Category: European external affairs

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Afghanistan: a security and humanitarian dilemma for Western powers

On the night of 15 August, the Taliban entered the presidential palace in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul after Western countries withdrew their military presence and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, leaving Afghans in despair. With the Taliban taking over Kabul and seizing control over virtually all of the country, Western powers have been evacuating their citizens and staff from Afghanistan. The only countries willing to remain in Afghanistan are non-Western nations, such as Russia and China. What does this mean practically for the European Union (EU) and its member states? And where does the EU stand? Those are the questions that have been arising in the last couple of days, but before answering them, let’s first understand why Western forces were engaged in Afghanistan.

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A free, one-way ticket to Minsk: Belarus accused of sending thousands of migrants across Lithuanian border

Since 1 June 2021, more than 1,000 migrants have attempted to cross the border from Belarus to Lithuania. Lithuanian prime minister Ingrida Simonyte claimed that, over the past month and a half, more migrants have tried to cross the state borders than in the last four years combined. The Lithuanian State Border Guard Service has declared a state of emergency and has started to build a fence on the almost 700km long border.

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The EU’s expanding sanctions regime against Belarus

On Sunday, a Belarusian military jet forced a Ryanair plane to perform an emergency landing in Minsk, even though the plane was en route to Lithuania from Greece. The reason for the seven-hour long detour turned out to be the arrest of Belarusian opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, who was on board the plane. In what has been an unusually quick response, EU leaders have strongly condemned the action and arrest of Prostasevich and his partner, and  planned further sanctions for President Lukashenko’s circle.

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Ukraine and Russia: What’s the EU doing?

This past week, reports have amassed on Russia increasing its deployment of troops near the Ukrainian border. It is estimated that this constitutes the largest deployment since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, with heavy equipment and artillery being towed from as far as Siberia. According to Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov, the build up is nothing more than an exercise but military experts say the troop movements paint a different picture. 

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Another round of EU sanctions hit Russia

In response to the treatment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny since his return to Russia, EU foreign ministers decided on Monday to impose a new set of sanctions on individuals in the country. The heads of state and government will likely agree in their next European Council meeting, and when they do, at least four more individuals will be hit by asset freezes and entry bans to the EU.