Category Archives: Europe

EU deplores Czech diplomats expel

Brussels 19.04.2021 “The European Union stands in full support and solidarity with the Czech Republic and deplores Russia’s response to expel 20 Czech diplomats. Russia’s decision follows the announcement by the Czech Republic on 17 April to expel 18 Russian embassy staff, based on reasonable suspicion about the involvement of Russian military intelligence service (GRU) agents in the 2014 explosion of an ammunition depot in the town of Vrbětice, resulting in the death of two Czech nationals. These GRU agents were also in charge of the attempted murder of the Skripals in Salisbury in 2018” reads the statement of the EU spokesperson.

“The European Union is deeply concerned about the repeating negative pattern of dangerous malign behaviour by Russia in Europe. Russia must stop with these activities, which violates well-established international principles and norms and threaten stability in Europe”.

Prague authorities demand that Russian Embassy vacate an area of 5,000 square meters, currently occupied by the diplomatic mission. Before 1968, the mentioned area was a part of the adjacent Stromovka Park, Prague-7 district head Jan Cizinsky said on Twitter.

“The Prague city council called on the Czech government to hold negotiations in a bid to bring the Russian Embassy territory to the state that preceded the Warsaw Pact forces invasion in 1968,” he tweeted.

According to the Czech media, the area in question is about 5,000 square meters. The city authorities plan to plant trees and flowers on this area, as it was prior to August 1968, when a Soviet military camp was deployed there.

This decision was made amid a sharp escalation of relations between Russia and the Czech Republic, following the expulsion of 18 Russian Embassy employees and accusations of Russian intelligence’s involvement in explosions at arms depots in 2014.

Russia expels 5 Polish diplomats

Brussels 16.04.2021 Russia will expel five Polish diplomats in response to Warsaw’s actions, the Russian Foreign Ministry (MFA) said in a statement published on Friday, April 16.(Image above: Moscow city).

“By the way, we noted how quick Warsaw was to chime in with the U.S. administration, demanding that three Russian diplomats leave Poland. In turn, five Polish diplomats will be expelled from Russia,” the ministry said.

On April 15, Poland declared three Russian diplomats personae non gratae.

Poland expelled on Thursday three Russian diplomats accused of “hostile actions,” the Polish Foreign Ministry said. The move comes after the US expelled 10 Russian diplomats earlier on Thursday and imposed sanctions against dozens of companies and people.

Washington says the measures are retaliation for alleged Kremlin interference in last year’s presidential election and a massive cyber attack on federal agencies known as SolarWinds.

EU-Russia: “many disagreements”

Brussels 22.03.2021 With a view to the European Council meeting of 25 and 26 March a phone call between the President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin took place on Monday 22 March 2021.

The Presidents discussed relations between the EU and Russia.

President Michel expressed the view that EU-Russia ties are at a low point and confirmed the EU’s approach of the five guiding principles, based on the EU’s core values.

There is currently disagreement in many areas.

From the EU perspective, the relationship with Russia can only take a different direction if there is sustained progress on issues like the implementation of the Minsk agreements, stopping hybrid and cyber-attacks on Member States and respect for human rights. In this context Alexey Navalny’s case was raised. Charles Michel reiterated the EU’s call on the Russian authorities to release Mr Navalny and proceed with a transparent investigation into the assassination attempt on him.
The leaders also exchanged views on the Covid pandemic, on vaccines and on regional and global issues.

Kremlin readout: “Taking into account the upcoming discussion at the European Council meeting on March 25-26 of the problems of relations between Russia and the EU, Charles Michel touched upon a number of issues concerning the current state of affairs and the prospects for dialogue between Moscow and Brussels.

Vladimir Putin assessed the unsatisfactory state of Russian-EU ties, which has developed due to the non-constructive, sometimes confrontational line of partners. The Russian side emphasized its readiness to restore a normal, depoliticized format of interaction with the European Union, if a real reciprocal interest is shown in this.

The issues of combating the coronavirus pandemic were also touched upon, in particular the possibility of using the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, the political settlement of the internal Ukrainian conflict, the situation in Belarus and some other topical issues”.

EU tourism: 6M jobs at risk

Tito Livio Mongelli, Vice President of Skal Roma and head of the Academy and who will be introducing the works and directing the seminar, underlined how “we must stop thinking that everything will return as before, because we will no longer be the same: our certainties, our priorities, and perhaps also our way of working will have changed.”

In the future, “we will have to consider that we will all feel vulnerable, the world will be smaller when we think about the speed of spread of diseases, but the distances will seem enormous when we decide where to go on vacation.”

Prof. Filippo Zagarella, psychologist and psychotherapist, focused on: “the vicious cycle we are falling into: not knowing how to react to an invisible danger; we are in constant stress that depresses us, and we are getting worse and worse. In the face of danger, we automatically feel suffering, fear, and anger.

“Not being able to unload our anger against a concrete enemy, we have to find other escape ways: deny the danger or see something else as an enemy or repress our emotions or exacerbate the rules to fight this invisible enemy.

“However, we live under constant stress, and this stress compromises our immune defenses and makes also us feel badly physically. Not to mention the increased risk of getting sick precisely from the disease whose presence stresses us.”

Prof. Filippo Zagarella suggests “adopting the 4C model: knowing, being aware, training in new roles, and accepting change.

Create our “fantastic escape” to reduce stress: let’s put our mind on vacation and, as soon as possible, also our body! We will need holidays, as soon as possible!”

Prof. Matteo Colleoni, professor at UniBicocca University Milan, on the consequences of the pandemic on the demand for general and tourist mobility and on the changes taking place, highlighted how “tourism is a complex” eco-systemic sector “that includes several actors (producers, distributors, consumers, and supports), therefore, a plurality of economic activities are weakly, partially, or strongly associated with the tourism system: over ten million workers in Europe are in this business.

In the world, in the last two decades, the flow of international arrivals has more than doubled and it is a flow that largely travel by road (72% in Europe and 59% in Italy), despite the important value of air travel for business tourism and long holidays.

The consequences of the pandemic in some European regions, the high dependence of local economies on the tourism sector, e.g., in Italy we talk about Valle d’Aosta, Trentino and Alto Adige, Liguria, Sardinia, Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche, “has made them very vulnerable to shocks au-par of health care.

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the global impact of the pandemic crisis on tourism is 5 times worse than that of the 2008 global financial crisis.

The European Commission estimates a risk of loss of 6 million jobs with a strong impact on seasonal workers, young people, women, and foreigners, who are already weak at work.

The flows of tourist mobility are strongly associated with pandemic flows: tourism is at the same time the cause (in terms of diffusion) and consequence (in worsening terms) of the spread of the virus.

According to various survey results on tourist mobility choices, risk reduction has become the first factor in choosing the means of transport.

What are the possible policies and interventions for the management of the pandemic crisis in the tourism system?

Optimize the use of the policies currently in use (and their level of integration); guide and modify the preferences associated with tourist behavior and consumption; increase the resilience of the system through diversification interventions; and increase risk control levels (structural and technological surveillance interventions).

Interventions of integration of planning tools aimed at planning the activities of the sector in coherence with respect to the objectives of tourist mobility (considering the modal changes resulting from the restrictions in the transport system).
Promote less crowded destinations: in particular rural tourism and natural tourism, a way to promote sustainable tourism and meet the objectives of the SDGs “sustainable economic growth.”
Adoption of the “travel bubble” logic: possibility to move freely within certain areas (in particular in a sustainable and safe way) but prohibition of access from the outside (e.g., between Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) – increase in local tourism.

Reduce dependence on tourism demand (through the 4S policy: Sustainable, Smart, Specialization, Strategies). Rethink the entire system of mobility and transport (including tourism transport).
Speakers profiles
Prof. Filippo Zagarella is a psychologist, psychotherapist, Dean, and teacher of the training course in Humanistic Psychotherapy with a bioenergetic address and designer of psychoanimation workshops for children, teens, and adults.

Prof. Matteo Colleoni is Full Professor of Sociology of the Environment and Territory at the Department of Sociology and Social Research of the University of Milan-Bicocca where he also holds the position of University Mobility Manager and President of the Degree Course in Tourism science.

Draghi receives greetings from EU

Brussels 13.02.2021 The EU top executive Ursula von der Leyen sent her congratulations to the former head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, who had been sworn-in as Italy’s next Prime minister.

“Congratulations to Mario Draghi, the new Prime Minister.
His experience will be an extraordinary resource not only for Italy, but for all of Europe, especially in such a difficult time. Ready to work together soon for the common recovery and for an ambitious Flag of the European Union” – the European Commission president wrote on her Twitter page.

Draghi put together a unity government of the main political parties, following the collapse of the previous administration last month.

It was thrown into turmoil amid a row over how to spend EU coronavirus recovery funds.

Italy is still wrestling with the pandemic and is also facing its worst economic crisis in decades.

The EU Council president Charles Michel has also sent his congratulations, looking forward to cooperation with the Prime Minister Draghi.

Italy: Matarella proposes Draghi to lead government

The Italy head of state Sergio Matarella summoned Mario Draghi for talks on Wednesday, February 3, at noon (1100 GMT) after hearing that efforts to salvage the collapsed coalition of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had failed.
Mattarella looks set to ask former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi to form a government of national unity to tackle the twin coronavirus and economic crises battering the country.

“I have a duty to appeal to all political forces (to support) a high-profile government,” Mattarella told reporters, ruling out the only other possibility, early elections, as ill-advised given the array of challenges facing Italy.

Draghi made no immediate comment on the presidential summons and it was not initially clear which parties in the deeply fractured parliament would support an administration he headed.

Mario Draghi is widely credited with pulling the euro zone back from the brink of collapse in 2012, pledging to do “whatever it takes” to save the single European currency.

Later the banker has largely vanished from the public eye since his ECB term ended in October 2019, but his name emerged as a potential premier in recent weeks as political turmoil combined with the health and economic emergencies to form a perfect storm. President Mattarella said one of the most important things the next administration had to do was to draw up rapidly plans for how to spend more than 200 billion euros ($243 billion) from a European Union fund designed to help overcome the economic slump.

Navalny: Russia press arrests

The extraordinary figure of more than 50 arrests of reporters, some of whom were subjected to police violence, is based on data compiled by the specialised news website OVD-Info, the Russian Journalists and Media Workers Union (JMWU) and information gathered directly by RSF.

“The police deliberately targeted certain media, going so far as to try to enter a private apartment, to cut off a video feed of the demonstrations, and in a sign of the totally disproportionate nature of the crackdown, even clearly-identified reporters wearing ‘press’ vests or armbands were held for several hours,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

“The aim was clearly to prevent them from showing the scale of support for a government opponent. We call on the Russian authorities to end this blatant obstruction of the freedom to inform and we urge the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Teresa Ribeiro, to condemn the violence and arbitrary arrests. We also call on the European Union to adopt new sanctions against Russian officials.”

Multiple obstructions of the right to inform
Dozhd (Rain TV), an independent TV channel that is experienced in providing live coverage of demonstrations, was censored in mid-transmission when police cut the power supply to a Moscow apartment from which a Dozhd crew was broadcasting and then arrested reporter Aleksei Korostelev and cameraman Sergei Novikov on the pretext of verifying their identity. Another Dozhd journalist, Eduard Birmistrov, was arrested in Saint Petersburg although he was wearing a yellow vest and had his press card around his neck.

Cases of police deliberately obstructing journalists were filmed or reported throughout the day. They included the filmed arrest of Ivan Petrov, a reporter for the photo agency Tardigrada in Saint Petersburg, and the arrest of The Insider reporter Vera Ryabitskaya, who was beaten with a baton and dragged by her hair into a police van.

In Moscow, riot police hit Elizaveta Kirpanova, a reporter for the independent triweekly Novaya Gazeta, with their batons for several minutes, dealing some of the blows to her head, although she was clearly identifiable by her “press” vest and badge, while a baton blow smashed the camera lens of her photographer colleague Viktoria Odisonova.

Ekaterina Grobman, a reporter for VTimes, an independent news website recently founded by journalists who used to work for the daily newspaper Vedomosti, was hit when being arrested despite her “press” badge. Police also used violence against two journalists with the leading Riga-based news site Meduza, beating Kristina Safonova as she was filming a protest and grabbing Evgenyi Feldman by the neck. Nikita Stupin, a reporter for the AvtokazLive website, was tasered.
The police had already tried to intimidate journalists and media outlets in the run-up to the 23 January demonstrations in support for Navalny, who was arrested on his arrival in Russia on 17 January after several months in Germany recovering from a poisoning attempt. Navalny’s team has called for more protests on 31 January.
Russia is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

Pompeii new discovery

Brussels 27.12.2020 The archaeologists said they had discovered a frescoed thermopolium or street-food counter in an exceptional state of preservation in Pompeii.

The ornate snack bar, decorated with polychrome patterns and frozen by volcanic ash, was partially exhumed last year but researches extended work on the site to reveal it in its full glory.

Pompeii was buried in ash and pumice when the nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, killing between 2,000 and 15,000 people. However, nowadays archaeologists continue to make discoveries there.

The Thermopolium of Regio V at what was a busy intersection of Silver Wedding Street and Alley of Balconies was the Roman-era equivalent of a fast-food snack stall.

A fresco bearing an image of a Nereid nymph riding a seahorse and gladiators in combat had been unearthed previously (pictured).

EU ready for Cyprus negotiations

Brussels 20.10.2020 “The Turkish Cypriot community selected Mr. Ersin Tatar as its new leader. It is important now to see a constructive engagement with a view to reaching a comprehensive settlement and reunification” reads the Joint Statement by the High Representative Borrell and Commissioner Ferreira on the electoral process in the Turkish Cypriot community.

The European Union supports the resumption of negotiations, under the auspices of the United Nations (UN), and remains fully committed to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, and of reunification based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, within the UN framework and in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, including UNSC resolutions 550 and 789, and in line with the principles on which the EU is founded. A solution to the Cyprus problem would be to the benefit of Cyprus and the EU in general.

The EU stands ready to play an active role in supporting these negotiations. A stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean and the development of cooperative and mutually beneficial relationships amongst all partners in the region, bilaterally and multilaterally, is in the EU’s strategic interest.

EU-Ukraine Summit condemns Russia

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, and Josep Borrell, Vice-President of the European Commission on behalf of Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, met in Brussels today for the 22nd EU-Ukraine Summit, hold a press-conference and issued a statement.

In the statement they have reiterated their condemnation of Russia’s “aggression”, and “continued to condemn” the “illegal annexation” of Crimea and Sevastopol.

“…We reiterated our strong condemnation of the clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity by acts of aggression by the Russian armed forces since February 2014. We continue to condemn the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia, the militarisation of the peninsula, the severe deterioration of the human rights situation there as well as restrictions of the freedom of movement for Ukrainian citizens to and from the Crimean Peninsula. We condemned the voting procedures on constitutional amendments of the Russian Federation concluded on 1 July 2020 that took place in the Crimean Peninsula, as well as the election of the so-called “governor of Sevastopol” on 13 September 2020, in violation of international law. We called on Russia to allow unhindered access of international organisations and human rights actors to the areas currently not under the control of Ukraine, including the Crimean Peninsula, and to respect international humanitarian law. We called for the immediate release of all illegally detained and imprisoned Ukrainian citizens in the Crimean Peninsula and in Russia, including Crimean Tatar activists. We continue to call on Russia to ensure unhindered and free passage to and from the Sea of Azov, in accordance with international law. We remain fully committed to implementing and keeping our respective non-recognition policies updated, including through restrictive measures and cooperation in international fora. In this context, we welcomed the diplomatic efforts aimed at restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders”.

We reaffirmed our full support to the endeavours of the Normandy format, the OSCE, the Trilateral Contact Group and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. We welcomed the renewed engagement by the parties at the Normandy Summit in Paris last December, and stressed the importance of implementing the measures agreed on that occasion in view of the full implementation of the Minsk agreements by all sides, underlining Russia’s responsibility in this regard. We praised the constructive approach of Ukraine in the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group and called on Russia to reciprocate. The comprehensive and unlimited ceasefire is an achievement that should be preserved.

“We called on Russia to fully assume its responsibility in this regard and to use its considerable influence over the armed formations it backs to meet the Minsk commitments in full and to ensure free and unhindered access of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to the non-government-controlled areas of Ukraine, including the areas along the Ukrainian-Russian State border, in accordance with its mandate. We again called on Russia to immediately stop fuelling the conflict by providing financial and military support to the armed formations it backs, and we remain deeply concerned about the presence of Russian military equipment and personnel in the non-government-controlled areas of Ukraine. We reiterated our condemnation of the Russian continuing measures entitling Ukrainian citizens of the areas currently not under the control of the Government to apply for Russian citizenship in a simplified manner, in contradiction to the Minsk agreements. The EU recently renewed its economic sanctions on Russia, whose duration remains clearly linked to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.

“We agreed to continue cooperating to address the socio-economic and humanitarian consequences of the conflict, highlighting the necessity to ensure the supply of water, electricity and gas across the contact line, to facilitate the movement of people and goods, and to ensure that the people living in areas not under Government’s control fully benefit from their rights as citizens of Ukraine, in full respect of international humanitarian law. In the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more essential that humanitarian aid continues to be delivered and that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, UN agencies, non-governmental organisations and the International Committee of the Red Cross have unimpeded access to the non-government controlled areas. We underlined the importance of pursuing demining activities also in new areas to be agreed. We also agreed on the need for Ukraine to establish a national mine action centre in order to effectively address the contamination by mines and unexploded ordnances in the conflict affected region. The EU stands ready to further support Ukraine’s inclusive approach towards its citizens in the affected areas and to play a leading role in reconstruction efforts of the country, including in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, once the Minsk agreements have been implemented…”

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