Daily Briefs

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25 September 2023, Monday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #629

France withdraws troops and ambassador from Niger

EM Daily Brief
By Rishika Yadav

President announces on  withdrawal of troops and ambassador from Niger after coup
On 24 September, President Emmanuel Macron announced the withdrawal of France’s troops from Niger within the next few months. France has also decided to withdraw its ambassador, who had been effectively under house arrest in Niamey. The military cooperation between France and Niger is said to be over. The military soldiers had demanded the withdrawal of France’s troops involved in anti-terror operations in North Africa. France initially resisted until requested to do so by the deposed Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s President. (Clea Caulcutt, “France withdraws troops from Niger,” Politico, 24 September 2023)

Protests against police violence and racism
On 23 September, tens of thousands of people demonstrated across France in protests against police violence, racism, and social inequalities. The protests were initially triggered by the police killing of 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk in June. Besides demanding justice for Merzouk, various groups also rallied for immigration rights, affordable housing, and economic justice. While unions reported 80,000 participants, police estimated around 31,800. Some clashes occurred in Paris, where a group of protesters vandalized a bank and attacked a police car. The death of Merzouk and police violence have raised concerns and led to calls for reforms. (“France: Protests against police brutality turn violent,” Deutsche Welle, 23 September 2023)

Car manufacturers concerned about EU’s anti-subsidy probe on China’s electric vehicles
On 23 September, Economy Minister Robert Habeck expressed concerns that Germany’s car makers may face retaliation. The retaliation can occur if the EU imposes duties on China’s electric vehicles as a result of an anti-subsidy investigation. He acknowledged a divide between France and Germany on the matter. France is pushing for the investigation, while German automakers fear the consequences, given their significant presence in China's market. Habeck’s comments highlight the complexity of the issue and the challenge of aligning the interests of EU member states. The probe risks escalating trade tensions between the EU and China. (Hans Von Der Burchard, “German carmakers ‘afraid’ of China retaliation, economy minister warns,” Politico, 23 September 2023)

Chancellor seeks clarification from Poland over visa scandal allegations
On 23 September, Chancellor Olaf Scholz called on Poland to address allegations of a visa-for-bribes scandal. He expressed concerns that it could exacerbate Germany’s migration issues. The Poland’s government faces allegations that consulate operatives may have granted thousands of Poland’s temporary work visas and EU access in exchange for bribes. The EU has also urged Poland to clarify the matter, warning of potential violations of EU law. Poland has initiated an audit at its Ministry of Foreign Affairs and terminated contracts with outsourcing companies handling visa applications. (Hanne Cokelaere, “Germany’s Scholz hints at checks on Polish border amid visa-for-bribes scandal,” Politico, 24 September 2023)

Police ends standoff with gunmen 
On 23 September, a confrontation between gunmen and Kosovo police at a monastery near the Serbian border was concluded. It began when a Kosovo police patrol was ambushed, leaving one officer dead and another injured. The assailants fled to a nearby monastery, engaging in gun battles with police. At least three attackers were killed. Prime Minister Albin Kurti linked the attackers to Serbia, alleging political, financial, and logistical support from Belgrade. This incident may exacerbate ethnic tensions between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo. Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat and Jeff Hovenier, US ambassador in Pristina have both condemned the attack. (“Kosovo monastery siege ends with 4 dead,” Deutsche Welle, 24 September 2023)

Salmon farming crisis amid marine heatwave
On 24 September, according to Euronews, Scotland is grappling with an unprecedented Category 4 marine heatwave since March 2023. It is causing mass marine mortalities. Rising sea temperatures have led to a proliferation of sea lice infestations on salmon farms. Investigations have revealed fish covered in invasive sea lice on several farms. Sea lice, which feed on salmon, thrive in warmer waters and can weaken fish, potentially spreading to wild salmon populations. Salmon deaths doubled in 2022, and by September 2023, 8.9 million fish had died prematurely on salmon farms. Rising sea temperatures also pose threats from jellyfish, impacting aquaculture globally. (Daniel Bellamy, “Salmon fishing in Scotland threatened by rising sea temperatures,” Euronews, 24 September 2023)

Massive protest in Madrid against potential Catalan amnesty
On 24 September, demonstrators gathered in Madrid to protest. The protest was against reports that acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez might grant amnesty to Catalan separatists in exchange for political support. The rally was organized by the conservative People’s Party (PP), and authorities estimated around 40,000 attendees, while the PP claimed 60,000. The PP, which narrowly won Spain's election in July, lacks a majority in parliament and needs the support of regionalist parties. The party of Carles Puigdemont, exiled former Catalonia leader, Junts per Catalunya, holds crucial seats and demands amnesty as a condition for support. (“Spain: 40,000 protest possible amnesty for Catalan leaders,” Deutsche Welle, 24 September 2023)

Army on standby as police officers hand in weapons in protest
On 24 September, several London police officers handed in their weapons in support of a fellow officer charged with murder. The UK’s Ministry of Defence has put the army on standby to assist police with specific tasks. Police in Britain are not routinely armed. This move follows the appearance in court of a firearms officer charged with the fatal shooting of a young Black man, Chris Kaba. The protest has raised concerns about the impact on police decision-making and allegations of institutional racism within the Metropolitan Police. (“UK army put on standby as London police hand in weapons,” Deutsche Welle, 24 September 2023)

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