A new initiative is confirming a trend to help sportsmen overcome the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The International Fencing Federation (FIE), headed by Alisher Usmanov, has announced a global support plan aimed at national federations amid the COVID-19 crisis.
"Our world has been facing the coronavirus pandemic, which entails huge consequences for physical and mental health, as well as the economy," Usmanov said in a statement released last Friday by the FIE. "Fencers and their federations have had to abruptly halt their activities. In the spirit of solidarity and unity, and to help our fencing family overcome this difficult period, we came up with an unprecedented plan of support, allocating 1 million Swiss francs for this purpose."
According to the plan adopted by its executive committee, the FIE will provide financial aid for its organisations, athletes, and referees, and will freeze membership and organisational fees. It also secures grants for fencers to take part in upcoming championships.
This announcement comes at a crucial moment when the sporting world is stalled by the ongoing suspension of most activities and the rescheduling of events.
Back in May, World Athletics and the International Athletics Foundation (IAF) established a USD $500,000 welfare fund to support professional athletes who have lost a substantial part of their income due to the suspension of international competitions.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe noted that the “resources must be focused on athletes who are likely to be competing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year and are now struggling to pay for basic necessities due to a loss of income during the pandemic’’.
The FIE, which comprises a total of 157 federations, is currently planning to resume its competitions by next November. The fencers’ senior Olympic qualification rankings remain frozen as of March 2020, it said.
The FIE was one of the first international federations to release its global support plan, which may now be followed by others.
Given the uncertainty over the end of the coronavirus pandemic, sports organizations need to think about how to provide additional moral and financial support to their athletes. More initiatives should be expected from donors and federations in the near future.
Meanwhile, according to Usmanov, the FIE “is working tirelessly to protect our athletes and entire organisation to ensure future competitions take place safely. As fencers, we face the future together, our heads up and our masks on”.
Usmanov, a former professional fencer, has headed the FIE since 2008 and has put a remarkable CHF80 million (USD $82 million) into the FIE’s balance sheet over three previous Olympic cycles, according to the Inside the Games news website.
Twice re-elected to this post, the Russian spared no effort to help promote fencing and to assist the growing national federations in Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world.
He also convinced the IOC, which is headed by the former fencing champion Thomas Bach, to assign the full medal count to fencing during the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
As the COVID-19 pandemic erupted, Usmanov and his businesses have been helping to fight its impact with large donations in various countries, notably in Russia and in Uzbekistan.
Sports and sports industries may have been severely hit by COVID-19, but sport is also believed to be the best medicine for diseases. Aristotle used to say that “nothing is as draining and destroying to the human body, as prolonged physical inactivity”.
Hopefully, the FIE's initiative to support fencers in this time of continued turbulence will move us closer to ending the current pause in the world’s sporting life.
Issuance of green bonds will strengthen the international role of the euro
Eurogroup ministers discussed the international role of the euro (15 February), following the publication of the European Commission's communication of (19 January), ‘The European economic and financial system: fostering strength and resilience’.
President of the Eurogroup, Paschal Donohoe said: “The aim is to reduce our dependence on other currencies, and to strengthen our autonomy in various situations. At the same time, increased international use of our currency also implies potential trade-offs, which we will continue to monitor. During the discussion, ministers emphasized the potential of green bond issuance to enhance the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate transition objective.”
The Eurogroup has discussed the issue several times in recent years since the December 2018 Euro Summit. Klaus Regling, the managing director of the European Stability Mechanism said that overreliance on the dollar contained risks, giving Latin America and the Asian crisis of the 90s as examples. He also referred obliquely to “more recent episodes” where the dollar’s dominance meant that EU companies could not continue to work with Iran in the face of US sanctions. Regling believes that the international monetary system is slowly moving towards a multi-polar system where three or four currencies will be important, including the dollar, euro and renminbi.
European Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, agreed that the euro’s role could be strengthened through the issuance of green bonds enhancing the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate objectives of the Next Generation EU funds.
Ministers agreed that broad action to support the international role of the euro, encompassing progress on amongst other things, Economic and Monetary Union, Banking Union and Capital Markets Union were needed to secure the euros international role.
European human rights court backs Germany over Kunduz airstrike case
The ruling by the Strasbourg-based court rejects a complaint by Afghan citizen Abdul Hanan, who lost two sons in the attack, that Germany did not fulfil its obligation to effectively investigate the incident.
In September 2009, the German commander of NATO troops in Kunduz called in a U.S. fighter jet to strike two fuel trucks near the city which NATO believed had been hijacked by Taliban insurgents.
The Afghan government said at the time 99 people, including 30 civilians, were killed. Independent rights groups estimated between 60 and 70 civilians were killed.
The death toll shocked Germans and ultimately forced its defence minister to resign over accusations of covering up the number of civilian casualties in the run-up to Germany’s 2009 election.
Germany’s federal prosecutor general had found that the commander did not incur criminal liability, mainly because he was convinced when he ordered the airstrike that no civilians were present.
For him to be liable under international law, he would have had to be found to have acted with intent to cause excessive civilian casualties.
The European Court of Human Rights considered the effectiveness of Germany’s investigation, including whether it established a justification for lethal use of force. It did not consider the legality of the airstrike.
Of 9,600 NATO troops in Afghanistan, Germany has the second-largest contingent behind the United States.
A 2020 peace agreement between the Taliban and Washington calls for foreign troops to withdraw by May 1, but U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is reviewing the deal after a deterioration in the security situation in Afghanistan.
Germany is preparing to extend the mandate for its military mission in Afghanistan from March 31 until the end of this year, with troop levels remaining at up to 1,300, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.
Digitalization of EU justice systems: Commission launches public consultation on cross-border judicial co-operation
On 16 February, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the modernization of EU justice systems. The EU aims to support member states in their efforts to adapt their justice systems to the digital age and improve EU cross-border judicial co-operation. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders (pictured) said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of digitalization, including in the field of justice. Judges and lawyers need digital tools to be able to work together faster and more efficiently.
At the same time, citizens and businesses need online tools for an easier and more transparent access to justice at a lower cost. The Commission strives to push this process forward and support member states in their efforts, including as regards facilitating their cooperation in cross-border judicial procedures by using digital channels.” In December 2020, the Commission adopted a communication outlining the actions and initiatives intended to advance the digitalization of justice systems across the EU.
The public consultation will gather views on the digitalization of EU cross-border civil, commercial and criminal procedures. The results of the public consultation, in which a broad range of groups and individuals can participate and which is available here until 8 May 2021, will feed into an initiative on digitalisation of cross-border judicial cooperation expected at the end of this year as announced in the 2021 Commission's Work Programme.
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