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#Olympics: The great beauties of Rome 2024

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rome olympicsMember of Sport and Citizenship Scientific Committee and Scientific Advisor on News Media, Rosarita Cuccoli, writes about why Rome should not be looked over in the 2024 Olympic bid.

In Italy the theme of the Olympic bid for 2024 has not massively hit the news so far. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will select the host city in September 2017 and the Games will be held in eight years. It still looks far away. Moreover, Paris and Los Angeles have been widely viewed as the front-runners, with perhaps a potential advantage for Paris, considering that Los Angeles joined the group of candidate cities at a later stage, after Boston dropped out last August. Rome's candidacy is only just starting to gain momentum. The Italian capital previously hosted the Games in 1960. Budapest is at the moment the fourth remaining city in the running.

The presentation ceremony of Rome's candidacy was held on 17 February, the same day the initial bid dossier was submitted to the IOC. The ceremony was broadcast live at 10:30am on national television. It was an occasion for the press to remind the public opinion that yes, Rome too is one of the candidate cities for the Olympics! The broader media coverage was all but imposing but one thing was clear to those who followed the news: Rome's historic monuments are at the core of the city's bid to stage the 2024 Olympics. Preliminary venue plans call for beach volleyball at the Circus Maximus and a nightly parade of athletes at the Colosseum. That is indeed a winning argument. In 2014, Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty won the Oscar for best foreign language film, along with a wealth of best cinematography awards. The film, which was set in Rome, is a feast for the senses, with its breathtaking images of the Eternal City, even if Rome itself is "just" in the background. The plot primarily focuses on cultural and political exhaustion through the stories of a group of decadent characters and their sense of unfulfillment.

Besides its artistic merits, this movie is a good metaphor of the way Italians see themselves, and tells us something about why Rome's candidacy is gradually and yet steadily emerging, without too much noise. An estimated 60 percent of the entire world's art treasures are found in Italy. Italians were born amid beauty and almost take it for granted. Like in the movie, it is in the background, while far from assuming that this is their ultimate winning card and overplaying it, they look a lot at their limits. Italians hardly ever assume in advance they will win. This is not necessarily the best strategy to emerge, one might say, but rivals – in this case the other candidate cities for the 2024 Games – had better be careful and avoid mistaking self-mockery for weakness.

Rome has been filling the news for reasons other than the Olympic bid, as a series of scandals have rocked the political life of Italy's capital city in recent months. The so-called "Mafia Capitale" corruption affair, the premature resignation of the city’s Mayor, Ignazio Marino, and the "Vatileaks" revelations just a few days before the start of the Pope’s special jubilee celebrations, have created an unprecedented situation, providing the news media with plenty of urgent subjects to deal with.

Italy won the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain right after the outbreak of a major scandal in Serie A over match fixing and illegal betting. The Azzurri, loudly criticized by the media, decided on a press black-out, with only the coach and the captain appointed to speak to the press. In the end, Italy won the tournament. Italy's campaign in the 2006 World Cup, hosted by Germany, started just a couple of months after the eruption of Calciopoli, a new match-fixing scandal implicating some top teams in Serie A and Serie B. Amid general pessimism and all sorts of negative predictions, the Azzurri eventually triumphed in Berlin and won their fourth World Cup.

With regard to the bid for the 2024 Olympics, we do not know what the pick will be. History has proven that early favourites sometimes win and sometimes do not. In any case, history has also shown that Italy often emerges as a more serious contender than its rivals had anticipated.

The media coverage that Rome's bid has received thus far is consistent with the hierarchy of the news, in this particular phase of the city's history, and a certain wisdom in not promoting a victory that is yet to be achieved. This relatively low profile should not mislead the other contenders, as Italy's strengths and Rome's beauties are well in the background, ready to surface in due course.

Economy

Issuance of green bonds will strengthen the international role of the euro

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Eurogroup ministers discussed the international role of the euro (15 February), following the publication of the European Commission's communication of (19 January), ‘The European economic and financial system: fostering strength and resilience’.

President of the Eurogroup, Paschal Donohoe said: “The aim is to reduce our dependence on other currencies, and to strengthen our autonomy in various situations. At the same time, increased international use of our currency also implies potential trade-offs, which we will continue to monitor. During the discussion, ministers emphasized the potential of green bond issuance to enhance the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate transition objective.”

The Eurogroup has discussed the issue several times in recent years since the December 2018 Euro Summit. Klaus Regling, the managing director of the European Stability Mechanism said that overreliance on the dollar contained risks, giving Latin America and the Asian crisis of the 90s as examples. He also referred obliquely to “more recent episodes” where the dollar’s dominance meant that EU companies could not continue to work with Iran in the face of US sanctions. Regling believes that the international monetary system is slowly moving towards a multi-polar system where three or four currencies will be important, including the dollar, euro and renminbi. 

European Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, agreed that the euro’s role could be strengthened through the issuance of green bonds enhancing the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate objectives of the Next Generation EU funds.

Ministers agreed that broad action to support the international role of the euro, encompassing progress on amongst other things, Economic and Monetary Union, Banking Union and Capital Markets Union were needed to secure the euros international role.

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EU

European human rights court backs Germany over Kunduz airstrike case

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An investigation by Germany into a deadly 2009 airstrike near the Afghan city of Kunduz that was ordered by a German commander complied with its right-to-life obligations, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday (16 February), writes .

The ruling by the Strasbourg-based court rejects a complaint by Afghan citizen Abdul Hanan, who lost two sons in the attack, that Germany did not fulfil its obligation to effectively investigate the incident.

In September 2009, the German commander of NATO troops in Kunduz called in a U.S. fighter jet to strike two fuel trucks near the city which NATO believed had been hijacked by Taliban insurgents.

The Afghan government said at the time 99 people, including 30 civilians, were killed. Independent rights groups estimated between 60 and 70 civilians were killed.

The death toll shocked Germans and ultimately forced its defence minister to resign over accusations of covering up the number of civilian casualties in the run-up to Germany’s 2009 election.

Germany’s federal prosecutor general had found that the commander did not incur criminal liability, mainly because he was convinced when he ordered the airstrike that no civilians were present.

For him to be liable under international law, he would have had to be found to have acted with intent to cause excessive civilian casualties.

The European Court of Human Rights considered the effectiveness of Germany’s investigation, including whether it established a justification for lethal use of force. It did not consider the legality of the airstrike.

Of 9,600 NATO troops in Afghanistan, Germany has the second-largest contingent behind the United States.

A 2020 peace agreement between the Taliban and Washington calls for foreign troops to withdraw by May 1, but U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is reviewing the deal after a deterioration in the security situation in Afghanistan.

Germany is preparing to extend the mandate for its military mission in Afghanistan from March 31 until the end of this year, with troop levels remaining at up to 1,300, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

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EU

Digitalization of EU justice systems: Commission launches public consultation on cross-border judicial co-operation

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On 16 February, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the modernization of EU justice systems. The EU aims to support member states in their efforts to adapt their justice systems to the digital age and improve EU cross-border judicial co-operation. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders (pictured) said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of digitalization, including in the field of justice. Judges and lawyers need digital tools to be able to work together faster and more efficiently.

At the same time, citizens and businesses need online tools for an easier and more transparent access to justice at a lower cost. The Commission strives to push this process forward and support member states in their efforts, including as regards facilitating their cooperation in cross-border judicial procedures by using digital channels.” In December 2020, the Commission adopted a communication outlining the actions and initiatives intended to advance the digitalization of justice systems across the EU.

The public consultation will gather views on the digitalization of EU cross-border civil, commercial and criminal procedures. The results of the public consultation, in which a broad range of groups and individuals can participate and which is available here until 8 May 2021, will feed into an initiative on digitalisation of cross-border judicial cooperation expected at the end of this year as announced in the 2021 Commission's Work Programme.

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