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In Defence of European Development Policies

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We are all aware of the relatively high level of well-being here in Europe, when we take a more panoramic view over the entire world. We are privileged and therefore we feel the need to give back to the other less developed peoples on Earth. Also, Europe feels a sense of guilt for historical unfairness in relation to former colonialist practices. As a consequence, the economically, socially and politically advanced EU has been trying a to pursue a ‘pay back’ development policy  to less developed countries.

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Source: Rupert [email protected]

But let’s not delay any longer. What kind of interest does the EU pursue with its aid and trade policies? What about the interests of the countries affected by such EU policies? This article will try to give an answer to these questions by taking a closer look at the EU-ACP relation. For those of us who are not familiar with it, the acronym ACP stands for African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, a group of states that decided to find a collaborative solution to poverty reduction, sustainable development and integration into the world’s economy.

In order to respond to the question of this article , first I will talk about development from EU’s perspective. Then I will take a particular case to see how the EU applies its agenda to one of the countries. Another important aspect I am keeping close is the common sense fact that the EU represents the interests of European citizens since its activities are funded by EU taxpayers.

The EU-ACP relationship is currently regulated by the second revision of the 2000 Cotonou Agreement. The positive uniqueness of this relationship comes from the historical bonds between EU states and their former colonies but generally there is a feeling of discontent due to the replacement of the Lomè Convention, which from the EU side was conclusively ineffective and plagued by absorption issues, reduction of ACP’s share of global trade and lack of a production/export diversification for the ACP side .

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© European Union 2010 [email protected]

But what is more generally EU’s approach to development? The main documents in this regard are the 2006 European Consensus on Development and the more recent 2011 Agenda for Change. Both reveal an inspiration from UN’s Millennium Development Goals, with the first paper expressing right from the start a moral obligation to fight global poverty. The second paper underlines a EU particular trait, the connection between development and security as justification for the political dimension of the EU-ACP dialogue. In this sense, the need for democracy, human rights and the rule of law is a condition for sustainable development. Therefore, the EU sees in development both an end (eliminating poverty) and a means (security and trade enabler).

The two sides of any development policy are aid and trade. As far as aid is concerned, the main instrument of the EU is the EDF. The 10th EDF introduced a distribution mechanism which released part of the aid to recipient countries on the basis of governance commitments. While some view this as limitative to the recipient countries, I consider it a reasonable way to ensure a better use of the aid by requiring from recipients an effective system of governance/administration. Two things must be remembered. First, when aid fails, aid loses support. Recipient countries who make good use of aid should not see their help reduced because other countries are more corrupt. The EU is aware of this so it rationalized and synchronized the distribution of aid to the most needy sectors with the member states. Conditionality offers a basic criteria necessary for judging the potential effectiveness of aid. Second, an overgrowing increase in the EDF cannot be easily justified to taxpayers in times of fiscal turmoil. The 11th EDF brings an increase of 10 billion euros. No wonder why the EP wants more control over future aid, which I consider to be in line with the democratic oversight of EU affairs. Moreover, even critics of EU aid policy recognize that the recipient countries see their voices increase in the international fora and negotiations, meaning that conditionality is not an obstacle to development cooperation.

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Source: Alf [email protected]

Despite much controversy, in 2012 the ACP was EU’s 5th trading partner, while for the ACP countries the EU remains number one regardless of China’s rise. Much of the debate over trade has to do with the elimination of trading preferences but the CPA must be in line with WTO regulations, organization which anyway offered a waiver to the EU-ACP trade partnership in the form of EPA which is a defensive instrument supportive of regional integration in the face of a competitive world economy. I believe that not following WTO rules would endanger both the EU as an international actor and the international system itself by robbing international institutions of power and legitimacy. A further interesting side of EU trade must be policy coherence,specifically the separation between trade as development tool and development concerns under the trade policy. In the first case, the EU is more supportive of international development but such concerns unfortunately are put in danger by big interests when considering the more general , neoliberal EU trade policy.

Before proceeding to the next part of the answer I would state that my opinion is mainly anti-criticism of EU’s development policy, as can be easily seen above. It is one of the reasons for choosing Cuba as analysis object. Cuba’s case proves my view that the EU is easily criticized no matter which position it assumes. So far, EU political conditionality is promoted as an obstacle for ACP countries by critics. Meanwhile, the EU is criticized both for not intervening politically in Castro’s affairs and accused of investing in an authoritarian country. The reality on the ground is however that the EU does apply political conditionality to Cuba, which is the reason why no cooperation agreement has been signed and that the EU treated its Havana partners pragmatically depending on the political situation there. I believe this to be in line with EU’s general foreign policy which is not ideologically driven but practical and acceptative of socio-political diversity. Also it is in the interest of Cuba’s domestic political situation.

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Source: Beverley [email protected]

Regarding trade and aid, the EU was in 2011 Cuba’s main donor, second investor and first commercial partner. Very recently, the Council of the EU initiated a next phase in its development cooperation with Cuba, envisioning stronger ties, modernization and constructive dialogue. Furthermore, the 6 million euro aid released by the EU after Hurricane Sandy shows a constant interaction with the Carribean, Cuba included and also an issue-approach to EU aid matters. It could be argued that the sum is not large but it supports Cuban recovery after the disaster, under bad economic circumstances worsened by the US embargo.

To conclude my answer, I will restate what I have found out while responding to the question. First, there is a general negative sentiment towards the replacement of the Lomè Convention but also that the special treatment guaranteed then was overall ineffective. Second, the EU trying to align itself with the international arena, in this case with WTO standards but continues to give limited special treatment to ACP countries through EPAs and to LDC through EBA. Third, there is a strong criticism against EU conditionality but also a criticism of too little conditionality in Cuba’s case. Continuing with Cuba, we can see a pragmatic EU development approach meant not to suffocate the economy of the country by offering aid, investing and trading with Havana partners. Also, the EU promotes political change from within in the country, thus putting high value on sovereignty and free domestic affairs. In this sense, EU sees its trade relations unaltered, its soft-power exercised and recipient countries see their independence unchallenged and modernization, including the political one supported and not imposed.

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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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Europe

Holiday in Italy: choose Florence for a break in the winter

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Florence is one of the most visited Italian cities, with over 15,4 million tourists visiting the city each year. Located in the heart of the Tuscany region, this beautiful city breathes history, life and culture among its streets. If you are looking for the perfect location for your next winter holidays, then you should look no further, Florence is the perfect destination for you.

Enjoying the best cuisine

Florence is one of the cities with the richer gastronomy in the world. From traditional Italian cuisine to exquisite wines, the food in this city have everything you may wish for in order to please your palate.  With so many options available, you may be wondering where to eat in Florence. Food critics recommend that you check out the following options during your visit to Florence: 

  • Traditional Italian cuisine: visiting Florence and not tasting original Italian cuisine would be considered blasphemous by many.  Italy has one of the most delicious gastronomies in the world, and in Florence you will be able to taste it at its finest with local ingredients. Restaurants like La Chiostrina or Il Rosmarino will allow you to rediscover Italy by its traditional food.
  • Tasting the local wine: wines from the Tuscany region are famous worldwide as the best in the market, making this region the Mecca of wine lovers. During your visit to Florence you will be able to taste those deliquescent wines in restaurants such as Olio Restaurant or Villa Pitiana Restaurant, or taste it on places dedicated exclusively to wine such as Enoteca Obsequium Firenze or L’Enoteca Sandro Soltani.
  • International cuisine: if you like international cuisine, then you are on luck. The best chefs around the globe have restaurants on Florence. This means that you will be able to taste flavours from all the world without having to leave the city. For example,  you can visit the restaurant El Inca for a taste of Peruvian food, restaurant Com Saigon for genuine Vietnamese cuisine, restaurant Ararat for Armenian and Georgian traditional food, or Dim Sum for refined Chinese cuisine. Discover the world by trying the taste of these countries’ traditional flavours.
  • Taste original gelato: gelatos are the ice cream predecessors, and they have been one of Italy’s culinary specialties for centuries . This traditional Italian cold dessert is similar to ice cream, but has less fat and less added sugar. You will be able to enjoy this amazing treat on the many gelaterias around Florence streets, such as Gelateria Edoardo or Gelateria Dei Neri.
  • Tapas and Street food: these are excellent alternatives if you are looking to make a simple meal with your family. You will be able to enjoy these small dishes in places like Italian Tapas or Rivalta Cafe.
  • Modern cuisine: you can taste the most modern and alternative cuisine in the world in Florence. Restaurants like Alla Torre De’ Rossi or Winter Garden by Caino will bring to your table the sophistication the more delicate palates crave. 

Discover Florence’s hidden gems

Florence is a city with a lot of monuments and museums to discover. However, most people that visit the city tend to focus only on the main monuments of the city, such as Campanile di Giotto or Palazzo Vecchio o della Signoria, and the restaurants near those. Because of that, if you want to experience Florence to its fullest, we recommend you rent a bike

Discovering Florence by bike will grant you access to places away from the mainstream crowds,  such as the Andrea del Sarto Museum (dedicated to this amazing Italian painter) or the beautiful Ospedale degli Innocenti (a 17th-century home for abandoned children which includes some amazing pieces of art done by renowned artists like Botticelli). These are really stunning places you would miss if you stick to the traditional tourist route, causing you a lot of regrets over the missed chance. 

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