What's New(s)

WHAT’S NEW(S) – 18/12/2020

 WHAT’S NEW(S) – 18/12/2020

A little Christmas this year

This weekly broadcast series presents the European news from different angles and perspectives. Which events and developments have made the news, and how? Each week we take a closer look at one event that dominated this week’s news, and quickly discuss other topics that grabbed the headlines in various countries across the continent.

The coronavirus has grabbed almost all headlines in 2020, overshadowing most of the other events, issues, conflicts, and breakthroughs. With the end of the year approaching, the press focusses almost exclusively on one question: “How merry will Christmas be this year?” A forecast of a European Christmas not like others. 

You'll find the script below:

The coronavirus has grabbed almost all headlines in 2020, overshadowing most of the other events, issues, conflicts, and breakthroughs. With the end of the year approaching, the press focuses almost exclusively on one question: “How merry will Christmas be this year?” And are citizens in some member states luckier than others?

Indeed, most newspapers had their eyes on the tough restrictions ahead of Christmas. If there was still some room for optimism early December, it has now slowly made place for dark images of lonely holidays. In Germany for example, things didn’t look that bad last month when the Germans were still exempted from a strict lockdown and thought to be able to invite 10 on Christmas eve. This week it sees record deaths while the country is entering a Christmas lockdown. The country witnessed 952 Corona deaths in a day, over twice as high as the last peak, only a week ago. All non-essential shops and centres will remain closed and social contact strictly limited. With who you may (not) celebrate Christmas, was the headline in Der Spiegel.

And in France, the Christmas days will end early this year isn’t it?

At 8pm, to be precise. The French government has set a curfew between 20:00pm and 06:00h from December 15 according to Le Monde. L'Observatoire highlights the only exception to this curfew, Christmas Eve, a Christian celebration. Something that could be interpreted as a clash with one of the main pillars of the French constitution, Laïcité. No PCR requested upon arrival for all the French citizens that will come back home for Christmas, or the ones who will go to Switzerland to enjoy some winter sports while ski stations are closed in France. According to France 24, the government plans to set a 7 day isolation period for French citizens who cross the border to go skiing.

But even if the French will have to spend their evenings at home, at least they can still invite a few, compared to their neighbours up north, where the situation might even be worse, right?

Yes perhaps. Two weeks ago on December 1st, Belgium correspondent Anouk van Kampen wrote in Dutch newspaper NRC that Belgium could expect a ‘terrible’ Christmas. It was a few days after prime minister de Croo announced that ‘Christmas shouldn’t mark the beginning of a new disastrous year.’ The Belgians were confronted with ‘exceptionally strong rules’, she stated, compared to the southern neighbours that were still hoping for an end of the curfew and the Germans that could invite about a dozen. Belgian households will have to pick carefully who they can touch, with only one ‘cuddling-contact’ allowed for the families and two for the singles. Just two weeks later, Mark Rutte’s speech about the Netherlands going, at last, in a strict lockdown, caught the eye of journalists across the bloc. “How Belgium, once the loser, is now doing better than the Netherlands and Germany” wrote Michaël Torfs for Belgian news agency VRT.

So it looks like the holidays will be bleak in Belgium and silent in the Netherlands. Will it be any better in the sunny south?

Well, not really. The government in Spain has approved a set of rules that can be toughened by each autonomy. In most of them bars and non-essential businesses will be closed and winter celebrations will be restricted to 10 people, including children, something quite remarkable according to the BBC since Spain is one of the only countries that will include children in this count. The initial plan has been changed several times, mainly because of Madrid’s president Isabel Diaz Ayuso, who was, according to Diego Cogolludo, reporter from VozPópuli, the one who forced that concession from the government. The last plot twist of this story has come out this week, when Spanish minister for Health Salvador Illa has announced that the central government will grant powers to all the autonomies to apply more restrictions, reports El País.

So for a warm Christmas we might actually have to move North this year? Where the situation still seemed pretty good?

Indeed, in the Nordics there was still some light in the midst of darkness, so it seemed. But even Denmark, the country where the Coronavirus until recently only seemed to be a problem for the minks, has also also imposed a hard lockdown over Christmas. “Danish authorities expect the coming months to be the worst of the pandemic”, writes the Guardian. To have a good Christmas, one might have to move even further north. Norway is one of the few countries that will actually ease its rules with Christmas approaching, writes the Local Norway. The Norwegians will be able to see ten people for Christmas, except for the ones that live in the capital.

Erik Ruiz Martín & Nadine Vermeulen

Photo de Oleg Zaicev provenant de Pexels