Strasbourg plagued by COVID19

Anna van Densky, Brussels 25.09.2020 The opening of October European Parliament session in Strasbourg does not look promising for the Members of the European Parliament, while the significant for the city business event for 2.200 participants has been cancelled today over sanitary situation #360GrandEst.

The planned September Plenary in Strasbourg was cancelled and took place in Brussels, and it is highly likely the similar situation is awaiting for both October sessions scheduled in the hauntingly beautiful capital of Grand Est region of France.

As is clear to us all, we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 emergency. We had hoped before the summer break that we would be returning to some degree of normality. Unfortunately, this is not the case and we find our countries still greatly affected by the pandemic. The rate of infection has increased, leading to the adoption of new containment measures by national governments.

“For this reason, and on the basis of information provided by the French medical services and authorities, I regretfully took the decision not to hold the plenary session in Strasbourg for this September session”  wrote David Sassoli, the president of the Europarl.

“…I am grateful to the French authorities for their understanding and their constant collaboration in these difficult months. On behalf of all our members, I extend a warm greeting to the mayor and people of Strasbourg, where we hope to return soon.”  Sassoli concluded, however it the sanitary situation in France does not look encouraging for travel to host the MEP “soon”.

1992 decision formalised a situation that already existed at the time and which reflected compromises arrived at over a number of years.

When the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was set up a few years after WWII, in 1952, establishing joint management of the steel and coal reserves of six countries, including Germany and France, its institutions were located in Luxembourg. The Council of Europe (an intergovernmental body made up of 47 countries championing human rights and culture was also set up in the immediate post-WW2 period), was already based in Strasbourg and it offered its plenary chamber for meetings of the ECSC’s “Common Assembly”, which was to develop into the European Parliament. Strasbourg gradually became the main home of plenary sessions of the Parliament, though additional sessions were also held in Luxembourg in the 1960s and 1970s.

After the creation of the European Economic Community in 1958, much of the work done by the European Commission and the Council of Ministers came to be concentrated in Brussels. Since Parliament’s work involves closely monitoring and interacting with both these institutions, over time Members decided to organise more of their work in Brussels. By the early nineties, the present arrangement was more or less in place, with committees and political groups meeting in Brussels and the main plenary sessions taking place in Strasbourg. A major part of Parliament’s staff is based in Luxembourg.

Memorial to Strasbourg Grand Synagogue

Modern IT technologies will help to give a second life to a destroyed by Nazi Grand Synagogue, this time in a form of a bronze monument, established at the original place at Quai Kléber. The Jewish community, IT scientists, historians, and lovers of history have  collected a significant amount of information, allowing to restore the exact model of the demolished building.

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IT reconstruction model of Grand Synagogue Quai Kléber
On 18th of September, during the European Parliament Plenary week the Jewish Consistory of Bas-Rhin invited to the Synagogue of Peace  Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and Strasbourg politicians to celebrate in a cultural event the upcoming Rosh Hashana (New Year) festivities. The excursion in the building of New Synagogue preceded the assembly.

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Rabbin Mendel Samama (right) and Thierry Roos of Consistoire israélite du Bas-Rhin (left)
The collection of the artefacts and historic objects exposed as precious pieces of mosaic restore the picture of the spiritual past of the  Jewish Community in Alsace  – one of the most ancient in Europe, traced to the Middle Ages.

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Grand Synagogue de la Paix historic objects collection on display

After the World War II  the Jews who survived the Holocaust, reformed the Jewish community of Strasbourg, meeting in the Holiday Palace until 1948, because the Grand Synagogue, situated at Place Klèber was destroyed.

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Rosh Hashana sound of Shoffar Image: courtesy of Levi Matusof (pictured).

Following the talks with the city of Strasbourg in 1948, the Jewish community agreed to exchange the grounds of the old Synagogue against the site of Contades area, where the new monumental building was erected, by the  architect Claude Meyer-Lévy. The synagogue, called “Peace” replicating its location Rue de la Paix,, and was inaugurated in March 1958.

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The new synagogue also includes the Judaica radio headquarters, a youth center, and the headquarters of several movements, in addition to the four oratories.

EU elections 2019 final day

Anna van Densky On Sunday May 26 Europeans vote in an election expected to further erode traditional Eurocentric parties and boost the nationalist movements across the continent, resulting in a drastically different and difficult composition of the European Parliament – once a champion of compromise, – effecting the entire range of politics. (Image above: European Parliament, Strasbourg).

Polls opened at 7 A.M. (0400 GMT) in the east of Europe and will finally close at 11 P.M. (2100 GMT) in Italy. Seven states have already voted, with 21 joining in on Sunday in what is the world’s biggest democratic exercise after India.

Many feel it is odd, that three years after the referendum, Britons are back to the European Parliament, and there are certain fears, that the entire EU political agenda will be “hijacked” by Brexit.

However it is universally understood, that after Brexit the EU project will never be the same. Departure of the oldest European parliamentary democracy feels like an amputation.

EU in transit. Tempora mutantur – times are changed, we also are changed with them.

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European Parliament, PHS building, Brussels

 

#Strasbourg: EU commemorates slain reporters

The EU institutions and the International Press Association (API/IPA) paid tribute to two reporters, victims of the #Strasbourg terrorist attack.

The journalists in the press centre of the European Commission paid tribute to both reporters – Antonio Megalizzi  (29) and Bartosz Orent-Niedzielski  (35)– slain in jihad attack by a minute of silence.

The reporter Antonio Megalizzi (29) from Trento, Italy  was in Strasbourg to cover the European Parliament plenary session for radio network Europhonica.

His friend Barto Pedro Orent-Niedzielski (35) from Katowice, Poland, nicknamed #Bartek lived in Strasbourg, he was engaged in cultural life of the city, and also in promotion of the LGBT rights.

 

Russia barred Navalny visit to ECHR

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, says border guards prevented him from flying out of a Moscow airport to Strasbourg for a hearing at the European court of human rights in Strasbourg.

Border guards are saying that leaving is forbidden for me. There is some kind of letter that says I am prohibited from leaving, but there is no explanation why,” Navalny tweeted. The politician  learnt about the ban to leave Russia while  boarding a flight to Frankfurt and and from there further to Strasbourg, where the European Court on Human Rights is expected to rule on whether his detentions this year were politically motivated. The ban of to leave Russia of the appellate will not lead to any change in  ECHR scheduled hearing.