Tag Archives: UNESCO

Oldest Europe’s forest endangered

Polish relevant authorities are planning to cut down 154,000 cubic meters of trees in #Bialowieza forest within the period of three years, Environment Minister Henryk Kowalczyk said this week.

The total number for three years is 154,000 cubic meters. This is 0.6 percent of all threes in the forest,” Kowalczyk said at a press conference.

The minister pointed at the “increasing fire threat” in the forest this year, underlining that 3,000 cases of forest fire had already been registered.

А year ago the European Court of Justice  (ECJ) had ruled Poland violated the EU law by ordering large-scale logging in one of Europe‘s oldest woods, the #Bialowieza forest. The government said it would respect the ruling.

Bialowieza forest has been designated a Unesco World Heritage site and is home to Europe‘s largest herd of nearly extinct bison.

The court’s decision is a defeat for the country’s conservative-led government.

The ECJ said Poland had “failed to fulfill its obligations” in directives covering the habitats of animals and birds.

While the whole of the #Bialowieza forest in Poland is protected under EU directives, only 17% of that area has been designated a national park where no logging takes place.

The court used particularly strong language to criticise Poland’s argument that it was responding to a “constant spread” of infestation of spruce bark beetles. It said the infestation “was not identified in the slightest” as a threat in the government’s 2015 management plan.

The ECJ ruling was hailed by environmental activists. The group ClientEarth said the decision was for now only on paper and called for the government in Warsaw to scrap its original approval of logging.

Poland is the biggest recipient of funds under the current EU budget.

Brussels Flower Carpet in Mexican style

This summer, the famous Brussels Flower Carpet on the Grand-Place is devoted to Guanajuato, a Mexican region with an exceptionally rich culture and flower tradition. And to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Grand-Place becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site, a visitor will also greeted by  a stunning floral exhibition at the Bourse square.

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Every other summer, on the weekend of August 15th, the Flower Carpet offers a chance to stroll across the Grand-Place, a jewel of Gothic architecture, to inhale the fragrant scent of the begonias and admire its details. This extraordinary spectacle is made complete by a visit to the balcony of the Town Hall, which offers a wide-angle view of the work. A musical theme is especially composed for each edition. A concert is given on the Grand-Place every evening and accompanies a magnificent sound-and-light show.

The Flower Carpet is 75 m long by 24 m wide. 1,800 m2 of begonias, dahlias, grass and bark.
A hundred volunteers assemble the carpet in less than eight hours.
The first Flower Carpet of Brussels was created in 1971 and has been a showstopper every two years on the Grand-Place since 1986.IMG_0716[1]

The Flower Carpet is 75 m long by 24 m wide. 1,800 m2 of begonias, dahlias, grass and bark. A hundred volunteers assemble the carpet in less than eight hours.
The first Flower Carpet of Brussels was created in 1971 and has been a showstopper every two years on the Grand-Place since 1986.

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Israel exiting UNESCO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on to submit a formal letter to the organization’s director-general announcing Israel’s exit.

Following in the path of the US, Israel announced its exit from UNESCO, citing “attacks” by the organization. The decision comes after 128 UN members voted to reject President Trump announcement of recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and moving the US Embassy there.

The decision was based on the UN-run agency’s “attempts to disconnect Jewish history from the land of Israel,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said. He added that the official letter of withdrawal to be submitted by the end of the year and that Israel will effectively leave the UN body by the end of 2018.

French Audrey Azoulay to lead UNESCO

“UNESCO is an essential pillar of the multilateral system, a global force for the protection and promotion of cultural diversity and heritage, the strongest supporter of the universal right to education and of freedom of expression. We congratulate Audrey Azoulay on her election as new Director General of UNESCO: we will continue to work together to protect, strengthen and relaunch UNESCO, as part of the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ broader work to reform the UN system” – says the Statement by the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Tibor Navracsics on the election of UNESCO’s new Director General:

“The European Union will continue to invest in strong multilateral institutions, including UNESCO. Only through our shared commitment to education, culture, free speech, intercultural dialogue, or against climate change, can we achieve a truly sustainable development and a more peaceful world.”

“Investing in UNESCO is also investing in our own security: the protection of cultural heritage can contribute to peace, security and reconciliation, to strengthening a country’s resilience, as well as to tourism and economic growth. Investing in education empowers our youth, facilitates mutual understanding and contributes to our work to prevent radicalisation.”

“Our commitment to UNESCO is a matter of interests as much as of principles. We regret the decision by the United States of America and Israel to withdraw from UNESCO: our goal is to make UNESCO deliver fully on its mission, and our support to UNESCO is here to stay. The EU is and will continue to be an indispensable partner in support of the UN system and multilateralism.”

EP: Holocaust Remembance

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To mark the International Holocaust Remembrance Day  27 January, the European Parliament and the European Jewish Congress will hold a ceremony on Wednesday. EP President Antonio Tajani and European Jewish Congress President Dr Moshe Kantor will deliver the opening speeches.

UNESCO Ambassador for Education about the Holocaust Beate Klarsfeld and European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation Chairman Tony Blair will also be among the speakers.

President Tajani will open the ceremony, followed by a contribution from Dr Kantor.

After Ms Klarsfeld’s speech, Mr Blair will hand the “Medal of Tolerance Award” to Russian film director Andrei Konchalovsky, for his film “Paradise”, about a relationship between a concentration camp inmate and an SS officer.

Overheat in Kosovo

Serbia Kosovo

Aleksandar Mitic, OPINION

A new graffiti banner appeared on the stands of the football stadium of Sparta Prague in the Czech capital, media reported on January 24. It reads “Kosovo is Serbia”, and is a reference to the long-held views by the Sparta fans, but also fans at dozens of stadiums around Europe – from Warsaw and Athens to Paris and Madrid – that Kosovo is a province of Serbia and that unilateral Albanian separatism should not be rewarded.

The same phrase “Kosovo is Serbia”, painted on a train rallying Belgrade to Kosovska Mitrovica North – the only urban enclave in Kosovo from where Serbs had not been expelled since the war in 1999 – obtained not only extreme media attention but triggered a surprisingly high political attention worldwide. While Belgrade claimed the passenger train, on its promotional trip, was merely an expression of Serbia’s support to its integrity and to the suffering Kosovo Serbs, the Kosovo Albanians saw it as a provocation and sent dozens of armed vehicles to block its entry into what they consider as their own territory. Belgrade averted a conflict by stopping the train in central Serbia, but the political aftermath proved almost as tense.

Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic reacted by warning that any future attacks against Kosovo Serbs would be met by an armed response from Serbia, while Kosovo Albanian president Hashim Thaci warned that Serbia was looking at a “Crimea scenario” to take back Kosovo, and that Albanians were infuriated by the “painted” signs of Serbia’s claim to the province.

While the rhetoric was harsher than usual, it showed, however, a continuity of both sides’ policy on the Kosovo issue.

Belgrade, on one hand, continues to argue that Kosovo’s secession – which began with the 1999 NATO bombings and continued with a unilateral secession – is a dramatic violation of international law and a precedent for conflicts worldwide. Yet, similar to the train case, its Kosovo policy sometimes appears as a “one step forward, two steps back” policy. Serbia is fighting Kosovo’s entry into the UN institutions, such as UNESCO, yet it is giving up parts of sovereignty in Kosovo by agreeing to the demands of the European Union – and Germany in particular – in exchange for the opening of new EU negotiation chapters. The expected delay of Serbia’s potential entry to the EU – now put at 2027 – however fuels criticisms among those who believe that Serbia should not hurry with giving up on its sovereignty prerogatives, in particular in Serb-populated northern Kosovo.

The Kosovo Albanians, on the other side, have a long-term strategy of putting pressure by arguing that if they do not get everything they wanted, there will be chaos in Kosovo. It is a strategy which paid off in 1999 – when they triggered the NATO bombings, in 2004 – when they succeeded in obtaining the beginning of status talks, in 2008 – when they received Western support for a unilateral secession from Serbia, in 2011-2012 – when they received support for “rounding up” what they now perceive as their own sovereignty over Kosovo. Every time a crisis appears in Kosovo, the same Albanian rhetoric and threats are employed – every time with success. Why change then the scarecrow tactics?

Yet, changes in the US administration and elections Europe-wide which are boosting opponents of Kosovo’s secession, are fueling worry in Pristina. An “independent Kosovo” – a pet project of the Clinton family – is perhaps not as secure anymore.

Aleksandar Mitic, president of the Center for Strategic Alternatives

Belgrade, 24/01/2017

Photo: Graffiti in Prague, couresy of Aleksandar Mitic

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Europol reports on stolen artefacts

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The aim of Operation Pandora was to dismantle criminal networks involved in cultural theft and exploitation, and identify potential links to other criminal activities. Moreover, there was a special focus on cultural spoliation, both underwater and on land, and the illicit trafficking of cultural goods, with a particular emphasis on conflict countries.

From the start of the operation, Europol played a central role in coordinating and directing the entire operation. In addition, the agency supported the concerted action from its 24/7 operational coordination centre in The Hague by providing operational and analytical support and facilitating information exchange.

Operation Pandora took place in October and November 2016 and had a joint action week from 17 to 23 November 2016. Several police officers were deployed on the spot during this week to assist national authorities with inspections and searches.

Europol reports 3561 works of art and cultural goods were seized, almost half of which were archaeological objects; 500 archaeological objects were found in Murcia, Spain, of which 19 were stolen in 2014 from the Archaeological Museum in Murcia; over 400 coins from different periods were seized following investigations into suspicious online advertisements; 75 individuals were arrested.

The following EU Member States participated in Operation Pandora: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom. Non-EU countries involved: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Switzerland.

UNESCO contributed to the operation by providing training materials and offering recommendations to the participating countries.

Illustration: courtesy of Europol