Right-Wing Italian Interior Minister Wants to Look into ‘Roma Question’

Italy’s new right-wing interior minister Matteo Salvini said his department has to look into “the Roma question” in Italy — a comment the opposition said reminds them of Italian fascism.

Salvini said Monday he wants to take a census of Italy’s Roma population.

“Unfortunately, we will have to keep the Italian Roma because we can’t expel them,” Salvini told Telelombardia television.

Center-left politicians immediately jumped on Salvini’s comments, likening it to ethnic cleansing.

“You can work for security and respect for rules without becoming fascistic,” lawmaker Ettore Rosato tweeted. “The announced census of Roma is vulgar and demagogical.”

But Salvini said he wants to help the Roma, an itinerant ethnic group. He said he wants to know who they are and where they live, and protect Roma children, whose parents he said did not want them to integrate into society.

“We are aiming primarily to care for the children who aren’t allowed to go to school regularly because they prefer to introduce them to a life of crime,” he said.

The interior minister said he has no desire to take fingerprints of the Roma or keep index cards of individuals. He also said he wants to see how European Union funds earmarked to help the Roma are spent.

Many Roma live in camps on the outskirts of Italian cities. They complain of lifelong discrimination, being denied job and educational opportunities.

But officials say many Roma are responsible for petty crimes, such as pickpocketing and theft.

Salvini’s comments about the Roma came a week after Italy refused to let a shipload of migrants dock at an Italian port. Spain gave permission for the ship to dock in its country Sunday.

France’s Macron Sets Out Corporate Law Shake-up in Reform Bill

France’s finance minister promised to cut red tape on companies, open up more financing for them and create incentives for employee profit-sharing under a new bill presented on Monday.

The proposed law is part of President Emmanuel Macron’s pro-business reform drive that has already eased labour laws and cut companies’ and entrepreneurs’ taxes.

“The law’s ultimate objective is more growth and the creation of a new French economic growth model,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told reporters.

Le Maire said that by 2025 the overhaul of French corporate law was expected to boost overall gross domestic product by one percent over the long term.

The new law aims to address one long-standing complaint from business owners about a complex system that imposes new charges in multiple stages as companies increase their workforce.

The bill would simplify the system, Le Maire said, by halving the number of those stages to three — bringing in new charges and obligations when a company has 11, 50 and then 250 employees.

It would also make it easier, cheaper and faster to register a company, giving entrepreneurs a single online platform to replace the current round of seven administrative bodies.

Liquidation of insolvent companies will be sped up so business owners can move on and bankruptcy law will give more power to creditors who have a stake in seeing the firm survive, the minister added.

The government aims to boost the more than 220 billion euros French people currently hold in long-term retirement savings, which it hopes will make more funds available to be invested in companies’ capital.

To do that, employees’ voluntary contributions will largely be made tax-deductible for all types of savings products and they will be able to transfer savings from one money manager to another at no cost, potentially boosting competition, according to a statement on the bill.

The government aims to make profit-sharing much more common in small companies by scrapping charges employers currently have to make on payouts to employees.

Largely because of that measure, the new law is expected to cost the government 1.2 billion euros annually, which Le Maire said would be paid for by planned cuts in subsidies to companies.

The law also sets the stage for several large privatizations with the proceeds already earmarked for a new 10 billion euro innovation fund.

It will in particular lift legal restraints on selling down stakes in airport operator ADP and energy group Engie while allowing the national lottery FDA to be privatized.

While some left-wing and far-right politicians have said the sales amounted to selling the family jewels, Macron’s party has a sufficiently large parliamentary majority to pass the bill with little trouble early next year.

Spain’s Government to Remove Franco’s Remains from Mausoleum

The remains of fascist dictator Francisco Franco could soon be removed from a state-funded mausoleum under a plan by Spain’s new socialist government to transform the monument into a place to remember the civil war rather than glorify the dictatorship.

This would be the latest of a raft of high-profile measures launched by Spain’s new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to cement his power and lure left-wing voters ahead of a general election due by mid-2020.

Sanchez, who toppled his conservative predecessor Mariano Rajoy in a confidence vote last month, controls less than a quarter of the seats in parliament.

“The decision about exhuming Franco’s remains is quite clear,” Oscar Puente, a senior member of the socialist party who is close to Sanchez, told a news conference.

The civil war still casts a shadow over the country nearly eight decades after its end. Lack of accountability for the war has left wounds unhealed, and pressure has grown to turn the site into a memorial honoring those who died on both sides.

Puente said the government’s plans were to transform the state-funded Valley of the Fallen mausoleum into “a place of recognition and memory of all Spaniards.”

The 150-meter cross of the monument, built by prisoners of war, towers over the Guadarrama Sierra, a mountain range just outside Madrid.

Opened by Franco himself in 1959, the Valley houses a Catholic basilica set into a hillside, where the founder of Spain’s fascist Falange party, Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, is also interred. It has long been a site of pilgrimage for far-right groups in Spain.

The conservative People’s Party has opposed attempts to exhume Franco’s body when they were in power, saying it would only stir up painful memories more than four decades after his death and nearly 80 years after the end of the war.

The Spanish parliament, however, passed a motion last year to remove Franco’s remains as well as those of tens of thousands of other people buried at the mausoleum.

Many of those interred there fought for the losing Republican side and were moved to the monument under Franco’s dictatorship without their families’ permission.

UN Rights Chief: Rise of Extreme Nationalism Threat to Global Peace

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warns the rise of extreme nationalism is threatening global peace and security. Zeid spoke at the opening of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s three-week session in Geneva.

Delegates attending the U.N. Human Rights Council’s 38th session gave Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein a standing ovation as he finished his last speech before he leaves his post at the end of August.

The end of his mandate seemingly freed the rights chief to be even more outspoken than usual.

Zeid particularly deplored the rise of extreme nationalism promoted by what he described as self-serving, callous leaders.

“Only by pursuing the opposite to nationalism – only when states all work for each other, for everyone, for all people, for the human rights of all people – can peace be attainable…. For only by speaking out can we begin to combat the growing menace of chauvinistic nationalism that stalks our future.”  

Zeid expressed deep concern about recently adopted migration policies by the United States in which children are forcibly separated from parents who cross into the U.S. illegally. He said the policies punish children for their parents’ actions.

“The American Association of Pediatrics has called this cruel practice government-sanctioned child abuse, which may cause irreparable harm, with lifelong consequences. The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” Zeid said.

The high commissioner condemned human rights abuses by the governments of Syria, Myanmar, Venezuela and Nicaragua, and singled out the human rights situations of several African countries, including Burundi, Cameroon, Egypt, and Rwanda.

He expressed deep concern about South Sudan, where a pattern of rapes and killings by government forces in Unity State has been taking place since April.

“Human rights officers have documented the rape of children as young as four years old, and numerous cases of women, elderly people and others being hanged or burned alive in what appears to be a deliberate scorched-earth policy.”  

Zeid also criticized Israeli violations in the occupied Palestinian territories. The United States reportedly is planning to quit the council because of what it sees as bias against Israel.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who also addressed the session, agreed with this U.S. assessment.

“We share the view that a dedicated agenda item focused solely on Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories is disproportionate and damaging to the cause of peace and unless things change, we shall move next year to vote against all resolutions introduced under Item 7,” Johnson said.

Agenda Item 7 is a permanent fixture on the council’s agenda, dealing with Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Johnson then switched to the main focus of his speech, which was to urge all countries to promote girls’ education as the best way of achieving sustainable development.

He called it a disgrace that 130 million girls worldwide do not get an education and denounced fanatics who fight to stop girls from going to school.

“A group of numbskulls called Boko Haram, who raid schools, abduct children, inflict any atrocity in order to deny girls an education.… When I visited Borno State last year, I met girls who had been told they would be shot if they dared learn to read as the Taliban shot Malala,” he said.  

Johnson was referring to the attempted assassination in 2012 of Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai, who had been advocating for the rights of girls to have an education.

Ukraine ‘Corruption Park’ Shows Ill-Gotten Gains

A pop-up “Corruption Park” has opened in Ukraine to highlight the scale of the problem with interactive exhibits and displays of ill-gotten gains including a $46,000 crystal falcon.

One of the first things visitors see in the EU-funded show is a tent shaped like the gold loaf of bread found in the house of ex-president Viktor Yanukovych after he fled Ukraine in 2014.

Elsewhere, they can inspect a $300,000, limited-edition BMW seized from a corrupt official, and a copy of a 8-million-euro chandelier that, the display says, could have paid for a family’s electricity bill for 64,000 years.

In another tent, visitors lie back in a four-poster bed and watch a multimedia film of the imagined nightmares of a guilty government functionary.

The EU Anti-Corruption Initiative, which staged the show in Kiev’s botanical gardens, said it was meant to show the scale of corruption in Ukraine, and what it costs governments and citizens.

Ukraine’s Western-backed government has accused Yanukovych and his pro-Russian administration of widespread abuses and excesses.

But activists have also accused the current authorities of failing to crack down on graft, which is estimated to cost the country about 2 percent of its economic growth, according to the International Monetary Fund.

“For the kids, it’s a good example and revealing about the scale it all happens at,” Kyiv resident Lyuba said, as she queued with her children to don goggles and join a virtual reality anti-corruption investigation.

‘Corruption has taken so much’

The chandelier appears in a mock-up of an official’s room, decked out with the fruits of his corruption.

Other exhibits explain different schemes used for illegal enrichment.

“Corruption concerns everyone. This is one of the main ideas and goals of the project – to explain the direct relation between top level corruption and ordinary Ukrainians,” said Volodymyr Solohub, spokesman for the EU Anti-Corruption Initiative, which paid for the 140,000 euro ($162,000) park.

“A lot of people just come out disappointed that corruption has taken so much from the country,” he said.

One tent called ‘The Fight’ explains what the current authorities have done to combat graft, including the establishment of anti-corruption agencies.

Depicting the various government bodies as pieces in a puzzle, the exhibit illustrates that there is one missing piece: an independent court dedicated to prosecuting corruption cases, whose creation has been repeatedly pushed back.

Earlier in June, parliament voted to establish the court, but activists have said the law contains an amendment that would undermine the court’s effectiveness and Ukraine’s commitments to external backers such as the International Monetary Fund.

 

Scope of Need of Migrants Trekking Through Balkans is Increasing

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) says thousands of migrants trekking through the Balkans are “in desperate need of basic humanitarian services and support.”

IFRC said Monday, “More than 5,600 people have reached Bosnia and Herzegovina since the beginning of January, compared with just 754 across the whole of 2017.”

“We are concerned that people are not receiving the assistance they need,” said Simon Missiri, IFRC regional director for Europe. “People are keen to keep moving and are reluctant to access state services for fear of being detained.”

Missiri said, “Red Cross Societies in the Balkans are doing what they can to reach and help people migrating through their territories, but the scale and complexity of this operation is such that more assistance is needed.”

The Red Cross said 100 of its volunteers in northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina are serving hundreds of hot meals everyday at an abandoned university campus where they are also distributing sleeping bags, clothes and hygiene kits and are providing medical assistance to people who have been “sleeping in the open.”

Bosnia and Herzegovina, the statement says, “is the most mine contaminated country in Europe” and “some mine fields are still active in the areas where people are trying to cross the border.” Red Cross volunteers are distributing flyers to warn the migrants about the danger.

“These people are extremely vulnerable,” said Missouri. “Regardless of their migration status, they, like everyone, should be able to access basic services, and should be protected from harm.”

 

Audi CEO Arrested in Emissions Scandal Probe

German authorities have arrested the chief executive of Volkswagen’s Audi division, Rupert Stadler.

He was arrested Monday as part of an investigation about cars Audi sold in Europe that are believed to have been equipped with software that turned emissions controls off during regular driving.

Last week, Munich prosecutors raided Stadler’s home on suspicion of fraud and improprieties of documents.

Volkswagen Audi said “the presumption of innocence remains in place for Mr. Stadler.”

Volkswagen has pleaded guilty to emissions test cheating in the United States.

CEO Martin Winterkorn was charged in the United States, but he will unlikely face those charges since Germany does not extradite its nationals to countries outside the European Union.

Merkel Facing Pushback From Coalition Partners Over Migrants

German leader Angela Merkel is facing pushback from her political allies on her open door policy for refugees.

In 2015, Merkel famously said Germany was open to people fleeing wars and looking for better lives.

Since then, a million asylum seekers have been admitted to Germany.

Now, Bavaria’s conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), which has been in alliance with Merkel’s Christian Democrats for decades, wants Germany to turn away some refugees at the country’s border.

The CSU is widely expected to hand Merkel an ultimatum Monday to tighten Germany’s policy on accepting migrants, a move that could throw their political alliance into crisis.

Merkel wants the European Union to find an equitable solution to the migrant crisis at its summit later this month.

The EU is struggling to contend with the massive influx of refugees looking to its shores for better lives.

Europe’s migrant situation received worldwide attention last week when Italy and Malta refused to allow a ship with hundreds of migrants aboard to dock at their ports.

Spain stepped in and accepted the migrants.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said, “It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe port to these people to comply with our human rights obligations.”