New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

The Soapbox: Eiffel Tower closure in France, maritime improvements in Australia, return of stolen artifacts in Ghana

The Soapbox is a weekly column by WSN covering major news developments at NYU’s campuses and study away sites abroad. Global consciousness for a global university.
Max Van Hosen
The Soapbox is a weekly news column rounding up stories worth reading for a global university. (Illustration by Max Van Hosen)

In France, Eiffel Tower closes amid worker strike

The Eiffel Tower has been closed to visitors since Monday as a result of a labor worker strike. The General Confederation of Labor, who organized the strike, claim the company managing the monument is mishandling its finances. The tower’s website has been updated, warning tourists that their planned visits may be interrupted “due to a renewable strike notice.

The unionized employees are demanding pay increases proportional to the rise in revenue from ticket sales, as well as improved maintenance for the over 100-year-old structure. The day after the strike began, union members voted unanimously to extend the strike for weeks, according to CGT representative Denis Vavassori.

Paris deputy mayor Emmanuel Grégoire refuted the CGT’s claim that the ironwork of the structure is rusting. Grégoire argued that despite the approximate 130 million euro loss the city faced due to a decline in tourism during the pandemic, the maintenance of the Eiffel Tower has not suffered any consequences.

The Eiffel Tower’s last closure was in March 2023, when a 10-day strike occurred as a result of nationwide protests against a government proposal to raise the minimum retirement and pension age.

The monument is expected to be at the “heart of the celebrations” during the Olympics, which will take place in the country during July and August. Vavassori said that while workers are willing to prolong the strike until their demands are met, the union hopes to navigate negotiations with the government to avoid a stalemate, mindful of the potential impact on the Summer Olympic Games.

“It would be a shame to continue the strike and its demands during the Olympic Games,” Vavassori said in an interview with the Associated Press. “For now, it looks like [the strike] could go on for several days, even weeks.”

In Australia, government to increase Navy presence

Australia announced a new initiative on Tuesday aimed at strengthening its national defense capabilities amid geopolitical tensions in the Asia Pacific region. Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said that the plan includes an increase in the naval fleet and an additional investment of $7 billion over the next decade.

Australia will surpass its current fleet of 11 combat-ready warships, more than doubling it to 26. The government is also committing to allocate 2.4% of the nation’s gross domestic product, surpassing the 2% GDP target set by NATO allies. The initiative positions the nation to have the largest Royal Australian Navy since World War II.

“What is critically important to understand is that as we look forward, with an uncertain world in terms of great power contest,” Marles told reporters, according to Al Jazeera. “We’ll have a dramatically different capability in the mid-2030s to what we have now.” 

An independent analysis conducted by the Albanese government emphasized the urgent need for upgrades, citing the current Australian naval force as the “oldest fleet the navy has operated in its history.” The Albanese government has also accepted recommendations to develop 25 minor war vessels for civil maritime security operations.

The 26 major surface combatants include three Hobart-class air warfare destroyers, six Hunter-class frigates to boost undersea warfare and 11 general-purpose frigates designed for maritime and air-strike capabilities. Additionally, Australia will incorporate six large optionally crewed surface vessels and Anzac-class frigates due to their dwindling service life.  

The maritime presence increase is set to generate 3,000 jobs for Australians, with many of the ships slated to be constructed in Adelaide, a city in southern Australia. The initiatives align with the Albanese government’s Integrated Investment Program, which dedicates $30.5 billion to strengthen the defense forces from now until the 2030s. They also correspond with Australia’s plan to obtain three U.S. nuclear-powered submarines.

In Ghana, stolen artifacts return from the United States

A U.S. museum “returned and presented” seven British-looted royal Ghanaian artifacts to Ghana’s ancient Asante kingdom on Feb. 8. The items’ return coincided with the 150th anniversary of the British colonial attack on the city in 1874.

The items, including an elephant tail whisk, ornamental chair and jewelry, were originally held in the University of California, Los Angeles’ Fowler Museum after being transferred from the British in the 1960s.

British rulers originally colonized Ghana in the late 19th century to access the nation’s abundant gold reserves. Ghana achieved independence in 1957, making it the first British colony in Africa to break free from British rule.

Staff at the Asante Palace said that the return of the artifacts symbolizes the restoration of “prestige” and “reverence.” Kwasi Ampene, a professor at the University of Michigan who helped with negotiations, called the repatriation “the return of our souls.”

The decision to return the ancient artifacts follows a global push from activists for the repatriation of “treasured pieces” stolen from African nations due to Western colonialism. This advocacy has seen success, exemplified in 2022 when Germany signed a deal with Nigeria to return hundreds of artifacts called the “Benin Bronzes.” 

Despite these efforts, activists claim thousands of artifacts have yet to be returned to their country of origin. The seven artifacts returned to Ghana, however, will stay in the kingdom “unconditionally and permanently.” The Fowler Museum said that Ghana has allowed for the replication of the ancient artifacts for display in the United States.

“We are globally shifting away from the idea of museums as unquestionable repositories of art, as collecting institutions entitled to own and interpret art based primarily on scholarly expertise,” Silva Forni, director of the Fowler Museum said. “To the idea of museums as custodians with ethical responsibility.” 

Contact Maisie Zipfel at [email protected].

View comments (1)
About the Contributor
Maisie Zipfel
Maisie Zipfel, Deputy News Editor
Maisie Zipfel is a first-year double majoring in Journalism and Politics, and double minoring in Gender and Sexuality Studies and Spanish. She is a Yerba Mate enthusiast, a Taylor Swift fanatic and an anti-Greek Life turned sorority girl (Deeph or Die). When she’s not writing in the WSN basement you can find her isolated in Palladium for NYU’s Competitive Dance Team practice, obsessing over her Four-Year Plan or trying to weave in time to take a nap. You can reach her on instagram @maisiezipfel, on LinkedIn (her favorite social media platform) @MaeZipfel or preferably on Venmo @mkzipfel.

Comments (1)

Comments that are deemed spam or hate speech by the moderators will be deleted.
All Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • R

    Ron ZipfelFeb 24, 2024 at 2:35 pm

    Really appreciate being kept informed of world events! Of particular interest was the return of artifacts to Ghana. In this troubling world, we got something right. Well done! Thank you!

    Ron Zipfel
    Peoria, IL