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

 

“Cheap labor has always been the advantage of Asian garments”

Italian clothing brand Alcott’s owner Mr. Salvatore Colella talks about their business, reasons behind doing business with Asian garments and how it affects the bringing a betterment in the relation between countries.

Alcott was born in 1988 from a great idea: to offer a product of trend and quality, at an economic price, so that the fashion was accessible to all. The ambitious business project collected in the years a great success, placing Alcott among the first Italian brand in the fast fashion retail sector. With the Alcott and Alcott Los Angeles brands, the company is present today with more than 150 outlets worldwide.

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What are the main reasons for choosing Asia for manufacturing garments? The current global apparel market is valued over $3000 billion, which is about 2% of world’s GDP. There are over 25 million people involved directly or indirectly with apparel manufacturing and over 60% are from Asia. The garment manufacturing in a collective way started in Asia in about 1950 in South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong. American companies were producing in there in selling in USA. Since then the industry spread in all over Asia for good number of workplace, cheap and qualified work force, quality products, mass production capacity and national focus.

Is that why you started doing business with Asian manufacturers? “Of course. To fulfill our production capacity with the best possible price and quality we chose Asia as our no.1 manufacturing continent.”

What is the current production and economic status of Alcott? Alcott currently produce their 70% of the garments in Bangladesh and the rest 30% is spread amongst China, Myanmar, Pakistan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Korea and Turkey including some Italy also. And for the record in 2015-16 the company’s turnover was $250 million.

What kind of problems are you facing nowadays? Our company sometimes face the transit time and shipping problems. As our main production country is Bangladesh, it takes about 30-35 days to reach the garments to reach Italy. We face port conjestion 3-4 times every year in Bangladesh. And sometimes we face problems for strikes when the production factory work but outside movement is not possible for the shipping.

Do you think it is strengthening the relation between countries? “You see, Alcott is now importing about $100 million from Bangladesh and other Asian countries. As we are a growing company and our focus on importing garments from Bangladesh is very promising. So, yes. I think the relation between the countries is strengthening through economic growth.

How do you feel about the workers in Bangladesh and what type of relation do you have with them? And what differences do you spot between the employees of Italy and Bangladesh? There is a significant difference between the employees in Italy and Bangladesh. In our company, all employees are under Italian and EU regulations. On the hand in Bangladesh the employees are working Bangladeshi and ILO regulations. We can not actually compare this two stages of people. Italy is a developed country and Bangladesh is one the fastest growing countries.

So do you like doing business with Bangladesh? “Absolutely. We are very happy doing business in Bangladesh. Actually the production percentage of our company shows it all whether we like doing business with Bangladesh or not.”

Has there been any change in your market? Since the starting of our company, we were importing mainly from China. But over the past few years Chinese garments industry and fashion moved too high and became too expensive. So we had to go to Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Pakistan etc. In coming future there will be no changing unless we face a serious problem in Bangladesh.

Is the company’s purpose connected to you own? “Yes. 100% percent. But if you see broadly, our business ultimately helps our country’s economic growth.” Our company creates work opportunity not only in Italy but also in Bangladesh. Actually more Bangladeshi workers are earning their livelihood than our company’s employees. “Look, while focusing at our own profit, we kind of help balancing economic status is both countries.”

 

INTERVIEW HAS BEEN CONDENSED AND EDITED.

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

First, the respect…

The respect in this world is fundamental and more in these days where each country looks for their own interests.What exactly means the use of the veil by the westerns women in Muslims countries? in the recent years, the respect and the promotion of that of other religions, it is something that the entire society is losing. Currently, the use of the veil it is so us a limitation of the women rights, at that point, we think that the veil is an instrument or symbol that oppress the woman and her liberties but when we talk about the use of the veil in the visits to church or meeting with high representatives of the Muslim religion, the use of the veil take other paper us a symbol of respect that you show to that religion and beliefs. Looking in the When woman´s like, the Queen of Jordan or the first lady of US wore outfits that follow the rules and beliefs of the countries that they visited. We see it as a symbol of respect or only they are following the protocol?

Recently, during a visit to Lebanon, Marine Lepen, denied the use of the headscarf for the meeting with the Lebanon Sunni religious leader. At the entry, she replied to the Sunni leader secretary: “You convey to the great mufti my consideration but I will not veil myself”. Analyzing the actions taken by her, we consider that the way that she acted, it is a clear example of the low respect that she showed to the Islam religion.What

makes us think in the way, that if our high representatives didn’t promote the respect of other religions and norms, our society will become over the time, a discriminatory society with a high-level of social conflicts, for the simple fact of not knowing how to respect.

However, Michelle Obama during her official visit to Saudi Arabia in 2015 didn’t cover her hair with the veil that the Muslim religion required to the women. But, reading an article from the CNN, in the protocol the use of veil by foreign women´s is exempted and allows them to have their heads uncovered. Although for the civil citizens of Arabia Saudi, it is seen as an insult to their religion, Michelle Obama didn’t want to create those points of views, she only followed the protocol respectfully.

The respect and love by two different religions are something that the Pope and Queen Rania of Jordan have shown us during the visit of the Jordan Kings in August 2013. The Queen of Jordan, which is from a Muslim country, showed her admiration to the Pope, wearing in accordance with the protocol, a simple black dress and a white veil without any jewel or makeup. But the most relevant moment came when the own Pope made a reverence to the Queen, showing the respect that he had to her and to all the humanitarian projects that she has done. A simple action that has produced a huge impact in the relation between both religions has made a considerable progress, in the respect of other beliefs and cultures between the different societies.

Pope breaks with the protocol by bowing Queen Rania of Jordan. 

Making all this research, we have noticed that the simple fact of wearing or not a piece of clothes produces a high level of influence in the international society. Currently, the world is living a situation in where the respect is taking second place, losing the fundamental bases of humans. Concluding that, the main goal of all the international actors, is to create an atmosphere where the integration and the respect of all types of beliefs and traditions are the basis of the international relations and humans.

By: Angela Cantero, Marie Camacho and Alejandra Torres.

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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Not so “great great wall”

The U.S. President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to begin the construction of his famous wall along the 1,900-mile border with Mexico but the outcome will not be as good as he promised due to the arguments he gave during the campaign haven’t got any sense.

During the campaign, Trump promised a wall in the U.S.-Mexican border which would be paid by the Mexicans. The wall will cost nearly twice the $10 billion estimated by Trump, which by the moment will be paid with U.S. federal dollars as Mexico still refuses to pay for it. This dilemma has broken the historical relationship among them, as they used to fight together against illegal immigration. Recently the Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto cancelled a landmark meeting with the new President. The different ways Trump may use to make Mexican pay (as a sky-high export tax), will cause economic damage on both countries.

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The Department of Homeland Security’s estimates that the total undocumented population peaked at 12 million in 2008, and has fallen since then. And that decline is not because of rising border enforcement but because Mexico is producing less demographic pressure to migrate to the U.S.. Moreover, according to the BJS, black males are 37% of the male prison population, white males made up 32%, followed by 22% of Hispanics that were in state or federal prison at yearend 2014. So the “malos hombres” that Trump always talked about are not the main cause of criminality in U.S..

Also, Trump said that “undocumented immigrants take jobs away from native-born Americans”, but it has been proved that most of immigrants take different jobs than American. For example, farmers can’t find enough native-born Americans to pick crops, as often Americans are unwilling to do the jobs done by immigrants. There has been numerous cases in towns of the U.S., where they enforce laws against immigrants, which has led to a catastrophic result in their town.The Town of Riverside, New Jersey is a clear example of it. 11 years ago, the Town Comitee became the first municipality in New Jersey to establish a law against illegal immigrants, by fining or even sending to jail to their householders. This led to a massive exodus of immigrants in the Town, leaving it without workers or customers. Their local economy suffered to the point that the local shops, like hair salons, restaurants and corner shops that catered the immigrants went broke, which made a big part of them close.

If Trump thinks that kicking the immigrants out of the U.S. is a good thing, we think that there are more reasons showing the opposite. The diversity of ethnics has always been one of the pillars of the U.S. in terms of economy, referring that any person of any country could seek fortune in the U.S., which turned the U.S. into “the land of opportunity and liberty”, and the construction of the wall will suppose the end of it.

By Marina Barberá, Alejandro Martín, Alba Tissera.

The consumerism of our lives is chasing us

 

“We have created abundant crap in order to live under abundant crap”

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from NYT

The Indian government has declared dangerous levels of toxic air pollution where an “emergency situation” must be taken in control. Pollution measurement in India is currently too focused on a few cities. India can come up with effective measures to fight air pollution only if the CPCB improves coverage and encourages research on the data it generates.

  • Dirty old town: India has 13 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities says the World Health Organization.
  • Collision course: Calls for tighter environmental rules are coming up against the government’s growth plans.
  • A love supreme: Petitioners have taken to the Supreme Court in an effort to reduce emissions and boost air quality.

This is the India now a days as the environmentalists see;

In 2013, Indian schools were shut down for a couple of days and traffic was rationed due to high levels of contamination that could not even be measured by most air quality instruments. The situation has reached levels of PM2.5 pollutants, which are the most harmful because they can reach deep into the lungs and reach the blood-brain barriers, causing mortal atrocities. More than half of the 5.5 million deaths related to air pollution in 2013 happened in India and China, according to a new study and the Indian and Chinese fatalities accounted for 55% of such deaths worldwide, said the study.

India’s air pollution is so bad that it’s reducing life expectancy by 3.2 years.

“You can almost think of this as the perfect storm for India,” said Michael Brauer, a professor of environment and health relationships.

The World Health Organization recently published data on pollution around the world, focusing on airborne particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers (known as PM2.5). These particles come from coal plants and vehicles, and, at high levels, have been linked to serious respiratory problems.

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“One of the unique things about air pollution is you cannot run, you cannot hide from it”.

Pollution levels are getting worse in India, in Asia and in the world, as countries are trying to industrialize more and more and one thing is clear, there is no way of stopping such will, we will indeed want more machines, new cars and of course, little effort when things are not needed anymore.

Over the years we have taken into consideration the utopia of recycling, of taking care of our world, our beloved planet.

Now a days our vision should be even more critical about the repercussion our acts have but reality nullifies any hope, therefore, some questions run into my mind, is all these effort even worth it? Are we not already dying of hunger? Do we not have other enemies such us terrorism, rapists, even cancer? Maybe we have to accept all of them. Maybe pollution should be part of such category.

A simple enemy which if it catches you, that’s it, you just were not lucky enough. The change in the environment due to human labor has always been a concern even though we got conscience of it back in the 2000.

It is a matter of unavailability, it is not possible to get back in time, we have come to a point where an airplane is needed to travel no matter what is being left behind it, we need machines to survive and we are just not ready and not willing to leave all of it behind. We have shown ourselves, even the world that we are not capable of leaving our personal interest apart in order to save this world of ours, therefore why even make the effort when deeply we know there is no point.

It is time to realize we are part of destruction and we should keep it this way. We should not worry about pollution, at least we should not lie to ourselves because we can make it part of us as it has always been. We like to live in a constant state of hope, and for me, it´s just a waste of time as we are probably here to exploit the planet after all.