Friday, 3 September 2021: Afghanistan crisis fuels debate on new EU military force, EU returns millions of vaccine doses imported from Africa, Irish watchdog hits WhatsApp with record fine

⊂ EUROPE ⊃

Afghanistan crisis fuels debate on new EU military force: The US withdrawal from Afghanistan will catalyse the EU to establish its own permanent military force, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said. After a meeting of EU defence ministers in Slovenia, Borrell said the moment had come to establish an active EU expeditionary force, described by some senior European politicians as an army. “Afghanistan has shown that the deficiency in our strategic autonomy comes with a price,” Borrell said. “And that the only way forward is to combine our forces and to strengthen not only our capacity, but also our will to act.” German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer tweeted: “In the EU, coalitions of the willing could act after a joint decision by everyone.“ A rapid reaction force is seen as more likely now that Britain has exited the EU. Britain, one of Europe’s main military powers alongside France, had been sceptical of collective defence policy.
theguardian.com, washingtonpost.com, reuters.com

Italy criticises EU’s handling of Afghan refugees: Mario Draghi has criticised the behaviour of some EU countries in taking in Afghan refugees. The Italian prime minister said the rescue of Afghans had once again shown the EU’s poor handling of migration issues. Afghanistan is a global problem, he added. The EU, which unites behind so many principles, was failing to address it. The Turkish government has called for a renewal of the EU-Turkey refugee deal, despite sharp criticism of its refugee policies. Qatar has said that it was talking with the Taliban and working with Turkey for potential technical support to restart operations in Kabul airport.
spiegel.de, welt.de, reuters.com

EU returns millions of vaccine doses imported from Africa: The EU will return to Africa millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson ’s COVID-19 vaccine that it received from a plant in South Africa, following criticism by health activists that the EU was taking away shots from a continent that has the lowest immunisation rate in the world. Strive Masiyiwa, who heads the African Union’s Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, said the decision to return the shots was made at a meeting between EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa last week. Norway has decided that children aged between 12 and 15 will be offered Covid vaccines, and that the lifting of the last coronavirus restrictions will be delayed. The Italian government is planning to start administering a third Covid vaccine shot later this month. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has also backed mandatory Covid vaccinations for the general population.
wsj.com (Africa); thelocal.no (Norway); theguardian.com, politico.eu (Italy)

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Heavy rainfall causes destructive flash floods in Spain: Heavy rainfall on Wednesday caused flooding in parts of central and eastern Spain. The provinces of Tarragona, Castellón and Toledo were particularly affected by the storms, while in Madrid the rising waters flooded homes and created significant traffic disruption. The Netherlands’ advertising watchdog has urged Royal Dutch Shell to stop running a campaign promoting fuel purchases as carbon neutral, providing that customers purchase offsets. Italian Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani believes that environmental activists are worse than the climate crisis: “The world is full of radical chic environmentalists and it is full of extremist, ideological environmentalists: they are worse than the climate catastrophe,” he told the political training school of former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s party, Italia Viva, on Wednesday.
english.elpais.com (Spain), euractiv.com (Niederlande), euractiv.com (Italy)

EU working on fresh sanctions against Belarus: Polish President Andrzej Duda has signed a government proposal to initiate a state of emergency at the country’s border with Belarus to combat a wave of illegal immigration. Poland accuses Belarus of waging “hybrid warfare” against its EU neighbours by shepherding migrants from the Middle East towards its borders with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. The state of emergency will see a list of activities restricted, including public gatherings and excursions near the border. The EU Commission has confirmed it is preparing fresh sanctions against Belarus over the flood of migrants across the country’s borders. A Commission spokesman said the EU would continue fighting against the instrumentalisation of migrants and human misery by the Lukashenko regime.
independent.co.uk, euronews.com

EU court rules zero tariff offers violate open internet: The European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruled on Thursday that unlimited streaming offers from Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom violate EU roaming and net neutrality rules. The court found that „zero tariff“ options offered by telecommunication service providers Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom in Germany breach the EU laws on Open Internet and Roaming. Such a commercial practice is contrary to the general obligation of equal treatment of traffic, without discrimination or interference, as required by the regulation on open internet access.
euractiv.com

Regulators must vet Nuerburgring state aid again: A German motorsport association and the losing bidder for Germany’s legendary Nuerburgring on Thursday won backing from the European Court of Justice (CJEU) in their fight to get EU antitrust regulators re-examine whether the sale of the race track involved state aid. The EU Commission in its 2014 decision said that motor sport industry supplier and new track owner Capricorn Group did not receive state aid as the sale was transparent. The group Ja zum Nuerburgring eV and US company NeXovation, which lost out in the tender process, then challenged the EU ruling at the General Court, Europe’s second highest, but lost. They subsequently appealed to the CJEU, which backed the two parties.
reuters.com

European Court of Justice (CJEU) protects states from lawsuits by energy companies handelsblatt.com
World politics: China warns US poor relations could undermine progress on climate change theguardian.com
Hurricane „Ida“: Several dead as Ida batters Northeast with record rain and floods nbcnews.com
Controversial abortion law in Texas: No exceptions for cases of rape and incest cnbc.com

⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃

Afghanistan is a bitter end, is a heavy defeat.
German defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer favours stronger military autonomy of the EU as a lesson from the Afghanistan mission.
zeit.de

⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃

Greece mourns Mikis Theodorakis, composer and Marxist rebel: Renowned Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis has died in Athens, aged 96. Theodorakis was much more than a composer. Born on the Aegean island of Chios in 1925, he joined the resistance against the German and Italian occupation of Greece when he was 17. In 1947, during the civil war that followed World War II, he was arrested along with thousands of others suspected of being communists and was tortured and forced into exile on the island of Icaria. He was later deported to the island of Makronisos. He was released in August 1949. Theodorakis then studied music in Athens and Paris thanks to a scholarship from the state, returning to Greece in 1960. Four years later, he was elected to parliament. When a military dictatorship seized control of the country in a 1967 coup, Theodorakis was among the first leftwing politicians to be jailed and tortured. He was released, after pressure from the international community, and sent with his family into exile in Paris. “Today we lost a part of Greece’s soul,” Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said in a statement. President Katerina Sakellaropoulou hailed Theodorakis as a “pan-Hellenic personality” who was also “a universal artist, an invaluable asset of our musical culture.“ Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared three days of national mourning.
theguardian.com, politico.eu, apnews.com

Denmark begins trial of former immigration minister: The trial of former Danish immigration minister Inger Stoejberg began on Thursday, over charges of illegally separating couples who arrived in the country to claim asylum. Stoejberg served as immigration minister from 2015 to 2019, and ordered the separation of 23 couples in which the woman was under 18, without examining the cases individually. Prosecutors have also accused Stoejberg of „lying to or misleading“ parliamentary committees when informing them of her decision, although that was not listed as a charge in her indictment. Stoejberg, however, denies any wrongdoing.
dw.com

Irish watchdog hits WhatsApp with record fine: Ireland’s privacy watchdog has fined WhatsApp a record 225 million euros after an investigation found it breached EU data protection rules on transparency about sharing people’s data with other Facebook companies. The Data Protection Commission said Thursday that it was also ordering WhatsApp to take remedial actions to change the way it communicates with users so that it complies with EU regulations. WhatsApp said the fine was out of proportion and it would appeal the decision.
apnews.com

Romanian government on brink of collapse: The coalition of centre-right parties governing Romania since December 2020 is on the point of unravelling, with one party drafting a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Florin Cițu on Thursday. On Wednesday, Cițu of the National Liberal Party (PNL) tried to force through a controversial local spending programme and sacked Justice Minister Stelian Ion, a member of the Union to Save Romania PLUS grouping (USR PLUS), the second-largest coalition member. Citu blamed Ion for blocking an investment programme for local Romanian governments. But opponents said the investment project was an attempt to buy the political support of „local barons“ ahead of a party leadership campaign. USR-PLUS described the dismissal as „abusive and groundless“ and said it had begun to gather signatures for a motion of censure against the government if talks fail to produce a new prime minister.
politico.eu, euronews.com

Bulgaria to hold presidential election in November amid political crisis: Bulgaria will hold a presidential election on 14 November amid intense political debate around the country’s need for a third round of parliamentary elections within a year, the country’s parliament decided on Thursday. Votes in April and July have failed to produce a ruling executive, despite calls from incumbent President Rumen Radev. By law, Bulgaria’s president is elected in a popular vote every five years to the largely ceremonial position. Incumbent Radev, who was elected in 2016 with the support of the Socialist Party, is hoping to become the first Bulgarian President to retain office since the end of the communist regime.
politico.eu, euronews.com

European court strengthens independence of German network regulator: The European Court of Justice (CJEU) has said that Germany’s network regulator, the Federal Network Agency, must act more independently when applying the bloc’s electricity and gas regulations, reports news agency Reuters. Siding with a years-old EU Commission complaint against Germany, the court in its ruling criticised the country’s practices regarding company unbundling rules and methods related to calculation network tariffs, among other details.
cleanenergywire.org

Poland hopes for quick end to row with EU over billions of euros for pandemic recovery ft.com
France: JPMorgan settles tax-fraud case for 30 million dollars bloomberg.com
Spain: Unemployment falls by 82,583 people, marking the best August in the current statistical series english.elpais.com
Tschechien: Prime minister Babis confronted by his son on campaign trail politico.eu
Ireland unveils record spending to tackle housing crisis ft.com

⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃

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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃

Dresden Green Vault jewel heist: Prosecutors charge 6 men: German prosecutors said Thursday they charged six men over the 2019 Dresden museum heist. Armed men had broken into the Green Vault museum and snatched 21 pieces of jewelry encrusted with more than 4,300 diamonds. Prosecutors said the insured value of the pieces reached 113.8 million euros — in what has been labelled as the biggest heist in modern German history. Investigators are still searching for the stolen artifacts.
dw.com

 

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