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Public spending spat in Denmark: Defense Minister Nicolai Wammen under criticism for choice of new APC

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Denmark Defence minister Nicolai Wammen

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Every decision a politician makes represents danger to his or her career. In a recent project to upgrade the Danish army’s equipment, Nicolai Wammen, Denmark’s Defense ministry, has come under intense fire for its odd and shady choice. And yet, mainstream media haven’t addressed the mystery, despite there being a good story here. Is media silence on the matter bought with subsidization?

“Total amateurism” and “scandal of unseen dimension”, summed up (1) Troels Lund Poulsen, spokesman on Defense from the Liberals party. After brewing the deal for months, Denmark made its final decision (2) on which armored personnel carrier it would choose to replace its old fleet of Bradley M113. And on April 30th, 2015, the Piranha 5 from GDLS was chosen. Almost instantly, doubts were cast on the decision to resort to that specific vehicle. The response to those doubts also appeared suspicious, as both the government and the media went silent on the matter, as if they didn’t want it to get any attention.

The Danish Defense blog, Nytkampfly, an alternative yet reliable source, voiced its assessment on the deal (3). While it praised the choice of wheeled vehicles over tracked ones (3 of the 5 contenders were tracked), for its speed and flexibility, it was surprised at the choice of GDLS’s product, as it bluntly contradicted a Defense purchasing policy which is in place in Denmark, as it is in many other countries. Most Western or NATO-aligned countries choose to purchase off-the-shelf products which are already fielded in allied armies. The advantages yielded by this policy are many : soldiers and operators will know, from allied experience, what the vehicle is worth in real conditions; the cost of purchasing the equipment is much lower (as the manufacturer is selling large volumes), and operational maintenance is far easier, as troops on the battlefield can supply each other with parts and mechanics. Without this policy, armies would play Russian roulette every time they buy new equipment, and find out at their expense if the piece of kit has been properly designed or not; as well as make their maintenance and operational costs soar.

The NH-90 was sidetracked from the shipborne helicopter replacement project, in keeping with this policy. Too few allied or NATO countries used the helicopter and it was judged too likely that operational and maintenance problems could occur, or that expenses could quickly bloat.

This discrepancy was therefore noted by some defense experts, who sought clarifications on the deal. The government gave none and the mainstream media gave none. And that type of freezing-up will alert any dogged journalist, whether in a news agency or on a specialized blog: they know how to pick up on fishy details.

The reason for the blackout came out a few weeks later: the deal had been poorly designed (4), as the financial chapter securing had been overlooked. The purchasing contract was concluded in Swiss francs, a currency which has suffered substantial instability lately, and the Danish government hadn’t deemed necessary –or simply forgot!- to sign an exchange rate coverage contract. As a result, within a week, the cost of replacing the vehicles had already jumped by 16% (ie USD 50 million, on a contract worth over USD 450 million (5)) with no guarantees on where it could go. Given the Danish ambitions to boost their participation to allied operations and their diplomacy, such a blunder could lead to hindering Danish Defense capabilities.

The next chapter of the saga lies in media silence. Given that the Greenland (a Danish territory) Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond (6) had to resign over the misuse of a mere 18 000 dollars, one can only imagine the echo such a large (and avoidable) expense would have instantly hit headlines. And yet, nothing. Not a word from large newspaper and news agencies.

For the Nytkampfly blog, the reason is obvious: public subsidies (7), which can reach USD 3 million, and allow the government to keep a grip on media. The link between governments and media is under close scrutiny in Western countries. Governments gladly hand out subsidies, in the form of “support for media liberty of expression”. But if those budgets can be allocated, they can also be suppressed and therefore represent a lever on the press.

Perhaps the Danish government is simply stalling for time. Now that the flawed contract has become apparent to all, it isn’t impossible that Defense Minister Nicolai Wammen is sandbagging in order to give time to his teams to find ways to pull out of the deal or re-start the project. It would, after all, be the logical way to recoup the millions of dollars of public money lost. If that is the case, the next round will be rough: GDLS has shown pretty aggressive business ways in past deals. In the deals of the Santa Barbara Ascod 2, in the British FRES-SV (8) for example, GDLS tried to back out of signed clauses
20 years ago, the scandal would have flown under radar. Mainstream media, with their television reports and paper print, would have drowned out any critics of the deal. But in the day and age of instant information on the web, a simple blog will get as much traction and magnitude as a large news agency. A shift in information management which should bring far more transparency into political decisions.

(1) http://jyllands-posten.dk/politik/ECE7746812/Kurshop+kan+blive+en+bombe+under+milliardk%C3%B8b+af+nye+panserk%C3%B8ret%C3%B8jer/
(2) http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/land/vehicles/2015/05/05/general-dynamics-secure-afv-deal-but-danes-cancel-155mm-competition/26926019/
(3) http://nytkampfly.dk/archives/7000
(4) http://nytkampfly.dk/archives/7000
(5) http://jyllands-posten.dk/politik/ECE7746812/Kurshop+kan+blive+en+bombe+under+milliardk%C3%B8b+af+nye+panserk%C3%B8ret%C3%B8jer/
(6) http://www.thelocal.dk/20141001/greenland-government-in-tatters-over-expenses-scandal
(7) http://nytkampfly.dk/archives/7062
(8) http://archive.defensenews.com/article/20140913/DEFREG01/309130027/British-MoD-Reconsiders-Assembling-Scout-UK

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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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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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Europe

Working & Travelling In Greece

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Greece is a fantastic destination for many people, and for a number of different reasons. It you are keen to see some of the islands and soak up the sun, then you are in for a truly luxurious and paradisiacal time indeed. Similarly, if you just want to spend some time in Athens and see the major sights, then you will come away feeling refreshed and full of vigour from the sheer history and culture that surrounds you. But Greece is also a great place to consider if you are keen to work and travel at the same time. There are plenty of opportunities which you can grab there, and it is a perfect setting if you are a freelancer looking to work on the go. Let’s take a look at some of the things you might want to consider when you are thinking about working and travelling in Greece.

Your Itinerary

Greece Beach

Even if you plan to somewhat move around at leisure, you will probably still find it useful to have some kind of itinerary to work on. That will mean that that whole side of things has been taken care of, which won’t therefore be too much of a worry or a stress when you are trying to make the most of the time you have there. You can then work away, if you are freelancing, while also moving around as you have determined. You can always move away from this, and it is a good idea to have a kind of loose itinerary, but as long as you have one that is the main thing that matters. It will make working and travelling in Greece much easier and more likely to succeed.

The Technical Aspects

Because of the nature of working on the go, you will need to make sure that you have fully understood everything you need to do in order to keep your lifestyle working smoothly. That largely means looking into the more technical aspects of working on the go, which is something that you might find is easier than you would think. As long as you make a point of finding out how to sync contacts from iPhone to Mac so you can better keep in touch with people, and as long as you know what software you need to have to do your work, you should be able to travel the world and work as you please, so that is something to consider.

The Culture

Greece monument

You will probably find that Greek culture suits working very well, and it might be something that you want to think about in order to make sure that it is really the right place for you. It all depends on the nature of the work. For writers and other creatives, it could be the perfect backdrop, and you might feel that you simply never want to leave. However it is that you approach it, you can be sure that you are going to have a great time like this.

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