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Posts tagged ‘Land of the Roman Empire’

U.S., Italian F-35As integrate for first time in Astral Knight exercise

by Ed Adamczyk

Washington (UPI)

Jun 7, 2019

The U.S. Air Force announced the completion of a large air-and-missile defense exercise, involving F-35A fighter planes, in Europe.

“Astral Knight 2019” was the first involvement of the planes in a large-scale multinational exercise. It focused on simulated defense of several key areas of terrain from cruise-missile and aircraft strikes. U.S. military forces worked closely with NATO coalition forces of Croatia, Italy and Slovenia at various locations across Europe, conducting operational and cyber scenarios.

The fifth-generation F-35A Lightning IIs and personnel were brought from Hill AFB, Utah, to Aviano Air Base, Italy, in May for exercises and to train with other Europe-based aircraft. The squadron includes the 388th and Reserve 419th and 421st Fighter Wings of the U.S. Air Force.

In a four-day exercise ending on Thursday, the Air Force flew eight sorties per day. For the first time, U.S. Air Force F-35As integrated operationally with Italian air force F-35As. They communicated with each other over the Multifunction Advanced Data Link, a system unique to the plane’s platform.

“It’s truly rewarding to see that we can leverage all the capabilities of the F-35A, which we have all been working toward,” said Lt. Col. Brad Klemesrud, 421st Fighter Wing Squadron deputy commander. “In an exercise this large and complex, you get the opportunity to see how theory meets reality and put into practice what’s only been on paper.”

The exercise, deemed a success, also tested the capabilities of maintenance teams.

“This is the first overseas location that the 421st AMU’s [Aircraft Mantenance Unit] F-35As has gone to,” said MSgt. John Ott, 421st AMU F-35A expediter. “Our duties include daily servicing and inspections, as well as logistics and coordination control to receive support on our aircraft and maintainers 24/7.”…

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/US_Italian_F-35As_integrate_for_first_time_in_Astral_Knight_exercise_999.html.

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Italy slides into recession, darkening outlook for Europe

January 31, 2019

MILAN (AP) — Italy has fallen back into recession, intensifying concerns about the 19-country eurozone economy and a possible flare-up in the debt market jitters that haunted the bloc in recent years.

The Italian economy, the third-largest in the eurozone, contracted by a quarterly rate of 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, the national statistics agency said. Following a 0.1 percent drop in the previous three-month period that means Italy is in a technical recession, defined as two straight quarters of economic contraction — just four years after its last one.

Italy’s recession is one reason why the wider eurozone slowed in 2018, along with uncertainties related to Brexit, the China-U.S. trade spat and new vehicle emissions standards. Though the eurozone is performing better than in the dark days of the debt crisis, which threatened to break up the euro currency, it’s still lagging the U.S. economy, which is projected to have grown about 3 percent in 2018. As a result, unemployment in the eurozone is about double the U.S.’s 4 percent at 7.9 percent.

The eurozone economy as a whole grew by a meager 0.2 percent in the final quarter, the same as in the previous quarter, according to provisional figures released Thursday by the Eurostat statistics agency.

It expanded by 1.8 percent in 2018 overall, its weakest rate in four years. That’s lower than had been anticipated a year ago, when the bloc was expected to slow only slightly from 2017’s strong 2.4 percent rate.

The Italian economy has become an acute source of concern over the past few months, partly as a result of the new populist government’s spat with the European Union’s executive Commission over its budget plans, which has undermined business confidence and seen Italian borrowing rates in bond markets spike higher.

The government, elected against the backdrop of economic disappointment after years — even decades — of stagnant growth, wants to ramp up spending to get the economy going. It wants to provide more social security payments and to roll back a pension reform.

The plan means Italy would not reduce its debt load, which at over 130 percent is the highest in Europe after Greece. The EU Commission is still haunted by the memory of the debt crisis, which required eurozone governments, along with some assistance from the International Monetary Fund, to bailout a number of countries. The Commission has insisted that the Italian government rein back on its spending plans lest it loses control of its budget and the faith of bond market investors.

Though most economists think the budget impasse with the Commission has undermined confidence in the Italian economy, the country’s premier, Giuseppe Conte, sought to downplay the recession and placed the blame firmly on the trade spat between the United States and China, which he says has weighed on Italian exports.

“This is a transitory factor,” he told reporters in Rome. The head of Italy’s UNC consumer advocate organization, Massimiliano Dona, said the weak figures raise questions over the Italian government’s prediction that the economy will grow by 1 percent in 2019. He said that could mean the government will have to adjust its spending plans.

Italy hasn’t been the only reason why the eurozone slowed in 2019. Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, suffered an unexpected contraction in the third quarter largely due to changes in emissions standards that hurt auto sales. And uncertainty over Britain’s exit from the EU has weighed on sentiment, as has the fear of a global trade war stoked largely by growing tensions between the United States and China.

Separate economic indicators point to further weakness at the start of 2019 and most economists expect a difficult period ahead if the main causes of uncertainty are not addressed soon. “The continued decline in sentiment indicates that the underlying pace of growth has slowed even further,” said Christoph Weil, an economist at Commerzbank. “Uncertainty about economic developments in China, the unresolved trade conflict between the U.S. and China and Brexit continue to weigh on the economic outlook for 2019.”

Pylas reported from London.

Italy: 5 EU nations will take in migrants stranded at sea

January 29, 2019

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says five European Union nations are stepping forward to help resolve the latest impasse involving migrants stuck at sea on a humanitarian ship, but he bemoaned the lack of a systematic EU way to deal with migrant rescues.

Conte said Tuesday that the crisis over the Sea-Watch 3, which has been stuck off Sicily with 47 rescued migrants since Friday, demonstrates the EU’s “incapacity to manage this phenomenon with shared European mechanisms.” He spoke Tuesday in Cyprus at the close of a southern European summit.

But Conte said individual countries had stepped forward late Tuesday to say they would take some of the migrants. The Italian news agency ANSA, citing Conte, said the five countries are Germany, France, Portugal, Romania and Malta.

There was no immediate word on when or where the migrants, who were rescued Jan. 19 off the coast of Libya, would disembark. Conte was to meet with the leaders of Italy’s two governing coalition parties, including hard-line Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of the League party, upon his return to Rome.

Italy’s populist government has refused to allow humanitarian ships to dock in its ports in a bid to force its European partners to share the burden of arrivals. During the same press conference as Conte, French President Emmanuel Macron said France abided by three principals: respect for humanitarian rights in maritime matters, disembarkation at the nearest port and distributing the migrants. He said these standards should become a permanent mechanism.

Conte also said an EU trust fund aimed at propping up African economies to stem the flow of migrants isn’t large enough. Echoing Conte, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said it’s an “absolute necessity” for Europe to boost Africa’s economic development.

The Dutch-flagged Sea Watch 3, which is operated by a German humanitarian group, was allowed into Italian waters late last week off the Sicilian port of Syracuse due to deteriorating weather conditions.

Human rights activists and some politicians have denounced Italy’s refusal to allow the migrants to land as inhumane. “The psychological conditions of these people is worsening quickly. They need to get immediate medical attention on land,” EU lawmaker Cecile Kyenge told Sky TG24.

Earlier Tuesday, Europe’s human rights court denied a request by the head of the Sea Watch group, the Sea Watch 3’s captain and one of the migrants to disembark the 47 migrants. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, however requested in its decision that Italy “take all necessary measures as soon as possible” to give the migrants adequate medical care, food, water and supplies. And it said the 15 unaccompanied minors on the boat should receive legal guardianship.

Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli claimed on Twitter that the human rights court had sided with Italy. “We must guarantee the migrants food, treatment and adequate assistance. And that is what we are doing. But we don’t have an obligation to disembark,” he said.

In another similar instance, Salvini faces possible charges for failing to allow 177 migrants to disembark at a port in Catania in August. Prosecutors have declined to press charges for kidnapping and abuse of office, saying Salvini was enacting government policy beyond the scope of the courts. But a judicial review body ruled otherwise, and has asked the Senate, where Salvini has a seat, to allow the case to procced.

The migrants in that case were allowed to disembark after five days.

Barry reported from Milan. Angela Charlton in Paris also contributed.

Italy sends socks, shoes, food to migrants stuck on boat

January 27, 2019

ROME (AP) — The Italian coast guard is bringing socks, shoes, bread and fruit to 47 migrants who have been stranded at sea for nine days aboard a German humanitarian group’s rescue boat close to the Italian island of Sicily.

Italy’s hard-line interior minister, Matteo Salvini, refuses to let humanitarian boats that rescue migrants in the Mediterranean from smugglers’ unseaworthy vessels disembark because he contends the aid facilitates trafficking.

Sea-Watch 3 rescued the migrants on Jan. 19 in the waters off Libya. On Sunday, three Italian opposition lawmakers and the mayor of nearby Syracuse boarded Sea-Watch3, which is a mile offshore, to inspect conditions.

Italian news agency ANSA quoted Syracuse prosecutor Fabio Scavone as saying the captain had requested psychological assistance for those aboard but added there wasn’t any medical emergency.

France keeps up pressure on Italy in historic EU dispute

February 08, 2019

PARIS (AP) — France’s pro-EU government and Italy’s populist leaders sparred anew Friday, as business giants from both countries appealed for calm amid the neighbors’ biggest diplomatic spat since World War II.

France said the stunning recall of its ambassador to Italy was a temporary move — but an important signal to its historical ally not to meddle in internal French affairs. In Italy, the deputy prime minister who’s the focus of French anger stood his ground, renewing criticism of France’s foreign policy.

France and Italy are founding members of the European Union, born from the ashes of World War II, and their unusual dispute is rippling around the continent at a time of growing tensions between nationalist and pro-EU forces.

French officials said Friday that this week’s recall of French Ambassador Christian Masset was prompted by months of “unfounded attacks” from Italian government members Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, who have criticized French President Emmanuel Macron’s economic and migration policies.

But the main trigger for the crisis appeared to be Di Maio’s meeting in a Paris suburb this week with members of the yellow vests, a French anti-government movement seeking seats in the European Parliament.

French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said the visit violated “the most elementary diplomacy” because it was unannounced. Referring to Italy’s populist leaders, he criticized a “nationalist leprosy” eating away at Europe’s unity and said EU members should “behave better toward partners.”

A participant in the meeting, French activist Marc Doyer, told The Associated Press that it was initiated by Di Maio’s populist 5-Star movement and aimed at sharing advice on how to build a “citizens’ movement.”

Doyer said it provided useful technical and other guidance to potential yellow vest candidates and their supporters, and called the diplomat spat an overreaction. “It’s a political game by certain people,” he said. “Free movement exists in Europe, and the meeting didn’t cost the French taxpayer anything.”

Di Maio said he had done nothing wrong by meeting with the yellow vest protesters without informing the French government. A borderless Europe “shouldn’t just be about allowing free circulation of merchandise and people, but also the free circulation of political forces that have a European outlook,” he said in a Facebook video while visiting Abruzzo.

Di Maio again blamed France for policies in African countries that he said had impeded their growth and fueled the flight of economic migrants to Europe. He also implicitly blamed Paris for the chaos in Libya that has led to years of instability and growth of migrant smuggling networks following France’s involvement in the NATO-led operation in 2011 that ousted former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi from power.

Italian Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, meanwhile, offered France’s yellow vest movement technical advice on launching a version of the 5-Star movement’s online portal, which allows registered party members to vote on policy decisions and candidates.

“If useful, we can offer them a hand and do political activities in service of the French people,” Toninelli said, according to the ANSA news agency. As the diplomatic spat simmered, a French yellow vest activist known for his extremist views held a gathering Friday in the Italian city of Sanremo.

The standoff was clearly sending jitters through Europe’s business world, given that the two countries are top trading partners and powerhouses of the EU economy. A pressing concern in Italy is the future of struggling national carrier Alitalia, amid rumored interest by Air France in some form of partnership.

Italian opposition leaders seized on a report Friday in business daily Il Sole 24 Ore that the French carrier had cooled on a deal as a result of the standoff. Di Maio, who is also Italy’s economic development minister, pushed back.

“I’ve been following the Alitalia dossier for months. Air France’s enthusiasm hasn’t cooled now,” he said. The Italian business lobby Confindustria and its French counterpart Medef wrote to their respective leaders calling for “constructive dialogue” to resolve the dispute, which they warned could threaten Europe’s global standing.

“It’s necessary that the two historic protagonists of the process of integration don’t split, but reconfirm their elements of unity,” the presidents of the two groups wrote Macron and Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte. “Europe is an economic giant and we have to work to make it become a political giant as well.”

The two business leaders — Vincenzo Boccia of Confindustria and Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux of Medef — confirmed plans for a joint meeting later this month in Paris. French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told the AP that the ambassador recall “is an unprecedented gesture toward a European state that is aimed at making clear that there are things that are not done between neighboring countries, friends and partners within the European Union.”

Winfield reported from Rome.

France recalls ambassador to Italy after yellow vest meeting

February 07, 2019

PARIS (AP) — France recalled its ambassador to Italy on Thursday amid rising tensions after Italy’s deputy prime minister met with French anti-government protesters and Italian leaders made critical public comments about French President Emmanuel Macron’s government.

French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said the ambassador was being brought back for “consultations” and urged Italy in a statement to work to restore friendly relations worthy of “our common destiny.”

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio met with supporters of France’s yellow vest protest movement running as candidates for the European Parliament. Di Maio has said the populist 5-Star Movement he leads was ready to help the French protesters and has accused France of fueling Europe’s immigration difficulties.

That came after Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called Macron “a terrible president” in January. He said he hoped French voters would send Macron a message during the European elections by showing their support for far-right leader Marine Le Pen, with whom Salvini is allied in European politics.

Von der Muhll called the incidents an “unacceptable” interference in French democracy, and said they were unprecedented since the two neighbors joined together after World War II to help create the European Union.

“The campaign for the European elections cannot justify the lack of respect for each people or for their democracy,” she said. “For several months, France has been the subject of repeated accusations, unfounded attacks and outrageous declarations,” she added. “To have disagreements is one thing, to exploit the relationship for electoral purposes is another.”

Italy’s foreign minister, Enzo Moavero Milanesi, sought to tamp down the dispute, stressing the “profound friendship” between the two allies. But he acknowledged that differences were coming to the fore ahead of May’s European Parliament elections.

“The defense of each one’s interests and points of view, as well as the political debate ahead of the upcoming European Parliament elections, cannot influence on the solid relations that have united us for decades,” Milanesi said in a statement.

In response to France’s move, Salvini said he was open to meeting with Macron and the French government, but insisted that France must stop sending back migrants at the border and stop penalizing Italian workers in France.

“We don’t want to fight with anyone. We are not interested in polemics. We are concrete people and we defend the interests of Italians,” he said. Di Maio had already sparked annoyance in January when he accused France of leading colonial-style policies in Africa, prompting the French Foreign Ministry to summon the Italian ambassador. And the Italian government last fall accused France of dumping underage migrants over the border without authorization.

After meeting with members of the Citizens’ Initiative Rally group of yellow vests on Tuesday, Di Maio boasted on Twitter that “the wind of change has crossed the Alps.”

Colleen Barry in Milan contributed to this report.

Venice to charge day-trippers for access to city center

December 31, 2018

MILAN (AP) — A measure in Italy’s 2019 budget law will allow the local government in Venice to charge day-trippers for access to the city’s historic center as a way to help defray the considerable costs of maintaining a popular tourist destination built on water, the mayor said.

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said late Sunday on Twitter that the new visitors’ tax would “allow us to manage the city better and to keep it clean” and “allow Venetians to live with more decorum.” The City Council will be responsible for setting the charge and determining the collection method. The mayor’s office said it would vary from 2.50 euros to 10 euros per person, with exemptions for students, people traveling briefly to Venice for work or business and regional residents.

Overnight visitors will not be assessed the new levy. They are currently charged a small “stay” tax per night that varies according to such criteria as season, location and the ages of guests. Official estimate that as many as 30 million people visit Venice each year, with about one-fifth spending at least one night in the historic center of the city, which excludes islands in the lagoon and a mainland.

Brugnaro said the substantial cost of cleaning and maintaining security has so far been paid “only by Venetians.” Many natives have been forced to the mainland due to the high cost of living, and the huge influx of tourist also from cruise ships has contributed to wear and tear on the delicate architecture, which also endures frequent flooding caused by high winds.

City officials emphasized that the cost of maintaining public buildings in Venice’s historic center is one-third higher than on the mainland due to materials having to be brought in by boat and sometimes taken on hand-carts through the city’s narrow mazes of streets. Cleaning also must be done by hand.

The extra funds also will cover security costs, including the deployment of 150 local police officers every Sunday and the 350 officers on duty for holidays like New Year’s Eve and Carnival, and to erect walkways during periods of flooding.

The mayor of Florence, another Italian art city struggling with over-tourism, called for a law that would allow all major Italian tourist destinations to assess visitor fees. “Florence and the other touristic cities are not less-deserving,” Italian news agency ANSA quoted Mayor Dario Nardella as saying. “This is a norm that discourages hit-and-run tourism, which creates problems and inconveniences in the city without being counterbalanced by positive effects.”

Florence now can collect a maximum of 5 euros a night from overnight guests, according to the mayor. Nardella said he was also disappointed that the authorization Venice received does not address the use of private residences as tourist lodgings, which he said “is threatening the residential nature of the historic centers of all the Italian art cities.”

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