⊂ EUROPE ⊃
EU Commission President von der Leyen’s State of the Union Address: Ursula von der Leyen hailed the EU’s vaccine progress and pledged 200 million jabs for low-income countries. Looking forward, von der Leyen said the next year will be a test of character for the EU. „A pandemic is a marathon, it’s not a sprint,“ she noted. The former German defence minister has put tackling climate change at the top of her agenda with bold steps for the EU to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, along with a digital transformation of its economy. On the topic of migration, von der Leyen said the Belarus government had instrumentalised migrants by sending them to the borders of EU nations. She accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of „a hybrid attack to destabilise Europe.“ The Commission president also said the EU had to provide greater stability in its own neighbourhood and elsewhere, taking part in missions that did not include NATO and the UN. It should share intelligence and become a leader in cyber-security. Furthermore, with a global chip shortage causing a major delay in manufacturing activity and forcing several automakers to cut down on production, von der Leyen said the bloc must create a state- of-the-art European chip ecosystem including production.
ec.europa.eu, france24.com, bbc.com
MEPs approve strengthened measures to attract highly skilled non-EU workers: The European Parliament has voted to approve reforms to the EU’s Blue Card Directive, designed to facilitate the employment of highly skilled workers from outside the EU and help plug the gap where labour shortages exist in certain sectors. Under the revised rules, applicants will need to present a work contract or a binding job offer of a minimum of six months as well as evidence of higher qualifications or professional skills. The salary threshold for applicants has been reduced to at least 100% and not more than 160% of the average gross annual salary in the member state of employment (from the current 150% minimum with no upper limit).
European Health Union: better disease prevention and cross-border cooperation: MEPs are ready to negotiate with member states to reinforce the EU’s disease prevention and control framework and jointly tackle cross-border health threats. The proposal to extend the mandate of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) was adopted with 598 votes in favour, 84 against and 13 abstentions. EU member states should develop national preparedness and response plans, and provide timely, comparable and high quality data, MEPs said. They also want to ensure that the ECDC’s mandate is extended beyond communicable diseases to also cover major non-communicable diseases.
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Commission yearns for setting the global standard on artificial intelligence: The EU Commission believes that its proposed Artificial Intelligence Act should become the global standard if it is to be fully effective. The upcoming AI treaty that is being drafted by the Council of Europe might help the EU achieve just that. In April the Commission launched its proposal for an Artificial Intelligence Act. Structured around a risk-based approach, the regulation introduces tighter obligations in proportion to the potential impact of AI applications. Commissioner Thierry Breton argued that one shouldn’t underestimate the advantage of the EU being the first mover and emphasised that the EU is the main pacemaker in regulating the use of AI on a global scale.
Russia wants quick launch of Nord Stream 2: A rapid startup of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany would balance high gas prices in Europe, including on spot market, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday. Russia announced last week that it had completed construction of the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 to Germany, doubling its gas exporting capacity via the Baltic Sea. Nord Stream 2 has drawn criticism from the United States and Ukraine among others, with Washington saying the pipeline will increase Europe’s reliance on Russian energy supplies.
EU considering sanctions on companies liable for environmental damage abroad: The EU Commission is considering sanctions to tackle environmental damage and human rights abuses in Europe’s supply chains, according to Nils Behrndt, acting deputy director-general at the executive’s justice department. At the moment, the economic benefits of crimes are not sufficiently addressed, added Behrndt.
Covid: EU vaccination certificates valid in more and more countries ec.europa.eu
Eurozone wages fall for the first time since 2011, easing inflation fears ft.com
Afghanistan: Taliban ask Pakistan to resume air traffic spiegel.de
International Criminal Court authorises full inquiry into Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs theguardian.com
⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃
„We must achieve our ambitious goals.“
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier sees Europe at a crossroads.
⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃
Boris Johnson reshuffles cabinet: British Prime Minister Johnson on Wednesday reappointed Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab as justice secretary as part of a larger cabinet reshuffle, Downing Street said. Raab has faced criticism for his handling of the Afghanistan crisis, as he was on holiday in Crete while the Taliban were entering Kabul. Johnson named current Trade Secretary Liz Truss as the new foreign secretary, while also giving Raab the deputy prime minister position. The government also said Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson have all left their posts. Michael Gove will take over as housing minister in the reshuffle. Johnson’s office said the prime minister was appointing a strong and united team to build back better from the pandemic.
Poland’s future is in EU, says ruling party chief: The leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has stated there will be no „Polexit“ and that the country’s future is in the EU. In an interview with state news agency PAP, he reiterated that the EU’s „interference“ in Poland’s internal affairs must end, but that the country would not leave the bloc. Kaczynski also signalled that the PiS will try to overturn the Senate’s rejection of a media bill which opponents say is intended to silence a US-owned channel that is critical of the government.
Catalan independence talks are back: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has met Catalan pro-independence groups in an attempt to ease tensions. It included sitting down with regional president Pere Aragonès at the seat of the Catalan government in downtown Barcelona. In June, Sánchez issued pardons for nine Catalan leaders who had been jailed for sedition for their role in a failed secession attempt four years ago. On Wednesday, the Spanish PM said that the two-hour meeting was important to continue mending relations between their governments. Sánchez has said he plans to bring to the table proposals to increase investment and financing in the region. While Sánchez has pledged to improve relations with Catalonia since he came to power in 2018, he has always stated that an independence referendum is contrary to the constitution.
Paris attacks trial: Abdeslam says deaths of 130 „nothing personal“: The key defendant in the 2015 Paris attacks trial, Salah Abdeslam, said Wednesday the coordinated killings were in retaliation for French airstrikes on the Islamic State group, calling the deaths of 130 innocent people “nothing personal” as he acknowledged his role for the first time. His remarks shocked and upset survivors and victims‘ relatives in court. They cried and hugged as the main defendant spoke for four to five minutes. Although there are 20 defendants on trial, Salah Abdeslam is the chief suspect and only 13 others are in court. Most of the others are presumed dead.
Civil engineer jailed in Sweden for selling information to Russian embassy: A man in Sweden has been jailed for three years after he was found guilty of spying for Russia for several years. Kristian Dimitrievski was accused of handing over confidential information on the Swedish truck and bus maker Scania to a Russian diplomat in return for money. The 47-year-old technology consultant had also been charged with passing on sensitive corporate information about the Chinese-owned Swedish car manufacturer Volvo Cars. But he was acquitted of the latter charge at Gothenburg District Court on Wednesday.
China denies port visit by German warship: A German foreign ministry spokesperson said Wednesday that Beijing rejected a planned stopover of the German warship „Bayern“ in a Chinese port. „After a period of reflection, China has decided that it does not want a port visit by the German frigate ‚Bayern‘ and we have taken note of that,“ foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Adebahr told reporters in Berlin. The „Bayern“ set off from Wilhelmshaven on 2 August for a six-month journey to the Indo-Pacific. Germany has sought to strengthen its presence in the region, and a Chinese stop was meant to help defuse tensions over the naval mission. But China denied Germany’s request to allow the „Bayern“ to make a port call in Shanghai, according to the AFP news agency.
Ireland: Foreign minister Coveney survives no-confidence vote politico.eu
Italy: Trial against Lega leader Salvini adjourned orf.at
War crimes in Kosovo: Former Kosovo rebel commander on trial in the Hague for war crimes euronews.com
Czech Republic: 2 firefighters killed, 4 injured in Czech gas explosion abcnews.go.com
⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃
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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃
Austrian Post issues mini FFP2 mask as commemorative stamp: The Austrian Post has issued a special stamp made of the material and in the shape of an FFP2 mask. There will be 150,000 stamps, each worth €2.75 and made of the original material of FFP2 masks. To create the stamp, two layers of fleece are embroidered in the shape of an FFP2 mask and then cut out with a laser. The special stamp even has ear loops. It can be used to send letters just like conventional stamps.