JRC: new Soil Biodiversity AtlasGreat Britain, Benelux and Northern France are the European Union’s regions where “soil biodiversity is most seriously threatened”. These figures are contained in the new “European Soil Biodiversity Atlas” drawn up by EU Joint Research Centre (128 pages, in English, including tables and photographs, completely downloadable at the HYPERLINK address: http://eusoils.jrc.ec.europa.eu/library/maps/biodiversity_atlas/index.html), on life in the soil which illustrates, for the first time, “a map based on indicators of potential threats to soil biodiversity, bound to guide political decision makers to preserve these fundamental resources”. Soil biodiversity – the report states – “is fundamental in agriculture and in water and carbon cycles” and in general to preserve the environment and the quality of human life. Among the factors surveyed by the JRC are the variations in destination of territory usage, human exploitation of nature, invasive species, soil erosion and pollution. European Commissioner for Research Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, and Janez Potocnik, Environment Commissioner claimed: “Soil is essential to biodiversity that enables life on earth and helps our economies sustainability. Soil degradation is threatening access to food and water resources, clean air and many essential raw materials.” The Atlas is also meant to be a European contribution to the International Biodiversity Year 2010, promoted by the UN.Eurostat: not all students study foreign languagesFour students out of five, at primary and in upper secondary level schools study at least one foreign language. On the other hand there are still many students whose school curriculum does not include one. This is what emerged from a Eurostat survey carried out for the European Language day, held on September 26. For the EU statistical office “English is still the first language to be studied in schools” in the EU, followed by French and German. “10% of pupils at primary level also study a second language”, it increases to 39% at upper secondary level. The countries where primary schools are more active in teaching foreign languages are Luxembourg, Sweden, Italy and Spain, while Ireland, the Netherlands and Hungary are on the bottom of the list. In secondary level schools the countries that stand out are the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden. Only 32% of British secondary school students study a foreign language. Among European adults (25-64 years old) the percentage of people who know a language other than their mother tongue is very low: 13% of Eurostat respondents declared themselves as being proficient, 30% as having a fair or basic knowledge and 38% as having no knowledge of a foreign language other their own.Tourism: enhancing EU cultural and religious heritageThe Compostela Road, the region inside the former Iron Curtain, the Phoenician route of the “Olive trees” and the Via Francigena are some of the historical itineraries the EU focused on during the European Tourism Day celebrated on September 27. Among Brussels’ successful initiatives figure a continental “cultural heritage” exhibition and a conference on the heritage’s tourists and economic value. Two memorandums of understanding were signed by some Member States. Italy and France signed a memorandum, that might shortly include also Great Britain and Switzerland, that engages them “to develop a common long term strategy for the protection and promotion of cultural routes starting with the “Via Francigena” (the millenary road that took archbishop Siger from Rome to his Episcopal headquarter in Canterbury). Spain, Italy and France also agreed on a “European passion” logo, to jointly market their tourism offer”. “The cultural routes will take tourists on a journey sign-posted with the fundamental principles of Europe: human rights, democracy, cultural diversity, dialogue and mutual exchange”: this was the comment made by Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism to the Tourism day. Cultural itineraries, she added, “represent truly authentic pan-European touristic products and can be further developed into a comprehensive package, benefiting the industry and Europeans alike. “They “can help reduce tourists concentration in few sites and increase the feeling of citizenship".