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Thousands march in Paris' first LGBT pride since lockdown

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Participants holding rainbow flags and placards sit on a monument during the traditional LGBTQ Pride march, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, on the Republic Square in Paris, France June 26, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
Participants holding rainbow flags and banners take part in the traditional LGBTQ Pride march, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Paris, France June 26, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

Participants holding rainbow flags and placards sit on a monument during the traditional LGBTQ Pride march, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, on the Republic Square in Paris, France 26 June, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

An LGBT Pride march drew thousands of people to the streets of Paris on Saturday (26 June), with many using the first event of its kind since the coronavirus pandemic to denounce the situation in Hungary, writes Ardee Napolitano, Reuters.

Marchers, who chanted slogans such as "Gay rights are human rights!", made their way in a joyful atmosphere from Pantin on the outskirts of Paris to Place de la Republique on the city's Right Bank, amid rainbow flags and colourful placards.

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Asked about the situation in Hungary, where a new law bans the distribution of material in schools deemed to promote homosexuality or gender change, one marcher said it was unacceptable. Read more.

"No country in the world, no part of the world should criminalize homosexuality. Its representation shouldn't be banned, it's absurd," Marc Pauli, 58, told Reuters TV.

More than 200 LGBT rights marches were postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic last year, according to the European Pride Organisers Association.

France

Intercultural dialogue - A priority at EU level

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EU Reporter has spoken about intercultural dialogue and its challenges with Élisabeth Guigou (pictured), former French minister for European Affairs (1990-1993) in pre-EU Mitterrand era, minister of justice (1997-2000) and minister of social affairs (2000-2002) both during Chirac era. Guigou was a member of the National Assembly for Seine-Saint-Denis’ 9th Constituency from 2002-2017, and she has served as the president of Anna Lindh's Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for Dialogue between Cultures since 2014, writes Federico Grandesso with the contribution of Fajaryanto Suhardi.

How do you think the intercultural dialogue in the near-future would likely take place after the pandemic considering the so-far positive rate of global vaccination in the vicinity?

EG
Our foundation, the Anna Lindh Foundation (ALF) which is now representing 42 country members, has continued its remarkable work. Despite the pandemic – even before it happened – we’ve had experiences in conducting webinars. So when the pandemic hit on a global scale followed by most countries closing borders, we succeeded in maintaining our debates, maintaining our programmes, and maintaining our exchanges that worked on a virtual basis which is sort of ideal, of course, in the pandemic situation. Inside the foundation – we are 4,500 NGOs, roughly and perhaps more – we managed to maintain our work, but of course, webinars and visual conferences cannot replace face-to-face exchanges, naturally.

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What kind of suggestion would you like to give to the European authorities in order to have a better understanding between different cultures, for example, the economy-political issues typical between Europe and Mediterranean countries?

EG
We’re actually working very closely with European institutions, the European Parliament, European Commission and the External Actions Service who are our main partners alongside UNESCO, the United Nations (UN), and the World Bank. And to all of our partners, we say we have to concentrate on youth, because they are the ones who have the access to the new technologies. They are also the first victims of all problems in our society, for example, the problems of unemployment and precarity because of countries closing borders. And they are the ones who will have to face climate change in the future. And they will have to face the challenges opened up by the new technologies. Therefore, we advise to focus on youth – which is also our choice inside the ALF – and to mobilize as much as we can through NGOs those young people who refuse to be the sick and down-trodden ones in their society. Obviously we will not be able to accommodate all of them but then it becomes a matter of providing them with access for education. This is why we propose to enlarge the communication with all the partnered universities. First I must say my personal proposal was to create an Erasmus of NGOs because I think that alongside with the giving recognition to the possibility to have exchanges to students or to board members of secondary schools, there is a space to recognize the great work done by the NGOs. Inside those NGOs largely run by these youthful people, they have been so especially proactive and imaginative and really viewing themselves as some sort of activists in charge and in control. For this bold objective, the ALF managed to keep its program in Libya – in even some of the worst spots with the chaos in this country – but let’s hope they would be able to get out of the terrible situation after years of gruesome political unrests and instability. But anyway, in the last two years we managed to do that and I must say that some of these young organizers come from Libya and they were among the best of them. So this is why I think that (idea of establishing) Erasmus of (some sort of) association for NGOs is really something that could enable us to improve our actions.

That’s really a great initiative and we can’t help but ask despite the unimaginable difficulties in the country, how did you manage to start the project in Libya?

EG
Of course we have a great team who organized that and thankfully we have all the contacts, and of course we tried to help those young people to have the access to the programme. When it was possible I remember, just before the pandemic, we managed to make the list of selection of the young Libyan candidates to go to New York for the talk at the UN Headquarter, one of our longstanding partners. They asked the UN General Secretary how youth can be an actor of promoting peace. Therefore, we have proved that we have such an exceptional number of bright and accomplished young Libyans – in this case there were two presenting at the event with one particularly distinguished young lady. What we do basically is organize the meetings with high-ranked personalities to enhance their experience, and we take care of the visa arrangements. This process happens after the selection made by our national-level network, and of course they made the final cut because they met the standard based on our specific criteria.

Did you have any interesting experiences in handling your program in other problematic areas or perhaps the dangerous zones in a literal sense?

EG
We have our initiatives in places such as Lebanon and Jordan that are familiar to extreme political problems that they would normally face, especially right now with the problems of migration of people coming from Syria and Iraq. What we try to do is to have our programs which continue to give hope to these young people. We also work on the issue of media literacy because we believe they need to know how to handle and use the information, especially to enable them to distinguish between fake news and facts, and also to encourage them to learn to express themselves in the media as it is very critically important because when we talk about fighting hate speech or radicalization. It is always more efficient to give youngsters the platform where young people speaking to other young people than to have official messages passed through social networks or even any classic media.

So, in that sense, you affirmed the notion that the youth are the agents of change for a better and positive future?

EG
We are, of course, very respectful of diversity, but the ALF believes that the whole balance of humanity is really invested in the interest of respecting the values of humanity – in many ways we share this mutual understanding that is proven a useful tool of communication. So, what we try to do is to empower young men and young women – because we need to begin the conversations on raising awareness of gender equality – to encourage them to express themselves, to know the problems in their surroundings as a part of local and global citizen. So, they are no longer silenced or afraid to say what is important for them. In a retrospective, this is of course a sort of form of respect to the values of humanity.

Speaking of female empowerment and emancipation, which roles and which areas do you think these young women are able to fill in – as we know in places like Syria and Jordan where the situations are generally unfavorable for women?

EG
For example, two years ago in Amman, Jordan, we organized a meeting of NGOs coming from southern Europe, and Southern and Eastern Mediterranean territories that have proven their excellent track records in terms of being creative and active in the field of empowering women in their society.That was very interesting because they were coming across from, let’s say, diverse and various experiences and I think, without the ALF imposing anything, the experiences they had not only gave them food for thoughts but also food for actions. The young participants of the NGOs present there have been selected through a series of careful manner. We were hosted by the Jordan Media Institute founded by Princess Rym Ali who incidentally is going to succeed me as the head of the ALF – and this is just an example of the work that we tried to accomplish without imposing any kind of preconceived ideas. On the contrary, we have fought about many issues besides gender stereotypes and prejudice. In all the countries where we are actively involved in, we want to have all women, especially young women, to be active in their surroundings to never give up their critical thinking and enduring spirit to keep them aware and stay alerted as an important part of the community and we, of course, facilitate them to be able to do that.

Years after working on this project, do you actually see any real change in these Mediterranean countries where they are largely known for lacking in practicing and giving the women freedom, let alone empowering them?

EG
Well, I actually don’t want to talk about the policies of the governments since it is not in my capacity but what I observe is that the young men and women who participated in our programmes, those exceptional individuals have changed their mental attitude, and this is absolutely obvious to see because they chose to have a talk between them about experiences they had never known before. For example, on the issue of gender equality, a young woman from southern area of the West Bank (Palestine) talked to a young man from the north of Europe and she said that the main concern in her country is that if a woman wants to separate or get divorced from her spouse/husband, she is not going to be barred an) deprived from her rights to have the share of custody of the children, while the young European man said that in his country the situation is the contrary. She’s practically learning something from that kind of exchange. It shows how we think about similar issues in different ways. Of course, there are always good and bad in our society. For these young women and men, obviously it is important to be more demanding especially in this conversation on gender equality. That’s all I can say. But in relation to your question, I have been looking and studying closely on the evolution of the political system in these countries and what I think is that we are really thinking how to help absolving these young men and women that some of these are universal human rights that need to be recognized, thus, it’s impossible to be ignored or denied. As the result, it really shows the quality and the interests coming out of those exchanges that enabled those young men and women to see that they can ask to their authorities, and they can be an activist of certain issues fighting for many different kinds of rights. The result of this youth movement is obvious in the fields of gender equality, climate change and media literacy. We just tried to educate them as a part of citizens of their respective country to be active and more demanding for the respect of common values that should be acknowledged everywhere no matter how different their political system is. We respectfully don’t interfere in the making of laws or anything in these sovereign countries because it’s not our job.

Final question: What is your number one priority as the President of Anna Lindh Foundation (ALF) or perhaps any goal you haven’t succeeded but greatly want to achieve at the moment?

EG
Our first priority should be to develop the young Mediterranean voices program. I think this is a tool that is of a high value and efficient, and this is the kind of program that we have a great experience in and it is working very well. Hopefully we would have the possibility to well develop this program with these exceptional young individuals involved in our national network of 42 countries. I hope we can promote peace, for example, the recovery effort in Syria.

But not only bound in this area, maybe we might help the conflicted or politically unstable areas in a certain neighborhood to draw a formal experience and to have the power to talk to the authorities because nothing replaces these kinds of exchanges, either virtual or real ones, between young people in the concern of protecting common values of humanity and the will to find innovative ways to fight challenges. They will face issues like the climate change or digital economy issues and its consequences in the context of social and economy fixes. We also hope to find ways to diminish the economic and social consequences (i.e. collapses) due to the pandemic. In that respect, we are aiming in creating more useful works by involving as many young people as possible as part of global citizen – we’re not the only one but we are the biggest one.

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Electricity interconnectivity

Commission approves €30.5 billion French scheme to support production of electricity from renewable energy sources

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The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, a French aid scheme to support renewable electricity production. The measure will help France achieve its renewable energy targets without unduly distorting competition and will contribute to the European objective of achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “This aid measure will stimulate development of key renewable energy sources, and support a transition to an environmentally sustainable energy supply, in line with the EU Green Deal objectives. The selection of the beneficiaries through a competitive bidding process will ensure the best value for taxpayers' money while maintaining competition in the French energy market.” 

The French scheme

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France notified the Commission of its intention to introduce a new scheme to support electricity produced from renewable energy sources, namely to onshore operators of solar, onshore wind and hydroelectric installations. The scheme grants support to these operators awarded via competitive tenders. In particular, the measure includes seven types of tenders for a total of 34 GW of new renewables capacity that will be organized between 2021 and 2026: (i) solar on the ground, (ii) solar on buildings, (iii) onshore wind, (iv) hydroelectric installations, (v) innovative solar, (vi) self-consumption and (vii) a technology-neutral tender. The support takes the form of a premium on top of the electricity market price. The measure has a provisional total budget of around €30.5 billion. The scheme is open until 2026 and aid can be paid out for a maximum period of 20 years after the new renewable installation is connected to the grid.

Commission's assessment

The Commission assessed the measure under EU state aid rules, in particular the 2014 Guidelines on state aid for environmental protection and energy.

The Commission found that the aid is necessary to further develop the renewable energy generation to meet France's environmental goals. It also has an incentive effect, as the projects would otherwise not take place in the absence of public support. Furthermore, the aid is proportionate and limited to the minimum necessary, as the level of aid will be set through competitive tenders. In addition, the Commission found that the positive effects of the measure, in particular, the positive environmental effects outweigh any possible negative effects in terms of distortions to competition. Finally, France also committed to carry out an ex-post evaluation to assess the features and implementation of the renewables scheme.

On this basis, the Commission concluded that the French scheme is in line with EU State aid rules, as it will facilitate the development of renewable electricity production from various technologies in France and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the European Green Deal and without unduly distorting competition.

Background

The Commission's 2014 Guidelines on State Aid for Environmental Protection and Energy allow member states to support the production of electricity from renewable energy sources, subject to certain conditions. These rules aim to help member states meet the EU's ambitious energy and climate targets at the least possible cost for taxpayers and without undue distortions of competition in the Single Market.

The Renewable Energy Directive of 2018 established an EU-wide binding renewable energy target of 32% by 2030. With the European Green Deal Communication in 2019, the Commission reinforced its climate ambitions, setting an objective of no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050. The recently adopted European Climate Law, which enshrines the 2050 climate neutrality objective and introduces the intermediate target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, set the ground for the fit for 55' legislative proposals adopted by the Commission on 14 July 2021. Among these proposals, the Commission has presented an amendment to the Renewable Energy Directive, which sets an increased target to produce 40% of EU energy from renewable sources by 2030.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.50272 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of State aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the Competition Weekly e-News.

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coronavirus

French lawmakers approve bill to tackle fourth wave of coronavirus

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Protesters attend a demonstration called by the French nationalist party 'Les Patriotes' (The Patriots) against France's restrictions to fight the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, on the Droits de l'Homme (human rights) esplanade at the Trocadero Square in Paris, France, 24 July 2021. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The French parliament on Monday (26 July) approved a bill which will make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for health workers as well as require a bolstered health pass in a wide array of social venues as France battles with a fourth wave of coronavirus infections, writes Matthias Blamont, Reuters.

Visitors heading to museums, cinemas or swimming pools in France are already denied entry if they cannot produce a pass showing that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or have had a recent negative test. The pass has been required for large-scale festivals or to go clubbing.

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From the start of August, the pass will further be needed to enter restaurants and bars and for long-distance train and plane journeys.

The measures contained in the bill are due to end on Nov. 15. A final green light from the constitutional court, the nation's top jurisdiction, will be needed before the law can come into effect.

From around 4,000 new cases a day at the start of July, daily infections in France have gradually increased, topping 22,000 last week, with hospitalizations also on the rise.

Like many other countries across Europe, France is dealing with the highly contagious Delta variant, first identified in India, which is threatening to prolong the pandemic and derail economic recovery.

Authorities are stepping up efforts to facilitate mass vaccination and are ramping up outreach to those who have not made appointments.

As of Sunday, 49.3% of France's 67 million population had received two doses - or one single-shot - of a COVID-19 vaccine, still far from any threshold some experts say could help largely curb COVID-19 transmission, a mechanism called "herd immunity."

Experts of the country's Institut Pasteur said earlier this year a total easing of restrictions in the country could be envisaged without epidemic resurgence if more than 90% of adults received a vaccine.

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