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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.

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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Russia’s fishing fleet gears up for success



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.

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.

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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The place where being in hospital is worse than being sick



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.

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”.

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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Climate change

Major climate conference comes to Glasgow in November



Leaders from 196 countries are meeting in Glasgow in November for a major climate conference. They are being asked to agree action to limit climate change and its effects, like rising sea levels and extreme weather. More than 120 politicians and heads of state are expected for the three-day world leaders' summit at the start of the conference. The event, known as COP26, has four main objections, or “goals”, including one that goes under the heading, 'work together to deliver' writes journalist and former MEP Nikolay Barekov.

The idea behind the fourth COP26 goals is that the world can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together.

So, at COP26 leaders are encouraged to finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational) and also accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.

Businesses are also keen to see action taken in Glasgow. They want clarity that governments are moving strongly towards achieving net-zero emissions globally across their economies.


Before looking at what four EU countries are doing to meet the fourth COP26 goal, it  is perhaps worth rewinding briefly to December 2015 when world leaders gathered in Paris to map out a vision for a zero-carbon future. The result was the Paris Agreement, an historic breakthrough in the collective response to climate change. The Agreement set long-term goals to guide all nations: limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and make efforts to hold warming to 1.5 degrees C; strengthen resilience and enhance abilities to adapt to climate impacts and direct financial investment into low emissions and climate-resilient development.

To meet these long-term goals, negotiators set out a timetable in which each country is expected to submit updated national plans every five years for limiting emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. These plans are known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs.

Countries gave themselves three years to agree on the implementation guidelines — colloquially called the Paris Rulebook — to execute the Agreement.


This website has looked closely at what four EU member states – Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Turkey – have, and are, doing to tackle climate change and, specifically, on meeting the objectives of Goal No 4.

According to a spokesman for the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Water, Bulgaria is “over-achieved” when it comes to some climate targets at national level for 2016:

Take, for example, the share of biofuels which, according to latest estimates, accounts for some 7.3% of total energy consumption in the country’s transport sector. Bulgaria has, it is claimed, also exceeded national targets for the share of renewable energy sources in its gross final energy consumption.

Like most countries, it is being impacted by global warming and forecasts suggest that monthly temperatures are expected to increase by 2.2°C in the 2050s, and 4.4°C by the 2090s.

While some progress has been made in certain areas, much more still has to be done, according to a major 2021 study on  Bulgaria by the World Bank.

Among a long list of recommendations by the  Bank to Bulgaria is one that specifically targets Goal No 4. It urges Sophia to “increase participation of the public, scientific institutions, women and local communities in planning and management, accounting for approaches and methods of gender equity, and increase urban resilience.”

In nearby Romania, there is also a firm commitment to fighting climate change and pursuing low carbon development.

The EU's binding climate and energy legislation for 2030 requires Romania and the other 26 member states to adopt national energy and climate plans (NECPs) for the 2021-2030 period. Last October 2020, the European Commission published an assessment for each NECP.

Romania's final NECP said that more than half (51%) of Romanians expect national governments to tackle climate change.

Romania generates 3% of the EU-27's total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reduced emissions faster than the EU average between 2005 and 2019, says the commission.

With several energy-intensive industries present in Romania, the country's carbon intensity is much higher than the EU average, but also “decreasing rapidly.”

Energy industry emissions in the country fell by 46% between 2005 and 2019, reducing the sector's share of total emissions by eight percentage points. But emissions from the transport sector increased by 40% over the same period, doubling that sector's share of total emissions.

Romania still relies to a great extent on fossil fuels but renewables, along with nuclear energy and gas are seen as essential to the transition process. Under EU effort-sharing legislation, Romania was allowed to increase emissions until 2020 and must reduce these emissions by 2% relative to 2005 by 2030. Romania achieved a 24.3% share of renewable energy sources in 2019 and the country's 2030 target of a 30.7% share is focused mainly on wind, hydro, solar and fuels from biomass.

A source at Romania’s embassy to the EU said that energy efficiency measures centre on heating supply and building envelopes along with industrial modernisation.

One of the EU nations most directly impacted by climate change is Greece which has this summer seen several devastating forest fires which have ruined lives and hit its vital tourist trade.

 Like most EU countries, Greece supports a carbon neutrality objective for 2050. Greece's climate mitigation targets are largely shaped by EU targets and legislation. Under EU effort sharing, Greece is expected to reduce non-EU ETS (emission trading system) emissions by 4% by 2020 and by 16% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

Partly in response to wildfires that burned more than 1,000 square kilometers (385 square miles) of forest on the island of  Evia and in southern Greece fires, the Greek government has recently created a new ministry to address the impact of climate change and named former European Union commissioner Christos Stylianides as minister.

Stylianides, 63, served as commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management between 2014 and 2019 and will head firefighting, disaster relief and policies to adapt to rising temperatures resulting from climate change. He said: “Disaster prevention and preparedness is the most effective weapon we have.”

Greece and Romania are the most active among European Union member states in Southeast Europe on climate change issues, while Bulgaria is still trying to catch up with much of the EU, according to a report on the implementation of the European Green Deal published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). In its recommendations on how countries can add value to the impact of the European Green Deal, the ECFR says that Greece, if it wants to establish itself as a green champion, should team up with the “less ambitious” Romania and Bulgaria, which share some of its climate-related challenges. This, the report says, could push Romania and Bulgaria to adopt best green transition practices and join Greece in climate initiatives.

Another of the four countries we’ve put under the spotlight –Turkey – has also been badly hit by the consequences of global warming, with a series of devastating floods and fires this summer. Extreme weather incidents have been on the rise since 1990, according to the Turkish State Meteorological Service (TSMS). In 2019,Turkey had 935 extreme weather incidents, the highest in recent memory,” she noted.

Partly as a direct response, the Turkish government has now introduced new measures to curb the impact of climate change, including the Fight Against Climate Change Declaration.

Again, this directly targets Goal No. 4 of the upcoming COP26 conference in  Scotland as the declaration is the result of discussions with - and contributions from - scientists and nongovernmental organizations to Turkish government efforts to address the issue.

The declaration involves an action plan for an adaptation strategy to global phenomenon, support for environmentally friendly production practices and investments, and the recycling of waste, among other steps.

On renewable energy Ankara also plans to increase electricity generation from those sources in the coming years and to set up a Climate Change Research Centre. This is designed to shape policies on the issue and conduct studies, along with a climate change platform where studies and data on climate change will be shared – again all in line with COP26’s Goal No 4.

Conversely, Turkey is yet to sign the 2016 Paris Agreement but First lady Emine Erdoğan has been a champion of environmental causes.

Erdoğan said the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has dealt a blow to the fight against climate change and that several key steps now need to be taken on the issue, from switching to renewable energy sources to cutting dependency on fossil fuels and redesigning cities.

In a nod to COP26’s fourth goal, she has also underlined that the role of individuals is more important.

Looking ahead to COP26, European commission president Ursula von der Leyen says that “when it comes to climate change and the nature crisis, Europe can do a lot”.

Speaking on 15 September in a state of the union address to MEPs, she said: “And it will support others. I am proud to announce today that the EU will double its external funding for biodiversity, in particular for the most vulnerable countries. But Europe cannot do it alone. 

“The COP26 in Glasgow will be a moment of truth for the global community. Major economies – from the US to Japan – have set ambitions for climate neutrality in 2050 or shortly after. These need now to be backed up by concrete plans in time for Glasgow. Because current commitments for 2030 will not keep global warming to 1.5°C within reach.Every country has a responsibility. The goals that President Xi has set for China are encouraging. But we call for that same leadership on setting out how China will get there. The world would be relieved if they showed they could peak emissions by mid-decade - and move away from coal at home and abroad.”

She added: “But while every country has a responsibility, major economies do have a special duty to the least developed and most vulnerable countries. Climate finance is essential for them - both for mitigation and adaptation.In Mexico and in Paris, the world committed to provide $100 billion dollars a year until 2025. We deliver on our commitment. Team Europe contributes $25bn dollars per year. But others still leave a gaping hole towards reaching the global target.”

The president went on, “Closing that gap will increase the chance of success at Glasgow. My message today is that Europe is ready to do more. We will now propose an additional €4bn for climate finance until 2027. But we expect the United States and our partners to step up too. Closing the climate finance gap together – the US and the EU – would be a strong signal for global climate leadership. It is time to deliver.”

So, with all eyes firmly fixed on Glasgow, the question for some is whether Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Turkey will help trail a blaze for the rest of Europe in tackling what many still regard as the biggest threat to mankind.

Nikolay Barekov is a political journalist and TV presenter, former CEO of TV7 Bulgaria and a former MEP for Bulgaria and former deputy chairman of the ECR group in the European Parliament.

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