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Europe in brief: Terrorist attack in Kosovo, anti-democratic developments in the EU and budget support for Tunisia
Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, strongly condemned the attack on members of the Kosovo police that left four dead in a clash in northern Kosovo. Katarina Barley, Vice-President of the European Parliament, has warned against anti-democratic developments in Europe. In support of the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Tunisian authorities, the European Commission announced 60 million Euro in budget support for Tunisia.
The European Commission proposes that EU countries extend the licence for the herbicide ingredient glyphosate by ten years. Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, is named as a 2028 European Capital of Culture. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier calls for a European solution to migration problems.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited the Italian Island of Lampedusa and proposed an emergency plan to help Rome manage migratory flows. A list for Spain’s proposal to make Catalan, Basque and Galician official EU languages inadvertently omitted Croatian. Twenty young European ambassadors from the Western Balkans clean the beaches of Lake Prespa in North Macedonia as part of the EU-funded “EUBeachCleanup” initiative.
The German government has suspended an agreement with Italy to voluntarily take in refugees due to Italy’s refusal to respect the Dublin rules. In other news: Slovenia and Luxembourg pledge for equal treatment of all EU candidates and the preservation of Schengen. Slovak and Hungarian police are combating illegal migration together.
This week, attention will turn to the State of the Union speech that Ursula von der Leyen will give to the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the last of her current term. In other news: Slovenia’s PM Golob calls for accession talks with Bosnia and Bulgaria’s PM sees the euro as a stability factor against inflation.
The 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly is drawing to a close. Tackling the effects of climate change and resolving military conflicts in Europe and beyond have emerged as bottlenecks. On a positive note, EU countries have shown that they’re making progress towards achieving the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
The temporary import ban on Ukrainian grain for the country’s five EU neighbours ended on September 15. Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland – parliamentary elections are due in the latter two in the upcoming weeks – unilaterally extended their bans to the dismay of the EU. Ukraine consequently filed a complaint with the World Trade Organisation.
The European Parliament gave the green light to start negotiations with the Council of the EU to reform the Union’s electricity market. However, the Council is currently deadlocked due to disagreements, mainly between Germany and France, over the financing of nuclear energy.
More investment and less debt in the name of climate: These demands on rich countries were being voiced at Africa’s first climate summit in Kenya. The continent is vulnerable to the growing impacts of climate change, though not a victim, stressed its leaders, but rather a long-ignored ally in the fight against global warming.
The European Union faces the highest arrival of migrants since 2015 with record numbers of people arriving in Italy and Greece, putting reception mechanisms under severe strain. This year, member states reached a historic deal on key asylum and migration laws as deals with transit countries are struck. The EU has launched a legal procedure against Hungary.
In response to the record high temperatures in Europe and elsewhere around the world this summer, social media users accused the European Space Agency (ESA) of having modified its measurement methods to achieve the striking results. They claimed that the agency was now measuring the land surface temperature, which is higher than air temperature. However, this is a misinterpretation of an ESA article about the heatwave. The institution has not made changes to its methodology and had in fact already published land surface temperature data in the past. What’s more, the ESA is not responsible for validating temperature records. That is the role of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which uses other measurements that it receives from weather stations.
The European Union is taking steps to encourage the sustainable production of paper, but it is not proposing to ban toilet paper. False claims circulated in Polish in August 2023 that the EU is planning to phase out toilet paper, first by replacing it with a product made from straw, and then by banning it altogether. However, a European Commission spokesperson confirmed to AFP that the EU has “no intention of banning toilet paper”. AFP could find no such announcement of any ban and paper industry representatives said they were not aware of any such move. While toilet paper made from straw instead of wood pulp is now on the market, there is no move to force EU countries to use it or ban other types.
A photomontage claiming to be a recruitment poster for the Polish army has been circulating on social media in several languages, including in Polish. It says that “Poland is the shield of Europe” and uses an image of Yevgeny Prigozhin — the late leader of the Russian mercenary group Wagner — to invite Poles to “protect Europe from Russia’s folly”. But AFP was able to locate the original photo, which in fact shows a bank advertisement on a tram stop in the southern Polish city of Krakow. Poland’s defence ministry, the city’s public transportation authority and the advertising company involved all denied the existence of a Prigozhin recruitment poster.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic that cost millions of lives, the World Health Organisation pledged to come up with a plan to ensure a better response to future outbreaks of disease. It is due to be submitted to the World Health Assembly in 2024. As the plan is being drafted, it has been misrepresented on social media. For example, a Croatian MEP claimed in July 2023 that the plan would force countries to surrender their authority on vaccination to the WHO. As a result, he alleged, their citizens would be required to have many more vaccines. But such allegations are false and misleading. Countries are still in charge of their pandemic response and the plan only aims to improve international cooperation, experts told AFP.
Germany has welcomed more than a million refugees from Ukraine since the start of the war, according to European Union figures. The newcomers have had to register and apply for temporary protection status, which replaces the need to apply for asylum, as agreed by the EU Council following Russia’s invasion. An old claim, which has recently resurfaced on social media, alleges that Germany has also imposed another requirement: that Ukrainian refugees must report all of their assets and sell their car if its value exceeds 7,500 euros. This is false.
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