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Ukraine Shattered EU’s plan of Eastward Expansion; Customs Union VS European Union

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Reuters / Gleb Garanich

The way Ukraine restrained from signing into Customs Union and the way Ukraine had declared that it would stop gas purchase from Russia, gave all the signals of a possible EU integration. However, Ukraine stunned everyone in the western hemisphere by its decision to not to sign Association Agreement.

EU’s dream of eastward expansion of its ideology

Integrating countries beyond the Iron Curtain like Romania and Bulgaria was a big victory for European Union. However, integrating Ukraine into this western geopolitical and ideological concept would have been the greatest victory. Ukraine and Belarus are much similar to Russia with a majority of Slavic population, wide use of Russian language and friendly governments. Having Ukraine, which Russia considers inseparable, integrated in European Union would have helped further isolating and pushing its cold war era rival out of European matters.

Who lost? And who “blackmailed”?

Ukraine dumping EU integration plans is a victory for Russia over west in the modern diplomatic wars. Russia has not considered any westward expansion of its influence after the collapse of Soviet Union. On the other hand, European Union considers its eastward expansion not for only economic reasons, but also as expansion of its ideology and western influence.

Amidst the west’s criticism of Putin blackmailing Ukraine, it feels like Putin’s statement of EU blackmailing and pressurizing Ukraine keeps more weight. In September when Armenia signed up for Customs Union with Russia, European Union had made it clear that a country has to make a choice. A country cannot sign up for Association Agreement of EU if it has already signed up for such an agreement with Russia-led Customs Union and vice-versa.  Such a policy helps EU to push Russia further away and strongly integrate countries like Ukraine who wishes collaboration with both Europe and Russia. Putin termed this tough choice given to Ukraine by EU as blackmail.

Customs Union VS European Union

Vladimir Putin, in a statement, had made it clear that he does not mind Ukraine collaborating with European Union, but in that case, Russia wants a three way talks including EU, Ukraine and Russia. This is desirable by Ukraine as well, since Russia and Ukraine already have strong business and industrial tie-ups, some of which are continuing from Soviet era. Going ahead with EU and straining relations with its traditional partner, a giant power, would have hardly given any benefit to the country.

European Union on the other hand said, if only Ukraine had signed the agreement, it would have helped Ukraine’s economy by providing unique opportunity that could have reversed the recent disappointing trend of decreasing foreign direct investments (FDI) in Ukraine. EU integration would also have given momentum to negotiations on new standby arrangements with the IMF.

The European commission promised that Ukrainian exporters would save $490 million over 10 years, as over 95% of the goods would have zero customs duty. Whereas, on Friday Putin said that Ukraine and Russia now have a free trade agreement that means in many product groups, which are very sensitive to both the countries, there is zero export or import tariff.

Customs Unions is believed to create more jobs in advanced manufacturing sectors like automobile, aircraft and shipbuilding sector. Moscow has also promised to help Ukraine with loans and negotiating a favourable price for oil and gas. However, EU backers hope that big European companies and brands would come to Ukraine, bringing more jobs, higher salaries and European standard of living if Ukraine signs Associations Agreement.

Kiev is in a big economic crisis and lies under a huge debt hole of IMF. Very recently, Ukraine received IMF’s demands that includes increasing the gas prices for Ukrainian public, freezing the salaries and performing some budget cuts. Ukraine’s Prime Minister has criticized Europe’s ignorance to help negotiate new IMF credit. European Union is also criticized for not giving much attention to eastern weak economies and financial crisis like that in Greece and Cyprus and discriminating countries like Romania and Bulgaria for not providing schengen access.

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Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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Europe

National Police arrests 60 people for money laundering in Majorca

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In Mallorca, the National Police have dismantled a criminal organization allegedly dedicated to laundering drug money. According to preliminary investigations, those involved are alleged to have laundered more than one million euros over the last year.

At the moment, the authorities have arrested a total of 60 people for the alleged crimes of money laundering and false documentation. Although investigations are still ongoing, leading Spanish criminal lawyers have pointed to the possibility of an increase in the amount of money laundered.

In addition to this, specialists in Criminal Law and Financial Crimes such as Luis Chabaneix have pointed out that during the next few days the number of arrests could increase, both in Madrid and in Mallorca. It should be noted that of the 60 arrested, 55 were arrested on the island and the other five in the city of Madrid on Sunday, May 16.

Money laundering of drug money from Mallorca to the Caribbean

According to the founder of Chabaneix Lawyers, Luis Chabaneix, the 60 people who have been arrested by the National Police are being investigated for the laundering of millions of dollars. It is presumed that more than one million Euros from drug trafficking activities have been sent to Latin American countries such as the Dominican Republic and Cuba, and even shipments to the United States have been registered.

In these countries, the money diverted by the criminal association has been used for the purchase of real estate and vehicles. For this reason, the National Police is in permanent collaboration with the North American, Cuban and Dominican authorities in order to dismantle the activities of this group in the different countries.

Likewise, among the main information provided by the authorities, it should be noted that more than 400,000 Euros in cash were seized from the hands of those arrested in Mallorca. Similarly, the police searches carried out on the island led to the seizure of multiple luxury items and accessories, a total of three kilos of cocaine and approximately 60 kilograms of cutting substances.

Two Majorcan companies under investigation

The team of criminal lawyers with an office in Madrid has commented that there are multiple methods that can be used to launder drug money. In the particular case of the criminal organization headed by a nationalized citizen of Cuban origin, one of the methods used to divert the money was international bank transfers.

For this purpose, the use of linked bank accounts of certain front men was a fundamental element. In addition, the case includes investigations of split money transfers through call shops.

On the other hand, through an official statement, the National Police informed that two Majorcan companies have been linked to the ongoing investigation. The reason for this is the issuing of fraudulent invoices for a value close to 200,000 euros.

Through these methods, the criminal organization has managed to launder capital inside and outside the country, legalizing large sums of money allegedly originating from drug trafficking. Undoubtedly, the arrest of the 60 people involved, including the leader of the organization, is a serious blow to the laundering of drug money in Spain.

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Economy

Seasif’s Franco Favilla discusses the post-Covid economy and the price of gold

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Although the Covid-19 pandemic isn’t over yet, there has been much discussion on the idea of a “post-Covid” economy, especially with the beginning of vaccination efforts in some countries. With markets throughout the world suffering the economic effects of the virus, experts have been looking towards the future –– and one of the topics that often comes up is the price of gold.

In August, the price of gold exceeded US$ 2,000 an ounce for the first time, driven by multiple factors. However, in November, advancements in Covid-19 vaccines led to a decrease in this trend, a result of the turbulent period we are going through.

“Regardless of the market volatility and the price changes that could occur over a given period of time, the fundamental fact is that the price of gold over the course of 2020 has reached an all-time high, and this, in my opinion, is very good news for the world economy,” explains Franco Favilla, founder and CEO of Seasif, a multinational company active in the extraction and trading of gold and oil.

According to Mr. Favilla, the main problem of the pre-Covid economy was the completely arbitrary nature of international finance. At one time, a ton of gold corresponded to a ton of currency, but since the 1980s, and at an impressive rate since 2000, the gap has widened enormously, so much so that today the relationship between the world’s currencies and gold is enormously unbalanced.

Total gold reserves around the world cover only 30% of currencies. This means there is nothing to cover and guarantee the value of money. In short, money has turned into a pure convention, a pure agreement between parties acting outside the market. Gold, on the contrary, guarantees democracy, because it protects savers and the market, offering an objective value for parameterizing every transaction. 

“My hope, therefore, is that the crisis caused by Covid-19 will help to change finance, making it less ‘phantom’ and more linked to an objective dimension, based on gold, with obvious advantages for the real economy. Gold protects consumers, the most important component in any economic system: if you don’t have a market made up of consumers with a certain level of wealth, how can you sell? To whom? Consumer protection must come first, and gold is one of the main ways of protecting them,” states the CEO of Seasif.

Sustainability has also been at the forefront in discussions about the post-Covid world, as countries look towards establishing a more resilient global economy, one able to better withstand such events in the future –– and “green gold” may well be a part of that future. Green gold, in a sense, can be considered the “gold of the future” due to its ethical and sustainable extraction process. Seasif produces green gold, with a department entirely dedicated to green, and has allocated economic incentives to its continued production.

Even as 2020 draws to a close, the future may still look uncertain. But for those searching for greater security, gold may be one of the few certainties left.

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Europe

How much money do you need to live comfortably in Spain?

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There are plenty of reasons why you may be thinking about living in Spain: its population is friendly and kind; its climate, especially in the coastal areas, is enviable; its gastronomy is incredible… but, what about its prices? What is the most affordable way to live in Spain?

Perhaps the most important question if you decided to go: would it be better to buy instead of renting a property in Spain. Or yet living in a Spanish residence?

Spanish cities where to live cheap and well

In the geographical variety that Spain presents, we can find many differences in average salaries and the standard of living that reside there would require. The areas of Galicia, Extremadura, Castilla y León, together with Almería and the south of Alicante usually have a lower price of euros/square meter in their homes. The quality of life is really appreciable, but you should know that there are fewer possibilities for business and transports.

The autonomous community of the Basque Country, Catalonia, and Madrid, which have higher than average incomes (normally more than 24,000 euros per year), also have higher prices. However, Madrid has such a wide range of rents that it sometimes makes them cheaper than other countries. 

In addition, and taking into account the tourist seasons, the areas of Valencia and Andalusia are normally a preference when it comes to living in Spain for a while or even spending your retirement. Although day-to-day life can be more expensive than in other areas of Spain, the mild climate and variety of leisure options are often worth it in the long run. 

Whatever your option is when moving to another country, especially if you don’t know its legal system, can be very tiresome. That’s why our advice is to try to contact local agencies (that speak English) to give you fair and fruitful advice. For example, to move to Andalusia, we usually recommend Tejada solicitors

I have already decided on the place. Now what?

Well, if you have already fully immersed yourself in the streets of a beautiful city that we have talked about, what should be your first step?

Decide what kind of stay you want to be in (since your future economic situation will also depend on this: taxes, permits…). You may have already chosen, for example, property conveyancing in Marbella, but it is recommended that you also think about renting a property, because it can be very profitable while you are in your other place of residence.

To sum up, before moving to a Spanish city, decide if you want to spend a little more money per month in exchange for the exceptional conditions that their precious land can give you; secondly, contact a reliable agency that will help you make the best investment and even more, apply for a Spanish residency if you are decided to stay for a long time.

And remember: a move is always a new beginning.

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