As if a winding exit from the European Union wasn’t scary enough, Britain now faces new challenges with the announcement by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon this week that she will seek a new independence referendum.
As reported in the British Press section, Mrs Sturgeon said Scotland should have the opportunity to decide at the start of the next Parliament, which starts next year, whether it wants to remain part of Britain. The referendum in 2014 saw 44.7 percent of Scottish people choose to leave and 55.3 percent choose to stay.
But that changed with the Brexit referendum in June 2016 and soon after that the Scottish Parliament has authorized the government to initiate steps for a second referendum. The pro-independence Scottish National Party, which is chaired by Mrs Sturgeon, has held the majority since 2011 and wants to continue its agenda after the last 14 opinion surveys show that the majority of Scots now support independence.
Scots are annoyed by the decision to leave the European Union ~ they have chosen to stay, but overall voting is in favor of leaving – and in recent months have been further troubled by London’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic. The SNP will seek to gain a strengthened mandate in elections scheduled for May and Mrs Sturgeon will claim support for her plans for a second referendum if the party returns to power, as is widely expected.
If that happens, the government in Edinburgh will move forward, despite the stance adopted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is noted for saying that the fateful ruling of 2014 must be respected. Last August, even as he faced bitter accusations from Scotland over handling the virus, Mr Johnson noted by saying, “British unity is, to me, the greatest political partnership the world has ever seen. It’s a shame to lose strength, the miracle of that union. “
While in the end the British Parliament decides whether to allow a referendum, and the ruling Conservative Party says it is against independence for Scotland, a strong show by the SNP could add to the pressure on Johnson. At stake is that one-third of Britain’s mainland, one-tenth of its population, is an integral part of its identity and a significant contributor to the economy.
Scotland was an independent state during the Middle Ages and joined political union with Britain in 1707. While political demands for self-government began in the 19th century, it was not until 1999 that power was transferred to the Scottish Parliament.
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany urged all parties on Saturday to exercise restraint following the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist and avoid escalating tensions that could derail talks about Iran’s nuclear program.
“In the weeks before the new US administration takes office, it is important to maintain the scope of talks with Iran so that disputes over Iran’s nuclear program can be resolved through negotiations,” said a spokesman for the State Ministry.
“We therefore urge all parties to refrain from any steps that could lead to further escalation of the situation,” he said in an emailed statement.
Reporting by Sabine Siebold and Caroline Copley; Edited by Edmund Blair
P.Aolo Di Bendinoni’s grandmother, Adelina, started the family ski rental business in the winter of 1964, when she kept several pairs of skis and wooden boots in her house that would be rented out to tourists when they got off the bus near the square in the alp. Sestriere village.
Its early trading days only come on weekends, when a handful of visitors come from the nearby city of Turin. But as the village became more popular for skiing over the next several decades, business thrived.
Di Bendinoni has worked for Noleggio sci Nonna Adelina since he was 18 years old, and now runs it with his wife. All of his cousins are ski instructors. The family is symbolic of a village of 929 people, whose livelihoods depend on the ski industry.
That the season, which normally starts next week, is under threat this year as the coronavirus curbs cause a lot of anxiety.
“I’ve never known ski season,” said Di Bendinoni. “Even the years when there was little snow, we always had business. We work four months a year, seven days a week. This village basically survives for several months of total activity. “
Sestriere and other ski resorts just opposite Italy on alert as European leaders try to reach an agreement on whether or not to ban ski holidays during the Christmas and New Year periods. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron supported the closure of winter sports until January 10 to limit the spread of Covid-19, while Austrian and Swiss governments oppose it. Austria’s Minister of Finance, Gernot Blümel, said that if the EU really wants to close down a sector that would cost its economy € 2 billion (£ 1.8 billion), it will have to pay the bill.
“In Italy we are in uncertainty, when you don’t know what is going to happen from one day to the next,” said Fiorenzo Gallice, Di Bendinoni’s cousin and a ski instructor. “I think we have to respond in exactly the same way as Austria – if the EU says we can’t open, then they have to pay for it.”
Sestriere is at an altitude of more than 2,000 meters and is part of Via Lattea, Italy’s third largest ski area, which comprises the cities of Claviere, Sauze d’Oulx and Pragelato as well as the French resort of Montgenèvre.
When ski season is in progress, the population in Siestriere often swells to 20,000 every day, many of whom come from England, with the busiest periods being Christmas and New Years.
Italian ski resorts, which between them generate around € 11 billion in revenue a year, have already taken a hit after suddenly shutting down in March when the first wave of the pandemic broke out. Gallice said Sestriere’s residents and businesses received little financial assistance.
“Some got 600 euros, others 1,200 euros,” he added. “We are in a very tragic situation. I really hope that I don’t find that friends have committed suicide because they couldn’t continue. We are at that level and politicians need to understand. “
Gianni Poncet, the village mayor, said the ski resort would end up like a ghost town if the season was canceled.
With 217 miles (350km) of slopes in Sestriere, Poncet said skiers could easily socialize. He pointed to summer, when the mountains were busy with hikers but did not cause the spread of infection.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that at least some of the ski lifts can be opened,” said Poncet. “That’s the only solution we can foresee, and do it safely. If you think about who works on the ski lifts or teaches skiing, or in bars and restaurants – all over the Piedmont region, if these engines don’t start, we’ll lose € 1 billion. “
Antonio De Luca, owner of Bar QB, which serves breakfast and lunch and is a popular après-ski venue, said: “There is a lot of pessimism even as we continue to hope that things will be resolved, or that we can at least save what can be saved. from this season. “
Whatever the EU’s decision, it’s hard to ignore that the continent is still in the midst of a second wave of severe pandemics. Italy recorded 29,001 new infections on Thursday and 822 deaths related to Covid, bringing the total number of deaths from the coronavirus in the country to 52,850. With hospitals remaining overwhelmed, Conte urged Italians not to ski during the Christmas holidays. Italy reopened its slopes in October only to close them after images emerged of overcrowded ski lifts.
But the president of Sestriere Spa, which runs 56 ski lifts in Val Lattea, said he believes people can ski safely if everything is done well, and that the company, which has 350 permanent staff, has made plans. where the number of ski lifts open will depend on travel restrictions.
“Even if people from abroad can’t come, we can open 20 ski lifts that can serve people coming from Lombardy, Tuscany and Liguria,” said Giovanni Brasso. “If travel between regions is prohibited, we will only open 10 lifts.”
He said police could be brought in to make sure the rules were maintained and crowds were avoided: “We were at an altitude of more than 2,000 meters and the people who arrived already had glasses, hats, gloves… and with masks too, I believe mountains are one of the places. the least risky. “
You may breathe a sigh of relief that this pandemic year is finally coming to an end – but the daily number of coronavirus infections on the continent is still dire. Back in the spring, Italy was the first country to take such drastic measures, with the daily death toll peaking at 919 in late March. Now Italy is once again struggling to contain the Covid-19 infection and its economy is taking a hit. For more, we spoke with Italy’s Minister for European Affairs, Vincenzo Amendola.
While Italians are concerned about their health, its economy has hit slightly above average for eurozone countries and Italy will be one of the biggest recipients of EU emergency grants and loans.
Italy’s European Affairs Minister, Vincenzo Amendola, told FRANCE 24 how his government aims to control the spread of the virus: “The line of transmission is on the decline but the number of deaths is quite important and worries us. We will experience different restrictions depending on the area but the maximum alarm for governments and parliaments are still on the table and indeed we are working to contribute to stopping this transmission like all European countries. “
As hopes grew that Europeans would get access to the Covid-19 vaccine soon in January 2021, the minister told us that he was “confident” that enough Italians would take the vaccine for the vaccination campaign to be effective: “in terms of vaccination, we state will band together to reach this vital exit from the tunnel. “
On the economic and diplomatic front, Italy will be the largest single recipient of EU recovery funding. But the entire EU budget of € 1.8 trillion is currently being held back by veto rights from Hungary and Poland, which object to new rules that make the receipt of EU funding conditional on respect for rule of law commitments. Amendola stressed that the new rules should be put in place: “We are sticking to the agreement we signed on July 21. When we signed the agreement on the MFF and the next generation of instruments, it was clear that we wanted to introduce this (rule of law) requirement.” He added: ” It was clear from the start that we were part of a community that not only shared resources but shared values. “
On the broader economic recovery, Italy’s GDP is already 4.5 percent smaller than at the end of 2019 – a figure slightly worse than the eurozone average. The minister said the EU countries must remain united: “We must unite in what we plan and unite also to strengthen market unity, to strengthen the European economy because this is the best way for each of us, each of the 27 member states. get out of the crisis in less time. “
With the Brexit talks resuming in London at the end of the last weekend of November, Amendola said that EU member states still fully support their negotiator, Michel Barnier: “Michel Barnier has the confidence to go and negotiate based on our interests as Europeans: we rule the internal market. , our rules on fisheries, in terms of maintaining an Irish treaty based on our identity. “He added:” Europeans are united […] The unity of the 27 people is based on the unity of our internal markets and the value chains working together. I don’t see any benefit if there is no deal or bad deal, so in this case we are moving together because we believe in our needs. “
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany wants the Alps countries to close ski resorts to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, but reaching a deal with neighboring Austria has proved difficult, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.
“Ski season is near. We will try to coordinate in Europe whether we can close all ski resorts, “Merkel told parliament, adding that this may not be possible given the resistance from Austria, but Germany will try again.
In the first wave of the coronavirus earlier in the year, many Germans were infected at the ski resort of Ischgl in Austria. Germany last month issued travel warnings for popular ski areas in Austria, Italy and Switzerland.
France, Italy, Austria and Germany have all ordered even high-altitude lifts that may operate in early winter to remain closed for now in the hope that all resorts can benefit from peak season, if and when infection rates slow down.
Austria’s national lockdown will be lifted on December 7, but it is unclear what that means for the ski sector. Austria is lukewarm about general European rule.
Germany is Austria’s largest source of foreign tourists.
Earlier this week, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warned people not to ski during the Christmas holidays to help curb the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
He also asked other European countries to agree general rules for the sector to prevent cases from being imported from abroad if Italy closes its slopes.
France says ski slopes should remain off limits until 2021.
If the European Union forces ski areas to remain closed, that would mean losses of up to 2 billion euros, which the European Union will have to bear, Austrian Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel said earlier this week.
Switzerland, which is not part of the EU, allows almost normal operation at its ski resorts.
Merkel agreed with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states late on Wednesday to extend and tighten the coronavirus lockdown until December 20, but relaxed rules over the Christmas holidays to allow family and friends to celebrate together.
(Story corrects nationality of Gernot Bluemel in paragraph 10 Austria, not Italy)
Reporting by Thomas Seytal and Emma Thomasson; Edited by Nick Macfie