"Team Europe" global response to COVID-19: Council welcomes the mobilisation of almost €36 billion and approves conclusions

Published in Economics
Thursday, 18 June 2020 12:24

The European Council approved conclusions on the "Team Europe" package that is part of the EU's global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In its conclusions the Council expresses its deep concern about the global spread of the COVID‑19 pandemic, which continues to claim lives worldwide and have far-reaching social and economic effects.

The Council stresses the urgency of protecting the lives and livelihoods of all people, leaving no-one behind, and of prioritising efforts in partner countries that are most in need. In light of that the Council fully supports the "Team Europe" approach and welcomes the announcement that almost 36 billion euro have now been mobilised and will be used to address the devastating effects of the COVID-19 crisis in partner countries and regions.

The "Team Europe" package was launched on 8 April 2020 to support EU partner countries in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences. The financial support initially pledged was around 20 billion euro and combined resources from the EU, its member states, and financial institutions, in particular the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

source: https://www.euneighbours.eu/en/east-south/stay-informed/news/team-europe-global-response-covid-19-council-welcomes-mobilisation

 

Preventing COVID-19: Council of Europe supports prison systems in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro and North Macedonia

Published in World
Tuesday, 09 June 2020 15:42

In response to the emergency of COVID-19 pandemic and to the need of providing urgent support to inmates and prison staff, in the context of its cooperation programmes, the Council of Europe has donated protective materials to five member States: Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro and North Macedonia.

In Georgia, donations included 6,500 masks, 2,500 face shields and 500 litres of sanitizer and antiseptic liquid, 20 pulse oximeters; 5,000 disposable plastic shoe covers; and 3,000 medical disposable headcovers.

A total of 13,760 masks; 2,500 facial shields; 1,240 litters of disinfectant/sanitizer for hands and surfaces; 84,000 gloves; 99 infrared thermometers; 2 oxygen generators; 5 portable saturometers; 10 bactericide lamps; 50 medical uniforms; 100 protective glasses, 20 pulse oximeters; 3,000 head covers; 5,000 shoe covers were delivered to prison administrations in the mentioned countries. 850 pieces of disinfectants and 5,000 gloves are also under way of delivery in North Macedonia, and additional items are expected to be purchased in Montenegro and Azerbaijan until end of June 2020.

These donations aim at supporting the commitment of the Council of Europe member States and their national prison administrations to adhere to the CPT statement of principles for the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty (see the statement also in Georgian here), in accordance with the World Health Organization guidelines in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The donations were delivered following requests from the Ministries of Justice and prison administrations within the framework of the cooperation activities implemented by the Criminal Law Cooperation Unit, Action against Crime Department, Directorate General Human Rights and Rule of Law.

The donation to Georgia was possible in the framework of the project Enhancement of Human Rights and Health-Care Support to Penitentiary System (financed through CoE Action Plan for Georgia 2016-2019).

End of WWII: Statement by David Zalkaliani

Published in World
Tuesday, 12 May 2020 16:55

David Zalkaliani, President of the Committee of Ministers and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, made the following statement to mark 75 years since the end of the Second World War:

“Today we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe - the most devastating war in history, which claimed millions of lives and brought immense suffering.

“This day of commemoration and remembrance offers an opportunity for us to express our profound respect and admiration to all who gave their lives for humanity.

“We have to make sure that such atrocities do not take place again. The best way to achieve this is to adhere to international law and recommit ourselves to the universal principles we all embraced in the aftermath of the war.

“By commemorating this important anniversary, it is of utmost importance to reaffirm our commitment to a peaceful, secure and stable Europe, as it still faces conflicts and other serious challenges that require immediate cooperation and joint efforts.”

Source: https://www.coe.int/en/web/portal/-/end-of-wwii-statement-by-david-zalkaliani

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, has issued a toolkit for governments across Europe on respecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law during the COVID-19 crisis

Published in Politics
Friday, 24 April 2020 13:44

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, has issued a toolkit for governments across Europe on respecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law during the COVID-19 crisis.


The Information Document was sent to all 47 Council of Europe member states yesterday.
The toolkit is designed to help ensure that measures taken by member states during the current crisis remain proportional to the threat posed by the spread of the virus and are limited in time.
The document covers four key areas:

•             Derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights in times of emergency


•             Respect for the rule of law and democratic principles in times of emergency, including limits on the scope and duration of emergency measures


•             Fundamental human rights standards including freedom of expression, privacy and data protection, protection of vulnerable groups from discrimination and the right to education


•             Protection from crime and the protection of victims of crime, in particular regarding gender-based violence.


The Information Document also refers to new advice from the Committee of the Parties of the Council of Europe’s MEDICRIME Convention on the counterfeiting of medical products and similar crimes.

https://rm.coe.int/sg-inf-2020-11-respecting-democracy-rule-of-law-and-human-rights-in-th/16809e1f40

Europe’s Donbas: How Western Capital Industrialized Eastern Ukraine

Published in World
Saturday, 08 June 2019 12:38

Russian aggression in Donbas in 2014 drew Europe's attention to this forgotten region. We would like to remind you, however, that the industrial potential of Donbas was built up in 19th-early 20th century and thanks in the main to Western European money.

In the 15th-17th centuries, these territories, previously known as the Wild Steppe, became part of the lands of the Ukrainian Cossacks(link to "Why Are Cossacks the Key to Understanding the Ukrainian Nation?"). As a result of the Russian-Turkish wars of the 17th-18th centuries, these lands were fully incorporated into the Russian Empire. Donbas began to be industrialized in the second half of the 19th century.

According to historians, in the late 19th - early 20th century, more than 800 million gold francs from Belgium, France, Great Britain, Germany, and Switzerland were invested in the economic development of this Ukrainian region. It was part of the Russian Empire at that time.

Cities like Donetsk, Luhansk, Druzhkivka, Yenakiieve, Selidove, Mariupol, Kostyantynivka, Horlivka, Debaltseve, Torez, Kramatorsk, Lysychansk and other cities in the Donbas region received an industrial boost from Europeans during that period.

DONBAS: FOUR SPHERES OF INFLUENCE

In the 19th century, which was when the Donetsk coalfield was discovered (the actual name 'Donbas' only became widespread at the beginning of the 20th century), foreign investment flooded it immediately. The Russian Empire needed new technologies and up-to-date heavy industry to re-equip its military-industrial complex. And in the 1890's Belgium became the first country – an official partner – to create an entire network of coal and steel enterprises, a unified system of rail connections, and even the newest fittings.

Belgian investors put 550 million gold francs in this steppe (and almost desert) region. To recalculate this into today's more, this would be more than 5.5 billion Euro.

Following the Belgians, investors from other European countries came to Ukraine's Donbas. Thus, there were four nominal spheres of influence – the so-called "Belgian province" with its centre in the city of Luhanskthe "German land" in the south of Donetsk Region, the "French region" in its eastern part, and the "English region" in the center.

The Belgians and French owned 90% of the foreign capital in Ukraine's Katerynoslav (now - Dnipro city) province, a large part of which was called Donbas. In 1900, there were about 300 enterprises in Donbas; foreign investors owned most of them. In 1913, the share of foreign capital reached 70% of total coal mining in Donbas and 86% of total ore mining in the Kryvyi Rih basin.

BELGIUM: ⅔ OF ALL INVESTMENTS IN THE COALFIELD

Nowadays, Belgium is a small country, but at that time it was the third biggest nation in the world in terms of its industrial capacity. It had also big colonial ambitions (remember Belgium's Congo in Africa). At the beginning of the 20th century, Belgium was fourth in terms of investment in the Russian Empire and had ⅔ of total investment in the Donetsk coalfield. There was a direct train to Donbas from Brussels.

In 1895, the Russian-Belgian Metallurgical Society was organized in Donbas at the initiative of several Belgian businessmen. In 1914, 31 Belgian companies were already operating there. Ten of them operated in metallurgy, seven – in the mining industry, six – in trams, and five – in producing construction materials and glass.

In Belgium, there were nine provinces at the time, and they called Donbas "the 10th province".

The participation of Belgian investors in the region's development was interrupted by the Bolshevik revolution, which destroyed the concept of "capitalist property"for decades. This fact supposedly became one of the reasons why Belgium recognized the Soviet regime only in 1935.

FRANCE: HUGE INJECTION OF FUNDS BEFORE THE REVOLUTION

The fastest French investments penetrated into the sphere of heavy industry before the Russian Bolshevik revolution. For example, in November 1914, at a meeting of shareholders of the Donetsk-Yuriivsk Metallurgical Society, 36,726 shares were presented. 510 of them belonged to the French, 61 – to Germans, 25 – to Belgians, 75 – to American capitalists, and the remainder belonged to domestic industrialists and bankers. The Alchevsk Iron and Steel Works, as founded in 1895, is one of the most famous enterprises of this society.

Before WWI, according to the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Empire, 159.1 million rubles of foreign capital were invested in the coal mining industry of the country. The share held by coal enterprises located in the Donetsk coalfield amounted to 118.6 million rubles, i.e. 74%. French capital invested 82 million of the figure, Belgian 24 million, and the capital of other countries of Western Europe reached 12.6 million rubles.

As for the metalworking and machine-building industry of Ukraine, at that time foreign capital reached 44.6 million Rubles there. Among them, Belgium invested 20.2 million, England – 12.2 million, Germany – 6.7 million, France – at least 5 million, and other countries – 0.5 million Rubles.

DONETSK: A BRITISH CITY WITH EUROPEAN SALARIES

The heart of the "English region" was the village of Yuzivka, which was founded in 1869, which turned into an industrial city after the construction of a metallurgical plant there. Nowadays this British-based city is known as the city of Donetsk.

In 1869, John Hughes, a British mining engineer from South Wales, founded the Russian-British Novorossiysk (Metallurgical) Society of coal, iron and rail production to raise a capital. In 1870, he moved to the Donbas region where he started to build a plant.

In 1872, the first blast furnace was in operation, and soon, despite the difficult start, the company demonstrated huge success. In 1910, John Hughes launched a new progressive production technology, based on anthracite. By that time, it was used only in the United States. In 1913, 74% of iron of the entire Russian Empire was produced in Yuzivka. Initially, the plant employed six thousand workers from the locals, and for 25 years their number had reached 50 thousand people.

At that time, salaries in the Donbas were also European level salaries.

In 1959, during his visit to the USA, the Soviet Secretary General Nikita Khrushchev mentioned that he worked as a mechanic of a machine-building plant in Yuzivka in 1914. Its owner was Edward Boss, an Estonian. The 20-year-old Khrushchev earned 40-45 Rubles a month. In today's figures that is more than one thousand Euros.

KOSTYANTYNIVKA: BELGIAN ARCHITECTURE AND CHEMICAL PLANTS

Kostyantynivka was built by immigrants from Belgium. As a result, this city can also boast Belgian architectural monuments from those times. The entire city infrastructure is a sequel of initial constructions.

Unfortunately, one of the most interesting architectural monuments of the city -- the house of the Gomon -- was destroyedrecently. It was built by JSC Belgian Society of Kostyantynivka's glass and chemical plants in 1902 for the manager of the bottle factory named Gomon. Anyway, the stable near this house is still kept in good condition. The Belgian office has also remained.

The secret of preserving architectural heritage is quite simple. If it is used, its owner maintains it in a decent condition.

LUHANSK: GERMAN LOCOMOTIVES

German investment came preferably to Luhansk Region.

For example, one of the most famous Luhansk enterprises – the Luhansk steam locomotive plant – was founded by the German industrialist Gustav Hartmann in 1896as Russische Maschinenbaugesellschaft Hartmann and renamed Lokomotive factory Octoberrevolution in 1918 after the Russian revolution.

LYSYCHANSK: BELGIAN HERITAGE ABROAD AWARD

At the end of the 19th century, a big part of the city of Lysychansk belonged to the village of Verhnie. Here in 1887 the Belgian engineer Ernest Solve launched the production of soda with his Belgian chemical company Solway and a merchant from Perm called Ivan Lyubimov. Unfortunately, the factory is no longer operational – it was destroyed in 2013 before the very beginning of Russian military aggression in Ukraine.

Along with that, company built houses for factory workers, gymnasium buildings, hospitals, and a church. For example, an up-to-date four-floor hospital in Lysychansk was built by the Belgians.

The Belgians built a total of 33 objects in Lysychansk. 30 of them have been preserved to this day.

In February 2018, the architecture of Lysychanskreceived the Belgian Heritage Abroad Award (2017).

________________________________________________________________

Europeans brought not only the technology of industrial productionto Ukraine, but also business skills, management experienceof large enterprises, connections with banking and industrial groups, and the spirit of capitalist entrepreneurship, thereby contributing to the industrialization of Ukraine.

By the time of the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the Donbas, previously known as "Russian America" and the flagship of industrial Europe, was in a state of decline. The economic ignorance of the Soviet authorities had led to Donbas becoming a backward region in ther 1980s with loss-making production. Today, most of its factories are located on territories occupied by the Russian Federation. Some of them are either ruined or still operate using the equipment installed at the end of the 19th century.

Sources used in this article:

Valentyna Lazebnyk, "Steel in the Steppe. View from Ukraine".

Wim Peeters, "Steel on the steppe".

Materials from the exhibitions "Foreign investments in Ukraine, end of the ХІХ – beginning of the XX century. Part I: Belgium" and "Foreign investments in Ukraine, end of the ХІХ – beginning of the XX century. Part II: France", organized by the Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

Sources used in this article:

Valentyna Lazebnyk, "Steel in the Steppe. View from Ukraine".

Wim Peeters, "Steel on the steppe".

Materials from the exhibitions "Foreign investments in Ukraine, end of the ХІХ – beginning of the XX century. Part I: Belgium" and "Foreign investments in Ukraine, end of the ХІХ – beginning of the XX century. Part II: France", organized by the Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

TETYANA MATYCHAK

 

Commissioner Mijatović highlights main human rights challenges in Europe

Published in Politics
Tuesday, 09 April 2019 16:13

Today the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, presented her first annual activity report in a debate before the Parliamentary Assembly of the organisation.

While the report covers a variety of the most pressing human rights issues in the Council of Europe member states, the Commissioner highlights migration, women’s rights, human rights of persons with disability, the protection of human rights defenders and the safety of journalists as the most recurrent topics of her work.

“Migration is among the most pressing human rights issues on my agenda”, she says. “National authorities should improve the treatment of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and put human rights and the principle of responsibility sharing at the centre of their migration and asylum policies”.

As regards women’s rights, the Commissioner underscores the need to tackle gender stereotypes and prejudices and to put an end to violence against women. She also calls on national authorities to reduce the gender pay gap, which remains a “major obstacle to effective equality between men and women, and a widespread problem all over Council of Europe member states, both in the public and private sectors.”

The protection of human rights defenders and of journalists also requires more attention by the authorities of member states. “Violent physical attacks, as well as laws and practices significantly reduce the ability of human rights defenders and journalists to provide their contribution to the democratic fabric of our society.

Another problem that the report highlights is the difficulty that many member states still face in tackling discrimination or deep rooted prejudices against persons with disabilities, children, older persons, Roma and LGBTI people. The Commissioner notes that long-standing cultural, social and economic problems continue to breed inequalities and segregation.

“There is still much work to be done in order to protect human rights throughout Europe. I am determined to commit my energy to this task, and I fully intend to develop constructive co-operation with governments and civil society for the common goal of upholding human rights.”

Europe’s ‘common home’ must be maintained and continue to wield influence, says PACE President

Published in Politics
Monday, 08 April 2019 15:10

In her opening speech at the PACE Spring Session, the President today reiterated the importance of preserving “the common home which provides a place to live for 830 million people and is governed by a common legal framework that protects the individual against arbitrary decisions and authoritarianism and defines our rights and fundamental freedoms”.

She called on PACE members to meet the expectations of “millions of Europeans who are reaping the tangible benefits of closer union between the peoples and nations of Europe, for which the Council of Europe has worked”.

For the President, the 830 million Europeans do not aspire to “a Europe of division where dialogue gives way to confrontation, a Europe torn apart once again by geopolitical tensions, where new borders and new walls would spring up. The European acquis, the values that unite us and the common legal framework that we have succeeded in building are more important for our fellow citizens who want a Europe of peace, prosperity, co-operation and dialogue.”

“I am not suggesting for one minute that we should compromise our values – that would be a betrayal of the European project. All members of our common European home have the same duty to abide by the house rules. They also have the same duty to help it run smoothly, including by honouring their financial obligations, just as they have equal rights - and an obligation - to participate in the co-operation mechanisms and forums for dialogue that exist within our common home,” she concluded.

Levan Izoria’s Meeting with the Commander of United States Army Europe

Published in military
Thursday, 28 February 2019 13:23

Within the frames of the Munich Security Conference, Georgian Defence Minister Levan Izoria held a bilateral meeting with the Commander of United States Army Europe Lieutenant-General Christopher Cavoli.

Levan Izoria discussed with Lieutenant-General Cavoli the transformation process of the Georgian Defense Forces and focused on the ongoing Georgian Defence Readiness Program. Minister Izoria also emphasized on the importance the Combat Training Center - another significant project of the US-Georgian cooperation. As Minister declared, further enhancement of the Combat Training Center and renewal of the relevant infrastructure is planned in Vaziani, Krtsanisi, Algeti and Norio, which alongside with the Georgian Defence Forces will be used by the military personnel of NATO member and partner countries for conducting readiness-oriented exercises.

The meeting also covered multinational trainings. As Levan Izoria noted, next month, Georgia will host NATO-Georgia Exercise for the second time, which is another demonstration of Georgia's enhanced capabilities and increasing trust from the allies towards Georgia. Sides also discussed multinational exercise Agile Spirit 2019 scheduled in Georgia for summer.

Speaking about cooperation with NATO, Levan Izoria focused on a new approach - Strategic Readiness, which aims developing resilient territorial defence forces in line with NATO standards.

Visa Announces Fintech Fast-Track Program in Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa

Published in Economics
Wednesday, 13 February 2019 17:28

Regional fintechs will be able to connect to Visa’s payment network in as little as four weeks Sub-Saharan prepaid issuing provider, GTP, signs on as regional partner

Dubai, 13 February 2019 — Visa (NYSE: V) today announced it is expanding its Fintech Fast-Track Program in the Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) region as part of its efforts in developing the next generation of digital payment solutions. Already rolled out in Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific, the program provides innovative fintechs with a faster and easier integration process with VisaNet, Visa’s global network, in addition to a suite of tailored digital solutions and growth capabilities.

With the Visa Fast-Track program, fintechs based in CEMEA can now onboard to Visa’s global network in as little as four weeks. The program has been tailored to the needs of fintechs, adapting to their realities and providing them with processes that are faster, which include reducing the number of onboarding conditions. The program also links fintechs to platforms that are already certified by Visa and connects fintechs to sponsoring banks, providing fintechs with scaling opportunities through Visa’s global network.

Andrew Torre, Regional President, CEMEA, Visa, said, “The payments ecosystem is evolving at an unprecedented pace with some of the most exciting innovations coming from our region. We are actively engaged with passionate, entrepreneurial communities to understand where synergies exist in order to foster and bring new experiences to life in a secure and scalable manner in our pursuit of a digital future. Our aim is to connect new players and ideas with our network partners, so that we can deliver intuitive and relevant payment, banking and retail experiences to customers and merchants.”

The Fintech Fast-Track program provides a new commercial framework that includes access to Visa’s payment capabilities, reduced fees and streamlined processes. After successful launches in Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific in the second half of 2018, the program is now available to fintechs in CEMEA.  Visa is inviting all innovative fintechs in the region to apply to the program by registering online through the program website – www.visa.com/fintechcemea.  

The Fast-Track program is one of several Visa initiatives designed to support fintech and startup companies. These include:

  • Investment: Visa continuously evaluates and invests in companies that have the potential to advance digital payments for our clients and their customers. Recent fintech investments globally have included Klarna, Paidy, Marqeta and PayStack in Nigeria.
  • Partnership: Many payment platforms and fintechs are already collaborating with Visa globally to create new consumer and merchant experiences, including YellowPepper, NovoPayment, Stripe, Conductor, Flutterwave and Revolut.
  • Engagement: Visa’s Everywhere Initiative, a global innovation program that tasks startups with solving some of the most challenging issues in payments and commerce, has been running in CEMEA since 2017.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Visa will work with Global Technology Partners (GTP), to design and enable turnkey end-to-end packaged solutions jointly for the Visa Fintech Fast Track program. The enterprise solution will include bin sponsorship, issuer processing services, acquirer QR code processing services and program management services.

Rich Bialek, CEO of GTP, said, “GTP is excited to work with Visa to bring new digital products to our banks and cardholders.  Fintech companies in the CEMEA region are developing innovative solutions to meet the needs of this rapidly growing consumer base.  By expanding the fast-track program to CEMEA, Visa and GTP will enable these companies to rapidly deliver new technologies and services to consumers, improving and expanding how commerce works in this dynamic market.”

# # #

About Visa Inc.

Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) is the world’s leader in digital payments. Our mission is to connect the world through the most innovative, reliable and secure payment network - enabling individuals, businesses and economies to thrive. Our advanced global processing network, VisaNet, provides secure and reliable payments around the world, and is capable of handling more than 65,000 transaction messages a second. The company’s relentless focus on innovation is a catalyst for the rapid growth of connected commerce on any device, and a driving force behind the dream of a cashless future for everyone, everywhere.  As the world moves from analog to digital, Visa is applying our brand, products, people, network and scale to reshape the future of commerce. For more information, visit www.corporate.visa.com, www.visasoutheasteurope.com, https://www.facebook.com/VisaGeorgiaGE, www.visanewscissee.com

About Global Technology Partners

Global Technology Partners is headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma USA.  The company was founded in 2003 and began processing its first Visa prepaid debit card in Burkina Faso in 2007.  Since then, GTP has expanded into over 30 African countries, with more in development.  GTP designed its system specifically for prepaid programs, and now offers industry-leading prepaid and mobile processing solutions. 

First batch of Georgian honey goes to Europe – with EU4Business support

Published in Economics
Thursday, 24 January 2019 18:14

Two Georgian honey producers are presenting their products at the International Green Week, a one-of-a-kind annual international exhibition of the food, agriculture and gardening industries, in Berlin on 18-27 January. The event brings together over 1,700 exhibitors with over 100,000 products from all over the world.

Georgia will be featured through a range of products at the fair this year, but it is the first time that European consumers and trade visitors will have a chance to try Georgian honey, which is entering the European market under the brand name ‘TAPLI’ – the Georgian word for honey.

The creation of the TAPLI branding was preceded by a rigorous effort to develop the export capacities of Georgian honey, which took place in the framework of the EU4Business project “SME Development and DCFTA in Georgia”.

The Georgian stand at the International Green Week is organised by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, which also developed the TAPLI brand with support from the EU and the German government.

The SME Development and DCFTA in Georgia project, part of the EU4Business initiative, assists Georgian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to become more competitive and adapt to the new regulatory environment created under the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU.

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