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POSITIVE NEWS - What went right this week: Germany’s culture ‘gifts’ to citizens, plus more

Posted 18th November 2022 • Written by •

Germany hatched a plan to boost culture, the Swiss dug deep in the name of conservation, and the UK got its first drugs testing charity, plus more positive news
Germany hatched a plan to boost culture

Now here’s a civilised idea that appears to be catching on: birthday vouchers given to citizens by governments to be spent on concerts and theatre performances. 

Germany became the latest European country to announced such an initiative this week. Its €200 (£175) ‘KulturPass’ will be offered to all those turning 18 next year. The pilot project aims to boost the arts and, in the words of German culture minister Claudia Roth, “get young people excited about the diversity of culture in our country”. 

Some 750,000 people will turn 18 in Germany next year. The estimated cost of the KulturPass programme is around €100m. If successful, Roth suggested that it could be rolled out to other age groups. 

Similar schemes have been introduced elsewhere in Europe. France offers its citizens a €300 (£260) culture voucher when they turn 18. It can be spent on cinema, theatre and concert tickets, or on books, arts courses and musical instruments. Spain and Italy have their own schemes, offering €400 (£350) and €500 (£435) respectively.

Sticking with Germany…

The German government has announced that it will quit the controversial Energy Charter Treaty, which allows energy companies to sue governments for profits lost as a result of policy changes. 

France, Spain, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Poland have also announced they will withdraw from the pact, which has been used by energy companies to challenge policies designed to curb emissions. 

“It is an ongoing scandal that some of the world’s most polluting corporations have been able to disrupt and deter climate action under this secretive legal framework,” said Jean Blaylock, trade campaigner at Global Justice Now, a social justice organisation. 

“Germany’s departure from the Energy Charter Treaty must surely sound the death knell for this climate-wrecking trade agreement. The UK government should now abandoned its craven kowtowing to the fossil fuel industry and join the exodus.”

The treaty was set up in 1991 to protect energy firms as they integrated the energy networks of former Soviet Union countries with the rest of Europe.

Malta pledged to end its blanket ban on abortion

The Maltese government has pledged to change the law to allow doctors to terminate a pregnancy if a mother’s life or health is at risk. Malta is currently the only EU nation that enforces a total ban on abortion. 

The government’s announcement came after a US tourist was forced to fly to Spain to terminate a pregnancy that risked causing her a deadly infection. 

Gynaecologist Isabel Stabile, one of many doctors who challenged the law, told the BBC that it was a “step in the right direction”, but that there “will still not be any provision to terminate pregnancies in cases of rape or incest, or in cases of fatal, fetal anomaly.”

An English council launched a pioneering food policy

Vacant land currently blighted by fly-tipping is to be transformed into community orchards and allotments by an English council. 

There is a growing movement to reclaim unloved slivers of land, but most UK initiatives are community led and unofficial. The latest project in Hounslow, London, is significant because according to councillors it’s the first time a local authority has officially introduced such a policy.

Up to 27-acres have been earmarked for community growing in the first phase of Grow for the Future. The council will pair each site with a school and will educate children about growing food. Produce will be donated to families who need it. 

“Grow for the Future will provide hundreds of new growing spaces for Hounslow’s residents to put food on their plates,” said councillor Salman Shaheen. “I hope councils across Britain’s cities can look at similar opportunities to open up green space.”

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