Weekly roundup


Tragedy struck in Italy this week, when six people died and dozens more were injured at the Corinaldo music venue in Ancona. Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte has demanded to know how it happened. In the meantime, and insisting he was not prejudging the outcome of investigations, he pleaded with venue owners to manage their facilities as if their own children were using them.

France’s “gilets jaunes” protests, which began as a pushback against rising living costs but quickly took on a life of their own, again turned violent, with AFP reporting that “violence erupted all of a sudden and it seemed to be everywhere at once”. Hundreds of people were arrested, but more cars were torched and more shops looted. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the protests had been an economic “catastrophe”, the BBC reported, among others.

Germany’s governing Christian Democratic Union party has elected a replacement for Angela Merkel, who is stepping down from the party leadership even though she is staying on as the country’s chancellor. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is “socially conservative, opposed to gay marriage, and has taken a tougher line than Merkel on migration”, according to Politico.

An annual Italian survey has found that the country is “increasingly gripped by bitterness”, ANSA reported, with the lingering effects of the economic crisis being blamed by many on foreigners.

In Hungary, ten companies ceded control of their TV channels, radio stations and newspapers to a pro-government editor. Bloomberg News said that the prime minister Viktor Orban was “at the forefront of a push by illiberal regimes in eastern Europe to extend their influence over the press”.

A group of academics and politicians led by bestselling economist Thomas Piketty launched a call for four new European taxes – on profits, wealth, top incomes and carbon emissions  -amounting to 4 per cent of GDP to fund research, migrant reception and progressive tax cuts. All of this to be overseen by a new parliamentary assembly. The odds of it happening? Zero.

The governments of Poland and Hungary refused to back an EU governmental text on gender equality that included reference to LGBTQI rights; Politico had the ins and outs.

EU governments did however manage to agree a declaration on antisemitism, calling for current and future EU governments and the EU’s implementing body – the European Commission – to take stronger action to protect Jewish communities.

Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson is bringing his Ice Watch piece to London, to draw attention to climate change. Twenty four blocks of glacier ice will be placed outside the Tate Modern art gallery, and six in the financial district, where they will slowly melt in full view of the public. Each block weighs between 1.5 and 5 tonnes and comes from a fjord in Greenland.

Finally, the BBC produced a video on why the rapper Husky and electronic group IC3PEAK may have had gigs cancelled in their native Russia without explanation. “The order to exert pressure on us is coming from Moscow”, because of fears of a “cultural revolution”, IC3PEAK said. The venues declined to comment, and it’s not clear whether the government was asked to. What is clear is that Husky and IC3PEAK have been getting a lot more media attention as a result of the cancellations than they were before.

Words: Craig Nicholson

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