Frontex files: explosive revelations put pressure on EU border agency: The European border protection agency Frontex, which has already been criticized heavily for allegedly being complicit in Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back migrants to Turkey, is now coming under fire because of secret meetings with gun lobbyists. Entertainment magazine ZDF Magazin Royale uncovered 142 documents from 16 so-called industry meetings between 2017 and 2019. At these meetings, private arms companies were able to present their military technologies to Frontex for securing European external borders – including military material such as handguns, for the use of which there is no clear legal regulation by border protection authorities. The documents reveal important details that underline the advanced militarization of EU border protection in recent years. Frontex has also come under fire for illegal „push-backs“ against refugees in the Aegean Sea. In addition, „Spiegel“ research uncovered mismanagement to a considerable extent, which led to increasing calls for resignation against Frontex boss Fabrice Leggeri.
nytimes.com, netzpolitik.org, spiegel.de, merkur.de
EU countries expel Russian diplomats in Navalny dispute: Germany, Poland and Sweden on Monday each declared a Russian diplomat in their country persona non grata, retaliating in kind to last week’s decision by Russia to expel diplomats from the three EU countries over the case of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Russia said that the diplomats that it expelled had participated in a demonstration in support of jailed Kremlin critic Navalny. Berlin, Stockholm and Warsaw reject the allegations, saying their representatives were at the protests as observers, not participants. Germany’s foreign ministry said Russia’s decision to expel the European diplomats was not justified in any way. Ties between Russia and the EU have taken a dive in recent weeks, over Navalny’s arrest and jailing, which has sparked nationwide opposition protests. A survey by independent pollster Levada showed an overall 1% drop in approval of Russian President Vladimir Putin to 64% from 65% in November among 1,616 adults in 50 regions, a relatively small sample of Russia’s 145 million population.
apnews.com, dw.com (Diplomats); reuters.com (Poll)
German military aid arrives in Portugal: A German military plane carrying over 20 doctors and nurses together with ventilators and hospital beds arrived on Wednesday in coronavirus-stricken Portugal, where a severe rise in cases has prompted several European nations to offer help. The German team will manage a new unit of eight ICU beds in a private hospital in Lisbon, Hospital da Luz, which was equipped but lacked the staff to operate, Health Minister Marta Temido said at the military base where the plane landed. “This is a vivid sign of European solidarity and a symbol of hope,” German Ambassador Martin Ney said. According to some counts, Portugal has recorded more new infections and deaths relative to its population than any other country over the past two weeks.
Germany reports record levels of defense spending: Germany reported a record high in NATO defense spending for 2021, submitting a budget of €53 billion for the current year. That figure marks a 3.2% increase over the year before. In 2020, spending was capped at an estimated €51.4 billion. Countries including Germany have hoped that an increase in NATO spending could ease a trans-Atlantic dispute about burden-sharing among members. Former US President Donald Trump had accused Germany of not contributing enough to NATO, and subsequently withdrew thousands of US forces stationed in the country. Earlier this month, however, US President Joe Biden announced that there would be a freeze on US troop redeployment from Germany.
US provocation: Destroyer crosses Strait of Taiwan: A US Navy warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, for the first time since President Joe Biden took power. The USS John S. McCain, a guided-missile destroyer based in Japan, conducted a routine journey through the channel, which divides China and Taiwan, complying with international law, Lt. Joe Keiley, a spokesperson for the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, said in statement. The ship’s transit demonstrated the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, he said, adding that the military would continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.
Modernization: Kramp-Karrenbauer and Zorn want to better equip the German military faz.net
Right-wing extremism: Increase in attacks on Muslims and Muslim institutions in 2020 rp-online.de
East Africa: War in Tigray: Will the alliance between Ethiopia and Eritrea hold? heise.de
War criminal: Dominic Ongwen convicted of war crimes for Uganda’s LRA rebels bbc.com
Deceptive calm: Libya forms transitional government wsj.com
Taboo breach: German Left Party declares solidarity with Cuban opposition movement for the first time neues-deutschland.de
NUMBER OF THE WEEK
Between 2010 and 2020, the German military trained 3,388 soldiers from foreign armed forces at its educational and training facilities.
Biden: Diplomacy is back: In his first foreign policy address, US President Joe Biden said that he will work with allies and partners to sanction Myanmar, end the war in Yemen, admit more refugees, and protect the rights of LGBTQ people around the world, signaling his plans to chart a course away from former President Donald Trump’s „America First“ approach to foreign policy. Biden did not utter Trump’s name in his first foreign policy speech as president, which he delivered at the State Department in Washington, D.C. But he said he has begun to try to repair the damage he said his predecessor did to America’s reputation as a leader on democracy and human rights issues. The president said the United States‘ democratic values had come under intense pressure in recent years and were pushed to the brink in the last few weeks — an allusion to the US Capitol riot. On Myanmar, Biden said he had been in touch with Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell about a bipartisan response to try to urge the Southeast Asian nation’s military to release detained activists and officials, and end the coup. On Russia, Biden said he had made clear to President Vladimir Putin „in a manner very different from my predecessor that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions interfering with our elections, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens are over.“
Martial law declared in seven Myanmar townships: Myanmar’s military has declared martial law in the country’s biggest cities following a third day of massive street protests, imposing an overnight curfew and banning all gatherings of more than five people in an effort to stem widespread opposition to the military coup. Tens of thousands of demonstrators swarmed streets across Myanmar on Monday, demanding the release of civilian leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi, recognition of the 2020 election results won by her party and a withdrawal of the military from politics. Military leader General Min Aung Hlaing said on Monday his junta would hold a new election and hand power to the winner. He said the junta would form a “true and disciplined democracy,” different to previous eras of military rule. US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday that the United States supported the right of the people to assemble peacefully and that it was concerned about restrictions being imposed on public gatherings.
Polish documentary about child trafficking in the EU: The documentary „Eye of the Devil“ by Polish director Patryk Vega has been on Facebook since this week. In the film, the director conducts interviews with child traffickers and relatives who sell their own children. Vega wants to draw attention to the practice of child trafficking, child prostitution and organ trafficking, which is still widespread in the EU. It is estimated that up to 140,000 people are involved in human trafficking in Europe. 30 percent of all victims are children. Vega contacted EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen directly in the run-up to the film’s release. „Let’s change European law to curb this practice,“ he said.
„This is an opportunity to literally pull the rug out from under rivals, the US and Europe. Why shouldn’t China take advantage of that?“
Eric Olander from the “China-Africa-Project” on the fateful ignorance of Western states towards the African need for fair and affordable access to Covid-19 vaccines, which China’s “vaccine diplomacy” has taken advantage of.
Federal Armed Forces Association warns of weakening of operational capability due to Covid: Bundeswehr soldiers have been deployed in numerous German health offices for months to support the overloaded offices and employees in contact tracing during the pandemic. Soldiers are also helping in nursing homes. Now the head of the German Armed Forces Association, André Wüstner, warns of a loss of strength of the military. He described it as „madness“ that the Bundeswehr, as an organization not responsible, had to help out for more than a year. He warns that 25,000 soldiers could not be permanently deployed as administrative assistance without this having an impact on the operational capability in an emergency.