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Von der Leyen must act now to rescue Afghans working with EU missions | View

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By Sven Giegold MEP
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The Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan marks a historic failure of the West, NATO, the US and Europe.

The reasons for this failure require an honest and thorough analysis.

However, it is now of first and foremost importance that this failure puts a responsibility on all allies involved in the missions in Afghanistan. A responsibility for everyone who supported their missions. That includes a larger number of local personnel, meaning Afghan citizens and their families.

It is pathetic how the European Commission and the EU member states shift the responsibility for the local forces back and forth.

Also, the missions of the European Union in Afghanistan contracted and subcontracted local staff. There are at least 600 local staff members and their close family members of the EU Police Mission (EUPOL), the EU Delegation and the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).

While EUPOL has worked almost exclusively without outsourcing, the EU delegation and especially ECHO also have numerous external contractual and cooperation partners.

At this very moment, the Taliban are walking from door to door in Kabul. The local personnel of the EU missions are in imminent danger in these hours.

The European Union has to act now, evacuate the local personnel of the EU missions and save their lives.

But instead of granting people unbureaucratic protection, we had to witness a dispute about a distribution formula within the EU. The European Commission and national governments are quarrelling about responsibilities.

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. Even more: Only 12 days ago, six EU member states (Denmark, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece and Denmark) demanded from the EU Commission to continue with returns of refugees to Afghanistan, despite the rapidly deteriorating security situation. This is failure after failure.

Only Finland and the Netherlands have now started to help, but we are still waiting for commitments from many other EU member states. The dramatic situation in Kabul makes it clear: We need an airlift for the staff of the EU missions in Afghanistan.

At this very moment, the Taliban are walking from door to door in Kabul. The local personnel of the EU missions are in imminent danger in these hours.

Also, the European Commission has to act. Until now the Commission has only made appeals to the member states behind closed doors. These appeals had no consequences whatsoever. It is Ursula von der Leyen who must take up the issue with urgency and ensure the protection of the local forces by the EU member states.

In July, former members of the EUPOL mission made an urgent call to the responsible EU institutions without any consequences.

This is a moment of responsibility. Besides the local personnel of the EU missions also individual EU countries employed local staff. In Germany, the government hides behind a smokescreen when it comes to dealing with their local forces. Just in June this year, it rejected a motion by the German Green Party

in the Bundestag to expedite procedures for local staff. 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. 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. The European Union must not lose even more time and show responsibility. It is high time to help those who helped the European missions in Afghanistan.

_On Thursday, 19 August 2021 at 19:00 CEST we will discuss the situation in Afghanistan in a public high-level webinar with representatives of German and British local staff support networks as well as members of the EUPOL mission and Afghanistan experts. The webinar is public and open for questions. Registration is required here._

Sven Giegold is an MEP and spokesman of the German Greens in the European Parliament.