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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Go by Rail to Asia: New rail routes between China and Europe will change trade & tourism patterns

Route map - The Silk Route & Central Asia by trainASTANA in Kazakhstan is one of the world’s most remote capitals, surrounded by thousands of kilometres of empty steppe. This summer Astana attempted to launch itself onto the global stage by hosting the World Expo, which closed on September 10th and underwhelmed many attendees. But there are other ways to have an impact. On the city’s north side, away from the Expo’s exhibits, a series of diesel trains, each pulling dozens of containers, roll through the old railway station. Most are heading from China to Europe. Last year over 500,000 tonnes of freight went by train between the two, up from next to nothing before 2013. Airlines and shipping firms are watching things closely.

The trains rumbling through Astana result from a Chinese initiative, in tandem with countries like Kazakhstan, to build a “New Silk Road” through Central Asia. The earlier overland routes were once the conduits for most trade between Europe and China and India; they faded into irrelevance when European ships started circumnavigating the Cape of Good Hope.

China has long wanted to develop its inland regions and push industry to “go west”, in order to spread economic growth more evenly. Manufacturers have been loth to shift, in part because of the higher cost of moving goods to ports for export. Developing a rail-freight network to Europe—an important part of China’s “One Belt One Road” policy—opens up a new route to market for its poorest areas. The land route through Central Asia is relatively short. A container ship too large for the Suez canal must make a 24,000km journey to reach Europe. Trains travel no more than 11,000km to reach the same destination.

Kazakhstan has spent over 1.1trn tenge ($3.2bn) on upgrading its railway lines and rolling stock since 2011. That includes $250m on the Khorgos Gateway, a dry port at the border with China that lifts containers from Chinese trains onto Kazakh ones to overcome a change in track width (a problem that has stymied previous efforts to build railway routes between Europe and China).

Volumes of freight travelling between China and Europe by rail are rising quickly. Between 2013 and 2016 cargo traffic quintupled in weight. In the first half of this year the value of goods travelling by train rose by 144% compared with the same period in 2016. Western firms have been keen to embrace rail freight because it helps them to lower costs, says Ronald Kleijwegt, an expert on the industry. In the case of high-tech electronics, for example, which consumers like to receive quickly, making them on China’s coast and air-freighting them to Europe is extremely pricey.

How worried should shipping firms and airlines be? Kazakhstan’s national rail company, KTZ, says it will have capacity for 1.7m containers to pass through the country between Europe and China each year by 2020; that is a tenth of the volume currently carried by sea and air between the two. In the longer term, a full modernisation of the existing main three rail routes from China to Europe could produce 3m containers a year in capacity.

But there are also reasons to doubt that will happen. For one thing, China plans to stop handing out government subsidies for additional rail-freight capacity from 2020, which will slow the network’s expansion. Sea freight has little to fear in the near term, says Soren Skou, chief executive of Maersk, the world’s biggest container-shipping line. Trains may take away some future growth from ships, he concedes, but not their existing business.

Air cargo is more vulnerable. Last year, 180,000 tonnes of cargo travelled on trains to western Europe from China (the remainder was destined for Russia and eastern Europe). That is a small fraction of the 52m tonnes that came by sea, but a big chunk of the 700,000 tonnes that came by air. Much of that air cargo could switch to rail in future, says Mr Kleijwegt, with one important proviso—that Russia would need to lift the retaliatory sanctions it placed in 2014 on imports of Western food, which stop most foodstuffs from traveling by land between Europe and China. That is unlikely for the time being. But it was only a decade ago that people thought the idea of freight trains between Europe and China was a joke, says Mr Kleijwegt—and no one laughs at that any more.

Read more: New rail routes between China and Europe will change trade patterns

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Spain: Rajoy says he will sack Catalan government, call regional elections

Many Polls in Spain show
Carles Puigdemont should be locked up
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Saturday (October 21) said he would curb the powers of Catalonia’s parliament, sack its government and call a regional election within six months in a bid to stop efforts by the autonomous region to break away from Spain.

Rajoy said his government had taken the unprecedented decision to restore the law, make sure regional institutions were neutral, and to guarantee public services and economic activity as well as preserve the civil rights of all citizens.

The measures must now be approved by Spain’s upper house, the Senate, where a vote is scheduled for October 27.

Rajoy’s speech came after Spain’s central government met to discuss establishing control of the wealthy northeastern region following the referendum on secession three weeks ago.

Madrid says suspending some of Catalonia’s autonomy – a move that could be applied under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution – would guarantee “freedom, security and plurality” in the face of “rebellious disobedience.”

Rajoy said the goal of such measures, “is to go back to legality because it cannot be a portion of a country where law is not applied, where law doesn’t exist. And at the same time we need to go back to institutional normality.”

The country’s head of state King Felipe said he supports the central government’s stance, and affirmed the unity of Spain. He says “Catalonia is and will remain an essential part.”

“Spain needs to face up to an unacceptable secession attempt on its national territory, which it will resolve using legitimate democratic institutions, respecting our constitution, adhering to the values and principles of the parliamentary democracy in which we have lived for 39 years,” he added.

Note EU-Digest: The latest Spanish polls show that in the opinion of the majority of the Spanish  population PM Mariano Rajoy is considered being far to lenient to Carles Puigdemont. They find by a large majority that Puigdemont, like the two other party leaders of this illegal rebellious movement against the state of Spain, should also be locked up

Read more: Rajoy says he will sack Catalan government, call regional elections | Euronews

Friday, October 20, 2017

Britain: Survey shows: Over half of Britons (55%) see EU membership as a benefit - what now?

The 2017 'Parlemeter' survey, which looks at public perceptions of EU membership as well as attitudes towards Parliament, its priorities, actions and mission, finds that the share of all EU citizens who believe that their country has benefited from EU membership is 64%, an increase of four percentage points compared to 2016.

In Britain 55% consider membership to have been of benefit to the country. Conversely the number of Britons who believe the UK has not benefited from EU membership has dropped by 7 percentage points to 27%.

47% of EU citizens and 40% of Brits feel that their voice counts in the EU, the best result since the European elections 2009.

The Parlemeter survey confirms the citizens' increasingly favourable view of the EU, continuing a trend visible in surveys since 2016.

EP President Antonio Tajani welcomed the results, which showed that, "in general, people increasingly see the EU as a key player in tackling the big challenges and protecting them against common threats such as terrorism, unemployment or poverty and exclusion."

On Parliament's image, the share of citizens who have a neutral image of the European Parliament is 42%, while 33% have a positive image, up eight points within one year. In the UK, 27% of respondents have a positive image of the European Parliament - a growth of 4 percentage point in the last 12 months.

European citizens also clearly expect the EU to help protect them against certain threats. When asked which threats EU should focus on, both Britons and EU citizens cited terrorism (65% and 58% respectively) as a top priority. This was followed by poverty and exclusion (34% and 42%) and unemployment (29% and 43%). Interestingly less than a quarter of Britons listed uncontrolled migration as a top threat compared to 35% of all EU citizens.

When it comes to EU's objectives, Britons feel that the EU should protect the freedom to travel, work and study across the EU as a matter of priority (46%). This was closely followed by fundamental right and freedoms (43%), safety in terms of health standards (31%) and environment (28%). EU citizens expect the Union to safeguard fundamental rights (44%), freedom to travel, work and study across the EU (36%), labour rights (34%), adequate pensions (34%) and economic well-being (33%).

The 2017 Parlemeter survey is based on face-to-face interviews with 27,881 Europeans, aged 15 or more, in all EU 28 member states, between 23 September and 2 October 2017.

Brexit:"Stupidity on steroids":Theresa May urged to prepare for no-deal Brexit by former ministers-by Ashley Cowburn

The British newspaper Independent reports that PM Theresa May is being urged to prepare to walk away from the EU without a deal by former Conservative ministers, insisting the UK should not be “terrified” of ending the negotiations with Brussels.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, four ex-Cabinet ministers, including Lord Lawson, Owen Paterson, John Redwood and Peter Lilley, call on Ms May to “concentrate our resources on resolving administrative issues” ahead of leaving with no deal in March 2019.

Operating on World Trade Organisation rules, they claim, would help Britain “crystallise the economic opportunities” of Brexit, give businesses “absolute certainty” about the future and sever ties with Brussels regulations which “take opportunities off the table”.

The letter, organized by the Leave Means Leave campaign, comes as the Prime Minister went to Brussels in an attempt to appeal directly to the EU heads of government and bypass the stalled negotiating process.

Ms May will hope to engage them “in a discussion” to end the impasse, a senior UK Government official said, ahead of the EU leaders’ own Brexit talks in Britain’s absence.

In the letter to The Daily Telegraph, the senior Eurosceptics add: “No deal on trade is better than a deal which locks the UK into the European regulatory system and takes opportunities off the table.

Speaking about the plea to Ms May, Mr Paterson, the former Environment Secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that it appeared unlikely a trade deal would be struck with the EU “because they are flatly refusing to talk about it” and that there was a “complete obsession with money” - the so-called divorce bill.

He said that a trade deal with the EU is “the best destination, but what we should not be terrified of is the WTO”.

As European leaders gathered in Brussels, he said: ”We have to face the fact that this summit is not going to discuss any future trade deal. We are ineluctably moving down the road to a WTO arrangement so we had better start preparing for it.

“If they come back - and we very much hope they would - to talk about a free trade deal, that would be a bonus.”

But pro-EU Tory former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan said: “It is absolutely not 'inevitable' that the UK ends up on WTO terms with no Brexit deal - it is what the hard Brexiteers want.”

"A lot of people, corporations, financial institutions and industries, will start packing their bags, if they are not doing so already." 


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Denmark: Copenhagen unions call for 30-hour week for municipal workers

The Copenhagen Waterfront
Eight of the unions representing Copenhagen Municipality employees want a pilot project set up to try out a 30-hour working week.

The unions claim this would prevent many employees developing stress, cut absences due to sickness, and help people balance their work and family lives better, reports DR Nyheder.

“We know from a trial in Sweden that a 30-hour week helped both employees and the institutions to cope better with the pressure of work,” said Henriette Brockdorff, the head of BUPL, the union representing pedagogues in Copenhagen.

As well as the pedagogues, the eight unions represent health and social assistants, social workers, teachers, office personnel, kitchen employees and cleaners.

Brockdorff agrees that the present 37-hour week is already rather short by international standards, but contends that the pressure on workers these days is extreme due to overly-high productivity demands.

As well as a shorter working week, the unions also want workers to be compensated salary-wise. That would mean an increase in costs of around 20 percent, so the unions would like to see Copenhagen Municipality setting aside 12 million kroner for the project.

However, the group chair for Socialdemokratiet at Copenhagen Municipality, Lars Weiss, rejects this idea.

“We have a ‘Danish model’ through which agreements are made on salaries and employment conditions every second year, and I’m not going to start negotiating on these matters in the run-up to a local election.”

Weiss also said that calculations made by the municipality’s finance department suggest that a 30-hour working week would cost 3.6 billion kroner per annum.

“This would severely impact our service levels. We would see higher numbers in school classes and kindergartens, and that would put even more pressure on the employees.”

Note EU-Digest: Is this for real? Municipal workers having too much stress in Denmark and now want to work 30 hrs per week?   As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet: "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark".

Read more: Copenhagen unions call for 30-hour week for municipal workers – The Post

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Austria's election: Europe reacts to Sebastian Kurz victory

Sebastian Kurz Austria's new political leader 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Sebastian Kurz on his victory and the "energetic" modernization of his party, which is aligned with her Christian Democrats.

She declined to comment on which coalition arrangement she wanted to see, but said the Freedom Party's strength would be a "major challenge" for its Austrian rivals.

Merkel said the challenge posed by the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany was "manageable" compared with the FPÖ's strength. She hoped for close cooperation with Kurz at the European level.

Hungary's foreign minister Peter Szijjarto was full of praise for his Austrian counterpart and "friend" Kurz, who at 31 is expected to become Europe's youngest national leader following an election victory on Sunday.

"He's hijacked neither by hypocrisy nor by political correctness. He's always honest, he's always very direct and I think it's very necessary currently, that European leaders speak directly," Szijjarto told reporters in Brussels.

Szijjarto welcomed Kurz's stance on migration as close to that of Budapest and expected Austria to work more closely with anti-immigration eastern and central European states including Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. East-West divides over migration policy have strained unity in the bloc.

Note EU-Digest: 
It is sad to see that some of the Governments of the EU's Eastern and Central European States, occupied by the Nazi's in the second world war, " indirectly" seem to have copied some of the policies and laws of their former Nazi occupiers, particularly in relation to some of their present immigration policies.  

These laws were implemented in Nazi Germany and their occupied territories (1933–45) based on a specific racist and religious doctrine, asserting the superiority of the Aryan race, which claimed scientific legitimacy.  

The Nazi laws qualified Muslims, Africans and other minorities as "Untermenschen (sub-humans)" . It is important for the EU Parliament and EU Commission to make clear, that laws by EU member states, which ban immigrants from entering into the EU, based on their ethnicity or religion, in any way or form, should not be allowed to see the light of day.. 

Read more: Austria election: Europe reacts to Sebastian Kurz victory | News | DW | 16.10.2017

Monday, October 16, 2017

Economic, Golden Rules, Individual, Marketing, Millionaires, Publicity, Rich, Success, Wealthy

Thomas C. Corley of Business Insider has spent years studying the habits of wealthy people.

He completed a "Rich Habits Study" in which he interviewed 233 people each worth more than $3.2 million, 75 percent of whom were self-made millionaires.

He compiled the 10 qualities that stood out to him as most common among—and most important to—those ultra-successful individuals. Firstly, innovation, because your million-dollar idea must be just that.

It needs to have some valuable quality that sets it apart from ideas that have come before. Here's how one designer used her innovation skills to create an invention that helps fight Parkinson's.

1)  Have an Edge: It's not just your idea that needs to stand out—it's you. Whatever your strong suit is, it needs to be strong enough to help you rise above the rest of the pack.

2) Be an Expert: You need to make sure you are constantly up-to-date on everything there is to know about the field you want to succeed in.

3) Skill Set: Learning on the job is great and all, but you need to make sure you have valuable skills that you accumulate over many years.

4) Work Ethic:This one's a no-brainer. If you want to be successful, you've got to be willing to work incredibly hard and devote lots of time and energy to your goal.

5) Focus UP: Once you're set on an idea, you need to be able to focus on making it a reality. If you're working on a million-dollar project, it requires your full attention, no matter how long the project takes.

6) Connections, Connections and more connections: You can never have too many connections. Seek out the people who can help you and don't be shy.

7) Don't work alone: It'll be hard to get anywhere without people supporting you.Get people to work with you who believe in you and support your ideas and are not scared to be critical of some of your proposals.

8) Never get discouraged and give up: Persistence, of course, is extremely important. Failure happens and can only help you to start over again with new fresh ideas.

9) Have faith in your ability to succeed:  Luck is not what makes things really happen. Vision, a good plan and focused hard work is the only path  to success.

10) Blow your own horn: make sure that after you have produced your product or service, people hear about it via a variety of publicity vehicles readily available to you.