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Irish roads among the safest in Europe

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Irish roads continue to be among the safest in Europe.

The latest figures from the European Commission show an average death rate across Europe of 52 fatalities per 1 million inhabitants in 2018 compared to Greece where the rate was 161 deaths per million residents.

Leinster and the Midlands recorded the lowest rate of road fatalities in Ireland in 2018 with 22 per one million inhabitants.

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Grace Bolton of the European Commission says the EU's 'Vision Zero' programme aims to reduce the number of road fatalities by half over the next ten years.

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Equatorial Guinea

Can Equatorial Guinea find new allies?

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Equatorial Guinea now has such a toxic reputation that it risks running out of international friends. Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue has been accused of corruption and embezzlement of state funds. It is alleged that the President’s son spent more than $500 million on luxury homes around the world, a private jet, cars and other valuables, writes James Wilson.

The French authorities are legally pursuing Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, following an allegation issued by two non-governmental organisations Sherpa and Transparency International. They have charged him with “laundering, embezzlement of public funds”, “abuse of public trust”, as well as “corruption”.

In these circumstances, the President (his father) Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo faces no alternative but to look for new allies to bail the country out of a rapidly deteriorating security problem in the region.

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Russia as a strong global power would appear to be a logical candidate for the task. The Russian Federation has recently become more active in the region, and has offered security partnerships to a number of African countries. The Russians have also met with some success in this particular region in relation to security: for example, in the Central African Republic, Russian military instructors trained the national army of the CAR within the framework of a bilateral cooperation agreement between Bangui and Moscow. In December last year, the CAR's security forces repelled an attack by militants who tried to overthrow the current CAR regime.

In recent weeks social media sources publicly available on the internet reported that members of the government of Guinea paid a visit to Moscow, Russia. There has been speculation that the purpose of their visit was to establish contact with Russia, with a view to concluding a contract with a private Russian military company. It would appear that the terms of cooperation proposed by the Guineans were unacceptable to the Russian side.

The Vice-president of the country, the son of the current president of the country, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue also flew to Russia to try to establish relations. As part of his visit, it has been reported that he requested a personal meeting with the head of the private military contractor Wagner.

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Whatever transpired during those negotiations, the conditions and schemes for cooperation promised by the Vice-President were rejected. It is widely known that Guinea has huge reserves of various minerals, which the regime apparently uses for personal purposes (hence the international sanctions against the vice-president of the country).

Since the mid-1990s, when a large deposit of oil was discovered, Equatorial Guinea has become one of sub-Saharan Africa's largest oil producer. Equatorial Guinea holds 1,100,000,000 barrels of proven oil reserves as of 2016, ranking 39th in the world and accounting for about 0.1% of the world's total oil reserves of 1,650,585,140,000 barrels. At current consumption levels and excluding unproven reserves there would be about 580 years of oil left in the Guinean reserves. In addition to crude oil, Equatorial Guinea is also rich in natural gas.

So, for whatever reason, the Vice-President failed to offer suitable conditions and negotiations with the Russian Federation broke down. The final outcome of the meeting is unknown, as clearly no cooperation agreement was signed.

There have been periodic negotiations between Equatorial Guinea and Russia on strengthening cooperation, especially in the field of security, but so far they have met only with failure.

The authorities of Equatorial Guinea have even announced the opening of Russian Embassy in the Guinean Capital Malabo. But according to information issued by the Belgian news outlet Camer.be, the Guinean statement about the imminent opening of a Russian embassy there does not correspond to the agenda approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. The Russian Foreign Ministry is in no hurry to open an embassy with a country that might potentially be considered to be an unreliable partner.

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Afghanistan

EU sets out its position on Afghanistan for UN assembly in New York

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Yesterday (20 September) evening EU ministers dined together ahead of the UN General Assembly which will discuss the situation in Afghanistan, among other issues. Ahead of the meeting, Germany's foreign minister Heiko Maas called for leaders to use the 76th session of the Assembly to coordinate emergency assistance for the Afghan people and to clarify and consolidate the international stance towards "powerholders in Kabul".

In a statement the EU's underlined their commitment to peace and stability in the country and to supporting the Afghan people. The conclusions also set out the EU's line of action for the near future:

The EU recognizes that the situation in Afghanistan is a major challenge for the international community as a whole, and stresses the need for strong coordination in engaging with relevant international partners, notably the UN.

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The EU and its member states' operational engagement will be carefully calibrated to the policy and actions of the Taliban-appointed caretaker cabinet, will not bestow any legitimacy on it, and will be assessed against the five benchmarks agreed on by EU ministers of foreign affairs at their informal meeting in Slovenia on 3 September 2021. In this context, the rights of women and girls are of particular concern.

A minimal EU presence on the ground in Kabul, dependent on the security situation, would facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and monitoring of the humanitarian situation, and could also coordinate and support the safe, secure and orderly departure of all foreign nationals, and Afghans who wish to leave the country.

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As a matter of high priority, the EU will initiate a regional political platform of cooperation with Afghan direct neighbours to help prevent the negative spill-over effects in the region, and support the economic resilience and regional economic cooperation, as well as humanitarian and protection needs.

The Council will revert to the matter at its next meeting in October.

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coronavirus

HERA: First step towards the establishment of EU FAB, a network of ever-warm production capacities

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The Commission has published the Prior Information Notice, which provides vaccine and therapeutics manufacturers with preliminary information about the EU FAB call for competition, planned for early 2022. The objective of EU FAB is to create a network of ‘ever-warm' production capacities for vaccine and medicine manufacturing that can be activated in case of future crises. EU FAB will cover multiple vaccine and therapeutic technologies. To be operational at all times, the participating production sites are expected to ensure availability of qualified staff, clear operational processes and quality controls, allowing the EU to be better prepared and respond to future health threats. EU FAB will be able to quickly and easily activate its network of manufacturing capacities to meet demand for vaccines and/or therapeutics needs, until the market has scaled up production capacities. EU FAB will form a key component of the industrial dimension of the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), as announced in the Communication Introducing HERA, the next step towards completing the European Health Union, on 16 September. The Prior Information Notice on the EU FAB is available here.

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