Interview News Observatory with Jenny Hanna, the Consul and first Secretary of the Australian Embassy in Madrid.

By Philippe Felix, student at Universidad Europea Madrid.

For the interview concerning news observatory I chose to approach the embassies of Australia and New Zealand as they are very western oriented countries on the other side of the world. After multiple requests, (As embassies are very busy) I finally got the opportunity to do my interview with Jenny Hanna Who has worked in the department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia for 26 years. At this moment, she works as the Consul and First Secretary at the Australian Embassy in Madrid.

Next to the fact that Australia is a very interesting country, I wanted to get some knowledge about the work of embassies, because I consider it as one of my possible future jobs, as I am studying European studies at my home university in the Netherlands. The interview gave me a good insight of the daily life at an embassy, and the tasks they need to deal with. Furthermore she advised me to open up for new things and to explore the local habits when being in an international environment.

 

Madrid- Life sometimes can take an unexpected turn, as Jenny Hanna started studying for a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Psychology, and eventually ended up as Consul and First secretary of the Australian embassy in Madrid. After completing her degree, Ms. Hanna’s plans were to complete a degree in Education to become a teacher, but she could not immediately enroll as a student, which ultimately lead to the decision to start working. After one year of working as a receptionist at a company, a chance in the form of a job as secretary in the department of foreign affairs and trade crossed her path, which she took. After joining the embassy as a desk officer, she got promoted regularly by taking certain chances and working hard. Hanna’s career has taken place in multiple regions such as Asia, the Middle east and finally Europe, which obviously provided her with a lot of experience in working with different cultures. Nowadays, her daily tasks consist of running the embassy by managing for instance the budget and the provision of consular and passport services.

Regarding hot topics in Australia, Ms. Hanna mentioned that the Australian parliament is trying to get legislation in relation to domestic political matters. Next to that, there are some troubles in the housing market, because of rising interest rates, which affects a lot of young people who want to buy their first house. Lastly, there is a lot of debate regarding the refugee policies in Australia, because of the recent increase of the quota to accommodate Syrian refugees.

According to Ms. Hanna, Australia has in comparison to Europe a way tougher policy against refugees and immigrants. As she told me she found that Europe should really consider the resources and level of continental security to take such high number of refugees as they are doing right now. Certain European countries do not take part, or just refuse to accommodate them, which puts extra pressure on countries who do perform their obligations. In conclusion to that fact she mentioned that the European Union is a great initiative, but because of the differing interests of countries problems may occur, such as the already mentioned one.

Concerning cooperation between Spain and Australia there are numerous examples. The most important one is the military cooperation between the two countries in which they exchange specific information and do certain military operations together. Next to that, multiple Spanish companies have construction projects in Australia, and Australian interns teach English in Spain. In the near future Australia and Spain want to expand their activities even further.

When it came down to the differences and similarities between Australia and Spain, she mentioned that their climates are both the same, but that there are some differences in flora and fauna. Furthermore, she found that Spanish people are easy going, but that she had some problems with the hours which people keep. (Going to bed, and time of meals)

Oncoming events of the embassy will consist of a change in a number of officers, and furthermore the appointment of a new ambassador. She said that these events obviously will have an impact on the activities of the embassy in the near future. Last but not least, Ms. Hanna said that Australia want to promote itself even more in Spain by organizing an Australian event in May 2017.’ ‘’

 

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Jenny Hanna

Surviving thanks to the Chinese community

By Felix van den Broeck

MADRID – A tough crowd, lots of competition and family far away. These are the circumstances in which Da Cheung, owner of a small supermarket near Plaza de España has to survive, but he keeps going on.

Da Cheung, 61, is part of the Chinese community in the centre of Madrid. People call this part the China Town of Madrid; Loads and loads of small shops as well as Asian restaurants appear in the street view. The dirty and crowded streets give you a feeling of poverty as well as that of the hard-working mentality.

At first sight, the shop owner looks very unhappy but when he starts talking a subtle grin appears on his face. He sits straight behind the counter, and while talking he is adjusting the shelfs near him. “People say I’m a workaholic, but it is better to do something than to be bored all day. I believe that makes you old”, Mr. Cheung said with a huge smile on his face.

It has been 34 years since Mr. Cheung took the airplane to Madrid, leaving everything behind. In China he was working in a hotel. However the job bored him after several years. Then he heard of a friend who was moving to Spain. This made him wondering about the opportunities abroad himself. “I had followed some classes in the field of marketing so maybe I could use that, is what I thought.”

After a period of 14 months full of doubt, he decided to quit his job and take the gamble. “It was very hard to do, but it was time for me to go.” Mr. Cheung had found some contacts in Madrid, which were old friends and acquaintances of old colleagues.  “Everyone was trying to help me, because they feared that it would go wrong.” He got an address of a place to stay. And off he went to Madrid.

“The first months, or maybe even years were hard, very hard.” The small man looked to the ground and his body language showed that he was still having difficulties to talk about this part of the story. It turned out that Mr. Cheung lost a family member in the first months of his stay in Madrid, and due to financial instability could not return to attend the funeral. However he found mental support in the small Chinese community living in the Spanish capital. “They were my second family, and they still are.” This becomes clear when a fellow member of the community stops by to do groceries and the two start a very lively conversation in an Asian language. The two laugh and smile the whole time.

Mr. Cheung became owner of the shop in 1999, which opened a whole new world for him. “This was something different than my jobs in restaurants and hotels”, he said. “The adventure was exciting but also very hard, especially financially”. The fact that only one customer entered the shop since the start of the interview, seems to support that statement.

However, as the interview continues it appears that Mr. Cheung has found a stable source of income. He states that you should “not forget where you come from.” The shop owner points out that the Chinese community and with them the Asian restaurants want to have Asian products. This was the key to his survival and is now part of his selling strategy.

This community seems the cornerstone of all the local businesses here. In the neighbourhood there are Asian hotels, hair dressers, and even pet shops. “We help each other to survive”, he said, “and there are always friends or tourists from our home country visiting, which helps us as well.” The shop owner is however aware of the fact that this tight community also makes it more closed to the rest of

The two sons of Mr. Cheung went back to China. He misses them but said that it is for the best. “China is more open now to the rest of the world and that gives opportunities for the people.”  They are now working in the field of trade. “I believe that they have a bright future ahead of them, and lots of children”, the proud grandfather of two little grandchildren said with an enormous smile on his face.

On the question whether he would want to return himself he is clear: “No, I belong here now. I have everything here, well apart from my children than.” He makes a visit to China every two years, to visit his family. At the moment however he is dependent on programmes as Skype. “It’s a nice thing that the technology has evolved; writing letters takes so much time.”

 

 

The reality of the India-Pakistan conflict

 

A daily retreat ceremony at the India-Pakistan joint border. Source: Al Jazeera

India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the years since India became independent from the UK in 1947 in order to decide wether Kashmir should be part of one country or another. The tension between them hasn’t disappeared, but increased, leading to some violent events in the past months. The latest news are the expulsion of diplomats from both countries, who were accused of espionage and terrorism, and the murder of over ten Indian soldiers in Pakistani territories.

Since both India and Pakistan possess nuclear weapons, even thought they are not allowed to, the conflict becomes more dangerous and definitely relevant for the international community. If any of them shot a missile, the other one would answer with the same move to defend itself, starting a nuclear war with devastating consequences. Nuclear pollution doesn’t understand about borders among states, therefore this would be a global issue. The sequels could be noticed right away or even years after the detonation, leaving a huge environmental impact behind and causing diseases among humans. The world couldn’t handle this chaos since we are already dealing with the worst climate situation ever. Plenty of lives would be lost behind, and a global lack of order would appear because of the fear. Furthermore, states would need a huge amount of money in order to repair the damage of infrastructures and to pay the medical care of the injured. The world isn’t and will never be prepared for a nuclear war, so we need to avoid any kind of issue that could lead into this tragic end, always regarding at the worst-case scenario.

Furthermore we feel that the global community should intervene in the conflict because the region has become a nest for terrorist groups. The various Muslim extremist groups active in the area have united under the name Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent in 2014. We saw in 2001 what Al-Qaeda is capable of doing, and the terrorist attacks have not stopped since then. These organizations don’t vanish without action. The phrase “the world is in war with terrorism” is what you hear so often these days. To the leaders who have inserted these words in their speeches we would like to say: put your money where your mouth is.

Next to the international threats because of this conflict, the governments also affect the local people of the region. Since the beginning of November, the conflict has escalated once again and innocent locals find themselves in a warzone where daily casualties are nothing special anymore. On both sides the number of victims has dramatically increased and therefore a lot of people are on the edge of leaving the region. According to local officials the number of refugees could reach an astonishing amount of 500.000 when the shelling continues on such a large scale. It is obvious that both governments value the region a lot, but shouldn’t they be more worried with the well-being of their own citizens? One of the people who fled from his house is Hussain; “Like thousands of others, I’m lying here under the open sky with five children and my wife, with no arrangements for food and shelter.” “At least we don’t have to fear being killed by the constant Indian shelling.”

In conclusion, we think that the international community needs to take part on this conflict since it is already affecting innocent people and it is located in such a hot spot for international relations. If it all got worse somehow it would be terrible for every single state in the globe and we couldn’t probably recover from it. An issue as big as this one should be world-known and should really concern people, but media doesn’t seem to give it the importance it actually has. It might be a political strategy to keep the public’s eyes somewhere else, but it could also be a huge mistake to think it is an internal conflict that has nothing to do with the international community.

Carla Martín, Felix van Broeck, Philippe Felix, Sajeda Massoud

Industrial explosion in China leaves 14 dead, 150 injured

Shaanxi Fugu bombings: There are people trapped rescue is expanded

Buildings in ruins after the explosion happened. Source: Xania News

A powerful blast in a storage of illegal explosives took the lives of 14 people and left over 150 injured in the North-west of China.

The explosion damaged more than 50 houses in the town of Xinmin. The people living in the area that was affected were evacuated. Of the wounded, 106 are still in hospital for treatment according to the local authorities.

The government sent a team of experts to the area to help with the investigation of this tragic event. Three people were already arrested for their part in the fatal incident. One of them was the house owner, which confessed the illegal practice in the house. As a further response to the situation, the local government has announced inspections in the whole province of Shaanxi to hunt down more of these practices. The local police and firefighters are still looking for people while clearing the scene of the incident. More victims are expected to be found.

A local resident, Mr. Bai, was not surprised after hearing of the cause of the explosion. He remembers a similar event happening a decade ago. He states “that the illegal explosives are used in the mines in the neighbourhood”. The area near Xinmin has over 21 coal mines as well as 8 magnesium plants.

Video of the tragedy’s consequences via Twitter. Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

In China accidents in industries like this are happening often, for example last year in Tianjin, killing 170 people. A possible reason for this is the fact that the Chinese government favours the rapid production and with that economic benefits over the environmental issues and the safety of the workers. This results in a work-related death rate of 75 people every day.

What became clear was that the Chinese government wasn’t amused with the rumors of yet another fatal incident that was industry related. According to Chris Burkley from the New York Times, the Chinese propaganda authorities were trying to let this piece of news left barely noticed. As the Communist Party Central Committee is coming together for a meeting, it wouldn’t be favorable for them to let the people focus on bad news.

The reason for the tragedy seems fairly vague, but the rumours that the cause has an industrial background may be spot on. Even though the Chinese government has amended the Workplace Safety Law in 2014, this doesn’t mean that the rules are as strict as in the Western world. With the preference of massive industrial production over worker’s safety, accidents like this will keep on happening.

In conclusion, a more strict rule-making policy could have probably avoided these unnecessary deaths, and could have also stopped the illegal storage of explosives and chemicals which lead the state’s economy to a quick growth. Maybe the government should use its current committee meeting for the discussion of new work safety laws. It would probably make a lot of Chinese citizens happy and unharmed.

 

Felix van den Broeck, Philippe Felix and Carla Martín

Japanese panel meets in order to decide the Emperor’s future

Emperor Akihito is willing to give up his throne due to health issues and his respectable age. However, it’s up to the panel to make a final decision.

An advisory panel has held its first meeting at the office of the Japanese Prime Minister Abe on the revision of the constitution in order to reduce the obligations of Emperor Akihito. This was a response to the request of the Emperor to abdicate in his speech in July.

Emperor Akihito, Nikkei Asian Review 2016

 

The panel, consisting of experts from different universities, as well as the chairman of an influential business foundation, are to discuss and give insights to the current Japanese constitution. Building on this, the government has to find the points on which it wishes to make the actual changes. The government is aiming to forward formal proposals as early as the spring of next year.

Emperor Akihito, at the age of 82, stated in a rare speech this July that due to his fragile health it would be better for him as well as the whole of Japan that he would take a step back and let his son, Prince Naruhito, follow him up. A survey concluded that over 60% of the people are supporting the abdication.

The fact that there are no legal provisions for this in the constitution makes it clear how exceptional a possible abdication is in Japan. The reason, looking at the Shinto religion which has many followers in the country, could lie in their view that the Emperor and his family are descendants from one of the Gods.

Prime Minister Abe said that he “wishes to take the process slowly”, as he first wants the experts to take a good look, before making any rash decisions.

Emperor Akihito has been a very important person in Japan for the past few decades, he changed the country and has always enjoyed a lot of respect. Of course, the exceptional situation around the emperor has caused a rush of either positive, neutral and negative reactions. To give voice to the differences there are some tweets underneath that show the views towards the possible abdication of the emperor.

Quite disappointed with most people’s response to #Japanese Emperor #Akihito‘s intent to abdicate on social media (@jeeabbeylee)

#Akihito should consider the crisis that will result in him giving up the throne ….(@m7mmd)

#Akihito ‘s wish to abdicate in future also could cause the discussion on the female Emperor/female branches of royal family. (@jahahdee)

This compromising situation only leaves two different paths to follow, paths that may turn to be, eventually, a big change in Japan’s future. Will the Constitution be changed so that Prince Naruhito is able to take his father’s role right away? Or will the panel keep Emperor Akihito as the image of the country even though his health is really weak nowadays? It is a fact that the Japanese Constitution doesn’t take any steps on the abdication process, leaning on the divine roots of the Emperor, but the time to change it might have already come. It is not about tradition anymore, but about the condition of a human being and the future of a state.

 

Felix van Den Broeck, Sajeda Massoud, Philippe Felix, and Carla Martín