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Eastern Europe tells Biden more NATO Forces are needed

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During the Bucharest B9 Summits (10 May) held this year online and hosted by Romanian president Klaus Iohannis, leaders from across the region issued a common statement condemning Russia’s acts of sabotage on NATO territory, writes Cristian Gherasim, Bucharest correspondent.

Given COVID19 restrictions, the summit took place online and was also joined by US president Joe Biden.

“We condemn Russia’s acts of sabotage on Alliance territory as evidenced in the explosions of the ammunition depot in 2014 in Vrbětice, in the Czech Republic, that constitute a grave violation of international law. In addition, we express concern over reports of a similar pattern of behaviour on the territory of Bulgaria, as evidenced by the announcement on the ongoing investigation in Sofia,” the joint declaration reads.

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The B9 group is an organization founded on 4 November 2015 in Bucharest, Romania, at the initiative of the President of Romania Klaus Iohannis and the President of Poland Andrzej Duda following a bilateral meeting. Alongside Poland and Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia are also members of the group. The group resulted from a perceived aggressive attitude from Russia following the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its following intervention in eastern Ukraine both taking place in 2014. All members of the B9 were either part of the former Soviet Union (USSR) or its sphere of influence.

The summit couldn’t have come at a more difficult time for the region’s security. Last month Russia amassed tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine's borders as well as in Crimea, the biggest mobilization since Moscow seized the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula in 2014.

President Iohannis said during the summit that NATO needs to remain a force for projecting strength and deterrence throughout the region. Iohannis pointed out that there is a growing need for more NATO forces along the Eastern border especially along the Baltic line to the Black Sea.

“That's why, including during our discussion with President Biden, I advocated a bigger presence of the alliance and the United States in Romania and in the south of the eastern flank. The talks were very substantive, a fact reflected in the Joint Statement adopted at the end of this meeting," Iohannis said.

The joint statement signed by all those in attendance showed that something needs to be done to counter Russia's destabilizing actions in the region.

Ahead of the summit, the White House expressed its desire for stronger cooperation with Central, Eastern European allies, the Baltic and Black Sea regions.

Last month, the United States also pledged support for Ukraine in light of Russia’s destabilizing efforts during a phone call between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg also attended the virtual summit and told the audience that Joe Biden’s attendance proved Washington's determination to rebuild and strengthen NATO.

US’s perceived stronger involvement in the region comes after years of Trump’s ambiguous policy towards Easter Europe and Russia’s continuous push to destabilize the region.

Crime

18 arrested for smuggling more than 490 migrants across the Balkan route

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Officers from the Romanian Police (Poliția Română) and Border Police (Poliția de Frontieră Română), supported by Europol, dismantled an organized crime group involved in migrant smuggling across the so-called Balkan route.

The action day on 29 July 2021 led to:

  • 22 house searches
  • 18 suspects arrested
  • Seizure of munitions, five vehicles car, mobile phones and €22 000 in cash

The criminal network, active since October 2020, consisted of Egyptian, Iraqi, Syrian and Romanian citizens. The criminal group had cells in the countries across the Balkan route from where regional facilitators managed the recruitment, accommodation and transport of migrants from Jordan, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Several criminal cells based in Romania facilitated the border crossing from Bulgaria and Serbia of groups of migrants and arranged their temporary accommodation in the area of Bucharest and in western Romania. The migrants were then smuggled to Hungary on their way to Germany as a final destination. In total, 26 illegal transports of migrants were intercepted and 490 migrants were detected in an attempt to illegally cross the Romanian border. Very well organized, the criminal group was involved in other criminal activities as well, such as drug trafficking, document fraud and property crime.

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Up to €10,000 per migrant

Migrants were paying between €4,000 and €10,000 depending on the trafficking segment. For example, the price for facilitating the crossing from Romania to Germany was between €4,000 and €5,000. The migrants, some of which were families with young children, were accommodated in extremely poor conditions, often with no access to toilets or running water. For the safe houses, the suspects rented accommodations or used the residences of group members, mainly situated in the areas of Călărași County, Ialomița County and Timișoara. In one of the safe houses, measuring about 60 m2, the suspects hid 100 people at the same time. The migrants were then transferred in risky conditions in overcrowded lorries between merchandise and in vans hidden in concealments without proper ventilation. 

Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical support. On the action day, Europol deployed one analyst to Romania to cross-check operational information against Europol’s databases in real time to provide leads to investigators in the field. 

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Eurozone

Majority of EU citizens favor the euro, with Romanians most enthusiastic

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Three out of four Romanians favour the Euro currency. A survey done by Flash Eurobarometer found that Romanians overwhelmingly back the euro currency, writes Cristian Gherasim, Bucharest corrrespondent.

The survey was carried out in seven of the EU member states which have not joined the Eurozone yet: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden.

Overall, 57% of respondents are in favor of introducing the euro in their country.

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In a press release, the European Commission, the institution behind the survey, said that the vast majority of EU citizens surveyed (60%) believe that the changeover to the euro has had positive consequences for countries that already use it. 52% believe that, in general, there will be positive consequences for the introduction of the euro for their country, and 55% say that the introduction of the euro would have positive consequences for themselves as well.

Yet “the proportion of respondents who think that their country is ready to introduce the euro remains low in each of the countries surveyed. Around a third of respondents in Croatia feel their country is ready (34%), while those in Poland are least likely to think their country is ready to introduce the euro (18%)”, the survey mentions.

Romanians are leading in terms of an overall positive opinion regarding the Eurozone. Thus, the highest percentages of respondents with a positive opinion were registered in Romania (75% in favor of the currency) and Hungary (69%).

In all member states that took part in the survey, with the exception of the Czech Republic, there has been an increase in those favoring the introduction of the euro compared to 2020. The highest increases in favorability can be observed in Romania (from 63% to 75%) and Sweden (from 35% to 43%).

The survey identifies some woes amongst respondents as possible drawbacks in making the switch to euro. Over six in ten of those surveyed think that introducing the euro will increase prices and this is the majority view in all countries except Hungary. The highest proportions are observed in Czechia (77%), Croatia (71%), Bulgaria (69%) and Poland (66%).

Furthermore, seven in ten agree that they are concerned about abusive price setting during the changeover, and this is the majority opinion in all countries surveyed, ranging from 53% in Sweden to 82% in Croatia.

Even though the tone is upbeat with almost all questioned saying that they personally will manage to adapt to the replacement of the national currency by the euro, there are some who mentioned that adopting the euro will mean losing control over national economic policy. Respondents in Sweden are the most likely to agree to this possibility (67%), while surprisingly those in Hungary are the least likely to do so (24%).

The general feeling is that the great majority of those questioned not only support the euro and believe that it would benefit their respective countries but that making the switch to euro would by no means represent that their country will lose a part of its identity.

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Business

Beltrame Group invests €300 million euros in rebar and wire rod factory in Romania

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After a comprehensive feasibility study, AFV Beltrame Group, one of the largest producers of steel bars and special steels in Europe, will invest €300 million to build an eco-friendly rebar and wire rod factory in Romania that will include a greenfield steel and rolling mill and a 100mw PV park. This will be the first steel mill green field project in Europe in decades and will create a new benchmark for the steel industry in reducing pollutant emissions. Currently, the company is considering several locations for the development of the production unit.

The eco-friendly factory will be the lowest emissions steel plant in the world, both in terms of greenhouse gases and suspended dust particles. Also, water consumption will be minimal (by treatment and recirculation), ensuring the highest level of circular economy. The new and innovative technology, developed in the last two years has the potential to place Romania at the forefront of innovation in the steel industry.

The plant will have a production capacity of approximately 600,000 tons / year. The investment of Beltrame Group will generate approximately 250 new direct jobs locally, but also to almost 1,000 indirect jobs, of which at least 800 in the construction phase and about 150 in the production phase.

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“The challenge of the steel industry is to align with the environmental objectives set by the EU Green Deal, although the zero-emission or ‘green steel’ target is impossible to be achieved with existing technology. I think today the greenwashing is very common with the simple result of inflating the word "green" and or zero-emission. The project developed by Beltrame Group will establish unprecedented progress in the steel industry due to the design and innovative technologies, which make it possible to minimize pollutant emissions generated in the production activity. It is a project in which I invested a lot of work, time and dedication, and through this investment, the group shows its commitment to achieving environmental goals and harnessing local resources," said Carlo Beltrame, Country Manager AFV Beltrame in France and Romania, Group Business Development.

In the construction sector, the internal use of rebar and wire rod amounts to about 1.4 - 1.5 million tonnes per year. This is expected to increase over the next 10 years at least, mainly due to governmental investments in public infrastructure, but also due to private investments. At the moment, Romania imports almost entirely the necessary amount of rebar.

The internal production of rebar and wire rod could become a pillar for the Romanian economy, because it avoids export of scrap and import of finish product. This has the potential to improve the Romanian trade balance and will also contribute to a substantial reduction of scope 3 emission, generated indirectly by logistics activities, such as the transportation of raw materials and products, waste disposal etc.

In Romania Beltrame Group owns the steel plant Donalam, specialized in the production of hot rolled steel bars and special steels, with uses in various industries, from oil and gas, automotive, large mechanical and hydraulic equipment, to agricultural machinery and equipment. The company has over 270 employees and annually exports around 180,000 tons of products to the European market. For this year, Donalam estimates a turnover of over 130 million euro, with a more than double increase compared to last year.

About AFV Beltrame Group

Founded in 1896, AFV Beltrame Group is one of the largest producers of merchant bars and special steels in Europe. The group owns 6 factories in Italy, France, Switzerland and Romania, with a total of over 2,000 employees, over 2 million tons sold annually and commercial activities in over 40 countries.

In Romania, AFV Beltrame founded in 2006 Donalam Călărași which is currently one of the leading players in the hot rolled steel bars and special steels industry in Europe. The company has over 270 employees and sells about 120,000 tons of steel bars annually.

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