CHINA AMONG FURS

Today we will interview Julio Suarez Garcia, whose role is the European Director, and member of the Board of Directors of the company Saga Furs. But what exactly is Saga Furs? Saga Furs is a Finnish company listed on the Helsinki Stock Exchange. It is a fur auction house. Its customers are farmers from all over Europe and the United States and buyers from various markets, of which the main one is the Chinese market. This last is the reason why we interview Julio, and is that despite being a European company, practically all of its market is concentrated in China as Julio tells us. China is its main market. They sell approximately 85 of their skins to that market, they have clients at different levels of the value chain in the Chinese market. From brokers to manufacturers and retailers.

The question we ask is why China and not another Asian country? Or why leave Europe when the skins business also works here? Well Saga Furs with China mainly because the consumption of leather garments is very high. That means that there are large centers of production of garments that have to supply the raw material in auction houses like ours. The main benefit lies in the large size of the market and in the great economic development that the country has undergone in recent years. This development fits well with products such as fur garments, which sell well in expanding economies such as China.

But not all are benefits, China imposes certain barriers especially those who come from the outside. The regulations regarding the establishment of foreign companies in China are very rigid, making it difficult to establish in that country. “Apart from the import tariffs that apply to the skins we sell, the main concern is the risk of changing regulations that may happen from one day to another.” But tariffs and tariffs are not the only barrier, the differences Cultural and the different approaches to “doing business” have also been a challenge that they have had to face by hiring staff from their own country, which in the long run is beneficial, but at first was not so much.

We are also interested in knowing the way in which business affects the fact that they are made in China, because nothing has to do with the way of doing business in Finland, the home of this company,than in China. “The culture is very different. When it comes to doing business, Chinese entrepreneurs seldom say NO. ” Hence the great difficulty faced by Saga Furs in evaluating the success of a business for the commitment acquired in a meeting. That is why until you do not see with your own eyes the final result, success is not guaranteed

We asked Julio about the origins of Saga Furs in China and we were surprised to know that Saga was a pioneer in the world of fashion in China. They made the first western fashion show in the Forbidden City of Beijing in the mid-80’s, a milestone not only in the world of fur, but in general, to get a fashion show in such a place. Then the country has changed a lot. Especially in big cities. Shanghai, Beijing or Shenzhen are big cities that nothing has to envy New York or London. Nevertheless the rural interior of the country continues quite behind in the social evolution.

In China you can perfectly see the two sides of the coin, one day you are in a city full of all kinds of technology and the next day you go through a depressed rural area where they barely have to feed their cattle and thus subside.

But this colossus of fur is not slowed down in China, Saga also has, outside its office in Beijing and Hong Kong, delegation in South Korea, more specifically in Seoul. Korea is a very different market, much closer to the European way of operating since it has followed a much more “westernized” mode of development.

“Saga is continuing its expansion in Asia, and we will continue to expand our presence in China, due not only to the current relevance of the market, but also to the potential that it represents.”

 

We thank Julio Suarez for his time and dedication in answering our questions, it has been an honor to know more closely a great company like Saga Furs and its operation in the Asian continent.

ECONOMY BETWEEN SPAIN AND GERMANY

Markus Kemper is the Sub-director of the German Trade Chamber in Spain (Deutsche Handelskammer für Spanien or AHK Spanien) and his almost seventeen years of experience working for the German government have helped hundreds of German companies to establish, grow and develop in Spain. This delegation represents the German economy in Spain and is the main service for German and Spanish companies. It offers services oriented to the promotion of German foreign trade and its scope of action ranges from emerging companies to renewable energies and energy efficiency. The German Trade Chamber is a great support for the German govern when specific information on legal aspects are required or when it comes to taking the first steps in the Spanish market.

The good relationship and communication between countries is fundamental for Mr. Kemper to succeed on his work, so he answered “critical” when I asked him about how the current situation of the EU could be considered. He affirmed that the spirit is more of dissolution than union and insisted that the situation is not to be quiet, “any unitary movement is beneficial” however he does not hesitate to affirm that most of the European countries are currently growing and that this has not always been like this.

Spain is the country on the European union that grows the most”. Mr. Kemper explained that since the beginning of the crisis the German investment in Spain has increased considerably. He stressed the close relationship of both countries in some industries such as the automobile industry where Spain and Germany share interests and space for decades as well as in the metallurgical or banking sector. In fact, during the last years, the decline of Spanish economic areas such as the Manufactures (The loss of power in manufactures sector is an almost general European phenomenon.) or Building sector has had a reflection on the German economy and vice versa, so the economic interdependence o both countries is real.

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*Foto with Mr. Markus Kemper in the German Trade Chamber’s hall.

The explanations Mr. Kemper gave to the questions were quite brief but so concise and well structured that somehow you just wanted to know everything about the complex European economic system and all its secrets and curiosities. Sudden questions were constantly appearing while Mr. Kemper was explaining and one of it led directly to a small chat aside the interview about the desire to know what are the main differences between German and Spanish companies and why they have so different productivity results. He answered every small doubt and half smiling explained that what years have allowed him to prove is that in general the difference is mainly cultural. Mr. Kemper explained that Spain has a serious problem of productivity growth shared with Italy and other, mainly southern, European countries. “The work productivity in Spain is lower than the European average”, the problem is that the annual growth rate of labor productivity in Spain or Italy is constantly one point lower than the German when the capabilities and the market competitive capacity they have are nearly the same.

We came together to the conclusion that Spain has amazing potential but doesn’t work as hard as it should. Other reasons could be the reduction in 70% of the business services offered by the state since 2012, which leaves small and medium-sized enterprises unprotected and struggling to compete in the European market, or in many other cases, the owners of the companies are the culprits ignoring the true potential of their businesses and therefore do not take measures that fit their real needs. Mr. Kemper in convinced that Spanish people is not truly concerned about Spain’s huge and highly competitive market. “The service sector for example or the hostelry industry is more powerful in Spain than in Germany.

When you talk to a person like Mr.   Kemper asking about unemployment, one of the most serious problems in Spain seems to be obligatory. He is convinced that it is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects to work out, so on this subject, Mr. Kemper said that the German Trade Chamber for Spain, apart from advising companies on all aspects about the education field, can presume to have stood out for its involvement and commitment in Dual-Education helping more that 2.000 young students to enter to the labor market with the “best equipment”, something that as Mr. Kemper says has also benefited German companies, one of the most important foreign employment sources in Spain.

Talking to Marcus Kemper was a good experience and certainly a beginning class of economy. One of those conversations that ends giving you a great sensation of having learned some new valuable things. Our meeting helped me as well to realize that Spain has to advance in many things and to work lot of things out but also that it is certainly a country that can proudly contemplate the work carried out during the last years and look to the future with optimism, taking advantage of its incredible potential. I undoubtly recommend visiting the German Trade Chamber and enjoying a wonderful building that host a huge amount of conferences, seminars, expositions and talks about infinite different themes and that precisely this year celebrates its 100th anniversary.

Living in Saudi Arabia

Fernando Screenshot_20170301-115524and Ana Armada are a married couple that lives in Saudi Arabia, in Riad which is the capital city of this country.  With this interview we are going to be able to know how is it to live in a country like this.

Fernando is a businessman that works in a petroleum company named Aramco, which is an American company settled in Saudi Arabia. This company created an enclosure where currently thousand of people, that works for this company,  lives.  This precinct is called Campaú, the life inside it is different from the one outside, they have hospitals, schools, pools and all types of activities to ensure the commodity of the workers and their families.

One advantage that the Aramco employees have is that the company gives them a certain amount of money that guarantee the education of each one of their children.

I asked Ana, Fernando´s wife, how was her day a day, generally she hangs out with her friends that also lives inside the Campaú, they do lots of activities, they can take classes of Arab, go to the pool. This is not the typical life of Arabia Saudi, but the company wants to ensure that the employees stay there for a long period of time so they give them all kinds of facilities. The life there is similar to the one we have in Madrid, but not in the social aspect, they do not have  the same joy as Spain. She said that the life outside the Campaú  is not very appetizing, they rarely go out, only when they need to do so.

Women have lots of limits in these types of countries, they are not allowed to drive, they can drive inside the Campaú but not in the outside of the precinct. It is also very dangerous to go alone, if they can, they are always in a friend´s company. They have forbidden to talk to Arab men, in hospitals there are separate waiting rooms for men and women. Women in general stay at home, when there are dinners in someone else house they don’t go, but this is not the case inside the Campaú. Also, women have to wear a type of dress that covers all their bodies, it can be black or dark brown, but they do not have to wear any type of veil because is something religious.

The first thing that we think of Arab women as Europeans is that it is a complicate society, they cannot hang out with another man who is not her husband, brother or father. They have also a lot of social pressure, anything that they do wrong or that are seen as an inappropriate act, is their fault because they incite it. Marriages are arranged, the family decides who they have to marry, if the women wants to divorce, they have to ask for permission to their husbands and generally men stay with the children.

Saudi Arabian women have been allowed to work for 4 years now. If a foreign women want to  work outside the Campaú is very difficult, there are some limitations, inside the campaú they have it easier because is organized by the Americans, they only have to present the curriculum. foreign people only can enter into this country if they have work permits.

Saudi Arabia is one of the countries with less equality in the world according to a BBC documentary. They showed a list of the gender equality of each country, Saudi Arabia was in the 134 position, so I asked them what did they think about it, if they think that these numbers were right. They told me: “of course, women are very different from men, they are treated if they were less.” Saudi Arabia is an Anarchic Monarchy, the government wants to have control over all things, including private conversations.

People are not allowed to speak through Facetime or Skype, and generally all the conversations are watched and controlled by the government,  in case someone says something that they are not supposed to say.

Ana has been asked to wear a veil in one case, she was in the mall with one of her sons, and a man came up and told his son to tell his mother to put the veil on, I asked her how she felt about it, she replied that she felt really bad principally because of the way the man told her.

Saudi Arabia is changing little by little, now women are allowed to study and work, in a near future this country will make a change in the sense of society.

                                                                                                                         Alejandra Torres Maldonado.

Interview
Ambassador Rafat Mahdi.

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Pakistan is a country formed in 1947 as a consequence of the partition of India in its process of decolonisation from the British Empire. The national language is the Urdu and 97 per cent of the citizens are muslims.

The Pakistani embassy in Spain, also accredited to Andorra, is located in Pedro de Valdivia. I got to interview with the actual Ambassador of Pakistan, Rafat Mahdi, who has also occupied a number of key posts at United Nations. Mr Excellency is a man with a lot of experience and a lot of travelling though out his life.

The interview began by a few personal questions to Mr. Mahdi, such as what has led him to the position he is today and his overall response was determination and passion. I also asked him what is the roll of an Embassy, he explained that there are there different categories, the cultural, the economical and the document information one, like visas or simple information. An ambassador normally completes 6 years abroad and 3 years in their local country.

Rafat Mahdi had the opportunity to meet Nelson Mandela, not once but seven times who had taught him humility, infinite kindness and a very wide practice of the understanding towards others which is needed in order to accept ourselves. He repeated a number of times how of a great person Mr Mandela was. Mr.Mahdi also cited in a charming voice Mandela´s words:

“Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people…Do not judge me by my successes… judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again…I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” That was Nelson Mandela he said looking at the front in a nostalgic manner. I asked whether he believe he has achieved the power of putting people over his freedom, to which he replied: “That is the most difficult thing to do my dear”.
We continued speaking about all the disputes Pakistan and India have, whether it would be possible the dialogue over the confrontation. He adopted a position in which Pakistan is determined to collaborate in order to achieve a more peaceful relation between both countries however India not so much. He made reference to a number of solutions proposed by Pakistan towards the neighbour country, all of them unsuccessfully achieved.

Moreover, we directed the interesting conversation unto the conflict in Syria. The Ambassador was clear on his message, Pakistan and all the countries around the conflict area are the ones in need of more humanitarian support. He kept repeating: “We are the ones suffering the most, our people is and it is a very complex situation”. I read about some shootings from the Pakistan Government in support of terrorist groups, therefore I asked Mr. Mahdi but he denied any military act from his government. He in fact highlighted their effort in promoting peace and good living standards to their people.

Continuously, I asked for an opinion on the new Trump administration, if it will increase a more economically free and peaceful world or whether the opposite, in between some laughs, Rafat Mahdi did not want to answer so we moved on unto a new topic in the conversation.

This was the Pakistan-Spain relations which the Ambassador affirmed they are improving continuously in order to maintain more diplomatic relations and to cooperate and benefit from each other. He explained there are some bilateral relations.

Mr. Mahdi and I kept talking about world concerns, whether civilization is one of the main issues of this society or whether we should keep implementing it to those uncivilised countries.

I asked him about the freedom of women within Pakistan, as I believe they do not have much liberty. Mr Mahdi replied: “We respect so much women in our country, for example, if they carry two bags, we take both of them as the gentleman we are”. My personal opinion in this issue might not be of relevance however I believe it is not a valid example of equality and respect towards women, however his mind is a completely different one from mine which I can not judge as he is an older man and has been raised in a completely different way as I have.

Overall the conversation was interesting and profound, and I was glad of being able to speak to someone of such responsibility and such background as Mr. Mahdi.

 

Ines Viñuales

INTERVIEW WITH AN AMBASSADOR

Vladimír Grácz: an ambassador of the Slovak Republic in Spain and his vision about the European Union.

Vladimír Grácz is an ambassador of the Slovak Republic, currently in Madrid since September 2012. He studied Law at the University of Košice in Slovakia and later he studied International Relations at the University of Moscow. He worked for 12 years in Latin America as an ambassador in different countries, and in 1995, as the Deputy Director of the Department of the European Union and NATO. His work experience is the main reason why I interviewed him. He has experience working and living in numerous countries around the world, including the European Union, so I believe that he has a lot that he can share about the pros and the cons of the European Union. The interview was a really good experience and I have learned that in international relations there are always new things to learn because everything is always changing.

On Thursday 9th of March, I went to the Slovak embassy to ask Mr. Grácz some questions about the European Union (EU), which nowadays is facing many problems, that may even be existential for the EU. The European Union, as I have said before, is currently facing a large crisis. The European Union has been in place for almost 66 years, is a home for over 503 million people, and it has had many positive impacts, but also many negative impacts. We are facing a refugee crisis that has been dividing Europe since summer 2015 and we have cases of nationalism, which refuse the European Union, such as have Brexit. All of these factors can influence an existence of the European Union. What are the main advantages of the European Union? Is the European Union and the Euro as a common currency advantageous or not? What will be the future of the EU? Is it possible that other countries will follow the decision of United Kingdom? What impacts could the refugee crisis have? And if the EU divides, what consequences could it have?

In Mr. Grácz’s opinion, the European Union is an amazing project and we should do everything we can to save it. However, the Schengen Union is damaged now because of the refugee crisis, although it was a great idea. It is freedom of movement emphasising the basic European values, which are the Human Rights. He believes that a common currency was also a great idea, because it helps European countries to carry out international economic trade with other countries. For example, one of the main reasons why Spanish industrial companies that have some of their manufacturing operations in Slovakia, didn’t choose one of the neighbour countries such as Poland or Hungary is the currency, due to less difficulties with administration. Moreover, throughout history, since the beginning of the humanity, we could see, that in Unity is power. But with Brexit now, we are loosing the Unity and it’s possible that United Kingdom won’t be the last country that will leave the European Union. Is it possible that countries like France would follow this action? What does Mr. Ambassador think about that?

France is preparing for a presidential election which is going to take place on the 23rd of March and 7th of April of this year. He doesn’t deny that they are thinking about leaving the European Union as well, but after the elections there will be a lot of work. Moreover, if they want to leave the EU, there must be referendum. All of these actions take time and the Slovak ambassador believes, that after Brexit, both, the UK and the EU will realize, that it was not a good idea. Firstly, due to the economic impacts, which he believes will dissuade other countries from following their lead. However, there are other reason than just economic, such are the refugees. In Greece and Italy there are thousands of refugees and these countries are not capable of dealing with it without the help of European countries. Even though they have some economic support, there are thousands of people entering and they will not be able to manage it just by themselves. Then there are countries like France that refuse the quota or countries like Hungary that close their borders. He believes that these are not the solutions and moreover, these are the actions that divide the European Union.

So what should we do? What is the solution that would be acceptable for everybody? Is the solution to send the refugees to the countries in which they don’t want to be, which is basically what the quotas are doing? Or is the solution to open the borders and let them all go wherever they want? And then what? The solution offered by Mr. Ambassador was quite simple: “Send them back and start to help them there.” “But there is a war “, I replied. “So then, we need to finish the war” he said. When I tried to give him arguments why is that not possible he stopped me and told me: “Everything is possible, if the war is not finished yet, it’s because somebody doesn’t want it to finish.” It’s going to take time to find solutions to these crises. I asked the ambassador what he thinks will be the future of the EU? He couldn’t answer this question. We will see what happen, but we need to cure Europe or maybe transform it. According to his words, the nationalists want less Europe, the federalists want more, but we don’t need less or more, we need a better Europe.

 

Romana Donovalová

 

Interview made to the Ambassador of Palestine in Spain the Tuesday 28th of February 2017 :

IMG_2845I’m glade to say that Musa Amer Odeh has received me; he was born in Doura Hebron on 20 January 1947.
He has been the Ambassador in many countries like for instance Brazil or Philippines. He has been also a member and director of the popular organization of PLO for the freedom of Palestine.
He referred to Palestine as “The Holy Land”, a territory that has been constantly victim of the invasions, he added, with pain that Palestine had lost more or less 70% of the territory.
So what about the main problem? What are the main reasons of this conflict that has no end? To his mind there is no denying that it is all about a “geographical problem” .The truth of the matter is that Palestine is joined by Africa, Asia and Europe, he added that “Jerusalem is the heart of the whole World, it is part of Palestine”.
Regarding Palestine, he considered that, what was once the “Holy Land for everyone (Jews, Christians, Muslims…), is now only for the Jews.”
He confessed his hate concerning the Jewish people and how they have tried to kill Yasser Arafat, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s ex-President, many times. By the way he has a framing photo of Arafat behind him to always remember that he was the one who “helped the Palestinians the most and without him, it would have been a completely disaster”. He maintains the fact that the Israelis poisoned Arafat.
He is thankful to Arafat for the creation of the Palestine liberation organization.
In 1947 the United Nations reached an agreement where they recognized that Palestine was 78% of a state. Palestine would be divided and shared into 3 entities: the creation of a Jewish State, an Arab State and Jerusalem shared into two parts (west and east) and controlled by International Organizations thanks to the “corpus separatum.”
“Palestinians became refugees in their own land, some of them had also emigrated to Lebanon ,Syria and Jordan .”
On the other hand, there is the Gaza strip. He didn’t see Hamas in the Gaza strip as a big threat for this part of the territory. However he confessed me that he had a daughter who was a journalist and she didn’t want to wear a veil during an interview in the Gaza strip, though Hamas ask her to. So they decided to guard her. The ambassador was worried concerning the situation of his daughter.
He claimed that he was not a man who thought the veil should be mandatory. “All the women can do what they want whether they want to wear a veil or not is their own decision. I respect all religions.” He showed me that he had a necklace with a Christian cross and the Islam symbol of the moon and the star. He said that he would never separate them because this is “How the World needs to be, a big union, remember Israel and Palestine is not a religious conflict.”
We decided to carry on the interview with a more recent topic: the United States. He remembered Barack Obama with some nostalgia but he didn’t understand why the United States did not veto against the Jewish in the United Nations resolution, he said that most of the time “The Jewish had humiliated Barack Obama because of his black skin, they are racist, they are like Nazis, they feel they are more powerful than any kind of people in the World. Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t want to meet the President in the White House; they clearly humiliate the United State of America.”
Mentioning Trump, he made a little smile expressing that until Trump will be in the government, “nothing will be make to help the Palestine territory. “It’s true that Israel and the United States are really close friends and have a lot of economic interests for instance; he mentioned how powerful the Israeli lobby is.
Concerning the new adhesion of Palestine in the United Nations, he was confident he said “I’m fully sure that this will happen one day. However now the most important is to minimize the safari move, we need Hope because without Hope everyone can commit suicide.”
Regarding the war situation, he was truly against “the building of the Israeli territory, he asked the European Union not to allow Palestinians to lose their hope, always give hope for them, keep hope.”
Hope is the most recurrent word, but keeping hope also with action in order to promote peace in the region.

“So please, my dear friend doesn’t let us lose our hope.”

Marie Camacho

TURKEYS RELATION WITH THE EU Friends? How?

Turkey´s intention´s in last years around integrating the European Uion seems to be clear, in this article we will argue that Turkey´s adhision to the EU may not be as good as it looks.
Europe is our common home that we have united around common norms, principles and values. As a part and parcel of the European family, Turkey not only has influenced the political, economic and socio-cultural developments in the Continent but has also been influenced by them. An overall evaluation of the history of Europe cannot be made without analyzing the role that Turkey played in the Continent. As in the past, the destinies of Turkey and other European countries are intertwined. We face the future together. In this context, our goal to become an EU member is a strategic choice.”
First parragrafh of the official webpage of the Turkey Ministery of Foreign Affairs and Exteriors.
It is true that their history is part of Europe´s history, joined and at the same time divided, and we say divided because they history can show us how they were the common enemy of Europe. This enmity can be seen today in the mentality of Eastern European countries which were dominated by this empire, even now they show distrust and hostility to this old enemy. Geographically and culturally, Turkey is closer to the Middle East or Asia than to Europe. Their accession would complicate decision-making and force the EU over time to become less effective organization. But turkey´s intention are not so clear. To be in the European Union it´s necessary to be fully humanitarian democratic wich sadly now a days it´s definly not. Even though turkey has made lot of progress in human rights development, sadly ,its has been demostrated by many sources such as human rights watch that this was wet paper or at list, a part of it. In the last 10 months , the government ordered mass arrests of journalists, closed multiple media outlets, and jailed elected opposition politicians. A total 100,000 civil servants including teachers, judges and prosecutors, suspended hundreds of nongovernmental groups, and consolidated government control over the courts.
Turkey was supose to colaborate on illegal migration issues. But this is not been done. Not only that, turkey has used this problem as a currency of exchange to deal with the EU threating with opening barriers. Turkey is the key and the lock. Joining to the free movement of people a country that makes terrenal frontier with failure warstates such as Siria and Iraq may be quite unwise to the european partners. The dominant view in EU institutions and governments is that Turkey’s collaboration is imperative to manage the refugee and slow down their arrival to European territory. Collaboration on migration issues has always been important but it has never been so actual.

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