In the press

Venice reduces gondola capacity due to 'overweight' tourists


IN THE PAPERS - Wednesday, July 22: We look at reactions from the papers after European leaders struck a historic deal and agreed to a coronavirus relief fund. The British papers are looking at a report which alleges British leaders actively ignored threats of Russian interference in elections. And Venice's gondoliers are reducing their boat capacity due to increasingly "heavier" tourists.


We start with reactions in the EU papers after leaders agreed to a budget and coronavirus relief fund. The €750 billion fund is a historic compromise: those words are on the front of a lot of the EU papers, including the Italian daily Il Manifesto. It evokes a victory for Angela Merkel, even if she spoke of painful concessions that had to be made notably in the fields of research, health and the transition to cleaner energy. Indeed, she’s on the front page of Libération which says to her: thank you very much. In particular for her about-face on the issue of joint debt, which paved the way for the historic deal. The paper's editor notes that the deal is historic and the sum of money colossal, but it's the "principle of financial solidarity that we'll take away from this the most". A deal but with a bitter taste, that’s how the Austrian paper Die Presse puts it on its front page. Austria is one of the so-called frugal northern states.

Let's head to the British papers which are talking about one story that came out yesterday: a report on Russian meddling in UK elections. Welcome to Londongrad, that’s what Metro says on its front page. Political interference has become the new norm. The report points a damning finger at Boris Johnson and his predecessors Theresa May and David Cameron for failing to prepare for and actively ignoring the threat posed by Russian meddling in elections. Just as damning are claims that corrupt money was welcomed with "open arms to the London Laundromat". The Independent goes with this headline today: no evidence of Russian interference in Brexit but only, it adds sarcastically, because the government didn’t look for any. It's inspired this cartoon from The Independent's cartoonist Dave Brown: Brexit, represented by a visor-wearing Johnson pursued by a sneaky bear!

Staying on British news, an article in the French paper Le Monde looks at modern slavery in the garment business in the British city of Leicester. In Leicester, the pandemic and increasing infections in June shed light on the appalling working conditions of garment workers there, Le Monde writes. Thousands of people are working for £3.50 an hour, well below the £8.72 minimum wage. Earlier this month, the British government re-imposed a lockdown in Leicester with rising infections due to garment factories continuing to operate without any protection, even during the peak of the virus in April and May. Activists say Leicester is not the only city with these kinds of practices - all over the UK, low-paid workers face exploitation in agriculture, construction and domestic work. 

Finally, Venice gondola tour operators are reducing the capacity on their boats – and it’s not because of the pandemic. Tour boats with Venice's gondoliers have been reduced from six to five people and boats used to cross the Grand Canal decreased from 14 to 12. It's not because we’re in the middle of a health crisis but rather because tourists have become more overweight in the past 10-15 years! I quote the president of the association of substitute gondoliers who told the Italian press: "Tourists are now overweight…advancing with over half a tonne of meat on board is dangerous." Well that’s one way of describing your main source of income!

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