Tuesday, 3 August 2021: EU to aid Lithuania as migrants pour in from Belarus, US expands Afghan refugee programme, French president uses social media to counter false information about vaccines


EU to aid Lithuania as migrants pour in from Belarus: European Union officials on Monday pledged millions of euros to help Lithuania tackle a migrant crisis that it blames on the government of neighbouring Belarus and its authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko. “This is not primarily a migration crisis, this is an act of aggression that is aimed to provoke,” the EU’s commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, said during a press conference in Vilnius. In the past 24 hours, some 287 migrants have arrived in Lithuania and the total for this year stands at 3,832 compared to just 74 in all of 2020, according to official figures. Lukashenko has simultaneously denied using migrants for political pressure while also warning that Belarus has no intention of halting the flows. Meanwhile, Belarusian sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya received a humanitarian visa from Poland on Monday, hours after she refused to board a flight out of Japan saying she was being forced to return to her native country against her will and that she feared arrest. The EU said the effort to repatriate Timanovskaya was further evidence of „brutal repression“ by President Alexander Lukashenko and it welcomed Poland’s decision to grant her a humanitarian visa. „The attempt to forcibly repatriate Krystsina Tsimanouskaya against her own will is another example of the brutality of the repression of Lukashenko’s regime that hits all categories of Belarusian society, including athletes, and does not respect any Olympic truce,“ said Nabila Massrali, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
apnews.com, politico.eu (Lithuania); cnn.com, finance.yahoo.com (Timanovskaya)

US expands Afghan refugee programme: The Biden administration on Monday expanded its efforts to assist at-risk Afghan citizens flee Taliban violence as fighting intensifies ahead of the US military pullout at the end of the month. The State Department said it is widening the scope of Afghans eligible for refugee status in United States to include current and former employees of US-based news organisations, US-based aid and development agencies and other relief groups that receive US funding. Current and former employees of the US government and the NATO military operation who don’t meet the criteria for a dedicated programme for such workers are also covered. Taliban fighters assaulted at least three provincial capitals overnight – Lashkar Gah, Kandahar and Herat – after a weekend of heavy fighting that resulted in thousands of civilians fleeing the advancing militants. The United States and Britain have accused the Taliban of massacring civilians in the town of Spin Boldak, which the insurgents captured last month along the border with Pakistan. „The Taliban massacred dozens of civilians in revenge killings. These murders could constitute war crimes,“ the embassies of Washington and London said in separate tweets. Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has blamed the speedy withdrawal of US-led troops for the worsening violence in his country.
apnews.com, theguardian.com, france24.com

Israel, US, UK and Romania blame Iran for fatal drone attack on oil tanker: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a briefing Monday that the United States is consulting with the UK, Romania and Israel to prepare a collective response to the alleged Iranian attack on an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman, which killed a UK national and a Romanian national last Thursday. In his first statement on the attack, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it „outrageous“ and said that Iran needed to face the consequences for what it had done. On Monday, both the UK and Romania summoned the Iranian ambassadors to London and Bucharest respectively to discuss the attack on the Mercer Street. The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied responsibility for the attack.
axios.com, cbsnews.com

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EU regulators warn that Facebook’s Kustomer deal may hurt competition: Facebook’s acquisition of US customer service startup Kustomer may hurt competition and boost its market power in online advertising, European Union antitrust regulators warned on Monday as they opened a full-scale investigation into the deal. Facebook announced the purchase of Kustomer to scale up its instant messaging app WhatsApp in November last year. The EU Commission said the deal may result in Facebook blocking rivals’ access to its units WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram, which are key to customer relationship management (CRM) software. The EU watchdog also cited concerns about Facebook’s ability to better personalise and target online display advertising services using Kustomer’s client data, giving it an advantage over rivals.

EU sanctions Nicaragua’s first lady and president’s son over human rights violations: The Council of the EU has imposed restrictive measures on eight more individuals responsible for serious human rights violations in Nicaragua and/or whose actions undermined democracy or the rule of law, including Rosario Murillo, the vice president and wife of President Daniel Ortega, and Ortega’s son Juan Carlos. The measures are targeted at individuals and are designed in this way not to harm the Nicaraguan population or the Nicaraguan economy. Juan Carlos is the head of the Sandinista 4 de Mayo movement and runs Canal 8, one of the country’s main television channels. In the past two months, police in Nicaragua have arrested and detained more than 20 opposition figures and several candidates who might have been able to challenge Ortega in elections on 7 November.
consilium.europa.eu, theguardian.com, riotimesonline.com

Dumping prices: EU extends tariffs on US biodiesel for five years euractiv.com
European Central Bank increases pace of its emergency bond purchases at the start of the summer handelsblatt.com
Media: EU Commission supports European media projects with 12 million euros ec.europa.eu
Unemployment: Where in Europe are the most young people unemployed? de.euronews.com
Memorial ceremony in Berlin: Commemoration of Sinti and Roma murdered by the Nazis deutschlandfunk.de


These considerations are on the same level as the inhumane conventions of populists. Foreign criminals are human beings too. They deserve their punishment, but no one has the right to send them to their death.
The head of Germany’s Social Democrats, Norbert Walter-Borjans, has criticised the government’s plan to deport migrants to Afghanistan.


EU sends help to Turkey as wildfires rage on: The EU announced on Monday that it would send three air tankers to Turkey to combat forest fires that have been burning near the Mediterranean coast in Antalya since last Wednesday. Eight people have been killed by the fires and a total of 10,000 have been evacuated in Mugla province alone. The aid comes as Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government face criticism for their handling of the situation. Erdogan was lampooned on social media as being entirely out of touch when he tossed bags full of tea to locals in one of the worst-hit regions in the country. The publicity stunt came as Erdogan, surrounded by a heavy police escort, delivered political speeches in and around Marmaris. Meanwhile, southern Europe finds itself in the grips of a prolonged heatwave with more large fires raging in Italy, Spain and Greece. „We are facing the worst heatwave since 1987,“ Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, adding that the authorities were doing „everything possible“ to deal with the situation.
dw.com, euronews.com, france24.com

German health officials recommend vaccine boosters and jabs for teens: German health ministers on Monday unanimously approved a plan to begin administering COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to elderly and at-risk citizens starting in September. Health Minister Jens Spahn and the country’s 16 state health ministers also voted to recommend vaccinating all 12-17 year olds, a move that exceeds guidelines set out by the country’s vaccine regulator STIKO. The regulator currently only advocates administering vaccinations to 12-17 year olds with certain pre-existing conditions, not blanket inoculation. Still, politicians say the time to act is now. „It is important that we don’t waste time,“ said Bavarian State Health Minister Klaus Holetschek.

German warship sets sail for Indo-Pacific region: Germany sent a warship to the South China Sea for the first time in almost two decades on Monday, aligning itself with other Western nations by expanding its military presence in the region. The „Bayern“ (Bavaria) set sail for its six-month deployment from a naval base in Wilhelmshaven, northwestern Germany, with more than 200 soldiers on board. As part of the tour, the vessel will dock in the ports of Germany’s allied partners. But it is the decision to sail in the contested waters of the South China Sea that will test Berlin’s delicate relationship with Beijing the most. German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said: „The message is clear: we are standing up for our values and interests together with our partners and allies.“ In the Indo-Pacific region, „important decisions on peace, security and prosperity will be made,“ Kramp-Karrenbauer said. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the Indo-Pacific region was one part of the world where the international order of the future would be decided and as such, it was important that Germany have a presence in it.

Police remove climate activists from Zurich’s financial district: Swiss police removed climate activists Monday morning who were protesting in Zurich’s financial quarters against banks funding fossil fuel deals. Videos show dozens of activists who had placed themselves at the entrances of Credit Suisse and UBS in Paradeplatz square, the heart of Zurich’s financial centre, barring people from entering. They were protesting the funding of fossil fuel activities and demanded that Swiss financial institutions switch to a socially and climate-friendly course. The Swiss police force took away the activists when they refused to leave their positions.

Germany mulls manslaughter probe into deadly floods dw.com
France: Higher vaccine prices due to Delta variant adaptation politico.eu
Poland: Fire at vaccination centre an ‘act of terror,’ says health minister politico.eu
Italy: Website for vaccination appointments targeted by hackers euronews.com


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French president uses social media to counter false information about vaccines: French President Emmanuel Macron took to Instagram and Tik Tok to answer questions on France’s vaccination campaign, in a bid to counter false information and rumours which have been circulating on social networks. Macron posted a short one-minute video on social media, filming himself, in which he underlined that vaccination is the only weapon against a fourth wave of COVID-19. „I know that many of you are still wondering, are afraid, many are hearing false information, false rumours, sometimes complete rubbish – it must be said – so I have decided to answer your questions directly,“ explained the French head of state.


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