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We foster citizen empowerment in time of crisis – VoxEurop (English)

In this Op-ed, European Civic Tech actors reaffirm the importance of their role in protecting fundamental rights and providing citizens with the tools to remain in contact with each other, and for collaboration between citizens and decision-makers.

During this time of global health crisis, governments all over the world have taken emergency measures to protect their citizens. While the need to take strong action to contain the epidemic is clear, we, as civic tech experts and citizens must, nevertheless, be aware of the impact that these measures can have on our fundamental rights and freedoms. 

In liberal western democracies, freedom of movement has been significantly curtailed, public gatherings and protests have been prohibited, elections have sometimes been suspended, and in some countries, democratically elected governments have reduced parliamentary oversight.  Some emergency measures are warranted to fight this virus, yet most of them are unprecedented in peacetime for most of us.

Given the context, it is crucial for us as Civic Tech actors to reaffirm the importance of personal liberties and citizen empowerment. Protecting fundamental rights is ever so crucial even during a health crisis of this proportion, including  in democratic countries.

As citizens, we must look for new solutions to effectively protect our rights and display solidarity with our neighbor. We must devote time and attention to helping each other, with a particular focus on vulnerable people, health staff and other essential workers. Turning initiatives borne out of a crisis into new, sustainable ways of delivering public service, engaging in deliberative democracy, or supporting community resilience is going to take work. How to move on from this crisis in a positive direction is a crucial issue for our societies and democratic institutions. 

Civic Tech gives citizens the tools to remain in contact and dialogue with each other and respond to pressing societal issues. It allows for ongoing collaboration between citizens and decision-makers to develop solutions for a better future, helping to strengthen citizen involvement in their communities.

By co-signing this editorial for Citizen Empowerment in Times of Crisis, we emphasize the continued importance of civic engagement, participatory decision-making, and protecting personal freedoms in these difficult times; and for the future.


Axel Dauchez, President & Founder,

Fotis Talantzis, Co-founder & CEO, Novoville

Florent Barre, President & co-founder, Quorum

Cyril Lage, Co-founder & CEO, Cap Collectif

Chloé Pahud, Founder & CEO, Civocracy

Julie de Pimodan, Co-founder & CEO, Fluicity

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The coronavirus crisis opens a new fracture in Europe – VoxEurop (English)

How has the mobility of Europeans evolved with the different measures and degrees of containment to slow the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic? Follow the changes thanks to the application developed by our partners from Civio.

By 15 March, half of the people who regularly walk along the streets of European capitals had vanished. Europe had already recorded around 40,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19. A few days later, the number of people on the streets continued to fall, while the number of those infected kept growing. In the following weeks the number of pedestrians was around 30% of the regular levels. And it has remained that way until now, almost a month and a half later, when we are experiencing a slight resurgence in mobility thanks to confinement measures being relaxed in some countries. On Friday, 17 April, the occupation of European streets rose above 40% of the usual levels for the first time in a month. By then, there were more than 765,000 confirmed cases and more than 76,000 deaths in the European Union.

But this comeback to normal is not homogeneous across Europe. Cities such as Athens, Zagreb, Copenhagen and Berlin have seen an increase in the number of passers-by over the last week. In Madrid, Rome and Paris, with much more restrictive measures, the occupation is still very low, almost always flat and below 20%. As of 17 April, Italy (more than 22,000), Spain (more than 19,000) and France (almost 18,000) are the three EU countries with the highest number of covid-related deaths. The exception: Lisbon, where pedestrian mobility is similar, below 20%, even if the number of deaths in Portugal (657 on 17 April) is far from the figures in Spain, Italy and France.

Other European capitals opted from the very beginning for more lax measures, allowing mobility and keeping shops open. In Stockholm, for example, street pedestrian traffic has rarely fallen below 50% of the usual level. And on 18 April it reached 77%. Something similar happens in Helsinki, which barely went below 50% and was close to 80% on Saturday.

The road traffic levels match almost exactly the patterns seen with pedestrians. The drop in the number of cars on the road has also been drastic, but not as much. The number of vehicles compared to the usual figure in European capitals has been around 40%. But, as with pedestrian mobility, on 18 April we saw the first clear peak in growth in the last month, with Europe-wide levels reaching 45% of normal traffic.

Once again, the difference between Central/Northern Europe and Southern countries is substantial. Traffic in Rome remains at around 20%, as in Athens, Lisbon or Madrid, while Paris stays at 10%. Meanwhile, Copenhagen, Prague and Stockholm are already close to pre-crisis levels, at around 80% of their usual ones. Berlin is getting close to that.

Only one in ten planes flying

Air traffic has experienced the sharpest and most homogeneous fall in the crisis. On 15 March, traffic in the main airports of each country was already below 20% of their usual activity. Nowadays, it doesn’t even reach 10%.

In most cases, the fall in flights happened in the third week of March, between the 15th and 22nd, in line with the Commission’s recommendation which urged all member countries to close their borders, with only some exceptions: residents of the Schengen area travelling home, health workers, cross-border ones, carriers, diplomats, armed forces, or people travelling for humanitarian reasons or “imperative family reasons”. The Commission recommends that these restrictions remain in place until at least 15 May.

In Italy, the first European country to be hit by the coronavirus and the first to implement confinement measures (first regionally, then expanded to the whole country on 9 March), air traffic had already decreased by then, to about 30% in the second week of March, the first week we have data for.

This decline in flights was abrupt in Riga, Bratislava, Nicosia, Warsaw or Madrid. In other European capitals the shift was somewhat milder, with more progressive restrictions, as in Zagreb, Sofia or Dublin. Eventually, almost all European countries followed the recommended border closure. Except Ireland. This is the reason why traffic at Dublin airport is much more progressive and didn’t fall below 30% until 27 March. On that date, Ireland was one of the European countries with the least number of deaths (19) and had just over 1,800 confirmed cases.

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Post-pandemic Vienna – VoxEurop (English)

Three hundred fifty years after the Great Viennese Plague and 75 years after the moral and material disaster of World War 2 and the Holocaust, Vienna’s landmarks are helping inhabitants come to terms with Corona. Or are they really?

In 1679, Vienna was haunted by one of the last major plague epidemics in Europe. Nearly 80,000 Viennese are estimated to have fallen victim to the bubonic plague, which thrived among rats and malodorous mounds of waste. Like many other trading metropolises at the time, the capital of the Holy Roman Empire was overcrowded and lacked proper sewers. Social distancing and careful hand-washing were yet to be an enforceable reality.

No wonder Emperor Leopold I wanted to get out. But before he fled from the poshest palaces of the Habsburg House, he promised to erect a monument to God’s mercy – if the plague would only depart and allow him to return to his capital.


Viennese High Baroque as a projection of the pandemic. Photo: ©CHeFred

Almost 15 years later, one of the finest works of the Viennese High Baroque was finally completed: die Pestsäule, the Plague Column, erected on the Graben in the middle of town. The worst of the plague was over after a year or so, but there followed the Turkish siege in 1683, referred to in English as the Battle of Vienna. After that, the column underwent a long series of aesthetic drafts and artistic concepts. The end result, inaugurated in 1693, is an intricate iconographic narrative, informing onlookers that both the plague and the Ottoman onslaught were a punishment from God, only averted thanks to the virtue and vigilance of Emperor Leopold.

The memory of the Great Viennese Plague may have faded after 350 years, but in the time of Corona its monument has gained new relevance. An epidemic is an epidemic is an epidemic…

While freedom of movement has been restricted by the Austrian government’s draconian measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many in Vienna have defied the ban on staying in public space and made a pilgrimage to the monument in the city’s historic centre. Observed by no one but the surveillance cameras of the locked-down luxury stores, they have lit a candle or deposited a prayer at the foot of the column.

“Dear God, help us!” a child’s pale, pastel drawing exclaims. “Protect us from the Corona virus!” a young girl has written on another drawing. She has signed the picture depicting Jesus on the cross with her name: Magdalena. Perhaps one of the terrified and grieving human figures at the foot of the cross is Magdalena herself? Not the Biblical Mary Magdalene, but a frightened girl in 2020 Vienna. In any case, there is a lot of childish anxiety in those blood-red, sad emoji mouths. From the scary sky above, coronavirus cells fall like thorny raindrops.

Around the corner, just a stone’s throw from the Plague Column, is St. Stephen’s Cathedral – Vienna’s most famous landmark, with a place in the hearts of most of the city’s inhabitants. Steffl, as it is affectionately called, is a symbol of how the Austrian capital has managed to recover some of its historic splendor, as well as some normality, after the material and moral misery of World War II and the Holocaust.

In another Battle of Vienna, the so-called Vienna Offensive in April 1945, St. Stephen’s was severely damaged; the roof chair collapsed, and only a small portion of the church remained intact. Upon entering, you could look straight up and see a sky just as frightening as the one on Magdalena’s drawing. But the Viennese finally repaired their Steffl, and this year, on Easter Day, April 12 – exactly 75 years after the devastating fire – they had planned to celebrate a very special Easter Mass.


On 12 April 1945, the St. Stephan’s Cathedral was in ruins. Photo: ©Domarchiv St. Stephan

It was indeed special, but not in the way that was intended. Just as Pope Francis in St. Peter’s in Rome celebrated mass all alone, Austria’s Cardinal Schönborn held Easter mass before the echoing vaults and empty benches of St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

Almost empty.

Instead of thousands of churchgoers, photos of believers lined the pews, often obscured by swirls of incense but still discernible on television screens. In his sermon, broadcasted live, the Cardinal invoked that gaping hole to the sky: now, like 75 years ago, we’ll need to develop and lead lives of virtue to face Corona and climate change.

Corona as castigation in times of contagion.


St Stephen’s Cathedral empty benches with the pictures of the believers on Easter Mass, 12 April 2020. Photo: ©ERZDIÖZESE WIEN

Lately, religious programs on Austrian radio and television have ratings that make every streaming service fade in comparison. But most Viennese still seem to have invested their hopes in a more profane cult: consumerism. Or, more precisely, the opening of stores after Easter.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz – who has been described as a Messiah of conservative politics – has literally spoken of a “resurrection”. After a month of tough restrictions, Austria is now taking a cautious step back to something at least reminiscent of the normality that prevailed before Wuhan and Ischgl, the ski resort in the Tyrolean Alps that became one of Europe’s worst hotbeds of the coronavirus.

This is all about relieving pressure. About letting citizens, who have sacrificed so much to help flatten the curve, believe in a future not too dissimilar to what once was. And, of course, it’s about saving what can be saved of the economy. Setting the wheels in motion. Sure, epidemiologists warn that a second viral wave could very well come with the purchase – but Chancellor Kurz, virtuous and vigilant, stands ready to slam the emergency brake.

However, though queues now ring the city’s home improvement stores and car washes, the Easter miracle will have to wait. The Graben is almost as deserted now as it was a week ago. Typically, shoppers on the Graben are not Viennese, but Russian, Chinese, Italian… And they are not around anymore.

Last New Year’s Eve alone, about one million visitors walked past the Plague Column. More than 15 percent of Austria’s gross domestic product comes from tourism. Before das Riesenrad – the Ferris wheel in the Prater amusement park – has started moving again it will be hard to claim that the wheels of the economy are turning. Before the foreign guests have returned to both Graben and Tyrol, no one will even think of erecting a Corona Column.

Post-pandemic normality is still far off. Even Chancellor Kurz knows that.


This wheel is not turning. The famous Riesenrad, from which Orson Wells’ Harry Lime, in the film The Third Man, looks down on the little people moving around in post-war Vienna, comparing them to dots. It would mean nothing, he says, if one of them or a few of them “stopped moving, forever”. Photo: ©CHeFred


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Not helpless nor hopeless – VoxEurop (English)

Contrary to what is being said and written by many, the European Union can do a great deal to protect its citizens from the pandemic, and to compensate for shortcomings due to lack of coordination between member states.

More than 250 million European citizens are in mandatory home confinement to help curb the spread of Covid-19. Yet while Swedes, Germans and Bulgarians still walk more or less freely around their cities, Italians, Spaniards and French people can’t leave their homes. Swedish kids are still going to school, while most of their European peers are not. Shops are open in the Netherlands, Denmark and Hungary but closed elsewhere.

How can we make sense of these conflicting realities when European citizens are all equally affected by the virus? How do we achieve the same aim: the containment of the disease in a shared continent, supposedly without borders, with such a range of different policies?

For the vast majority of European citizens this emergency comes as close to an experience of war as they are likely to have. And as huge numbers of them look to the EU for protection and joint solutions, Brussels looks helpless.

Ursula von der Leyen, the European commission president, delivered a reprimand to member governments for their failure to pull together during the latest summit. Too many, she said, had selfishly “looked out for themselves”, restricting exports of medical supplies to other EU countries and closing borders.

The EU itself can’t do much about a pandemic. It can’t close schools, suspend football matches or lock down European cities. It can’t even close borders to curb the spread of the virus. Only its member governments can. And closing borders is what some governments have done – against WHO advice – suspending the Schengen passport-free travel zone for the first time.

What the EU can do is to mitigate the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic, by offering its countries flexibility over EU deficit and state aid rules. Indeed, that’s what it has done: in addition to a €37bn (£33.7bn) investment fund to counter the effects of Covid-19 on the economy across the continent, it has launched a joint procurement operation covering, ventilators, masks and other vital medical equipment needed across the continent. EU leaders are also setting up a new permanent European crisis management centre.

Yet there is more EU governments could do jointly to reassure their 500 million citizens at a time when their common destiny as a community has never looked so real.

Despite the inherent limits of the union, the 27 EU health ministers could decide – on a voluntary basis – to pool their sovereign emergency powers. They could start coordinating – not necessarily harmonising – on data collection (currently there are three different sources), testing (there is no single approach nor central database), as well as containment, quarantine and social distancing . The most obvious benefit of such an EU-wide methodological effort would be to render national comparisons suddenly meaningful.

The other useful step would be to stop thinking purely in terms of the unitary state and instead think regionally. As the coronavirus outbreak concentrates in regions and infections don’t spread equally within each country’s territory, health containment measures would no longer be designed along jurisdictional lines but regional ones.

This would work even when regional boundaries cut across national borders, such as the whole Basque territory, which crosses the Franco-Spanish border. Measures devised at this level would inherently be more tailored to the local circumstances, proportionate to the declared goals, and potentially better at preserving freedoms for the affected populations.

A regional approach would also have the merit of fostering healthcare cooperation and solidarity across the territory of the union. It is happening already in a small-scale way: hospitals in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, are treating critically ill coronavirus patients from the neighbouring Alsace region in France, which is struggling to cope. And a small number of Covid-19 patients from Bergamo in Italy have been transferred to Leipzig after authorities in Saxony stepped in to help.

Given the different timing of the spread of the virus, a cross-border approach to hospital treatment could represent a game-changer. A coordinated EU-wide response would help to close the gap between the politics of the pandemic at national level and the harsh health realities on the ground.

But there is more.

The lack of a coherent EU-wide response to the pandemic is undermining one of the most extraordinary achievements of EU cooperation: the Schengen area has allowed people to move about freely without passports since the mid-1990s.

But border controls have now been brought back by 12 of the 26 countries in the system. Although these controls offer no major health gain — but rather slow the free movement of key workers and supplies that might be urgently needed in this emergency — they are inevitable when member states lack any coordinated containment action plan.

A coordinated EU-wide response would make these border restrictions unnecessary. What is more, containment measures would have more impact if they were the result of shared expert advice, shared perspectives and a much broader public debate than they currently receive in individual states.

Most of the measures precipitously implemented at national level are exceptionally restrictive of individual and collective freedoms. As emergency powers are deployed daily to govern the coronavirus pandemic across the continent, there’s a real risk that their exercise may be used to erode not only free movement rights, but also civil rights, and ultimately democracy.

The EU – as an ultimate guarantor of the rule of law – should not only oversee but also prevent these many repressive measures from infringing citizens’ civil liberties, or, as in the case of Hungary, weakening institutions, under the auspices of tackling the corona crisis.

Ultimately, the European handling of Covid-19 has revealed an uncomfortable truth. Given the high level of socio-economic interdependence in Europe, nation-state solutions can do more harm than good, by offering an illusion of security and safety.

It does not have to be this way. As each national approach against Covid-19 entails different trade-offs, and those spill over to other countries, there is a moral — albeit not yet legal — argument for our national leaders to work together within the European Union to coordinate their public health interventions as a matter of urgency and to do so within the law.

This ongoing health emergency is a rare chance to demonstrate that the EU not only matters, but can also protect us, both from the virus and from our respective governments.

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Let’s prove the EU is a true community with a shared future! – VoxEurop (English)

In this open call, a group of academics, politicians, professionals and European citizens are asking the EU institutions and Member States for a series of urgent measures to address the current coronavirus pandemic at the European level.

We, as European citizens, understand that Covid-19 is a common threat, that may hurt one country sooner than another, but will eventually hurt us all, and can impact our daily life and economy almost like a war.

We, as European citizens, are worried and scared by this threat; and even more by the cacophony, selfishness and self-destructive short-sightedness of the different, un-coordinated national responses; by the lack of foresight of our national leaders, who pretend not to know that our interdependence requires a single European answer with strict containment measures of the pandemics, and an EU-wide plan to re-start the European economy afterwards.

We, as European citizens, denounce that the current EU is an incomplete Res Publica, thus ill-equipped to face this challenge, with little competences and powers to face the pandemics. We welcome the timely decision by the Commission to provide 25 billion euro and financial flexibility to cope with this threat.

Maybe it’s the most it can do, but it is not enough.

We call upon the European Commission and Parliament to propose, and on the national governments to adopt (starting with the Eurogroup meeting of March 16, and a following extraordinary European Council to be called soon after) the following urgent measures, also using the Lisbon Treaty passerelle clause and simplified Treaty revision provisions:

  1. Make public health and contrast to epidemics a concurrent competence of the EU, subject to the ordinary legislative procedure, and provide the Commission with extraordinary powers to coordinate the response to the epidemics, as a federal government should do.

  2. Enlarge the scope of the European Stability Mechanism to finance the immediate strengthening of the European and national health systems to cope with the pandemics, which threatens the lives of European citizens, and thus also the economic and financial stability of the EU.

  3. Abolish the compulsory balanced budget provision for the EU and create a EU Safe Asset to be issued to finance an EU-wide plan to promote the EU economic recovery and social cohesion during and after the emergency.

  4. Move fiscal issues to the ordinary legislative procedure and provide the EU with fiscal powers to adopt new own resources – such as the carbon tax (and carbon tariffs), the digital tax, the financial transaction tax – to finance the EU budget (or the Euro-area Budgetary Instrument, if the decision could be reached only at the Euro-area level).

  5. Immediately approve the next Multiannual Financial Framework increasing the budget to at least 1,3% of the EU GDP, as requested by the European Parliament, on the basis of the current structure of the budget financing; and with the provision to reach 2% with the new own resources, to ensure the provision of crucial EU-wide public goods.

  6. Turn the planned Conference on the future of Europe into a fully-fledged European Convention to draft a new Constitutional Pact among the EU citizens and Member states.

We, as European citizens, believe this is the defining hour for the EU. Social perception of the EU will be shaped for years by its response to this crisis. This is the time to prove the EU is a community of values with a shared destiny, the life-line for its citizens and member states in the face of a turbulent global world with political, economic and health threats. It’s time for bold common steps to overcome fear. It’s time for European unity, not for national division.

All citizens are invited to sign this Appeal, available in several languages here. It was promoted by philosophers Roberto Castaldi and Daniel Innerarity, and signed by over 400 personalities from academia, civil society, business community, institutions from all over the EU, and even from countries still outside it.

Among the signatories are some of the most prominent European academics of their fields, relevant figures from civil society, many of whom had relevant roles in institutions, including former President of the European Parliament, EU Commissioners, national ministers, central bankers, members of the European and National Parliaments, etc. Here is a provisional list:

Gian-Paolo Accardo, journalist, co-founder of Voxeurop; Alberto Alemanno, École des Hautes Études Commerciales (HEC) Paris; Founder and Director, the Good Lobby; Catherine André, journalist, co-founder of Voxeurop; Daniele Archibugi, Acting Director, IRPPS – Italian National Research Council; Enrique Baron Crespo, Chair Jean Monnet ad personam, Former President European Parliament;Brando Benifei, Member of the European Parliament, Head of the Italian delegation in the Socialist and Democrat Group, Board of the Spinelli Group; Vítor Bento, Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas Universidade de Lisboa; former Director of the Foreign Department of the Portuguese Central Bank; former General Director of Treasury, President of Junta de Crédito Público and member of the European Monetary Committe; Tito Boeri, President Triennale di Milano; Full professor Urbanistica Politecnico di Milano; Pierre Brunet, Directeur du Département des Masters de Droit public de l’Ecole de droit de la Sorbonne; Maria Chiara Carrozza, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna di Pisa, former Rector, former Italian Minister of Education, University and Research; Innocenzo Cipolletta, President Assonime, former director general of Confindustria (Association of Italian Business); Carlos Closa, European University Institute, former Director of the European, Transnational and Global Governance research area; former Deputy Director at the Centre for Political and Constitutional Studies (CEPC) in Madrid, and member of the Venice Commission for Democracy through Law of the Council of Europe; Anna Diamantopoulou, President To Diktio, former Greek Minister and European Commissioner; Rafał Dymek, President Polska Fundacja Robert Schuman; Sergio Fabbrini, Director School of Government at Luiss University; Piero Fassino, President Centro Studi di Politica Internazionale, Vice President Foreign Affairs Committe of the Chamber of Deputies in Italy; Elsa Fornero, University of Turin, Scientific Coordinator of CeRP – Collegio Carlo Alberto, Vice President of SHARE and Research Fellow of IZA and Netspar, Former Italian Minister of Labour and Social Policies; John Erik Fossum, Arena Center for European Studies, Oslo Mahmoud Gebril, former Prime Minister of Lybia; Sandro Gozi, Member of the European Parliament, President of the Union of European Federalists, former Under- secretary of state for European Policies; Aldo Kaslowski, Chairman of Organik holding, former Vice-President of Tusiad (Association of Turkish Business); Guillaume Klossa, writer, founder of EuropaNova and Civico Europa, Sherpa to the reflection group on the future of Europe 2020-2030, former Director at the European Broadcasting Union; Anna Krasteva, New Bulgarian University and CERMES, editor-in-chief of Journal Southeastern Europe; Peter Jambrek, President of the New University, Slovenia; Cristophe Leclercq, Founder of Euractiv Network, President of Euractiv Foundation; Jo Leinen, Former MEP, former President of the Spinelli Group, the European Movement International, the Union of European Federalists; Francesca Longo, President Società Italiana di Scienza Politica; Paolo Magri, Director Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionali (ISPI); Sylwia Majkowska-Szulc, University of Gdańsk, Secretary of the Board of the Polish Association of European Law; Fabio Masini, University of Rome 3, Co-director International Centre for European and Global Governance (CesUE); Giovanni Moro, Chairman of Cittandinanza Attiva; Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, President Istituto Affari Internazionali, former European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship; Kalypso Nicolaidis, Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford; Claus Offe, Hertie School of Governance in Berlin; Gianfranco Pasquino, University of Bologna, Johns Hopkins Bologna Center and Fellow of the Accademia dei Lincei; Otto Pfersfmann, Directeur d’Etudes Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales / Lier-FYT Paris; Mikolaj Pietrzak, Dean of the Warsaw Bar Association of Advocates; Gaetano Quagliarello, Luiss University, Senator; Dimitrij Rupel, Nova univerza Ljubljana; former Foreign Minister of Slovenia (1990-1993, 2000-2008); Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and a Member of its Committee on Global Thought, which she chaired till 2015; Giuseppe Scognamiglio, Chairman East-West European Institute; Richard Sennett, OBE FBA; Visiting Professor, The Senseable Cities Lab, MIT; Chair, Council on Urban Initiatives, United Nations Habitat, Chair, Theatrum Mundi; Enzo Siviero, Rector eCampus University, Architect; Arnaud Thysen, Director European Business Summit; Nathalie Tocci, Director Istituto Affari Internazionali, former Advisor to VP/HR Federica Mogherini; Nadia Urbinati, Columbia University; Livio Vanghetti, Executive Vice President of Philip Morris; Anna Wessely, ELTE University of Budapest, President of the Hungarian Sociological Association, Editor-in-chief of BUKSZ – The Budapest Review of Books; Vladimiro Zagrebelski, Carlo Alberto College in Turin, former Judge of the European Court of Human Rights; Bénédicte Zimmermann, Directrice d’études at the EHESS Paris

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Europe’s deadliest tracks – VoxEurop (English)

Greece holds the lead in the EU in death and injuries in rail accidents ranking. Part of that is because of the the reduction in maintenance as a result of the austerity plans that followed the debt crisis of the 2010s.

Lianokladi Station, a morning in mid-December 2013. The train driver K.G. (MIIR has access to his details) has just boarded the engine of Intercity train 53, which is carrying 120 passengers, and is about to complete the rest of the route from Thessaloniki to Athens. Shortly after 10.30 am, the train, which was heading towards Bralos Fthiotidas, passes the station of Asopos, where right afterwards it is expected to make a sharp turn left before the railway bridge of Papadia. Then, the driver suddenly sees two large animals standing on the tracks only a few meters ahead of him and tries – in vain – to immobilize the train. The train collides with one of them, which causes the engine and one of the cars to being derailed. As a result, a passenger and the driver himself get slightly injured. In this case, the damage was mainly material, affecting the train and infrastructure, and a fence was placed around the dangerous spot after this event. If this had been actioned earlier, they might had been able to avoid the derailment.

This accident is only one of the hundreds that are affecting the Greek railway system. Unfortunately, not all of them are bloodless like this one. Despite sporadic, reflective media coverage, particularly when there is a major accident such as the derailment near the village Adendro (Thessaloniki regional unit) in May 2017 where three people were killed and six heavily injured, there has been no comprehensive examination of the Greek railway accidents. This raises many questions, especially considering that research carried out by the Mediterranean Institute for Investigative Reporting (MIIR) and the analysis of available European and Greek data has shown that railway accidents are extremely frequent in Greece and have led to 137 deaths and 97 people being severely injured between 2010 and 2018. Greece has thus consistently found itself amongst the most dangerous countries in the European Union as well as the countries with the highest rates of injuries and deaths.

A bloody first

MIIR relied on data from the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) and the safety reports of the Greek Regulatory Authority for Railways (RAS), which developed a Recording and Monitoring System for Rail Events according to the EU Regulation 1077/2012 in order to draw conclusions about rail network safety. This database is used to amass data from the analysis of the findings upheld by the Event and Accident Research Committee of the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) after each railway accident. The information collected is considered fully valid and reliable.

According to the most recent data (2018), Greece ranks first in EU with regards to the number of deaths from rail accidents in proportion to the kilometers travelled by local trains during that year. This is considered a valid and reliable safety indicator, as it gives a representative picture of mortality levels that allows for comparisons between countries of different sizes. Suicides are not included, because they constitute a separate category. The vertical axis shows the rate which derives from the total number of deaths to the km travelled by trains.

Moreover, Greece takes second place among EU countries when it comes to the number of injuries caused by rail accidents in proportion to the kilometers that trains have travelled this specific year.

In 2018, the number of deaths and injuries has increased to an alarming degree. According to the 2018 Railway Regulatory Authority’s Annual Safety Report, this is due to immigrants, who “constitute the main problem of Greek railways” since “they do not know the language, cannot understand the warning signs and thus do not follow the safety rules” and, in their attempt to reach the borders, they “move along railway tracks or find refuge in railway facilities, which leads to many accidents”.

Although the problem is undoubtedly real and needs to be addressed, especially since a large part of the network’s rails remain exposed, the data analysis shows that assuming that the immigrant flow towards the Greek borders constitutes the main railway issue is – at least – an overly simplified interpretation of the matter at hand. Greece finds itself consistently in the top positions of risk rates, taking second place in deaths per (train)km in 2012, the second in 2010, and repeatedly in the top positions in the remaining years, both time periods when the migration flow was not as high as nowadays. The vertical axis shows the rate which derives from the total number of deaths to the km travelled by trains.

We raised this issue with the chairwoman of the Railway Regulatory Authority (RAS) Mrs. Ioanna Tsiaparikou, who admitted that “in 2018 the highest death toll is indeed due to the immigration problem, since 9 out of 17 deaths happen to be immigrants. This is an important variable regarding the accidents, but not the main one.” According to her, “the vast number of level crossings is probably the most crucial factor behind railway accidents, especially when one takes into account the length of our [Greece’s] network. This is when most deaths are recorded; not in fatal accidents caused by derailments or train collisions. In Europe, of course, the opposite is happening.”

Level crossings made of wood and soil 

Level crossings are one of the most prominent problems of the Greek railways. Their number is considerable high, which makes them a consistent element in reports concerning accidents. In fact, in urban areas the problem is more pronounced, as residents intervene arbitrarily and create improvised crossings, according to the special report “Event Recording and Monitoring System in the National Rail Network” by RAS (November 2018).  This point is seconded by OSE driver and chairman of the Panhellenic Association of Traction Employees, Kostas Genidounias, who suggested that “there are dangerous level crossing in provincial areas, where farmers, mayors or representatives of the local government drop dirt and flatten it out to create a level crossing in the middle of nowhere because someone needs to cross over to get to their fields. The most striking example, though, is in Gazi, Athens. In an area that runs on 25kV because there are bars and cafes, there are three level crossings for pedestrians across a line where trains pass every 10 minutes. 

This is close to the metro station Kerameikos heading towards Rouf, another Athenian neighborhood. Two out of three were created by the municipality administration, whereas the other one by the local residents. The first crossing, at the metro station exit, is a wooden structure that allows – often inebriated – pedestrians to cross the railway tracks. After 30 meters, there is a second pedestrian crossing. It is surrounded by bars and cafes, so a wooden ramp was placed there to allow easy access to these. It’s completely terrifying for drivers to go through this part of the route after 8-9 pm and, unfortunately, there have been a lot of accidents at both points. The third one is located right before the nearby Rosiniol bridge, where local residents have cut through the barbed wire with disastrous results. It is unacceptable that there have been no attempts to replace these crossings with an overpass, a proper pedestrian crossing. We raised this issue with OSE but without much luck – the cafes are still winning this battle. As a result, many pedestrians have lost their lives here over the last few years.”

According to the data from the ERA’s “Railway Safety in the EU – Safety Overview 2017”, there are 31 unprotected (“passive”) level crossings per 100 km of railway in Greece, whereas in the European Union the average is 23. When it comes to crossings with an active warning system, which could be either a guard room or an electronic barrier, these numbers drop to 34 for Greece and to 26 for the EU. Overall, Greece had 1,263 level crossings in 2018, out of which 45% are passive. The small decrease shown in the chart below is because level crossings that have been temporarily suspended are no longer taken into account.

In addition, Greece comes second in the EU when it comes to the serious injuries incurred at level crossings in proportion to the kilometers travelled.

Greece also holds the sad lead in the death toll from rail accidents that have happened at level crossings in proportion to the kilometers travelled by trains among the EU countries.

Speaking on RAS’ behalf, its chairwoman Mrs. Ioanna Tsiaparikou suggested that there is a need to “introduce a committee that will streamline the existence of level crossings in order to reduce their numbers as much as possible. They would also need to fence the railway lines to stop pedestrians from crossing them. For example, the newly launched high-speed lines, such as the one connecting the villages Tithorea and Domokos, are fenced-in with no level crossings and thus expected to contribute significantly towards the solution of this problem. Educating the population to be careful at level crossings is another important prevention measure and that is why we have already taken action. With the permission of the Ministry of Education and in cooperation with the OSE, we have kicked off a program that educates primary and high school students about safety when it comes to crossings, electrification systems and railways. More than 10,000 children have taken part in this program and we will continue”.

We reached out to Konstantinos Spiliopoulos, the current chairman of OSE, to inquire about more specific information. He suggested that he was hard-pressed for time due to his excessive workload and avoided making any comments.

Pedestrian accidents and derailments

However, level crossings are not the only hazard in the Greek railway network. According to RAS data, the most common cause of accidents and deaths within the Greek railway network are pedestrian collisions, a phenomenon that has increased significantly in recent years. Accidents at level crossings rank second, whereas the third most frequent cause are derailments. The primary cause for derailments is the poor state of the infrastructure as well as the traffic mismanagement. Both derive from the non-functioning of it signaling and automatization system (link to the first part of the research).

These accidents have taken a heavy toll. From 2010 to 2018, there have been 137 deaths and 97 serious injuries in railway incidents in Greece. Every year from 2010 to 2018, an average of more than 15 people lost their lives and more than 11 get injured.

The underlying causes for the accidents

What is the accident causes that consistently make Greece one of the first countries in railway deaths and injuries amongst its EU counterparts? Between 2015 and 2017, 13 accidents were caused by infrastructure issues such as rails and switches, 7 by rolling stock issues affecting the wheels and/or braking systems, 24 by rail traffic management problems, 5 by natural causes and in 97 cases the cause was “internal”, i.e. incidents involving drivers, pedestrians, vandalism and other categories. 

The failure to complete basic infrastructure work aggravates the situation 

The sole provider of passenger and freight rail services in Greece is TRAINOSE AE, which was state-owned until 2017, when it was acquired by the Italian railway company Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane Group (FSI) for 45 million euros.

According to their website, TRAINOSE carried a total of 15.6 million passengers in 2016, of which 10.1 million made use of suburban lines and 5.5 million of the national network. They also carried an estimated 1.1. million tons of freight.

The CEO of TRAINOSE in Greece, Mr. Philippos Tsalidis pointed out that “the state of the rail network is perhaps the main constraint when it comes to ensuring the smooth operation of railway transport services offered by TRAINOSE. And  this is caused mainly by the non-completion of basic infrastructure works, such as the telecommand and signaling system.”

As far as the derailments are concerned, in 2017 RAS argued that TRAINOSE needs to put a stop to the phenomenon of trains exceeding speed limits. When we asked Mr. Tsalidis regarding the initiatives that TRAINOSE is taking to reduce the number of accidents, he replied that for the Italian company “safety is at the core of its operations, taking into account all the standards and regulations designated by the relevant institutions”. 

Light rail traffic acts as a safety net 

Given that the Greek railway network is not particularly dense, one might wonder how many accidents would take place if train services were as frequent as in other European countries. According to train driver Mr. K. Genidounias, “there are 7 trains in total traveling between Athens and Thessaloniki, i.e. no frequent traffic that could increase the risk of accidents”. He points out that “one train departs at 5 pm and the other at 7 pm. In other words, traffic is fairly light, and this allows for fewer accidents to happen”.

These claims are further supported by data. In terms of passenger-kilometers, the unit of measurement representing the transport of one passenger over one kilometer, Greece ranks 22nd in the EU, eighth from the end when it comes to the passenger-kilometers covered in 2018. Overall, passenger-kilometers are have also steadily decreased from 1,930 million in 2007 to 1,104 million in 2018. This downward movement in the use of the Greek railway and its small sizes are further highlighted by the cumulative number of train-kilometers, i.e. the distance travelled by trains of all types, which dropped from 19,905 million in 2007 to 11,009 million in 2018. It is worth noting that, according to ELSTAT data and the latest RAS report, the total length of railway lines that are in use in 2018 decreased by 264 km since 1938, going from to 2,557 km in 1938 down to 2,293 km in 2018.

Employees working beyond their capacities

The shunter at the Dhekelia railway station and chairman of the Panhellenic Federation of Railway, Mr. Panagiotis Paraskevopoulos seems to be in agreement with his colleague and chairman of the Panhellenic Association of Traction Employees Mr. Genidounias. He claimed that “maintenance is equally important to accident prevention, because the 15-17 million euros that OSE receives annually barely suffice to carry out maintenance works. Throughout the financial crisis it has been confined to superficial repairs. Proper funding which would allow for proper maintenance is required”.

Mr. Paraskevopoulos focuses on the severe shortages in railway staff, which essentially increases the likelihood of human error. “Mistakes in operating technology”, he says, “can also lead to accidents. It’s always possible. Machines break down, pieces of equipment are lost. We are human and thus prone to mistakes. I am not saying this as an excuse, but Greek railways are facing an acute shortage of staff. As a result, people, especially drivers, are often forced to work too many days per month and considerably more hours than what is prescribed by labor law. To give you an example, there is a schedule for working hours which covers the area from Livadia (a town in central Greece) to Piraeus and from Kiato (in the Peloponnese) to Athens Airport and which would normally require 75 shunters to run properly. This would assume breaks for rest and annual leaves. Right now, there 47 employees, myself included, who are working to cover the workload for 75. Breaks are rare. From 1/1/2021 this number would go down to 27. Even if we were to break into three pieces each, there is no way that we can meet all necessary requirements without reinforcements”.

The very large and consistent number of underage casualties is shocking. They are caused mainly by electric shocks from the overhead lines at stationary vehicles within railway facilities. Nine minors have lost their lives since 2010; seven in the three years from 2014 to 2017, as they were electrocuted by contact lines after climbing on parked vehicles which was left unattended outside the designated area.

It is worth noting that these deaths of minors have not been included in the annual safety reports send by RAS together with OSE to the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA), as the trains were not in motion and the deaths are not considered “railway accidents”. OSE responded, albeit with a delay, to these accidents that showcase the poor organization of Greek railways, by putting up warning signs about high voltage at train stations, especially where there have been cars parked for longer periods under contact lines, and by launching, in cooperation with RAS, an educational program for schools that aims at the prevention of railway accidents (especially in the prefecture of Larissa). At the same time, GAIOCE, the property management company for the railway network and rolling stock of OSE proceeded with gradually moving these cars in safer areas.

However, the problem cannot be resolved so easily, because over the last few decades OSE has accumulated vast quantities of so-called useless railway rolling stock that needs to be “retired” but has piled up in different railway facilities throughout Greece. We ask GAIOSE representatives about the safekeeping of the railway rolling stock and they replied that “the parked cars are protected, as in they are surrounded by a fence and so on. If someone climbs over this fence, which is often the case, we’re talking about a different situation”.

An ongoing problem

Greece consistently scores very poorly in railway safety, staying well behind the European average. The high injury and death rates vs. its train-kilometers as well as the more or less consolidated number of dead and injured people despite the extravagant amounts of money spent on railway safety and the small, ever-shrinking size of its network clearly indicate that this is not a temporary but a structural issue. This calls for a decisive and innovative intervention.

“We’re moving towards a modernization of the network, which should lead to effective solutions”, suggests Mrs. Tsiaparikou. “Infrastructure issues will be resolved thanks to the new modern lines on the Patras-Athens-Thessaloniki-Idomeni axis, which include fewer to no crossings and the longest parts of the line are fenced-in. At the same time, we would need to speed up contractor work and fully implement the modern signaling and telecommand system, the European Railway Traffic Management System ERTMS, which will improve safety conditions. To put it simply, when there is centralized management, one can remotely stop a train at any time and prevent overspeed. Greece is facing a plethora of problems, mainly because everything is done manually and there are no automated systems.”

Until these problems are resolved, one thing’s for certain: Greek citizens, tourists and immigrants are going to continue to pay through the nose for one of the most dangerous railway networks in Europe.

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Les Ferdinand: English football’s only black technical director says he must be a success to open doors for others

QPR director of football Les Ferdinand says he agrees with Ian Wright’s claim that he must be a success in order for more black professionals to be given boardroom roles in English football.

Ferdinand, who has been in the job since February 2015, is currently the only black technical director in English professional football.

Discussing the lack of BAME representation on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs programme earlier this month, former Arsenal man Wright said: “Les, being one of the few, has to be successful. If he doesn’t make a success of it, you’re not going to be able to get the next one through the door.”

“They’re interesting comments,” Ferdinand told Standard Sport. “I’ve just been on a talent ID course with the FA – I was in a room full of directors of football who had gone from one club to another, and I’m being told that if I’m not a success here I’m not going to get another opportunity.

“It doesn’t make much sense in this day and age but that’s probably the reality that Ian and others are seeing. Probably myself, as well, because I’m thinking, ‘If I leave here, where do I go? Who’s going to give me another opportunity?’

Les Ferdinand Photo: Getty Images

“So he’s probably right, and I know he’s talking about if I make a success of it, there’ll be a pathway for others.”

In an interview with Standard Sport earlier this year, Ferdinand revealed he had been racially abused by QPR fans while working in his current post.

The 53-year-old welcomes the idea of a Premier League players’ taskforce, put forward by Raheem Sterling, to lead the fight on racism in football from the front line, but insists the authorities must be prepared to act upon its recommendations if it is to make a significant difference.

“If it’s a taskforce that people are listening to, because let’s get this right, this kind of thing has been spoken about for a long time,” he added. “From the day I became a professional footballer we’ve been talking about this and we’re still here in 2020 talking about it.

“It all depends what this taskforce brings to the table and who’s going to be listening to them. It’s okay starting up these groups but it’s the people who really influence decision making.

England and Manchester City star Raheem Sterling Photo: Getty Images

“If you’re in an establishment and you’ve never been racially abused, don’t understand racism, then you do not know what to do about it.

“I try to understand it from that perspective as well, and not just be ‘oh, these people don’t know what they’re doing’ – they don’t. Because they’ve never been racially abused so they don’t know how to hand out the right punishments when these situations occur.”

While football still has a long way to go in tackling its racism problem, Ferdinand has seen first-hand the positive role the sport has played in raising awareness over men’s health issues.

The former England striker is once against supporting Prostate Cancer UK’s ‘Football to Amsterdam’ initiative, having taken part in the annual charity bike ride himself back in 2017.

“Getting out of what I’d call West Ham territory was quite difficult” he recalled. “A few comments coming out of vans. But once you got out into the countryside it was, apart from the weather quite a pleasant ride.

“I can’t remember how many riders there were, all sharing the same common goal. Of course, there were some people out there who thought it was the Tour de France but for the most part we all had a real good laugh and a good time.

“People realise that in the past this macho game of football has stopped people from coming forward. Now that people are coming forward it’s saving lives if it’s caught early enough.”

Les Ferdinand is supporting the Football to Amsterdam 2020 bike ride in aid of Prostate Cancer UK. For more information go to

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Change is happening now in Europe – VoxEurop (English)

Key climate hazards are already affecting Europe and will increasingly do so, a series of maps published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) reveals.

Impacts, calculated through different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios and climate models, can only be reduced by keeping the global temperature increase well below 2°C as the Paris Agreement requires.

“Climate change is happening now and will get more serious in the future, even if global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions prove effective,” the EEA says. “However, the impacts will be much less severe if efforts to reduce emissions are successful […] Any higher emissions scenario would lead to considerably greater climate change.”

In particular, the EEA maps show scenarios based on escalating droughts, food insecurity, heavy rain, flash floods, forest fires and sea level rise – all interconnected.

Most of Europe experienced more droughts, both meteorological and hydrological, over the 21st century. The largest future increase is projected for southern Europe, “where competition between water users such as agriculture, industry, tourism and households will increase” and cause significant farm losses.


Indeed, among others, this issue is linked to changes in the agriculture sector. While food security is not currently at risk, “cascading impacts of climate change from outside Europe may further affect agricultural income and price levels in Europe through changes in trade patterns,” explains the EEA. As farmer’s incomes are further influenced by the policies in place, they can protect themselves, for instance, adapting crop varieties, changing sowing dates and improving irrigation.


On the other hand, a higher intensity of rain in most parts of Europe would, in turn, increase the risk of floods. Central and eastern Europe may see increases in heavy rain of up to 35%, followed by Southern Europe at 25%.


As for forest fires, unprecedented in several European countries, the danger coincided with record droughts and heatwaves in 2017 and 2018. The projected increase in Southern Europe is about 30-40% even for a low emissions scenario, but improved prevention and effective fire suppression can help.


Finally, all coastal regions in Europe have experienced an increase in absolute sea level and most regions have experienced one in sea level relative to land. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the ocean and cryosphere projected a rise in sea level between 0.29m and 1.10m over the 21st century. Areas in danger include the coasts of Belgium, Netherlands, north-west Germany, Denmark, southern Sweden, southern and western France and north-east Italy with Venice.




All in all, global warming is leading to adverse impacts on all aspects of the European society. That’s why tailored adaptation measures have to be prioritised. “Minimising the risks from global climate change requires targeted actions to adapt to the impacts of climate change, in addition to actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,”  the EEA suggests.

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How will the new visa-free European travel system work – VoxEurop (English)

Set to enter into force next year, the ETIAS scheme aims at speeding up traveling authorisation for travellers from countries which do not require a visa. In this regard, it looks pretty much like the US ESTA. But there is still some confusion on how it works, so here we have a closer look at it.

Ever since the European Union first announced that it was planning to create a new travel system in a bid to enhance security and improve border management, speculations on this system have been of every kind and travelers across the globe have started getting a bit worried about it.

While a new requirement to Europe may seem a bit scary, it actually is not as complex and difficult as it seems. ETIAS is, in fact, set to make traveling safer for everyone, and will apply as a requirement only to the nationals of countries traveling visa-free to the Schengen Area. 

While many have attempted to clarify what the ETIAS actually is, most travelers remain either confused or uninformed about it. Following, we have tried to briefly but clearly and simply explain what ETIAS is all about, how travelers will be affected, and who and how will benefit from it. 

What is ETIAS?

The ETIAS abbreviation stands for the European Travel Information and Authorization System. It is a new EU scheme through which nationals of several world countries planning to travel to the Schengen Area will have to apply for and obtain through it a travel authorization named the same – ETIAS – soon in the future.

The system, which will become operational by January 2021, is completely electronical and resembles to schemes operated by other countries as the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) or the Canadian Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).

It is not a visa, as many have been confused into believing it is, but rather a single document that one can easily apply within minutes, from the comfort of their own home. 

How Does ETIAS Serve to the EU?

Once the ETIAS starts operating, every person planning to travel to the Schengen Area visa-free will have to apply for it online well in advance of their trip.

Each application will undergo detailed security checks before a final decision is given whether the traveler should be permitted to enter the zone or not. The ETIAS system will detect all persons that may pose a threat to the security of the EU and non-EU Schengen Member States, and reject them.

This way the European Union will know who is planning to cross its borders, and prevent from entering those that could disturb the safety of its citizens and other travelers. 

This system will continuously gather, keep track of, and update necessary information regarding visitors. It will also help the EU authorities to improve management of the external borders, make irregular migration more difficult, assist in the detection and decrease of crime and terrorism, therefore reinforcing the visa liberalization policy of the EU at the same time. 

Who Will Need ETIAS?

So far, it is foreseen that the nationals of over 60 world countries that currently have a short-term visa-free travel regime with the EU, will soon need to apply for an ETIAS before taking a trip to any of the Schengen member countries. 

These countries are: Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Macao, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Taiwan, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vatican City, and Venezuela.

Which Countries Can a Traveler Enter with an ETIAS

Those holding a valid ETIAS will be eligible to enter the 26 Schengen member countries, 22 of which are EU member states, which until the enforcement of this system are permitted to enter visa-free. 

The Schengen member countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Getting an ETIAS – Application Procedures Explained 

The European Union has announced that the procedures to get an ETIAS will be simple and quick, as its purpose is not to make traveling to the Schengen Area more difficult, but to facilitate it and make it safer for every visitor. 

Soon, the European Union will launch a website from which applicants can complete the application form. It is estimated that filling out an ETIAS application will take about 10 minutes.

Applicants will need to provide the following information:

  • Full name

  • Date & place of birth

  • Citizenship

  • Address, email and phone number

  • Education and work experience

  • First EU country the applicant intends to visit in his/her first visit to the Schengen Area

In addition, there will also be background and eligibility questions on applicant’s medical condition, police records, possible trips to conflict zones, and other similar questions, which the European Union has not yet revealed.

How much will ETIAS cost?

As for now, it is foreseen that one ETIAS application will cost €7, while all those under the age of 18 at the time of application will be exempt from paying the fee. No additional service fees will be implemented. 

ETIAS Processing Period

Once the applicant gives in all the information required and pays the ETIAS fee, he/she can submit the application by clicking on the ‘submit’ button (or another similar button that will be given). The system will then check if the given information was correct, the eligibility and risk factors of the applicant.

The processing of each application is expected to take about four days, however, in specific circumstances when the ETIAS system needs to consult other EU schemes in an application may take up to two weeks to be processed.

Each traveler will receive the answer on their application through their email. Those that are granted with an ETIAS will receive the document in their email as well, in the form of an A4 document. This document must be printed and carried when traveling to the Schengen Area. 

Validity of an ETIAS

An approved ETIAS will be valid for a period of three years, starting from the date of issuance. If the passport of the traveler expires before the validity of an ETIAS ends, the document becomes invalid at that time as well.

Rules of Traveling with an ETIAS

Rules of traveling with an ETIAS to the Schengen Area, will remain the same as the current rules of visa-free travel to this territory. This includes:

  • Travelers holding an ETIAS can remain in Europe for a maximum of 90 days within every six months. 

  • Travelers must have a valid passport, with at least three more months of validity left beyond the date of intended departure from the Schengen Area. Those holding passports older than ten years, even if they have enough validity left, will not be able to get an ETIAS in first place. 

  • Visitors will still be obligated to hold EU Travel Insurance in order to be permitted to enter from any EU port of entry.

  • Holders of ETIAS, will be able to perform only unpaid activity in the Schengen Area, as tourism, medical checkup or short-term study. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What documents are required to apply for an ETIAS?

While completing the form, the applicant will only need a passport valid for at least six more months beyond the date of the intended stay in the Schengen Area, but not older than ten years.

Can an ETIAS be rejected?

Yes, an ETIAS can be rejected to any applicant for several different reasons. The system could have detected the applicant gave incorrect or false information, was seen as a suspicious or a possible threat to the safety of the EU.

When an applicant receives a negative answer on their application, they will also receive the reason why they were rejected from getting an ETIAS. 

What then?

Those getting a negative decision on an ETIAS application can appeal the decision if they think it was unjust or taken by mistake. 

However, if the reason for the rejection of an ETIAS application is correct and justifiable the applicant should apply for a regular Schengen Visa instead. 

How many times can a traveler enter the EU with an ETIAS?

A traveler can use the ETIAS to visit the European countries in which it is admissible, as soon as the ETIAS is valid, and the traveler does not overstay by violating the 90-days-within-six-months rule. 

Do travelers with a Schengen Visa need ETIAS?

The ETIAS will be mandatory only for visitors from countries that right now can travel to the Schengen Area visa-free. Which means if a person possesses a Schengen visa right now, he or she does not fall under this category, and therefore is not obligated nor eligible for an ETIAS. 

Do those holding long-term visa from one of the Member States need ETIAS?

As a long-term visa/residence permit issued by one of the EU member states permits its holder to travel throughout the whole Schengen Area without the need of getting additional travel permits, ETIAS will not be required from them. 

Do babies and children need ETIAS?

Yes, babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, and adults, will all need to get an ETIAS in order to visit the EU. Children under the age of 18, will however be exempt from paying the fee. Their parents will need to complete the online application form for them. 

What are the differences between an ETIAS and a Schengen Visa?

In essence, they are both permits to enter the Schengen Area. However, it’s the procedures and fees that make all the difference.

While the application process for an ETIAS is completed within 10 minutes, with no documents but a passport required, the process to get a Schengen visa is way more complicated. There are quite e lot of documents required, depending on applicant’s purpose of the visit, including health insurance, proof of accommodation and sufficient financial means. 

In addition, Schengen visa applicants are also required to make an appointment and attend a visa interview, while paying a visa fee of €60, which by February 2020 will increase to €80. 

The processing of an ETIAS is foreseen to take about four days while the processing of a Schengen visa takes 15 business days, in general.

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Tomorrow’s world – VoxEurop (English)

Europe goes – eventually – green: some good news for starting the year. Cofounder Catherine André’s editorial.

Screen-Shot-2020-01-08-at-22-46-53-copyIn many respects, in Europe and across the world, 2020 has gotten off to a bad start — just as 2019 proved a bad ending to a decade which will be noted for its environmental catastrophes. The ice is melting at accelerated speed, flood and drought are hitting harder than ever, December’s COP25 in Madrid was a failure, uncontrollable forest fires are ravaging south-eastern Australia, bringing untold devastation to unique wildlife: quite literally, the planet is drowning, or roasting, depending on where you look.

Yet we also know: the coming decade, and the year 2020 in particular, will have to be a time of radical choices when it comes to environmental policy. The clock is ticking, as we’re so often reminded by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Meanwhile, global CO2 emissions have never stopped rising, despite the commitments undertaken by the 183 signatory states of the 2015 Paris agreement. At COP26, set to take place next November in Glasgow, governments will have to propose new action plans to limit the impact of global warming — while so little time remains.

The European Green Deal, presented on 11 December by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, shows new ambition. Is it capable of making Europe the first carbon neutral continent? How will this Deal, finally setting in stone Europe’s recognition of the climate emergency, produce a “just and socially fair” transition, one which will supposedly orient all of European policy? How will the influence of industrial lobbies in Brussels be held in check? As for the member states, whose attitudes towards climate change are hardly homogeneous — can they conform, unflinchingly, to the tendency now promoted by Brussels, which breaks with the earlier language of laissez-faire?

So many questions we need to ask ourselves, while acknowledging the radical paradigm shift the Deal represents, of which no-one has managed to grasp all the consequences. After the green wave in the last European elections, with particularly strong support from young Europeans, let’s bet on this proposal proving a genuine turning point, marking the beginning of a new era, and let’s make sure it doesn’t just remain on paper.

We thank our readers for all of their support and wish them an excellent 2020, under the banner of safeguarding the planet, a commitment we pledge ourselves to as a media outlet. This transition will never happen without a powerful mobilisation of citizens, a European public opinion which comes through loud and clear, and which we’re helping to forge.

In the coming weeks, in order to get closer to the concerns of Europeans, we’re going to make it possible for our community to become more involved in VoxEurop. Other surprises will be revealed over the course of the year.

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