Romania shrugs off label of Europes poor man as economy booms

Since it joined the EU in 2007, government economic measures and communist-era educational excellence have spurred rapid growth

At a sleek new office in the heart of Bucharest, Fitbit co-founder and chief executive James Park explains why the smartwear giant is rapidly expanding its operations in Romania and following the lead of a host of multinationals. The tech talent here is amazing. Romania and other countries in central and eastern Europe have great existing talent, and also great universities, he says.

The US company, which bought Romanian smartwatch brand Vector Watches for a reported $15m (11.4m) late last year, and has tripled its staff in Romania since, has just opened its largest research and development centre outside the US, in the Romanian capital. Its not alone: in recent years, major global companies such as Siemens, Ford and Bosch have set up or expanded operations in Romania, boosting an economy thats already growing at speed.

While many see Romania as a country of migrants flocking abroad to find work, back home the economy is booming. The services sector is expanding at pace, along with exports and manufacturing. Meanwhile, private consumption from clothes to furniture and cars hit a nine-year high in 2016, and increased a further 8% in the first half of this year.

The economy grew 5.7% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2017, the fastest rate in the EU, where the average growth rate was 2.4%. This was on the back of a GDP rise of 4.8% in 2016 and 3.9% in 2015; during the same period the UK economy grew by a more placid 1.8% and 2.2%. According to the International Monetary Fund, Romanias economy is expected to grow by 5.5% for the whole of 2017.

The tech sector, in particular, is expanding fast, built on a communist-era legacy of excellence in science, mathematics and technical education, as well as Romanias strong language skills, which have long made it a hub for IT outsourcing. While the Romanian languages Latin roots have helped explained the countrys linguistic skills, some suggest it was a decision to subtitle rather than dub foreign programming on television that boosted foreign language exposure and proficiency.

According to industry insiders, the tech sector which employs about 150,000 people is expected to double its share of GDP to 12% by 2025, aided by one of the fastest broadband internet speeds in the world (behind only Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Iceland).

Elsewhere, Ford has announced plans to hire almost 1,000 workers for its plant in Craiova, 180km west of the capital, adding to its current workforce of 2,715. The automotive giant has invested more than 1.2bn (1.1bn) in its Romanian manufacturing operations since 2008. Renault-owned Dacia, a former communist state-owned giant, remains the countrys largest company based on revenue, with a turnover of 4.1bn in 2016. Joining the EU in 2007 clearly had an impact, while more recent government measures have also boosted the economy.

The government in 2015 decided to cut taxation for consumption, says Ionut Dumitru, chief economist at Raiffeisen Bank Romania and chairman of Romanias fiscal council. They cut VAT from 24% to 20%, and now 19%, and extended the reduced VAT rate for food and some other items. This was a very strong stimulus for consumption.

The government has also doubled the minimum wage in four years. And its not only the minimum wage that has increased a lot, but also public sector wages.

Wages in Romania remain far below the EU average, making it an enticing option for outsourcing; the minimum monthly wage is currently around 283 only Bulgarias is lower within the EU.

However, lower wages have stopped many Romanians returning home, leaving companies short of workers in 2016, the unemployment rate dropped to an historic low of 5.9% compared with an EU average of 8.6%, amid predictions it will drop to 5.4% this year.

Uncertainty over Brexit is having an impact, with companies looking at alternatives within the EU in case the UK pursues an exit that restricts trade.

Were getting inquiries from UK companies on a weekly basis since the referendum, says Shajjad Rizvi, the director of the British Romanian Chamber of Commerce in the northern city of Cluj, one of the largest tech centres in central and eastern Europe.

We are seeing global companies hedging their bets, in case tariffs are not favourable or something else, and Romania is one of the choices they are looking at, he adds. Software companies, a lot are doubling or tripling their workforces in Romania, and a lot of those jobs are coming from the UK. Whole departments: marketing, PR, HR; they are being closed down in the UK and moved out here.

But there are also serious challenges. Romania has long been considered one of the most corrupt nations in the EU. Despite progress, there are still major concerns. In February, the country experienced the largest protests in decades after the government pushed through legislation that would have effectively decriminalised low-level corruption. The government backed down, but has yet to regain public trust.

Transportation infrastructure is also poor. Romania came 128 out of 138 countries for the quality of its road infrastructure in the latest World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report; the railway system, which is old and slow, came in slightly better at 79. There are only 747km of motorway in the whole country.

There is also concern about the rising deficit. In 2016 the government deficit the gap between state income and spending rose to 3% of GDP, up from 0.8% in 2015, due to increased spending and tax cuts. The main concern for the economy is the fiscal situation, says Raiffeisens Dumitru. The deficit is under pressure.

Even so, Romanias economy looks set to continue to expand in the near future. Its hard to sustain more than 5% growth, says Dumitru. Most analysts are predicting closer to 4% for next year. But even 4% will probably be one of the highest growth rates in Europe, so its not bad at all.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/14/romania-economy-booming

Enrico Letta Fast Facts

(CNN)Here is a look at the life of former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta.

Birth place: Pisa, Italy
Father: Giorgio Letta, a mathematics professor
    Mother: Anna (Banchi) Letta
    Marriage: Gianna Fregonara
    Children: Giacomo, Lorenzo, Francesco
    Education: University of Pisa, International Law, 1994; Scuola Superiore “S.Anna,” European Community Law, Ph.D., 2007
    Religion: Roman Catholic
    Other Facts:
    His uncle, Gianni Letta, was former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi‘s chief of staff.
    Center-left Democrat.
    Timeline:
    1991-1995 –
    President, European Young Christian Democrats.
    1993 – Chief of staff for Foreign Affairs Minister Beniamino Andreatta.
    January 1997-November 1998 – Deputy Secretary of the Italian People’s Party.
    1998-1999 – Minister of European Affairs for Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema.
    1999-2001 – Minister of Industry and Commerce.
    2001 – Is elected to Italy’s Parliament.
    January 2002-May 2006 – Head of the Department of National Economy.
    2004 – Elected to the European Parliament.
    2006-2008 – Secretary to the Council of Ministers for Prime Minister Romano Prodi.
    October 2007-February 2009 – Minister of Welfare.
    February 2009-October 2009 – Head of the National Department of Welfare.
    November 2009-April 2013 – Deputy National Secretary for the Democratic Party.
    April 28, 2013 – Is sworn in as Italy’s prime minister.
    October 2, 2013 – Letta’s coalition government survives a confidence vote by a healthy margin, with 235 senators voting in favor to 70 against.
    February 14, 2014 – Resigns as prime minister.
    September 1, 2015-present – Dean of the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/03/world/europe/enrico-letta-fast-facts/index.html

    Jean-Luc Mlenchon ready to lead Frances new resistance

    The hard-left leader is prepared to fight in parliament or on the streets. And tackling Macron on workers rights is first on the agenda

    Entering the French lower house of parliament as an MP for the first time last week, Jean-Luc Mlenchon pointed to the European flag planted next to the French tricolor, turned to the camera tracking him and said: Do we have to put up with that?

    Earlier he stood on the steps of the Assemble Nationale, alongside the other 16 newly elected MPs from his hard-left party La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), raised a clenched fist and shouted Resistance.

    Mlenchon declared they were there as opposition MPs in the service of the people. He had begun as he means to go on for the next five years going head-to-head with president Emmanuel Macrons La Rpublique en Marche (La REM) majority government.

    It is a battle that will be fought in parliament and as Mlenchon has made it clear out on the streets if necessary.

    Macron, a former investment banker who is deeply pro-Europe, is seeking to loosen Frances complex labour laws to allow companies to hire and fire more easily, negotiate working hours and wages with employees and not the unions, and cap unfair dismissal pay-outs. Frances youngest president is planning to use ordinances a process to push through legislation quickly by decree which French unions will bitterly contest as sweeping away social dialogue and consultation. He has also pledged to cut public spending by 60bn and lay off 120,000 public-sector workers. Mlenchon has promised not a single concession on workers rights without a fight.

    His party has only 17 seats out of a total of 577 in the National Assembly but is at least a unified opposition, which is more than can be said for the general election runners-up, the conservative Rpublicains, which won 112 constituencies but is currently tearing itself apart, or the Socialist party, which is also catastrophically riven and now has just 29 seats compared with 295 in 2012. Macrons REM has 308 seats and his allied Democratic Movement, MoDem, party has 42.

    Mlenchon
    Mlenchon gearing up for the second round of parliamentary elections earlier this month. Photograph: Claude Paris/AP

    Even so, the political scientist Dominique Reyni, director of the progressive centre-right thinktank Fondapol, said he doubted everything would go the way Macron wanted once the electoral honeymoon period was over. He will face opposition. If not in parliament then outside, on the streets, Reyni said.

    Bruno Jeanbart, deputy director of the pollsters OpinionWay, had already warned even before Macrons triumph: Where is the opposition? If it doesnt happen in parliament, it will happen in the streets, in the press.

    Their warnings were echoed this week by Luc Rouban, a political scientist at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, who described the political situation in France as potentially explosive. Rouban said FI could put up a little resistance but opposition is likely to express itself outside parliament.

    Even before he took up his seat in the Assemble Nationale, Mlenchon was making headlines. Referring to one of Macrons more flamboyant new and inexperienced MPs, the prizewinning mathematician Cdric Villani, as the maths guy, he added: Ill explain to him what the labour law is all about and hell be astonished. Hes no idea whats in it! He doesnt realise the eight-hour working day was the result of 100 years of battle. Villani responded in good humour. Dear Jean-Luc Mlenchon, he tweeted. As director of IHP [a mathematical research centre], Ive seen work contracts. But its always a pleasure to have a private lesson!

    Rouban said that Mlenchon and the far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen, who was also elected to the French parliament for the first time with seven other FN MPs, could become the cheerleaders for a social challenge, a strong theme for the presidential election. The situation was made even more unpredictable, he said, because the opposition parties had little real power. And the decider would be whether what they say carries any weight with public opinion or whether there is a form of apathy among the working classes and of patience among the upper classes.

    Pierre Gattaz, head of the French business leaders organisation Medef, dismissed the idea of Mlenchon leading any kind of credible opposition to Macron. He said Mlenchons worship of Cubas Fidel Castro and Venezuelas Hugo Chvez made him a man whose ideas were extremely dangerous.

    He can talk. He has a great talent for oratory, but well have to see how it finishes for those who put their faith in someone who speaks well, but whose ideas will lead to ruin and desolation for France, Gattaz told the Anglo-American Press Association.

    We have to call a spade a spade. He has never produced a single idea for creating jobs in France. Let Mr Mlenchon set up his own company and create a few jobs and then he can say something.

    Gattaz, who believes Macrons economic reform plans do not go far enough said he was optimistic that reform would happen. If not, we will be looking at Mlenchon and Le Pen in the second round in 2022, he said.

    Asked where he saw opposition to Macrons economically liberal programme coming from, Gattaz said possibly from the streets.

    The historian Jean Garrigues said opposition parties had few weapons against an absolute parliamentary majority, adding that the opposition vote against cant make much difference and they had the choice of ganging up on the government by joining forces or taking the fight to the streets. The latter only worked when theres pressure from unions and public opinion. Olivier Rozenberg, associate professor at SciencesPo university, said: The opposition isnt going to change laws, but they can make their point of view heard. They force the majority to justify itself, which is important.

    Mlenchon believes that his best ally is the record 57% bloc of French voters who, orphaned by the disintegration of the traditional left and right parties, did not bother to cast a vote in the general election. The president has no legitimacy to perpetrate a social coup. I see in this abstention an energy that’s availableif we know how to use it for our fight, he said.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/24/jean-luc-melenchon-france-new-resistance-macron

    Brexit: 50 things the UK needs to do after triggering Article 50

    London (CNN)UK Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 on Wednesday, officially kicking off the Brexit process and the painstaking legislative to-do list that comes with it.

    One of the next key steps in the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union will come when May’s government introduces the Great Repeal Bill.
    The bill is designed to put an end to the EU’s legal jurisdiction over the UK. But first it will transpose all current EU laws into the UK statute books “to ensure the maximum stability on exit,” the government says.
    Parliament will then begin the daunting task of deciding which EU laws to keep and which to scrap, essentially untangling four decades of EU rules now enshrined in UK legislation.
    There are nearly 20,000 EU legislative acts in force that make up a mind-boggling set of rules dictating everything from how much clean energy a country should use to the acceptable curvature of a grocery store banana.
    So where will the government begin? Here’s a list of just 50 things the UK will need to work out as it sets sail on its own.

    The big questions

    1. A new immigration system
    Immigration was a key issue in the Brexit debate. After the UK withdraws from the union, a system to allow its nationals to visit, work, study and live in the EU — and vice versa — must be hammered out.
    The UK is currently part of the European Single Market, which allows goods, services and people to move freely through member states. EU citizens have the right to travel and seek work in other EU countries. Roughly 1.2 million Brits were settled in the EU in 2015, and around 3.2 million EU nationals were living in the UK, according to government statistics.
    But as May has made clear, the UK will no longer be part of the single market, so this free movement will come to an end after Brexit.
    The idea of a points-based system like Australia’s has been floated, with the aim of attracting immigrants with certain skills to fill gaps in the economy.
    2. Asylum seekers and refugees

    The UK has opted out of most EU legislation on immigration, but an exception is the Dublin III regulation, under which EU member states can transfer asylum seekers back to the first safe EU country they entered.
    Since asylum seekers often reach the UK after traveling through countries like Italy and Greece, the UK transfers more asylum seekers back to those and other European countries under this rule than it receives.
    But that law will no longer apply after Brexit, so those countries won’t be obliged to receive asylum seekers whom the UK wants to send back. If the UK wants to preserve the principle of Dublin III, the government must negotiate separate bilateral arrangements with each individual country.
    3. A trade deal with the EU
    One of the most contentious points of the Brexit debate was the UK’s trade relations with the EU. A new trade deal is expected to be one of the most difficult and important parts of the negotiations.
    The UK intends to leave the EU’s single market and may also leave the EU customs union, through which Britain enjoys tariff-free trade. If no trade deal is agreed upon, the UK would have to trade with the EU under World Trade Organization rules, which could lead to new tariffs and regulations.
      4. Trade deals with everyone else
      Post-Brexit doors are opening for the UK to strike new trade deals with non-EU countries like the US, China, Brazil, Australia and Canada. As a member of the EU — which negotiates trade deals as a bloc — this would not have been possible.
      5. Security vs. privacy

      The UK government has proved nosier than most of its EU counterparts — last year, Parliament passed the Investigatory Powers Act, better known as the “Snooper’s Charter,” which gives UK law enforcement agencies unprecedented access to personal data and requires telecommunications companies to store web-browsing histories for a year.
      But the EU has strict data protection laws — including one directive, for example, that says EU countries must guarantee that information is stored or accessed only if the user has been informed and been given the right of refusal.
      The EU in December ruled that parts of the “Snooper’s Charter” were unlawful. When the UK leaves the EU however, the judgment will be rendered invalid.
      6. Law enforcement
      As well as being a member of Europol, the UK is part of an EU system where police forces from different countries can automatically share DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration data for law enforcement purposes. According to European think tank CEPS, “Brexit means that the UK will lose access to all these information tools for law enforcement purposes.”

      The peculiar and pedantic

      7. Working out what jam is
      In 2010, an EU directive was passed stating that jams must consist of 60% sugar and come from a list of approved fruits in order to be classified as jam. The directive alarmed many small business owners already marketing their product as jam, who thought they would have to either change their labels or sugar content due to the regulation.
      In 2013, Michelle “Clippy” McKenna, a British apple preserve maker, argued that her product was a jam even though it didn’t cross the sugar threshold — but it turned out that there was a clause in the EU rule allowing for exemptions. It was just that the UK had not included this clause into its own law. The government has kept a lid on its plans to amend any food directives for now, although Brexit would allow the UK to can the jam rule altogether should it wish to.
      8. Pig semen
      Want to import pig semen into the EU? Farmers seeking to improve the quality of their pork must obtain pig semen from an authorized collection center and make sure it comes with an animal health certificate, according to another EU directive. It’s not clear how the future of the swine gene pool will be affected by Brexit yet — but it’s surely on the minds of the farmers overseeing the 10,000 pig farms in the UK.
      9. Bright lights
      Could traditional incandescent light bulbs make a return to high street shelves in the UK? The UK mostly phased out incandescent bulbs following an EU directive favoring more energy efficient options in 2009. But the regulation only applied to domestic use, and to this day the traditional light bulbs are commercially available in the UK. It’s possible Britain could bring back the bright lights after Brexit.
      10. Bendy bananas

      The EU rules on bananas have long been the subject of mockery. According to the 1994 regulation, bananas must be “free from malformation or abnormal curvature,” be more than 14 centimeters in length and come in bunches of at least four. Other parts of the regulation say the fruit must be free from pests and mostly free of bruises. Bananas might be bendier after Brexit — but could they be less appetizing too?
        11. Footwear labeling
        Look at the label on your shoes. If you bought it in the EU, you’ll find information about the materials used to make them. EU law specifies that shoe labels must be embossed on the footwear or attached by an adhesive label, fastener or string. Shopping for shoes after Brexit could be a much more confusing affair if the UK doesn’t find its footing with a new bill.
        12. Move your horses
        If you want to move a horse within the EU, strict rules apply. The animal must show no sign of disease in the 48 hours prior to traveling and must have had no contact with horses that have an infectious disease in the previous 15 days. But countries outside the EU face even tougher rules, including additional inspections by experts from EU countries and the European Commission. A post-Brexit UK may need to negotiate a separate arrangement to avoid these stricter regulations.
        13. The future of football
        The rules around sporting transfers are likely to change when Britain leaves the EU — and impact one of the world’s most watched leagues.
        That means once Britain’s demarcation from the EU is finally drawn, footballers looking to ply their trade in the English Premier League — or in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — are likely to be subject to a tougher set of rules that govern transfers from outside the region.
        The English Football Association in 2015 tightened the rules for non-EU players joining English teams in an effort to give indigenous players more chance.
        So non-EU players had to have made a minimum number of international appearances for a top-50 country over the previous two years (the higher the ranking, the fewer the number of matches necessary).
        Spanish superstar footballers, for example, may have to get the same work permits as Brazilians to play in post-Brexit England.
        14. Safety at work
        EU laws on health and safety at work are often mocked for being excessive. Employers must make sure workers have information about the weight and weight distribution of a load before handling it, and they must organize workstations to make handling as safe as possible. The directive warns of increased risks if the floor is uneven, the load is unwieldy or the worker is wearing unsuitable clothing. Without this law, or a similar replacement, is UK workplace safety in jeopardy?
        15. The future of coloring in

        The EU is currently attempting to introduce new measures limiting the amount of lead allowed in toys and items that may be chewed on by children. Some British media characterized the proposal as little more than bureaucrats in Brussels clamping down on coloring pencils and crayons.
        According to the European Chemicals Agency, the average lead content in the blood of European children is up to four times higher than recommended. EU toy safety regulations are some of the toughest in the world. It is unclear if the UK will stick to these rules after Brexit.
          16. Noisy vehicles
          An EU regulation aims to cut down on noise pollution by ensuring new cars are a little quieter than before. In three stages, it will ban new four-wheel passenger vehicles that are louder than 77 decibels by 2026, and vehicles carrying goods will be limited to 79 decibels. It also requires electric and hybrid cars to make artificial engine noises to avoid accidents, especially involving pedestrians. The chances of Britain being flooded with annoyingly noisy vehicles after Brexit seems unlikely, but the country may not stick to such stringent rules.
          17. Trade in torture instruments
          EU member nations are banned from importing items that have no practical use other than carrying out capital punishment, torture or inhuman or degrading treatment. Among them are electric chairs and shock belts, shackles, gallows, guillotines and pepper spray. Revisiting this law could make for some interesting deliberations in UK Parliament.

          The nitty gritty

          18. Brits abroad
          At the moment, UK nationals can turn up to an EU country, flash their passports and be granted freedom of movement within the union. But once the country pulls out of the EU, this privilege could come to an end.
          The government will need to negotiate a deal for its citizens and will likely try to retain visa-free travel. But the European Commission may have other ideas — it currently has a proposal on that table for a visa waiver system, much like the scheme in the United States, to tighten screening of all non-EU members entering the EU. This would involve applying online for a visa ahead of time and paying a small fee to be given access to the zone.
          19. Roaming charges
          EU citizens pay relatively low roaming fees for phone calls and data usage within the EU. And the union is aiming to abolish roaming charges altogether by June this year.
          As outsiders, telecommunications companies will not be obliged to offer the same low rates to British travelers, and these rates may come down to what kind of deal the government strikes with the EU.
          20. Cost of air travel

          Air travel between EU countries has become much more affordable since the EU removed several competition barriers, allowing budget airlines to flourish. But after Brexit, UK airlines such as EasyJet won’t be able to take advantage of these benefits and will need to make new agreements to operate in EU airspace, according to the Chief Executive of the Civil Aviation Authority. The impact this could have on prices is unclear.
          21. Air passenger rights
          If you’re an EU citizen and your flight is canceled or delayed, or if you’re denied boarding against your will, you are entitled to various forms of compensation under EU law. Even if you’re simply seated in a class lower than you paid for, you can claim up to 75% of the price of the ticket. After Brexit, UK citizens will no longer have these rights.
          22. The 48-hour work week
          Employers are obliged to make sure their employees work no more than 48 hours a week on average under the EU’s Working Time Directive. Think-tank Open Europe claims that the rule costs the economy 4.2 billion ($5.3 billion) a year. It’s still unclear whether the UK government will scrap the law after Brexit, but the Trades Union Congress (TUC) fears that working time protections could be weakened.
          23. Carers’ rights
          A landmark 2008 European Court of Justice decision ruled that non-disabled employees are protected by law if discriminated against on the basis of their association or care for a disabled person. For example, if an employer discriminated against a parent caring for a disabled child, the parent could claim for discrimination. After Brexit, the UK government will be free to decide on the future of carers’ rights in the workplace.
            24. Equal pay for agency workers
            The EU has also obliged employers to pay temporary agency workers at the same rate as permanent employees. The government may choose to revisit this rule, which Open Europe says costs the economy a further 2.1 billion ($2.6 billion) a year.
            25. Part-time workers’ pension
            Rulings by the European Court of Justice obliged the UK to enroll part-time workers in employer pension schemes — not doing so was seen as discrimination against women, who work part-time roles in higher numbers. It is unclear whether the government will reconsider this rule.
            26. Annual leave
            Under EU law, if you get sick while on annual leave, you can retake that leave at a later date and even carry it over into the following year. According to the Local Government Association, this conflicts with UK law, which doesn’t allow employees to carry over leave from one year to the next. This conflict may mean that this particular EU regulation is scrapped after Brexit.
            27. Gender equality

            Under its Strategic Gender Equality plan, the EU allocated 6.17 billion euros ($6.7 billion) between 2014 and 2020 to reach certain targets, such as reducing the gender pay gap, preventing and combating violence against women and getting more women involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The UK government will need to decide how to fill this funding gap, post-Brexit.
            In his 2017 spring budget speech, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond pledged to commit 20 million ($25 million) of government funding to support a nationwide campaign to stop violence against women and girls. Hammond also reinstated the controversial “tampon tax,” a 5% tax placed on the sanitary item, which will be used to deliver an additional 12 million ($15 million) in support of women’s charities nationwide, according to Hammond.
            28. Maternity leave
            Employers in the EU offer a minimum paid maternity leave of 14 weeks uninterrupted. Under UK law, new mothers in the UK get 52 weeks of maternity leave, 39 of which are partially paid. Brexit wouldn’t likely change the UK’s already generous laws.
            29. Erasmus
            UK university students currently have access to Erasmus, an EU student exchange program that allows them to study in another Erasmus country for three to 12 months. Nearly half of all UK students who travel to study elsewhere for a short period do so through this scheme. Access to Erasmus will no longer be automatic and will have to be renegotiated.

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            30. Recognition of qualifications
            EU citizens who get a professional qualification in one EU country may work in another safe in the knowledge that their skill — whether it be accounting, teaching, beekeeping or wine-tasting — will be recognized.
            It’s fairly simple for UK citizens to find work or training elsewhere in the EU by using the European Qualifications Framework and the Europass to list their skills and qualifications. These standardized documents help universities and employers to compare applicants from countries across the EU. Once Britain has left the EU, UK citizens may not be able to access these tools and countries may decide not to recognize each other’s qualifications unconditionally.
            31. Horizon 2020
            A number of UK universities, including Edinburgh, Manchester, Oxford and Cambridge, have received millions of euros in funding through Horizon 2020, an EU program that promotes research into topics as diverse as health and well-being, green transport, outer space and future technologies.
            According to the “white paper” on Brexit, the government “will work with the European Commission to ensure payment” when funds are awarded in research programs including Horizon 2020 . It promised to guarantee such grants, even if projects continue after the UK leaves the EU. The role of UK universities in future EU-led research programs remains unclear, however.
            32. CO2 Emissions

            The UK is part of the EU Emissions Trading System, the cornerstone of the EU’s climate change policy and the world’s first and biggest carbon market. Under the ETS, a cap is set on the total amount of certain greenhouse gases that can be emitted, and is reduced over time so that total emissions fall. The system is now in its third phase — where a single, EU-wide cap on emissions applies in place of the previous system of national caps. If the UK leaves the ETS, the EU-wide cap will need to be adjusted and legislation introduced to keep the UK’s CO2 emissions in check.
            33. Keeping beaches clean
            Until the 1970s, the UK could legally pump untreated sewage into the sea. That all changed with the 1975 EU Bathing Water Directive, which sets the standards for keeping the UK’s beach and its waters clean. Although the British government continued to dump raw sewage into the sea until at least 1991, the EU directive has been successful. In 2015, 99.4% of the coast’s bathing waters met minimum EU standards, according to the European Environment Agency. The UK will have to draw up new laws on how to keep over 11,000 miles of the country’s coastline clean if it drops the initiative.
            34. The air we breathe
            In the UK, pollution levels have generally improved since EU limits were introduced in 2010. But most main roads in London — and some areas in Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow — regularly breach legal values for nitrogen dioxide emissions, a gas produced by diesel engines that causes lung disease and respiratory problems. The UK and any other offenders are slapped with heavy fines when this happens — perhaps an economic incentive for the British government to amend or drop the 2008 EU directive on ambient air quality.
            35. The fate of wild birds
            The EU Wild Birds Directive provides the framework for the conservation of 500 wild bird species and their habitats in Europe. In the UK, this is executed through several different laws and regulations that come at high compliance costs. Andrea Leadsom, the UK’s Secretary of State for the Environment, said only two-thirds of environmental legislation will be directly retained by the Great Repeal Bill, leaving the future of the rest — including measures to conserve birds — uncertain.
            36. Animal welfare
            Farm animals kept in the EU must be fed a wholesome diet, have enough space to move around and be treated immediately if they’re sick or injured, according to one directive. There are around 40 other pieces of EU legislation that also deal with animal welfare, according to the RSPCA. As the government has made clear it won’t remain in the EU’s single market, Parliament will have to decide which regulations to keep and which to drop.
            37. Save the bees

            Neonicotinoid pesticides — used on crops that attract pollinators — have been strongly connected to the declining bee population, and the EU restricted their use in 2013.
            Two years later the UK granted farmers an emergency authorization to use them on oilseed rape seeds. The UK expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the rules and could alter or drop them after Brexit.
            38. Getting treatment
            If UK citizens — eligible for free healthcare under the National Health Service at home — get sick or injured in another EU country, EU law says they can be treated for free and that the UK government must meet the cost. To access this care, travelers carry a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The law also allows for citizens to travel abroad specifically for the purpose of getting treatment in another EU country. Whether UK citizens will be eligible for an EHIC and free healthcare in the EU after Brexit is yet to be negotiated.
            39. Dealing with pandemics
            The EU has an early warning and response system for potential public health threats, such as the SARS epidemic in 2003. Countries can easily share information, pool resources for lab investigations and work together to develop new strategies for future threats. After Brexit, the UK won’t be part of this system and will have to develop other ways of coordinating with EU countries.

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            40. EU health program
            Through the EU health program, launched in 2014, EU countries work closely together to combat unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking and drug and alcohol abuse, by sharing information and good practices. Projects with these goals can receive up to 80% of their funding from the EU. The UK may still be eligible to be part of the program after Brexit but membership is not guaranteed.
            41. Disease prevention and control
            The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control works to identify and combat threats to human health from infectious diseases such as influenza, waterborne diseases and HIV. It makes it easier for organizations across the EU to share information and expertise.
            According to a report by the Royal College of Physicians, programs managed by the ECDC “could not be effectively fulfilled by national governments independently.” After Brexit, the UK would be excluded from the ECDC and would need to negotiate a special arrangement to remain a member.
            42. Medicine

            Under mutual recognition licensing, any medical product licensed in the UK can be distributed throughout the EU.
            At a recent hearing, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed that after Brexit the UK won’t be part of the European Medicines Agency, the body responsible for authorizing new medicines, and instead hopes to negotiate its own form of mutual recognition agreement with the EU.
            43. Road safety
            Vehicle and road safety is covered by a long list of EU laws. EU regulations set out safety standards for all kinds of vehicles and even specify the type of crash protection systems required for vehicles in order to reduce the number and severity of injuries to pedestrians. After Brexit, the UK will be responsible for introducing national road and vehicle safety laws to protect its citizens.
            44. ‘Passporting’ for the finance industry
            A gripe for the finance industry during the Brexit debate was the possible loss of “passporting” — the right for UK businesses to provide financial services anywhere in the EU and the wider European Economic Area while being based in the UK and regulated by UK authorities.
            In the Brexit negotiations, the government could try to retain this right as part of a new agreement with the EU.
            45. Firearms
            EU law sets out strict regulations on who can own a firearm and buy ammunition. Among other things, the law requires EU states to keep a database of registered firearms and carry out regular checks on license holders. The law was also designed to make it easier for countries to share information about firearms and their movements around the EU. After Brexit, the UK could decide to loosen or tighten these regulations in its own laws.
            46. Rules on tobacco
            The EU has strict rules on how cigarettes and other tobacco products can be manufactured, marketed and sold. EU law is behind the large health warnings on cigarette packets. It will soon prevent extra flavors such as fruit or menthol being added to tobacco products that could encourage people, especially young people, to start smoking. Although the UK has strict tobacco laws of its own, the government will need to clarify where it stands on EU regulations, such as the ban on menthol cigarettes, which are currently available widely.
            47. Irish dairy

            For Irish dairy farmers whose land straddles the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Brexit could have significant implications. If a “hard border” is imposed, new import and export charges could be introduced This could mean big costs: 30% of total of Irish dairy exports go to the UK.
            Farmers who have cows and a bottling plant on one side of the border, but with the milking equipment on the other side, could be hit with these import/export taxes if a hard border is introduced. As of now, it’s not clear what will happen to the common travel area that exists between Northern Ireland, which will remain part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which will stay in the EU. The British government said that its aim is “to have as seamless and frictionless a border as possible” in a 77-page “white paper.”
            48. The French border
            In 2003, the French and UK governments signed the Le Touquet accord, which allows the UK to check passports in France and effectively situates the border on French soil. The agreement has nothing to do with EU law but last March the then French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron suggested Le Touquet could end if Britain voted to leave the EU.
            Macron also warned that migration to Britain would increase if it left the EU, including from those who had camped out for months at a camp in the French city of Calais.
            Macron is now a frontrunner in the presidential election, and he hasn’t forgotten his pledge. At a campaign rally in London in February, he suggested he would try to partly renegotiate the agreement. Softer language perhaps, but the possibility of a change to border arrangements remains.
            49. Keep broadband affordable
            The EU has put in place a set of rules that are intended to help keep broadband costs down. They oblige governments to clear any legal obstacles that may hold back network operators from giving telecoms operators access to their physical infrastructure on reasonable terms and conditions, including price.
            50. New passports
            In 1988, dark blue UK passports began to be phased out and replaced with the common format burgundy passport determined by the European Community, which later became the EU. These passports are printed with the words “European Union” above “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” on the front. No decisions have yet been taken about any future UK passport. Responding to a question from a member of Parliament about the possible return of the blue passport in September 2016, Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill did not rule it out.

            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/29/europe/brexit-article-50-to-do-list/index.html

            E-stonia: country using technology to rebrand itself as the anti-Russia

            Toomas Henrik Ilves spent 10 years building nations vision of open government and says it wants to make it impossible to do bad things on the internet

            Its not often that a European head of state uses the radical postmodernist philosophy of Jacques Derrida and Jean Baudrillard to bash a hostile superpower. But then Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Estonias defiantly erudite president of nearly 10 years, is no ordinary head of state.

            Ilves is trying to reinvent Estonia as the brightly lit antithesis of Russia, and in todays confessional age of Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks and the Panama Papers, claims he is baking transparency and accountability into a new kind of digital civic operating system.

            Ilves is known for his controversial opinions on everything from Snowden and internet privacy to cyberwarfare and Vladimir Putins postmodernist state, which have apparently, transformed the 63-year-old into a regional sex symbol.

            Aivar, my Uber driver, chatters enthusiastically about Ilves as his grey Volvo sedan drops me outside Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn. Enjoy our president. Hes quite a character.

            An imposing 18th-century baroque jewel, Kadriorg was built in the Estonian capital by Peter the Great for his wife, Catherine. The tsar, however, would not have been amused by Ilves and his outspoken criticism of Russia. Ilves greets me in his trademark checkered bow tie.

            The problem with Putins Russia, Ilves insists, is that the truth has been entirely devalued. Quoting from Peter Pomerantsovs 2015 Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible, the Estonian president says that all truths have become equivalent in contemporary Russia.

            According to Ilves, the country is being run by postmodernists such as Putins chief of staff, Vladislav Surkov, a big fan apparently of Baudrillard, who stage-manages Russia as if it was a murky reality television show. The result, Ilves says, is the death not only of truth but also of trust and accountability the core currencies of a modern democratic state. Thus the proliferation of Russian troll factories that churn out anonymous comments that are poisoning the internet.

            There is nothing small, charmingly or otherwise, about Ilves. If, as Marshall McLuhan suggested, we now live in an electronic global village, then the Swedish-born and American-educated Estonian president, with his nearly 70,000 Twitter followers is a kind of global village elder, dispensing his own cosmopolitan brand of personalized wisdom to anyone that will listen.

            But its not all bluster. Much of his presidential tenure, as well as previous roles as foreign minister, ambassador to the US and a member of the European parliament in the post-Soviet era, has been focused on making Estonia less village-like, on coming up with a grand idea that would enable this little Baltic republic to punch above its analog weight on the world stage.

            Ilves came up with this grand idea a quarter of a century ago. When Gorbachev pulled the Soviets out of Estonia in 1991, Ilves asked himself a simple question about the future of a country that had been brutally occupied by its eastern neighbor for a half-century.

            President
            President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Photograph: Jelena Rudi(c)

            What do we have? Ilves asked himself about a country not much larger than Israel with a population less than half that of Silicon Valley.

            His answer was equally simple. What the 1.3 million Estonians had, Ilves concluded in 1991, was technology. He recognized that the Soviets, despite their appropriation of most of Estonias wealth, had bequeathed a decent educational legacy, especially in mathematics. Estonias future, Ilves thus imagined a quarter of a century ago, was hi-tech, especially personal computers and the internet.

            Ilves a trained psychologist with degrees from Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania is also self-schooled in computer science. He proudly recalls learning to program as a 13-year-old schoolboy in New Jersey and being among the first geeks to own Apples iconic 2E personal computer. By 1993, he was already arguing that Estonia should computerize all schools and by 1997 had championed putting all Estonian schools online and establishing publicly funded internet centers around the country.

            Size matters, Ilves figured about Estonias new role in a post-cold war, multipolar world. In the mid-90s he claims to have reverse-engineered Jeremy Rifkins The End of Work, the 1995 bestseller arguing that information technology would undermine large-scale industrial production. What he calls his backward reading of Rifkin led him to recognize the importance of Estonias miniature physical size in creating a substantial post-industrial economy, where a small, tightly knit hi-tech workforce of perpetually pivoting entrepreneurs could reinvent Estonia as the original startup nation.

            Yet despite its multibillion-dollar success stories including Skype, Playtech and more startups per person than anywhere else in the world Estonia isnt just E-Stonia, some Baltic version of Silicon Valley or Israel. The little Baltic republic with the counterintuitive Ilves at its helm is actually building something more ambitious than just another tightly knit ecosystem of entrepreneurs, investors and technologists.

            Estonia is pioneering a model for a democratically transparent 21st-century networked society the opposite of Putins opaque virtual reality show by giving everyone a digital license plate. Our goal is to make it impossible to do bad things, he explains. Six billion lanes, and nobody has a license plate except the Estonians.

            Is Estonia becoming a 21st-century panopticon?

            That is Ilves grand one might even say baroque idea. Under his presidency over the past 10 years, Estonia has pioneered a series of technological reforms to not only bring everyone online but also to create a national database. The system is built around the online ID card, introduced in 2002, in which its citizens information from healthcare records to tax filings to educational qualifications to real estate documents is stored in a seamlessly integrated national database.

            But what about privacy in this database of its citizens intentions, I asked. Surely hes creating a kind of 21st-century panopticon, a digital remix of Jeremy Benthams 18th-century simple idea of architecture where people could be watched in everything they did?

            Our obsession with privacy is misguided, Ilves who is, of course, anything but indifferent to 20th-century Big Brother surveillance regimes insists. The Estonian system, he explains, is based on trust. While the national database can be accessed by the authorities, he stresses, the citizen has to be notified when their records are observed. So if the system hasnt been built on Blockchain technology, it nonetheless operates on Blockchain-like principles creating a data system that cant be altered with notifying both the authorities and citizens.

            Toomas
            Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Photograph: Fred Marvaux/European Union 2016 – Source : EP

            This is what Ilves calls a Lockean contract between digital citizen and the government. The 21st-century networked sovereign, he says, is the guarantor of what he calls data integrity. While the government cant access our data without our knowledge, the citizen no longer has any anonymity in this system.

            So everyone from government to police to tax authorities to the citizens themselves are transparent. Ilves sees this accountable system, the antithesis of Vladislav Surkovs opaque Russian reality television show, as being the essential foundations of a social contract for our networked age. It will, he believes, encourage responsible use of the internet. It may even flush out the trolls.

            Rather than privacy from the state, the real concern, Ilves insists, is the integrity of data. Instead of worrying about somebody else knowing our blood type, we should be worried when they start fiddling with that data to change our blood type.

            Snowden harmed the EU privacy debate

            This focus on data integrity is why Ilves is much less concerned with Snowdens NSA revelations than either last years Office of Personnel Management (OPM) hack in which the data of 21 million people was stolen, or with the ongoing fight between Apple and the FBI over a back door to the iPhones data.

            Ilves believes that paranoia over the Snowden revelations harmed the debate about privacy in the EU. The NSA, he quipped, wasnt mining the deep packets of Bohemian poets sending emails to their girlfriends. In contrast, the OPM and Apple cases are both about trust. Giving the authorities a blanket and unverifiable back door on the iPhone, for example, means that citizens can no longer trust either their government or Apple.

            Trust, then, particularly trust of both government and an accountable legal system, is the heart of the matter. Thats why Ilves co-chaired Digital Dividends, a World Bank report published earlier this year which focuses on the need for developing nations to build the foundations of an accountable legal system first if they are to develop a thriving digital sector.

            The Estonian model of digital development is scalable, Ilves says, although he acknowledges that its political side is much easier to build in a small country like Estonia. But, in light of the revelations from Snowden and other whistleblowers, can we ever really trust the system even in a tiny country like Estonia?

            So what exactly does the Estonian secret service do, I ask Ilves as our interview comes to a close. Track down Russian spies, the Estonian president answers nonchalantly before detailing the brutal postwar occupation of his country and Soviet destruction of 10m books between 1945 and 1946.

            While he acknowledges that the threat of cyberwarfare has receded since the big cyberattacks in 2007 and that some of the contemporary paranoia about the Russian cyberthreat is hyperventilated, he doesnt dismiss the threat of another occupation. After all, while Ilves might be able to make it impossible for people to do bad things in Estonia, this guarantee doesnt extend to what people do in Moscow.

            Thats why, Ilves explains, the Estonians are digitalizing all their indigenous books and shipping the data out of the country. And thats why, he adds, smiling grimly, we are in Nato.

            Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/21/e-stonia-country-using-technology-to-rebrand-itself-as-the-anti-russia