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EAEU intending to create Eurasian brands

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“We must focus on global integration projects that would create Eurasian brands and help promoting our goods at the third countries’ markets”. This was stated by the Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) Tigran Sargsyan speaking in Moscow at the plenary session of the XIII International Conference “Eurasian Economic Integration”.

The participants of the annual event arranged by the Eurasian Development Bank discussed the challenges and prospects for Eurasian integration.

Tigran Sargsyan noted that over the years of its existence the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) has proved its solidity and efficiency notwithstanding its young age. Next year, the EAEU countries will celebrate the fifth anniversary of signing the Treaty on the Union.

The EEC observes the increase in mutual trade, improvement of its structure, and strengthening of cooperation ties. “This shows that implementing main principles enshrined in the Union’s treaty has positive results for the Union’s economic growth. The Commission assesses the potential of this effect as about 1% of Gross National Product’s annual growth”, – highlighted the Chairman of the EEC Board.

A solid achievement of the EAEU is the third countries’ increasing interest in developing and deepening trade and economic cooperation with the Union. “This proves that the EAEU has established itself as a genuine integration association”, – believes Tigran Sargsyan.

Recently, the EEC has entered into a number of memoranda in Singapore: a memorandum of understanding with the ASEAN and a memorandum of cooperation with the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand. The Commission expects to sign a similar document with MERCOSUR. In May 2018, trade and economic agreements with China and Iran were concluded. The work is ongoing on international tracks approved by the Heads of the EAEU States in order to create free trade areas with Egypt, India, Israel, Singapore, and Serbia. Five rounds of negotiations with Singapore were held. Tigran Sargsyan expressed his hope that in 2019 it would be possible to enter the home stretch on the issue of creating an FTA with the Republic.

“Concluding FTA agreements with these countries is a serious potential for inducing economic growth in our States, and ramping up exports to these countries’ markets. It also means the possibility of additional investment attraction”, – reported the Chairman of the EEC Board.

Tigran Sargsyan also named the problems to be solved with a view to promote Eurasian integration. In his opinion, they are related to “under-integration” within the Union’s space. There are obstacles inhibiting the implementation of the “Four Freedoms” principle, and these must be removed. This is exactly the task the Heads of the Member States set for the EEC.

“Obstacles result from uncoordinated actions. Therefore, the States must pursue agreed policies. Such trends in global economy as protectionism, protection of domestic manufacturers, trade wars are unacceptable in our Union”, – stressed Tigran Sargsyan.
These agreed policies are underlain by harmonization of national legislations, in particular, in financial sphere. Upon instruction of the Presidents, national and central banks of the participating countries are developing the Concept of the EAEU common financial market.

The Chairman of the EEC Board also mentioned the necessity to form Eurasian brands similar to “Airbus” project in the European Union. “We need to launch such large-scale cooperation projects with the participation of all the partners within the Union, which would enable us to hold ourselves out as a united entity in relation to third countries”, – he stated.

The Commission is actively working over creation of a Eurasian brand in jewelry branch, as the Union countries have relative advantages in this field. The work is under way on forming a Eurasian brand in lighting engineering. The EAEU Digital Agenda is being implemented, which encompasses all the areas of activity of the participating countries. About 30 initiatives – major digital projects – are now being examined by the EEC Digital Office, some of them to win funding in 2019.

The Chairman of the EEC Board mentioned that the Commission was interested in cooperation under such projects with the EADB. “The key role in financing such global integration projects may belong to the Eurasian Development Bank”, – reckons Tigran Sargsyan.

Due to increasing demand in the EAEU countries for settlements in national currencies, the Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Development Bank Andrey Belyaninov proposed to develop the Eurasian system of financial messaging. “For further promotion of settlements in national currencies within the Eurasian space we need to create a Eurasian financial messaging system using our “regulatory sandboxes” capabilities, – he said.

The Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation Alexey Kudrin considers the EAEU’s task on deepening relations between the participating countries, eliminating barriers, forming common standards and new regulation models, in particular, within the financial market, to be an element of integration.

Whereas the Eurasian integration heavily relies upon its largest economy – the Russian economy, the Russian Federation shall, as a country creating the market for all countries, drive up rates of economic growth, remove barriers and enable the participants from the Union countries to access public procurement. “At this point, Russia shall sometimes make a compromise, then it will provide the impetus for the Union’s development”, – Alexey Kudrin believes.

The plenary session was also attended by the Deputy Minister of Finance of the Russian Federation Sergey Storchak, the Deputy Chairman of Vnesheconombank – Member of the Board Andrey Klepach, the Deputy Chairman of the Board of JSC “Development Bank of Kazakhstan” Dmitry Babichev, and the Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the National Research University Higher School of Economics Sergey Karaganov.

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Rise of disinformation a symptom of ‘global diseases’ undermining public trust

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Societies everywhere are beset by “global diseases” including systemic inequality which have helped fuel a rise in disinformation, or the deliberate spreading of falsehoods, said the UN human rights chief on Tuesday, addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Michelle Bachelet said the restoration of public trust was essential, as disinformation should really be seen as a symptom of diseases such as systemic inequality, which has seen “deep-seated discrimination” flourish, along with fragile institutions, a loss of trust in effective governance, and “limited rule of law”.

She said those countries impacted by inequality were now threatened with instability and frayed co-existence within society.

Flourishing amid discontent

“Disinformation spreads when people feel that their voices are not heard. It arises in contexts where political disenchantment, economic disparity or social unrest flourish”, she said.

“It flourishes when civil society, journalists, human rights defenders and scientists cannot work, assemble and speak freely. When civic space is limited or closed. When the human rights to freedom of expression and access to information are threatened.”

It can be fuelled by governments and public officials, potentially leading to hate crimes and violence.

But she warned governments against trying to “officially ordain what is false, and what is true, and then attach legal consequences to those determinations. Our human right to access and impart information, is not limited to only what is deemed by the State as ‘accurate’”.

She called for a focus on “assessing how communications are being revolutionized by technology and on unpacking who is responsible for what.

“We need to look at how best to contain the harms caused by disinformation, while addressing the underlying causes that give disinformation life and allow it to gain traction.”

She said the sheer speed and volume of information circulating online, meant that it could be easily manipulated, with campaigns using automatic tools, rapidly creating a “false impressions of broad popular support for or against certain ideas, or be used to counter and marginalise dissident voices and ideas.”

Organized disinformation campaigns are also being used to silence rights defenders, journalists, and minority voices, “and as a result of repeated attacks, women, minority communities and others can be deterred from participating in the public sphere.”

Fighting back

The international response has to be consistent with universal rights obligations, she warned.

“When we debate the best ways to respond, we need to understand that censorship is not only an ineffective medicine – it can actually harm the patient.” Freedom of expression and the right to access information are essential, she underscored.

“I therefore call on States to uphold their international obligation to promote and protect these rights, whatever the social ill they seek to mitigate. Maintaining a vibrant and pluralistic civic space will be crucial in this endeavour.”

She called for policies which support independent journalism, pluralism in media, and digital literacy, which can help citizens “navigate” the online world and boost critical thinking.

“States must also ensure wide and free access to information so that it reaches all communities and constituencies…Trust can never be achieved without genuine government transparency.”

Social media regulation ‘insufficient’

The human rights chief said that social media businesses have transformed the way information circulates, “and they have a clear role to play.”

“To start with, we must understand better how they affect our national and global debates. While platforms have taken welcome steps to enhance their own transparency, and redress channels, progress remains insufficient.

She called for independent auditing of social media companies’ services and operations, and more clarity on the way advertising and personal data is being handled.

“And we need access for researchers and others to the data within companies, that can help us better understand and address disinformation.”

Two steps

Ms. Bachelet told the Human Rights Council that there are two “critical needs” in the battle against rising disinformation.

First, we need to deepen our understanding and knowledge: we need more research on how the digital sphere has transformed media and information flows; on how best to build public trust within this environment; and on how different actors can contribute to countering disinformation operations.”

Secondly, she said all discussions had to be framed within human rights norms. “Shortcuts do not work here: censorship and broad content take-downs are an ineffective and dangerous response.”

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Import Control System 2 (ICS2) Release 2: New requirements for inbound air shipments to the EU

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From 1 March 2023, all freight forwarders, air carriers, express couriers, and postal operators transporting goods to or through the European Union (including Norway and Switzerland) will be required to submit advance cargo information in the form of a complete entry summary declaration (ENS), under the second phase of the EU’s new customs pre-arrival security and safety programme – Import Control System 2 (ICS2) Release 2.

Economic operators’ responsibility to comply with ICS2 Release 2 requirements

From 1 March 2023, economic operators involved in handling, sending, shipping and transporting cargo, express or postal consignments to or via the EU by air have to comply with new advance data reporting requirements for pre-loading and pre-arrival customs risk assessments.

By collecting data about all goods entering the EU prior to their loading and arrival, ICS2 supports effective risk-based customs controls while facilitating free flow of legitimate trade across the EU’s external borders. ICS2 will simplify the movement of goods between customs offices at the first point of entry and final destination in the EU. For economic operators, ICS2 will streamline requests for additional information and pre-departure risk screening by customs authorities.

In addition to air carriers’ ENS filing responsibilities under the multiple filing regime of Release 2, freight forwarders, express couriers, and postal operators will also be legally responsible for providing data. They either have to share it with the air carriers, who will then complete the ENS filing requirements, or submit the data directly to ICS2. Postal operators and express couriers, who have previously been declaring partial information regarding inbound shipments (under ICS2 Phase 1), will now also be required to coordinate with their air carrier to submit all required data.  

Those in the air transport sector who are currently filing advance cargo information into Import Control System (ICS) will have to gradually start filing this data into ICS2 during the operational roll-out of Release 2.

Preparing for ICS2 Release 2: Conformance Testing

Economic operators are strongly advised to prepare in advance for Release 2, in order to avoid the risk of delays and non-compliance.

To help prepare for the introduction of ICS2 Release 2, the European Commission will make available a conformance testing environment from July 2022 until February 2023, to be able to verify the economic operator’s ability to access and exchange messages with customs authorities through the intended ICS2 trader interface. This conformance testing is mandatory for all economic operators concerned.

Economic operators responsible for filing ENS data to ICS2 should determine whether they have an existing Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number. If not, they should contact the EU customs authority of their choice to get this number and to receive support in preparing for ICS2 Release 2. They should also evaluate their trade operations for the handling of imports into the EU and contact their selected customs authority to connect and take part in the upcoming Release 2 conformance testing.

What is ICS2 Release 2?

The EU Import Control System 2 (ICS2) is a large-scale initiative to enhance customs oversight of the movement of goods prior to their arrival at the EU external borders (air, maritime, land and inland waterways). ICS2 enables customs authorities to identify high-risk consignments that necessitate early intervention, while facilitating legitimate trade into the customs territory of the EU, Norway, and Switzerland.

The system is being implemented in three releases. Having successfully completed Release 1 covering the pre-loading process for postal and express consignments by air on 15 March 2021, Release 2 is the next step in the system’s implementation, and it will go live on 1 March 2023. Release 3 will be implemented from 1 March 2024, requiring operators carrying goods on maritime and inland waterways, roads and railways to comply with the new regulations.

The European Commission is leading the operational delivery of ICS2 in close collaboration with customs authorities in Member States, Norway and Switzerland and industry stakeholders.

Two detailed factsheets are available to guide through the procedures related to ICS2 Release 2:

  • Factsheet 1: What economic operators who are directly affected by the second release need to do to get their IT systems ready in time.

For further information please visit (link)

  • Factsheet 2: What the new data reporting requirements are under Release 2 for freight forwarders, EU express couriers, postal operators with facilities outside the EU, and air carriers, irrespective of whether these operators are legally established within or outside of the European Union. For further information please visit (link)
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Energy News

Dream of unlimited, clean nuclear fusion energy within reach

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by Gareth Willmer

The old joke is that nuclear fusion is always 30 years away. Yet the dream of abundant clean energy is no laughing matter as we meet an ITER researcher to catch up on progress at the reactor facility.

The Sun has fuelled life on Earth for billions of years, creating light and heat through nuclear fusion. Given that incredible power and longevity, it seems there can hardly be a better way to generate energy than by harnessing the same nuclear processes that occur in our own and other stars.

Nuclear fusion reactors aim to replicate this process by fusing hydrogen atoms to create helium, releasing energy in the form of heat. Sustaining this at scale has the potential to produce a safe, clean, almost inexhaustible power source.

The quest began decades ago, but could a long-running joke that nuclear fusion is always 30 years away soon start to look old?

Some hope so, following a major breakthrough during a nuclear-fusion experiment in late 2021. This came at the Joint European Torus (JET) research facility in Oxfordshire, UK, in a giant, doughnut-shaped machine called a tokamak.

Inside, superheated gases called plasmas are generated in which the fusion reactions take place, containing charged particles that are held in place by powerful magnetic fields. Such plasmas can reach temperatures of 150 million degrees Celsius, an unfathomable 10 times hotter than the Sun’s core. 

In a sustained five-second burst, researchers in the EUROfusion consortium released a record-breaking 59 megajoules (MJ) of fusion energy. This was almost triple the previous 21.7 MJ record set at the same facility in 1997, with the results touted as ‘the clearest demonstration in a quarter of a century of the potential for fusion energy to deliver safe and sustainable low-carbon energy’. Follow the link to learn more about the successful nuclear fusion experiment at JET.

The results provided a major boost ahead of the next phase of nuclear fusion’s development. A larger and more advanced version of JET known as ITER (meaning “The Way” in Latin) is under construction on a 180-hectare site in Saint-Paul-lès-Durance, southern France.

ITER, which is being built as a collaboration between 35 nations, including those in the EU, is aimed at further firming up the concept of fusion. One of the most complicated machines ever to be created, it was scheduled to start generating its first plasma in 2025 before entering into high-power operation around 2035 – although researchers on the project expect some delays because of the pandemic.

Major milestone

The results at JET represent a major landmark, said Professor Tony Donné, programme manager of the EUROfusion project, a major consortium of 4 800 experts, students and facilities across Europe. ‘It’s a huge milestone – the biggest for a long time,’ he said.

‘It’s confirmed all the modelling, so it has really increased confidence that ITER will work and do what it’s meant to do.’ While the energy generated at JET lasted just a few seconds, the aim is to ramp this up to a sustained reaction that produces energy.

The results were the culmination of years of preparation, with Prof Donné explaining that one of the key developments since 1997 involved changing the inner wall of the JET vessel.

Previously, the wall was made of carbon, but this proved too reactive with the fuel mix of deuterium and tritium, two heavier isotopes  – or variants – of hydrogen used in the fusion reaction. This resulted in the formation of hydrocarbons, locking up the tritium fuel in the wall.

In the rebuild, which involved 16 000 components and 4 000 tonnes of metal, the carbon was replaced with beryllium and tungsten to reduce tritium retention. Ultimately, the team was able to cut the amount of trapped fuel by a large multiple, contributing to the success of the recent fusion shot. 

DEMO run

In preparation for the next stage of fusion’s epic journey, upgrades to JET ensured that its configuration aligns with the plans for ITER. Further in the future, the next step beyond ITER will be a demonstration power plant known as DEMO, designed to send electricity into the grid – leading on to fusion plants becoming a commercial and industrial reality.

‘ITER is a device which will create 10 times more fusion energy than the energy used to heat the plasma,’ said Prof Donné. ‘But as it is an experimental facility, it will not deliver electricity to the grid. For that, we need another device, which we call DEMO. This will really bring us to the foundations for the first generation of fusion power plants.’ 

Prof Donné added: ‘JET has shown now that fusion is plausible. ITER has to show that it’s further feasible, and DEMO will need to demonstrate that it really works.’

Planned to provide up to 500 megawatts (MW) to the grid, he thinks it is realistic for DEMO to come into operation around 2050. ‘We hope to build DEMO much faster than we built ITER, making (use of the) lessons learned,’ he said.

Yet there are other key challenges to overcome on the way to getting nuclear fusion up and running. Not least is that while deuterium is abundant in seawater, tritium is extremely scarce and difficult to produce.

The researchers therefore plan to develop a way of generating it inside the tokamak, using a ‘breeding blanket’ containing lithium. The idea is that high-energy neutrons from the fusion reactions will interact with the lithium to create tritium.

Essential energy

Prof Donné said nuclear fusion could prove a pivotal green and sustainable energy source for the future. ‘I would say it’s essential,’ he said. ‘I’m not convinced that by 2050 we can make the carbon dioxide transition with only renewables, and we need other things.’

And although he says the current method of creating nuclear energy through fission is becoming safer and safer, fusion has key advantages. Proponents for ITER talk of benefits such as an absence of meltdown risk, adding that nuclear fusion does not produce long-lived radioactive waste and that reactor materials can be recycled or reused within 100 to 300 years.

‘It’s definitely much safer,’ said Prof Donné. Referencing the stigma carried by nuclear energy, he said, ‘What we see when we interact with the public is that people very often haven’t heard about nuclear fusion. But when we explain the pros and cons, then I think people get positive.’

Referring to Lev Artsimovich, dubbed the “father of the tokamak”, he said, ‘Artsimovich always said fusion will be there when society really needs it. If we get fusion up and running, then really we have a very safe and clean energy source which can give us energy for thousands of years.’

The research in this article was funded by the EU. This article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.  

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