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Europe's week: A row over rule of law and fears over the culture sector's future

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Europe's week: A row over rule of law and fears over the culture sector's future
Copyright  Rebecca Blackwell/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Europe's role in the world and whether it can deal with growing foreign policy challenges was the main topic at this past week's EU summit.

The special meeting came amid conflicts around the corner in Belarus and the southern Caucasus and ongoing standoffs with Turkey, China and Russia.

The upcoming presidential election in the United States and the country's political situation could also change the international political stage.

Yet the summit was focussed also on internal skirmishes and worries amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here's a look at the big topics that dominated Europe this past week.

Rule of law row

The longstanding rule of law row between Brussels and Budapest reached fever pitch this week, when Vice Commission president Vera Jourova called out Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for building a “sick democracy”.

That prompted a sharp rebuke by Orbán who accused her of attacking his democratically elected government and demanded her resignation.

Instead, Jourova doubled down on Hungary's record when she presented the EU's first ever rule of law report.

"When the rule of law is absent, when it is at risk, there is a concrete impact on every single one of our lives. I know this first hand because I myself grew up in an authoritarian regime without the rule of law. This means that equality before the law was an illusion. There were people more equal than others," said Jourova.

Both Hungary and Poland face a growing chorus of critics, especially in the European Parliament.

Brexit battle

The EU and UK continue to have serious divergences on Brexit with the bloc launching a legal process over the UK's internal market bill.

The Commission has "decided to send a letter of formal notice to the UK government — this is the first step in an infringement procedure," Ursula von der Leyen said this week.

The UK government, which has one month to reply to the Commission's letter, reiterated in a statement on Thursday that its bill is designed to "create a legal safety net to protect the integrity of the UK's internal market."

Culture revival

The arts and entertainment sectors, which were brutally hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, are also an important topic in Europe.

"Right now you have one third of all creators and artists in the world that don't have money to live. And that has become very complicated to imagine how we are going to endure that situation for four, six, eight months more," Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, assistant Director-General for Culture at UNESCO told Euronews.

There is the impact on creative professionals, but there is also an impact on those who “consume” and enjoy culture. With the access to culture seriously impeded, we've seen cultural events moving online instead.

"Everything is not black and white," explains Ramirez on whether this online access is for better or for worse.

So while some people are getting access to culture, 50 per cent of the world doesn't have access to internet. "What we are trying to push in some regions is how we use also television and radio to maintain to inform audiences," said Ramirez.

While the current pandemic has been a source of worry for the cultural sector, it could also be a source of inspiration. For Ramirez, it will be a turning point for cultural polices.

"We have to be more prepared with resilience, but also with a little bit of hope that we can do things better.