Over the weekend, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras faced down a no-confidence vote put forward by the country’s main opposition party, New Democracy. The motion was brought forward after yet another bump in the road in the 27-year dispute between Greece and Macedonia on what the latter should be called. After reaching an agreement on the “North Macedonia”, the prime ministers of the respective countries faced outcry from their peers – New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the Macedonian president Gjorge Ivanov complained that too many concessions had been given to the other side. Although Tsipras has emerged from the weekend with mandate intact, he will face more resistance down the line: as long as the word “Macedonia” is used in the new name, many Greeks will feel aggrieved.
South Korean president Moon Jae-in has led a crackdown against the country’s big family-run conglomerates since taking office last year. Now his administration is targeting airlines: come October civil servants won’t be legally required to fly with Korean Air or Asiana Airlines when travelling for business. The government’s decision last week to dismantle the law on official travel will get rid of a hidden subsidy for the two biggest Korean carriers that’s stood since 1980. Korean Air stands to lose tens of millions of euros in business – more bad news for the family that owns the carrier amid recent allegations of corruption and abuse of authority. Taxpayers will be cheering, however. Not only is the government expected to save money, it also appears to be siding with the public rather than with the country’s old corporate titans.
Street names are important to a city’s urban fabric: not only are they useful at crossroads but they help us understand the finer points of a settlement’s identity. Choosing to name a road after a person equates to appointing a local hero: that’s why the Roman municipal council’s attempt to name one of its thoroughfares after politician Giorgio Almirante (the founder of the postwar, neo-fascist MSI party) is worrying. The motion – approved by the far-right Fratelli d’Italia party and parts of the populist 5 Star Movement – was passed last week. It is now being contested by mayor Virginia Raggi (also a member of the 5 Star Movement), who declared that no street should be dedicated to people associated with fascist, racist or anti-semitic ideas. At a time when the country’s coalition has decided to seal ports for refugees and xenophobia is spreading, institutional symbols speak loudly of how this country wants to be perceived.
Visitors to the Eiffel Tower this summer might notice a few changes. Glass security walls around the Parisian tourist hot spot are nearly complete, which will see the temporary barriers that were erected in 2016 replaced with a more permanent protective measure. A response to the terrorist attacks that have plagued Paris in recent years, the new barriers are made up of glass walls along two streets on either side of the tower; more than 5cm thick, the walls are not only bulletproof but also vehicle-proof. Along the other sides of the tower, steel-pronged barriers will prevent unauthorised visitors from getting close to the monument. Though some have protested the idea of the walls – a local politician claimed the Eiffel Tower had become a “bunker” – by building protection into the urban environment of the site, the city is ensuring the safety of millions of tourists and locals.
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