Saudi Arabia Issues Euro-denominated Bonds for 1st Time

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Saudi Arabia Issues Euro-denominated Bonds for 1st Time

Tuesday, 2 July, 2019 – 11:30
Saudi Market Tadawul. AFP file photo
Riyadh – Asharq Al-Awsat
Saudi Arabia has issued Euro-denominated bonds, its first in that currency, after the Kingdom hired Goldman Sachs and Societe Generale as global coordinators and bookrunners for the potential new deal, while BNP Paribas, Morgan Stanley and Samba Capital were mandated as lead managers and passive bookrunners.

The Saudi issuance of Euro-denominated bonds in tranches of eight and 20 years, depending on market conditions, comes at a time when the country was rated A1 by Moody’s and A + by Fitch Ratings.

Saudi Arabia has begun its approach to global markets by issuing bonds and sukuk in the dollar, and through the Euro-bonds, the country seeks to diversify its investor base, reduce costs and open up new markets, according to experts.

Financial expert Mohammed al-Omran explained that Saudi Arabia announced that it will target international markets and foreign currencies. He added that the euro-bonds will be relatively distant from the dollar-bonds, stressing that the goal is to diversify the currency, reduce cost and establish relations with new markets.

Omran indicated that euro’s current comparative advantage is the lower interest rates, less than 1 percent, while interest on the dollar is about 2 percent, noting that savings will be 1.25 percent per year in euros compared to the dollar.

For his part, economic expert Mohammed Al Abbas indicated that major institutions and banks are racing to enter the Saudi market which is trying to attract international investments and foreign funds, as investors seek confidence in the economy.

He stated that the rush on the Saudi market is an indication on high confidence that large companies and investors have in the Kingdom

He stressed that Saudi Arabia is interested in encouraging foreign investments and entering the European markets through Euro-bonds.

Bonds are low-risk financial instruments and can be disposed at any time, in addition that countries that issue the bonds are obliged to pay them according to the issuance date, according to economic expert Khalaf al-Shammari.

The euro market is characterized by a variety of investors from new institutions and portfolios, which analysts believe Saudi Arabia can take advantage of.

UK Do Yourself A Favor: Throw The Trump Mafia Out Of Your Country Now

UK Do Yourself A Favor: Throw The Trump Mafia Out Of Your Country Now

 

This article to you today is simply an opinion piece about our Coward in Chief visiting your country right now. If you have a different opinion of the man and his family that is fine, people have different opinions about everything that exist, this article is simply my opinion on our Piece of Trash President and his equally crooked family members.

 

The first thing that England did wrong was to allow his plane to land there at all, they should have never even allow him into their air space. I would like to be able to say “the man” but I do not consider him to be a man, just an immature slimy crooked to the core piece of human trash. Before he even landed he called one of the Princesses a fowl name, then he blasted the Mayor of London as a ‘stone cold loser’. Then he lands and he tells the Prime Minister that if he was her he would never pay the $50 billion ‘separation fee’ that it seems the EU is wanting to lay on the British people for the concept of them getting their freedom back from that block. Personally I am not even a little bit surprised that he would condone not paying a bill as this has been this crooks MO since he was a very young person. He has a major habit of having people work for him like outside contractors do, and then stiff them when it is time to pay them. Usually he will use the excuse of he is not happy with their work so he isn’t paying and if they wish they can sue him for it. He knows most all people, especially the ‘little people’ can not afford to do that so they don’t. Pay half up front, then never pay the rest, that is simply the way he operates. One of the funny things I noticed in the news today is how he is upset that he cannot watch Fox News while in the UK as the UK banned them many months ago labeling them as nothing but a ‘Propaganda’ Network. Personally I wish they would also ban Twitter being that Twitter has done nothing but give him a channel to propagate his ignorance to the masses. To me, Twitter and Trump belong together as they both constantly prove that they have no ethics or morals as long as they are making money. Okay, that is the end of my gripe for the day, I figure that probably about half of you got a good laugh as you agreed with me or you’re one of the other half who is pissed off at me because I have a different opinion about him than you do. That is fair, as long as you are being honest with yourself. Happy Monday everyone.

Britain Elections: Tories and Labour punished for Brexit contortions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

European elections 2019: Tories and Labour punished for Brexit contortions

Nigel FarageImage copyright PA

The scrap has started.

Were these results an overwhelming cry for us to leave the EU whatever the cost? Or a sign, with some slightly convoluted arithmetic, that the country now wants another referendum to stop Brexit all together?

Guess what, the situation is not quite so black and white, whatever you will hear in the coming hours about the meaning of these numbers.

The Brexit Party’s success was significant – topping the poll, successfully building on Nigel Farage’s inheritance from UKIP. As a one-issue party, his new group is the biggest single winner.

But the Lib Dems, Greens, Plaid and SNP – all parties advocating the opposite – were victors too.

Those who have been clearly pushing the case for another referendum in order to slam the brakes on Brexit have, this morning, a new confidence, a vigour with which they will keep making their case.

Smashed

While those two sides fight over this election’s true meaning, what is clear is that the two biggest parties have been damaged by their various contortions over Brexit, punished by the fiasco at Westminster, and beaten by rivals who have offered clarity while they have tried to find nuanced ways through.

The Tories’ performance is historically dreadful. This is not just a little embarrassment or hiccup. In these elections the governing party has been completely smashed.

And for the main opposition to have failed to make any mileage out of the Tories’ political distress is poor too – with historic humiliations in Scotland and Wales for Labour as well.

There is immediate pressure, of course, on Labour to argue more clearly for another referendum, to try to back Remain, to shore up that part of their coalition. The dilemmas over doing so still apply even though more and more senior figures in the party are making the case.

Shades of grey

And with the success of The Brexit Party, there is a push for the Tories to be willing to leave the EU without a deal whatever the potentially grave economic costs.

The Tory leadership contest in the wake of these results runs the risk of turning into bragging rights over who can take a harder line on Brexit.

In these elections it seems both of our main Westminster parties have been punished for trying to paint shades of grey when the referendum choice was between black and white. And there is a chance that encourages both of them to give up fighting for the middle.

But that could set our politics on a course where, whatever happens, half of the country will be unhappy. Nothing about these dramatic results sketches out a straightforward route.

England: Prime Minister May And The U.K. In Crisis Over Brexit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TH NEW YORK TIMES)

 

LONDON — The chaos and dysfunction of the British government were on full display on Wednesday, with Prime Minister Theresa May requesting a short delay to Britain’s departure from the European Union after a bitter dispute in her cabinet over her plan for a lengthier extension.

The deadlock in the cabinet underscored the political crisis gripping the government as the deadline for Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc draws ever closer. Even Mrs. May’s spokesman acknowledged as much, saying the prime minister had warned this could happen if her Brexit plan were rejected.

In a letter to European Union leaders, Mrs. May asked for an extension to the Article 50 negotiating process until June 30, raising the prospect that Britain could still suffer a disorderly departure in the summer. Reflecting that possibility, the British pound dropped on the news.

The prospect of any delay to Brexit, as Britain’s departure from the bloc is known, is a broad and humiliating reversal for Mrs. May. It is sure to infuriate many members of her Conservative Party, most of whom support leaving the European Union with no deal if necessary, and to reaffirm the cynicism, rampant among many of the 17.4 million Britons who voted to leave, that the elites in London would never let them have their way.

Her decision was sharply criticized by the opposition Labour Party and by some of her own lawmakers.

“Theresa May is desperate once again to impose a binary choice between her deal and no deal despite Parliament clearly ruling out both of those options last week,” the shadow secretary for Brexit, Keir Starmer, said in a statement. “What the government should be doing is showing real leadership, making good on their commitment to break the deadlock and secure an extension with a genuine purpose.”

Limiting the request to a short delay is the latest in a series of political gyrations from Mrs. May. Last week she said that, if Parliament failed to vote swiftly for her plans — which have been rejected twice — then Britain would face a lengthy delay and have to take part in European elections in May.

It was that prospect that triggered a rebellion from Brexit supporters in her cabinet on Tuesday — and reports of resignation threats — that appear to have prompted another retreat. “As prime minister, I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than 30 June,” Mrs. May told lawmakers, prompting some speculation that she might resign if Parliament tried to force a longer extension.

A short delay will keep alive hopes among hard-line Brexit supporters in Parliament, who want to leave without any agreement, and they will be under little pressure now to approve Mrs. May’s deal.

Though the political paralysis over Brexit is in Parliament, the decision on whether to grant the delay lies with the European Union, whose leaders had been expected to agree to some sort of extra time when they gather in Brussels on Thursday. But that could now be in doubt.

Speaking to the German radio station Deutschlandfunk on Wednesday, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said that any decision by the European Union might have to be postponed until the end of next week, after fresh votes in Parliament. That could be on the eve of Britain’s departure, scheduled for March 29.

An extension could come with conditions, and European leaders stressed on Tuesday that they want to see some form of strategy in place to resolve the crisis. They worry that three months is not sufficient for Mrs. May to achieve success, and that she will be back to request another delay in the summer. That would be hard for them to accommodate for legal reasons, because Britain would not have participated in European elections.

Mrs. May faced criticism from all sides in Parliament on Wednesday. Several lawmakers noted that her decision directly contradicts a statement last week by David Lidington, her de facto deputy, who said that, in the absence of a deal, seeking such “a short and, critically, one-off extension would be downright reckless.” To do so, Mr. Lidington had said, would make “a no-deal scenario far more, rather than less, likely.”

But one pro-Brexit Conservative, Peter Bone, argued that if Mrs. May failed to honor her promise to achieve Brexit by March 29, she would be “betraying the British people.”

Since becoming prime minister in 2016, Mrs. May’s overriding objective has been to extricate Britain from the bloc while maintaining the unity of her Conservative Party.

European leaders will consider Mrs. May’s request for a delay in Brexit.CreditMatt Dunham/Associated Press
Image
European leaders will consider Mrs. May’s request for a delay in Brexit.CreditMatt Dunham/Associated Press

By beginning the negotiations in March 2017, she committed herself to an exit by March 29, 2019, within the two years dictated by the bloc’s rules, either with or without an agreement — a promise that critics have pounced on as one of her many misjudgments.

She has largely failed in that mission, and the underlying political problem for Mrs. May remains unresolved. There is no majority in Parliament for any approach other than a “soft” Brexit, with Britain staying in the bloc’s customs union and close to its single market. But that would require cross-party cooperation and would surely rip apart the Tories.

On the other hand, if a hard-liner like the former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, should supplant Mrs. May, that would just as surely prompt widespread resignations and defections among pro-European Conservatives.

Mrs. May is hoping she can still salvage something from the wreckage of her Brexit negotiations by making the delay a short one. Extra time would at least stave off the prospect of a disorderly, economically costly Brexit with no deal next week, which Parliament has made clear it wants to avoid.

Continental economies would be hit too, if not as severely as Britain’s, by a departure without a deal, so European Union leaders are unlikely to rebuff Mrs. May completely. But their patience is being sorely tested.

Mrs. May is likely to try to return to Parliament next week and stage another vote on her deal, even though it has been rejected twice by lawmakers by large margins.

Her plan would give Britain power over immigration from Europe at some point, but would tie the country to the European Union’s customs and trade rules until the end of 2020.

On Monday, the speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, said the prime minister could not put her deal to a third vote this week, citing parliamentary rules devised in 1604 to prohibit multiple votes on the same proposition.

Depending on what the talks with the European Union yield, Mrs. May could return with a changed proposition by next week, making it harder for Mr. Bercow to block another effort by Mrs. May to get a vote in Parliament.

If her deal is rejected again by lawmakers, Mrs. May could be forced to change tack, and perhaps allow Parliament to consider other options, like keeping closer economic ties to the European Union.

Mrs. May, nothing if not stubborn, is not giving up on her unpopular blueprint for Brexit. Indeed, she excels at buying more time, and a delay would give her at least a couple of more weeks to resolve the crisis.

Like most everything else with Brexit, the process of requesting and granting an extension is no simple matter, which helps explain why it created such bitter divisions in the cabinet on Tuesday.

For legal reasons, a delay beyond the end of June would be likely to require Britain to participate in elections to the next European Parliament, making a mockery of British plans to leave the bloc.

But as another legal matter, a decision on whether to stage the elections — and effectively to go for a longer delay — must be made during the second week of April. The Brexiteers want to use the upcoming European elections as a sort of backstop, to borrow a phrase, to force Britain to leave, since it would be legally problematic to remain in the bloc without representatives in the European Parliament.

If a long delay would be awkward for Britain, it is not straightforward for the European Union either. It would mean the British enjoy the full rights of membership despite their efforts to leave the club.

In that event, European officials are concerned that Britain might try to use its power to paralyze the bloc’s other business as leverage to extract more concessions on its exit deal.

READ 72 COMMENTS

Top European Rabbi sounds alarm on rise of far right

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Top European rabbi sounds alarm on rise of far right

‘We’re going back to 1914,’ says Pinchas Goldschmidt; laments EU’s instability and that the US ‘replaced the State Department with Twitter’

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, seen writing a new Torah scroll at an event attended by Israeli and European rabbis, marking the Hebrew date of 69 years since the liberation of Jews in Europe, in the Western Wall tunnels, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 21, 2014. (Flash90)

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, seen writing a new Torah scroll at an event attended by Israeli and European rabbis, marking the Hebrew date of 69 years since the liberation of Jews in Europe, in the Western Wall tunnels, in Jerusalem’s Old City, May 21, 2014. (Flash90)

Today’s political climate poses a genuine danger to democracy, according to a leading European rabbi, who warned of a return to “total dictatorships” such as those that existed before World War I.

“We live in a totally new world where there is no control or editing of any kind of information,” said Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis. “The public discourse has become much more shrill and extreme. What has been accepted and understood as being the basis of a liberal democracy yesterday is questioned today.”

In a recent interview with The Times of Israel, the Swiss-born scholar and communal leader also criticized the US administration for “replacing” the State Department with Twitter, said the European Union was “not stable,” and warned the State of Israel against warming up to far-right parties, saying the Jewish state must never place short-term political gains ahead of historical truth.

Speaking about the rise of populist far-right parties across Europe, Goldschmidt indicated that the continent is returning to an age of unbridled nationalism mixed with racism.

“We’re going back to the past; we’re going back to 1914 in Europe. I don’t think we can exclude the turn to total dictatorships, where the situation of Jewish communities is going to become similar to those times when there were no democratic governments,” he said. However, he added that there is one caveat, in that “today you have the State of Israel, you have where to go.”

His fears of Western democracy collapsing are based on recent political and societal developments, he explained.

“The memory of the Holocaust and World War II and World War I is receding. People are living well. People’s attention spans, thanks to the internet, has gone down. Instead of reading books, people read headlines. Instead of getting information, people get opinions and tweets,” he said.

Even the US administration has “replaced the State Department with Twitter,” he lamented, referring to policy decision and diplomatic repartee on the micro-blogging platform.

“I am not painting a black future. I’m saying there are big dangers,” stressed Goldschmidt, who has headed the Conference of European Rabbis since 2011.

“The European Union is not stable; we’re dealing now with Brexit,” he added, noting that many far-right parties on the content advocate leaving the EU and want to “go back to 1914, where it was every country on their own.”

Nationalism in itself is not bad, but it becomes problematic when it is mixed with racism and threatens the foundations of democracy, said the rabbi, who has written several books on religion and politics.

King Felipe VI of Spain (R) shakes hands with CER President Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, at the Royal Palace El Pardo near Madrid, Spain, on December 13, 2016. (World Jewish Congress/File)

The walls that separate between the judiciary, the executive, and the legislative “are being broken down,” and the free press in under attack in today’s Western world, he went on. “All the institutions which give a guarantee to every citizen, and specifically to religious minorities, are in danger.”

Last month, Goldschmidt, who was born in Zurich and has served as the chief rabbi of Moscow since 1993, headed a delegation of the Conference of European Rabbis to Israel, which met with President Reuven Rivlin, Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, and other senior government officials.

In Jerusalem, Goldschmidt announced the appointment of an “ambassador” to coordinate the campaign “against far-right ideologies and extremism.”

This person, who has not yet been named, “will bring together leading politicians and stakeholders from across Europe to make sure that we are equipped to take action against the far-right,” according to Goldschmidt.

Rabbi Goldschmidt, second from left, visits the Knesset as head of a European rabbinical delegation, November 2018. (Eli Itkin/CER)

At their meetings in Israel, the rabbis warned the government against cozying up to such parties, even when they purport to support Israel.

“If a party is intrinsically racist, bigoted against large parts of society and intolerant of minorities, if Jews are not the target now, they will be in the near future,” he said in a press release issued in late November.

“Israel is uniquely placed to put diplomatic pressure on a state and she needs to be careful, take the lead from local communities and analyze a party’s approach and make a long-term decision. It is not worth a short-term endorsement or for Israel to receive political support, only to put the Jewish community at risk.”

Speaking to The Times of Israel in the lobby of his Jerusalem hotel, Goldschmidt also cautioned against establishing contacts with Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, who is not a member of but affiliated with the far-right Freedom Party, or FPOe.

Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl (George Schneider)

“The FPOe was founded by SS officers. Some politicians in Israel are talking about mending relationship with the Diaspora. Supporting them would do just the opposite,” he said.

Goldschmidt was careful not to openly criticize the Israeli government, but he did express understanding for critics of some Israeli decisions, such as a July joint statement Jerusalem issued together with Warsaw about the role of Poles in the Holocaust.

At the time, Yad Vashem slammed the document for containing “highly problematic wording that contradicts existing and accepted historical knowledge in this field.”

He also had some misgiving about Israel seemingly turning a blind eye to distortion of the Holocaust in some Central and Eastern European countries in exchange for diplomatic support.

“It is natural that current political necessities do take precedence over historical rights and wrongs,” Goldschmidt said. “Not all Jews are religious. Many Jews are secular. However, if there is something that is holy to all of us, it is the memory of the Holocaust victims. And that’s something we should not play with.”

Israel derives its strength not only from its thriving start-up scene or its military, the rabbi went on.

“It’s its morality. The morality and historic justice of a persecuted people returning to their homeland after 2,000 years of exile, and I believe that the Israeli government, when formulating foreign policy, should include all historical and moral aspects of Jewish history in order to form a policy which is not only acceptable today, but also for the future.”

READ MORE:

Faroe Islands: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This North Atlantic Island Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK)

 

Faroe Islands

Introduction The population of the Faroe Islands is largely descended from Viking settlers who arrived in the 9th century. The islands have been connected politically to Denmark since the 14th century. A high degree of self-government was attained in 1948.
History The early history of the Faroe Islands is not well-known. Irish hermits (monks) settled in the sixth century, introducing sheep and oats and the early Irish language to the islands. Saint Brendan, who lived circa 484–578, is said to have visited the Faroe Islands on two or three occasions (512-530 AD), naming two of the islands Sheep Island and Paradise Island of Birds.

Later (~650 AD) the Vikings replaced the early Irish and their settlers, bringing the Old Norse language to the islands, which locally evolved into the modern Faroese language spoken today. The settlers are not thought to have come directly from Norway, but rather from the Norwegian settlements in Shetland, Orkney, and around the Irish Sea, and to have been so-called Norse-Gaels.

According to Færeyinga Saga, emigrants who left Norway to escape the tyranny of Harald I of Norway settled in the islands about the end of the ninth century. Early in the eleventh century, Sigmund, whose family had flourished in the southern islands but had been almost exterminated by invaders from the northern islands, escaped to Norway and was sent back to take possession of the islands for Olaf Tryggvason, king of Norway. He introduced Christianity and, though he was subsequently murdered, Norwegian supremacy was upheld. Norwegian control of the islands continued until 1380, when Norway entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark, which gradually evolved into Danish control of the islands. The reformation reached the Faroes in 1538. When the union between Denmark and Norway was dissolved as a result of the Treaty of Kiel in 1814, Denmark retained possession of the Faroe Islands.

The trade monopoly in the Faroe Islands was abolished in 1856 and the country has since then developed towards a modern fishing nation with its own fleet. The national awakening since 1888 was first based on a struggle for the Faroese language, and thus more culturally oriented, but after 1906 was more and more politically oriented with the foundation of the political parties of the Faroe Islands.

On April 12, 1940, the Faroes were occupied by British troops. The move followed the invasion of Denmark by Nazi Germany and had the objective of strengthening British control of the North Atlantic (see Second Battle of the Atlantic). In 1942–43 the British Royal Engineers built the only airport in the Faroes, Vágar Airport. Control of the islands reverted to Denmark following the war, but in 1948 a home-rule regime was implemented granting a high degree of local autonomy. The Faroes declined to join Denmark in entering the European Community (now European Union) in 1973. The islands experienced considerable economic difficulties following the collapse of the fishing industry in the early 1990s, but have since made efforts to diversify the economy. Support for independence has grown and is the objective of the government.

Geography Location: Northern Europe, island group between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, about one-half of the way from Iceland to Norway
Geographic coordinates: 62 00 N, 7 00 W
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 1,399 sq km
land: 1,399 sq km
water: 0 sq km (some lakes and streams)
Area – comparative: eight times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 1,117 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or agreed boundaries or median line
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm or agreed boundaries or median line
Climate: mild winters, cool summers; usually overcast; foggy, windy
Terrain: rugged, rocky, some low peaks; cliffs along most of coast
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Slaettaratindur 882 m
Natural resources: fish, whales, hydropower, possible oil and gas
Land use: arable land: 2.14%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 97.86% (2005)
Irrigated land: 0 sq km
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: NA
Environment – international agreements: party to: Marine Dumping associate member to the London Convention and Ship Pollution
Geography – note: archipelago of 17 inhabited islands and one uninhabited island, and a few uninhabited islets; strategically located along important sea lanes in northeastern Atlantic; precipitous terrain limits habitation to small coastal lowlands
People Population: 47,511 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 20.6% (male 4,882/female 4,904)
15-64 years: 65.3% (male 16,353/female 14,668)
65 years and over: 14.1% (male 3,041/female 3,663) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 35 years
male: 34.8 years
female: 35.3 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.543% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 14.12 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 8.69 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 0.996 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.115 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.83 male(s)/female
total population: 1.045 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 6.01 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.25 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.76 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.49 years
male: 76.06 years
female: 82.93 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.15 children born/woman

Indians get more UK visas as European Union citizens exit over Brexit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Indians get more UK visas as European Union citizens exit over Brexit

Indians were granted the highest number of visitor visas during the year ending September 2018: up 41,224 (or 10%) to 4,68,923; Chinese and Indian nationals alone accounted for just under half (47%) of all visit visas granted.

WORLD Updated: Nov 29, 2018 22:07 IST

Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Indian,UK visa,European Union
New figures released on Thursday show a rise in the number of visas granted to Indian professionals, visitors, students and family members, but also reflect the Brexit reality of more EU citizens leaving the United Kingdom.(File Photo)

New figures released on Thursday show a rise in the number of visas granted to Indian professionals, visitors, students and family members, but also reflect the Brexit reality of more EU citizens leaving the United Kingdom.

Indians were granted the highest number of visitor visas during the year ending September 2018: up 41,224 (or 10%) to 4,68,923; Chinese and Indian nationals alone accounted for just under half (47%) of all visit visas granted.

The demand for Indian professionals continued during the year, with 55 per cent of all Tier 2 (skilled) visas granted to them, the figures released by the Office for National Statistics show.

The number of Indian students coming to study at UK universities also showed a 33 per cent rise, to 18,735. Chinese and Indian students accounted for almost half of all students visas granted during the year.

There was also an increase in the family-related visas for Indians (up 881 to 3,574). The number of EEA family permits given to Indians (members of families of EU citizens) was also up 4,245 to 8,360, official sources said.

Figures showing more EU citizens leaving than arriving in the UK prompted renewed concern over the impact of Brexit. The net migration from the EU to the UK slumped to a six-year low, while non-EU migration is the highest in more than a decade.

Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said: “EU migrants have been leaving in larger numbers since the referendum, and net inflows have greatly decreased”.

“The lower value of the pound is likely to have made the UK a less attractive place to live and work and economic conditions in several of the top countries of origin for EU migrants have improved”.

First Published: Nov 29, 2018 18:27 IST

Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home

Tuesday, 27 November, 2018 – 10:15
Lebanese President Aoun meets with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, and his accompanying delegation at Baabda. (Dalati & Nohra)
Beirut – Asharq Al-Awsat
Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Monday emphasized the need for Syrian refugees to return to safe areas in their country.

Aoun was speaking during a meeting at the Baabda palace with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, in the presence of his accompanying parliamentary delegation.

The president said linking the Syrian refugees’ return to their homeland to reaching a political solution in Syria “raises doubts regarding their stay in their host countries,” citing the example of the Palestinian refugees.

“Seventy years have passed and the solution of the Palestinian issue has not yet been reached,” he noted.

Aoun informed Bracke that Lebanon has asked the international community and the international organizations affiliated to the United Nations to provide assistance to the displaced Syrians after their return, because they are contributing to the reconstruction of their country.

In response to a question, Aoun expressed his surprise at “international positions that ignore the need for the return of Syria refugees.”

He stressed that Lebanon was witnessing an economic crisis due to accumulating challenges, the impact of the international economic situation and the influx of displaced Syrians.

Bracke, for his part, said his country would become a member of the Security Council as of next January, and would contribute to supporting Lebanon’s causes at international platforms.

Also on Monday, Speaker Nabih Berri and Bracke signed a three-year extension to 2021 of a partnership protocol between the two countries’ councils, which provides for parliamentary cooperation in sharing expertise in legislation and supervision.

PLO Commander: We Support Russia’s Move to Revive Political Process

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

PLO Commander: We Support Russia’s Move to Revive Political Process

Sunday, 25 November, 2018 – 09:30
The Palestine Liberation Organization office is seen in Washington, U.S., November 19, 2017. (File Photo: Reuters)
Ramallah- Kifah Zboun
The Palestinian leadership supports any Russian move to revive the political process in order to bring an end to the Israeli occupation, said Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Youssef.

Speaking to Asharq al-Awsat, Abu Youssef stated that the PLO is confident of any role played by Russia and hopes that there will be a serious approach to starting a path leading to ending the occupation.

“We asked its (Russian) officials to join forces with most of the world’s countries in order to block US decisions against the Palestinian people and their rights,” asserted Abu Yusuf.

He described Russia as a “friendly country” of the Palestinians that has always supported the rights of the Palestinian people.

He explained that “basically we were looking forward to an effective Russian role within the mechanism of an international alternative to the path of the previous settlement, which was exclusively sponsored by the United States.”

“We expect Russia, China, the EU to be a major part of the international mechanism. We want an international role in the face of the deal of the century.”

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia would be ready to host a meeting between Palestinians and Israel and to act as a mediator.

“It is impossible to create stability in the Middle East, including in Libya and Iraq, without a solution to the oldest regional problem, the Palestinian problem,” Lavrov said on his trip to Rome.

“We support the need for a resumption of direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We confirm again our offer from several years ago to host a meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Russia without any preconditions,” asserted the Russian Minister.

It is not clear if Lavrov’s statement meant that Russia would play a role in the political process or merely an attempt to bring the views closer and break the deadlock.

A few weeks ago, Russia’s special envoy to the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, confirmed his country’s support for the initiative proposed by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to hold an “international peace conference.”

Bogdanov praised “Abbas’ wise stances that support stability in the region on the basis of the international legitimacy resolutions.”

The Russian official reiterated his country’s support for the Palestinian people and their right to determine their fate and to establish an independent state on the 1967 border, with Eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

Abbas is seeking to launch an international peace conference, which will result in an international mechanism involving the quartet committee, including the United States, and European and Arab states, consisting of five or seven states under the umbrella of the United Nations, which is at the heart of a political process with the Palestinians and Israelis.

Abbas tried to convince France of his initiative, but French President Emmanuel Macron was not convinced, unlike his predecessor, Francois Hollande, who launched a two-phase conference in 2016 and 2017.

The Palestinian President personally worked to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to launch an international peace conference using his influence in the region.

The Palestinian ambassador to Moscow Abed al-Hafeez Nofal said that Russia, and not just the US, now has an effective role in the region due to the great changes that have taken place in the Middle East.

US officials said President Donald Trump wanted to see the plan executed in February, but his advisers would prefer a more cautious approach, given the political crisis that swept through Israel over the past week.

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said that reaching peace is currently impossible and that Trump should focus his energy elsewhere until the Palestinians are ready to compromise.

“I think, personally, it is a waste of time,” Shaked said.

Abbas has repeatedly declared that he would not even listen to the plan after the US declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the US embassy to the city, and other decisions taken by the US administration against the Palestinian Authority.

Israel says Washington is the only country capable of overseeing negotiations.

Finland: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Ancient North European Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK)

 

Finland

Introduction Finland was a province and then a grand duchy under Sweden from the 12th to the 19th centuries, and an autonomous grand duchy of Russia after 1809. It won its complete independence in 1917. During World War II, it was able to successfully defend its freedom and resist invasions by the Soviet Union – albeit with some loss of territory. In the subsequent half century, the Finns made a remarkable transformation from a farm/forest economy to a diversified modern industrial economy; per capita income is now on par with Western Europe. A member of the European Union since 1995, Finland was the only Nordic state to join the euro system at its initiation in January 1999.
History Prehistory

Prehistoric red ochre painted rock art of moose, human figures and boats in Astuvansalmi in Ristiina, the Southern Savonia region from ca. 3800–2200 BCE

According to archaeological evidence, the area now composing Finland was first settled around 8500 BCE during the Stone Age as the ice shield of the last ice age receded. The earliest people were hunter-gatherers, living primarily off what the tundra and sea could offer. Pottery is known from around 5300 BCE (see Comb Ceramic Culture).The arrival of the Battle Axe culture (or Cord-Ceramic Culture) in southern coastal Finland around 3200 BCE may have coincided with the start of agriculture. However, the earliest certain records of agriculture are from the late third millennium BCE. Even with the introduction of agriculture, hunting and fishing continued to be important parts of the subsistence economy, especially in the northern and eastern parts of the country.

The Bronze Age (1500–500 BCE) and Iron Age (500 BCE–1200 CE) were characterised by extensive contacts with other cultures in the Fennoscandian and Baltic regions. There is no consensus on when Finno-Ugric languages and Indo-European languages were first spoken in the area of contemporary Finland.

Swedish era (until 1809)

The sea fortress of Suomenlinna was founded by a discusion of the Swedish Diet in 1747 as a defence works and naval base, to be built on the islands off Helsinki.

Sweden established its official rule of Finland in the 13th century by the crown. Swedish became a dominant language of the nobility, administration and education; Finnish was chiefly a language for the peasantry, clergy and local courts in predominantly Finnish-speaking countries. The Bishop of Turku was usually the most important person in Finland during the Catholic era.

The Middle Ages ended with the Reformation when the Finns gradually converted to Lutheranism. In the 16th century, Mikael Agricola published the first written works in Finnish. The first university in Finland, The Royal Academy of Turku, was established in 1640. In the 18th century, wars between Sweden and Russia led to occupation of Finland twice by Russian forces, known to the Finns as the Greater Wrath (1714–1721) and the Lesser Wrath (1742–1743). By this time “Finland” was the predominant term for the whole area from the Gulf of Bothnia to the Russian border.

Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire (1809–1917)

Main article: Grand Duchy of Finland

On March 29, 1809, after being conquered by the armies of Alexander I of Russia in the Finnish War, Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire until the end of 1917. During the Russian era, the Finnish language started to gain recognition, first probably to sever the cultural and emotional ties with Sweden and thereafter, from the 1860s onwards, as a result of a strong nationalism, known as the Fennoman movement. Milestones included the publication of what would become Finland’s national epic, the Kalevala, in 1835; and the Finnish language achieving equal legal status with Swedish in 1892.

Despite the Finnish famine of 1866-1868 – the last major famine in Europe – in which about 15 percent of the population died, political and economic development was rapid from the 1860s onwards. The disaster of famine led Russian Empire to ease regulation and investment rose in following decades.[7] The GDP per capita was still a half of United States and a third of Great Britain.

In 1906, universal suffrage was adopted in the Grand Duchy of Finland, the second country in the world where this happened. However, the relationship between the Grand Duchy and the Russian Empire soured when the Russian government made moves to restrict Finnish autonomy. For example, the universal suffrage was, in practice, virtually meaningless, since the emperor did not approve any of the laws adopted by the Finnish parliament. Desire for independence gained ground, first among radical nationalists and socialists.

Civil War (1917–1918) and early independence

On December 6, 1917, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Finland declared its independence, which was approved by Bolshevist Russia.

Contrary to Lenin’s and Finnish socialists’ expectations, the majority of Finns voted non-socialists parties in 1917 general elections. Soon in 1918, the violent wing of social democratic party started a coup, which led a brief but bitter Civil War that affected domestic politics for many decades afterwards. The Civil War was fought between “the Whites”, who were supported by Imperial Germany, and “the Reds”, supported by Bolshevist Russia. Eventually, the Whites overcame the Reds. The deep social and political enmity between the Reds and Whites remained. The civil war and activist expeditions (see Heimosodat) to the Soviet Union strained eastern relations.

After a brief flirtation with monarchy, Finland became a presidential republic, with Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg elected as its first president in 1919. The Finnish–Russian border was determined by the Treaty of Tartu in 1920, largely following the historic border but granting Pechenga (Finnish: Petsamo) and its Barents Sea harbour to Finland. Finnish democracy didn’t see any more Soviet coup attempts and survived the anti-Communist Lapua Movement. The relationship between Finland and the Soviet Union was tense. Finnish ethnicity was targeted by genocide in the Soviet Union, though little of that was known in Finland. Finland disliked all forms of socialism, leading Germany’s national socialism to deteriorate relations with Germany. Military was trained in France instead and relations to Western Europe and Sweden were strengthened.

In 1917 the population was 3 million. Land reform was enacted after the civil war, increasing the percantage of capital-owning population.[7] About 70% of workers were occupied in agriculture and 10% in industry.[8] The largest export markets were United Kingdom and Germany. Great Depression in the early ’30s was relatively light in Finland.

Finland during World War II

During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union twice: in the Winter War of 1939–40 after the Soviet Union had attacked Finland and in the Continuation War of 1941–44, following Operation Barbarossa in which Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Following German losses on the Eastern Front and the subsequent Soviet advance, Finland was forced to make peace with the Soviet Union. This was followed by the Lapland War of 1944–45, when Finland forced the Germans out of northern Finland.

The treaties signed in 1947 and 1948 with the Soviet Union included Finnish obligations, restraints, and reparations as well as further Finnish territorial concessions (cf. the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940). Finland ceded most of Finnish Karelia, Salla, and Pechenga, which amounted to ten percent of its land area and twenty percent of its industrial capacity. Some 400,000 evacuees, mainly women and children, fled these areas. Establishing trade with the Western powers, such as the United Kingdom, and the reparations to the Soviet Union caused Finland to transform itself from a primarily agrarian economy to an industrialised one. Even after the reparations had been paid off, Finland continued to trade with the Soviet Union in the framework of bilateral trade.

Cold war

In 1950 a half of the workers was occupied in agriculture and a third lived in urban towns.[9] The new jobs in manufacturing, services and trade quickly attracted people towns. The average number of births per woman declined from baby boom peak 3.5 in 1947 to 1.5 in 1973.[9] When baby boomers entered the workforce, the economy didn’t generate jobs fast enough and hundreds of thousands emigrated to the more industrialized Sweden, migration peaking in 1969 and 1970.[9] This mass migration is largely the reason why 4.7 percent of Sweden’s population speak Finnish today.

Officially claiming to be neutral, Finland lay in the grey zone between the Western countries and the Soviet Union. The “YYA Treaty” (Finno-Soviet Pact of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance) gave the Soviet Union some leverage in Finnish domestic politics. This was extensively exploited by President Urho Kekkonen against his opponents. He maintained an effective monopoly on Soviet relations, which gave him a status of “only choice for president”. There was also a tendency of self-censorship regarding Finno-Soviet relations. This phenomenon was given the name “Finlandisation” by the German press (fi. suomettuminen). When Finlandisation was not enough, direct censorship was used, including in 1700 books and many movies, and asylym-seeking defectors were returned to be killed by the Soviet Union. Soviets created and financed anti-Western and pro-Soviet youth movements peaking in 70s, when communist-led Teen Union harassed teachers suspected of bourgeois ideas, and their former members have still a lot power. Soviet intelligence services sometimes used their contacts to install personnel in the administration, mass media, academia, political parties and trade unions. Politicization was widespread and public sector workers were often dependent on having the correct political party membership.

However, Finland maintained a democratic government and a market economy unlike most other countries bordering the Soviet Union. Property rights were strong. While nationalization committees were set up in France and UK, Finland avoided nationalizations. After failed experiments with protectionism, Finland eased restrictions and made a free trade agreement with the European Community in 1973, making its markets more competitive. Local education market expanded and an increasing number of Finns also went to have education in the United States or Western Europe, bringing back advanced skills. There was quite common, but pragmatic-minded, credit and investment cooperation by state and corporations, though it was considered with suspicion. Support for capitalism was widespread.[7] Savings rate hovered among the world’s highest, at around 8% until 80s. In the beginning of the 1970s, Finland’s GDP per capita reached the level of Japan and the UK. Finland’s development shared many aspects with Asian countries such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan.[7]

Having been targeted by Soviet intelligence and youth propaganda, liberals lost support and socialist-majority generations seized power in 70s and 80s. Corporatism and taxes were increased. The power of social democrats and the almost overnight-grown trade union SAK became hegemonic in politics.[10] In 1991 Finland fell into a Great Depression-magnitude depression caused by combination economic overheating, depressed Western, Soviet and local markets, and disappearance of Soviet barter system. Stock market and housing prices declined by 50%.[11] The growth in the 1980s was based on debt, and when the defaults began rolling in, GDP declined by 15% and unemployment increased from a virtual full employment to one fifth of the workforce. The crisis was amplified by trade unions’ initial opposition to any reforms. Politicians struggled to cut spending and the public debt doubled to around 60% of GDP.[11] After devaluations the depression bottomed out in 1993.

Liberalization and integration with the West

Like other Nordic countries, Finland has liberalized the economy since late 80s. Financial and product market regulation was removed. The market is now one of the most free in Europe. State enterprises were privatized and taxes were cut. However, unlike in Denmark, trade unions blocked job market reforms, causing persistent unemployment and a two-tier job market. Trade unions also blocked social security reform proposals towards basic income or negative income tax. Finland joined the European Union in 1995. The central bank was given an inflation-targeting mandate until Finland joined eurozone.[11] The growth rate has since been one of the highest of OECD countries and Finland has topped many indicators of national performance.

In addition to fast integration with the European Union, safety against Russian leverage has been increased by building fully NATO-compatible military. 1000 troops (a high per-capita amount) are simultaneously committed in NATO operations. Finland has also opposed energy projects that increase dependency on Moscow.[12] At the same time, Finland remains one of the last non-members in Europe and there seems to be not enough support for full membership unless Sweden joins first.[13]

The population is aging with the birth rate at 10.42 births/1,000 population or fertility rate at 1.8.[9] With median age at 41.6 years Finland is one of the oldest countries [14] and a half of voters is estimated to be over 50 years old. Like most European countries, without further reforms or much higher immigration Finland is expected to struggle with demographics, even though macroeconomic projections are healthier than in most other developed countries.

Geography Location: Northern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, and Gulf of Finland, between Sweden and Russia
Geographic coordinates: 64 00 N, 26 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 338,145 sq km
land: 304,473 sq km
water: 33,672 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Montana
Land boundaries: total: 2,681 km
border countries: Norway 727 km, Sweden 614 km, Russia 1,340 km
Coastline: 1,250 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm (in the Gulf of Finland – 3 nm)
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 12 nm; extends to continental shelf boundary with Sweden
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
Climate: cold temperate; potentially subarctic but comparatively mild because of moderating influence of the North Atlantic Current, Baltic Sea, and more than 60,000 lakes
Terrain: mostly low, flat to rolling plains interspersed with lakes and low hills
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Haltiatunturi 1,328 m
Natural resources: timber, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, chromite, nickel, gold, silver, limestone
Land use: arable land: 6.54%
permanent crops: 0.02%
other: 93.44% (2005)
Irrigated land: 640 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 110 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 2.33 cu km/yr (14%/84%/3%)
per capita: 444 cu m/yr (1999)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: air pollution from manufacturing and power plants contributing to acid rain; water pollution from industrial wastes, agricultural chemicals; habitat loss threatens wildlife populations
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: long boundary with Russia; Helsinki is northernmost national capital on European continent; population concentrated on small southwestern coastal plain
Politics Politics of Finland takes place in a framework of a semi-presidential representative democratic republic and of a multi-party system. The President of Finland is the head of state, leads the foreign policy, and is the Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Forces. The Prime Minister of Finland is the head of government; executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in the Parliament of Finland, and the government has limited rights to amend or extend legislation. The president has the power of veto over parliamentary decisions although it can be overrun by the parliament.

Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The Judiciary consists of two systems, regular courts and administrative courts, headed by the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court, respectively. Administrative courts process cases where official decisions are contested. There is no “Constitutional Court”, i.e. the constitutionality of a law cannot be contested.

Though Finland has a primarily parliamentary system, the president has some notable powers. The foreign policy is led by the president, “in co-operation” with the cabinet, and the same applies to matters concerning national security. The main executive power lies in the cabinet headed by the prime minister. Before the constitutional rewrite, which was completed in 2000, the president enjoyed more power.

Finns enjoy individual and political freedoms, and suffrage is universal at 18; Finland was the first country to give full eligibility to women. The country’s population is ethnically homogeneous with no sizable immigrant population. Few tensions exist between the Finnish-speaking majority and the Swedish-speaking minority, although in certain circles there is an unending debate about the status of the Swedish language. According to Transparency International, Finland has had the lowest level of corruption in all the countries studied in their survey for the last several years.

The labor agreements also pose significant political questions. Bargaining is highly centralized and often the government participates to coordinate fiscal policy. Finland has universal validity of collective labour agreements and often, but not always, the trade unions, employers and the government reach a Comprehensive Income Policy Agreement. Significant trade unions are SAK, STTK, AKAVA and EK.

People Population: 5,238,460 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 16.9% (male 449,548/female 433,253)
15-64 years: 66.7% (male 1,768,996/female 1,727,143)
65 years and over: 16.4% (male 344,798/female 514,722) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 41.6 years
male: 40 years
female: 43.1 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.127% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 10.42 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 9.93 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.78 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.038 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.024 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female
total population: 0.958 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 3.52 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3.84 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.2 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.66 years
male: 75.15 years
female: 82.31 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.73 children born/woman