Category Archives: European Union

“Greencons” are a new political alliance for an uncertain age

THE FORMATION of Ireland’s new government on June 27th, after 140 days of haggling, brings to office a novel coalition. Not only will the old rivals of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael ally for the first time since the Irish civil war roughly a century ago, but the two parties of the centre-right will join forces with the 29-year-old Green Party. Under the new taoiseach, Micheal Martin, the coalition is promising a green new deal that would slash carbon emissions by 7% a year. Though still rare, once-improbable alliances of climate activists and conservatives are becoming increasingly fashionable in Europe. The covid-19 pandemic could well foster more such coalitions.

“Greencon” alliances are for now marriages of convenience, born of the fragmentation of European politics that is forcing parties of all stripes to contemplate new partnerships. There are areas on which greens and conservatives are unlikely ever to agree, notably defence and foreign policy. Nonetheless both sides have done a lot of evolving in recent years. And the pandemic is painting the political landscape an ever deeper shade of green, which politicians of the centre-right are as eager to exploit.

Traditionally, greens have been happier with partners to the left of centre. In Germany they joined a “red-green” government led by the Social Democratic Party (SPD) between 1998 and 2005. But in Germany and elsewhere, the greens have overtaken the old centre-left as the appeal of old-style socialism has faded and that of environmentalism has bloomed. Greens might once have been cranky idealists but have become eager to exercise power and accept the inevitable compromises that come with it.

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Posted by on July 7, 2020 in European Union



30 Years Ago, Romania Deprived Thousands of Babies of Human Contact

For his first three years of life, Izidor lived at the hospital.

The dark-eyed, black-haired boy, born June 20, 1980, had been abandoned when he was a few weeks old. The reason was obvious to anyone who bothered to look: His right leg was a bit deformed. After a bout of illness (probably polio), he had been tossed into a sea of abandoned infants in the Socialist Republic of Romania.

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In films of the period documenting orphan care, you see nurses like assembly-line workers swaddling newborns out of a seemingly endless supply; with muscled arms and casual indifference, they sling each one onto a square of cloth, expertly knot it into a tidy package, and stick it at the end of a row of silent, worried-looking babies. The women don’t coo or sing to them.* You see the small faces trying to fathom what’s happening as their heads whip by during the wrapping maneuvers.

In his hospital, in the Southern Carpathian mountain town of Sighetu Marmaţiei, Izidor would have been fed by a bottle stuck into his mouth and propped against the bars of a crib. Well past the age when children in the outside world began tasting solid food and then feeding themselves, he and his age-mates remained on their backs, sucking from bottles with widened openings to allow the passage of a watery gruel. Without proper care or physical therapy, the baby’s leg muscles wasted. At 3, he was deemed “deficient” and transferred across town to a Cămin Spital Pentru Copii Deficienţi, a Home Hospital for Irrecoverable Children.

The cement fortress emitted no sounds of children playing, though as many as 500 lived inside at one time. It stood mournfully aloof from the cobblestone streets and sparkling river of the town where Elie Wiesel had been born, in 1928, and enjoyed a happy childhood before the Nazi deportations.

The windows on Izidor’s third-floor ward had been fitted with prison bars. In boyhood, he stood there often, gazing down on an empty mud yard enclosed by a barbed-wire fence. Through bare branches in winter, Izidor got a look at another hospital that sat right in front of his own and concealed it from the street. Real children, children wearing shoes and coats, children holding their parents’ hands, came and went from that hospital. No one from Izidor’s Cămin Spital was ever taken there, no matter how sick, not even if they were dying.

Like all the boys and girls who lived in the hospital for “irrecoverables,” Izidor was served nearly inedible, watered-down food at long tables where naked children on benches banged their tin bowls. He grew up in overcrowded rooms where his fellow orphans endlessly rocked, or punched themselves in the face, or shrieked. Out-of-control children were dosed with adult tranquilizers, administered through unsterilized needles, while many who fell ill received transfusions of unscreened blood. Hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS ravaged the Romanian orphanages.

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Posted by on July 1, 2020 in European Union, Reportages


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France is still in denial about racism and police brutality

“George Floyd and my little brother died in exactly the same way.” These are the words of Assa Traore, whose brother, Adama, died in the custody of French police in a Paris suburb in July 2016.

Traore, a 24-year-old Black Frenchman, was apprehended by three gendarmes following a dispute over an identity check. He lost consciousness in their vehicle and died at a nearby police station. He was still handcuffed when paramedics arrived. One of the three arresting officers told investigators that Adama had been pinned down with their combined body weight after his arrest. 

Ever since his untimely death, Traore’s grieving family has been fighting for justice. They launched petitions, organised protests, and commissioned private autopsies to discover what caused a perfectly healthy young man to suddenly stop breathing a few hours after being arrested over a trivial matter. Despite their efforts, however, they did not get any satisfactory answers from the authorities. Last month, French medical experts exonerated the three police officers once again, dismissing a medical report commissioned by the young man’s family that said he had died of asphyxiation. None of the arresting officers ever faced any charges over his death. They are still employed by the same police force. Some members of their brigade even received commendations for the role they played in suppressing the protests that followed Traore’s death.

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Posted by on June 29, 2020 in European Union, North America


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Bergamo chiede verità per le morti causate dal coronavirus

È scesa in garage a vedere l’auto che apparteneva al padre e ha trovato i suoi guanti di lana sul cruscotto. Cristina Longhini, 39 anni, farmacista bergamasca, ha gli occhi gonfi di lacrime. Dice di sentirsi ancora nel pieno dell’inverno: “Tutto si è fermato nel momento esatto in cui i nostri familiari si sono ammalati. Nel resto del paese c’è chi pensa alle vacanze, chi agli aperitivi. Giustamente c’è voglia di voltare pagina, noi invece siamo ancora fermi a quel momento”.

I contagi e le morti per l’epidemia di coronavirus stanno diminuendo in Italia e il paese sembra avviato alla cosiddetta fase tre, ma c’è chi deve ancora affrontare un percorso difficile: elaborare una catastrofe che gli ha trasformato la vita. Cosa rimane ora che il peggio sembra passato? La rabbia per quello che si poteva fare, il dolore per la perdita, ma anche una sensazione di confusione e smarrimento. C’è l’esigenza di ricostruire tutti i passaggi che hanno determinato un numero così alto di morti: seimila solo nella provincia di Bergamo, più di 34mila in Italia.

Il 10 giugno 2020 Longhini, insieme a una cinquantina di altri familiari di persone morte a causa del covid-19 nella bergamasca, ha depositato un esposto contro ignoti per accertare le responsabilità di quello che è successo alla sua famiglia e alla sua città. Claudio, suo padre, era in salute, racconta. Aveva 65 anni, era appena andato in pensione dopo una vita passata a fare il rappresentante di gelati in giro per la Lombardia: duecento chilometri al giorno in auto.

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Posted by on June 17, 2020 in European Union



Cosa fare con le tracce scomode del nostro passato

Roma è una città fascista. La frase potrebbe suonare come una bestemmia. Probabilmente lo è. Ma il fatto è che nella storia della capitale sono evidenti le tracce del ventennio. Chi abita nella capitale lo sa bene, i fasci littori spuntano stampigliati sui tombini quando meno ce lo aspettiamo, compaiono su un ponte o in alcuni murales. Spesso quando andiamo in una scuola, all’università o in un ufficio postale incappiamo in qualche palazzo d’epoca che presenta segni più o meno occulti del passaggio del regime. Molte delle case in cui abitiamo sono state costruite negli anni trenta e nei cortili di certi palazzi è visibile la grande M di Mussolini.

C’è l’ombra del fascismo anche nei nomi delle strade. A volte ci capita di attraversarne alcune che rimandano a conquiste coloniali o, peggio, abitiamo in vie dedicate a feroci gerarchi. Quel passato di violenza e coercizione insomma è ancora tra noi, vivo nello spazio urbano. È un passato che contamina il presente e che se non viene discusso può provocare danni alle generazioni future.

In occidente il dibattito sui monumenti con un portato storico “pesante” si apre ciclicamente, spesso dopo una qualche azione pubblica. Il dilemma è sempre lo stesso: rimuovere o non rimuovere quelle tracce funeste? Quale azione è più efficace?

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Posted by on June 12, 2020 in European Union


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Sweden unmasks a prime minister’s assassin

ON FEBRUARY 28TH 1986, when Olof Palme, Sweden’s prime minister, was assassinated, terrorism was a remote concern in his country. It took police five hours to set up barriers. He and his wife had been walking through downtown Stockholm, unprotected, after seeing a film. The leader of the Social Democratic party since 1969, Palme was a pillar of Sweden’s welfare state and the architect of its leftist foreign policy, bashing America’s war in Vietnam and courting third-world socialist governments. He also went after apartheid, so for decades speculation swirled that South African agents might have murdered him. In March Swedish investigators met intelligence services in Pretoria, and later announced they would make their findings public on June 10th.

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Posted by on June 12, 2020 in European Union



Coronavirus rips through Dutch mink farms, triggering culls to prevent human infections

In a sad sideshow to the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities in the Netherlands began to gas tens of thousands of mink on 6 June, most of them pups born only weeks ago. SARS-CoV-2 has attacked farms that raise the animals for fur, and the Dutch government worries infected mink could become a viral reservoir that could cause new outbreaks in humans.

The mink outbreaks are “spillover” from the human pandemic—a zoonosis in reverse that has offered scientists in the Netherlands a unique chance to study how the virus jumps between species and burns through large animal populations.

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Posted by on June 12, 2020 in European Union


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I segni che lascia il covid-19 su chi è guarito

Da qualche giorno è risultata negativa al tampone, dopo quasi tre mesi di malattia. La prima cosa che ha voluto fare è stata uscire di casa, prendere la macchina e andare a vedere uno dei giardini in costruzione a cui stava lavorando prima di ammalarsi. “Ho ancora una grande passione per il mio lavoro e mi è mancato, ma quando sono uscita mi girava la testa”. Rosanna Padrini è un’architetta di 67 anni, vive con suo marito e il suo gatto a Salò, in provincia di Brescia, e ha avvertito i primi sintomi del covid-19 il 7 marzo: una febbretta e un po’ di tosse.

Era sabato e stava a casa. Quando ha scoperto di avere la temperatura alterata, ha pensato di essersi raffreddata giocando a tennis il giorno precedente. Mai avrebbe immaginato che sarebbe stata ricoverata in ospedale insieme a suo marito per settimane, rischiando la vita, mentre l’Italia fronteggiava la più grave crisi sanitaria della sua storia recente, che finora ha registrato 233.019 persone contagiate e 33.415 morti. La febbre per giorni non ha superato i 38,5 gradi, scendeva con la Tachipirina e poi risaliva, non sembrava altro che un’influenza.

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Posted by on June 4, 2020 in European Union


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Perché abbiamo paura di uscire?

In un parco romano una madre accompagna la figlia di tre anni a giocare sullo scivolo, nel primo giorno della riapertura. Ma la bimba comincia a piangere disperata e si attacca con insistenza alle gambe della madre, che guarda verso altre donne sedute sulla panchina e dice: “Non vuole più uscire di casa, nemmeno per venire al parco”. Una condizione comune a tanti che negli ultimi giorni tentennano sulla soglia di casa: bambini, ragazzi, ma anche molti adulti.

Nel Barone rampante, Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò, il giovane protagonista del romanzo di Italo Calvino, sale su un albero per protestare contro i genitori, ma finisce per rimanerci, tanto che il mondo di sotto e la sua vecchia normalità gli appaiono estranei. “Era il mondo ormai a essergli diverso, fatto di stretti e ricurvi ponti nel vuoto, di nodi o scaglie o rughe che irruvidiscono le scorze, di luci che variano il loro verde a seconda del velario di foglie più fitte o più rade, tremanti al primo scuotersi d’aria sui peduncoli o mosse come vele insieme all’incurvarsi dell’albero”.

Qualcosa di simile sta succedendo ad alcune persone che dopo due mesi d’isolamento, in case non sempre confortevoli, raccontano di non avere più voglia di uscire, malgrado l’allentamento recente delle misure restrittive adottate per limitare la diffusione del covid-19 in Italia.

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Posted by on May 21, 2020 in European Union


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Italian doctors find link between Covid-19 and inflammatory disorder

Doctors in Italy have reported the first clear evidence of a link between Covid-19 and a rare but serious inflammatory disorder that has required some children to undergo life-saving treatment in intensive care units.

The mysterious condition emerged last month when NHS bosses issued an alert to doctors after hospitals admitted a number of children with a mix of toxic shock and symptoms seen in an inflammatory disorder known as Kawasaki disease.

On Tuesday, medics at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital announced the death of a 14-year-old boy, the first known fatality from the condition in Britain. Between 75 and 100 children are now receiving treatment across the country. Typical symptoms include a fever, skin rashes, red eyes, cracked lips and abdominal pain.

Doctors suspected early on that coronavirus played a role in the new disorder by triggering an excessive immune reaction in the children, but there was no proof that the two were linked.

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Posted by on May 15, 2020 in European Union


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