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Putin tests West

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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The 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region for Wednesday, June 10:

1As Vladimir Putin makes a rare trip to Western Europe, meeting Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Milan on Wednesday, what does he hope to achieve? “In truth, it’s been apparent since the spring that European leaders were likely to renew sanctions, but this hasn’t prevented Mr Putin from seeking out chinks in Europe’s armour, whether by wooing cash-strapped Greece or developing ties with Europe’s far-right parties, like France’s National Front.UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warned of this last week.”Of course we are concerned about what is clearly a Kremlin strategy of trying to pick off, shall we say, the brethren who may be less committed or more vulnerable in the run-up to the June decision,” he told an audience at the London think-tank Chatham House. [BBC]

2Kazakhstan is interested in investment in Iran’s Shahid Rajaee Port in order to facilitate transit of its goods to world markets via the Persian Gulf. Head of the country’s national railway company, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, was visiting the port and the nearby Bandar Abbas on Wednesday for discussions with local officials.“The Kazakh side is interested in investing in Bandar Shahid Rajaee for construction of silos in order to store its wheat crop in the port and facilitate shipments,” head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (IRIR) Abbas Nazari said. Kazakhstan currently uses Iran’s transit railway linking the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf to ferry about 11 million metric tons of wheat per year. As Central Asia’s largest grain producer, Kazakhstan is looking for shipment routes by sea which is very cheaper for its growing flow of goods.

3Games and Politics: Hearings on the issue of human rights in Azerbaijan are also expected to be held in the United States, and in Baku they already described it as an international campaign against Azerbaijan. What is the reason for such a distinct change in the international community’s attitude towards the Aliyev regime? It is noteworthy that out of the “European leaders” only the presidents of Russia and Turkey, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will be attending the Games opening in Baku. Some analysts believe it is Putin’s visit that “scared” European leaders, who would rather avoid meeting him. Besides, many international experts consider the Putin-Erdogan-Aliyev triumvirate to be provocative for the West and dangerous in terms of changes in the situation in the western Eurasian region. [ArmeniaNow]

4Why the G-7 Warning of More Sanctions Won’t Worry Russia. “Aside from the structural problem, it is also not clear how far the sanctions can be expanded: Would they be prolonged, or would they target more individuals, or both? In March 2015, the U.S. State Department declared that U.S. sanctions will remain in place until Crimea is returned to Ukraine. That makes U.S. sanctions de facto indefinite. Continental Europe is divided on the issue. As Angela Merkel has said, sanctions should be relied on as only one of the methods of resolving the conflict. The U.K., while adopting a harsh political stance, is open for business with Russia by accepting money that originates from Russia through its tax havens” writes Anastasia Nesvetailova for the Epoch Times.

5Iran, Russia step up trans-Caspian trade. Iran has prepared three ports in the Caspian Sea and added six ships to its fleet for cargo trade with Russia as the two countries are forging stepped-up commercial relationship to counter Western sanctions on both countries. The new shipping route is unprecedented in the chequered history of the two countries’ relations and follows a trade agreement signed in March. It allows Russia to sell Iran’s crude oil abroad and deposit the money in a fund which Tehran would use to buy goods from Moscow. A separate deal allows Iran to import increased quantities of Russian grain in exchange for Iranian foodstuff, including fish from the Caspian Sea, the Sputnik news agency reported.”The most important thing is that by exporting oil, we can gain access to the financial resources we need to buy goods from Russia,” Iran’s consul to the Russian city of Astrakhan Ali Mohammadi said.

6The Government of Kazakhstan signed a $88 million loan agreement today with the World Bank to foster productive innovation in Kazakhstan. The five-year project will be implemented by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan to promote high-quality and nationally relevant research and commercialization of technologies. The loan agreement was signed by Bakhyt Sultanov, Minister of Finance, on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and Ludmilla Butenko, Country Manager for Kazakhstan, on behalf of the World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development). The project is the first in a series under the Partnership Framework Arrangement signed in May 2014 between the World Bank and the Government of Kazakhstan, according to the World Bank.

7Business first and foremost. Italy has long had an important economic relationship with Russia and political ties were sufficiently close before the Ukraine crisis. Italy is Russia’s third-biggest trading partner after China and Germany with deals between the two countries worth just over 30 billion euros last year. Renzi has said he will not be lecturing the Russian leader, while stressing that Italy stands fully behind international demands that Moscow ensure the respect of a second ceasefire between Kiev and the rebels that was agreed in Minsk in February.

8Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan is ready to provide guarantees for Iranian investors, Vasif Talibov, chairman of the Supreme Majlis of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic said. He made the remarks during the meeting with the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province Esmail Jabbarzadeh in Iran. During the meeting with the province’s governor, Talibov said that Azerbaijani businessmen are interested in making investments in Iran, including in Aras free economic and industrial zone. There are many spheres for expanding the economic and trade relations between the two countries, he said. Talibov said the bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Iran are at a satisfactory level and the cooperation between the two countries will develop in the future as well.

9Peeling back Iran sanctions onion no easy task. The Obama administration may have to backtrack on its promise that it will suspend only nuclear-related economic sanctions on Iran as part of an emerging nuclear agreement, officials and others involved in the process tell The Associated Press. The problem derives from what was once a strong point of the broad US sanctions effort that many credit with bringing Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. Under the sanctions developed over decades, hundreds of companies and individuals have been penalized not only for their role in the country’s nuclear programme but also for ballistic missile research, terrorism, human rights violations and money laundering. Now the administration is wending its way through that briar patch of interwoven economic sanctions. [GulfNews]

10The Caucasian Cold War.“The main security concern for Azerbaijan comes from Armenia. Conflicts in the 1990s and recent border clashes still are fresh wounds in Azerbaijan. Having a defense relationship with a regional power like Turkey will act as a deterrent for Azerbaijan. This deterrent is particularly in regards to Armenia’s relationship with Russia that involves large amounts of Russian troops being stationed in Armenia. Therefore similarly to the Georgian case, Azerbaijan and Turkey both want to keep the Russians out to ensure security and influence in the Caucasus respectively” writes Taylor Morse for the Modern Diplomacy.

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine. follow @DGiannakopoulos

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Reimagining Economies: The Move Towards a Digital, Sustainable and Resilient Future

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Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, The Annual Investment Meeting, organized by theUAE Ministry of Economy, scheduled to be held from 20th to 22nd October 2020, under the theme “ Reimagining Economies: The Move Towards a Digital, Sustainable and Resilient Future.”

As the very first digital edition of the Annual Investment Meeting, AIM Digital will be the first mega digital event in the region to surmount the COVID -19 pandemic that will set a new benchmark for future virtual events in the UAE. It will utilize digital technology to create, showcase, and facilitate new investment opportunities for investors from different parts of the world, providing boundless possibilities across diverse sectors leading towards economic recovery, transformation, and sustainability.

To continue AIM’s mission of creating a roadmap to build a resilient future for the global economy despite the current pandemic, the three-day digital event will support and strengthen the investment environment and generate the most attractive and secure investment projects and opportunities for investors.

In this regard, His Excellency Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, Minister of Economy, said: “The Annual Investment Meeting is an important global platform that brings together officials, experts, investors and major local, regional and international companies to exchange ideas and experiences and work together to develop the investment climate and link stakeholders to enhance development opportunities and come up with innovative solutions. The UAE has managed over the past years to consolidate its position as a pioneering and attractive investment destination for value-added projects, especially in the new economy sectors, and the country has also succeeded in developing its capabilities in planning and anticipating the future, and developing proactive solutions to enhance the resilience of its national economy in the face of global economic changes.

His Excellency added that the UAE government launched a comprehensive plan of 33 initiatives to support all economic sectors in the country and create a more flexible economic environment capable of generating diverse and sustainable opportunities, and encouraging investment in future sectors, especially digital transformation, advanced industries, applications of modern technology, research, development and innovation.” He said that the development of a digital model for a global platform for dialogue, such as the annual investment forum, is gaining great importance under the current circumstances and strengthens the country’s ability to review its future vision and promote the opportunities offered in its priority sectors to attract and attract investments to it through innovative means.

His Excellency Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises, said: “The UAE continues its pioneering role as a hub for trade, investment development and business activities, whether in its local markets or at the regional and global levels, and is confirmed today by launching the first digital version of the Investment Forum. Its ability to adapt to the changes in the economic landscape and find innovative solutions to various challenges, such as those that we are witnessing today as a result of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, which highlighted the importance of adopting new methods in economic activity, stressing that the establishment of the forum hypothetically at this huge level with the participation of 170 countries represents a new success story that reflects the readiness of the country’s economic and trade system to rapidly shift towards digital activities and adopt a more competitive, resilient and sustainable economic model.

Al Falasi added that the Annual Investment Meeting has provided over the past years a pioneering platform to support emerging companies and small and medium enterprises. His Excellency explained by saying: “We will work through this year’s edition of AIM to continue supporting and encouraging entrepreneurs and owners of small and medium enterprises by providing them with vital channels for communication with their counterparts in other participating countries to acquire new ideas and knowledge, exchange experiences and attend relevant exhibitions, as well as to establish partnerships and open new markets for their products and services, and this would immediately reflect on their commercial success and their ability to continue and expand. ”stressing that the transition to the digital model this year It will allow for wider participation from different countries of the world and will thus increase opportunities for cooperation and growth for entrepreneurs.

“This year’s Annual Investment Meeting, in its first digital edtion of its kind, is being held under unusual circumstances that the global economy is going through that requires intensifying dialogue and creating new links that support commercial and investment activities in various world markets.”He explained thatthe event will focus on discussing the countries and institutions efforts to provide new solutions and measures that support sustainability, business continuity and flexibility in facing various challenges. said His Excellency Dr. Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade.

His Excellency added: “Through this year’s edition of AIM, we will make sure to allow businessmen and capital owners to meet and conclude strategic agreements and partnerships, and to open new and vital channels for work in various investment fields, explaining that the forum’s agenda for this year will be rich in sessions, dialogues and digital exhibitions. Over the course of three days, and expressing optimism that the outcomes of this session will contribute to creating more creative ideas, initiatives and qualitative projects that represent an added value to international efforts in enhancing the global economic climate and preparing it for the post-Covid-19 phase.

AIM’s unique digital exhibition will be participated by Ministries and Government Departments, International and Regional Organisations, Investment Promotion Agencies, Special Economic Zones, Private Equities, Angel Investors, Venture Capitalists, Banking & Financial Institutions, International Investment Institutions, Startups, Incubators and Special Programmes, SME Financing Institutions, Smart City Solution Providers, and Technology Providers, among others, from more than 170 countries, which means even more abundant opportunities for economic productivity and expansion.

“We are all aware that the global economy has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this global outbreak must not cause economic paralysis and impede recovery but must serve as a stimulus to persistently look for opportunities to surmount the challenges. Technology is one of the tools available to us that we need to take advantage of to fight the impact of pandemic, which is why AIM Digital was conceived. It is indeed a major initiative that brings innovation and investment opportunities together in one virtual platform for investors to fuel economic resilience and transformation” said Mr. Dawood Al Shezawi, the Head of the Organizing Committee of the Annual Investment Meeting.


Diverse topics have been meticulously discussed such as Economic Fallout of Covid 19 on Female Founders, Accelerating Technologies during Time of Crisis, Ensuring Food Security & Sustainability against Pandemic: Innovation and Business Opportunities of Agriculture in SMEs, Strengthening the Global Partnership in International Trade during Pandemic Crisis, Post-Pandemic Cities: What Will They Look Like, Business Opportunities of Agriculture in SMEs, The Vision From Investors in The Middle East, Urban Mobility: Road To Recovery And The Effectiveness Of Attracting FDI in The Times Of Crisis, Smart Cities Of The Future Workshop, Challenges For Agribusiness in Latin America And The Vision From Investors in The Middle East. Additionally, AIM Digital continues to offer interactive investment activities 365 days of the year to support the global investment community.

AIM Digital Features

Placing the spotlight on AIM’s six pillars – Foreign Direct Investment, Foreign Portfolio Investment, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Startups, Future Cities, and One Belt, One Road, AIM Digital will showcase different features that will extensively boost investment opportunities in various sectors.

Pre-Conference Workshop: Conducted by renowned industry experts from across the globe, this series of interactive professional coaching sessions have been tailor-made to enrich the experience of its participants and prepare them in finding lucrative opportunities for investment.

Conference: A platform where expert insights, best practices, and ideal investment policies are shared with participants. Leaders and specialists from the investment community will lead the virtual discussions to explore relevant topics about each of the six pillars of AIM.

Exhibition: Participated by the best local and international exhibitors across the globe, the Exhibition features different countries, smart city solution providers, startup companies, and SMEs, with the ultimate goal of achieving economic growth for their respective country and region.

Digital Country Presentation: It unveils the world’s best investment destinations by featuring every country’s key economic and investment environment features digitally. A platform for municipalities, cities, and countries to promote investment opportunities at their location and highlight the potential of their sector to prospective investors.

Startups Virtual Pitch Competition: An opportunity to present business ideas to a diverse array of global investors on the lookout for the next big thing. The winners of the start-up virtual pitch competition will compete for the National Champions League. Individual startups may register for the Global Technopreneurs.

Conglomerate Presentations: A virtual line up of Large Multi-Industry Groups keen on showcasing their investment roadmaps and key sectors of interest to an impressive panel of AIM investment promotion agencies, SMEs and government officials enthusiastic about making sustainable investments in their respective countries.

Awards: Recognizing the outstanding contributions of Investment Promotion Agencies, SMEs and Start-ups in bolstering and securing investment for a particular location. Awards will be presented to various investments made to regions and countries that have resulted in significant economic growth.

Investors’ Hub: Held within a digitally secured environment, a virtual meeting where top investors will have an audience with official government representatives to cultivate the formation of investment partnerships and collaboration.

Regional Focus Sessions: Centered on three regional conversations that examine the economic landscapes of Africa, Asia and Latin America, the discussions will be an informed exploration of the regions’ risks, challenges and opportunities for growth that are waiting to be harnessed through regional cooperation.

Made in Series: This viable digital feature is open to all SMEs who wish to showcase their local products and services to an international platform. Being a part of the series could help the participating country to promote their locally manufactured products or services, present value proposition to a focus global audience, and network with potential global partners for future collaboration.

Investment Roundtables:The investment roundtable feature of AIM 2020 is a gathering of Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Heads of Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs), Investors and Decision Makers. The main objective of this feature is to facilitate a platform for government decision makers to discuss with investment companies to create a feasible investment model matching government and investor requirements. At the end of the sessions, a feasible investment model shall be developed.

Networking Features: A medium to strengthen business relationships and serve to the expansion of business portfolios. Vast features are conveniently available and accessible for ease of communication and networking on the platform.

The Annual Investment Meeting also plans to expand its footprint across the economic landscape as it gears up for its upcoming hybrid edition which will take place on March 21 – 23 followed by its Mega edition during EXPO2020, the World’s Greatest Show. The Hybrid Edition will be primed to feature massive investment opportunities from more than 170 countries, securing the highest return of investments for investors across the globe.

Furthermore, the Annual Investment Meeting is also delighted to launch its official e-magazine, Global Catalyst, which will serve as the global investment community’s no.1 digital source of the latest news, feature articles on trending topics, and critical analysis on fundamental issues affecting the investment environment, serving as a powerful catalyst for global economic growth. The Global Catalyst, is a quarterly digital publication that provides a captivating blend of news and features about the investment environment, as well as thorough analyses and research studies on major issues concerning the global economy. It also features success stories and in-depth interviews from prominent personalities in the global investment community to offer invaluable insights. In its first issue, Global Catalyst will give emphasis on its theme, “Rebooting the Future of Global Economy” which sparks the revitalising idea of starting anew, finding innovative methods and strategies, and building new perspectives in relation to the global economy.

Acknowledging the shift to the digital landscape and integrating technological advancements assists in developing smart, digital and sustainable nations as AIM Digital generates boundless possibilities towards economic recovery, transformation, and sustainability. 

For more information on AIM Digital, visit www.aimcongress.com

About the Annual Investment Meeting

The Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) is an initiative of the UAE Ministry of Economy, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai. AIM is the world’s leading investment platform with over 16,000 participants coming from more than 140 countries. Over 400 exhibitors and co-exhibitors, 60+ high-level dignitaries, 150+ investment specialists and experts have participated in AIM 2019.

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Green Deal: €1 billion investment to boost the green and digital transition

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The European Commission has decided to launch a €1 billion call for research and innovation projects that respond to the climate crisis and help protect Europe’s unique ecosystems and biodiversity. The Horizon 2020-funded European Green Deal Call, which will open tomorrow for registration, will spur Europe’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis by turning green challenges into innovation opportunities.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth said: “The €1 billion European Green Deal call is the last and biggest call under Horizon 2020. With innovation at its heart, this investment will accelerate a just and sustainable transition to a climate-neutral Europe by 2050. As we do not want anyone left behind in this systemic transformation, we call for specific actions to engage with citizens in novel ways and improve societal relevance and impact.

This Green Deal Call differs in important aspects from previous Horizon 2020 calls. Given the urgency of the challenges it addresses, it aims for clear, discernible results in the short to medium-term, but with a perspective of long-term change. There are fewer, but more targeted, larger and visible actions, with a focus on rapid scalability, dissemination and uptake.

The projects funded under this call are expected to deliver results with tangible benefits in ten areas:

Eight thematic areas reflecting the key work streams of the European Green Deal:

  1. Increasing climate ambition
  2. Clean, affordable and secure energy
  3. Industry for a clean and circular economy
  4. Energy and resource efficient buildings
  5. Sustainable and smart mobility
  6. Farm to fork
  7. Biodiversity and ecosystems
  8. Zero-pollution, toxic-free environments

And two horizontal areasstrengthening knowledge and empowering citizens, which offer a longer-term perspective in achieving the transformations set out in the European Green Deal.

The €1 billion investment will continue building Europe’s knowledge systems and infrastructures. The call includes opportunities for international cooperation in addressing the needs of less-developed nations, particularly in Africa, in the context of the Paris Agreement as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The deadline for submissions is 26 January 2021, with selected projects expected to start in autumn 2021.

A Horizon 2020 Green Deal Call Info Day & Brokerage event will take place as part of the virtual European Research & Innovation Days that will take place from 22-24 September 2020.

Background

The European Green Deal is the European Commission’s blueprint and roadmap to make Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050, with a sustainable economy that leaves no one behind. 

To reach this 2050 goal, action will be required by all sectors of our economy, including:

  • investing in environmentally-friendly technologies;
  • supporting industry to innovate;
  • rolling out cleaner, cheaper and healthier forms of private and public transport;
  • decarbonising the energy sector;
  • ensuring buildings are more energy efficient;
  • working with international partners to improve global environmental standards.

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Equal pay essential to build a world of dignity and justice for all

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The United Nations is marking the first ever International Equal Pay Day, on Friday, drawing attention to the gender pay gap – the difference between what a woman earns compared to a man, for work of equal value – and the systemic inequalities it is rooted in.  

Globally, despite decades of activism, and dozens of laws on equal pay, women still earn less than 80 cents for every dollar men do. For women with children, women of colour, women refugees and migrants, and women with disabilities, that figure is even lower. 

Women’s unequal status at work “feeds inequality” in other areas of their lives, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a message.  

“Women’s jobs are less likely to come with benefits like health insurance and paid time off. Even when women are entitled to a pension, lower salaries mean lower payments in their old age,” he said. 

Noting that equal pay laws have failed to address the problem, the UN chief called for greater effort to find solutions. 

 “We need to ask why women are relegated to lower-paid work; why professions that are female-dominated have lower salaries – including jobs in the care sector; why so many women work part-time; why women see their wages decrease with motherhood while men with children often enjoy a salary boost; and why women hit a ceiling in higher-earning professions,” he stressed. 

End harmful gender stereotypes 

Mr. Guterres also underlined the need to end harmful gender stereotypes and remove institutional barriers, as well as sharing family responsibilities equally. 

“We need to recognize, redistribute, and value the unpaid care work that is disproportionately done by women,” he urged. 

Such efforts are all the more urgent given signs that the gender pay gap may worsen due to COVID-19 and its fallout, including because so many women work in service, hospitality and informal sectors which have been hardest hit. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exploited and exposed inequalities of all kinds, including gender inequality. As we invest in recovery, we must take the opportunity to end pay discrimination against women,” said the Secretary-General. 

“Equal pay is essential not only for women, but to build a world of dignity and justice for all,” he underlined. 

Unequal pay a stubborn and universal problem 

According to UN Women, the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, in spite of significant progress in women’s education and higher female labour market participation rates in many countries, closing the gender pay gap has been too slow. 

At the current pace, it could take 257 years to achieve economic gender parity. 

Women workers’ average pay is generally lower than men’s in all countries, across all sectors, for all levels of education, and age groups. While gender pay gap estimates can vary substantially across regions and even within countries, higher income countries tend to have lower levels of wage inequality compared to low and middle-income countries.  

However, estimates of the gender pay gap understate the real extent of the issue, particularly in developing countries, because of a lack of information about informal economies, which are disproportionately made up of women workers, so the full picture is likely worse than what the available data shows us, says the UN agency. 

The International Day 

The International Equal Pay Day, to be commemorated on 18 September annually, was established in 2019 by the UN General Assembly, which voiced deep concern over slow progress in women’s economic empowerment, the undervaluing of work traditionally held by women, and the difficulties in tackling pay inequality. 

The General Assembly urged action to reach the goal of equal pay for work of equal value for all, and encouraged all stakeholders to continue to support the goal of equal pay for work of equal value. 

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