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#Andorra: An Association Agreement with EU

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Andorra wishes to intensify its trade links with the EU, bypassing its current business interests derived from the sale of alcoholic beverages and tobacco, with the help of a few privileged commercial duty-free allowances.

What has been a renowned commercial and tourist centre of the Pyrenees, the goverment wants to start a new cycle of prosperity and economic opening to the world. It is now addressing the main economic activity of the country to develop sectors such as welfare and health, and tourism over and above the already worn-out commercial attractions based on alcohol and tobacco. The incentive for alcohol and tobacco came from a tax differential and a permissive business duty-free allowance, which today seem difficult to fit with the status of a country immersed fully in a harmonized EU regime.

This apparent sacrifice, still pending the final negotiation, aims to allow the country to become an interesting economic and financial centre which is fully approved by the international community. Andorra offers also specialized tourist attractions providing added value related to the services of good living and health. Nevertheless, it will necessarily require a period of transition and adaptation to convert the existing industry based on the trade of alcohol and tobacco, which until today, along with the financial sector, has been the mainstay  of the country’s economy. Without such a smooth transition, the alcohol and tobacco industries will suffer commercially, with a corresponding deleterious effect on the Andorran economy.

Furthermore, the banking sector has been impacted adversely in terms of financial performance since Andorra implemented a number of reforms related to transparency of  financial transactions to meet the standards required by OECD. Significant investments have been carried out by the banks on infrastructures related to the tourism sector, and many of these are now in a state of negative equity. The banks’ existing financial exposure justifies their support for a closer union with the EU in order to attract fresh foreign capital.

So while for the financial sector it is appealing to open new horizons of expansion, for trade in alcoholic beverages there will begin an era of uncertainty until the outcome of the negotiation and the consequences of entering fully into the European harmonized system, are known. Then it must decide on the compatibility or otherwise of the current regime of  duty-free allowances and low VAT, with the commercial interests of the other countries of the union, as well as other community charges such as the non-existence of excise duty. There are indeed precedents for retaining such systems even after joining the EEA – for example Norway was able to retain its border control and its strict travellers’ allowances for alcohol import after joining EEA. Andorra would have to achieve similar success in negotiating any entry to the EEA or risk losing the benefits of its duty-free attraction to visitors.

On the other hand, for the tobacco industry, which is difficult to replace and essential for the economy of the country and the agricultural sector, the EU looks like it will need to be patient and make an effort to find an ad hoc solution, albeit on a temporary basis. This would enable the tobacco sector to commence a decisive conversion about this traditional economy – an economy with a significant weight within the national budget, and which has been a major commercial attraction for centuries.

Alcohol and tobacco are among the most regulated consumer products in Europe, with some fearing the trend is towards over-regulation. So for Andorra, the long-standing importance of the alcohol and tobacco sectors to its national economy means that it is vital to ensure that any changes do not impact negatively on the country’s ability to support its public service expenditure and the welfare of its inhabitants. Should this issue result in a financial deficit, the Andorran government could be obliged, without a viable solution, to make some cuts on transport, social and health care services. This would have a damaging impact on a hard working population.

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Support Taiwan’s inclusion in the post-COVID-19 global public health network

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Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there have more than 40 million cases and more than one million deaths around the world. The virus has had an enormous impact on global politics, employment, economics, trade and financial systems, and significantly impacted the global efforts to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), writes Republic of China (Taiwan) Health and Welfare Minister Dr. Chen Shih-chung (pictured, above left).

Thanks to the united efforts of its entire people, Taiwan has responded to the threats posed by this pandemic through four principles: prudent action, rapid response, advance deployment, and openness and transparency.

Adopting such strategies as the operation of specialized command systems, the implementation of meticulous border control measures, the production and distribution of adequate supplies of medical resources, the employment of home quarantine and isolation measures and related care services, the application of IT systems, the publishing of transparent and open information, and the execution of precise screening and testing, we have been fortunate enough to contain the virus.

As of 7 October, Taiwan had had just 523 confirmed cases and seven deaths; meanwhile, life and work have continued much as normal for the majority of people.

The global outbreak of COVID-19 has reminded the world that infectious diseases know no borders and do not discriminate along political, ethnic, religious, or cultural lines. Nations should work together to address the threat of emerging diseases.

For this reason, once Taiwan had stabilized its containment of the virus and ensured that people had sufficient access to medical resources, we began to share our experience and exchange information on containing COVID-19 with global public health professionals and scholars through COVID-19-related forums, APEC’s High-Level Meeting on Health and the Economy, the Global Cooperation Training Framework, and other virtual bilateral meetings.

As of June 2020, Taiwan had held nearly 80 online conferences, sharing the Taiwan Model with experts from governments, hospitals, universities, and think tanks in 32 countries.

Taiwan’s donations of medical equipment and antipandemic supplies to countries in need also continue. By June, we had donated 51 million surgical masks, 1.16 million N95 masks, 600,000 isolation gowns, and 35,000 forehead thermometers to more than 80 countries.

To ensure access to vaccines, Taiwan has joined the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX) co-led by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance; the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations; and the World Health Organization. And our government is actively assisting domestic manufacturers in hopes of accelerating the development and production of successful vaccines, bringing them to market as quickly as possible and putting an end to this pandemic.

To prepare for a possible next wave of the pandemic as well as the approaching flu season, Taiwan is maintaining its strategies of encouraging citizens to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, and strengthening border quarantine measures, community-based prevention, and medical preparedness. Furthermore, we are actively collaborating with domestic and international partners to obtain vaccines and develop optimal treatments and accurate diagnostic tools, jointly safeguarding global public health security.

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that Taiwan is an integral part of the global public health network and that Taiwan Model can help other countries combat the pandemic. To recover better, WHO needs Taiwan.

We urge WHO and related parties to acknowledge Taiwan’s longstanding contributions to global public health, disease prevention, and the human right to health, and to firmly support Taiwan’s inclusion in WHO. Taiwan’s comprehensive participation in WHO meetings, mechanisms, and activities would allow us to work with the rest of the world in realizing the fundamental human right to health as stipulated in the WHO Constitution and the vision of leaving no one behind enshrined in the UN SDGs.

The opinions expressed in the above article are those of the author alone, and do not reflect any opinions on the part of EU Reporter.

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Dead mayoral candidate gets landslide win in Romanian village

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Death didn’t stop Ion Aliman in his bid for a third term as mayor of Deveselu, a village of around 3,000 people in southern Romania. Aliman won the local election by a landslide, with 64% of votes cast, despite dying 10 days before the vote, on 17 September, from COVID-19 complications, writes Cristian Gherasim.

According to electoral officials, his name was already printed on the voting ballots and couldn’t be changed before voting took place.

The deputy-mayor, Nicolae Dobre, is not surprised by the surreal outcome saying that the former mayor did everything for the community, he deserved this victory and that people didn’t trust other candidates.

Following the results, people gathered on Monday at the grave of the newly elected mayor to light candles and pay their respects on the day Ion Aliman would have turned 57.

The grave site election celebration was shared on social media, as dozens of villagers turned up for the occasion.

The procedure now requires that local council members appoint a deputy-mayor who takes over the duties of the mayor until new elections take place. The incumbent deputy-mayor, Nicolae Dobre, announced his intention to run.

Mr. Aliman’s victory is not a big reason to celebrate though for his former party, as the Social Democrats lost key municipalities and counties in these local elections. Center-right parties made significant gains in former social democrat strongholds, running both separately and as an alliance depending on the region.

Deveselu is known for housing one of the key components of the NATO defence system, employing Aegis Ballistic Missiles, able to intercept and defend against short to intermediate-range missile attacks.

Romania has so far reported more than 125,000 coronavirus cases and 4,800 deaths, with daily infection rates on the rise. Prior to election week, Romania recorded 1,767 new Covid-19 infections over a 24-hour span, the highest number since late February, when the pandemic started in the south-eastern European nation.

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Russian oil industry - innovative approach to talent development for industrial sustainable development

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Russian oil workers celebrated their professional holiday in September. Oil and Gas Industry Workers day was established 55 years ago in the USSR as a sign of appreciation for the specialists successfully satisfied both the needs of home and active front lines in WW2 times and made a significant contribution in post-war reconstruction. People continue to be the main asset for oil companies in Russia and abroad.

Russian oil and gas industry is renowned worldwide for its high professionalism and dedication”, - OPEC’s Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo noted in his letter to the Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation Alexander Novak in honor of the day of workers of the oil and gas industry. “Oil workers are unsung heroes whose tireless efforts enable OPEC and our outside partners to make informed decisions. We must never take their work for granted,” – he added.

According to International Labor Organization reports, the world of work is currently undergoing profound changes. Digitalization, changing demographics and a transition to a green economy are setting up the new trends – automation and robotics that reduce the need for labor, herewith the ever raising competence requirements for the current personnel. Given this, each professional oil worker – in a very real sense – worths his weight in gold by being able to deliver high performance in current changing conditions.

ILO highlighted three main goals to support oil workers and other working men around the globe: increasing investment in people’s skills, strengthening labor guarantees and expanding social dialogue.

In the words of Anatoly Moskalenko, Vice President for Human Resources Management and Social Policy of PJSC LUKOIL, corporate programs fully comply with ILO’s vision: “Today, the oil and gas sector is facing new challenges that can significantly change professional areas of activity and, therefore, specifics of HR management and social work. In 2019 the Company launched a personnel performance and efficiency management system, based on the principles of modern leadership philosophy.” The new approach places a greater emphasis on the individual as the key driver behind achievement of the Company’s strategic goals.

PJSC LUKOIL President Vagit Alekperov has decided to begin implementing leadership and engagement tools to facilitate a reliable and sustainable future for LUKOIL. Forward-looking changes are designed to ensure that the Company maintains its leading position in the industry.

This will require changes in the system used to make decisions, people management, training, motivation, and overall performance and efficiency assessments. Goal management, effective and inspiring interaction between managers and employees, constant feedback, and a modern system of productivity and performance management in a unified digital environment.

The first step has been to elaborate the project groups in the Exploration and Production business segment. This group of employees ensures that effective solutions are found to engineering and technical problems, while achieving operational and investment efficiency when implementing major and high-priority projects, both in Russia and abroad with Company’s and global experience and best practices are taken into account. This new approach will be further distributed to the corporate vertical system, backed by the constantly renewing regulatory framework.

LUKOIL employed over 105 thousand people, 41% female, which are more than 26% of managerial personnel. Company applies uniform principles for the talent development and respects personnel’s wish to achieve work-life balance. In LUKOIL Group entities parental leave is granted to both women and men.

Company endeavors the implementation of harmonized standards to working with our employees in all countries and regions where we operate, taking into account local specifics and features. LUKOIL’s basic approach is to employ the best professionals, while in foreign countries company strives to employ as many local professionals as possible, and provide them with employee training where necessary.

Company strives to maintain an attractive employee remuneration system to facilitate social stability and to enhance the quality of life of our employees and their families. In 2019, the average salary in LUKOIL Group’s Russian entities in significant regions of operation was at least 1.5 times higher than the average salary in the same regions. Voluntary health insurance programs cover over 90% of employees at Russian entities, over 1.4 thousand employees participate in the housing program.

Constant and focused talent development programs aimed at full professional fulfillment, while maintaining the social guarantees, helps LUKOIL to keep employee turnover at insignificant 7.5%.

New approach towards corporate policies, compliant with the actual social needs and current technological development level, ongoing partnership with ILO allow LUKOIL to build up the solutions that would become referential either for Russian oil market and global business society.

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