NEWS IN BRIEF

BGK, the Polish state development bank, opens next representative offices abroad

Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego (BGK) has opened its third representative office abroad in London. There are also plans for opening offices in Amsterdam, Singapore, Washington and several other places.

Maciej Barański, Head of FDI-Central Europe in UK Embassy, said: “The opening of the London representative office of BGK, which was actively supported by the Department for International Trade, is a significant and highly desirable step in the process of building an infrastructure to support the internationalisation of Polish companies, and especially the entry into the British market, which is becoming a springboard for global expansion.”

MEPs call for a common electronic charger

MEPs want to make life easier for consumers and cut electronic waste through the introduction of a common charger for all mobile devices.

They called on the European Commission to come up with a proposal by July 2020 during a debate on 13 January. The Parliament’s internal market and consumer protection committee is behind the initiative as its members want a common charger for smartphones, tablets, e-book- readers, smart cameras and wearable technology. The introduction of a common charger would reduce electronic waste, lower costs and improve the safety and interoperability of chargers.

According to the European Commission, electronic waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the EU, expected to grow to more than 12 million tonnes by 2020.

MEPs expect a proposal from the Commission by July 2020 that should help reduce e-waste generated in Europe.

On Thursday, 30 January, members adopted a resolution calling for measures to make common chargers for mobile devices a reality.

European Commission and European Investment Fund launch €75 million BlueInvest Fund

The European Commission is partnering with the European Investment Fund, part of the European Investment Bank Group (EIB), to launch the BlueInvest Fund. During the BlueInvest Day conference in Brussels last February, EIB Vice-President Emma Navarro and Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, launched a €75 million equity investment fund for the blue economy.

The BlueInvest Fund will be managed by the European Investment Fund and will provide financing to underlying equity funds that strategically target and support the innovative blue economy. This sector can play an important role in the transformation to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, an ambition announced in the European Green Deal. The new programme is backed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the financial pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe.

EIB Group’s headquarters in Luxembourg © EIB

The blue economy includes economic activities related to oceans, seas and coasts. It ranges from companies in the marine environment to land-based businesses producing goods or services that contribute to the maritime economy.  The blue economy harbours many promising early-stage ventures and companies – often emanating from EU-funded R&D programmes.

These companies develop solutions for renewable energy, sustainable seafood, blue biotechnology, maritime IT and much more.The new fund is complemented by the European Commission’s BlueInvest platform, which supports investment readiness and access to finance for early-stage businesses, SMEs and scale-ups. Through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, the Commission also funds an additional €40 million grant scheme, to help blue economy SMEs with developing and bringing to market new innovative and sustainable products, technologies and services.

Airbus reveals its blended wing aircraft demonstrator

During the Singapore air show 2020, Airbus has revealed MAVERIC (Model Aircraft for Validation and Experimentation of Robust Innovative Controls) its “blended wing body” scale model technological demonstrator.At 2 metres long and 3.2 metres wide, with a surface area of about 2.25m², MAVERIC features a disruptive aircraft design, that has the potential to reduce fuel consumption by up-to 20 percent compared to current single-aisle aircraft. The “blended wing body” configuration also opens up new possibilities for propulsion systems type and integration, as well as a versatile cabin for a totally new on-board passenger experience.

© Airbus S.A.S. 2020 – Computer rendering by FIXION -Photo dreamstime.com -MMS – 2020

Launched in 2017, MAVERIC first took to the skies in June 2019. Since then the flight-test campaign has been on-going and will continue until the end of Q2 2020.

“Airbus is leveraging emerging technologies to pioneer the future of flight. By testing disruptive aircraft configurations, Airbus is able to evaluate their potential as viable future products,” said Jean-Brice Dumont, EVP Engineering Airbus. “Although there is no specific time line for entry-into-service, this technological demonstrator could be instrumental in bringing about change in commercial aircraft architectures for an environmentally sustainable future for the aviation industry.”

Airbus is using its core strengths and capabilities of engineering and manufacturing, in close collaboration with an extended innovation ecosystem, to accelerate traditional research and development cycles. By doing this Airbus is able to achieve proof of concepts, at a convincing scale and speed, thereby driving forward maturity and increasing their value.

Through AirbusUpNext, a research programme, Airbus is currently working on a number of demonstrator projects in parallel; E-FAN X (hybrid-electric propulsion), fello’fly (v-shaped “formation” flight) and ATTOL (Autonomous Taxi Take-Off & Landing).

Fake investors busted in Belgium and France

More than 85 victims in Belgium and France suffered around €6 million losses for believing in the fraudsters’ false promises

The French National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale) in collaboration with the Belgian Federal Judicial Police (Police Judiciaire Fédérale) and the Israeli Police, supported by Europol and Eurojust, have brought down a large network of investment fraudsters. The criminal group was involved in money laundering and binary investment fraud.

Fake websites and bogus companies to fraud investors

In the beginning of 2019, four suspects were arrested in France, three of which were detained. At the end of 2019, five other suspects were arrested and questioned in Israel with the support of an international Operational Task Force set-up by Europol bringing together Belgian, French and Israeli investigators and magistrates. More than one million euros have already been seized from the fraudsters’ accounts. A French-Israeli citizen who has already been convinced of massif fraud related to carbon tax is suspected to be the mastermind.

The investigation into this criminal network, active in Belgium and France and controlled by an Israeli branch, started in 2018. The criminal organisation managed to set-up a sophisticated system promising big gains on investments in bitcoin, gold and diamonds. The suspects were offering their financial services on online platforms. The criminal network also set up bogus companies as a part of their money laundering scheme. 

No real easy gains

The suspects were promising between 5 and 35% return on investment. They then proceeded to pretend to manage the victims’ wallets and invite them to invest more money. To increase the confidence in their services, they were paying some of the victims the interests on their investments. Once the victims were won over, the fraudsters would offer bigger opportunities, which required higher amounts to be invested. A big French private company and a French local authority are among the victims of this network. The investments of the victims were placed on accounts in different EU Member States before being transferred to other international accounts.

The network is believed to be responsible for frauds which amount to at least €6 million. The investigators have also discovered invoices for few million euros, which the fraudsters had not yet finalised.

Europol supported the investigation since 2018 and facilitated the information exchange between the participating countries. A Europol Operation Task Force between investigators and magistrates from Belgium, France and Israel to increase the operational cooperation between the countries involved in the investigation. Europol provided also analytical and technical support and deployed an expert on-the-spot to cross-check operational information against Europol’s databases and thus, provide leads to investigators.

GRETA publishes a combined 1st/2nd round report on Monaco : “No  victims  of  trafficking  in  human  beings  have  been  identified  to  date  in  Monaco”

In its first report on Monaco published today, the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) welcomes the initiatives taken by Monaco, but asks the authorities to adopt legislative measures, public policies and practical provisions in line with a human rights-based and victim-centred approach.

Although no victims of trafficking have been identified to date in Monaco, GRETA emphasises the need to adopt a policy document covering the prevention of trafficking, training for relevant professionals, the identification and protection of victims and the prosecution of trafficking offences. It also calls for a structure to be developed for co-ordinating the actions of relevant actors in the event of a case of human trafficking, with the involvement of civil society, and urges the authorities to ensure that all professionals likely to come into contact with potential victims have access to the appropriate tools.

In terms of preventing trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation, labour inspectors should be provided with training on this type of trafficking and on victims’ rights, and measures taken to raise awareness among the general public and, more specifically, migrant workers.

The report also reiterates the importance of identifying all victims and ensuring that they benefit from the appropriate assistance and protection measures to help them with their physical, psychological and social recovery. A clear procedure for the identification of child victims of trafficking, based on multi-agency action and integrated in the child protection system, should be devised.

In addition, domestic legislation should guarantee the right of presumed trafficking victims to a recovery and reflection period of at least 30 days, and provision for granting a residence permit to victims of trafficking in human beings if the competent authority considers that their stay is necessary because of their personal situation and/or if it is necessary for the purpose of their co-operation with the competent authorities in connection with an investigation or criminal proceedings.

Lastly, all relevant professionals, including members of the law enforcement authorities, prosecutors, judges, labour inspectors,  lawyers, officers of the asylum authorities, social workers, child protection professionals and medical and educational staff, should be kept regularly informed and undergo training, especially as regards the requirement to apply a human rights-based approach to action against trafficking.

Ruling by World Bank investor tribunal paves way for Greek investors to bring claims against Republic of Cyprus for massive losses stemming from government’s 2013 bank restructuring

Greek citizens whose life savings were nearly wiped out by a 2013 restructuring of banks in Cyprus have been given a path forward following a new ruling by a World Bank tribunal.

The International Centre for Settlement Investment Disputes in Washington has ruled that it has jurisdiction to arbitrate claims of nearly 1,000 Greek bank depositors and bondholders who assert their massive financial losses were caused by the government of Cyprus’s 2013 bank “bail-in.”

The ICSID decision issued on Feb. 7 held that all of the investor claims can be adjudicated under identical treaty provisions and are based on Cyprus’s 2013 moves to restructure its main banks, impacting all claimants in a similar fashion akin to a class action. By determining that all of the claims were sufficiently homogenous, ICSID provides a green light for investors to seek redress in a single, combined arbitration. It is the first mass investor claim to be given such a ruling since the famous cases brought by Argentine bondholders.

Next step: ICSID will now assess Cyprus’s liability for discriminating against the foreign investors and expropriating their assets without compensation.

“This precedent-setting decision has major implications for investor-state arbitration,” said Olav Haazen of law firm Grant & Eisenhofer, one of several firms representing the claimants. “It opens up a new avenue for smaller investors who were wronged by foreign governments. They can now join forces and seek collective redress, even if the host states’ own laws offer investors no equivalent access to effective and impartial justice.”

Click here to read the 2020 March edition of Europe Diplomatic Magazine

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