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#WoundedWarrior support foundation

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Since 2010, we have seen the creation of a number of significant international sporting competitions for wounded and injured veterans – such as this month’s Warrior Games and the Invictus Games. Both have drawn global attention, with millions all over the world watching the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney. The remarkable skill and abilities of wounded soldiers is at last becoming front page news worldwide, writes George Ramishvili, Founder & Chairman of Silk Road Group.

But these games only tell part of the story. Behind each of the sporting heroes of these events is a team and a family. And there are many more servicemen and women and veterans who may not be participating in sporting events, but nonetheless still inspire us.

It is for all these heroes that the Wounded Warrior Support Foundation was founded in Georgia. Supported since 2018 by Silknet, the WWSF aims to provide support to wounded soldiers and veterans and their families, aiding them in their integration to civilian life. Practically, this includes a wide range of support – from financing higher education and professional qualification to helping to fund specific medical treatments and equipment. Silknet’s involvement was Georgia’s first example of a private-sector organisation becoming involved in the care of wounded soldiers, and as the founder of Silknet and Silk Road Group, its parent company, I am very proud of what we have done so far. But there is still much more to be done.

In establishing the WWSF, we were able to draw inspiration from a number of US and UK-based charities and initiatives such as the Allied Forces Foundation, the Azalea Charities and the Give an Hour initiative. When it comes to bringing wounded veterans back into civilian life through sport, European countries are unfortunately lagging behind the United States. However, the WWSF is on a mission to change this, putting Georgia on the map at the forefront of active recovery for wounded soldiers in Europe.

Across all our implemented and upcoming projects, the involvement of volunteers is crucial. In order to become volunteers, Georgian citizens must first be aware of the challenges that veterans and wounded active-duty military face. Part of our mission is to raise that awareness in the Georgian population, showing not only what these people have done and sacrificed in the service of our country, but also what they are still capable of after suffering life-changing injuries.

One of the most striking examples is the Georgian sitting volleyball team which emerged victorious in the Invictus Games in both 2017 and 2018, with HRH Prince Harry saying: “I’m not sure any of us were ready for a group of men from Georgia – who until three years ago had never even played the game to battle all the way to gold in sitting volleyball”. The sport gained a new following in Georgia after these victories, and there is no doubt that more medals and fans will follow in 2020, at the next Invictus Games. These victories eliminated the stigma of physical disabilities within the Armed Forces of Georgia, showing that active life goes on. They once again underlined that our wounded service men and women are true heroes and inspiration for our nation.

But why stop there? When discussing the WWSF’s projects with co-founder Paata Patiashvili and CEO David Mamulaishvili, it occurred to us that Georgia would make a fantastic location for a sporting tournament for wounded warriors, thanks to our unique geographical features, location on the crossroads between East and West, and our commitment to supporting soldiers and veterans. Having hosted some qualifying tournaments for the 2020 Paralympics, we are already home to much of the necessary infrastructure – as well as exciting natural terrain and stunning mountain ranges.

A sporting event is just one idea that Silknet and the WWSF are considering for the future. We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Defense to improve the programs supporting active-duty military and veterans, and are always learning from our charity partners in the States and the UK about new techniques and approaches to support military servicemen and their family members. In order to raise awareness, we are also looking at ways to use the Silknet network to showcase the initiatives and abilities of our wounded warriors to the country.

As the Warrior Games kick off in Florida, and athletes from the USA, UK and Canada compete in 11 sports, it is my hope that more people engage with the competition and the issues faced by servicemen and women all over the world. In Georgia and at the Wounded Warrior Support Foundation, we are committed to continuing our partnerships and initiatives to help Georgian wounded warriors, as well as raising awareness across the country. One day, we hope to be able to host our allies and friends for a uniquely Georgian sporting event which celebrates not only the past achievements of our soldiers, but also their future endeavours.

Brexit

Scottish government comment on efforts to stay in Erasmus

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Minsters have welcomed the support of around 150 MEPs who have asked the European Commission to explore how Scotland could continue to take part in the popular Erasmus exchange programme. The move comes a week after Further and Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead held productive talks with Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel to explore the idea. Until last year, over 2,000 Scottish students, staff and learners took part in the scheme annually, with Scotland attracting proportionally more Erasmus participants from across Europe - and sending more in the other direction - than any other country in the UK.

Lochhead said: “Losing Erasmus is huge blow for the thousands of Scottish students, community groups and adult learners - from all demographic backgrounds - who can no longer live, study or work in Europe.“It also closes the door for people to come to Scotland on Erasmus to experience our country and culture and it is heartening to see that loss of opportunity recognised by the 145 MEPs from across Europe who want Scotland’s place in Erasmus to continue. I am grateful to Terry Reintke and other MEPs for their efforts and thank them for extending the hand of friendship and solidarity to Scotland’s young people. I sincerely hope we can succeed.

“I have already had a virtual meeting with Commissioner Gabriel. We agreed that withdrawing from Erasmus is highly regrettable and we will continue to explore with the EU how to maximize Scotland’s continued engagement with the programme. I have also spoken with my Welsh Government counterpart and agreed to keep in close contact.”

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EU

Leaders agree on new ‘dark red’ zones for high-risk COVID areas

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At a special meeting of European heads of government, to discuss the rise of infection rates across Europe and the emergence of new, more contagious variants, leaders agreed that the situation warranted the utmost caution and agreed on a new category of ‘dark red zone’ for high-risk areas.

The new category would indicate that the virus was circulating at a very high level. People traveling from dark red areas could be required to do a test before departure, as well as to undergo quarantine after arrival. Non-essential travel in or out of these areas would be strongly discouraged.

The EU has underlined that it is anxious to keep the single market functioning especially concerning the movement of essential workers and goods, von der Leyen described this as of the “utmost importance”. 

The approval of vaccinations and the start of roll-out is encouraging but it is understood that further vigilance is needed. Some states which are more dependent on tourism called for the use of vaccination certificates as a way to open up travel. The leaders debated the use a common approach and agreed that the vaccination document should be seen as a medical document, rather than a travel document - at this stage. Von der Leyen said: “We will discuss the suitability of a common approach to certification.”

Member states agreed to a Council recommendation setting a common framework for the use of rapid antigen tests and the mutual recognition of COVID-19 test results across the EU. The mutual recognition of test results for SARS-CoV2 infection carried by certified health bodies should help facilitate cross-border movement and cross-border contact tracing.

The common list of appropriate COVID-19 rapid antigen tests should be flexible enough for addition, or removal, of those tests whose efficacy is impacted by COVID-19 mutations.

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Economy

Lagarde calls for swift ratification of Next Generation EU

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Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, shared the conclusions of the monthly Euro Governing Council. The Council has decided to reconfirm its “very accommodative” monetary policy stance. Lagarde said that the renewed surge in COVID had disrupted economic activity, particularly for services. 

Lagarde underlined the importance of the Next Generation EU package and stressed that it should become operational without delay. She called on member states to ratify it as quickly as possible.  

The interest rate on the main refinancing operations and the interest rates on the marginal lending facility and the deposit facility will remain unchanged at 0.00%, 0.25% and -0.50% respectively. The Governing Council expects the key ECB interest rates to remain at their present or lower levels.

The Governing Council will continue the purchases under the pandemic emergency purchase programme (PEPP) with a total envelope of €1,850 billion. The Governing Council will conduct net asset purchases under the PEPP until at least the end of March 2022 and, in any case, until it judges that the coronavirus crisis phase is over. It will also continue to reinvest the principal payments from maturing securities purchased under the PEPP until at least the end of 2023. In any case, the future roll-off of the PEPP portfolio will be managed to avoid interference with the appropriate monetary policy stance.

Third, net purchases under the asset purchase programme (APP) will continue at a monthly pace of €20 billion. The Governing Council continues to expect monthly net asset purchases under the APP to run for as long as necessary to reinforce the accommodative impact of its policy rates, and to end shortly before it starts raising the key ECB interest rates.

The Governing Council also intends to continue reinvesting, in full, the principal payments from maturing securities purchased under the APP for an extended period of time past the date when it starts raising the key ECB interest rates, and in any case for as long as necessary to maintain favourable liquidity conditions and an ample degree of monetary accommodation.

Finally, the Governing Council will continue to provide ample liquidity through its refinancing operations. In particular, the third series of targeted longer-term refinancing operations (TLTRO III) remains an attractive source of funding for banks, supporting bank lending to firms and households.

The Governing Council continues to stand ready to adjust all of its instruments, as appropriate, to ensure that inflation moves towards its aim in a sustained manner, in line with its commitment to symmetry.

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