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EUCO - Michel calls for strategic debate on international topics, especially on Turkey

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The European Council met for a special European Council on 1-2 October. The first day was focused on Europe's place in the world. On his arrival, Michel said a strategic debate on different international topics was needed, especially the EU’s relationship with Turkey. The situation in the Eastern Mediterranean originally tabled for a discussion over dinner, has been brought to the fore, along with the EU’s relations with Turkey. The EU’s two largest states hold divergent opinions on Turkey. Merkel said that the EU has an interest in developing a truly constructive relationship with Turkey, despite all the difficulties does not favour sanctions.
While Macron has been much more combative on Turkey in general and on its interference in the Armenian/Azerbaijan resurgence of conflict in Nagorny Karabakh, in particular,  accusing Turkey of sending Syrian Islamists from Turkey to the region to fight.  Michel called for more predictability and more stability in the region, saying it was important to Greece and Cyprus to demonstrate the support of the EU as a whole. Michel eluded to different options on the table and added that it was time that the EU says clearly what it wants from its future relationship with this part of the world.  The first discussion will focus on EU-China relations, following the EU-China leaders' meeting via video conference on 14 September. The EU wants a more balanced and reciprocal economic relationship, ensuring a level playing field, while also recognizing that China is an important strategic actor critical to addressing climate change and COVID-19. At the end of the session, leaders will discuss current issues, namely the situation in Belarus, the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, and the Nagorno-Karabakh escalation.

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Russia’s fishing fleet gears up for success

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Already the fourth largest global exporter of seafood by volume, Russia plans to nearly double its total seafood exports by 2024. To achieve this, Russian fishing operators have unveiled plans to encourage greater investment in the industry, seeking to accelerate the roll-out of state-of-the-art vessels, modern seafood processing plants, and improved railways.

‘There has been around $5bn invested in the Russian fish industry,’ said Petr Savchuk, deputy head of Rosrybolovstovo, the Russian Federal Agency for Fishing. ‘But this is just the beginning’.

In 2018, Russia started the construction of 35 new fishing trawlers and 20 new seafood processing plants, centred primarily around the country’s largest fishing ports on the Far East seaboard. In addition, Rosrybolovstovo set a target of building at least 100 new vessels by 2025, a 50% increase in the fleet’s overall capacity. However, since then, investment has begun to soar. In particular, Russia has unveiled plans to build railway hubs across the country, helping to speed up the movement of raw goods from the major fishing ports in Kamchatka to Russia’s Atlantic side, including its primary fishing export hub in Murmansk.

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On the 12th of April this year, FESCO Transportation Group began transporting containerised fish along the Trans-Siberian route, with products travelling at speed from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg. From there, the shipment was shipped across to Bremerhaven in Northern Germany. According to FESCO, this new route is twice as fast as transporting products via Suez and it shows that Russian firms are upgrading their logistics with great success.

To reduce congestion, Russian authorities have also begun opening several more fishing export hubs throughout the country. As Savchuk explains: ‘[hubs are] being developed, for example in Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Rostov-on-Don and other big cities in Russia where big cold-store facilities are being built.’

One company making an outsize contribution, both in the Far East and in the cod fisheries of the North Atlantic, is Norebo. Investing $45m in a new shipping terminal in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Norebo looks to create an end-to-end service for fishing vessels in Russia. The terminal will allow vessels to store their fish in refrigerating containers in the Far East before shipping them to western Russia, the US, and Europe.

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Following the implementation of its fleet renewal programme in 2017, Norebo will soon have some of the most modern vessels operating not just in Russia but in the world. Radicalising how Russia’s fishing industry operates, Norebo’s new state-of-the-art vessels are set to increase energy efficiency, decrease waste, and create more comfortable working conditions for crews.

‘A modern fleet is a requirement of our times. Only new vessels with high-tech equipment can offer optimal catch processing, as well as high standards of safety and comfort for the crew,’ said a Norebo spokesperson.

It appears Norebo strives to achieve this and more with its latest fleet of vessels under construction.

Indeed, one of the group’s vessels, named Captain Korotich, incorporates architectural design elements never used before on a Russian fishing vessel. The hull is capsule shaped with an Enduro Bow line, which allows for increased working space on board and improved seaworthiness. It also has an incredibly powerful engine (6200kW), which enables the vessel to reach speeds of up to 15.5 knots and operate in ice up to 0.5m thick, while using less fuel than other comparable engines.

Designed with energy efficiency in mind, the vessel will also use electricity generated by the trawl winches for lighting and repurpose the excess heat from the main engine to heat the ship’s rooms, including the cabins. Ingeniously, on Pacific vessels such as Captain Korotich, fish oil collected during waste processing is even put towards powering the boiler. These innovations reduce carbon emissions and eliminate unnecessary waste, all of which contributes to the excellent sustainability of the end product.

The company’s newest longline vessels will also be equipped with modern multi-functional factories that allow for advanced catch processing directly on board. This means that the time between catching the premium quality fish and creating the final product, ready for cooking, is shortened dramatically, with processing waste also reduced to almost zero. Norebo has found the provision of onboard factories has even improved the final product that reaches kitchens, as processing the fish immediately after it is caught helps to preserve its freshness, taste and nutrients.

Five years has passed since Norebo first announced its fleet renewal programme. Since then, the company has revealed plans to build ten state-of-the-art vessels, with more still to come. But every time a new keel is laid, it feels like the first time all over again. As Norebo founder Vitaly Orlov reflected at the unveiling of the first vessel in 2018: ‘Although Norebo’s current fishing fleet is up to date, the time to renew is coming. Today is a very emotional moment when we lay the keel of the first vessel. I hope that this event today will give a positive signal to the shipbuilding industry that Russia intends to build vessels that are as good as, or even better, than [from] shipyards anywhere in the world.’

With Norebo leading the way, Russia’s fishing fleet already competes with the leading fishing nations of the world in terms of consistency, quality of product and commitments to sustainable practices. Considering the future investment plans already announced, Russia is well on its way to meet the target of nearly doubling exports by 2024, confirming its status as a world leader, ranking alongside the legendary fishing fleets of old.

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Special Representative of the President for International Co-operation Yerzhan Kazykhan took part in the EU Civil Forum - Central Asia

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In Almaty, under the co-chairmanship of the Special Representative of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan for International Cooperation Yerzhan Kazykhan and the EU Special Representative for Human Rights Imon Gilmour, the EU-CA Civil Forum was held on the theme "Building a Better Future: Involvement in Sustainable Post-Scythe Recovery".

The event was held in a hybrid format with the support of the Akimat of the city of Almaty with the participation of more than 300 representatives of the EU and CA countries. The unique format of the Forum made it possible to bring together experts, human rights activists, and media representatives on one platform and ensured lively discussions between the countries of Central Asia, as well as between Central Asia and the European Union.

Opening the event, Yerzhan Kazykhan noted that the Forum is being held against the background of the 30th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence in the period of dynamic political and economic processes of modernization of the country. Kazakhstan has come a long way, achieved visible results and continues to work on improving its institutions.

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The special representative stressed that President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev initiated large-scale economic and political reforms that guarantee the state's ability to hear its citizens and respond to their requests. The Head of State pays special attention to civil society, the further development of which he sees in the framework of the recently adopted Concept for the Development of Civil Society. The main goal of the Concept is to create conditions for strengthening mechanisms of public control over the activities and decisions of the Government. Phased political modernization was confirmed by the Head of State in his September Address to the people of Kazakhstan as a key priority. This priority is focused on improving electoral processes, dialogue between society and government, mechanisms for empowering women, youth,  

This domestic political agenda is being implemented in the context of the triple global challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and the difficult humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. The solution of these issues requires the coordinated work of the world community, including the countries of Central Asia and the European Union. The EU is a reliable partner of the countries of the region and Kazakhstan as well. Relations between Kazakhstan and the EU continue to develop and strengthen, based on trust, mutual respect and shared values. Thus, the trade turnover between Kazakhstan and the EU is about $ 24 billion.Since 2005, the EU countries have invested about $ 160 billion in the economy of Kazakhstan.

An important result of the joint work with the EU was the conclusion of the Enhanced Partnership Agreement, which entered into force last year. The work within the framework of this Agreement is built around three pillars - economy, security, political development in the EU countries and our country. Kazakhstan welcomes the efforts of its European partners in these areas, as well as the agenda of cooperation in Central Asia defined at the Forum, stressed the President's Special Representative at the Forum.

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The place where being in hospital is worse than being sick

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Another deadly hospital fire gripped Romania, the south eastern European nation which saw no fewer than 12 hospital fires in less than 12 months, writes Cristian Gherasim, Bucharest correspondent.

This is time, seven people died in the port city of Constanta, where ICU units treating COVID patients got engulfed by the killer blaze.

Since November last year, Romania’s hospitals have been plagued by 12 fires, some resulting in minor injuries, others, namely four, ending in tragedy with 31 dead.

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An investigation is under way regarding the deadly blaze at the COVID hospital in Constanta, but amongst the first clues given by authorities are the fact that the hospital has been operating for 14 years without a fire permit and that it did not have a fire detection system. The direct cause is yet unknown, though previous investigations detected also faulty electrical installations, improvisations, overloads.

The interim Minister of Health, Cseke Attila, said that only after the cause of the fire will be found, the culprits will be identified.

Country president Klaus Iohannis said in a public stated that he is "terrified" by the tragedy in Constanța and claimed that "the Romanian state has failed in its fundamental mission to protect its citizens”.

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In addition to poor management and poor maintenance, overcrowding of hospitals and ICU units is one of the causes leading to such tragedies. With a total record of over 11,000 daily Covid cases, Romania significantly outpaces both the European and world average, putting even more pressure on the ailing healthcare system. "Romania has 2.65 times more deaths than the European average and 6.34 times more deaths than the world average. Casualties in Romania represent 5% of worldwide COVID deaths, and 11.5 percent of those registered in Europe over the 24-hour period," reported CNCAV, the country's National Committee for the Co-ordination of Activities on Covid Vaccination.

These tragic events generate a perfect storm as the Romanian healthcare system is overwhelmed, with almost no ICU beds left, and long waiting times for Covid-testing and results.

Healthcare specialists have been warning for several weeks that the next Covid wave will hit the country hardest. Epidemiology expert Alexandru Rafila said that Romania has one of the highest contagion-rates in Europe. Valeriu Gheorghiță, leading the vaccination campaign, stated that by approximate the second-half of October, the number of Covid-19 cases in Romania could surpass 20,000 per day.

Romania's medical care has been consistently ranked EU's worst and most under-financed. Romania spends less on its medical system than any other EU country, as Eurostat ranks it last with only €400 healthcare expenditure per inhabitant, way behind top performers such as Luxembourg, Sweden and Denmark, each with over €5,000 health expenditure per inhabitant each year.

Romania has also one of the lowest vaccination-rates in the EU leading to even more severe cases flooding the healthcare system and in turn leading to even more such tragedies. According to data provided by officials, 52% of all Europeans are fully vaccinated. Fully-vaccinated Romanians, by comparison, amount to only 28 percent.

On top of a poorly managed health-care system, a plummeting vaccination rate, plies an ongoing political crises that has no end in sight and a myriad of social and economic crises needing immediate response.

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