⊂ EUROPE ⊃
Foreigners fly out of Kabul: An estimated 200 foreigners – including Canadian, Ukrainian, German, British and US citizens – left Afghanistan on a commercial flight out of Kabul on Thursday with the cooperation of the Taliban — the first such large-scale departure since US forces completed their frantic withdrawal over a week ago. Passengers on board the chartered Qatar Airways flight that departed from Kabul airport were among some 200 foreigners that the Taliban have cleared to leave the country, according to a source with knowledge of the matter. Qatar had been instrumental in organising the flight and other logistics to help get people stranded in Afghanistan out of the country. Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Than, Qatar’s deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, thanked the Taliban for their cooperation in restarting flights, adding that this was a signal that the militant group’s positive statements could be demonstrated into action.
apnews.com, cnn.com, npr.org
UK threatens to send migrant boats back to France: Britain has approved plans to turn away boats illegally carrying migrants to its shores, deepening a rift with France over how to deal with a surge of people risking their lives by trying to cross the Channel in small dinghies. Home Secretary Priti Patel told French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin that stopping people making their way from France on small boats was her number one priority. Patel had already irritated the French government earlier this week when she indicated Britain could withhold about 54 million pounds in funding it had pledged to help stem the flow of migrants. Darmanin said Britain must honour both maritime law and commitments made to France, which include financial payments to help fund French maritime border patrols. The Italian coast guard said it rescued approximately 125 migrants in the early hours of Thursday.
reuters.com (English Channel), dw.com (Italy)
ECB to scale back bond buying as economy recovers: The European Central Bank will slow monthly bond purchases under its crisis programme as the region’s economic output is now expected to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year, it announced Thursday. The ECB didn’t offer details on how much it aims to spend every month from now on. Before the bank “significantly” boosted monthly purchases in March, the bond buys averaged around €60 billion a month, compared to around €80 billion a month over the last two quarters. Ahead of the announcement, most analysts had expected this would drop back to between €60 and €70 billion a month.
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Governments using Pegasus spyware should be held responsible, says MEP: Governments using the Pegasus spyware should be held responsible, according to one MEP. European lawmaker Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield told Euronews that countries like Hungary, which used the software to surveil investigative journalists, among others, need to be accountable for their actions. On Tuesday the German government admitted the federal police service also used the spyware. Next week, MEPs will discuss the scandal at the September plenary session in Strasbourg. The EU Commission is also investigating the Pegasus affair.
‚Mu‘ Covid variant potentially of concern, EU agency says: The European Medicines Agency said Thursday a coronavirus variant known as „Mu“ could be cause for concern, although there is no data yet to show it will overtake the dominant Delta strain. Mu, which was first identified in Colombia in January and is known scientifically as B.1.621, was classified earlier this month as a „variant of interest“ by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
EU wants world-first carbon border levy to hit more sectors after 2030: The EU Commission plans to expand the EU’s carbon border tariff to cover more sectors and products after 2030, subjecting more international trade to the world-first policy, a senior Commission official said on Thursday. The Commission, which drafts EU policies, in July published its proposal for a carbon border tariff, designed to ensure that foreign manufacturers do not gain a competitive advantage over EU companies as the bloc toughens its climate change policies.
EU court backs champagne producers against Spanish ‚champanillo‘ dw.com
CJEU ruling: Austria’s approach to asylum procedures declared illegal welt.de
Judicial dispute with Poland: Hungary condemns EU move to fine Poland over judicial reform reuters.com
Dispute over rule of law: EPP threatens Poland and Hungary with cuts n-tv.de
Belarus: Putin and Lukashenko move to integrate economies of Russia and Belarus theguardian.com
⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃
„And for that, I have resolved to do nothing for the time being and wait and see what comes. And that, I think, is very fascinating.“
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said since she entered politics in 1989, she had not really had a normal working day and has stopped asking herself what interests her outside of politics. She now wants to make up for that.
⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃
France will soon offer free contraception to women under 25: France will start offering free contraceptives for young women next year to help with the financial costs of protecting against pregnancy, French Health Minister Olivier Véran announced on Thursday. Véran said women under the age of 25 would not be charged for appointments, tests or other medical needs related to birth control starting January 1, 2022. Last year, the government made contraception completely free, regardless of insurance, to girls under 15 for the first time, after previously offering it for ages 15 to 18, as part of a bid to end underage abortions. Abortions have been free for all women and girls in the country since 2012.
Poland: Senate votes down controversial broadcast reform bill: The opposition-led Polish Senate rejected a broadcast reform bill Thursday that critics charge targets an American-owned station, sending the bill back to the lower house of parliament. The controversial reform bill would strengthen a ban on firms outside the European Economic Area from holding a controlling stake in Polish television and radio. Critics charge it is aimed at silencing TVN and its news channel TVN24, which is critical of the government.
Germany reopens embassy in Libya: Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas arrived in Libya on Thursday to reopen the country’s embassy in Tripoli. “Today, we want to show with the reopening that Germany is and will remain a committed partner of Libya,” Maas said upon his arrival in Tripoli. “We want to have a voice in the Libyan capital again.” German diplomats left Libya in 2014 due to the country’s instability and spiralling violence and worked from neighbouring Tunisia.
German train drivers threaten new strike in pay dispute: Germany’s GDL train drivers‘ union threatened on Thursday to call a fourth strike in its pay dispute with rail operator Deutsche Bahn if the state-owned company does not make a new offer by early next week. GDL ended its third and longest strike in this pay round on Tuesday and its action has paralysed large parts of passenger traffic over the summer holiday season and hit freight services in Europe’s biggest economy.
Fraud trial of former VW boss delayed by health issues: Former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn’s trial on fraud charges in connection with the automaker’s diesel emissions scandal has been delayed because of health problems, a German court said Thursday. The Braunschweig state court said it decided to separate Winterkorn’s case from that of four other defendants, who are set to go on trial 16 September as planned. Proceedings against the 74-year-old Winterkorn will have to follow at a later date, it said, adding that it isn’t currently possible to give a reliable forecast for when he will be able to face trial.
German Finance, Justice ministries searched in fraud probe: Police raided Germany’s Finance and Justice ministries on Thursday, as part of an investigation into whether the Finance Intelligence Unit (FIU) obstructed justice by failing to pass on reports to the police and the judiciary about banks laundering money. Prosecutors said their investigation began last year and that they were still determining if a crime had taken place and if so, who was to blame. It is still unclear if the FIU failed to pass on the reports of fraud of its own accord, or was directed to do so by someone at one or both of the ministries.
Austria: Chancellor Kurz warns against left-wing alliance in Germany rnd.de
Greece: Afghan takeover fuels Greece-EU border patrol spat politico.eu
Poland: State of emergency on Belarusian border draws criticism derstandard.at
Italy: Far-right parties lead Italian polls euractiv.com
France pays national tribute to New Wave cinema icon Belmondo france24.com
Spain: Wildfire in southern Spain expands, pushing 800 people from their homes english.elpais.com
⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃
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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃
Italian police raid homes of anti-vaccine activists who plotted violent attacks: Anti-terror police on Thursday raided the homes of anti-vaccine activists across Italy who were allegedly planning to use homemade explosives to carry out violent attacks. The group used the Telegram messaging service to plot attacks at demonstrations in Rome against the coronavirus vaccine pass.