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EU Cohesion policy: Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy receive €373 million to support health and social services, SMEs and social inclusion

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The Commission has granted €373 million to five European Social Fund (ESF) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) operational programmes (OPs) in Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy to help the countries with coronavirus emergency response and repair in the framework of REACT-EU. In Belgium, the modification of the Wallonia OP will make available an additional €64.8m for the acquisition of medical equipment for health services and innovation.

The funds will support small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in developing e-commerce, cybersecurity, websites and online stores, as well as the regional green economy through energy efficiency, protection of the environment, development of smart cities and low-carbon public infrastructures. In Germany, in the Federal State of Hessen, €55.4m will support health-related research infrastructure, diagnostic capacity and innovation in universities and other research institutions as well as research, development and innovation investments in the fields of climate and sustainable development. This amendment will also provide support to SMEs and funds for start-ups through an investment fund.

In Sachsen-Anhalt, €75.7m will facilitate cooperation of SMEs and institutions in research, development and innovation, and provide investments and working capital for micro-enterprises affected by the coronavirus crisis. Moreover, the funds will allow investments in the energy efficiency of enterprises, support digital innovation in SMEs and acquiring digital equipment for schools and cultural institutions. In Italy, the national OP ‘Social Inclusion' will receive €90m to promote the social integration of people experiencing severe material deprivation, homelessness or extreme marginalisation, through ‘Housing First' services that combine the provision of immediate housing with enabling social and employment services.

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In Spain, €87m will be added to the ESF OP for Castilla y León to support the self-employed and workers who had their contracts suspended or reduced due to the crisis. The money will also help hard-hit companies avoid layoffs, especially in the tourism sector. Finally, the funds are needed to allow essential social services to continue in a safe way and to ensure educational continuity throughout the pandemic by hiring additional staff.

REACT-EU is part of NextGenerationEU and provides €50.6bn additional funding (in current prices) to Cohesion policy programmes over the course of 2021 and 2022. Measures focus on supporting labour market resilience, jobs, SMEs and low-income families, as well as setting future-proof foundations for the green and digital transitions and a sustainable socio-economic recovery.

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Brussels

Brussels seminar to unite forces against sects and their supporters

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Recently, the F.C.C.E. held a special seminar in Brussels, where guests from legislative, religious and governmental backgrounds discussed the topics of respecting, protecting religious beliefs and exposing the dangers of sects, writes Laurent Jacques.

At the meeting, independent journalist Roland Delcourt who followed sects’ activities introduced a sect called "Almighty God" or "Eastern Lightning", clearly exposing fundamental differences between religions and sects.

F.C.C.E. special seminar in Brussels

Delcourt claimed that in order to grow and increase the number of their followers, the Church of Almighty God engages in dubious activities, discriminating and slandering other sects and different Christian religions.

Christian opponents and the international media have in turn described it as a sect and even as a "terrorist organization".

It seems pretty clear that this movement has nothing Christian other than its name.

The Vatican has rejected the sect which claims to be Christian. In April 2013, the Vatican news agency Agenzia Fides made the following remarks about it: "with its methods of abuse and blackmail against the heads of the Catholic Church, used to mount cleverly constructed scandals", The Church of Almighty God "sows confusion among evangelical and Catholic Christians".

Roland Delcourt also presented a report about “Bitter Winter” and its founder Massimo Introvigne, who has defended groups as diverse as the Unification Church "Moonies", the Church of Scientology, the Chinese Church Eastern Lightning (accused of links to the murder of Wu Shuoyanen in 2014), the Order of the Solar Temple (responsible for 74 deaths in mass murder-suicides), Aum Shinrikyo (responsible for the 1995 Tokyo sarin gas attack) and Shincheonji “Church of Jesus”, accused of having furthered the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Korea as a result of its follower’s unethical behaviour.

He believes that Bitter Winter and Massimo Introvigne find a favourable response only in ultra-conservative and far-right circles.

 Mr Introvigne is never the last when it comes to attacking those who propose means of combating the phenomenon of sects, such as Alain Gest, who chaired a Commission of Inquiry into Sects and whose observatory Guānchá Tái was created following the report made in 1995 by a parliamentary commission of inquiry on sects, chaired by and whose rapporteur is Jacques Guyard.

In his book: Une Secte au cœur de la République, Serge Faubert reveals to us, with supporting documents, the extent of the infiltration of sects in the political class, economic circles, national defence and the education.

In an article published on March 15, 2021 on Bitter Winter, Introvigne attacks Luigi Corvaglia, member of the board of directors and of the scientific committee of F.E.C.R.I.S. (European Federation of Research and Information Centers on Sectarianism), for claiming that Bitter Winter is the only source that claims the Church of Almighty God is being persecuted in China.

He also castigates Luigi Corvaglia for having organised, according to him, an anti-sect coalition in the company of Gerry Armstrong (former member of the Church of Scientology, persecuted by the sect), Alexander Dvorkin, vice-president of F.E.C.R.I.S. and Pastor Thomas Gandow (who was amoung the first to make the link between sects and the far-right), during a conference in Salekhard, Siberia.

Finally, Mr Delcourt quoted Bruno Fouchereau (author of: Mafia des Sectes) who wrote in Le Monde Diplomatique: “90% of sects are of American origin or based in the United States, and others like Almighty God are from Asia but are remotely controlled and mainly financed from the United States.“

At the meeting, Mr. André Lacroix, an independent writer who has been to Tibet many times and published several books, gave a special insight into how some Western media mislead the people and use untrue and false news to gain attention and achieve a certain kind of political Purpose. In particular, some organisations, under the banner of freedom of belief, are doing the work of helping sects, confuse the public, and create factors of instability for society.

Whether in Europe or other parts of the world, we should always be alert and mindful of the rise and threats to society of various sectarian organisations.

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Belgium

110th Republic of China National Day Reception held in Brussels

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The Taipei Representative Office in the EU and Belgium held the 110th Republic of China National Day Reception, 30 September, welcoming friends and dignitaries from the EU and Belgium. Held in accordance with the Belgian pandemic prevention regulations, the event was attended by more than 100 guests, including members of the European Parliament, the Belgian Senate, the Belgian House of Representatives, and the Belgian regional parliaments, along with others from all walks of life. In his speech at the reception, Ambassador Ming-Yen Tsai outlined the current status of the close exchanges between Taiwan, and the EU and Belgium in various fields such as the economy and trade, education, technology, green energy, digital economy, disinformation and carbon reduction.

The Ambassador also took the opportunity to thank the European Parliament, the Belgian Senate, the Belgian House of Representatives, and the Flemish Parliament for passing a number of Taiwan-friendly resolutions over the past year, including ones supporting Taiwan-EU cooperation, a Taiwan-EU bilateral investment agreement, Taiwan’s international participation, and those expressing concern regarding peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

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Belgium

Ombudsman for Children’s Rights of Kazakhstan Aruzhan Sain meets with her Belgian colleagues

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In order to study the best Belgian experience in the field of work with children with disabilities, social programs to support children and their families, as well as the organization of integrated and inclusive education, the Ombudsman for Children’s Rights of Kazakhstan Aruzhan Sain met with Belgian representatives in the field of children’s rights. The visit of Sain was organized with the assistance of the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Belgium.

During the meeting with the Chairperson of the National Commission on the Rights of the Child of Belgium Karin Van Laethem, the issues of coordinating the efforts of the authorities at the federal level and at the level of communities and regions of Belgium dealing with child rights issues were discussed. Due to the territorial and administrative structure of the country, independent human rights institutions of the Kingdom operate at the regional level.

In this regard, the Kazakh Ombudsman also visited the Wallonia Regional Agency for Better Life (AVIQ), as well as the Institute for Child and Family Development (IDEF), where the Belgian system of psychological, medical and social support for children with disabilities was presented in detail.

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In turn, A.Sain shared information about the work carried out in Kazakhstan to improve the quality of life of children with disabilities, the purpose of which is to build a system with a guarantee of early detection and early assistance to reduce children with disabilities. According to the Children’s Ombudsman, it is important to provide an individual approach to the treatment of children with functional impairments with the required number of services and technical means of rehabilitation. She told her Belgian colleagues about Kazakhstani reforms in the field of providing children with sports and creative circles at the expense of the state budget.

During a visit to the Royal Institute for People with Musculoskeletal Disabilities (IRAHM) in Brussels, the experience of rehabilitation programs for a child was reviewed, taking into account the characteristics of his physical condition and psychological profile.

Along with this, the Kazakh Ombudsman met with the General Commissioner for the Rights of the Child of the French Community «Wallonia-Brussels Federation» Bernard De Vos, who spoke about the integration policy in the field of inclusive education for children with developmental disabilities and the integration of migrant children. The parties agreed that there are discussions on these issues in all countries and the search for the right path. Discussing the system of prevention and early intervention, the ombudsmen of the two countries noted the importance of screening newborns and monitoring the development of young children.

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In addition, during her visit, the Children’s ombudsman A.Sain held a separate meeting with the Social Protection Adviser of the international company « Socieux + » Marzena Breza, with whom the possibilities of cooperation on the introduction of the institution of foster (professional) families were discussed.

The parties have agreed to exchange relevant information and maintain contacts in matters of protection of children's rights.

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