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Italy reopens to tourists from Europe after economically crippling lockdown

Issued on: 03/06/2020 – 09:02Modified: 03/06/2020 – 09:02

Italy reopens to travellers from Europe ..

Issued on: Modified:

Italy reopens to travellers from Europe on Wednesday, three months after the country went into coronavirus lockdown, with all hopes pinned on reviving the key tourism industry as the summer season begins.

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Gondolas are ready to punt along Venice's canals, lovers will be able to act out "Romeo and Juliet" on Verona's famed balcony, and gladiator fans can pose for selfies at Rome's Colosseum.

But there were fears many foreign tourists would be put off coming to a country still shaking off a vicious pandemic.

"Come to Calabria. There's only one risk: that you'll get fat," the southern region's governor Jole Santelli said on Sunday as the race began to lure big spenders — or any spenders — back to Italy's sandy shores.

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus and has officially reported more than 33,000 deaths.

It imposed an economically crippling lockdown in early March and has since seen its contagion numbers drop off dramatically.

With the country facing its deepest recession since World War II, it needs foreigners to return, and quickly.

But it is still reporting dozens of new cases a day, particularly in the northern Lombardy region, and experts warn the government may be being hasty in permitting travel between regions and abroad.

'Like a leper'

International flights were only expected to resume in three main cities: Milan, Rome and Naples.

And there were concerns that those who usually come in by car, train or ferry from neighbouring countries would go elsewhere on their holidays.

Switzerland has warned its citizens that if they go to Italy they will be subject to "health measures" on their return. The country will open its borders with Germany, France and Austria on June 15, but not with Italy.

Austria is lifting restrictions in mid-June with Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary — but again, not Italy, described last week by Vienna's health minister as "still a hotspot".

Other countries, such as Belgium and Britain, are still advising against, or forbidding, all non-essential travel abroad.

In response to perceived anti-Italian sentiment, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has warned countries not to treat Italy "like a leper".

He said Saturday he would be travelling to Germany, Slovenia and Greece to persuade them Italy is safe for foreign tourists.

Arrivals in Italy from Europe will not be required to self-isolate unless they have recently travelled from another continent.

Too expensive

Italy's lockdown has had a particularly devastating effect on the tourism sector, which amounts to some 13 percRead More – Source

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Europe

Poland Presidential Election Likely Heading to Courts

Poland’s incumbent President Andrzej Duda, a social conservative aligned with the ruling populist La..

Poland’s incumbent President Andrzej Duda, a social conservative aligned with the ruling populist Law and Justice Party (PiS), secured a second term in office Sunday with a narrow margin of victory after an ill-tempered, mudslinging presidential race.

His challengers supporters said they plan to contest the election result in Polands courts, a legal tussle likely to worsen the bitter polarization of the country.

After a tight runoff race, Duda won 51.21% of the vote, while his opponent, Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski of the liberal Civic Platform Party, took 48.79%. The preliminary result was declared with 99.97% of polling stations reporting. The electoral commission said the votes yet to be counted will not materially affect Dudas overall win.

The incumbents secured reelection was the slimmest victory margin for any presidential victor since the end of communism in 1989.

“I think there will certainly be electoral protests, and I think the whole issue will end up in the Supreme Court,” political scientist Anna Materska-Sosnowska told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

Dudas political opponents claimed voting “irregularities” in polling stations and said many Poles living overseas did not receive ballots in time to vote.

Polish President and presidential candidate of the Law and Justice (PiS) party Andrzej Duda holds up a bouquet after the announcement of the first exit poll results on the second round of the presidential election in Pultusk, Poland, July 12, 2020.

Polish President and presidential candidate of the Law and Justice (PiS) party Andrzej Duda holds up a bouquet after the announcement of the first exit poll results on the second round of the presidential election in Pultusk, Poland, July 12, 2020.

Despite the closeness of the race, Dudas supporters said he won a clear mandate since the turnout was high — just under 70%. They said his win opens the path for the PiS to continue with contentious reforms of the judiciary and media regulations, which have raised the ire of the European Union. If Trzaskowski had won, he would have been able to block some legislation by using a presidential veto.

“Winning the presidential election with 70% of turnout is excellent news,” Duda said at an event in Pultusk on Sunday. “I’m very moved.”

Trzaskowski said, “Weve already won, regardless of the final result. We have managed to wake up. We have managed to create new hope.”

Pollsters had said the race was too close to call in the days leading up to voting. The election campaign centered on Dudas promise to ban LGBTQ education in schools and his refusal to endorse same-sex marriage or gay adoption.

The incumbent president enjoyed a commanding lead in opinion polls before the coronavirus pandemic impacted Poland. Pollsters say Duda would have likely won more votes if the election, which was delayed because of the pandemic, had taken place in May as scheduled.

Oxford University-educated Trzaskowski, the candidate of the Civic Coalition (KO) alliance, the countrys main centrist opposition bloc, proved to be an energetic campaigner and hoped to pull off a win by uniting all opposition parties behind his challenge.

The race became so toxic that neither candidate would agree to debate each other in person on the eve of the vote, choosing instead to hold one-man “debates” on separate television channels at the same time.

Poles were not the only ones watching the election closely. This is the first nationwide poll in Europe, aside from Frances recent municipal elections, since the coronavirus arrived in Europe, and is being seen by some as a possible bellwether on the strength of social conservatism in Europe.

Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, presidential candidate of the main opposition Civic Platform (PO) party, reacts after the announcement of the first exit poll results on the second round of the presidential election in Warsaw, Poland, July 12, 2020.

Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, presidential candidate of the main opposition Civic Platform (PO) party, reacts after the announcement of the first exit poll results on the second round of the presidential election in Warsaw, Poland, July 12, 2020.

Dudas campaign matched the style of electioneering and political agenda pursued by Hungarys firebrand anti-migrant populist Viktor Orbаn, one combining social conservatism emphasizing “family values” and criticism of the European Union.

Like Orbаn, Duda and the PiS claim national sovereignty is being undermined by globalization, and nation states and their traditional cultures and lifestyles are being weakened by bankers and urban elites.

His victory will hearten fellow populists in neighboring European countries where there is a strong electorate for social conservatism and generous state handouts.

Like Orbаn, Duda and the PiS have been accused by domestic critics and Brussels of eroding democratic checks and balances, of seeking to curb judicial independence and of expanding state control over the media and civil society.

But as in Hungary, generous welfare schemes have been credited with recent election wins by conservative nationalists. Analysts deem social spending as a big factor in Dudas reelection.

The campaign exposed clear political and cultural fault-lines in Poland. The countrys weekly Polityka magazine said the contest came down to the “young against old, cities against countryside.” Dudas voters are older and concentrated in rural areas in the strongly Catholic east of the country. Younger voters in the west and in larger towns and cities voted largely for his challenger.

Some commentators expect the win will trigger moves by the PiS to limit foreign ownership of Polands private media outlets. During the campaign, Duda and his backers chafed at criticism of the PiS by foreign-owned media companies, especially German ones. Railing against “foreign interference” at one rally, he accused Germany of trying to choose Polands president.

Duda focused his attacks on Fakt, a Polish tabloid partly owned by the German Axel Springer publishing group. His critics say foreign-owned media is a needed counterweight to state-owned Polish television, which they say acts as a mouthpiece for the PiS.
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Italy returns stolen Banksy tribute to victims of 2015 Paris attacks to France on Bastille Day

Issued on: 14/07/2020 – 19:37

Italy on Tuesday returned to France a stolen artwork by British arti..

Issued on: 14/07/2020 – 19:37

Italy on Tuesday returned to France a stolen artwork by British artist Banksy that was painted as a tribute to the victims of the 2015 Paris attacks at the Bataclan music hall.

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The chief prosecutor in charge of the investigation, Michele Renzo, told the French ambassador that it was significant that the handover was occurring on Bastille Day, given the need to continue fighting for all freedoms.

“This door brings our minds back to the memory of the tragic and distressing event, and tells us that for liberty, for our individual liberties, we will always have to fight,” Renzo said at a ceremony in the French Embassy, where the artwork was being displayed for the holiday.

French officials last year had announced the theft of the piece, a black image appearing to depict a person mourning that was painted on one of the Bataclans emergency exit doors.

Ninety people were killed at the Bataclan on Nov. 13, 2015, when Islamic extremists invaded the music hall, one of several targets that night in which a total of 130 people died.

Italian authorities had announced last month that they had discovered the painted door in an attic in a country homeRead More – Source

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#MeToo fallout at French video game company Ubisoft could signal industry shift

Issued on: 14/07/2020 – 17:41

After years of simmering controversy over sexism in the video game i..

Issued on: 14/07/2020 – 17:41

After years of simmering controversy over sexism in the video game industry, change may be on its way after outrage led to a management overhaul at Ubisoft.

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Following online allegations of sexual misconduct, the publisher of Assassin's Creed and Far Cry launched a probe, resulting in the departure over the weekend of the company's chief creative officer.

The head of human resources also left, as did the chief of operations in Canada where the game maker has its biggest studios.

CEO and co-founder Yves Guillemot acknowledged that "Ubisoft has fallen short in its obligation to guarantee a safe and inclusive workplace environment for its employees".

The executive ousters were a high-profile victory for the #metoo movement in the male-dominated video game publishing industry that has a reputation for hostility towards women.

Accusations on social media of sexual harassment and abuse have targeted a number of video game publishers, as well as people in the gaming community around the Twitch platform.

In 2014, two prominent women developers became the targets of an online harassment campaign known as Gamergate and seen by many as a backlash to growing pressure about sexism.

'Toxic'

Women Ubisoft employees described as "toxic" the work culture at the company, particularly at its Canadian studios.

One woman who asked for her name not to be used told AFP that "working on Far Cry cost me two burnouts, psychological and sexual harassment and humiliation, and human resources never bothered to listen to me".

One employee said on social media that shortly after arriving at Ubisoft a team leader told her she was hired because she was "cute" but that "to everyone's surprise you do your job well".

She discovered a mailing list where men describe what women are wearing "so guys can go take a look".

She then received comments about her looks, unwelcome invitations from superiors and was "regularly pinched on the butt and breast" while using a passageway between buildings.

A former employee said "at Ubisoft people who do bad things are unfortunately protected. They are often highly-placed and if you go to human resources or to managers they usually do nothing."

Another put the blame on the "work hard, play hard" culture inside the company.

"That is where one creates a climate that is not safe, where inhibitions are lowered and people engage in predatory behaviour."

Lara's transformation

On Ubisoft's creative teams only one in five employees are women.

Isabelle Collet, a French researcher who has long studied the issue in the IT industry overall, said "getting more women requires a willingness to better welcome them".

Collet said "video game publishers today are real companies that should have real tools against harassment".

But she added that the sector was "not necessarily worse" than medicine or journalism.

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