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#Georgia and #SouthOssetia - EU should support International Peace Project

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The EU has applauded the efforts of a pioneering project which aims to reconcile people in Georgia and South Ossetia, a so-called frozen conflict zone.

A source of tension since the break-up of the Soviet Union, South Ossetia hosted a brief war between Russia and Georgia in 2008. Moscow subsequently recognised South Ossetia as an independent state and began a process of closer ties that Georgia views as effective annexation.

20% of Georgian territory is occupied by the Russian Federation, and the European Union did not recognize the territories occupied by Russia.

Tensions still simmer but, thanks to a go-ahead peace-keeping initiative, people on both sides are slowly coming together in reconciliation and mutual respect. This project is being considered by the EU for financial support.

A letter from the head of cabinet for commission vice president Jyrki Katainen applauds the initiative and says the European Commission looks forward to working with the project in the future.

The project was founded by Giorgi Samkharadze who told this website:"During the last decade the EU has been playing a considerable role in the Georgia/Russia conflict resolution.We deeply hope that with the support of the international donor organizations we will manage to contribute in a process of bringing Georgian and Ossetian people closer.”

He added: “We now see the promotion of peace in Georgia, not by the use of weapons but in peace projects.”

One notable achievement so far has been the construction of a new sports stadium in the village of Ergneti on the South Ossetia border.

The stadium recently hosted an official football game between youngsters from Georgia and South Ossetia. Samkharadze, who refereed the game, said: “The goal of the joint match was to kick off the peace-building activities between Georgia and South Osetia. But I stress that many events are scheduled, not just football and many cultural events will be held in the stadium.”

The ground also hosted another “peace match” between representatives from the Parliament of Georgia and team of Samachablo where the IDPs – displaced persons - from Tskhinvali.

The project will manage many common cultural and sporting events and facilitate the reconciliation between Ossetians and Georgians along with the development of villages close to the neighbourhood.

The initiative has also helped boost the economy and environment of the area.  For example, a newly created company has been responsible for cleaning of irrigation and water draining systems.

Samkharadze  said this will help to easy the daily life of the population living in the vicinity of boarder line and will also help to raise awareness of a young generation.

“This initiative generally will enhance the social welfare of the resident population,” he said.

The efforts being led by the Ergneti International Peace Humanitarian Project are supported by the Georgian government but are still in need of continued funding.

Samkharadze added: “The target group is Ossetians and Georgians in the conflict zone. There are many mixed families Ossetians with Georgians and there are also many kinship connections which we need to develop and promote.”

He says the intended beneficiaries will be Ossetian people, Georgians and population of the conflict zone.

He went on: “We would also like to point to the interest of high level EU representatives in Brussels to our project,including Gunther Oettinger, the European commissioner for Budget and Human Resources and EESC President Luca Jahier, who have wished us success in the implementation of the project.

“We know that the EU supports Georgia in fostering confidence building with the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia through people-to-people contacts, dialogue processes and academic exchanges.

“Projects funded under the EU instrument contributing to stability and peace, as well as certain projects funded under the European Neighbourhood Instrument and the Neighbourhood Investment Platform, are geared towards supporting our engagement policy from different angles.”

A letter from Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker, until recently presidents of the European Council and Commission respectively, says the EU “remains committed to continuing it excellent bilateral cooperation with Georgia.”

The letter, seen by this website, goes on to say the EU looks forward to help “advance the political association and economic integration” between the EU and Georgia.

Samkharadze says that history has shown that quite often so called  public diplomacy is much more effective  than long lasting high level diplomatic negotiations in an effort to unlock unsettled frozen conflicts.

He believes the innovative project he launched is another, particularly successful, example of this.

 

 

 

EU law

In divorces, the odds are stacked against women

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Among the many side effects the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have had on Europe is a particularly shameful one: skyrocketing domestic abuse. France – with its deeply embedded chauvinism – has stood out in particular, as calls to the government hotline for abused women rose 400 percent during the lockdown.

At the same time, leaving these relationships is not easy. For legally married women, a divorce would be a logical step, but not all women are willing or even able to make that move. The reasons behind that are manifold, yet one of the most common ones is one of the most frequently overlooked as well: the fact that women are commonly disadvantaged in divorce settlements that are leaving women in economic and social hardship more often than men.

Women get the short stick

This fact is surprisingly uniform across the globe, which is why it’s even more of a shock that women continue to find the odds stacked against them in highly developed regions with a strong women’s rights and equality agenda, such as Europe. A 2018 study assessing the gender differences in the consequences of divorce, using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (1984-2015), found that “women were strongly disadvantaged in terms of losses in household income and associated increases in the risk of poverty”. Worse, these losses were permanent and substantial, without significant changes over time.

Even when a settlement results in a 50/50 division of assets, women often feel disadvantaged due to lower earning power caused by childcare responsibilities and reduced hours available to work, or make strategic career choices. Furthermore, women are frequently left indebted by the legal costs of divorce proceedings because their lower savings levels mean they have to rely on eye-watering loans. Women’s financial positions rarely recover enough to reach pre-divorce levels, while men’s incomes tend to rise by 25 percent on average following the split.

 

Rich or poor, you lose

While these problems are common occurrences across different cultures around the world, they’re also independent of the social class. It may seem obvious that these problems are exclusive to the middle class rather than the wealthiest members of society. However, women divorcing rich husbands face the same hurdles and adverse prospects. Indeed, if there’s one common factor that unites women across all social strata, it’s how they have to fight disproportionally harder than their ex-husbands to obtain their fair share of the divorce pie.

Case in point is the bitter divorce fight between Azerbaijani oligarch Farkhad Akhmedov and his ex-wife Tatiana Akhmedova. Farkhad Akhmedov, who is based in Baku despite having failed to obtain Azeri citizenship, made his fortune in the gas sector but left the industry after being forced to sell his stake in Northgas to Inter RAO in 2012 for $400 million under value. Tatiana, a British citizen, was awarded 40 percent of her ex-husband’s fortune by a UK court in 2016, amounting to roughly £453 million – the biggest divorce settlement in history. Instead of accepting the judgement and paying out, Farkhad Akhmedov has been fighting tooth and nail to avoid making payments, or handing over the assets given to his ex-wife in the settlement, including an art collection, real estate and superyacht, valued at £350 million

 

The divorce of the century

In the process, Akhmedov has frequently not only fought with the gloves off, but outright dirty. From the very beginning, Akhmedov’s defense argued that the couple got divorced before, namely in Moscow in 2000. According to the defense, that alleged divorce supersedes the British decision, painting Akhmedova as a fraud. However, the attempt at slandering his ex-wife backfired: no evidence for an earlier divorce ever materialised, leading Justice Haddon-Cave in 2016 to declare “… that the 2000 Moscow divorce documents … were, at all material times, forged.”

This should’ve been a lethal blow to Farkhad Akhmedov’s defense, but four years on, no significant pay-outs have been made – despite the fact that the original 2016 decision in Akhmedova’s favour has been upheld in other courts. In 2018, Akhmedov was ruled to be in contempt of court and was criticised by Justice Haddon-Cave for taking “numerous elaborate steps” designed to avoid the judgement’s execution, such as “concealing his assets in a web of offshore companies.” These entities, primarily located in Liechtenstein, were recently ordered to transfer Akhmedov’s assets to Tatiana.

 

This is a men’s world

It shouldn’t be surprising that this hasn’t happened yet, all the while the oligarch’s contempt for both British law and his ex-wife are unwavering. In fact, the Akhmedov case – owing to the volume of assets and great publicity involved – serves to highlights the stark contrast in divorce outcomes and that women are generally fighting an uphill battle for equity of the settlement that can last for years, straining their ability to move on and restart their lives.

Yet it could help to raise awareness for this deeply engrained inequality, where women all over the world seeking divorce or justice for domestic abuse are exposed to odds overwhelmingly in their ex-spouse’s favour. Stronger, more relentless enforcement of rulings – including painful punishment in case of non-compliance – is the only way to break the vicious circle. Otherwise, gender equality will forever be imperfect, even unattainable.

 

 

 

 

 

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China

Bank embraces blockchain to facilitate Belt and Road trade

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China and the European Union have both said they will accelerate negotiations in order to conclude a China-EU investment agreement by the end of this year, with its colossal infrastructure project “Belt and Road” at the centre of an era of trade and growth for economies in Asia and beyond.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), sometimes referred to as the New Silk Road, is one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects ever conceived. Launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, the vast collection of development and investment initiatives would stretch from East Asia to Europe.

The original Silk Road arose during the westward expansion of China’s Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), which forged trade networks throughout what are today the Central Asian countries of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, as well as modern-day India and Pakistan to the south. Those routes extended more than four thousand miles to Europe.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is today’s new Silk Road,  a trans-continental passage that links China with south east Asia, south Asia, Central Asia, Russia and Europe by land – and a 21st century Maritime Silk Road, a sea route connecting China’s coastal regions with south east and south Asia, the South Pacific, the Middle East and Eastern Africa, all the way to Europe.

One of the greatest challenges to its success will be to overcome the complexity of multi-commodity trading - there are a number of stakeholders, intermediaries and banks operating together to make deals happen. These deals are massive in value and happen very frequently, with huge amounts of money are being transferred across borders to different parties that all use different systems and have different compliance requirements, data storage systems, currencies, and so on.  The current system is expensive, slow and provides customers with almost no transparency.

LGR Crypto bank of Switzerland

LGR Crypto bank of Switzerland

Innovative digital systems using the “Blockchain” are being developed to facilitate fast and secure methods of enabling these trades to take place.

LGR Crypto bank of Switzerland is a leader in b2b digital money movement and end-to-end trade finance, and has launched blockchain based digital system to support supply chain finance in the Silk Road economies. LGR has also launched a new “Silk Road Coin” cryptocurrency to enable seamless and instant trade along the Belt and Road.

“I think something that we are going to continue to see is the impact of emerging technologies on the industry. Things like blockchain infrastructure and digital currencies will be used to bring added transparency and speed to transactions. Government-issued central bank digital currencies are also being created, and this is also going to have an interesting impact on cross-border money movement.” said Ali Amirliravi, Chief Executive of LGR Crypto bank of Switzerland.

“We’re looking at how digital smart contracts can be used in trade finance to create new automated letters-of-credit, and this gets really interesting once you incorporate IoT technology. Our system is able to trigger transactions and payments automatically based on incoming data from supply chain. This means, for example, that we could create a smart contract for a letter of credit which automatically releases payment once a shipping vessel reaches a certain location. Or, a simpler example, payments could be triggered once a set of compliance documents are uploaded to the system and verified LGR. Furthermore, the letter of credit related documents can be shared with different trading partnership using blockchain platform which further improves transparencies and reduces trading risks. Automation is such a huge trend - we’re going to see more and more traditional processes being disrupted.” he said.

Ali Amirliravi, Chief Executive of LGR Crypto bank of Switzerland

Ali Amirliravi, Chief Executive of LGR Crypto bank of Switzerland

“Data is going to continue to play a huge role in shaping the future of supply chain finance. In the current system, documents are paper based, data is siloed, and the lack of standardization really interferes with overall data collection opportunities. However, once this problem is solved, an end-to-end digital trade finance system would be able to generate big data sets that could be used to create all kinds of predictive models and industry insights. Of course, the quality and sensitivity of this data means that data management and security will be incredibly important for the industry of tomorrow.”

Ali Amirliravi is positive about the opportunities that the Belt and Road Initiative will bring.

“For me, the future for the money movement and trade finance industry is bright. We’re entering the new digital era, and this is going to mean all kinds of new business opportunities, particularly for the companies that embrace next generation technologies.”

 

 

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Arts

LUKOIL’S Oil Pavilion named world's best project for use of Virtual Reality

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LUKOIL became a winner of the international IPRA Golden World Awards in four categories for the restoration of the historical Oil Pavilion at Moscow’s VDNKh. It is the largest Russian multimedia exhibition dedicated to applied science, which presents oil industry to its visitors through interactive installations.

The Oil Pavilion was awarded the status of the best global project in Gaming and virtual reality, Business-to-business, Media relations and Sponsorship categories.

This is the second LUKOIL’s IPRA Golden World Awards win; the Company received two awards last year. LUKOIL’s campaign to promote the city of Kogalym (Yugra) as a tourist centre of the West Siberia received awards as the world’s best project in Travel and tourism and Community engagement categories.

IPRA Golden World Awards (GWA) is the world’s most influential global public relations and communications competition.

IPRA GWA, established in 1990, recognizes excellence in public relations practice worldwide, taking into account such criteria as creativity, complexity of realization, and unique character of the project. World’s greatest communications and marketing experts and leaders, including representatives of the various largest enterprises, form the GWA jury.

 

 

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