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Open Dialog Foundation calls for prevention of Alexandr Pavlov’s extradition

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pavlov-24464_406x226It is likely that on 8 November, the Second Section the of the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court in Madrid (Audiencia Nacional) will make the final decision of Alexandr Pavlov's extradition from Spain. According to, among others, Amnesty International and the Open Dialog Foundation, in Kazakhstan, the former security chief of the Kazakh opposition politician, Mukhtar Ablyazov, will face torture and a show trial.

Human rights organisations indicate the political nature of Pavlov's case. They stress that Pavlov is a victim of a large-scale campaign targeted at political refugees from Kazakhstan residing in Europe. This is due to the fact that Pavlov used to be one of the closest associates of Mukhtar Ablyazov, a leading critic of the dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev. In the early years of this millennium, Pavlov was also engaged in the security of independent press offices. Recently, the case attracted the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). From the very beginning, Pavlov's detention prior to possible extradition has been accompanied by a number of controversial events. Immediately after Pavlov’s arrest, his mobile phone was stolen from the deposit. Based on the report of the National Intelligence Centre (CNI) of Spain, Pavlov was considered a threat to the internal security of Spain. This resulted in the refusal to grant him political asylum, and led to his detention in a high security prison, almost entirely isolating him from the outside world. The extraordinary proceedings, which resulted in this decision, prevented the preparation of a report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The credibility of the CNI's report has been raising serious doubts from the moment of its disclosure. Analysts of the state intelligence agency state directly that their analysis is based on information obtained from state media. They explain that they have no possibility to objectively verify the allegations of Kazakhstan, and that the available sources may be of limited reliability. This, however, did not prevent the agency from considering Pavlov a dangerous terrorist.

Applications for visiting with Pavlov, filed by many individuals and institutions, have been rejected. These applications were filed by non-governmental organisations involved in the defence of Pavlov, as well as Spanish (Fernando Maura Barandiarán) and Polish (Marcin Święcicki and Tomasz Makowski) MPs, and a Portuguese MP, Chair of the Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, Isabel Santos. The only people, to have seen Pavlov, are Kazakh diplomats (excluding the defence). Contrary to procedures, they were allowed to visit the prisoner without his consenting. During the meeting, they supposedly suggested to Pavlov that his refusal to cooperate with the security services of Kazakhstan might end badly for his family, who remained in the country.

Despite the assurances regarding the independence of the court and the lack of political pressure on its decisions, in the background of the process, there are still visible the extensive contacts and reciprocal visits by representatives of the governments of both countries, and the accompanying lucrative business contracts obtained by Spanish companies in Kazakhstan. In the years 2012 and 2013, in Kazakhstan, Talgo, a manufacturer of high-speed trains, signed agreements with a total value of 1 billion 482 million euros. This year, in June, the Kazakh Minister of Defence announced Kazakhstan's interest in acquisition of Casa C295 and Airbus A400M aircrafts produced in Spain. According to government sources, during the September visit of the Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, to Kazakhstan, new contracts in the value of 600 million euros, were concluded. Spain is also the first and only EU country to sign an extradition agreement with Kazakhstan. The agreement entered into force on 1 August, 2013.

The Open Dialog Foundation was established by people who consider European values – personal freedom, human rights, democracy and self-government – more than just a declaration, but a daily reality of the 21st century people.

Alexander Pavlov, born on 26 October, 1975, in Almaty. Graduated from the Kazakh Institute of Physical Culture. Since 1996, an employee of security of a Kazakh businessman and politician, Mukhtar Ablyazov. Wanted by Interpol at the request of Kazakhstan. Divorced, two children. Since 1 June, 2013, he has been held in the Spanish extradition detention centre in Madrid.

On 22 July, 2013, the Audiencia Nacional trial court authorised his extradition to Kazakhstan. The final decision in the case was to be made at the end of September. However, the court acknowledged that they needed more time to consider important factors, which were not taken into account in the first instance, and moved the deadline to 25 October, and then to around 8 November. The court is particularly interested in the case Muratbek Ketebayev, a dissident, who was arrested in Poland in June at the request of Kazakhstan, which had been pursuing him through Interpol. Ketebayev was released after the Polish prosecution considered his case as political in nature.

Economy

EU approves €2.9 billion in state aid for battery project attracting €9 billion

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The Commission has approved, state aid of up to €2.9 billion in funding for an ‘Important Project of Common European Interest’ (IPCEI) to support research and innovation in the battery value chain. The twelve EU countries involved will provide public funding expected to unlock an additional €9 billion in private investments.

The project, called “European Battery Innovation” was jointly prepared and notified by Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “For those massive innovation challenges for the European economy, the risks can be too big for just one member state or one company to take alone. Today's project is an example of how competition policy works hand in hand with innovation and competitiveness. With significant support also comes responsibility: the public has to benefit from its investment, which is why companies receiving aid have to generate positive spillover effects across the EU.”

When Vestager was asked if companies from outside the EU, such as Tesla, could benefit from this funding she said that this was possible and showed that the EU was committed to open strategic autonomy and welcomes non-EU firms when they have the right projects.

The Vice-President for Foresight, Maroš Šefčovič, said: “The Commission has given its green light to a second important project of the common European interest in the field of batteries. Technology is vital for our transition to climate neutrality. The figures show what an enormous undertaking this is. It involves twelve member states from North, South, East and West, injecting up to €2.9 billion euros in state aid in support of 46 projects designed by 42 companies, which in turn will generate three times as much private investment. "

The project will cover the entire battery value chain: extraction of raw materials, design and manufacturing of battery cells, recycling and disposal. It is expected to contribute to the development of a whole set of new technological breakthroughs, including different cell chemistries and novel production processes, and other innovations in the battery value chain, in addition to what will be achieved thanks to the first battery IPCEI.

 

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coronavirus

EU urges AstraZeneca to speed up vaccine deliveries amid 'supply shock'

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The European Union has urged AstraZeneca to find ways to swiftly deliver vaccines after the company announced a large cut in supplies of its COVID-19 shot to the bloc, as news emerged the drugmaker also faced supply problems elsewhere, write and

In a sign of the EU’s frustration - after Pfizer also announced supply delays earlier in January - a senior EU official told Reuters the bloc would in the coming days require pharmaceutical companies to register COVID-19 vaccine exports.

AstraZeneca, which developed its shot with Oxford University, told the EU on Friday it could not meet agreed supply targets up to the end of March, with an EU official involved in the talks telling Reuters that meant a 60% cut to 31 million doses.

“We expect the company to find solutions and to exploit all possible flexibilities to deliver swiftly,” an EU Commission spokesman said, adding the head of the EU executive Ursula von der Leyen had a call earlier on Monday with AstraZeneca’s chief Pascal Soriot to remind him of the firm’s commitments.

A spokesman for AstraZeneca said Soriot told von der Leyen the company was doing everything it could to bring its vaccine to millions of Europeans as soon as possible.

News emerged on Monday that the company faces wider supply problems.

Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters AstraZeneca had advised the country it had experienced “a significant supply shock”, which would cut supplies in March below what was agreed. He did not provide figures.

Thailand’s Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said AstraZeneca would be supplying 150,000 doses instead of the 200,000 planned, and far less than the 1 million shots the country had initially requested.

AstraZeneca declined to comment on global supply issues.

The senior EU official said the bloc had a contractual right to check the company’s books to assess production and deliveries, a move that could imply the EU fears doses being diverted from Europe to other buyers outside the bloc.

AstraZeneca has received an upfront payment of 336 million euros ($409 million) from the EU, another official told Reuters when the 27-nation bloc sealed a supply deal with the company in August for at least 300 million doses - the first signed by the EU to secure COVID-19 shots..

Under advance purchase deals sealed during the pandemic, the EU makes down-payments to companies to secure doses, with the money expected to be mostly used to expand production capacity.

“Initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain,” AstraZeneca said on Friday.

The site is a viral vectors factory in Belgium run by the drugmaker’s partner Novasep.

Viral vectors are produced in genetically modified living cells that have to be nurtured in bioreactors. The complex procedure requires fine-tuning of various inputs and variables to arrive at consistently high yields.

“The flimsy justification that there are difficulties in the EU supply chain but not elsewhere does not hold water, as it is of course no problem to get the vaccine from the UK to the continent,” said EU lawmaker Peter Liese, who is from the same party as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The EU called a meeting with AstraZeneca after Friday’s (22 January) announcement to seek further clarification. The meeting started at 1230 CET on Monday.

The EU official involved in the talks with AstraZeneca said expectations were not high for the meeting, in which the company will be asked to better explain the delays.

Earlier in January, Pfizer, which is currently the largest supplier of COVID-19 vaccines to the EU, announced delays of nearly a month to its shipments, but hours later revised this to say the delays would last only a week.

EU contracts with vaccine makers are confidential, but the EU official involved in the talks did not rule out penalties for AstraZeneca, given the large revision to its commitments. However, the source did not elaborate on what could trigger the penalties. “We are not there yet,” the official added.

“AstraZeneca has been contractually obligated to produce since as early as October and they are apparently delivering to other parts of the world, including the UK without delay,” Liese said.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is expected to be approved for use in the EU on Jan. 29, with first deliveries expected from 15 February.

($1 = €0.8214)

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Brexit

Brexit butchers EU trade for Scottish beef producers

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Brexit has dealt a blow to Andrew Duff’s business. His burgeoning sales of high end Scottish beef to Europe are on hold because his business is too small to navigate the post-Brexit customs border for now, writes .

The 32-year-old had been on the verge of expanding the family business, using his social media marketing skills to promote the rare beef that has been reared on farms across the Scottish lowlands and borders for centuries.

Instead his Macduff business is now one of thousands across Britain that lack the financial firepower to throw at the myriad health checks, customs declarations and higher logistics costs that are required to export goods into the European Union.

“With these customers it takes years to build the relationship and get them on board, and it can take seconds to lose,” said Duff, whose clients include an award-winning butcher in Germany and a Michelin-starred restaurant in Belgium.

“Luckily January is a quiet month. Come February, March, if the situation is still the same then it could be problematic,” he told Reuters.

Far from the dire warnings of clogged ports and tailbacks that preceded the departure, Brexit so far has seen factories and fishermen unable to complete paperwork and get the goods off their yard. Many still do not know which forms need completing. Different couriers give different answers.

The government has said it is helping businesses deal with the “teething problems”. It has urged exporters to make sure their paperwork is in order and said it will give 23 million pounds ($31 million) to fishermen who have lost sales due to delivery delays.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson argued that Britain would be free to trade globally once it had cast off the shackles of the EU. But his pursuit of a relationship that enables Britain to set its own rules means those firms trading with Europe face a full customs border.

Hardest-hit are the small companies that built up during Britain’s 47-year membership of the world’s biggest trading bloc to sell often low-priced product that was couriered at speed across the continent.

Almost half of 2018’s 76 billion pounds in exports to the EU from small and medium sized enterprises came from firms employing fewer than 9 people.

Where a huge meat or fish producer can fill one truck with one product and complete one set of customs paperwork, Duff sources top quality cattle from a selection of farms.

His goods - bone-in pieces from Shorthorn and Luing breeds - are sent on a truck carrying products from other suppliers, a process known as groupage.

Now a vet-approved health certificate is required for each firm’s goods, meaning potentially up to 30 per truck. One fish exporter said he needed over 400 pages of export documentation for one EU-bound lorry. One error can block delivery.

Duff’s transport company have said they are struggling as it is to help big customers, so groupage must wait.

He is also worried about prices, knowing that he cannot absorb all the costs of customs declarations, longer logistics times and the health certificates.

Logistics bosses believe Brexit could force a shake-out in trade. Truck volumes between Britain and the EU were on average down 29% in the first 20 days of the year, according to data firm Sixfold. Logistics groups say some trucks are returning empty to Europe to avoid export paperwork. Prices are rising.

One of those caught up in the bureaucracy is Sarah Braithwaite, who worked 16-hour days to build a horse feed firm that until 1 January was selling into 20 European countries.

This month her stock has failed to get to Europe or been rejected by customers over unexpected customs bills and taxes. Her Forage Plus has halted European orders - making up to 30% of her sales - and is refunding £40,000 to customers.

Braithwaite says her business is too small to build a presence in Europe to overcome the new barriers. “The trade that we’ve got now wouldn’t support the cost of setting all that up,” she said.

Both she and Duff are hopeful that exports can resume once the new system has bedded in but nerves are frayed. In desperation Braithwaite called the UK government for help.

The message she got back: ring the French embassy.

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