said US forces would continue carrying out air strikes in support of Afghan troops, but he did not say if the strikes would continue after the end of the US military mission on 31 August. Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has warned the EU that the withdrawal of western troops from Afghanistan will lead to new migration flows. He told German media that the withdrawal was dramatic for the people in the country and would lead to an increase of refugees trying to make it to Europe.
bbc.com, cnn.com, tagesspiegel.de

Beijing urges Washington to stop ‚demonising‘ China: During a two-day visit by US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in the Chinese city of Tianjin, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng urged Washington to stop „demonising“ China. „We urge the United States to change its highly misguided mindset and dangerous policy,“ a statement by China’s foreign ministry quoted Xie as saying, adding that Washington views China as an „imagined enemy“. Xie described relations as at a stalemate and facing serious difficulties. Sherman also met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. She described the meetings as another step in the process of trying to work through critical issues with China. She said they had frank conversations on issues that divide them, ticking off a long list of US concerns including what she called “the crimes against humanity” against Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region, the crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong, China’s use of its economic size to pressure others, and its “aggressive actions” around Taiwan and in the South and East China Seas.
france24.com, apnews.com

Lebanon names billionaire Mikati as new prime minister: Leading Lebanese businessman Najib Mikati secured enough votes in parliamentary consultations on Monday to be designated the next prime minister. France and the US have expressed support for the move. The Sunni telecoms tycoon Mikati previously served as prime minister in a caretaker capacity for three months in 2005 following the car bomb assassination of Rafik Hariri and again in 2011 and from 2013 to 2014. Western governments have been piling pressure on Lebanon, one of the most heavily indebted states in the world, to form a government that can set about reforming the corrupt state. They have threatened to impose sanctions and said financial support will not flow before reforms begin.
france24.com, dw.com

Russian authorities block dozens of websites belonging to Kremlin critics: Russian authorities have restricted access to the website of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny and to dozens of sites run by his close allies, Navalny’s team said Monday. The action came amid mounting government pressure on opposition supporters, independent journalists and human rights activists in Russia ahead of the country’s parliamentary election. President Vladimir Putin, who has been in power for more than two decades, pushed through constitutional changes last year that would potentially allow him to hold onto power until 2036.

WHO Europe Chief Kluge calls for a greater vaccination push euronews.com
European Central Bank wants higher inflation but is not adding more stimuli fxstreet.com
Center for Data Innovation: Europe’s proposed AI law could cost its economy $36 billion cnbc.com
China says EU’s planned carbon border tax violates trade principles reuters.com
Study by the EU Commission’s Scientific Service: Lonelier because of Covid tagesschau.de
EU Commission starts in-depth probe of France’s lottery operator politico.eu


Nowhere and never have I advocated for European funds to be made conditional, limited or even withdrawn from Slovenia in any way. Quite the opposite, I hope and wish something like that will never happen.
European Commissioner Janez Lenarcic has rejected an accusation by Prime Minister Janez Jansa that he was acting against Slovenia’s interests.


Wildfires ravage Sardinia: About 1,000 residents and tourists have been evacuated from areas of the Italian island of Sardinia that were ravaged by wildfires over the weekend. No deaths or injuries have been reported, the Italian authorities said. But the fires were still raging on Monday, when four firefighting planes from France and Greece joined the Italian firefighters’ air fleet to help control the blaze. Regional authorities said that 7,500 firefighters have been mobilised as well as 20 aircraft. The region has declared a state of emergency and called on the government to deliver immediate financial support to repair the damage and help the affected communities. Since early Saturday, when the wildfires started near a forest by the village of Bonacardo, at least 50,000 acres of land have gone up in flames.
nytimes.com, euronews.com

Emergency response should stay local, says German minister: The emergency response to natural disasters should remain in the hands of the states and local authorities and should not be taken over by the German federal government, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Monday. He added that although federal intervention was the wrong path to take, the federal office for emergency protection should have an increased role in coordinating the response. This had been agreed by the 16 state interior ministers even before the flooding. Seehofer also called for improvements in the country’s system for alerting its citizens to danger, proposing a mixture of warning apps, cellphone broadcasts and sirens. He said that there was „no reasonable argument“ against issuing alarms to cellphones by text message, although he admitted that there had in the past been resistance at federal level to doing so. The minister’s remarks at a special session of the parliamentary internal affairs committee come as German authorities investigate the effectiveness of the overall response to the deadly floods in mid-July.

EU ministers approve four more national recovery plans: European Union finance ministers approved on Monday the national recovery plans of Croatia, Cyprus, Lithuania and Slovenia, paving the way for the disbursement of EU pre-financing for projects fostering the countries‘ economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The national plans are part of the EU’s unprecedented 800 billion euro scheme to make economies after the pandemic greener and more fit for the digital age. Each of the EU’s 27 countries will get EU grants and, if wanted, cheap loans to finance such reform and investment.
reuters.com, consilium.europa.eu

Netherlands extend festival ban; Mandatory vaccination for French health workers: The Netherlands is cancelling all multi-day events that were planned to take place before 1 September, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced on Monday. Festivals were already suspended until August, when the situation would be evaluated, but the government is now extending that date until 1 September, after the sector asked for clarity sooner. In France, parliament approved a bill early Monday that will require a health pass for access to restaurants, bars, trains and planes from the beginning of August. All venues accommodating more than 50 people already require proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test, including museums, cinemas and swimming pools. The law also requires all workers in the health care sector to start getting vaccinated by 15 September, or risk suspension.
brusselstimes.com (Netherlands), france24.com (France)

Germany: Government rules out possibility of introducing mandatory vaccinations dw.com
UK and France sign post-Brexit Channel security pact politico.eu
France: Fatal construction site accident partially paralyzes train traffic de.euronews.com
Austria opposes EU cash limit plans tagesschau.de
Poland: Firms break barriers with foreign acquisitions dw.com


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Serbia fumes over Croatia’s plan to put Tesla on euro coins: Croatia’s plan to put famous inventor Nikola Tesla on its euro coins has sparked criticism in Serbia, whose central bank said it would take the issue to the EU. Tesla, an ethnic Serb born in present-day Croatia in 1856 when the country was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, is a source of pride in both countries, whose ties have been frosty since Yugoslavia’s bloody collapse in the 1990s. Zagreb and Belgrade both claim the pioneer of modern electrical engineering as their own.


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