Friday, 16 July 2021: Dutch crime journalist de Vries dies after shooting, Deadly flooding in Europe, EU sues Hungary and Poland over LGBTQ+ discrimination

⊂ EUROPE ⊃

EU sues Hungary and Poland over LGBTQ+ discrimination: The European Commission on Thursday launched legal cases against Hungary and some regions in Poland over LGBTQ+ discrimination. The case against Hungary was triggered by a recently adopted law banishing the depiction of LGBTQ+ people in books and TV for under-18s, a measure denounced as “shameful” by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. In Poland, the Commission considers that local authorities have failed to help with its inquiries into resolutions in favour of “LGBT-ideology-free zones”, passed in more than 100 Polish towns and villages. „The Commission is concerned that these declarations may violate EU law regarding non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation,“ the EU executive said Thursday. Meanwhile, the Commission is also deeply concerned by the decision of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, which states that the interim measures ordered by the Court of Justice of the European Union in the area of the functioning of the judiciary are inconsistent with the Polish Constitution. The EU’s Court of Justice on Thursday ruled that a central part of Poland’s judicial reforms was not compatible with the law, escalating a standoff that could trigger financial penalties.
dw.com, theguardian.com (LGBTQ+); ec.europa.eu, france24.com (Judiciary)

Companies can ban headscarves at work, court rules: Private companies can prohibit employees from wearing headscarves at work, the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on Thursday. The judgment declared that companies could restrict employees from wearing religious symbols as part of a broad ban on “any visible form of expression of political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace.” The justification, the court added, is “an employer’s need to present a neutral image towards customers or to prevent social disputes.” The case was brought by two Muslim women in Germany who were barred from their workplaces for wearing a headscarf — one who works as a special needs childcare worker, another who is a sales assistant for a chemist.
politico.eu

EU border agency failed to protect asylum seekers’ rights: The EU’s border agency Frontex overlooked evidence that migrants were being illegally turned away at the bloc’s borders — a failure that left migrants exposed to future violations of their basic rights, a European Parliament report concluded. After a four-month investigation, MEPs found that Frontex had evidence in support of allegations of fundamental rights violations in EU member states with which it had a joint operation, but failed to address and follow-up on these violations promptly, vigilantly and effectively. However, the report says MEPs “did not find conclusive evidence on the direct performance of pushbacks and/or collective expulsions” by Frontex.
politico.eu, theguardian.com

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Torture and abuse continue in Libya – Amnesty calls on EU to act: Fresh evidence of harrowing violations, including sexual violence, against men, women and children intercepted while crossing the Mediterranean Sea and forcibly returned to detention centres in Libya, highlights the horrifying consequences of Europe’s ongoing cooperation with Libya on migration and border control, said Amnesty International in a report published on Thursday. Amnesty called on European states to suspend cooperation on migration and border control with Libya. The EU and Italy have, for years, financed and trained coast guards to stop migrants and refugees from crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas expects foreign fighters to begin withdrawing from Libya in the coming weeks. Syrian mercenaries, who are used by both parties in the conflict, should be the first to go, Maas said in New York on Thursday.
amnesty.org, dw.com, handelsblatt.com

Germany loses Gazprom gas pipeline appeal: Berlin lost its fight on Thursday to overturn a ruling limiting Gazprom’s access to the OPAL pipeline, which links the Russian gas producer’s Nord Stream line to Germany. Europe’s highest court upheld the ruling and sided with Poland, which sees Europe’s dependence on Russian gas as a threat to regional security and has diversified its own supplies by buying liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States and others. In the latter case, the Court rejected Germany’s arguments that “energy solidarity” was a political concept rather than a legal issue, saying that the Commission was obliged to examine possible risks to the security of gas supply to the EU markets.
reuters.com

Turkey marks 5th anniversary of failed coup: Turkey marked the fifth anniversary of a failed military coup with a series of events Thursday commemorating the people who died trying to quash the uprising against the government. “We will never be a be able to repay the brave men who, through their sacrifices that dark night, brought a (bright) morning for our nation and democracy,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday during a ceremony in parliament. A total of 251 people were killed and around 2,200 others were wounded as the coup-plotters fired at crowds and bombed parliament and other government buildings. Around 35 people who allegedly participated in the plot also were killed. Erdogan has blamed US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally, for the attempted coup. Gulen rejects the accusation. After months of protests by students, Erdogan has removed a loyalist university rector, making a rare U-turn in the face of public protests.
apnews.com (Coup), bloomberg.com (University rector)

25,000 troops deployed to quell South Africa riots: South Africans counted the cost on Thursday of arson and looting that has destroyed hundreds of businesses and killed at least 117 people. Many were trampled to death in chaotic stampedes when shops were being looted, according to police. In one of the largest deployments of soldiers since the end of white minority rule, 25,000 South African troops began taking up positions Thursday to help quell the weeklong riots sparked by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma. More than 2,200 people have been arrested for theft and vandalism
reuters.com, apnews.com

Brexit: UK on fresh collision course with EU over £3.5bn demanded in Brexit ‘divorce bill’; German fishermen fear cod dispute with Norway independent.co.uk; spiegel.de
COVID-19: Council adds Ukraine and removes two countries from the list of countries for which travel restrictions should be lifted consilium.europa.eu
Covid vaccine: EU likely to decide on Moderna COVID-19 shot for kids next week apnews.com
China: MEPs set out their vision for a new EU strategy for China europarl.europa.eu
Russia: MEPs call for EU strategy to promote democracy in Russia europarl.europa.eu
United States: Kremlin papers appear to show Putin’s plot to put Trump in White House theguardian.com

⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃

My thoughts are with the families of the victims of the devastating floods in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and those who have lost their homes.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has expressed her shock at the floods in several European countries and pledged to help.
apnews.com

⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃

Deadly flooding in Europe: More than 60 people have died and dozens were missing Thursday as severe flooding in Germany and Belgium turned streams and streets into raging torrents that swept away cars and caused houses to collapse. In Germany, dozens more are missing, and search and rescue operations are ongoing, officials said. Dozens of people had to be rescued from the roofs of their houses with inflatable boats and helicopters. Hundreds of soldiers were deployed to assist in the rescue efforts. Authorities in the Rhine-Sieg county south of Cologne ordered the evacuation of several villages below the Steinbach reservoir amid fears a dam could break. The floods have cut electricity to 200,000 households. Chancellor Angela Merkel, in Washington for a meeting with US President Joe Biden, said in a statement that she was „shocked by the catastrophe that so many people in the flood areas have to endure“. The intense flooding has also sparked conversation about the impact of climate change with Germany’s Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze tweeting, „The events show the force with which the consequences of climate change can affect us all and how important it is to prepare even better for such extreme weather events in the future.“ At least eight people are also said to have died in Belgium, while France, the Netherlands and Switzerland were also hit by flooding. The Dutch government sent about 70 troops to the southern province of Limburg late Wednesday to help with evacuations and filling sandbags.
apnews.com, edition.cnn.com, reuters.com, euronews.com, npr.org

Biden hosts Merkel at White House: US President Joe Biden hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House on Thursday for what is likely her last trip to Washington before she retires from office later this year. Merkel started the day with a breakfast hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris at the Naval Observatory. Upon her arrival in the Oval Office, Biden called Merkel a „personal friend, as well as a friend to the United States.“ But despite their commonalities, Biden and Merkel still have a number of differences that will be on the table when they meet in Washington on Thursday. The US believes the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which transports natural gas from Russia directly to Germany underneath the Baltic Sea, will provide Moscow undue leverage over the European energy sector. But the White House already announced that it doesn’t expect to reach a resolution when it’s brought up Thursday. Before meeting Biden, Merkel received her 18th honorary doctorate from Johns Hopkins University, where she commented on her upcoming retirement and plans for the future. She said she needed a pause to think about what really interested her. “And then I’ll try to read, then I’ll rest a bit, because I’m very tired, and then I’ll sleep, and then we’ll see what happens,” she said.
nbcnews.com, cnn.com, rferl.org

Dutch crime journalist de Vries dies after shooting: Dutch crime journalist Peter R. de Vries has died just over a week after being shot in the head in Amsterdam, according to a statement by his family published by CNN affiliate RTL News. The 64-year-old, known for his investigative work exposing the criminal underworld, was shot five times, including at least once in the head, on 6 July, on a busy street in central Amsterdam. The shooting happened after De Vries made one of his regular appearances on a current affairs television show. He had recently been an adviser and confidant for a witness in the trial of the alleged leader and other members of a crime gang. De Vries is the third associate of the witness, known as Nabil B, to be killed, according to RTL News. In 2018, the witness’s brother, Reduan B, was shot dead. A year later, the lawyer for the witness was fatally gunned down in an Amsterdam street. Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte led the tributes to De Vries in the Netherlands. Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus issued a statement calling De Vries „a brave man who lived without compromise. He would not allow himself to be intimidated by criminals.“
cnn.com, npr.org

Government formation in Bulgaria: Bulgaria is facing a political impasse with no clear prospects of forming a stable cabinet in a fractured parliament after the election, the country’s second in three months. Bulgaria’s new anti-elite party There Is Such a People (ITN), which won Sunday’s election by a small margin, said on Thursday it would withdraw its nominee for prime minister in a bid to win support for a new government. ITN leader Slavi Trifonov said he would not hold coalition talks but would propose a minority government led by Nikolay Vassilev as prime minister. ITN’s potential allies, two small anti-graft parties, have refused to grant Trifonov blanket support without talks. The Socialists also refused support as did former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s centre-right GERB, which expects to stay in opposition.
reuters.com

Alitalia’s successor ITA to take off in mid-October after EU deal: Carrier Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA) will replace state-owned Alitalia and start flying in mid-October after Italy reached a long-awaited deal with the European Commission following months of haggling over the fate of the old, loss-making airline. ITA, which will be fully operational from 15 October, said in a statement it will aim to raise initial capital of 700 million euros to buy assets from the old company and begin operating.
reuters.com

Germany supports vaccination campaigns in poorer countries: Germany announced Thursday another 260 million euros for the World Health Organisation (WHO) to spend on COVID-19 treatments, tests and vaccines, as well as at least 30 million vaccine doses for COVAX, the global vaccines facility. The move drew warm praise from WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who called Germany „one of the leading lights in the fight against the pandemic globally“ as Health Minister Jens Spahn made the announcement. Meanwhile, the Covid situation on the Balearic Islands – one of the Germans‘ favourite vacation destinations – is under control despite a high number of new infections. Most of those who have fallen ill are young people.
politico.eu (Germany), stern.de (Balearic Islands)

Austria: Committee of inquiry into the Ibiza scandal ends fr.de
Romania: US Black Hawk helicopter makes emergency landing in downtown Bucharest reuters.com
Vaccination lottery in Slovakia: One jab could win millions de.euronews.com
French try to get hold of fake vaccination certificates tagesspiegel.de
Moldova: President Sandu: „The people here have been lied to and disappointed so much“ spiegel.de

⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃

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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃

Jerusalem football game between Beitar and Barcelona cancelled: Beitar Jerusalem Football Club says it has called off a friendly game with Barcelona over the Spanish teams‘ apparent unwillingness to play the football match in Jerusalem. Both Palestinians and Israelis consider Jerusalem to be their capital. As yet there has been no immediate statement released by Barcelona, which had never committed to the fixture publicly. Earlier this month, the club had received a letter from the Palestinian Football Association, expressing concern over the reported proposal for a football game in Jerusalem.
dw.com

 

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