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Serbia’s Opposition to Boycott Vote Held During Pandemic

BELGRADE, SERBIA – A Serbian opposition leader whose group is boycotting the country’s parliamentary..

BELGRADE, SERBIA – A Serbian opposition leader whose group is boycotting the country’s parliamentary election says taking part in the vote amid the coronaviorus pandemic and without free media in the Balkan country would only legitimize what he called a “hoax vote.”

The Serbian opposition leader , the leader of the pro-boycott Union for Serbia coalition, told The Associated Press that Sunday’s vote is being held despite health risks and a lack of democratic standards for the campaign.

Most of the main opposition parties will boycott the vote because of what they say is Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s iron grip on the country’s media and the electoral process, as well as potential coronavirus infection hazards at voting stations.

The boycott means Vucic’s right-wing Serbian Progressive party will emerge as an overwhelming winner and continue its eight years of political dominance. Vucic and his allies have denounced the boycott, saying it includes parties that would not get enough votes even to make it into Serbia’s 250-seat parliament. All the seats are up for grabs. Vucic’s party now has by far the most seats in parliament with 104. The next are his allied Socialists with 22.

Although Serbia is facing a spike in new coronavirus cases, the populist leader claims the virus spread is under control and that masks will be made available for voters at polling stations.

Serbia went from having very strict lockdown measures to a near-total lifting of the government’s emergency rules in early June. Opponents say Vucic eased the restrictions so he could hold the election, which originally was scheduled for April and cancelled because of the pandemic, in order to cement his grip on power.

“At the start the COVID-19 pandemic, our president said all will be OK if we take a shot of brandy every day,” Djilas said Wednesday in an interview. “And then he introduced the toughest possible lockdown measures, including an 84-hour curfew. Those older than 65 were kept indoors for 35 days.”

“Then the measures were lifted as if nothing has happened. It’s unbelievable,” he said.
Serbia is now seeing an infection spike after mass gatherings were allowed without people being instructed to keep social distance or wear masks.

On June 1, Serbia had 18 new virus cases. On Wednesday, there were 96. Many peg the surge to the mass gatherings that have been allowed, including a soccer match in Belgrade that was attended by 20,000 people — the largest gathering in Europe in recent months. Other nations such as Germany, Spain, Italy and Britain have had soccer clubs play in empty stadiums.

“What led to the boycott by most of the opposition is the fact that we in reality have no elections,” Djilas said. “For democratic elections, you have to have conditions for people to hear something different and freely express themselves.”

“Not a single of those conditions has been met,” said Djilas, who is a frequent target of smear campaigns by the pro-government tabloids. “Media is not only closed for us, but it is used to attack people who think differently.”

In its annual report published in April, human rights watchdog Freedom House listed Serbia among “hybrid regimes” in which power is based on authoritarianism and can no longer be considered a democratic state. Serbian officials have vehemently rejected the report, saying it’s based on wrong research and criteria.

European Parliament members Tanja Fajon and Vladimir Bilcik, who before the vote tried to negotiate election conditions between Vucic and the opposition, said in a statement they are saddened by the boycott and urged voters to follow health and security measures on election day.
Djilas said in Serbia there will be no change without pressure on Vucic from the West.

“We don’t expect them to topple Vucic, we only want them to create conditions for free and fair elections.”

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Green, left-wing Michèle Rubirola becomes Marseilles first woman mayor

Issued on: 05/07/2020 – 11:00Modified: 05/07/2020 – 11:01

Marseille became the latest French munic..

Issued on: 05/07/2020 – 11:00Modified: 05/07/2020 – 11:01

Marseille became the latest French municipality to elect a Green mayor on Saturday, in a wave that has swept the country since local elections at the end of last month.

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Michèle Rubirola, the first female leader of Frances second city, won the most votes from city councillors, ending almost a week of suspense after the June 28 poll that failed to give her slate an absolute majority.

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Italy could transfer migrants from Ocean Viking rescue ship on Monday

Issued on: 05/07/2020 – 10:07Modified: 05/07/2020 – 10:16

Italy is carrying out tests on 180 migra..

Issued on: Modified:

Italy is carrying out tests on 180 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean with a view to transferring them to a quarantine vessel in Sicily, an interior ministry source said Saturday.

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The migrants have been on the Ocean Viking ship operated by SOS Mediterranee for over a week, with fights and suicide attempts on board prompting the charity to declare a state of emergency on Friday.

A medical team sent by authorities in Pozzallo, Sicily “ascertained the absence of particular health problems and also reported that some tensions that had been registered on the ship are being overcome”, the ministry source said.

The medical team is testing the migrants for the Covid-19 virus after which they will be transferred to a quarantine ship currently in Porto Empedocle, also in Sicily.

“The situation is carefully monitored in view of the transhipment of migrants, scheduled for Monday 6 July, on the Moby Zaza ship,” the source said.

The Ocean Viking, which has been in limbo in the Mediterranean south of Sicily, has been waiting for permission from Italy or Malta to offload the migrants at a safe port.

Italy could transfer migrants from Ocean Viking rescue ship on Monday

Tensions have risen in the past week, as witnessed by an AFP reporter aboard the boat, as migrants have become increasingly desperate to reach land. Others have become distraught at not being able to telephone their families to let them know they were safe.

SOS Mediteranee said in a statement on Saturday that “the only assistance proposed has been a visit by a medical doctor and a cultural mediator who spoke to the survivors but are not in a position to present a solution for their disembarkation.”

The migrants, which include Pakistanis, North Africans, Eritreans, Nigerians and others, were picked up after fleeing Libya in four separate rescues by the Ocean Viking on June 25 and 30.

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Air France to cut 7,580 jobs at French flagship carrier and regional unit Hop!

Issued on: 03/07/2020 – 20:16Modified: 03/07/2020 – 20:16

Air France confirmed plans to cut some 7..

Issued on: 03/07/2020 – 20:16Modified: 03/07/2020 – 20:16

Air France confirmed plans to cut some 7,500 jobs including 1,000 at sister airline Hop! on Friday, as staff protested over its response to the collapse in travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The French flag carrier, part of Franco-Dutch group Air France-KLM, said it had lost €15 million a day during the worst part of the crisis, which also saw its revenues plunge by 95 percent. It did not see traffic returning to 2019 levels before 2024.

As a result, Air France plans to cut 6,560 or 16 percent of jobs at the main airline by the end of 2022, more than 3,500 of which will come through natural departures, it said after union talks.

Another 1,020 jobs will go over the next three years at Hop!, representing 42 percent of staff at the regional carrier based in the coastal city of Nantes, which has also been hit by job cuts at plane manufacturer Airbus.

The French government – which granted Air France €7 billion ($7.9 billion) in aid, including state-backed loans, to help it to survive – has urged the airline to avoid compulsory layoffs, though it has conceded Air France is "on the edge”.

"A successful labour reorganisation is one where there are no forced departures," junior economy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told Sud Radio on Friday.

In its statement, Air France said it would give priority to voluntary departures, early retirement and staff mobility. It did not rule out compulsory redundancies, however.

The reconstruction plan will be presented at the end of July, together with a plan for the wider Air France-KLM Group.

This is not how I wanted to leave

Some 100 union members and employees, from cleaning staff to check-in assistants, demonstrated earlier outside the airline's base at Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris against plans to cut staff after receiving state aid to absorb the pandemic fallout.

Air France employees gather to protest a restructuring plan that includes thousands of job cuts in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis outside the French airline's headquarters in Roissy-en-France near Paris on July 3, 2020. The sign at right reads, "Not born to end up in the dumpster.” © Gonzalo Fuentes, Reuters

"It's scandalous. The government is putting in €7 billion and the compRead More – Source

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