⊂ EUROPE ⊃
EU calls for cooperation on border controls: The European Commission has urged EU member states to take coordinated border control measures during the coronavirus pandemic. In a letter to member states, EU Commissioners Didier Reynders and Ylva Johansson said the movement of goods in the internal market should not be disrupted. Border closures or blanket entry bans should be avoided. However, the EU Commission also said it has little leverage to take action against unilateral border controls. An EU representative told journalists on Tuesday that there was limited room to maneuver since member states have the right to restrict free movement on the basis of health threats, although this must be done proportionally.
European human rights court backs Germany over Kunduz airstrike case: German courts and prosecutors thoroughly investigated a 2009 NATO bombing in Afghanistan that killed dozens of civilians, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday. The ruling by the Strasbourg-based court rejects a complaint by Afghan citizen Abdul Hanan, who lost two sons in the attack, that Germany did not fulfil its obligation to effectively investigate the incident. The predawn strike took place in September 2009 in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan, killing around 100 people. Two stolen fuel tankers had been sighted around 7 kilometers from a German military base, stuck on a river sandbank. Afghan civilians, including children, had surrounded the tankers with hopes of siphoning some of the fuel. A German commander ordered American jets to destroy the trucks, resulting in a large blast. Although it was initially reported that many of those killed were Taliban fighters, it was later revealed that most of the dead were civilians.
Belarus targets journalists and activists in new raids: Police in Belarus carried out more than 20 raids on the homes and offices of journalists, human rights activists and trade union members on Tuesday. The raids were part of an investigation into mass anti-government protests, officials said. Belarus has been rocked by protests since official results from the 9 August presidential election gave authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term by a landslide. The main opposition candidate, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and her supporters have dismissed the result as rigged, and some poll workers also have described voting manipulation.
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Prosecution seeks fine for Navalny: Russian state prosecutors on Tuesday asked a court to fine Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny 950,000 roubles (€11,000) for slandering a World War Two veteran. Navalny is accused of defaming a veteran who took part in a promotional video backing constitutional reforms last year. The reform, approved in a referendum, will let Russian President Vladimir Putin run for two more terms in the Kremlin after 2024 if he wants to. Navalny, who returned to Russia last month from Germany, where he had been recovering from a near-fatal poisoning with a military-grade nerve toxin in Siberia, described the people in the video as traitors and corrupt lackeys. Navalny has said his comment was not directed specifically at the veteran, and that the authorities are using the charge to smear his reputation.
Lawsuit accuses Trump of inciting Capitol riot: The NAACP and Democratic lawmaker Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, on Tuesday sued former US President Donald Trump, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and the two right-wing extremist groups „Proud Boys“ and „Oath Keepers“, alleging they conspired to incite the deadly riot at the US Capitol on 6 January. The lawsuit is part of an expected wave of litigation over the riot and is believed to be the first filed by a member of Congress.
EU keeps Turkey off tax havens blacklist: European finance ministers have kept Turkey off their list of tax havens because of progress made with Ankara on tax cooperation, the Portuguese presidency of the EU said. Portuguese Finance Minister Joao Leao told a news conference that there was some progress in cooperation with Turkey on tax matters, so the country was not added to the list.
Myanmar: Coup leaders level more charges against ousted leader Suu Kyi npr.org
Vienna nuclear deal: Iran wants to restrict cooperation with IAEA reuters.com
Excess mortality: EU records over 450,000 excess deaths between March and November 2020 politico.eu
Study: Pandemic exacerbates far-right extremism in Europe spiegel.de
Energy: Eastern EU states eye existing gas network for hydrogen euractiv.com
Uber: Employed or self-employed? Debate about Uber employees in the EU de.euronews.com
⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃
„The limit value of 35 was not ‚invented‘ but derived from the higher R value of the mutation B117.“
German SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach has criticised remarks by the new CDU leader Armin Laschet on the importance of Covid incidence figures.
⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃
Germany will not supply troops for combat missions in Sahel: France has no immediate plans to adjust its military presence in Africa’s Sahel region, and any changes will depend on other countries contributing troops, French President Emmanuel Macron told a news conference on Tuesday after a summit on the region. Macron also urged the so-called G5 Sahel countries to expand their own anti-terror fight and work on restoring government control and services in areas where jihadist fighters are operating. France has tried to lean on its EU allies to commit more troops to the region. But Germany on Tuesday rejected France’s requests to send more soldiers. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that Berlin would not send soldiers into additional military operations in the Sahel region. He pointed out that Germany is participating with many troops in both international missions in Sahel, in the European training mission EUTM as well as the UN mission Minusma.
French Assembly passes bill aiming to curb Islamism: France’s National Assembly on Tuesday approved legislation designed mainly to counter a rise in Islamism in towns and cities which the government says threatens national unity. The legislation included tough measures against online apologists for acts of violence, stricter surveillance of religious associations, and tighter restrictions on educating children outside mainstream schools. The debate around the law became more charged after the beheading of a schoolteacher, Samuel Paty, by a teenage Islamist who said he wanted to punish him for showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a class on free speech.
Dutch court orders coronavirus curfew to be lifted: A Dutch court ordered the country’s coronavirus nighttime curfew to be scrapped — but the measure will stay in place for now after the government won an emergency appeal late on Tuesday. The court said the curfew, running from 9 pm to 4:30 am nationwide, violated freedom of movement and the right to privacy. They also argued it had been pushed through using an emergency law, allowing parliament to be bypassed, even though there was no acute emergency.
German Economy Minister Altmaier to seek reopening deal: Economy Minister Peter Altmaier has announced improvements to Germany’s shutdown that would support businesses and self-employed people following a consultation with more than 40 business associations on Tuesday. The minister revealed plans for a one-off payment of €7,500 to self-employed workers who have been hit hard by the pandemic shutdown. He also said a hardship fund would ease some of the problems that certain businesses have had in accessing government financial support. Large companies with revenues of over €750 million would also be able to request interim aid. A schedule for when different branches of the economy will be able to reopen would be discussed at the beginning of March at the next pandemic-related meeting between Germany’s federal and state governments, Altmaier promised.
France: Barnier gathers allies to support presidential ambitions politico.eu
Luxembourg: Why doesn’t the EU consider Luxembourg a tax haven? euronews.com
Hungary: Outrage over broadcast ban for Klubrádió de.euronews.com
Greece: Rare snowstorm leaves 3 dead dw.com
⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃
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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃
Europe begins hunt for its next astronauts: The European Space Agency is looking for its next generation of space explorers, and it’s casting the net wider than ever before. The Paris-based agency will next month start the process of hiring astronauts for the first time in more than a decade and is hoping to attract applications from a much broader range of people than fighter pilots and elite aviators alone. The agency is also encouraging women to apply as part of efforts to boost gender equality. It is further launching a so-called Parastronaut Feasibility Project to look at sending a disabled person into space.