Tuesday, 8 June 2021: EU auditors say border agency failing to fulfill its duties, Google fined millions by French regulators, Cyprus government broke its own laws in granting passports


EU auditors say border agency failing to fulfill its duties: EU auditors on Monday slammed the bloc’s border agency Frontex in a new report. The European Court of Auditors said Frontex was  failing to provide sufficiently effective assistance to EU countries in fighting against illegal immigration and cross-border crime. Nor is it providing effective help to countries in Europe’s Schengen visa-free travel area, the report added. Established in 2004, Frontex was not originally tasked with handling migration. But the agency’s mandate expanded several times as migration surged to the fore for EU officials, who bolstered the Frontex budget from €19 million in 2006 to €330 million in 2019. Frontex has been dogged by controversy in recent years. Last October, several media outlets reported the agency was conducting “pushbacks” at the Greek-Turkish maritime border, an illegal practice involving turning migrants away before they are given a chance to apply for asylum.
dw.com, politico.eu

Germany calls for abolition of EU foreign policy vetos: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday the European Union should abolish the right of individual member states to veto foreign policy measures. Speaking at a conference of Germany’s ambassadors in Berlin, Maas said: „We can’t let ourselves be held hostage by the people who hobble European foreign policy with their vetoes.“ His remarks amount to a highly unusual rebuke by Germany of a fellow member state. Germany, conscious of its economic and political heft within the EU, is normally very cautious about being seen to throw its weight for fear of seeming overbearing. Hungary blocked an EU statement in April criticising China’s new security law in Hong Kong, undermining EU efforts to confront Beijing’s restrictions of freedoms in the former British colony.
dw.com, reuters.com

Tunisia’s tourism industry is hoping for tourists from Eastern Europe: The popular holiday destination of Tunisia is once again welcoming tourists, despite a high level of Covid-19 deaths. Especially “fearless” travelers from Russia and Eastern Europe give hope to many in the Tunisian tourism industry. When Tunisia opened its borders to tour operators at the end of April, the number of Covid deaths had just peaked with more than 12,000 deaths, but since then there have been a good ten flights a week with courageous vacationers entering the country. Whereas otherwise Western Europeans made up the majority of travelers, the tourists now come mainly from Eastern Europe and Russia – and are mostly unvaccinated. The tourists on these group trips only have to show a negative PCR test; they are spared the one-week quarantine for those who do not come to the country with a tour operator.

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Unrest in Uganda continues: A new wave of repression in Uganda has led to the abductions of dozens more opposition activists by security forces and at least one alleged death. Several hundred people are thought to have been detained without trial in the east African country in secret prisons where they are subjected to a brutal regime of mistreatment. The country has suffered a series of crackdowns aimed at stamping out dissent since campaigning began for presidential elections late last year.

At least 160 killed in village raid in Burkina Faso: Armed men killed at least 160 people in an attack on a village in northern Burkina Faso, the country’s worst attack in recent years, officials say. Homes and the local market were burned during the raid on Solhan in the early hours of Saturday morning. No group has said it was behind the violence, but Islamist attacks are increasingly common in the country, especially in border regions. Africa’s semi-arid Sahel region has been hit by an insurgency since militants captured large parts of northern Mali in 2012 and 2013. French forces have been supporting troops from Mali, Chad, Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso to fight the militants.

Global minimum tax: Amazon, Google and Facebook will be hit hard by the G-7 tax deal. Here’s how they responded cnbc.com
Covid-19: Europe turns to active labour market policies to beef up job recovery euractiv.com
Patent protection: European Parliament disagrees on patent waiver for Covid vaccines sueddeutsche.de
Before meeting Putin: Biden invites Ukrainian president to the White House spiegel.de
Navalny: Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny returns to prison after hunger strike dw.com
Sports-related violence: Council of the EU adopts conclusions ahead of the European football championship consilium.europa.eu


European Council President Charles Michel has informed Russian President Vladimir Putin that the European Council had discussed Russia in May and had „condemned the illegal, provocative, and disruptive Russian activities against the EU, its member states, and others.“


Google fined millions by French regulators: Google will pay a €220 million fine and make changes to its huge online advertising business as part of an antitrust settlement with French regulators. France’s competition authority said it had fined Google for abusing its dominant position in the market for online advertising to the detriment of rival platforms and publishers. It accused Google of giving preferential treatment to Google Ad Manager, its ad management platform for large publishers. The tech company did this by favouring its own online ad marketplace, AdX, where publishers sell space to advertisers in real time, according to the watchdog.

German lawmakers criticise Scholz and Merkel over Wirecard scandal: The public inquiry into the Wirecard scandal published its concluding report on Monday, criticising Germany’s Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and Chancellor Angela Merkel. Wirecard was once the poster-child for Germany’s financial technology sector. Even Merkel herself lobbied on behalf of the company during a trip to China in 2019. However, in June 2020 the company filed for insolvency after admitting that €1.9 billion supposedly held in trust accounts didn’t exist. It was also found to be massively in debt and faced accusations of having falsified balance sheets for years. The report called out finance minister Scholz for his oversight and mishandling of the biggest fraud scandal in post-war Germany. The report also said that Merkel had been naive about the lobbying efforts by Wirecard.

Cyprus government broke its own laws in granting passports: Cyprus’s government broke the law on countless occasions in granting citizenship to thousands of people in a now discredited passports-for-cash scheme, an official inquiry has found. The east Mediterranean island awarded citizenship to 6,779 people between 2007 and 2020, the vast majority of them Russians. Cyprus shut down the scheme in late 2020 following disclosures that not only did bona fide investors benefit from it but also fugitives from justice or politically connected persons, who would be granted a passport for a minimum 2 million euros investment.

MH17 plane crash trial starts hearing evidence: The trial of four individuals suspected of being involved in the downing of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 started on Monday in the Netherlands. Three Russian nationals — Oleg Pulatov, Igor Girkin and Sergei Dubinsky — and one Ukrainian citizen, Leonid Kharchenko, are being tried in absentia for the crime of downing MH17. Pulatov is the only one represented in the proceedings, but denies involvement. The other three do not have lawyers appointed to them. The Boeing 777 jet was en route from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. It was shot down as it flew over a part of eastern Ukraine that is under the control of pro-Russian rebels.

Austria’s far-right Freedom Party chooses new leader: Austria’s far-right Freedom Party on Monday nominated Herbert Kickl, the country’s combative former interior minister, as its new leader. Kickl will be the second Freedom Party leader since the resignation in 2019 of Heinz-Christian Strache, who was then Austria’s vice chancellor. The move will need endorsement by a party congress on 19 June. Strache led the party for 14 years until his downfall over a video showing him offering favors to a purported Russian investor, which triggered the collapse of conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s government. Kurz returned to power last year in a new coalition with the Greens.

Italy: Neo-Nazis were plotting to bomb NATO base, police say politico.eu
Greece wants to reject asylum applications from five countries spiegel.de
Austria: Justice minister asks for forgiveness for past persecution of homosexuals zeit.de
Belgium to start vaccinating 16- and 17 year-olds in July politico.eu
Czech Republic: Tourists once again welcome zeit.de


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France sends smaller replica of Statue of Liberty to US: A replica of the Statue of Liberty, smaller but based on the original plaster cast of its big sister on Ellis Island, a gift from France, was given a sendoff Monday ahead of its trip to the United States where it will be displayed for Independence Day on the 4th of July. The monumental Statue of Liberty in New York harbor, by sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, symbolises the United States‘ welcoming to its shores of immigrants seeking refuge and freedom. It also serves as a monument to French-American friendship.


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