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Stonehenge could be stripped off as world heritage site, confirms UNESCO; But Why?
Europe

Stonehenge could be stripped off as world heritage site, confirms UNESCO; But Why?

 United Kingdom’s Stonehenge could be stripped off its status as the world heritage site, UNESCO has confirmed. This is because of a road tunnel project in the country that is backed by the 10 Downing Street. Project has raised concerns of causing irreversible damage to the site of “outstanding universal value”.

The A303 road tunnel project worth £1.7 billion that set out concerns to UNESCO’s world heritage committee was rendered unchanged on Thursday. UNESCO committee has said that unless plans of the two mile long tunnel are revised and changes, it is recommended to place Stonehenge on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites in danger coming year.

What danger does the tunnel project pose for Stonehenge?

The high court in UK had ruled last month that the tunnel project that has been approved by transport secretary Grant Shapps in November was against the law. The project was approved without taking into consideration the amount of damage it would cause to the pre-historic site and many other thousands of ancient artifacts.

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UNESCO’s committee then decided that if high court consents to the project, Stonehenge would be taken off the heritage site list and put in the list of heritage sites in danger. It added that though the tunnel project has been minutely revised, the damage caused by “cut and cover tunnel” would be irreversible to Stonehenge.

UNESCO had advised that tunnel should be made longer and bored, but they were rejected by Shapps in 2018 despite his own planning inspectors confirmed of the “substantial harm” to heritage site. Committee expressed its disappointment that Shapps chose to go with the cheaper option of making a shorter but harmful tunnel project.

Committee noted, “The state party [the UK government] determined that the additional landscape benefits would not justify the additional costs … It is regretted that for such an iconic world heritage property, the arguments persist that the perceived benefits of a longer tunnel do not outweigh the costs.”

Stonehenge Alliance, that is campaigning against the tunnel project, tweeted, There is no act of ‘reverse vandalism’ if #StonehengeTunnel proceeds.”

Hungary’s Orban proposes referendum over controversial new LGBTQ law
Europe

Hungary’s Orban proposes referendum over controversial new LGBTQ law

 Hungary’s new LGBTQ law that has gathered global criticism and has been condemned by the European Union for being homophobic, now has a referendum proposal. European country’s conservative right wing Prime Minister Victor Orban has proposed a referendum on the controversial law.

The hardline leader of Hungary released a Facebook video on Wednesday in which he laid down a vote on five questions asking the people of Hungary if they would support promotion of sexual orientation content to children. Orban is asking the people to vote a “no” for the vote. “In the past weeks, Brussels has clearly attacked Hungary over its child protection law. Hungarian laws do not permit sexual propaganda in kindergartens, schools, on television and in advertisements,” Orban said in a Facebook video.

What will the referendum ask?

The ballot paper for new law’s referendum will have these questions:

1. Do you support the holding of presentations in public education institutions to introduce minors to topics on sexual orientation without the authorization of their parents?

2. Do you support the promotion of gender reassignment treatments for minors?

3. Do you support gender reassignment treatments being made available to minors?

4. Do you support minors being shown, without any restriction, media content of a sexual nature that is capable of influencing their development?

5. Do you support minors being shown media content that demonstrates gender reassignment?

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EU openly criticizes Hungary’s new LGBTQ law

The European leaders and members of European Parliament have openly criticized the new law by Hungary’s conservative government that denies school children being taught about all parts of the community, that is LGBTQ community, pushing them into a corner as targeted minority. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Hungary has “no place in the EU”.

In the last closed door meeting of EU leaders, it was learned that Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel pointedly warned Orban, “My grandfather was Jewish, I’m gay and can live freely. And then I read this law. I know what happens when you turn people into a minority.”

Last week the European Commission announced starting infringement proceedings against Orban’s government in relation to the law.

What does Hungary’s controversial LGBTQ law rule?

The new law essentially bans all educational materials for children that promote homosexuality and gender reassignment. This has attracted criticism by EU leaders and human rights groups for being homophobic. The law was passed in country’s parliament last month.

Orban has maintained the law does not violate LGBTQ rights but preserves rights of parents to choose way of educating their children.

No veil in Europe, EU Court approves ban in workplace
Europe

No veil in Europe, EU Court approves ban in workplace

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on the right to wear the Islamic headscarf in the workplace, with a ruling that recognized the right to dismiss or suspend an employee wearing a hijab. However, employers should enforce this right, the Court specified only in the presence of certain conditions. The verdict that legitimized the prohibition of the Islamic headscarf in the workplace was issued in recent days by the EU supreme court following an appeal presented by two Muslim citizens residing in Germany.

In their petition, the applicants claimed that they had suffered discrimination in the workplace precisely because of their Islamic faith. The first of the two promoters of the case were a specialist educator at the German child welfare agency Wabe eV. At the same time, the other was a sales consultant and cashier of the company Mh Muller Handels GmbH. Both had denounced to the EU judges they had been subjected to disciplinary measures, pressure to change clothes, and suspension from work because of their choice to wear hijab on duty. The two consequently complained of a clear violation of religious freedom protected by European law.

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However, the two Muslim women’s appeal did not have a favourable outcome. Therefore, the Court of Justice urged to intervene on the matter at the instigation of the German courts seized by the citizens in question and recognized employers the right to prohibit their employees from using clothing or jewellery that refer to messages of a religious or political nature.

However, these limits to the freedom of employees can be imposed, highlighted the sentence issued by the EU court, only in the presence of specific circumstances, including the need felt by employers, to offer the public a “neutral” image of the respective companies. The prohibition of wearing any visible form of expression of political, philosophical, or religious beliefs in the workplace may be justified by the need of the employer to present a neutral image towards customers or prevent social conflicts. However, the simple will of the company to present itself as “neutral” is not sufficient. Therefore, the EU Court clarified to objectively justify a difference in treatment indirectly based on religion or personal beliefs, given that can recognize the objective nature of such justification only in the face of a “real” need of the employer, capable of exceptionally prevailing over the religious rights of employees. Thus, the same verdict has also been established. The courts of the 27 member states will assess, case by case, whether the prohibition of hijabs in the workplace is dictated by “real needs” felt by company owners or personnel managers.

The European Court had already intervened in 2017 on the Islamic veil worn during service hours, even then recognizing the principle that companies can, under certain conditions, prohibit their staff from wearing hijab or other conspicuous religious symbols.

The Green Deal divides Europe, Rome and Paris ask for changes
Europe

The Green Deal divides Europe, Rome and Paris ask for changes

The “Green Deal,” the European Commission’s green transition package, starts uphill. And it determines the most significant split in the Union in recent years, says Repubblica. Two camps criticize the provision from different positions, asking for corrections to the 12 proposals contained in the text. Nobody wants to reject the project but change it, yes.

During the collegial meeting of the Commission, at least half of the 27 commissioners expressed their perplexity about what was named “Fit for 55”, referring to the percentage of reduction of harmful emissions set as a community target. Austrian commissioner for the Budget, Johannes Hahn, even asked for the vote against to be recorded in the minutes. But his position is not isolated.

On the one hand France, Italy, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal. On the other hand, almost all the countries of Eastern Europe, particularly the sovereign ones of Visegrad, led by the Vice-President of the Commission, the Latvian Valdis Dombrovskis. The observations of this second group were taken for granted. According to their position, these are too ambitious targets. Decarbonization for systems that still have a heavy presence of fossil combustion plants, such as Poland, is considered too rapid.

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But what surprised Ursula von der Leyen and the creator of the measures, the Dutch Frans Timmermans the most, was the position of the other countries. First, Frenchman Thierry Breton was adamant and even hinted at the possibility of cancelling a whole part of the package: the one relating to energy. He was followed by the Italian Paolo Gentiloni, albeit with much less harsh tones and inviting to reflect on some measures.

The first notes focused on the price of fuels and Ets, the certificates that give the right to pollute. France has more than one doubt. The “yellow vests” exploded beyond the Alps precisely due to the increase in petrol taxes. And President Macron faces elections in less than a year, just as Italy is on the alert for the effects on transport and domestic heating. And, as an importer of raw materials, on “environmental duties.”

Sweden focused attention on a specific issue related to forest management. Then two other elements emerged. First, the Social Climate Fund has caused concern that it may favor the countries lagging on decarbonization: in essence, the money goes mainly to Poland and Hungary. The other aspect concerns the contributions that each state will have to pay to achieve the objectives. As a result, a quota was established based on per capita GDP in 2013. Since then, however, many countries have seen their growth reduced.

In short, the situation in Brussels is troubled. At this point, the approval times are getting longer. But, until the French elections of spring 2022, there is no mention of it, also because the Franco-Italian “team” fears that the “Green Deal” will become new fuel for the sovereign front.

Will help Belarus weather Western sanctions: Putin
Europe

Will help Belarus weather Western sanctions: Putin

President Vladimir Putin has reiterated that his government will help Belarus mitigate western sanctions imposed during Minsk’s clampdown on political opponents – the Kremlin announced on Thursday.

Belarus has been under severe political sanctions in recent months imposed by the European Union and the United States.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko went to Russia – a close ally – to consult with Putin on Tuesday.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said, “support for Belarus against the backdrop of such suffocating sanctions is high on the agenda, and the government has been given strong instructions and it is working in this regard”.

A brutal new wave of repression has begun in Belarus since Wednesday after Europe’s last dictator went all the way to St. Petersburg to get Putin’s blessings.

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As per media reports, police have started storming the homes and offices of organizations fighting to defend democracy and a free press.

Police questioned journalists and local and international human rights defenders; confiscated archives, cell phones and computers all across the country in the cities of Grodno, Minsk, Oksha, and Brest.

Lukashenka has put down street protests and dissent over the vote with lethal force, jailing people and forcing opposition leaders, who haven’t been imprisoned, to leave the country.

The West, not considering Lukashenka to be the country’s legitimate leader, has imposed several rounds of sanctions against the 66-year-old, his family members, several senior officials, and on important economic sectors.

On the eve of the “cleansing” operation, the Belarusian leader of more than 25 years arrived in Russia to complain to Putin about the “bastards” from pro-Western NGOs.

He accused the West of “individual terror” and thanked Russia for showing itself as being a “reliable economic partner”.

The authoritarian ruler said Belarus will fulfil its financial obligations to Russia “at any cost.”

Putin said that trade between Russia and Belarus was flourishing, notwithstanding the sanctions.

Poland Rebels Against ECJ Temporary Injunction
Europe

Poland Rebels Against ECJ Temporary Injunction

A top Polish court has gone one step further to undermine the power of the EU laws in the country. Something similar was done by Germany a couple of months ago too. This week, Poland has opposed yet again EU laws ruled by its own Constitutional Tribunal that has declared temporary injunctions by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) incompatible with its Polish constitution.

EU laws had apparently called upon Warsaw to dismiss a special panel it had created to discipline judges. This has been seen by the tribunal as against the Polish constitution.

Further, the presiding lawyer at the tribunal Judge Stanislaw Piotrowicz said that it was the court’s majority verdict that these European Union measures on the “system, principles and procedures” of Polish courts were “not in line” with the constitution.

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This has been seen as a blatant disregard for EU laws and the ECJ by world leaders. There has been a power tussle between Poland with EU over the rule of law. Though the injunction is a temporary one, it has already received too much attention and reaction.

Shortly before the ruling, the deputy head of the ECJ told Poland to stop all activities of the panel immediately. The panel oversees the appointment of top jurists. It also has the power to lift their immunity, allowing judges to face criminal proceedings or cuts to their salaries.

It has been for years now that Poland has been pushing back EU control over its judicial system. However, it was discovered that the Polish authorities have been pressurizing judges to rule in their favor digressing from any set standards of truth and justice.

According to Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, the 2017 establishment of the Disciplinary Chamber has the power to punish judges and this is part of its reform of an inefficient system riven with corruption. However, this is precisely what has been happening ever since and critics see it as a pretext for seizing control of the country’s courts. Many judges and lawyers have already alleged the pressure tactics. Till date, while the ruling party has sought to exert control over the high courts and key judicial bodies, many lower court judges continue to assert their independence. Some have issued rulings against government officials or interests.

EU agrees to launch infrastructure plan to counter BRI
Europe

EU agrees to launch infrastructure plan to counter BRI

European Union foreign ministers, on Monday, agreed to launch a global infrastructure plan to connect Europe to the world.

This comes as the latest step after deals with Japan and India and a similar agreement by the Group of Seven richest democracies.

For a long time now, Western diplomats in the EU have kept their tabs on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – a grand infrastructure project that harkens back to the ancient Silk Road, with a huge collection of development and investment initiatives that range from East Asia to Europe and beyond.

Started in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, it expanded China’s economic and political influence, however, in Europe, it has created ripples and waves of uneasiness through debt traps and massive investment in critical infrastructure across the globe.

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Specialists see the BRI as one of the central pillars of bolder Chinese statecraft under Xi.

EU foreign ministers are now set to sign off on a counter-scheme to the BRI, under the title of ‘Connecting Europe Globally’.

The EU has chalked out a proper path for an ambitious “connectivity” program from the year 2022.

“We view China as someone who is using economic and financial ways to increase its political influence throughout in the world. It is useless moaning about this and we must offer alternatives,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said to reporters at a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels.

“So it is important that the European Union coordinates them closely with the United States,” he said.

The EU has already penned partnerships with Japan and India to coordinate energy, transport, and digital projects connecting Europe and Asia.

Both Tokyo and Delhi are anxious about the Chinese largesse that officials see as making poorer countries beholden to Beijing because they are forced to take on hefty debts.

Historic victory for Italy, the Azzurri European champions after 53 years
Europe

Historic victory for Italy, the Azzurri European champions after 53 years

After the penalty saved by Donnarumma in Saka, Italy became the European champion, and the Azzurri were able to start the party in all Italian squares. From Rome to Milan, from Naples to the rest of the country, fans waved the flag for the whole night. Italy had been waiting for joy since 2006, the year of the World Cup victory in Germany. But, on the other hand, success at the Europeans had been missing for 53 years.

From Eurovision to the European Championships, the music does not change: Italy always wins. The official account of the Eurovision Song Contest celebrated the national team’s victory at Euro 2020, underlining a particular statistic. Italy is the first nation to triumph in Eurovision and at the European Championships in the same year. 2021 to remember, in short, for Italian music and football. The top in Europe.

Matteo Berrettini lived a special day in his way. First, the Wimbledon final lost to Novak Djokovic, then the 120, and spent minutes at Wembley for the European Championships between Italy and England. Then, after Azzurri’s party, he took the field to cheer with the team and was entertained, particularly with Gigio Donnarumma, the man of the match.

The night was tinged with the tricolor in London after Italy’s triumph at Euro 2020, in the literal sense of the term. The legendary Wembley arch pays homage to the victory of the Azzurri with the colors of our flag to illuminate the sky of the English capital. London’s gray sky has turned blue. “It’s coming to Rome. The Cup is coming to Italy.” We are waiting for it with open arms. A fairy tale, the European Championship won after the one in 1968. A crazy ride, from the lack of qualification for the World Cup, the lowest point, to the triumph at Wembley.

England bows, after Spain and Belgium, to this Italy. And Mancini finally releases the tension by bursting into tears: he deserves it. This Cup is above all his. He has created an incredible group, united and powerful, who showed the best football of these European Championships, even without having so many great champions in the team. It started very badly, with Shaw’s goal in the first action. It ended as we all dreamed of—Hero Donnarumma, who saved two penalties, in addition to the Rashford pole.

For Italy, Belotti and Jorginho were wrong, but those made by Berardi, Bernardeschi, and Bonucci were enough. England is defeated, once again: with Italy, they have never won in a big international competition. He has pers or even in her house this time, with sixty thousand fans pushing her to Wembley. The Cup goes to Rome with the Azzurri and Mattarella, who suffered and rejoiced in the stands. Mancini did not change anything, the same formation that beat Spain in the semifinals, with Emerson Palmieri replacing the injured Spinazzola.

Coronavirus Delta variant spreads across Europe, it also affects those who are vaccinated
Europe

Coronavirus Delta variant spreads across Europe, it also affects those who are vaccinated

The Delta variant takes hold, there are nearly 30,000 new cases a day in Great Britain. Infections in France and Greece rise. Double in Israel, Catalonia, with an exponential rate of new infections, renounces clubs and discos from next weekend. And even in Italy, the downward curve “stopped about ten days ago,” warns the Italian Society of General Medicine. Nevertheless, the variant is found in almost the entire peninsula. The latest data indicate a 78% prevalence. Moreover, the Covindex, an index that anticipates the RT with good approximation, shows that the transmissibility is already rising.

The concern is that the mutation found for the first time in India last March is now breaching the vaccine barrier. What is alarming is a study that comes right from Israel, among the laboratory countries of the pandemic where immunization has progressed at a fast pace: Pfizer’s vaccine, the most coveted and widespread, is less effective than 30% in front of the Delta, warns the Ministry of Health. And therefore, it protects only in 60% of cases from contagion.

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The spread of the virus in Tenerife, one of the most touristic in the Canary Islands, is worrying. The infections have increased in recent days, and local authorities imposed the 3 out of 4 levels of alert. There is a cumulative incidence of contagions in the last 14 days exceeding 170 cases, almost double that of the archipelago as a whole. This Saturday, new restrictions will be in force to curb the infections, and the internal spaces of bars, restaurants, and clubs will remain closed, which must close by 11 pm.

Furthermore, groups of more than four people will not be allowed on the premises and the beach. The UK recorded 16,135 new coronavirus cases, according to the latest update of the government dashboard. That is the highest daily total for cases recorded since February 6 (18,262), four and a half months ago. The total number of patients in the last week increased by 43.9% over the previous week’s total. And there were another 19 deaths. The total number of deaths in the past week increased by 53% from the last week’s total. Vaccines have played a key role in avoiding new fatalities and hospitalizations, according to Minister Nadhim Zahawi.

After two outbreaks in many schools in Israel, the country has registered more than 100 new infections for the second consecutive day, with an exceptionally high incidence among young people. The Tel Aviv government has chosen to postpone entry for tourists to August 1. They will also reintroduce the mandatory use of masks indoors and will improve the virus monitoring system. Those who have recovered from covid or been vaccinated with a double dose must also undergo a quarantine period after coming into contact with a positive person. Young people aged 12-15 were the most brutal hit, and now it is thought to cover this category to ward off new spreads of the virus.

Which Three Leaders Should One Look Out For Transformation In The EU?
Europe

Which Three Leaders Should One Look Out For Transformation In The EU?

Political analysts are talking about diplomatic relations between European nations and China and everyone seems to be having their own set of issues to deal with. Germany for one, is heavily dependent on China for its market absorbs a lot from there. But at the same time, it feels morally responsible after it has seen atrocities in its own land over war and Jew holocaust.

The nation feels responsible for pointing out China’s behaviour towards its labour market, especially the marginalized and ill-treated Uighur Muslims. Hungary by contract is eager to solidify its ties with China as it is extremely hopeful about China bringing in foreign direct investments.

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Italy is like volatile liquid that doesn’t know how to keep its excitement in control. Its former PM had eagerly joined the Belt and Road Initiative in 2019, with its current PM now thinking they don’t need anything to do with China and are better off without them. Indeed, PM Draghi has made quite an impression by saving the EU in the worst economic crises it has ever seen. The country has made a mark in the first time in 25 years. Also, all powerful currently is French President Emmanuel Macron as much as the outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel.

As for Macron, he has shown some exemplary leadership in the world, but he might not have done the same back at home. That is going to be a challenge for him in the coming months as France comes closer to its election dates.

Madam Merkel has held the helm with great tenacity and leadership. But as he has stepped down, the influence of her party cannot be denied and will remain to show its influence in other circles where possible coalition can be witnessed. It might be a good thing for Germany to actually have this kind of balanced leadership influence at hand too.

According to a regular podcast done by Erik Jones (Director of European and Eurasian Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University), these three leaders are the ones to look out for in the next few years to come.

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