Tuesday, 31 August 2021: US travellers dropped from EU safe list, German inflation jumps to its highest level in a quarter-century, Activists block court on eve of key ruling in Poland


Germany secures Uzbekistan’s help with evacuations: Uzbekistan is ready to open its borders to people fleeing Taliban-ruled Afghanistan who are eligible to go to Germany, German foreign minister Heiko Maas confirmed during a visit in Tashkent on Monday. Maas is on an official four-day tour of the Middle East and Central Asia, visiting Turkey, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Qatar with the aim of preventing the collapse in Afghanistan from destabilising the entire region, he said. Germany has found thousands of people who need to get out of Afghanistan, including people with German citizenship, Afghan staff and groups especially in danger from the Taliban such as journalists and human rights activists. Isis has claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on Kabul airport as US staff continued to evacuate Afghanistan. The C-RAM defence system installed at the airport engaged with the rockets, a US official said. There were no reports of any casualties. The UN Security Council passed a resolution on Monday that calls for the Taliban to facilitate safe passage for people wanting to leave Afghanistan, allow humanitarians to access the country, and uphold human rights, including for women and children. EU states are determined to prevent uncontrolled migration from Afghanistan following the takeover of the country by the Taliban, a draft statement prepared for a meeting this Tuesday says.
politico.eu, dw.com, independent.co.uk, cnn.com, news.un.org, reuters.com

US travellers dropped from EU safe list: The EU recommended on Monday that Americans should be banned from nonessential travel to its member states after a rise in COVID-19 cases in the United States. The guidance, which also now applies to Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, and the Republic of North Macedonia, is non-binding for EU member states. That means it remains up to each individual EU country to decide whether to allow nonessential travel to the EU for fully vaccinated travellers. Covid cases in the US have surged in recent weeks, as the highly infectious Delta variant spreads among unvaccinated Americans.

Poland detains activists for damaging barrier with Belarus: Thirteen activists were detained on Sunday in Poland for trying to destroy part of a barbed-wire barrier that Polish authorities have erected along the border with Belarus to stop migrants from crossing in. The activists said it was an act of protest against Polish authorities for what they believe is the inhuman treatment of migrants seeking to enter Poland. Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said what the protesters did was unacceptable and that those detained would bear all the legal consequences of their actions. Poland — like Lithuania — has seen a surge of migrants arriving across its border with Belarus in recent weeks.

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Europe may see 236,000 coronavirus deaths by December, WHO fears: The World Health Organisation (WHO) expressed concern Monday about the rising transmission rates of COVID-19 in Europe. So far Europe has recorded around 1.3 million coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began. „Last week, there was an 11% increase in the number of deaths in the region — one reliable projection is expecting 236,000 deaths in Europe, by 1 December,“ the agency’s Europe director Hans Kluge told a press conference in Copenhagen.

EU threatens to block some Czech payments over conflict-of-interest spat: The European Commission is ratcheting up its conflict-of-interest fight with the Czech Republic, threatening to withhold payments involving companies held by trust funds. The move comes after long-standing concerns that Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis may have inappropriately benefited from such arrangements led Brussels to issue recommendations for systemic changes in how the country handles European funding.

Withdrawal of a world power: United States winds down Kabul mission cnbc.com
European Court of Human Rights: Sister of slain journalist Natalia Estemirova files suit against Russia this Tuesday tagesspiegel.de
Stock market: European markets inch higher after euro zone data disappoints cnbc.com
Financial stability: EU shadow banking sector grows despite Covid crisis handelsblatt.com
Sustainability at the heart of the EU’s trade agenda euractiv.com


German inflation jumps to its highest level in a quarter-century: Inflation in Germany continued to rise in August, with the nation’s Federal Statistical Office announcing on Monday that prices rose 3.9% year-on-year , according to preliminary calculations. It’s the highest inflation the country has recorded in over a quarter of a century. The last time annual inflation was higher than this was in December 1993, when it was 4.3%. Consumer prices in Europe’s largest economy have been increasing for months, fuelled by rising energy and food prices as well as the withdrawal of a temporary reduction in value-added tax (VAT), which was aimed at mitigating the economic effects of the Covid pandemic last year by boosting domestic consumption.

German rail union announces longest strike yet: The German Train Drivers‘ Union (GDL) on Monday announced a nationwide strike — its third in a month — after accusing rail operator Deutsche Bahn of failing to present a new offer. The strike will start at 5 p.m. on Wednesday at DB’s freight division and will be extended to passenger services at 2 a.m. on Thursday. The stoppage is set to end at 2 a.m. on 7 September, making it significantly longer than the two previous strikes. GDL wants a wage increase of 3.2% and a one-time pandemic bonus of €600. DB is willing to pay the increase, but there is a dispute over how quickly that raise should be paid out.

Milan tower block fire reminiscent of Grenfell disaster, officials say: The mayor of Italy’s financial capital Milan demanded answers on Monday over why a fire was able to rip through an apartment block and melt its cladding, comparing it to the Grenfell Tower fire in London that killed 71 people four years ago. The blaze was first reported on Sunday by a resident, who sounded the alarm and urged others to evacuate. Some cases of smoke inhalation were reported, but no serious injuries or deaths. Dozens of ambulances and fire engines were at the scene. The building houses about 70 families, who were being contacted in an effort to make sure no one was missing. All the residents who were in their apartments when the fire broke out – about 30 people – were safely evacuated.
reuters.com, euronews.com, theguardian.com

Estonia’s Parliament fails to elect president in first round: Estonia’s parliament on Monday failed to elect a new president to the Baltic country after lawmakers rejected the only candidate in the first round of voting. Alar Karis, director of the Estonian National Museum, received support from 63 lawmakers with 16 blank votes and the rest either absent or abstaining in the 101-seat Riigikogu legislature. He needed a two-thirds majority, or 68 votes, to be elected in the secret ballot. The result means that further rounds of voting will be held this Tuesday.

Paris introduces citywide 30 kmh speed limit: A speed limit of 30 kilometres per hour came into force on most streets in Paris on Monday. Officials in the French capital said their decision was in line with a survey that showed 59% of Parisians were in favour of the new speed limit. The measure is also in line with an appeal issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in May, calling for strict speed limits in urban areas. The speed limit is one of the campaign promises made by the city’s socialist mayor, Anne Hidalgo, before last year’s local elections.

Greek police fire tear gas as 7,000 protest vaccine rules in Athens: Around 7,000 people protested in Athens on Sunday against a new rule obliging health workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, said police who fired teargas to quell violence among the demonstrators. Sporadic violence broke out in the evening. One group of demonstrators threw stones and bottles at the police who responded with tear gas, according to an AFP videographer on the spot. The rule change, which came into effect on Wednesday, requires that all personnel working in hospitals be vaccinated.

Laschet seeks to give ailing election campaign a green push: The conservative candidate to succeed Angela Merkel, Armin Laschet, sought to boost his green credentials on Monday and pledged to turn Germany into a „climate-neutral industrial nation“ by 2045. „On climate policy, we are banking on innovation, on market-based mechanisms,“ Laschet said at a press conference in Berlin, where he also unveiled a policy paper titled „A turbo for renewables“ and an expert team to tackle the green transition. The paper includes proposals to cut red tape for the installation of wind turbines and remove taxes for renewables and seeks to flesh out ideas put forward in the CDU/CSU alliance’s election programme, which was criticised for lacking ambition on green targets.

France: Health pass becomes compulsory for some 1.8 million employees france24.com
Austria fears new normal of stimulus, urges to EU to cut deficits bloomberg.com
Ireland: Vaccine programme nears completion thanks to high uptake dw.com
Slovenia: The European project helping to reduce the impact of flooding in Slovenia euronews.com
International Day of the Disappeared: Thousands still considered missing in the Balkans de.euronews.com
Wife of Greek ambassador to Brazil sentenced to 31 years for planning his murder nypost.com


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Activists block court on eve of key ruling in Poland: A group of pro-democracy activists in Poland entered the grounds of the country’s constitutional court in an act of civil disobedience Monday, on the eve of an expected court ruling critical to the country’s future relationship with the rest of the EU. Some stood outside with a large banner that said “Civic Shutdown of the ex-Constitutional Tribunal.” Judges of the Constitutional Tribunal are scheduled to convene on Tuesday to decide which has primacy — Poland’s own constitution or the law of the EU.


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