Tuesday, 29 September 2020: Armenia and Azerbaijan fight over Nagorno-Karabakh, Germany dilutes EU rule-of-law plans, Brexit provisions to stay in Britain’s Internal Market Bill


Armenia and Azerbaijan fight over Nagorno-Karabakh: Fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces in the Caucasus escalated on Monday, with fresh casualties reported in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. The overall death toll has now reached 95, with 11 civilians killed since violence broke out on Sunday; nine in Azerbaijan and two on the Armenian side. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, announced on Twitter that he had spoken to ministers of both countries and stressed the need to return to negotiations under the auspices of the Minsk Group. Armenia’s ambassador to Russia said on Monday that Turkey had sent around 4,000 fighters from northern Syria to Azerbaijan amid fighting over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Interfax news agency reported. Turkey and Pakistan have expressed strong support for Azerbaijan, while Armenia counts on its Russian ally. Armenia has asked the European Court of Human Rights for help.
dw.com, euractiv.com, reuters.com, rnd.de

Germany dilutes EU rule-of-law plans: Germany, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, has proposed watering-down the conditions tying EU funding to respect for the rule of law in Europe. The new plan would require a weighted majority of countries to approve any European Commission proposal for funding cuts. The Commission had earlier proposed that a weighted majority of countries be needed to block, rather than approve, its recommendation for the suspension of payments.

Brexit provisions to stay in Britain’s Internal Market Bill: UK Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has said parts of a bill which override provisions in the Brexit deal agreed with the EU would remain, despite EU requests to remove them. He met EU Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic on Monday to discuss the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Sefcovic said the UK’s negotiating position was still far apart from what the EU could accept, but he was unclear about what the EU would do if the UK fails to scrap the controversial clauses in its Internal Market Bill by the Brussels-imposed deadline of Wednesday. Pressed on whether the EU could walk away from negotiations on a free-trade agreement with the EU if the UK does not scrap the proposed law, he said: “It will never be the EU which would cause the end of the negotiation of the future partnership between the EU and the UK.” Formal trade talks resume this Tuesday.
bbc.com, politico.eu

Pompeo urges Greece and Turkey to resolve Mediterranean row: The United States and Greece issued a joint call for a peaceful resolution of the Eastern Mediterranean conflict. In a statement released during US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Greece on Monday, the two countries reaffirmed their belief that maritime delimitation issues should be resolved peacefully. They added that Washington and Athens were ready to use all appropriate means at their disposal, in order to safeguard stability and security in the wider region.
politico.eu, france24.com

Merkel visited Navalny in hospital: German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny while he was undergoing treatment for poisoning in a Berlin hospital, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Monday. He confirmed Navalny’s own report that the visit took place, but declined to provide further details. “There was a meeting, but one shouldn’t call it secret,” Navalny said in a tweet, referring to media reports alleging that Merkel made a secret visit to the Charite hospital where he spent 32 days.
dw.com, apnews.com

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Coronavirus 1: EU wants to better coordinate travel warnings and avoid border closures de.reuters.com
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel is worried about sharply rising coronavirus infections in Germany.


Nobel laureate Alexievich leaves Belarus for Germany: Nobel Prize-winning author Svetlana Alexievich, a prominent opposition figure, has left Belarus on a trip to Germany but her departure is not linked to politics and she plans to return, an aide told Reuters on Monday. Alexievich has travelled to Germany to receive medical treatment and for work reasons, her aide Tatiana Tyurina said, adding: “She will return.” Tyurina said Alexievich had business meetings planned and intended to take part in a book fair in Sweden and an award ceremony in Sicily. French President Emmanuel Macron will meet Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in Lithuania on Tuesday, according to an Elysée official.
reuters.com (Alexievich), politico.eu (Tikhanovskaya)

Diplomats from 50 countries call for end to discrimination in Poland: Ambassadors from around the world have called for the rights of gay and transgender people to be respected in Poland. The appeal, made in an open letter published on Sunday, comes as an increasingly visible LGBT community in Poland has faced a backlash from the right-wing government, many local communities, and the Catholic church. Polish deputy foreign minister Pawel Jablonski replied to the open letter by saying the Polish government fully agrees with its message. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he agreed that every person deserves respect but that he completely disagreed with the ambassadors’ claim that LGBT people were being deprived of that in Poland.
bbc.com, euronews.com, nbcnews.com

Spanish authorities spar over Madrid lockdown: A clash between Madrid’s regional authorities and the Spanish government over how to contain the city’s surging coronavirus caseload is provoking growing discontent among residents in poorer areas who say they have been unfairly targeted.

Dutch government announces new Covid restrictions: The Dutch government introduced new nationwide restrictions Monday aimed at tackling the swift spread of coronavirus infections that is sweeping across the country, including banning supporters from professional sports matches and ordering bars and restaurants to close at 10 pm for the coming three weeks.

Germany to restrict private celebrations: In view of persistently high Covid infections, the German government has proposed an upper limit of 25 participants for private parties and a limit of 25 participants for public celebrations. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said she was deeply worried about sharply rising coronavirus infections. Merkel warned top officials from her conservative Christian Democratic Union during a video meeting earlier on Monday that daily new infection numbers could reach 19,200 if the trend for rising cases continues.
zeit.de, dw.com

France: Hospitals postpone operations to make space for Covid patients euronews.com
Czech Republic and Slovakia to declare state of emergency due to rising number of infections zeit.de
Norway announces new Covid warning app rnd.de
Germany launches new search for permanent nuclear waste disposal site dw.com


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Catalan leader suspended from office: Spain’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling on Monday that disqualifies Catalan President Quim Torra from office for disobedience. Torra was convicted in December of last year for refusing to remove a banner with separatist slogans from his government’s headquarters in the run-up to the April 2019 general election. He was fined 30,000 euros and barred from holding office for 18 months, but had been allowed to remain in power during the appeal process.


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