‘Pathetic’ EU and von der Leyen told to wake up and protect local Brussels staff in Kabul

Kabul: People chase and hang onto military plane at airport

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Sven Giegold was speaking as the resurgent Taliban was threatening a complete takeover, with President Ashraf Ghani already having fled the country. Speaking yesterday, Tom Tugendhat, chairman of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs committee, said the UK had “abandoned the Afghan people”.

However, Green MEP Mr Giegold was more specific, suggesting the EU was turning its back on Afghan staff who were now at dire risk from the Taliban as a result of having worked for Western governments.

He said: “Europe must live up to its responsibility for the local staff of EU missions.

“Instead of acting quickly, the European Commission and national governments are quarrelling about responsibilities.”

Mr Giegold added: “It is pathetic how the European Commission and the EU member states shift the responsibility for the local forces back and forth.

“There is still no effective solution for local staff. Finland and the Netherlands have now started to help, but we are still waiting for commitments from many other member states.”

An airlift was also needed for the staff of the various EU missions in Afghanistan, Mr Giegold stressed.

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He said: “The European Commission’s inconsequential appeals to the member states behind closed doors are completely inadequate.

“Ursula von der Leyen must take up the issue with urgency and ensure the protection of the local forces by the EU member states.”

Mr Giegold suggested at least 600 local staff and their close family members of the EU Police Mission (EUPOL), the EU Delegation and the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) were at risk.

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Turning his attention to his own country, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr Gielgold continued: “In Germany, too, the Government hides behind a smoke screen when it comes to dealing with its own local forces.

“The German Government conceals its inaction behind a narrow definition of local staff.

Only those directly employed by German public agencies during the last two years are to receive protection; subcontractors are already excluded.”

He warned: “One thing is clear: the Taliban are not interested in German labour law.

“Defenders of human and women’s rights, artists and media workers who have relied on the protection of the West also deserve our protection.”

Also today, Armin Laschet, the conservative candidate to succeed Ms Merkel as chancellor, said Germany’s military needed a strong mandate to carry out an evacuation operation in Afghanistan.

Mr Laschet said the mission was “one of the more dangerous” the Bundeswehr armed forces have had to undertake and called the situation in the Afghan capital following its rapid fall to the Taliban “completely unclear”.

He told reporters: “That’s why we need a strong mandate.”

The crisis was the biggest fiasco in the history of the NATO alliance, he said, urging the Bundestag to back the mandate which the government is expected to adopt on Wednesday.

Ms Merkel told party colleagues earlier that Germany must evacuate up to 10,000 people – including local support staff for its discontinued military presence, rights activists, lawyers and others at risk.

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