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January, 2016


German Soldiers Are To Train Peshmerga Fighters

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More German instructors for the Peshmerga

The German Bundestag has approved the extension and expansion of the mission in northern Iraq. Germany is thus stepping up its fight against the terrorist IS. Up to 150 German soldiers are to train Peshmerga fighters and members of the Iraqi armed forces.

The German Bundestag has voted by a large majority to extend the mandate and step up action against the terrorist organisation IS. Up to 150 Bundeswehr soldiers are to train the Iraqi armed forces and the Peshmerga for another year. For one year already Bundeswehr troops have been involved in providing training support for security forces in and around Erbil in northern Iraq.

The Bundestag mandate has been extended until 31 January 2017. The ceiling on troops will be raised from 100 to 150 soldiers.

Joint action against terrorism

The terrorist organisation IS has become a global threat to peace and security. The terrorist attacks in Tunisia, Turkey, Lebanon, against Russia and in France provide ample evidence of the threat to world peace. The UN Security Council has already noted this in various resolutions, most recently in November 2015.

The United Nations Security Council called on the international community to take all necessary steps to prevent the terrorist activities of IS.

Strengthening the ability of Iraqi authorities to ensure security

One core element in the fight against the IS is the development of permanent capacities within the Iraqi security forces and the Peshmerga, the security forces of the regional government in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

Since the multinational training mission began on 15 February 2015 around Erbil, more than 4,800 members of the security forces have undergone training in northern Iraq and in Germany, in line with the German government’s principle of ensuring that all population groups are involved in training.

Germany’s armed forces are acting within the framework and in line with the rules of a system of collective security as laid out in Article 24.2 of the German Basic Law or constitution.

Training center in Erbil

The training support is centered on the area in and around Erbil. Under exceptional circumstances troops can also be deployed outside this immediate region, for purposes of consultation and coordination across the entire Iraqi territory.

In addition, a limited number of German troops will continue to be assigned to staff units of the international alliance against the IS, mainly in Iraq and Kuwait.

Further support planned

The Peshmerga and the security forces of the Iraqi central government are also to receive more military equipment. Only well equipped and well trained troops can hold their own against the IS.

In addition to training and equipment, Germany is considering treating wounded members of the security forces in Germany and offering air transport for the wounded.

Initial successes against the IS clearly visible

The international efforts in the fight against the terrorist organisation are bearing their first fruits – in many places the forward march of the terrorists has been halted. In northern Iraq in particular, the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi armed forces have, with international support, managed to force the IS largely into a defensive role.

Political transition in Syria

Military support for the Iraqi armed forces and the regional Kurdish security forces is only one part of the support offered by Germany, and are part of an overall political approach, including development cooperation and support for Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons in Iraq.

Parallel to this, the German government is proceeding with its efforts to make progress on the political process for Syria, in an effort to prevent the state structures failing completely. Efforts aim to integrate all political, ethic and religious groups in the government and state, bringing peace to the region, and stemming the IS terrorism.

{Source: Federal Government of Germany}

[photo credits-featured image: By Boris Niehaus (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons]


Israel Trains For Defense Against Chemical Warfare

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Israel – Defense against chemical warfare

Israel leads global effort to face chemical warfare





4th International Preparedness and Response to Emergencies and Disasters Conference

31 Jan 2016

 The international conference provided an opportunity for professionals from throughout the world to share the latest findings and new experiences concerning health system readiness for emergencies of all types.

On January10-13, 2016, the Israeli Ministry of Health and the IDF Home Front Command hosted the Fourth Israeli International Conference on Healthcare System, Preparedness and Response to Emergencies and Disasters. The meeting provided an opportunity for professionals from througout the world to share the latest findings and new experiences concerning health system readiness for disasters and emergencies of all types.

Special attention was given to emerging or re-emerging threats, such as the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) or the Ebola outbreak, as well as threats posed by natural or man-made disasters that present a great challenge to human health and global stability.

The 4th IPRED (International Preparedness and Response to Emergencies and Disasters) Conference attracted 250 international experts from 30 different countries, from the U.S. to Brazil to Australia to Japan.

The conference highlight was a mass toxicological drill carried out at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva, coordinated by the IDF Home Front Command and the Health Ministry, with over 800 participants from the IDF, the Health Ministry, the police, the fire department, Soroka Medical Center, and other emergency response teams. The drill included civilian first responders working side by side with military Search & Rescue teams. Following triage and life-saving treatment, the casualties were evacuated to a level 1 trauma center for decontamination and definitive care.

Hazmat-suited members of the Home Front Command, police, fire department, and Magen David Adom (MDA) wove through the casualties, dispensing antidote and bringing them to safe zones. Experts at the site collected samples to identify the chemical agent used in the attack. Soldiers from the canine special forces unit, Oketz, were deployed to find any casualties outside the area, while a police helicopter circlee overhead. When a fire suddenly broke out, simulating a bursting ammonia tank at the nearby train station, the teams quickly assessed the situation and contained the perimeter. Within an hour, all of the casualties were evacuated, all of the emergency responders were decontaminated, and the ambulances departed for Soroka Medical Center. There, the next stage of the exercise began, as medical professionals simulated decontaminating the victims.

Lt. Col. Aviv Ohana, Head of the Department of Public Health for the Home Front Command stresses that international coordination is essential in emergency situations like these, as manifested in the Home Front Command’s many emergency aid missions. Dr. Rebecca Florsheim, attending the conference from New York City, agrees. “When there’s a mass-casualty event, there are various groups from all different countries who come together. They don’t necessarily speak the same language; they have different skill sets and have to work together to best get the job done.”

{Source: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs}
[photo credits-featured image – Israel – family in sealed room – By [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons]
Youtube Video posted by Israel Defense forces

The European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) – Combats Piracy On The Seas

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European Union Naval Force Activities








The European Naval Force ‘Operation ATALANTA’, in cooperation with numerous nations navies and military components, combats piracy on the seas. The below news snippets are a compilation of some of their exercises conducted over the past few months.


EU NAVFOR Mission 

The European Union is concerned with the effect of Somali-based piracy and armed robbery at sea off the Horn of Africa and in the Western Indian Ocean. Somali-based piracy is characterized by criminals taking control of vessels transiting the High Risk Area in the Region and extorting ransom money for the crew, the vessel and cargo: this bears all the features of organised crime. Crews held hostage by pirates often face a prolonged period of captivity, the average being 5 months, although some hostages have been held for almost three years. Moreover, piracy impacts on international trade and maritime security and on the economic activities and security of countries in the region.

As a result, and as part of its Comprehensive Approach to Somalia, the EU launched the European Union Naval Force ATALANTA (EU NAVFOR) in December 2008 within the framework of the European Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and in accordance with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) and International Law.


Rear Admiral Jonas Wikstrӧm from Swedish Royal Navy is New Deputy Commander for Operation Atalanta


(21 January 2016) Rear Admiral Christophe Mueller-Meinhard (German Navy) has handed over the role of Deputy Commander (DCOM) of the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia – Operation Atalanta, to Rear Admiral Jonas Wikstrӧm (Swedish Royal Navy).

The handover took place at the Operational Headquarters (OHQ) in Northwood, London.

Following the handover, Rear Admiral Wikstrӧm said: “I want to thank Rear Admiral Mueller-Meinhard for his support and advice during the handover.  I am ready to build on his excellent contribution to what is an important European Union maritime operation.  The Operation Atalanta staff, both here in the OHQ and at sea, will continue to work hard to ensure that piracy remains suppressed off the coast of Somalia.”

For more details about Rear Admiral Wikstrӧm click here 

Italian Warship ITS Carabiniere Conducts Replenishment at Sea with US Navy Supply Ship Carl Brashear Prior to Joining Operation Atalanta


ITS Carabiniere conducted a replenishment at sea (RAS) with US Navy ship, USNS Carl Brashear, prior to joining Operation Atalanta.

Having sailed into the counter-piracy sea areas in the Gulf of Aden, ITS Carabiniere went alongside USNS Carl Brashear to replenish fuel and stores in preparation for her six month deployment with the EU Naval Force off the coast of Somalia.

The two-hour RAS required careful and complex co-ordination between the two ships to ensure that the fuel and stores were transferred safely.

On completion of the RAS, the commanding officers from both ships exchanged gifts as USNS Carl Brashear bid ITS Carabiniere’s ship’s company ‘fair winds’ for their forthcoming deployment.

Conducting a RAS at sea enables Operation Atalanta warships to maintain their counter-piracy presence and strengthen maritime security in the Horn of Africa region.

Atalanta Warship ESPS Victoria Trains with Japanese Escort Division in the Gulf of Aden


Spanish warship, ESPS Victoria, conducted a series of exercises with Japanese warship, JDS Suzunami, to strengthen counter-piracy cooperation between the two forces.

Meeting within close distance of the internationally recommended transit corridor in the Gulf of Aden, the exercises commenced with Spanish and Japanese helicopters conducting landings on both ships, in order to train flight crews and flight deck personnel.

Some crew members had the opportunity to operate on their counterparts’ ship to experience alternative procedures.

The two ships then carried out a ‘light-weight’ replenishment at sea, passing small packages from one ship to the other. This was followed by a ship handling and manoeuvering exercise and a small arms firing exercise. The end of training day was signalled by mutual farewells and naval honours.

Exercises such as this help to develop coordination and cooperation in the fight against piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

Specialist Italian Navy Divers Conduct Underwater Training on Atalanta Flagship ITS Carabiniere


In order to maintain their high state of readiness, the Italian Navy divers from the Gruppo Operativo Subacqueo (GOS) who are currently embarked in Operation Atalanta’s flagship, ITS Carabiniere, carry out regular diving training.

Normally based in La Spezia, the GOS are experts in explosive ordnance disposal.  They also conduct regular underwater inspections on ships’ hulls both at sea and when in port.

A key part of their explosive ordnance equipment is the anti-blast ‘bomb suit’, which protects the divers when they are operating with live ordnance and the suit is critical to the safe disposal of an explosive device.

“The potential presence of an explosive device close to the ship’s hull is something that the dive team remains ever vigilant about.” said the Team leader.  “Our job on board is to ensure the safety of the ship through regular inspections.  Our equipment and procedures allow us to detect suspicious objects and transfer them to a location suitable for safe disposal.”

Spanish Maritime Air Detachment Commander Holds Medal Ceremony for Operation Atalanta D4 Vigma Crew Prior to their Return Home


The Spanish Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA) Detachment held a medal ceremony in their headquarters in Djibouti.

The Detachment Commander, Spanish Air Force Lieutenant Commander Santiago Ibarreta, presided over the medal ceremony, which marked the official turnover of the D-4 Vigma crew to the newly-arrived Air Force P-3 contingent.

The Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) Atalanta Service Medal is an European military decoration awarded to personnel of the European Union Naval Force Somalia – Operation Atalanta, for their effort and commitment to counter-piracy operations.

The awarded crews and maintenance personnel were mainly from the 49th Wing of the Son San Juan Air Base in Palma de Mallorca, and one of the three D-4 Vigma units that have been rotating within the detachment every two months, since November 2014.

Lieutenant Commander Ibarreta congratulated the D4 Vigma crew for their outstanding performance, dedication and contribution to Operation Atalanta. “Your efforts have truly helped to ensure that piracy remains suppressed in the Horn of Africa and you have strengthen maritime security in the region.”

Lieutenant Commander Ibarreta’s words echoed those of the Operation Commander, Major General Martin Smith, and Force Commander, Rear Admiral Stefano Barbieri, who both sent farewell and congratulation messages to the departing crew.

Lieutenant Commander Ibarreta also welcomed back the crew of the P-3, who rejoined the operation after a long period and wished them the same success as the previous mission.

Collective Effort by Maritime Industry and Naval Forces Keep Pirate Attacks Suppressed: EU Naval Force Operation Commander, Major General Martin Smith MBE


(September 2015) At a breakfast meeting earlier today with senior shipping industry representatives, the EU Naval Force Operation Commander, Major General Martin Smith MBE, stated that whilst Somali-based piracy in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden is suppressed, there is no room for complacency regarding the on-going threat.

Major General Smith welcomed the significant reduction in pirate attacks since 2012, stating that this had been achieved by the ‘collective effort’ of shipping companies and dedicated naval forces, including the European Union Naval Force.  The General warned, however, that whilst the opportunity for pirates to get out to sea and attack ships had reduced, the pirates’ intent and capability remains.

Speaking during the meeting, Major General Smith said “It is clear that we have (together) come a long way since early 2011, when 736 hostages and 32 ships were being held for ransom in anchorages off Somali beaches.  However, the recent incidents of Iranian dhows being captured by groups of armed men demonstrate that there are still some who are prepared to go out to sea and take vessels for ransom.”

One of the dhows, Siraj, and its crew, is still being held after being captured at sea in March 2015.

Major General Smith went on to say that because of the naval patrols and merchant vessels’ self-protection measures, including the use of private armed security teams (PAST), in the Indian Ocean, counter-piracy forces assess that the threat from long-range pirate attacks in the near future is reduced.

“Collectively we have been able to curtail their use of mother ships to attack far from the coast, but I remain convinced that if pirates perceive that we are lowering our guard, they will seize the opportunity and plan an attack on a vulnerable ship.  And if they take one ship, this could re-energize their business model, which you know all too well, could cost the international community and shipping industry dearly.”

EU Naval Force’s main tasks are to escort merchant vessels carrying humanitarian aid for the World Food Programme (WFP) and vessels of AMISOM as they transit along the Somali coast, and to deter and disrupt piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.  EU Naval Force warships also monitor fishing activity off the coast of Somalia.

The current EU Naval Force mandate runs until December 2016.  In the coming months, EU Member States will carry out a strategic review of the piracy threat to enable them to make a collective decision on how to best proceed post-2016.

{Source: European Union External Actions – European Union Naval Force}

{photo credits-featured image: Spanish Navy Santa María Class Frigate Spanish Naval Ship (SPS) Victoria (F 82).- By JO1 JEREMY L. WOOD, USN [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]


‘Zayed International Foundation For The Environment’ To Produce An International Textbook

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Nairobi, 29 January 2016 – The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) signed an agreement today with the Zayed International Foundation for the Environment to produce an international textbook on inclusive green economy.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner and the Chairman of the Higher Committee of the Zayed International Foundation for the Environment, Dr. Mohammed Ahmed bin Fahad, signed the agreement, set to run until February 2017, at UNEP’s Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Zayed Foundation, which manages the most valuable international environmental award, worth US$ 1 million, will contribute US$ 100,000 towards the creation of a textbook that will give a holistic overview of green economy and its role in promoting sustainable development.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: “Economic development and environmental preservation go hand-in-hand, and are at the core of the concept of an inclusive green economy. This textbook will allow this partnership to consolidate and build on the knowledge surrounding green economy practices, by disseminating theory, frameworks and best practices to those who can in turn expand on current understanding. I appreciate the substantial support of The Zayed Foundation, whose contributions continue to help accelerate the transition toward an inclusive green economy.”

In a statement, Dr. Mohammed Ahmed bin Fahad, said: “The UAE is a front-runner at the international level in championing the push for a global green economy. The signing of this agreement with UNEP will help to further facilitate the process in achieving the sustainable development goals of nations committed to the green growth pathway.”

“The agreement with UNEP further strengthens the Zayed International Foundation for the Environment’s role in promoting a culture of environmental awareness and supports the 2016 UAE National Environment Day theme of ‘The Green Economy: Innovation and Sustianbility.’ Through this initiative, the Zayed International Foundation for the Environment, a torch bearer of sustainable development, seeks to strengthen the nation’s position on the global innovation map.”

Covering macroeconomic theory and specific sectoral policies, the textbook will provide researchers around the world with a first-of-its-kind comprehensive analytical framework for studying green economy. Enriched with regional perspectives, it will also serve as a tool for policymakers, allowing them to design enabling policies for the transition to green economy.

Commenting on the occasion, Dr. Meshgan Al Awar, Secretary General of the Zayed International Foundation for the Environment, noted: “The Zayed International Foundation for the Environment is proud to introduce this new initiative in the Year of Reading in the UAE as declared by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Reading is the foundation of a knowledge-based economy, and the knowledge imbibed from the text book will, we hope, inspire a generation who will responsible serve the society and lead the nation to a new stage of development.”

Building on a Memorandum of Understanding signed in July 2013, the current agreement seeks to deepen the partnership between the two organizations to promote sustainable development goals.

About the Zayed International Foundation for the Environment:

Founded in 1999 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, the Zayed International Foundation for the Environment recognizes and promotes major pioneering contributions in the field of environment and sustainable development.

Every two years, the Foundation awards its prestigious environmental prize worth US$ 1 million to key decision-makers for their special contributions to environmental preservation and sustainable development. It also promotes sustainable development through propagating environmental awareness, addressing sustainability issues and conducting international and regional conferences, workshops, seminars and community activities.

Previous winners of the Zayed Award include HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, former President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea, former US President Jimmy Carter, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and former Prime Minister of Norway Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland.

{Source: United Nations Environment Program}

[photo credits-featured image: philippines Batad rice paddies – By Adi.simionov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons]



Iran Air Enters Into An Agreement With Airbus To Purchase 118 New Aircraft

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Aviation – Iran Air









From the A320 to A380: Iran Air selects the full Airbus jetliner portfolio for its fleet modernization

Agreements for 118 new aircraft, pilot training, airport operations and ATM support

Iran officials have signed two agreements with Airbus covering new aircraft orders and a comprehensive civil aviation co-operation package. The agreements were signed at the Élysée Palace, Paris, during Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s official visit to France with French President François Hollande.

Iran Air has signed an agreement with Airbus for the acquisition of the full range of new Airbus airliners (73 widebodies and 45 single aisle). This includes pilot and maintenance training and support services to help the entry into service and efficient operations of these new aircraft.

In parallel the Minister of Roads and Urban Development, Dr. Abbas Ahmad Akhoundi, has signed a comprehensive co-operation agreement as part of the country’s modernization of its civil aviation sector, to support the development of air navigation services (ATM), airport and aircraft operations, regulatory harmonization, technical and academic training, maintenance, repair and industrial cooperation.

These two agreements took place as part of the implementation of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action) on January 16th 2016, and its associated rules and guidance.

The agreement for 118 new aircraft signed by Mr Farhad Parvaresh, Iran Air Chairman and CEO, includes 21 A320ceo family, 24 A320neo family, 27 A330ceo family, 18 A330neo (-900), 16 A350-1000 and 12 A380.

“The announcement is the start of re-establishing our civil aviation sector into the envy of the region and along with partners like Airbus we’ll ensure the highest world standards,” said Mr Farhad Parvaresh, Iran Air Chairman and CEO.

“The skies have cleared for Iran’s flying public and Airbus is proud to welcome Iran’s commercial aviation back into the international civil aviation community. Today is a significant step in the overhaul and modernization of Iran’s commercial aviation sector and Airbus stands ready to play its role in supporting it,” said Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President and CEO.

Airbus is the world’s leading aircraft manufacturer of passenger airliners, ranging in capacity from 100 to more than 500 seats. Airbus has design and manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, the UK, and Spain, and subsidiaries in the US, China, India, Japan and in the Middle East.

In addition, it provides the highest standard of customer support and training through an expanding international network.

{Source: Airbus Corporation}

[photo credits-featured image: By Dmitry A. Mottl (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]


United Nations – ‘Food And Agriculture Organization’ Strives To Reduce Rural Decline In Colombia

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FAO to partner with Colombia in pursuit of peace and food security

Director-General describes local peace talks as “unique opportunity” to reverse decades of rural decline.

29 January 2016, Bogota –  FAO will work with Colombia in building a durable peace and strengthening rural development in the country’s post-conflict stage, Director-General José Graziano da Silva said during a high-level visit to the Latin American nation.

The current cease-fire and peace negotiations present a unique and immediate opportunity for political leaders to reverse decades of rural economic decline, according to the head of the Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations.

“Peace begins in the fields, and there can be no peace without food security nor food security without peace,” Graziano da Silva said during his meeting with President Manuel Santos at which he presented a joint working plan. “Armed conflict always leads to food insecurity and hunger, and vice versa,” he added.

The current negotiations in Havana between the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC-EP, began three years ago. It is now widely expected that the two sides, at war for more than 50 years, can conclude a Final Accord in the first half of 2016. FAO is eager to contribute to the efforts of national and local authorities, with the suport of the international community, to build and consolidate peace, which in turn inextricably depends on lives free from hunger.

“Colombia has for the past 50 years had to drive with the brakes on,” said President Santos. “FAO knows better than anyone how much global food production is needs to grow, and I am sure that peace will allow our country to turn into a provider.”

Field visit

President Santos, Graziano da Silva and Rafael Pardo, Colombia’s Post-Conflict Minister, travelled to about 500 kilometres east of Bogotá to visit Orocué, a town in the department de Casanare, on Friday.

While there, FAO’s leader signed an agreement with the Post-Conflict Ministry that establishes a mutual cooperation scheme designed to improve the technical capacities for policies and programs linked to rural development, land tenure, food security, access to markets and economic and social infrastructure. The agreement includes the joint work plan between FAO and Colombia to promote peace, rural development and food security.

Global experience shows that the immediate aftermath of a new peace accord ending a long-running conflict is an inherently fragile period. FAO’s intention is to roll out fast-track projects designed to have a rapid tangible impact while contributing to sustainable development and food security.

Colombia has enormous food production potential, with some 22 million hectares of arable farmland, of which only 5 million are currently under cultivation.

FAO will make available its technical leadership in agricultural and food security policies, focusing on three pillars: promoting more stability in land management; supporting food and livestock production in rural ares targeted by the government’s rural development and land restitution plan; support for the eradication of hunger and chronic childhood malnutrition.

Working together

In recent years, FAO and the government of Colombia have collaborated on programs and projects linked to family farming, food systems, water basin management, land restoration and the bolstering of information systems supporting agricultural and livestock production. FAO has a track record of supporting programs aimed at mitigating the impact of armed conflict by enabling farmers and herders to access adequate inputs as well as technical and financial resources.

The Organization has also conducted training and evaluation programs for public food security and nutrition policies.

During his visit to Colombia, Graziano da Silva met with representatives of civil society, the private sector and exponents of the cooperative moment to discuss ways to assure an inclusive economic growth path for post-conflict rural areas.

{Source: United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization}

[photo credits-featured image: By Gavin Rough from Waterloo, Canada (Lost City Ruins) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons]


Europe’s Refugee Crisis Is Taking A Turn For The Worse

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Khaleej Times Editorial on Syria








Stop Syria conflict to stem flow of refugees: paper

ABU DHABI, 29th January, 2016  — Europe had the best of intentions when it opened its borders to refugees fleeing war and persecution in the Middle East, but it’s now clear that things are not going to plan.

In its editorial, Khaleej Times said that that blame it on the horrors of war and the message to refugees. Spare the messenger. Europe’s refugee crisis is taking a turn for the worse and will test the European Union’s staying power. How long can they hope to stick together? Words have a certain alluring power that German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not comprehend back then.

She had a moral responsibility to give refugees a home last year. Her intentions were noble. The question is did she go too far? Did she fling the gates wide open to spark off another crisis – a political, social and economic quagmire which Europe finds difficult to extricate itself from? ”We can do it,” said the chancellor. Powerful stuff as she was thinking social and economic change in her country.

It could haunt her and the continent for many years if more attacks like Paris happen.

Immigration may have been good for Germany with its dwindling workforce, but it’s clear Merkel did not think it through. Other countries in the continent do not share the sentiment because immigration is also about integration and European values of freedom in every aspect of life.

The continent had the best of intentions when it opened its borders to refugees fleeing war and persecution in the Middle East, but it’s now clear that things are not going to plan. Europe’s resources are stretched, patience is running out and politicians are getting nervous. The result is harsh legislation calling for deportations and using money from migrants to fund their stay in Europe.

You would expect Scandinavian countries like Norway and Sweden to keep their cool in times of crisis, but their reactions to the exodus has come as a surprise, even shock. Part of the blame should be laid at Germany’s doorstep – on what the chancellor said. Let’s also not forget the main reason – war and its cruelty on civilians.

Syria’s warring factions are yet to sit across the table and talk out a solution.

New players like Russia are playing a bigger military role in the country against the terror group, Daesh. Positions are hardening, no one is listening, and all hell is braking loose, driving out millions from their homes.

As we write this edit, another boat has capsized in the Mediterranean. Many have perished, but it’s shameful that the key players in the conflict lack the seriousness to solve the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

You have a despot on one side and a terror group that will go to any lengths on the other.

There’s not much to choose for ordinary folk as their homes and families are bombed out of existence by Syrian Russian, American and French warplanes. On the ground they confront a brainwashed terror group that will stop at nothing to set up a caliphate.

So they flee to Jordan, Turkey, Greece and into the heart of Europe taken in by the message – not the peoples of these lands who think they have come too far riding on their welcome. The messaging should change.

Europe is not a land of milk and honey. It is at best a temporary shelter. Too late for the 80,000 asylum seekers that Sweden plans to send back to their home countries.

{Source: Emirates News Agency – WAM/Hazem/Majok – Khaleej Times Editorial on Syria}

[photo credits-featured image: By Mstyslav Chernov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons]


The ‘European Investment Bank’ Announces Newly Established Investment Team For Greece

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European Investment Bank (EIB) President Werner Hoyer today in Athens announced the newly established Investment Team for Greece, to strengthen the EU Bank’s activities and demonstrate its strong commitment to the country’s economic recovery.

Speaking in Athens President Hoyer said: I am delighted to be here to announce the EIB’s new Investment Team for Greece today. It is the first time we have set up such a team, yet another measure of our commitment to Greece’s recovery. I am confident that this will strengthen and re-inforce the EIB Group’s activities in Greece under the leadership of Nicholas Jennett who will lead a strengthened permanent EIB presence in Greece. Greece has faced challenging times in recent years but the EU bank has been and will continue to be by its side. The EU Bank was here before the crisis erupted, has stayed during difficult times, and even strengthened its commitment since, providing investment in the real economy when it was most needed. The Bank’s current exposure in Greece represents around 10% of the country’s GDP.”

EIB lending by sector in Greece in 2015 (in EUR m)

The new Investment Team is part of a special initiative for Greece and marks the first step that the EU bank plans to build on in the coming months through stronger advisory work and strengthened operational capacity on the ground.

The purpose of the Athens-based Investment Team is to make a difference by making sure that the EIB can contribute in every way through the EIB Group’s financial and technical experience and new operations, enabling the EU bank to play a key part in the revival of the Greek economy. The team will consist of 30 EIB Group officials, about half of whom will be based in the EU Bank’s Athens office.

Nicholas Jennett Deputy Director General in the EIB is heading the team and is the most senior official working to enhance EIB operations on the ground. He has some 17 years’ experience at the EIB where most recently he has led the New Products Department,

He said, “I am very happy to take the helm of the EIB’s Investment Team for Greece at a crucial time for this country when we can make a real difference for the real economy. The new Investment Team for Greece will ensure that the EIB’s financial and technical expertise can support sustainable economic recovery in Greece and much needed job creation across the country. We will further bolster financing and help provide technical support for suitable and viable projects, especially in the private sector and SMEs, which are the backbone of the Greek economy, and this will have an even greater impact to boost growth and create quality new jobs.”

As part of his visit to Greece, President Hoyer also held meetings with President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the newly-elected leader of the main opposition New Democracy party Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Their discussions focused mainly on the EIB Group’s activities in Greece and its future plans in the country.

We are determined to enhance our cooperation with the Hellenic Republic, other European development finance institutions and private investors in further assisting recovery in Greece,” President Hoyer added.

Since 2008 the EIB Group provided over EUR 12 billion in loans and guarantees in Greece. Outstanding EIB loans total around EUR 18 billion, approximately 10% of the country’s GDP. In 2015 the EIB Group – the EIB and the European Investment Fund – provided loans and guarantees in Greece totaling EUR 1.4 billion.

{Source: European Investment Bank- Press Office – Philip Pangalos}

[photo credits-featured image: Athens street view-By Mstyslav Chernov (Self-photographed, [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons]


South Africa Gives Basotho Migrants Till End Of June To Produce Legal Documents

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South Africa

Illegal Migrants








Krugersdorp – Basotho nationals who are in South Africa illegally or who have fraudulent documents have been given until the end of June this year to acquire valid documents.

This follows an agreement reached between South Africa and Lesotho to implement the Lesotho Special Permit (LSP) dispensation from 1 March 2016.

Addressing the media at the Lindela Repatriation Center in Krugersdorp on Friday, Minister Gigaba explained that the purpose of the LSP is to regularize the stay of Lesotho nationals currently residing in South Africa illegally as well as to document Lesotho nationals who are working, studying or running businesses in South Africa, without appropriate documentation.

To qualify for the special permit, an applicant must have a valid Lesotho passport or travel document, be registered on the Lesotho National Population Register and have police clearance from both Lesotho and South Africa.

Applicants must also provide proof of employment in the form of an affidavit from the employer to be issued with a work permit.

Applicants must ensure they have a business registration with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and CIPRO to get a Business Permit and registration from an educational institution for a Study Permit.

During the Lesotho Special Program Basotho nationals who are in the country illegally will not be deported back to their country. It is estimated that there are about 400 000 to 500 000 Lesotho nationals who are residing in South Africa.

Minister Gigaba said amnesty will also be extended to those who have completed their sentences in the various prisons in the country.

The special permit will be valid for four years – expiring on 31 December 2019.

To ease the process, more visa application offices will be established in the Free State and in Lesotho.

Minister Gigaba told journalists he hoped the program will run smoothly and without hiccups.

“We believe that the program will deepen the relations between South Africa and Lesotho,” he said.

Lesotho Home Affairs Minister Lekhetho Rakuane appealed to employers who have Basotho nationals in their employ to assist by giving them employment letters so they can apply for the Lesotho Special Permit.

“The exercise is meant to prevent things like human trafficking of Basotho nationals and to ensure that all the Basotho nationals are documented,” he said.

Rakuane is in the country to finalize the agreement on the implementation of the Lesotho Special Permit. At a media briefing in Pretoria on Thursday, the two countries indicated they were ready to implement the program.

The two ministers visited the Lindela Repatriation Center on Friday to check on conditions at the center.

{Source: South Africa News Agency-}

Photo credits-featured image: Basotho mems stick dance- By VirtualSteve (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons]


Germany Is Attempting To Stem The Flow Of Syrian Immigrants By Donating Funds For Support

World Affairs

Open Eyes Opinion


Refugee Crisis









Assistance for Jordan, Turkey and Northern Iraq

The German government is stepping up its support for Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Syria’s neighboring countries.

The Chancellor will be explaining the approach at a donor conference on 4 February, at which she will also be calling for pledges of additional assistance. Federal Development Minister Gerd Müller has presented an assistance program during a trip to the region.

On 4 February Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway, Kuwait and the United Nations are hosting the international donor conference “Supporting Syria and the Region”, which is to be held in London. Chancellor Angela Merkel will be calling on the international community to provide more support for Syrian refugees.

The “Cash-for-Work” investment and structural program, which Federal Development Minister Gerd Müller is currently presenting as part of his visit to Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, is to create about 500,000 jobs for Syrian refugees in the region.

Investment program creates prospects of a better life

The “Cash-for-Work” program is intended to create jobs and specifically encourage the start-up of businesses and skilled crafts enterprises. In the education and training sector, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development is devising programs, some in cooperation with the German-Jordan University in Amman. The aim is to give refugees the chance to earn a living for themselves and their families, thus creating prospects for them to stay in the region.

“Investments in infrastructure, including the construction of accommodation, schools and community centers, can create jobs for tens of thousands of refugees and local people,” explained Gerd Müller during his trip. “Only a sort of Marshall Plan like this will allow us to master the refugee crisis and rebuild Syria once the war is over,” he added.

Children and young people need a future

Access to education for Syrian refugee children will be a special focus of the German government at next week’s conference in London. The Federal Development Minister stressed in this context, “Children and young people need a future. Every euro that we invest in the region has an impact that is many times greater. Investing in the countries that have taken in the vast majority of Syrian refugees is thus also an investment in our future. When people see a chance of creating genuine prospects and a better future in the region, they will not set off for Europe.”

A total of 1.3 billion euros already provided for victims of Syrian crisis

Since the conflict erupted, the German government has already provided more than 1.3 billion euros to support Syrian refugees. It has taken the form of both immediate humanitarian aid and longer-term structural activities. In Jordan, for instance, 130,000 refugee children can now attend school thanks to German assistance, as can another 200,000 in Turkey. In northern Iraq, winter-proof accommodation and health centers to serve over 90,000 people have been built in the province of Dohuk over the last few months.

{Source: The Federal Government of Germany}

[photo credits-featured image– Syrian refugees in Jordan – By U.S. Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]


Hawaii Sets New Tourism Records In 2015

World Travel

Open Eyes Opinion

Hawaii Tourism










HONOLULU – For the fourth straight year, Hawaii’s tourism industry set new records with the totals of visitor arrivals and visitor expenditures generated for the state in 2015, according to preliminary year-end statistics released today by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Altogether, a record total of 8,649,357 visitors were welcomed to Hawaii in 2015, a 4.1 percent increase over 2014, producing a record total of $15.2 billion in visitor expenditures, an increase of 2.3 percent year-over-year.

Total visitor days for 2015 grew 3.5 percent and, on average, there were 214,469 visitors in Hawaii on any given day (average daily census), an increase of 3.5 percent versus 2014.

Arrivals on airlines grew 4.3 percent to 8,533,978 visitors in 2015, driven by increases from U.S. West, U.S. East, Australia and China.

More direct air service to Hawaii supported growth in arrivals from these markets. In contrast, eight fewer out-of-state cruise ships served the islands in 2015 with 115,378 visitors a decrease of 7.3 percent compared to 2014.

This year also set a new record for annual arrivals to the islands of Oahu and Maui. However, arrivals to Hawaii Island and Kauai did not exceed the record level of visitors seen back in 2007.

For the month of December 2015, Hawaii welcomed 794,246 visitors, an increase of 3.7 percent, producing total visitor expenditures of $1.5 billion, an increase of 2.5 percent (+$37 million) versus December 2014.

The average daily spending of $197 per person was similar to December 2014. 2015 Highlights – Arrivals by Air:

U.S. West: Arrivals grew in every month, resulting in an annual increase of 7.1 percent to 3,518,472 visitors.

Arrivals from the Pacific and Mountain regions rose by 7.1 percent and 8.2 percent, respectively. Combined with higher daily spending (+1.6% to $163 per person), total expenditures increased 6.8 percent to $5.3 billion.

U.S. East: Arrivals grew 3.1 percent to 1,788,573 visitors versus 2014, with increases realized from all regions. However, lower average daily spending (-2.7% to $201 per person) resulted in a slight drop (-0.6%) in visitor expenditures to $3.7 billion.

Japan: Arrivals of 1,499,167 visitors was down slightly (-0.8%) compared to 2014. Decreased daily spending (-10% to $246 per person) also contributed to a 9.8 percent decline in visitor expenditures to $2.2 billion.

{Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority}

[photo credits-featured image: Diamond Head Hawaii- By mar1865 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons]


U.S. Deputy Secretary Of Commerce Remarks On The ‘Trans-Pacific Partnership’

World Trade

Open Eyes Opinion









Trans Pacific Partnership

Today, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews delivered the keynote remarks on the impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on manufacturing at an event hosted by the Washington International Trade Association (WITA).

The event was part of WITA’s ongoing speaker series which brings together public and private sector leaders to explore different aspects of the TPP.

During his remarks, Deputy Secretary Andrews discussed the importance of the TPP for American manufacturing and how the trade agreement will ensure our nation’s competitiveness in the 21st century global economy.


Thank you, Linda for the kind introduction, and thank you to Ken and the Washington International Trade Association for inviting me to join you today.

For many years, WITA has convened representatives across the trade community to discuss the most pressing developments in U.S. trade policy – so it is fitting that WITA is once again showing its leadership by hosting this series on today’s most important trade issue: the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

This morning, I’m going to talk about the impact of TPP on America’s manufacturing sector – something our Department is uniquely poised to discuss.

At the Department of Commerce, we work every day to foster a climate for economic growth and broad-based prosperity in the United States, and to help create jobs for American workers.

In our country, the strength of our economy is closely linked to the strength of our manufacturing base – which is why our Department is laser-focused on expanding this critical sector.

We do this in a number of ways: we help create the conditions for our innovators to thrive, so our technology remains on the cutting edge and our manufacturers stay ahead of their global competition. We support communities as they develop comprehensive plans to grow their local manufacturing base.

We have made workforce training a top priority, so our companies have access to the world-class talent they need. And, of course, we work to ensure that American companies can operate on a level playing field in the global marketplace.

One of the most impactful programs we run is the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. NNMI breaks down silos between the private sector and academia to collaborate on taking industry-relevant technologies from lab to market.

We currently have seven institutes all over the country and have requested funding for two more.  The work being done at these institutes is truly remarkable.

For example, at the Advanced Composite Manufacturing Institute in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, researchers have created a working replica of a vintage 1965 Shelby Cobra sports car created entirely through 3D printing with carbon fiber-reinforced plastic. This car is more than just an incredibly cool piece of technology – it also represents the future of manufacturing.

Today’s manufacturers look very different than the outdated factories filled with line jobs of the past. But unfortunately, our trade agreements have not kept pace. We are trying to ship our innovative, Made-in-America goods around the world using outdated trade rules, which only hurts our global competitiveness.

While manufacturing has evolved over the past several decades, one thing remains the same: the strength of America’s manufacturers depends on their ability to export.  The time is now to upgrade our trade agreements to reflect a new generation of manufacturing.

We need the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Everyone here knows that the TPP will give our companies greater access to the fastest growing region in the world. By 2030, the majority of the global middle class – 3.2 billion consumers – will be in the Asia Pacific.

U.S. companies and workers need access to these consumers in order to compete in the fiercely competitive global economy – yet, too often, U.S. companies lack equal access to these markets and confront significant barriers to entry.

That is why we need the Trans-Pacific Partnership to level the playing field for American workers and businesses in the world’s fastest growing region – one that is rapidly requiring the lion’s share of global imports.

TPP gives U.S. goods and services unprecedented market access by eliminating over 18,000 tariffs on Made in America exports. Currently in TPP countries, these import taxes can increase prices by up to 59 percent for U.S. machinery, 70 percent for U.S. autos, and 40 percent for U.S. poultry – putting American workers and businesses at a global competitive disadvantage.

Tariff eliminations and reductions for U.S. products will reduce the end-user price and make Made-in-America products more attractive to TPP consumers.

But TPP does more than eliminate tariffs. It sets new high-standard global trade rules, updating 20-year-old WTO rules for the modern economy.

And not only will it lead to more exports and support higher-paying jobs here at home, it will promote the development of regional supply chains and support economic development and job creation in all TPP parties.

Furthermore, TPP will also support U.S. manufacturing as it continues to make its remarkable comeback.

Manufacturing is growing at its fastest rate in decades. Today, this sector supports an estimated 17.6 million jobs in the United States—about one in six private-sector jobs. Manufacturers in the United States are driving innovation and are responsible for more than three-quarters of all private sector R&D.

TPP will support this resurgence, especially for small and medium-sized businesses.  You will likely hear concrete examples from the panel, but I want to highlight some key ways that TPP builds on existing agreements and tackles barriers at and behind the border.

First, TPP countries have committed to transparency measures across the agreement. This includes customs commitments to ensure traders know how their goods will be treated when they arrive in a TPP port. If they run into issues, TPP countries have committed to a predictable and transparent process for customs administration.

The 12 TPP countries have also committed to greater openness in standards development and certification, reducing unnecessary testing and costs, while also requiring the publishing of rules and allowing for public comment.

Second, the agreement includes measures that make it more efficient and easy to do business in TPP markets, such as: common rules of origin to ensure that TPP benefits go to businesses in TPP countries; expedited treatment of express shipments and the establishment of “de minimus” thresholds for low-value shipments; measures that promote paperless trading, including the use of electronic signatures; and allowing for businesses to search, register, and protect intellectual property more easily.

Third, TPP includes cutting-edge rules that promote trade in the 21st Century, such as: rules against forced localization of servers and obligations to ensure the free flow of data across borders; effective intellectual property rights protections, including criminal penalties for the theft of trade secrets, including cybertheft; and commitments to lift complex restrictions to the export of services, as well as guaranteeing equal treatment to services provided through physical investment or over the Internet.

These advancements will make it easier for America’s manufacturers to do business in some of the fastest growing markets in the world.

Beyond its impact on business, TPP is also good for the American worker. The twelve parties agreed not to prohibit or restrict trade in remanufactured goods – an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers.

And TPP provides a fair and more level playing field for American workers, with the largest expansion of enforceable labor rights in history. This agreement brings hundreds of millions of additional workers under International Labor Organization standards, while also including strong mechanisms for partner countries to hold each other to these commitments.

TPP updates decades-old trade rules for not just a modern manufacturing sector but for the modern economy as a whole.  This 21st-century, high standard trade agreement will benefit American workers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, service providers, consumers, farmers, and ranchers – and there is no reason to delay unlocking those benefits for American job creators.

Just this week, the Peterson Institute for International Economics released a report that shows that, if TPP is delayed by just one year, the United States will see an estimated one-time national loss of $77 billion. That translates to a loss of $600 on average for every U.S. household.

In addition, as the President said in his State of the Union Address, the more we prolong the process of approving this agreement, the more we cede the rules of the road to China and other competitors in the region.

With the future of trade in the Asia-Pacific region still being written, we must ask ourselves: can we afford to risk America’s leadership in manufacturing simply because other nations are acting more quickly than we are?

At the Department of Commerce, we know that the answer to that question is absolutely not. That is why we are hard at work making the business case for TPP to Members of Congress and the American people.

Working closely with our partners at USTR, we have released more than 60 targeted fact sheets and reports detailing the benefits TPP could have for American companies. We have conducted outreach to over 500 congressional offices, and Commerce officials continue to fly around the country to talk about the benefits of the agreements.

We are all-in in promoting the benefits of this agreement – but if we’re going to be successful in our efforts, we need your help. The best argument in favor of trade comes from all of you – leaders from across the public and private sectors, who understand the real value of trade and exports.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding out there about TPP, and much of the debate has not been substantive. That’s why events like this one are so important, and why we need you to educate your employees, your friends, your family, and your neighbors.

We need you to join us in getting the word out that trade agreements mean lower prices for U.S. consumers, more jobs for American workers, and more growth for our economy.

I look forward to working with organizations like WITA and its members to bring TPP and its benefits to life. Thank you.

{Source: U.S. Department of Commerce – Office of Public Affairs}

[photo credits-featured image: Department of Commerce – By AgnosticPreachersKid (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons]