Tuesday, 22 September 2020: EU sanctions on Belarus remain blocked by Cyprus, EU firms are selling surveillance tech to China, Trump to announce nomination for Ginsburg’s successor at end of the week


EU sanctions on Belarus remain blocked by Cyprus: The EU is still unable to adopt sanctions targeting people involved in electoral fraud and repression in Belarus due to member state disagreement at a foreign ministers‘ meeting in Brussels. Cyprus had wanted the sanctions to be tied to sanctions against Turkey due to a dispute over gas drilling in the eastern Mediterranean. Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto aired his frustration on Twitter, saying that his country would be prepared to use qualified majority voting rather than unanimity to get the measures through. Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya urged European lawmakers to be more brave in their response to Alexander Lukashenko’s refusal to relax his grip on power in Belarus. In a separate decision, EU foreign ministers on Monday agreed to sanctions against entities that violated the United Nations embargo on arms flowing into Libya.
dpa-international.com, dw.com, euronews.com (Belarus); dw.com (Libya)

EU firms are selling surveillance tech to China: European tech companies are selling digital surveillance technology to China, according to human rights group Amnesty International. The group found that three companies based in France, Sweden and the Netherlands sold digital surveillance systems, such as facial recognition technology and network cameras, to key players of the Chinese mass surveillance apparatus. In some cases, the export was directly for use in China’s indiscriminate mass surveillance programmes, with the risk of being used against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups throughout the country.
amnesty.org, politico.eu

United Nations celebrates 75th birthday: In 1945, the 50 founding members signed the UN charter, in the hopes of learning from the past and ending wars. On Monday, world leaders came together virtually to mark the 75th anniversary of the UN. The pandemic has exposed the world’s fragilities, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. “Today we have a surplus of multilateral challenges and a deficit of multilateral solutions,” he warned. US President Donald Trump was on the list of 182 speakers, but didn’t offer remarks. The US instead was represented by its acting deputy UN ambassador, Cherith Norman Chalet.
dw.com, reuters.com, apnews.com

Trump to announce nomination for Ginsburg’s successor at end of the week: US President Donald Trump said on Monday that he plans to announce his nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the end of this week. Judge Amy Coney Barrett is considered the leading contender because of her conservative credentials. After serving as a Supreme Court clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia, and working at a couple of law firms, Barrett returned to Notre Dame as a professor until joining the bench. Trump has also praised Judge Barbara Lagoa, who is on the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, and Allison Jones Rushing, who is on the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
npr.org, politico.com, reuters.com

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Navalny criticises Russian authorities – and demands that Russia give his clothes back cbsnews.com
Letter to Vestager: US app maker Blix says Apple not playing fair reuters.com
Trade pact with South America: Key EU states worry trade pact may hurt Amazon apnews.com
Lagarde: Economic recovery in the euro zone uncertain welt.de
Brexit: EU gives banks 18-months to cut excessive reliance on UK clearers reuters.com
Principle of equal treatment: EU Commission wants to take stronger action against racism euractiv.com


The argument that Germany would become dependent is incorrect.
Gas contributes only a fraction of Germany’s energy consumption, and Russian gas only a fraction of that, so it is wrong to say that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline will make Germany dependent on Russian energy, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said.


Madrid asks for Spanish army’s help: Madrid’s regional government chief requested the army’s help on Monday in fighting the Covid-19 surge in the Spanish capital where local authorities ordered a partial lockdown of some poorer districts, prompting protests. Meanwhile, Spain’s main opera house came under fire after a show had to be cancelled amid loud protests from spectators complaining about the lack of social distancing in upper-circle seats.
reuters.com (Madrid), cbsnews.com (Opera)

Almost 250 newly infected migrants on Lesbos: Greece reported 453 new cases of Covid infections on Monday, a new daily record since the start of the virus outbreak in the country. Of the new cases, 184 were due to an outbreak of infections at Greece’s biggest migrant camp on Lesbos island.

Czech health minister resigns amid surge in Covid cases: The Czech government moved Monday to appoint an epidemiologist as the new health minister as the country struggles with a surge of new coronavirus infections. The outgoing minister, Adam Vojtech, resigned from his post on Monday, saying his departure was meant to create space for a possible different approach to the pandemic. Vojtech had wanted to tighten restrictions earlier in the pandemic, but was stopped by Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who now said he regretted the decisions he made back then. The opposition believes that Vojtech was sacrificed as a pawn.
apnews.com, kurier.at, welt.de

Italy orders testing on some travellers from France: French health authorities reported 5,298 newly confirmed Covid-19 cases on Monday. Italy will make testing for Covid compulsory for people travelling from Paris and some other areas of France, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said. In the Netherlands, the number of daily new virus cases topped 2,000 for the first time on Monday.
independent.co.uk (France), reuters.com (Italy), reuters.com (Netherlands)

German military launches space junk tracking system: German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has inaugurated Germany’s Air and Space Operations Centre to track space junk using a prototype sky-scanning radar. Observing the airspace over Germany and orbital space beyond the Earth’s atmosphere „belonged together,“ said Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Bulgaria jails 2 men for life over 2012 bus bombing: A Bulgarian court on Monday sentenced two men to life in prison for their involvement in a deadly bomb attack on Israeli tourists at the country’s Burgas Airport in 2012.

Greece: Turkey sues Greek newspaper for headline about Erdogan welt.de
Italy: Italians approve constitutional change to downsize parliament; Salvini fails to make expected gains in regional elections politico.eu; reuters.com
Sweden: Government promises $12 billion to kick-start economy in 2021 budget reuters.com
Switzerland: Protesters occupy Swiss square demanding action on climate change reuters.com
France: The deep crisis of Macron’s party faz.net


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Orban endorses Trump: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Monday endorsed Donald Trump’s reelection bid for the US presidency, saying his rival Democrats have forced a “moral imperialism” on the world that illiberal leaders like himself reject.


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