EU immigration

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The recessions in Spain and Portugal have led to the immigration of skilled young people unable to find jobs, also known as ‘the brain drain’. Whilst some opt for fellow EU countries such as Austria, others are willing to go further afield such as Africa and Latin America and find work in their burgeoning economies.

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Hollande against tax havens

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President Francois Hollande of France vows for the ‘eradiction’ of tax havens around the world. Hollande has promised a battle against “excesses of money, greed and secret finance”.

It was recently discovered that his fellow Socialist party member and ex-Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac had a secret Swiss account holding 600,000 euros. Lying about his financial affairs has now led to his expulsion.

Hollande’s statement comes at a time when respect for French politicians is at an all time low following scandal after scandal.

Do you think his vow to eradicate tax havens will follow through?

Funny town names in Europe

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Fancy a trip to Hell? You don’t need to wait until death. There’s a village called Hell in Norway and according to Wikipedia, Hell has a few amenities such as a petrol station and a grocery store, so it can’t be all that bad!

Belgium has a ‘Silly’ village which is home to the Silly brewery, whilst neighbouring France boasts some ruder village names such as Bitche, which is known for its large citadel, and Condom, which fortunately is not the same word in French.

Some hamlets whose only claim to fame is their name include Fucking in Austria and Lost in Scotland.

Do you know any other funny place names in or outside of Europe?

Margaret Thatcher passes away

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Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has passed away today at the age of 87 after a stroke.

Thatcher was the first Prime Minister of the UK and was in office for 11 years, making her the longest standing PM of the UK in the 20th Century.

She is most known for privatising state-owned industries as well as the conflict over the Falkland Islands in 1982 in which relations between the UK and Argentina became strained. She also introduced the rule that over 7’s at school could no longer receive free milk, earning Thatcher the nickname ‘milk snatcher’.

Her funeral will take place at St Paul’s Cathedral with full military honours.

Repeating a year in education

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Anyone familiar with the education system in Germany know the practice of ‘sitzenbleiben’ which means to repeat a school year. In some circumstances it is done when a pupil has only failed a couple of subjects. However, it seems that times are changing and repeating could be a think of the past.

Is staying back a year something that happens in your country?

Recycling rates in Europe

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Who recycles the most in Europe?

The European Environment Agency recently revealed that Austria and Germany have the highest rates of recycling with 63% and 62% respectively. Other countries with high recycling rates include Belgium (58%), the Netherlands (51%) and Switzerland (51%). Countries to drastically improve their rates include the United Kingdom which rose from 12% to 39% and Ireland which rose from 11% to 36% from 2001 to 2010.

2010 saw 35% of waste in the whole of the EU being recycled, which was up from 23% in 2001. the 2020 target is to recycle half of all household waste.

Do you think this target is reasonable?

International aid from Europe

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Recent figures show that international aid from all over the world dropped 4%, following the trend from the previous year where there was a 2% fall.

The countries to make the most cuts in Europe were Spain with a 50% cut, Italy with a 34% cut and Greece with a 17% cut.

The UN sets targets for EU countries to set aside 0.7% of their national income towards international aid, which has so far been achieved by five countries- Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The United Kingdom promises to do so by the end of this year.

Do you think it is fair to expect countries to give away this much of their money towards international aid? With political instability and corruption, are there better ways in which we can help poorer countries?

Human trafficking in Europe

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Slavery is something we think of as being in the past, but it’s still happening today in the form of human trafficking, and even closer to home than we might like to think. Whether it is forced manual labour, childcare or prostitution, these vulnerable people often find it difficult to escape. Here are four stories of those who managed to get out, but there are still thousands of victims like these out there that still need our help.

A weekend in Manchester

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This weekend I went to Manchester, which is situated in the North-West of England. Here are some lovely Pinterest pictures of the city itself. Usually tourists tend to think of only going to London when visiting England, but Manchester is a city with so much to offer. Here is a taster of some things to do there:

  • Manchester used to have a huge cotton industry so it used to be teeming with mills, and at the same time it is also a hub for scientific research. You can find out all about the history of Manchester’s cotton industry and contribution to science at MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry).

  • Arty types should visit Manchester Art Gallery which is beautifully decorated and has both classic and contemporary art.

  • John Rylands Library is a simply stunning library housed in a neo-Gothic Victorian building.

Food wise: For a quick and cheap lunch, visit Katsouris Deli on Deansgate. If you want traditional British grub for dinner, try Tom’s Chop House. If you can manage to push the budget a bit, try fusional restaurant Australasia.

Overall I highly recommend Manchester! Have you been to Manchester before? What did you think of the city?

Good Friday

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Today is Good Friday which symbolises the day that Jesus died on the cross.

Catholic countries within Europe such as Spain, Italy and Malta often hold processions representing the Passion of Christ. Catholics are also expected to fast and abstain on this day.

Anglican churches have no decoration on Good Friday, with flowers and alter-cloths being taken away.

How is Easter celebrated in your country?