World – EU Reporter#Brexit – Britain and EU start penultimate round of talks before key deadline#Coronavirus – Further #rescEU masks delivered to North Macedonia and Montenegro#Kazakhstan – Statement by the head of state at the final meeting of the State Commission on the state of emergencyCommission approves compensation to energy-intensive companies in #Romania for indirect emission costs#COVID-19 pandemic as a force to disrupt institutional trustFascism and anti-#Serb sentiments in #CroatiaInternational collaboration in the field of #ICT research is a central cog in the wheel in tackling the global challenges of today
https://www.eureporter.co Independent media for proper debate Tue, 12 May 2020 10:51:46 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.1 https://www.eureporter.co/frontpage/2020/05/12/brexit-britain-and-eu-start-penultimate-round-of-talks-before-key-deadline/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brexit-britain-and-eu-start-penultimate-round-of-talks-before-key-deadline
Tue, 12 May 2020 07:15:10 +0000
Britain and the European Union start their penultimate scheduled round of trade talks on Monday (11 May) with little progress on major sticking points before a June deadline to agree on any extension of negotiations, writes Gabriela Baczynska. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused to prolong the current transition period beyond the end […]]]>
Britain and the European Union start their penultimate scheduled round of trade talks on Monday (11 May) with little progress on major sticking points before a June deadline to agree on any extension of negotiations,writes Gabriela Baczynska.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused to prolong the current transition period beyond the end of the year to grant more time for the two sides to agree the scale and scope of their new relationship.
The EU is pushing for progress on a comprehensive deal including fisheries, security and the so-called level playing field guarantees of fair competition. London is more keen on a narrower trade agreement with the bloc from 2021.
Both sides have dug in their heels in and negotiations have been complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, which is sapping the energy and political attention on both sides of the English Channel.
This week’s round is due to cover trade in goods and services, fisheries, transport and aviation, energy and other matters, and another one is planned for the week of 1 June.
The end of that month marks a deadline for both sides to assess progress so far and agree on any extension of talks.
The EU fears London’s refusal to do so raises the risk of another cliff-edge later this year if Britain were to crash out of the current, elaborate relationship with the 27-nation bloc without a network of new rules for cooperation in place.
Following previous deliveries to Italy, Spain and Croatia, more batches of FFP2 masks are being delivered to North Macedonia and Montenegro from rescEU – the common European reserve of medical equipment to help countries affected by the coronavirus outbreak. “I am proud to see further protective equipment is being mobilised from our rescEU reserve. With these […]]]>
Following previous deliveries to Italy, Spain and Croatia, more batches of FFP2 masks are being delivered to North Macedonia and Montenegro from rescEU – the common European reserve of medical equipment to help countries affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
“I am proud to see further protective equipment is being mobilised from our rescEU reserve. With these new batches of protective masks to North Macedonia and Montenegro we will give protection to healthcare and other essential workers,” said Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič. The support comes in addition to protective equipment delivered last week, such as hand disinfectant, towels, gloves and bedding, made available by Austria to these two countries via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Romania and Germany, host the rescEU reserve and are therefore responsible for procuring the equipment, while the Commission finances 100% of purchase of the masks and other equipment. More deliveries will follow. All EU member states, the UK during the transition period as well six further Participating States, including North Macedonia and Montenegro, take part in theEU Civil Protection Mechanism.
Dear participants of the meeting! The last two months have not been easy for our country. The crisis has not yet been completely overcome, reports Astana Times However, the peak of the epidemic is over. Photo credit: Akorda.kz The state emergency commission has carried out extensive work. Approximately 500 decisions have been made and implemented in […]]]>
Dear participants of the meeting! The last two months have not been easy for our country. The crisis has not yet been completely overcome,reports Astana Times
However, the peak of the epidemic is over.
Photo credit: Akorda.kz
The state emergency commission has carried out extensive work.
Approximately 500 decisions have been made and implemented in order to protect the health of the population, increase their income and support the business.
Now, the emergency commission will be transformed into a state commission for the restoration of economic growth.
The state of emergency ended today throughout the country.
However, in some regions the spread of the epidemic is not slowing.
The epidemic has not completely disappeared. A pandemic is still dangerous to public health.
Therefore, quarantine restrictions will be lifted gradually as the situation in each region improves.
Nevertheless, many areas are beginning to recover.
Today, more than 1.1 million people have already returned to work.
From today, many stores will open across the country, the work of beauty salons, educational centres and other facilities will resume.
Parks will open.
Air transportation will resume for passengers.
Earlier, airports opened in 6 cities. Now 7 more cities will join them.
Many restrictions have been lifted.
However, it is important to take precautions in everyday life.
The government needs to develop and implement new sanitary rules. Small, medium and large companies must operate in accordance with the new rules.
Adhering to social distancing and wearing a mask in public should be the norm.
Restrictions on transportation between regions remain.
Public transport will operate at half load.
Passengers are required to wear a mask.
The number of individuals walking on the street should not exceed 3 people.
50 percent of government employees will continue to work remotely.
The management of private businesses must decide themselves how many employees should go to work.
It would be best if most people stay home. This is, first and foremost, a matter of people’s safety.
Social distancing and strict sanitation must be respected in the workplace.
The second wave of the epidemic may begin. Therefore, our well-being depends on our own responsibility.
If the epidemic recurs, the Government will develop a clear plan of action.
As you know, on my instructions, two packages of anti-crisis measures are being implemented in the country.
More than 4.5 million people have received financial assistance in the amount of 42,500 tenge.
Food and household items are being distributed to more than 1 million people.
Utility rates have been reduced.
Those who are most in need will receive extra help to pay for it.
Loan repayment deadlines of approximately 2 million people have been postponed.
Significant funds have been allocated for affordable lending, spring sowing campaign, and for creation and preservation of jobs.
The tax burden has been reduced for more than 700,000 companies and entrepreneurs.
Therefore, they managed to save around 1 trillion tenge.
We must also acknowledge that there were flaws in this work.
It is true that the epidemic has spread and economic problems have escalated.
Therefore, we took urgent measures in a timely manner.
Many issues have been resolved through the active participation of members of the public.
This was an important step in the implementation of the “listening state” concept.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a global recession.
This can even lead to a protracted economic crisis.
Protectionism is increasing everywhere.
Entire sectors of the economy are in stagnation.
More than 400 million companies are on the verge of bankruptcy.
Incomes of about half of the world’s working-age population has declined.
Experts predict that the global economy will fall to a level that has not been seen in the last 100 years.
Despite this situation, I want to say that our country has a number of advantages.
We have enough financial reserves, and the size of public debt is in line with our capabilities.
Most importantly, we know where to spend resources to ensure employment and increase economic efficiency in the new environment.
Let me now focus on the development priorities during and after the crisis.
The key is to protect the life and health of all citizens. Increase in citizens’ income.
Support and business development. Improve the system of education and science.
We need to resolve the following issues in the near future.
First. Improving the self-sufficiency of the Kazakh economy.
To achieve this, new redistributions in industry should be developed on the basis of the existing substantial raw material base.
We will have to take a fresh look at the future structure of the Kazakh economy and define the role of each of its main sectors: industry, energy, agriculture, service. In other words, there is an urgent need to build a new economic structure.
Obviously, significant reforms will be required by the energy sector. After the crisis, it will not be the same. In the medium term, a move towards green energy is an urgent need.
Our approach to industrialisation will also require a revision – it is necessary to identify real opportunities in the export and domestic markets, outline achievable goals, instruments and move forward.
The competent use of public procurement and the procurement of the quasi-public sector should be considered as a means of restoring economic activity.
A special public procurement procedure aimed at supporting domestic producers will continue until August of this year.
The maximum use of domestic materials and equipment will be recorded as a priority condition for business development.
According to infrastructure programmes, it is necessary to increase the current level of localisation from 40 to 60-70%.
Assessment of the work of the Government, governors and heads of quasi-public sector companies will be based mainly on this indicator.
The current situation has clearly confirmed the well-known truth: food security is a key element of the security of the state as a whole.
Therefore, we will continue to provide maximum support to farmers.
In addition to the forward purchases already underway, financing mechanisms will be expanded through the introduction of off-take contracts and debt restructuring of KazAgro loans.
In Kazakhstan, there are approximately 1.7 million personal subsidiary plots.
However, their products are not officially sold through retail outlets and do not go to processing enterprises.
The state does not receive taxes from them; those employed in such farms are essentially not socially protected.
I entrust the Government together with the National Entrepreneurs Chamber “Atameken” to launch a pilot project in several regions on the development of a cooperation chain in the village “from the field to shop shelves”.
Then it is possible to start scaling up the project and by the middle of 2021 develop a full-fledged Programme.
During the implementation of this programme, preferential micro-crediting will be applied at a rate of 6% per annum through the KazAgro line using the guarantee instruments of the “Damu” Fund.
It is also necessary to establish a system of constant procurement and marketing, launch training and increase the agro-competencies of the participants.
All this will increase the income of about 2 million villagers, increase the load of domestic agricultural enterprises from 53% to 70% and reduce the import of socially significant products.
Second. We are allocating around 1 trillion tenge for the implementation of the Employment Roadmap.
This is a significant amount. It can also be used for lending to small businesses.
This should be under the control of the competent authorities and fully used expediently.
In this difficult period, it is necessary to create new jobs through funded projects.
It is necessary to attract as many workers as possible.
Initiatives must be undertaken that continually bring economic benefits or develop human capital.
In this regard, schools, hospitals and other facilities should be built and modernised.
It is increasingly important not to allow the same objects in each region to have exceedingly varying costs. Unfortunately, this situation is very common in our country.
Following the implementation of the projects, the analysis of their socio-economic efficiency will be carried out.
Third. A powerful incentive for economic development, employment growth and social support should be the construction of affordable housing.
The 7-20-25 programme initiated by the Leader of the Nation gave a great impetus to mortgage lending and housing construction.
To solve the waiting list issues, I instruct to launch a new project on providing credit housing in the form of “5-10-20”. For these purposes, we will allocate 390 billion tenge for these purposes, within the framework of the anti-crisis funds.
This year, record volumes of construction are planned in the country – 15 million square meters, or 150,000 apartments and houses.
It is important to continue work to improve the living conditions of our citizens. In fact, this is one of the strategic directions of the Government. To do this, it is necessary to modernise the institutional structure.
By the end of the year, the government should create, on the basis of “Zhilstroysberbank”, a full-fledged development and support institution – Otbasy Bank, which will centrally record, set up and distribute housing.
A continuation of systemic transformations in this area will be the use by our citizens of part of their pension savings for the purpose of improving housing conditions.
I previously gave such an instruction, but in connection with the state of emergency, the discussion dragged on. It’s time to make a decision. The Government must decide on its approach by July 1.
Fourth. I believe that in the name of social justice, the time has come to work out the issue of introducing a progressive scale of individual income tax in respect of wages and other types of income.
The point of the progressive scale is that citizens with low salaries will pay less than today, while for high earners the amount of tax paid will increase.
Our main goal is to remove the most substantial, non-transparent lower wage segment from the “shadow”. If the tax rate for them is reduced, there will be less incentive to pay cash in the envelope.
In the face of declining household incomes, it is important to continue monitoring the state of the consumer lending market in order to prevent an increase in the debt burden of citizens.
The financial market regulatory agency should consider rehabilitating borrowers with problem loans.
Approaches to calculating interest rates on loans depending on the type of borrower and type of product should also be reviewed.
To protect the interests of citizens, control over non-bank credit organisations will be strengthened, and licensing of microfinance activities will be introduced from next year.
I want to focus on another aspect of our social policy.
The condition for receiving a new social payment was the payment of a single aggregate payment. More than 40% of its recipients are people who have paid the single aggregate payment for the first time.
These are precisely the citizens who require genuine state assistance. They need to be involved as much as possible in the economy.
These people must not be allowed to go into the shadow again, and left alone with their problems.
After all, state support, social protection in the event of unfavourable conditions, and a decent pension in the future can be expected primarily by those who work officially and pay taxes.
Therefore, it is precisely such citizens, along with temporarily unemployed, that should become the subject of close attention of the Government and governors.
As part of a market economy, everyone can temporarily lose their jobs, in connection with which the Government should as much as possible simplify registration on the online labour exchange site, shorten procedures and time for obtaining the unemployment status and related benefits.
Fifth. Support for national business.
In the face of falling demand and a decrease in the market value of assets and collaterals, it is extremely important to use the “Damu” Fund loan guarantee tool.
Fund guarantees will be extended to loans issued under the National Bank’s working capital lending programme.
Its volume is 600 billion tenge and will be increased if necessary.
To expand lending to the economy, the Agency for Regulation and Development of the Financial Market took measures to weaken prudential standards and reduce pressure on liquidity.
This enabled the release of approximately 600 billion tenge in the banking sector, which should be directed to the country’s economy.
An additional set of temporary prudential measures should be developed that expand the ability of banks to lend to the economy.
Special attention should be paid to micro and small business. Their ability to fully use standard banking products is very limited.
In this regard, I instruct to provide special measures for small businesses within the framework of the Business Roadmap programme.
The Government and the National Entrepreneurs Chamber “Atameken” should determine the amount of funding for this area.
Another measure of business support will be the expansion of the list of industries to which banks and other financial organisations provide deferred payments on loans.
This should include trade, manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, accommodation and food, information and communications, education and health.
Creating a diversified economy with a focus on manufacturing remains our priority.
To implement long-term projects in this sector, it is necessary to provide additional capitalisation of the Development Bank of Kazakhstan.
In addition, at the expense of funds raised under the extended obligations of manufacturers, the Industrial Development Fund can be created. Its work will be aimed at providing affordable lending to breakthrough manufacturing enterprises at a rate of no more than 3 percent.
Sixth. In terms of increased competition for foreign capital, we should switch to working directly with each capital holder.
It is necessary to develop individual support measures for each investor based on priority and potential effect on the economy as a whole.
As part of this important work, the Government should ensure a stability regime for all investment legislation for strategic investors in priority sectors.
It is necessary to intensify the use of the potential of the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) to attract investment and develop the stock market.
This is especially important in light of the upcoming privatisation of state assets.
Access should also be made to Kazakh entrepreneurs to take advantage of the English law and the AIFC arbitration in resolving business disputes.
It is necessary to begin work on the phased transfer of individual structures belonging to national companies from foreign jurisdictions to the AIFC.
We will not be able to achieve the trust of foreign investors if our own companies choose foreign jurisdictions.
The Government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and foreign representations should strengthen the promotion of the AIFC investment tax residency programme.
The administration of the AIFC is working on a new Strategy until 2025.
In the current difficult conditions, the confidence of investors and businesses in the national currency and monetary policy is playing a key role.
In this regard, it is extremely important to reduce speculative attacks on the national currency. This is the task of the National Bank and the Agency for Regulation of the Financial Market.
Seventh. Unfortunately, just as in the rest of the world, we will not be able to save all enterprises and all jobs, and ensure the stability of each business.
Therefore, it is important at the normative level to recognise the introduction of the state of emergency as a force majeure circumstance for the sectors of the economy that are most affected by the introduction of the state of emergency.
In this case, when representatives of individual entrepreneurs and small businesses apply to court, a state of emergency should be recognised as a force majeure situation.
It is also important during this difficult period to maintain the economic activity of existing entrepreneurs, to protect private property and competition.
In order to prevent pressure from unscrupulous creditors, I instruct to suspend the initiation of bankruptcy proceedings against legal entities and individual entrepreneurs until October 1 of this year.
Furthermore. As a result of past crises, a significant number of non-performing assets that have been excluded from economic turnover have accumulated on the balance sheets of banks.
Banking structures need to develop substantive plans for the sale of non-performing assets, while strengthening monitoring and evaluation of the responsible bank personnel.
The Agency for Regulation and Development of the Financial Market, as part of a risk-based supervision, needs to strengthen monitoring and control of banks with stressed assets.
The systemic solution is to create a civilised market for non-performing assets. A simple and working mechanism for securitisation and insurance should be created.
* * *
To implement these and other measures to support citizens and develop business, a comprehensive plan for the restoration of economic growth is being developed.
This plan will be approved soon.
State bodies should carefully consider all methods of its implementation.
Nor should they allow their inappropriate actions to undermine the importance of these measures.
How we overcome the difficult period of the crisis, and how we adapt the country and the economy to further development depends on this.
We clearly see that the crisis has fundamentally changed the situation in the world and in the national economy.
The current situation and the factors of upcoming changes should be taken into account in the new version of the Strategic Development Plan until 2025.
The plan should include institutional and structural reforms that enhance economic and public administration.
The current crisis has shown the world how important the issues of the social sphere are: medicine, education, social protection.
We need fundamental transformations aimed at improving the quality of the health care system, full-fledged technological re-equipment of medical facilities, and increasing the competencies of medical personnel.
The system needs to be adapted to quickly respond to emergencies of any nature.
Approaches should be developed for infection control of the population, introduction of telemedicine and remote diagnostics.
It is necessary to radically strengthen the national sanitary and epidemiological service.
It looks like COVID-19 and similar viruses are not a one-time occurrence. Therefore, we should be constantly prepared not only from a practical, but also from a scientific perspective.
The Government should formulate a Biosafety Council with the involvement of reputable scientists and experts.
Education should be made much more flexible, protocols and methods for teaching children and students remotely should be developed, and the real digitisation of all educational institutions in the country should be completed.
It is necessary to spearhead the introduction of modern remote technologies. It is necessary to revise the content of educational programs, make them accessible and interactive.
The training of teachers themselves should be subject to new requirements.
The most important area of the country’s Strategic Plan will be the transformation of the public administration system.
New approaches will be introduced, including in accordance with the post-pandemic rethinking of the situation.
The successfully implemented remote work format has shown the relevance and adequacy of the use of modern technologies in making important government decisions.
As a currently well-established innovation, I propose to conduct meetings and sessions of the Government, ministries, and governors’ offices in this remote format as much as possible.
Unnecessary procedures, approvals, meetings, waste of time and money should be eliminated. This practice has become obsolete. Decisions need to be made quickly, and, most importantly, implemented.
It is important to maintain a certain degree of initiative, taking responsibility on yourself, including in the post-virus period.
We need an updated, efficient and compact state apparatus that quickly and efficiently makes decisions in response to a changing situation.
The reform of state development institutions will continue.
As part of the implementation of my Address to the people, the reform of their structure, the clarification of goals and objectives, has begun. We must fully resolve issues of duplication of a number of functions, issues of further privatisation, access of domestic entrepreneurs to the procurement of the quasi-public sector.
It is necessary to rethink the essence of the concept of e-government, fully crate an online system for obtaining consultations, certificates, submitting applications, and make the “egov” language simple and understandable for the population.
Communication between businesses and the state will completely switch to the digital format and become contactless.
To achieve this, the digitisation of the entire process of obtaining public services and support measures will be completed.
It is important to give a new impetus to all the processes of digitisation of the economy and society.
On May 1, the Turkestan region was flooded due to the breaking of the dam of the Sardoba reservoir in the Republic of Uzbekistan.
This is a man-made emergency.
More than 5,000 houses in 5 villages of the Maktaaral district were flooded.
There was also a risk of flooding in 9 settlements.
Thanks to urgent measures, we prevented the further spread of the flood.
Currently, work is underway to eliminate the effects of the flooding.
The main attention is paid to maintaining public order and property of the population.
We will take the necessary measures to restore the daily life of the area.
Overall, new homes will be built by the autumn.
Each resident affected by the flood will be paid compensation in the amount of 100,000 tenge.
Livestock losses and flood damage to farmland will be compensated.
Overall, not a single affected resident will be left without help. We will help them.
I am grateful to all the people who have provided help in the affected area.
The mayor’s office, Ministry of Defence, the National Guard, the emergency committee departments and the police are carrying out work in the affected area.
It should be noted that representatives of large domestic and foreign businesses have also provided significant assistance to the affected population.
Such citizens can be called true patriots of our people.
Thank you all!
And this time, our citizens managed to show an example of unity.
When we are together, we can endure all difficulties.
We can complete any task.
* * *
We are going through a difficult period.
The unity of our people gives us strength to move forward.
The weight lifted by common efforts is light.
We had gone through many tests before. I hope that we will overcome this difficulty as well.
This is the translation of the official statement delivered by Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on 11 May at the government commission meeting. The statement is available on Akorda.kz website.
The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, Romanian plans to partially compensate energy-intensive companies for higher electricity prices resulting from indirect emission costs under the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). The scheme will cover the period 2019-2020, with a provisional budget of approximately €291 million (RON 1397m). The measure will benefit companies […]]]>
The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, Romanian plans to partially compensate energy-intensive companies for higher electricity prices resulting from indirect emission costs under the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS).
The scheme will cover the period 2019-2020, with a provisional budget of approximately €291 million (RON 1397m). The measure will benefit companies active in Romania in sectors facing significant electricity costs and which are particularly exposed to international competition. The compensation will be granted through a partial refund of indirect ETS costs to eligible companies. The Commission assessed the measure under EU state aid rules, in particular its Guidelines on certain state aid measures in the context of the greenhouse gas emission allowance trading scheme post-2012and found that it is in line with the requirements of the Guidelines. In particular, the scheme will avoid an increase in global greenhouse gas emissions due to companies relocating to countries outside the EU with less stringent environmental regulation.
Furthermore, the Commission concluded that the aid granted is limited to the minimum necessary. More information will be available on the Commission’scompetition website, in theState Aid Register under the case number SA.56403.
On 8 April 2020, after 76 days of lockdown and confinement in Wuhan, China reopened Wuhan City and started resuming production. The temporary victory took place after unprecedented damage suffered in this city and an all-out medical effort to save infected people. China sacrificed Wuhan City and Hubei Province to gain time to battle COVID-19 […]]]>
On 8 April 2020, after 76 days of lockdown and confinement in Wuhan, China reopened Wuhan City and started resuming production. The temporary victory took place after unprecedented damage suffered in this city and an all-out medical effort to save infected people. China sacrificed Wuhan City and Hubei Province to gain time to battle COVID-19 in the rest of the country and the rest of the world,write Dr.Ying Zhang and Dr. Urs Lustenberger.
The latter, however, does not seem to appreciate this. All the data and the lessons learned, and the sacrifice of tens of thousands of people were hardly registered by the so-called experts tasked with many countries’ pandemic preparation. Ignorance, bickering and arrogance have become the key words defining how many nations started to deal with this pandemic. Best practices and lessons learned such as using AI to closely trace infections, population-wide testing, and various methods of treatment are still hardly acknowledged and do not take place in many countries. The crucial time window to win this pandemic in the early stage has been wasted, due to a hesitation between lockdown (to protect its people from virus infection) and risking people to be exposed to acquire herd immunity so that the economy could possibly be saved. A few interesting themes made the headlines for politicians and the media:
(1) This is nothing but a flu? Therefore we shouldn’t worry about it. After all it is only a problem of mainland China.
(2) We have enough resources and the world’s best medical infrastructure to deal with this pandemic!? Even after COVID-19 started spreading outside of China, the western world still considered COVID-19 as an Asian matter, similar to 2003’s SARS. With that, large scale discrimination started to occur in many countries in Europe and North America.
(3) When Europe and the USA became the center of the pandemic as a consequence of their ill-preparation and their late and lackluster response, the geo-political consensus developed as “this pandemic started from China, so this virus is produced by China?!”, or “China is supposed to have more death from this pandemic, if using the Western measures to control this pandemic, so all the infection rate and death toll declared by China must be wrong?! Therefore, China should compensate others for their loss endured by this pandemic?!” etc. All these hilarious political arguments have been eagerly lapped up by the leaders of many countries. It proved easier to blame China as the culprit than to admit their own failures and mistakes. By now, Covid 19 has indiscriminately and quickly wreaked havoc in both rich and poor countries. The cost of life that was endured from the failure to take note of the lessons learned in Asia has by far outweighed the risk of a downturn of the economy. Such was proved by countries like South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan that showed how a quick and decisive reaction could have limited both the cost to the society as well as the cost to the economy.
Similar to the last pandemic, known as the Spanish Flu, also known as H1N1, in 1918, this current pandemic is indiscriminate of race, age, status, gender educational level etc. and as such has a tendency to provoke mankind’s reaction to be opportunistic and distrusting . In 1918 during WWI, when the Spanish Flu killed millions of soldiers and civilians in Europe, the media was not allowed to report about the pandemic as the leaders were more afraid of losing WWI than the battle against the pandemic. The public health emergency was not a priority and human life counted little. This opportunistic mentality caused a death toll of hundreds of millions and exceeded the atrocities of the war by far.
Interestingly, the lessons from the 1918’s pandemic have not been learned by humans. As history replays with a quite similar story line in which the majority of developed countries chose to protect their economies rather than the lives of its citizens. In doing so they missed what could be called the golden window for the application of the golden rules of when and how to deal with the pandemic decisively. Instead, it became common place to argue that one did not have sufficient information from earlier infected countries. It became a consensual geo-political argument to accuse those who held a different ideological system but responded well to the pandemic; and to dodge citizens’ critiques on the deadly consequence of ill-preparation. The excuse for keeping the economy running as the one priority instead of a quick adaption of the golden rules on fighting the pandemic have ironically become the main reason for the decisive destruction of the economy.
Many commented the choice between hunger (economy) and illness (pandemic) is a dilemma. I argue, however, that only for those who are not prepared this choice poses a dilemma. Once a system is civilized, sustainable, and collaborative, the damage and the loss from any crisis is predictable and reducible. Even though a crisis is hard to predict and control, a sustainable system is able to prepare reserves for all to go through it. But what do we have now?
The current pandemic has broken the global value chain, caused millions of citizens to go unemployed, caused millions of firms to terminate their business or go bankrupt altogether; and more seriously, it exposed millions of people to a precarious situation without access to unemployment rescue funds and no access to medical care, even though our morality would tell us that all lives should be saved. Therefore, predictably, even though people could die from either/both hunger or/and illness, no matter if they are from wealthy countries like the USA and West Europe, or poor countries like India or Bangladesh, most of the institutions of all these countries still blindly struggle with the dilemma between upkeeping their respective economy or battling the pandemic. As such, all these systems show that they are neither sustainable, civilized, nor collaborative. They rather prove themselves to be unequal, unsustainable and contradictive.
In the face of the current pandemic, a series of urgent questions, need to be addressed.
(1) What components are essential in our economic equation? How long should performance of an economy continue to be determined by a GDP-based index? Shouldn’t we take this pandemic as an opportunity to revolutionize the system of our economy? Is the current system agile enough to find solutions to these questions or will it be disrupted by novel ideas and concepts? What is the cost of human lives of a passive approach to deal with these issues?
(2) Should our current concept of the economy and its underpinning theories be revised because of the predictable economic recession caused by this pandemic? Will it be sufficient to have international free trade relationships based on the law of comparative advantage only? Can this law, together with a series of economic derivatives such as futures contracts, really bring all the market participants a shared prosperity without economic bubbles? Will this law-triggered globalization bring equally beneficial use to each country? The answer is a resounding no.
It is evident that this law of comparative advantage, even when considering combining it with the law of absolute advantage, will not be enough to deal with the on-going transformation. The essential point is, as long as the equally full collaboration across nations and across classes is not applied, wealth distribution and resource allocation will always remain biased and discriminative among the various levels and clusters. With such a logic, the rich will become richer, the poor will become poorer; cross level trade will never truly favor both sides equally. Even though leapfrog catching up is possible for some latecomer countries, the middle-income trap will paradoxically always remain an absolute for most.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, most people are off from major offline consumption, entire industries slowed down and as a consequence, supply was reduced. People’s life style changed dramatically because of the confinement and severe limitations of social activity. In the prevailing conditions of the economy, financial reserves are not able to be allocated equally to all citizens for any longer than three months, no matter if a nation is a poor or a wealthy one. This stems largely from the fact that the economic system was designed to consume the resource of the future rather than being sustainable at present. Applying this logic and considering the expected maximum economic volume on the earth as an alternative presence of the energy, the total economic volume of this isolated system on our planet should be constant according to the Law of Conservation of Energy. Therefore, the role of the Law of Absolute or Comparative Advantage in economics and international trade is not only to increase the economic volume of the system to its maximum at a certain speed, but also to distribute such increase to various networks either equally or unequally. Following the universal Law of the Constant Energy, the total volume of the maximum economy should be a constant and calculated on the basis of the total economic volume of all species.
Therefore, the rule of unequal distribution of resources must cause unequal economic consequences. And the unequal resource distribution comes from the problematic system that was designed for such. If the formula of resource distribution on our isolated planet is based on plundering the resources of any other nation, species, or the next few generations, the law of Conservation of Energy will predict an eventual disruption of human’s society. A force beyond human’s technology and understanding will then intervene to reset a new equation of conservation of energy. Such a force could be a war between tribes, nations, species, and even amongst planets. The reason is simple, unequal energy distribution breeds unequal consequence, one of which is the hatred that brings humans into a war.
Taking the 2008 financial crisis as an example, the American government invested $700 billion to rescue the financial-sector and bail out its banks; the UK government invested a $850bn rescue package; the Chinese government invested a $575bnstimulus package (13% of 2008 China’s GDP) to stimulate the economy, etc. What is done this time to offset the adverse effects of the pandemic? In addition to the late response and a naïve interpretation of the pandemic and its impact, the exact rescue plan for each country was completely incomparable. The EU’s whole support fund for the 27 EU countries in this pandemic is just €500 billion by early April. Precariously, when joint collaboration is needed to battle the virus, acrimonious bickering, hatred and nationalistic carelessness have quickly spread.
The media, similar to 1918 when dealing with the Spanish Flu, could not fulfill its duty. Disinformation, capture by politicians and a strong bias to give in to mere propaganda made the mainstream media appear to be without any use to the general public at all. The pandemic was long underestimated, and mainstream media turned more or less into a forceful propaganda tool of the respective national leadership and its bias vis-à-vis its pressure groups. It is clear that disinformation comes from both the manipulation of the source of information and misleading function of the information intermediaries. Therefore, for average citizens, with diversified sources of information and less experience and knowledge about the pandemic, it is almost impossible to make a right judgement, and to prepare and protect themselves at a micro level.
Over time the disinformation proved to be wrong allowing the emergence of the real facts. People started to realize COVID-19 is not e.g. an ordinary flu as what was widely claimed; they realized that it was not true that leaders and their systems were well prepared as they had kept claiming; they realized that wearing masks is equally important as having social distance. Within a short period, changes of expert’s and leader’s opinions and shocks about the real state of affairs came not only with the emergence of the factual truth but also from new political accusations. Country A can accuse country B of its disinformation in the pandemic, or country A can openly seize country X’s strategic medical supply imported from country B. Various scenarios manifest unusual levels of distrust between nations. When countries and governors are busy accusing each other to excuse their mistakes and shortfalls, medical workers, care givers, and scientists across the world are relying on collaboration to fight against the pandemic.
Due to general state of disinformation, distrust and even hatred within the same territory are ripe. Citizens start distrusting their public institutions, private sectors and firms start to be concerned if their government would rescue them from a foreseeable bankruptcy; public institutions question the judgement of other public institutions; provincial governments distrust their central/federal government… and so on and so forth. How much will it take for the tax payer to realize that the state is neither willing nor able to protect him/her. Will he let himself be fooled one more time by a careless tweet from its leadership or will he wake up. On closer look, this trust crisis actually stems from the missing trustworthiness of the entire system and its main protagonists as they were in the first place before the pandemic. Governments have long ago ceased to be reliable, responsible, and dependable for its citizenship at large.
The foundation of trustworthiness is the embracement of the great love with a much broader meaning than the ordinary romantic love. To explain this great love, I dwell on the following three streams of Eastern philosophy :
(1) the benevolent love (仁爱ren) in the book of the Confucianism with the distinguished levels loyalties, actions, duties, and attitudes towards different groups of the relationships;
(2) the universal love (兼爱jian ai) in the book of Mohism, calling for people to care about all others equally; and
(3) the path of enlightening in the book of Buddhism.
To build trust on the basis of this great love, trustworthiness as a bridge in between, should be equipped by a parental love system. Such a system encompasses a mother side of parental love which requires its citizens to be caring, brave, calm, organized, co-operative, and with long-term view similar to the mothers’ love to their children. This part of the system needs leaders to embrace universal love to be responsible for its citizens and to be capable to enlighten and lead others (rather than command them) as in benevolent love. To its balance, a father side of the parental love system should be equipped by a strict reward-and-punishment mechanism, so that any wrong behaviors against the rules (set by the long-term goal from the mother side of the system) can be punished while any good behavior can be rewarded. This sphere of the system requires the leaders to have a superior level of morality coupled with strong execution power to convince citizens to willingly obey rules and regulations.
Both spheres of this system are equally important, but to reach a sustainable society imbued with trust, the mother-side of the love system is the foundation, and the father side of the system is the execution machine, otherwise any system with only the father side will easily lose its moral base and slide into what I call the dark side, whereas a system with only the mother side will lose the powerful execution tools to achieve the common goals. The way the current pandemic is handled by most leaders in the world has shown clearly that our system has crucial failings as it lacks institutional trust and the mother sphere of the basic trust system.
So, what will be the consequences once we have dealt with the immediate effects of this pandemic? Mostly probably, there could be another wave of global hatredcaused by the increased loss of our humanity, and still a time where the naive prioritization of economic growth over the survival of humanity. In the end, the realization of the fact that the current leaders have sacrificed an enormous number of unnecessary lives could trigger long needed changes from within the system to rebuild trust and rebase the role of the economy within society. If such changes from the inside were not forthcoming, it will become increasingly likely, that disruptive elements from the inside will force an untrustworthy system to change to a more sustainable one which is able to obey the law of conservation of energy and the balanced parental love system.
On 1 May 2020, Croatia’s president Zoran Milanovic left a state ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of the reconquest of territories held by rebel Serbs for four years in protest of a Nazi-era salute – writes Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers The president’s reaction was prompted by a war veteran who […]]]>
On 1 May 2020, Croatia’s president Zoran Milanovic left a state ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of the reconquest of territories held by rebel Serbs for four years in protest of a Nazi-era salute – writes Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers
The president’s reaction was prompted by a war veteran who was wearing the emblem ‘For the homeland ready’ (Za Dom Spremni) used by the Ustashi fascists during WWII. Between 1941 and 1945, the Nazi-aligned Ustasha murdered tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews and Roma. They were known for their particularly brutal and sadistic methods of execution. Despite the connotation of the event, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković decided to stay, which demonstrated the challenges for politicians and society alike when confronted with the fascist past of the country.
The EU is currently developing a policy to support the gradual integration of the Western Balkans, including the accession of Serbia, but at the same time anti-Serb sentiments continue to increase in Croatia.
Dalmatia, a well-known touristic region along the Adriatic Sea, is one area where many Serbs do not feel at home.
An investigation with local Serbs that was carried out by Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) about the situation in Zadar, the main city of Dalmatia after Split, is particularly enlightening. Since 1990, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), a ruling party in Croatia and a member of the European People’s Party (EPP) at the European Parliament, has continuously held the post of mayor of Zadar.
In 2008, Mayor Živko Kolega refused to lay a wreath at a monument for anti-fascists who died during WWII. Anti-fascists in Zadar objected, insisting that local and national authorities were not doing enough to combat the neo-Ustasha ideology. Anti-Serb hostility is a by-product of this fascist political agenda.
One example of how a political ideology has translated into hardship for individuals is the discrimination that Dalibor Močević faced. Močević is a Croatian citizen of Serbian descent who spoke to HRWF about the challenges he faced in receiving fair treatment by various administrations and the judiciary of Zadar.
From his birth in 1972 until 1994, Močević lived in an apartment in Zadar that belonged to his father. In 1992, his father died as a victim of the war in Bosnia after being placed in a sanatorium.
In 1993, Močević, who was employed by a merchant shipping company, returned from a one-year trip on foreign seas. He discovered that his house, which jointly belonged to him and his elderly mother, had been confiscated by the authorities and given to Croatian refugees who had been displaced by the war. After 15 years of judicial proceedings and conflicting decisions from the Zadar Municipal Court and Zadar County Court, Močević was deprived of his property rights. In 2010, he appealed this decision at the Supreme Court and then at the Constitutional Court, but to no avail.
In 2009, his mother died under suspicious circumstances. Močević requested access to a number of medical reports from the General Hospital in Zadar, which he is entitled by law, but his request was denied. He filed a complaint against the Ministry of Health but received no reply. Močević sent another complaint to the County Prosecutors Office in Zadar requesting an investigation based on his suspicions, but no criminal investigation was ever initiated.
Additionally, the second husband of his late mother, A. Radetić, who was friendly with some politicians that had dubious pasts, illegally took Močević’s inheritance. In 2017, the Constitutional Court rejected Močević’s complaint. Močević felt discriminated against because of the general anti-Serbian hostility that has persisted since the collapse of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On 2 May 1991, during one of the many clashes between Croats and Serbs, Radetić’s uncle was part of a Croatian mob that ransacked over a hundred shops of Serbian companies and businesses and destroyed hundreds of Serb houses in Zadar. The police passively watched these violent incidents without interfering.
In another case concerning his divorce, Močević was denied custody of his young son despite the fact that he had been taken from his ex-wife by the local Center for Social Welfare because of her persistent alcoholism and psychiatric problems.
Močević asserts that he was repeatedly denied justice in these instances because of his Serb origin. His lawyer shares the view that Serbs in Croatia are discriminated against due to various personal or institutional collusions between a number of judges, political figures and extreme nationalists.
The President of Croatia did well to withdraw from a ceremony that had some fascist connotations, but there is still a long way to go before anti-Serb sentiments are eradicated entirely. The wars between 1991 to 2001 which led to the breakup of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the current frontiers between newly established states left wounds at individual, societal and institutional levels. These urgently need to be healed for the wellbeing of all Croatian citizens and so as to allow successful integration of the seven Western Balkan states into the EU.
Willy Fautré is director of Human Rights Without Frontiers
Researchers and scientists from all over the world are working together to find a vaccine to combat Coronavirus. Companies from Europe, China, USA, Australia and Canada are at the forefront in seeking to find medical solutions to tackle Covid-19. But there is one common denominator in the work of all these specific research programmes. […]]]>
Researchers and scientists from all over the world are working together to find a vaccine to combat Coronavirus. Companies from Europe, China, USA, Australia and Canada are at the forefront in seeking to find medical solutions to tackle Covid-19. But there is one common denominator in the work of all these specific research programmes. They bring scientists together from different parts on the world to work on this incredibly important field of health research, writes Abraham Liu, the Huawei chief representative to the EU institutions.
Abraham Liu, the Huawei chief representative to the EU institutions.
The pursuit of scientific excellence does not stop at any defined geographical border. If governments or companies alike want to deliver the most innovative products and solutions into the marketplace, they should pursue a policy of international co-operation and engagement.
In other words, ensuring that the best scientists in the world are working together in the pursuit of a common purpose. For example, this can relate to collaborative research activities in combatting chronic health disorders, tackling climate change and in building the most environmentally friendly and energy efficient cities of the future.
Advances in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT) now, underpin today the innovative development of all vertical industries. The energy, transport, health, industrial, financial and agriculture sectors are being modernized and transformed via the process of digital ingenuity.
5G can now ensure that medical operations can be carried out remotely.
Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) can help in identifying Covid-19 via cloud applications.
Innovations in the field of the Internet of Things (I.O.T) ensure the more efficient operation of water supply systems by automatically identifying faults and leaks.
Today 25% of all traffic congestion in cities is caused by people looking for parking spaces. By properly using data centres and by integrating the use of video, voice and data services, traffic-light and parking systems are operationally more efficient.
5G will deliver self-driving cars because the latency response times in carrying out instructions are now much lower compared to 4G. Car companies are now using server computers to test new vehicle models as opposed to deploying physical cars for such demonstrations.
85% of all traditional banking services are now carried out online. Advances in AI are also leading the fight in combating credit card fraud.
By properly using sensors to identify the blood pressure and heartbeat levels in cattle, milk production can increase by 20%.
At the core of all these advances is a very strong commitment by both the public and private sectors to invest in basic research. This includes areas such as mathematical algorithms, environmental sciences and energy efficiencies. But international co-operation and engagement is the key component in delivering the digital transformation that we are witnessing today.
The policy objectives of Horizon Europe (2021-2027) will be successfully achieved through positive international collaboration. This research programme of the EU will help make Europe fit for the digital age, build a green economy, tackle climate change and implement the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. Huawei can and will help the EU fulfil these vitally important social and economic policy goals.
Huawei is committed to continuing our policy of international engagement in delivering new innovative products and solutions into the marketplace. Huawei employs over 2400 researchers in Europe, 90% of whom are local recruits. Our company works with over 150 universities in Europe on a range of different research activities. Huawei is an active participant in EU research and science initiatives such as Horizon 2020.
The private and public research and educational communities from all parts of the world – by working together – with a common sense of purpose – can and will tackle the serious global challenges facing us today.
Where we are united, we will succeed. Where we are divided, we will fail.