European Commission
Statement of Commissioner Johansson on the situation in Afghanistan
On 18 August the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson issued a statement on the situation in Afghanistan, following her meeting with EU Ministers of Interior. She emphasised that evacuation of EU and local Afghan staff is an immediate priority, and thanked Member States for granting emergency visas to staff and their families, and offering seats in departing planes. Moreover, Johansson highlighted the increased migratory pressures that will result from the crisis, and that journalists, NGO staff and human rights advocates in Afghanistan are at high risk, and women and children in particular. The Blueprint Network, in which the Commission brings together Member States, EU migration agencies and the European External Action Service to coordinate preparedness and contingency planning in migration crises, will therefore meet regularly to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the EU response. The Commission will also use its role as chair of the “Core Group of the Solution Strategy for Afghan refugees and its Support Platform” in 2021 to develop coherent strategies to address the rapidly evolving situation, Johansson stressed. (link)

Commission concerned about potential return of internal EU borders during the winter
Senior EU Commission officials are concerned that a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases across the bloc could lead to a return of the internal EU travel restrictions which had created major disruption throughout 2020. The border restrictions some Member States had put up last year, such as Germany and France, had particularly impacted border communities, business travellers and freight transport infrastructures, and the Commission had been relatively powerless to ensure uniform rules across the bloc. An anonymous EU diplomat quoted by Politico indicated that “the chances are 50-50” that new internal travel restrictions will be introduced in the winter. A winter upsurge in COVID cases across the EU is anticipated not just because of the colder temperatures, but also due to the future emergence of new variants of concern, and divergences between Member States in vaccine uptake. For instance, while up to 90% of the adult population in France, Spain and Ireland have had their first dose, only 20% of the adults in Bulgaria and 60% of those in Poland have had their first dose. (link)

Country News:

·        Belgium: A UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) report has condemned lack of controls against excessive force by Belgium’s police service. (link)

·        France: French police are redoubling efforts to combat rising numbers of fake COVID vaccine certificates being disseminated, after a large number of doctors had their health service accounts hacked. (link)

·        Germany: German police have arrested a sixth suspect wanted in connection with the high-profile Green Vault jewel heist – when in November 2019, six suspects stole priceless and historically significant jewels (estimated at a value of 1 billion Euros). (link)

·        Malta: A Maltese businessman is set to stand trial for the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. (link)

·        Netherlands: A Dutch policewoman recognized a wanted fugitive from the Netherlands while on holiday in the Costa del Sol, after which the suspect was arrested by local police. (link)

·        Portugal: Portuguese police have brought down a large scale pyramid or Ponzi scheme, detaining the chief suspect who is alleged to have committed fraud, money laundering and illegal insurance operations amounting to a total of 3 million Euros. (link)

·        Slovenia and Italy: Slovenia and Italy have agreed to resume joint border patrols, and both countries agreed a joint aim to curb the entrance of illegal migrants into Italy. (link)

·        Spain: Spanish police have released footage of the moment when Irish fugitive and gangster Gerry “the Monk” Hutch was arrested by undercover officers in the Costa del Sol. (link)

Other news
Frontex launches major recruitment drive for border and coast guard officers
Frontex, the EU’s Border and Coast Guard Agency has launched a large-scale recruitment drive for entry-level positions. The agency aims to recruit about 200 basic-level and around 100 intermediate-level officers by 2022. The candidates for the basic-level roles do not require prior law enforcement experience, and if selected will undergo 12 months of Frontex training to perform fundamental border management roles, including border checks and patrols; identity, vehicle and documentation checks; registrations and fingerprinting of migrants; and cross-border crimefighting. Candidates for the intermediate positions require at least three years of law enforcement professional experience, while both for the basic and intermediate positions all candidates must be citizens of an EU or Schengen Associated country. A full list of the current vacancies can be accessed here. (link)

Police violence video reignites national outrage in Bulgaria
A new surveillance video showing Bulgarian police kicking, punching and throwing handcuffed detainees to the ground during 2020’s anti-corruption protests has led to widespread outrage in the country. The CCTV footage had been obtained and released by a parliamentary investigative commission, and shown to an extraordinary session of Bulgarian lawmakers on August 13. Yet despite widespread allegations of police brutality during the 2020 protests, Bulgaria’s interior ministry under Prime Minister Boyko Borissov had found “no evidence” of excessive police force. Now, the Bulgarian Parliament has called on Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev to produce a report on the investigation into police aggression during the protests last summer. Yet Geshev himself had been a chief target of the protestors, leading many to question the decision to put him in charge of investigating the allegations. (link)

 

Look Ahead :

–       16 September: The European Parliament will debate cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in a plenary session.

–       14-17 September: CEPOL is organizing an onsite training session on Trafficking in Human Beings, specifically focused on sexual exploitation, in Spain.

–       20 September – 8 October: CEPOL is running an online course on money laundering, to enhance knowledge of the use of financial investigative methods to combat serious and organized crime. The course runs for 3 weeks and more information can be found here.

–       21 September: President von der Leyen and President of the European Council Charles Michel travel to Spain, upon invitation by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, to visit the welcome hub for evacuated Afghan EU Delegation staff and their families at Torrejón Air Base.

 

 

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