Wednesday, 18 August 2021: UK plans to welcome thousands of Afghans in new refugee plan, EU wants to hold talks with Taliban, Lithuania says Belarus officers illegally crossed border

⊂ UNITED KINGDOM ⊃

UK plans to welcome thousands of Afghans in new refugee plan: Thousands of Afghan refugees will be resettled in the UK after the Taliban seized control of Kabul, the UK government has promised. The new scheme will see up to 20,000 Afghans offered a route to set up home in the UK in the coming years. Britain already plans to relocate 5,000 people as part of an Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy, designed to help present and past employees of the UK government, and on Tuesday announced plans to go further with the new scheme. Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with US President Joe Biden on Tuesday on the situation in Afghanistan and they agreed to hold a virtual G7 leaders’ meeting next week to discuss a common strategy and approach, the White House said.
bbc.com, reuters.com, reuters.com

UK unemployment falls amid record rise in job vacancies: Unemployment fell in June as workers made redundant during the pandemic appeared to respond to a record rise in vacancies to re-enter the labour market and secure a job. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Tuesday that the number of people in employment went up by 182,000 to 28.9 million last month, still 201,000 lower than before the pandemic. However, job vacancies increased to a record high of 953,000 in May to July — 168,000 more than before the pandemic. Preliminary payroll data indicates the number has now exceeded a million “for the first time ever,” according to Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the ONS.
theguardian.com, politico.eu

Call for Covid-safe ventilation in schools: There is an urgent call for action on ventilation in schools – to slow the spread of COVID-19 – when pupils return, in September. Six education unions have written to England’s education secretary, warning of a steep rise in Covid and „long Covid“ when pupils return to classes. The Scottish government is considering making its temporary coronavirus powers permanent, which would allow it to impose lockdowns, close schools and release prisoners early.
bbc.com, independent.co.uk

Brexit: Why the ‘unloved’ UK stock market is still singing the Brexit and Covid blues fortune.com
Trade deal: UK aims to start trade talks with India this year reuters.com
Green party: Green frontbencher at centre of trans rights row to run for leadership theguardian.com
Pensions set to soar through £10,000 a year mark unless Rishi Sunak suspends ‘triple lock’ independent.co.uk

⊂ POLITJOBS UNITED KINGDOM ⊃

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⊂ EUROPE ⊃

EU wants to hold talks with Taliban: The Taliban vowed Tuesday to respect women’s rights, forgive those who fought them and ensure Afghanistan does not become a haven for terrorists as part of a publicity blitz aimed at reassuring world powers and a fearful population. Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s longtime spokesman, promised the Taliban would honour women’s rights within the norms of Islamic law. He said the group wanted private media to remain independent, but stressed journalists „should not work against national values.“ And he promised the insurgents would secure Afghanistan — but seek no revenge against those who worked with the former government or with foreign governments or forces. Mujahid also said the Taliban would not allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for attacking other countries. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Tuesday that the EU would have to speak to the Taliban, but any cooperation would depend on whether Afghanistan’s new rulers respect fundamental rights. „The Taliban have won the war, so we will have to talk with them,“ Borrell said. „We will deal with Afghan authorities such as they are, at the same time remaining naturally vigilant.“ The European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic, announced that the EU will continue to support Afghanistan with aid. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg blamed Afghanistan’s rapid collapse on its political leadership but said there are „many lessons to be learned“ about the alliance’s own two-decade engagement in the country.
apnews.com, npr.org (Taliban); dw.com (Borrell); twitter.com (Lenarcic); cbsnews.com (Stoltenberg)

German military evacuates local forces from Afghanistan: The third German evacuation plane took off from Kabul airport on Tuesday evening to bring local Afghan forces to safety. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas confirmed on Twitter that a third Airbus A400M transport plane had taken off from Kabul with 139 people on board. „We’re taking everyone who fits into our aircraft,“ said Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. Maas said Germany had sent diplomat Markus Potzel to Doha for talks with the Taliban to find a solution for the evacuation of local Afghan helpers. So far, Maas said, only foreign nationals were allowed to pass through Taliban checkpoints on their way to Kabul airport, with Afghan citizens being turned back. Jake Sullivan, US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, said Tuesday that the Taliban have agreed to allow safe passage from Afghanistan for civilians hoping to join a US-directed airlift from the capital, although a timetable for completing the evacuation of Americans, Afghan allies and possibly other civilians has yet to be worked out with the country’s new rulers.
apnews.com, sueddeutsche.de, zeit.de, rnd.de, pbs.org

The West’s influence on Afghanistan: German diplomats and Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) maintain good contacts with the Taliban. They have closely followed the negotiations in Doha between the Taliban and civilian representatives on power sharing. Just a few weeks ago, German diplomats had high hopes. At the time, they said that three goals were important to the Taliban: The lifting of United Nations (UN) sanctions and removal from the UN terror list, international recognition and the billions in aid payments from abroad that make up a large part of government spending. Diplomats said the Taliban’s primary goal was to establish an emirate in Afghanistan in which Shariah law is implemented as strictly as possible.
tagesspiegel.de

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Lithuania says Belarus officers illegally crossed border: A dozen Belarusian officers in riot gear illegally crossed into Lithuanian territory on Tuesday while pushing a group of 35 Iraqi migrants over the border, Lithuania’s border guard service said. EU member Lithuania accuses Belarus of deliberately flying in Iraqi migrants to Minsk and then ferrying them over the border to claim asylum as retaliation for sanctions imposed by the EU on the former Soviet republic. German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday condemned Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for using refugees as a way to put pressure on the EU. Merkel was speaking after a meeting with Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, whose country is helping Lithuania cope with the migrant surge on its border with Belarus. Meanwhile, a court in Belarus has sentenced political prisoner Stepan Latypov to eight and a half years in a prison camp under particularly harsh conditions.
reuters.com, dw.com, dpa-international.com

EU prepares emergency aid for earthquake victims in Haiti: In light of the devastating effects of the massive earthquake that struck Haiti on 14 August, the EU is allocating 3 million euros in humanitarian funding to address the most urgent needs of the affected communities. Janez Lenarcic, Commissioner for Crisis Management said the EU was quickly mobilising support to this already extremely fragile country, where hurricanes and heavy rainfalls aggravate the dire situation even more. He said the earthquake struck at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic and the escalating insecurity already posed a threat to the country, and promised that the EU stands ready to provide further assistance. In order to ensure the fastest possible intervention, EU funds will be implemented by humanitarian partners already active in the emergency response and will support and strengthen their capacity to swiftly provide humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable Haitians. The funding will address the most immediate needs such as the provision of medical assistance to local overwhelmed hospitals, water, sanitation and hygiene services, shelter and protection services for the most affected and disadvantaged communities.
ec.europa.eu

Genetic engineering: EU Commission approves ten genetically modified organisms ec.europa.eu
Doctors Without Borders rescue more boat migrants in Mediterranean dpa-international.com
Iran accelerates enrichment of uranium to near weapons-grade, IAEA says reuters.com
Russia: New Russian military transport plane caught fire in flight and crashed outside of Moscow businessinsider.com
Niger: Gunmen kill 37, including children, in village reuters.com

⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃

This hybrid kind of confrontation, as used by Belarus, is an attack on all of us in the European Union.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has accused Belarus of using refugees to undermine security.
dw.com

⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃

Greece says cannot become gateway to EU for fleeing Afghans: Greece doesn’t want to become the entry point into the EU for Afghans fleeing the escalating conflict in their homeland, Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said on Tuesday, calling for a common EU response to the crisis. Having been one of the European countries to take in the most migrants in the wake of Europe’s migration crisis in 2015, when nearly a million people fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan landed on its islands, there is anxiety among government officials in Athens that developments in Afghanistan could trigger a replay of that crisis.
euractiv.com

Poland promises to dissolve judicial disciplinary mechanism: Poland has told the European Union that it will shut down a chamber at its Supreme Court devoted to disciplining judges, an issue that has been at the centre of a dispute between Poland and the EU. The Court of Justice of the EU ruled last month that Warsaw has to suspend the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court by 16 August. The EU court found the Polish chamber lacks guarantees of independence and impartiality. The EU Commission warned that Poland would face financial penalties if it didn’t comply with the ruling. The Polish government sent its response to Brussels on Monday, saying it will dissolve the chamber in its current form as part of a further reform of the justice system, which will begin in the coming months. But the government also asked the Court of Justice of the EU to waive its July order and stressed that Poland’s constitution is “the highest law,” citing rules in other EU countries and a ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal — a body that is widely seen as being under the political control of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.
politico.eu

Police violence video triggers uproar in Bulgaria: A new video of Bulgarian police kicking and punching handcuffed detainees during anti-corruption protests last year is turning into a major test of whether the country’s investigation into police brutality at the time was a whitewash. Bulgarian parliamentarians condemned the police violence in an urgent session on Tuesday and called for a new report into the events of last summer. Last July, thousands of Bulgarians took to the streets calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and Chief Prosector Ivan Geshev. Only on Friday, however, did parliamentarians see surveillance camera footage from 10 July of police officers dragging demonstrators under the arches of a government building, where they repeatedly struck them before loading them into a police van. The footage triggered immediate national outrage.
politico.eu

Many countries are fighting fires or floods: A large forest fire has forced about 6,000 residents and holidaymakers to evacuate homes and accommodations near the French Riviera. More than 700 firefighters have been trying to tackle the blaze, which began on Monday evening, 40 kilometres from St. Tropez. Meanwhile, storms are sweeping into Italy from the north to break the recent baking heatwave caused by the Lucifer anticyclone. Heavy rain and thunderstorms have caused flooding, traffic disruption and crop damage in the northeast so far. In Greece, two wildfires, fanned by strong winds, raged out of control near Athens on Monday, forcing the evacuation of villages, but there were no immediate reports of casualties. Firefighters were also battling fires in Portugal and Spain. In recent weeks, devastating forest fires also occurred in Turkey and Algeria, among other places.
dw.com, ansa.it, reuters.com, zeit.de, spiegel.de

Spain gets tranche of 9 billion euros in EU Covid recovery fund reuters.com
Dispute between Poland and Israel: The conflict lies deeper tagesspiegel.de
Italy puts pressure on Ryanair over surcharges for minors and disabled associates reuters.com
Germany: Climate activists take to the streets of Berlin ahead of national election cleanenergywire.org
Hungary: Where did the lake go? de.euronews.com

⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃

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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃

Vandals attack French vaccination centre and destroy 500 COVID vials: Around 500 vials of COVID-19 jabs were destroyed in France after a vaccination centre near Toulouse was vandalised. The damage occurred overnight on Tuesday at a community hall in the southwestern town of Saint-Orens-de-Gameville. Mayor Dominique Faure told AFP that it was not yet possible to say if the damage was caused by anti-vaxxers.
euronews.com

 

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