Your Weekly Recap for 5-9 June.
Here are five things you should know at the end of this week:
- Luxembourg braces for municipal elections
- Home office hours to double for cross-border workers
- Luxembourg City's biggest park opened on Wednesday
- Evacuations in Ukraine continue after key dam destroyed
- Ex-VP Pence jumps into 2024 White House race
1. Luxembourg braces for municipal elections
Final preparations for the municipal elections on Sunday 11 June are fully underway.
- Luxembourg's local political parties have only a couple of days left to convince voters that their vision for the next legislative period, which lasts six years, is the one to trust.
- In the run-up to Sunday's vote, election officials across the country still face various administrative challenges, ranging from obscured names on paper ballots to missing mail-in ballots and omitted envelopes.
Brace yourselves - Final preparations are underway as Luxembourg braces itself for Sunday's vote. Residents will head to their local polling station to decide which politicians or parties they want to entrust with guiding their home town for the coming six years.
Councillors are either elected through the relative majority system, which is applied in municipalities whose population falls short of 3,000 residents, or through list-based voting with proportional representation, which is applied in all municipalities with more than 3,000 residents. This means that individual politicians run in smaller towns while political parties present a list of selected candidates in larger ones.
In addition, there will be no elections in six communes as the number of candidates is equal to or lower than the number of people who can be elected. This applies to the municipalities of Bourscheid, Nommern, Stadtbredimus, Vichten, Weiler-la-Tour, and Winseler.
The elections in Berdorf have meanwhile been postponed following the death of councillor and candidate Carlo Bentner.
Read on here if you want to know more about how Luxembourg's municipal elections work.
In figures - This year, 38% of people running for local office are women. 90% of candidates are Luxembourg nationals. 13% of candidates in minority-Luxembourgish municipalities are non-nationals. 16% of foreign nationals had registered to vote by late March.
Logistical challenge - Sunday's vote brings about a number of challenges for election officials throughout the country. Eleven new polling stations have been set up in Luxembourg City to accommodate the capital's growing population.
In other towns, administrative mishaps still had to be corrected in the run-up to election day, including missing or faulty paper ballots. Parties meanwhile had to deal with acts of vandalism, including incidents in Echternach and Sanem.
Live coverage - RTL Today will cover the municipal elections live on Sunday, so keep an eye out for all updates about how the vote unfolds in your town.
For a full overview of all previous articles, head over to our municipal election section.
2. Home office hours to double for cross-border workers
Since the coronavirus pandemic, working from home has become an integral part of everyday work life for people in Luxembourg and elsewhere.
Member states of the European Union have collaborated on a new agreement for cross-border workers to address the demands of the new work landscape.
On Tuesday, Luxembourg's Minister for Social Security, Claude Haagen, signed the new agreement, thus ensuring the Grand Duchy's participation for the next five years.
Concerns - The agreement targets concerns surrounding social security. Usually, employees are insured in their country of work. Until now, however, the situation at EU level meant that if an individual spent fewer than 25% of their working hours in their country of employment, they would be made to pay social security contributions in their country of residence.
This regulation was temporarily lifted during the Covid pandemic.
Significant increase - The new agreement signed on Tuesday lifts the limit from 25% to 50% per year. Cross-border workers will remain insured in their country of employment if they carry out fewer than 50% of their working hours in their country of residence. However, this agreement only applies if the governments of both countries have signed the accord.
'Important for the Greater Region' - In a statement, the Ministry of Social Security confirmed Luxembourg's signature of the agreement and added that Germany and Belgium were also due to participate.
"Luxembourg is pursuing its commitment to promoting cross-border mobility, which is so important for the Greater Region, by helping to create a favourable environment for cross-border workers. [...] Geographical borders will no longer be a kind of obstacle to cross-border teleworking; instead cross-border workers will be able to benefit from new working methods, reducing long journeys and gaining a better work-life balance," Minister Haagen said on Tuesday.
© Domingos Oliveira / RTL
3. Luxembourg City's biggest park opened on Wednesday
Soon to be the largest green space in the capital, the Ban de Gasperich public park was officially inaugurated on Wednesday afternoon and opened to the public at 5pm.
This brand new green lung links the Gasperich district to the new Ban de Gasperich - home to 4,000 new residents - and offers a breath of fresh air for those who want to work out or simply switch off for a while.
However, not all areas are green yet and there is still work to be done. People will also have to wait a little longer before being able to quench their thirst at the refreshment bar.
A new player in town - The new Luxembourg City park extends over 16.6 hectares, making it the largest of the capital's green spaces.
From west to east, the newly naturalised Drosbach flows through the park, feeding marshy areas and an alluvial forest. The park is dotted with late-mown lawns, dry grasslands that are vital for the flora and fauna, and native trees such as maples, hornbeams, and beeches.
While the park will eventually be accessible from seven different points, the main entrance is located on Boulevard Kockelscheuer, almost opposite the new National Fire and Rescue Centre. The park will also be reachable via tram, just like the capital's two other major green spaces, the Kockelscheuer Park and the Municipal Park right in the centre.
Something for everyone - Round recreational spaces will be able to host events and concerts. A 4-km-long network of branching paths passes by the 7,000 square metre pond, as well as a whole series of playgrounds on the Western side of the park. This area features a multi-sports pitch, a beach volleyball court, petanque courts, and a large children's play area.
4. Evacuations in Ukraine continue after key dam destroyed
Ukraine was evacuating thousands of people Wednesday after an attack on a major Russian-held dam unleashed a torrent of water, inundating two dozen villages and sparking fears of a humanitarian disaster.
The destruction of the Kakhovka dam has sparked a wave of evacuations with 17,000 already forced to leave their homes by Wednesday.
Russia accused Ukraine at the UN's top court Thursday of destroying the dam with artillery strikes and alleged that Kyiv was led by neo-Nazis, a claim Moscow has repeatedly used to try to justify its invasion.
What happened? - It remains unclear what caused the dam to collapse as both Ukraine and Russia are said to have targeted it in the past. The structure was designed to supply water to the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Moscow in 2014, which now faces serious water supply problems.
It is however known that in recent weeks, heavy rain in the region has raised the water to record levels, eventually resulting in a state of overflow at the dam in May.
Aftermath - With the subsequent flood reaching the rooftops in Russian-occupied Kherson, rescuers raced to save people as water from the destroyed dam engulfed the southern Ukrainian city. The Dnipro River that flows through Kherson rose by more than five metres since the dam upstream was destroyed early Tuesday.
While there is "no immediate nuclear safety risk," the UN nuclear watchdog is exploring options to get water to keep cooling Europe's biggest atomic plant, the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, which is some 150 kilometres (90 miles) away.
The destruction of the dam will have a catastrophic effect on locating landmines in the affected region, the Red Cross warned Wednesday.
Exchanging blame - Ukraine branded Russia a "terrorist state" at the UN's top court on Tuesday, accusing Moscow of blowing up the dam as part of a campaign to wipe it off the map. "Russia cannot defeat us on the battlefield, so it targets civilian infrastructure to try to freeze us into submission. Just today, Russia blew up a major dam located in Nova Kakhovka," Ukrainian diplomat Anton Korynevych said.
Russia denies any responsibility and blames the attack on Ukraine instead. Moscow's comments to judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) came as it denied wider allegations by Ukraine that Russia had breached terrorism laws by backing separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday that the partial destruction of the Kakhovka dam in Ukraine was "another devastating consequence" of Russia's invasion of its neighbor.
Britain is unwilling to apportion blame at this stage for the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in Ukraine and is awaiting "all available facts", Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told AFP on Wednesday.
"We're not going to say anything until we are completely armed with all the available facts. So we're going to err on the side of caution on this one," Cleverly said in an interview on the sidelines of a meeting at the OECD in Paris.
He said that Russia bore ultimate responsiblity for all events and destruction in the war, however, having initiated the conflict with its invasion in February last year.
5. Ex-VP Pence jumps into 2024 White House race
Republican former vice president Mike Pence launched his bid for the 2024 presidential nomination on Monday, offering a traditionalist alternative to the battle royale being waged by populists Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis.
Pence is framing himself as a traditional Republican, concerned with fiscal responsibility and family values, who can deliver Trump's economic policies without the drama.
Former VP - Pence has spent much of the last two years touring early-nominating states such as Iowa and New Hampshire to reinforce his political vision as a "Christian, conservative, Republican, in that order."
In an online campaign video published on Wednesday, the former Vice President stated: "Today, before God and my family, I'm announcing I'm running for president of the United States.
Crowded field - The field for the Republican nomination is crowded as several Republican heavyweights have already announced their run for office. Pence will thus have to compete against Florida Governour Ron DeSantis, one of his colleagues from the Trump administration, former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, and of course his former boss Trump himself.
Like Haley and DeSantis, Pence has appeared determined to avoid conflict with Trump in hopes of wooing his former supporters should the cascade of criminal investigations targeting the former president take him out of the race.
'Hang Mike Pence!' - Pence, 63, honed his reputation as an unstintingly loyal deputy who stuck with Trump throughout a scandal-plagued four years and brought the religious right into the tent.
But the Vice President became a pariah in Trumpworld after rejecting the Republican leader's demands that he overturn the 2020 election in his role as president of the Senate.
Berated constantly by Trump after Joe Biden's victory - and even heckled at a conservative conference with chants of "traitor!" - Pence continued to praise the tycoon in public.
That eventually changed after Trump's torrent of false claims of election fraud led to a mob chanting for Pence to be hanged at the US Capitol.
The best of... 📚
- Business & Tech - Apple on Monday unveiled its first-ever mixed reality headset, challenging Facebook-owner Meta in a market that has yet to tempt users beyond videogamers and tech geeks.
- Science & Environment - Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell by 31 percent in the first five months of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's administration versus the same period last year, officials said Wednesday.
- Entertainment - Slain rap legend Tupac Shakur was honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame on Wednesday, almost three decades after the best-selling artist was gunned down in a drive-by shooting.
- Sport - Lionel Messi on Wednesday said he will sign for Major League Soccer side Inter Miami, choosing the United States as his next destination over a Barcelona reunion or blockbuster deal to play in Saudi Arabia.
And in case you missed it... ⚠️
- A year on - The Schiebourg railway tunnel, which collapsed due to a landslide in summer 2022, is finally set to reopen in August this year, marking the end of a challenging period of stabilisation and repair work.
- CNS embezzlement trial - Prosecutors are calling for a 3.5-year prison sentence, which may be suspended, in the case of a woman accused of embezzling nearly €2 million from the National Health Fund (CNS).
- Charity event - Two months after the annual Duck Race in the capital, the Luxembourg Roundtable Association has announced that a record sum of €90,000 was raised at the event.
- On the run - The public prosecutor's office in Nancy, France, confirmed that former intelligence operative for the Luxembourgish government Frank Schneider, who was arrested two years ago in France on suspicion of fraud relating to cryptocurrency OneCoin, is on the run.
Your Weekly Recap is published every Friday at noon. Read earlier versions.