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EU Cohesion policy: €150 million for a high-quality and inclusive education in Croatia thanks to digital technologies

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The European Commission has approved an investment worth more than €150 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) to integrate innovative digital technologies in Croatia's education system. The project e-Schools will roll out a comprehensive ICT infrastructure, provide state-of-the-art IT equipment, develop educational software and connect students and teachers in 1166 public primary and secondary schools throughout the country.

This unique national network will improve conditions for teaching and learning and make the management of schools more efficient and transparent. At the same time, students and teachers will benefit from targeted training to upgrade their e-skills. Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner Elisa Ferreira said: “Thanks to EU Cohesion policy, Croatia's education system will be able to fully reap the benefits of the digital era and better prepare young people for their professional future. This project also contributes to boosting the resilience of the sector during the coronavirus pandemic.”

The project builds on a successful pilot phase, which has already helped over 150 Croatian schools to switch to a new level of education. It also received the award for ‘Skills & education for a digital Europe' of the 2020 edition of the REGIOSTARS awards. In the current programming period 2014-2020, Cohesion policy is investing in Croatia €8.5 billion in boosting competitiveness, sustainability and improving the quality of life of Croatian citizens. A factsheet is available here.

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Italy reports 26,323 new coronavirus cases, 686 deaths

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Italy reported 686 COVID-19-related deaths on Saturday (28 November), against 827 the day before, and 26,323 new infections, down from 28,352 on Friday (27 November), the health ministry said, writes .

There were 225,940 swabs carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 222,803.

Italy was the first Western country to be hit by the virus and has seen 54,363 COVID-19 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain. It has also registered 1.564 million cases.

While Italy’s daily death tolls have been amongst the highest in Europe over recent days, the rise in hospital admissions and intensive care occupancy has slowed, suggesting the latest wave of infections was receding.

The health ministry said on Friday it would ease anti-COVID-19 restrictions in five regions as of 29 November, including in the country’s richest and most populous region, Lombardy.

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German minister says partial lockdown could last until Spring 2021

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Germany’s partial lockdown measures could be extended until early spring if infections are not brought under control, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said in a newspaper interview published on Saturday (28 November), writes Caroline Copley.

Altmaier told Die Welt it was not possible to give the all-clear while there were incidences of more than 50 infections per 100,000 inhabitants in large parts of Germany.

“We have three to four long winter months ahead of us,” he was quoted as saying. “It is possible that the restrictions will remain in place in the first months of 2021.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states on Wednesday to extend and tighten measures against the coronavirus until at least 20 December.

Germany imposed a “lockdown light” in early November, which closed bars and restaurants but allowed schools and shops to stay open. The measures have stopped the exponential growth of cases but infections have stabilised at a high level.

There were 21,695 new confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday, bringing total cases since the pandemic began to 1,028,089.

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UK and France sign new deal to stop illegal migration across Channel

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Britain and France signed a new agreement to try to stop illegal migration across the Channel on Saturday (28 November), upping patrols and technology in the hope of closing off a dangerous route used by migrants to try to reach the UK on small boats, writes Sarah Young.

UK interior minister Priti Patel said that under the deal, the number of officers patrolling French beaches would double, and new equipment including drones and radar would be employed.

This year, hundreds of people, including some children, have been caught crossing to southern England from makeshift camps in northern France - navigating one of the world’s busiest shipping routes in overloaded rubber dinghies. Some migrants have drowned.

Patel said in statement that the agreement represented a step forward in the pair’s mission to make channel crossings unviable.

“Thanks to more police patrols on French beaches and enhanced intelligence sharing between our security and law enforcement agencies, we are already seeing fewer migrants leaving French beaches,” she said.

The UK and France plan to continue a close dialogue to reduce migratory pressures at the shared border over the next year, she added.

Patel told UK media that French authorities had stopped 5,000 migrants from travelling to the UK so far this year. She said over the last ten years, the UK had given France £150 pounds to tackle immigration.

She said the recent focus by authorities on stopping small boats meant they were now seeing more migrants trying to cross the Channel via lorries, and that border security was being tightened in France to try to stop that.

Britain is also planning to introduce a new asylum system through legislation next year, Patel said.

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