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Elections in #Moldova: The SHOR phenomenon

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The parliamentary elections in Moldova are scheduled for February 24. The clash unfolds between the ruling democratic party, pro-Moscow socialists, who are supported by the current president, Igor Dodon, and the right opposition pro-Western alliance “ACUM”. However, the “SHOR” Party, led by a young businessman, Ilan Shor, the mayor of Orhei city, a locality situated 40 kilometers far from Chisinau, suddenly intervened in the political heavyweights’ dispute. National sociological polls conducted in Moldova demonstrate a constant increase in the rating of this political group. Experts believe that while maintaining this dynamics, the “SHOR” Party will surely overcome the six percent barrier and enter the parliament. The candidates of this party have high chances to win in their uninominal constituencies. This is primarily about Ilan Shor himself, who gained an unquestioned authority among the inhabitants of Orhei, in which he is running.

Analysts are starting to talk about the “SHOR phenomenon” which is not affected even by the banking scandal of almost five years ago, in the center of which he was. Shor headed the administrative board of a bank that suffered as a result of the so-called “theft of the century”. This story has demonstrated how vulnerable young European democracies are in the face of corruption. Former Prime Minister Vlad Filat, who in Europe was considered for some time to be a strong leader and engine of Moldova’s European integration, is serving a prison sentence today for corruption. And this happened, thanks to the testimony of Ilan Shor, who did not want to become a weak-willed victim of corrupt politicians who robbed the country's banking system of a billion dollars.

Today, former companions of Filat, members of his corrupt government who are in the “ACUM” alliance, accuse Shor of “bribing” voters with stolen money. Shor has never denied that he uses funds from his family business for infrastructure and social projects in Orhei and to support the poor throughout the country. And the way of this money get from Shor’s family companies to the repair of roads in Orhei, the construction of the country's largest family entertainment center OrheiLand and other projects can be easily tracked through the accounting documents. At the same time, quite recently, the son of Vlad Filat, convicted for corruption, Luca, who lives in London, was in the center of attention of the law enforcement agencies of Great Britain. The young man, accustomed to live on a grand scale, was never able to explain the origin of the colossal sums of money that he spends on acquiring luxury cars and renting a penthouse in the center of the British capital. We only know that they come from offshore accounts opened in the Cayman Islands. There was no court hearing yet, but it is obvious to voters in Moldova that the enormous wealth thoughtlessly managed by the son of a high-ranking official convicted for corruption is of criminal origin. They associate the luxurious life that young Filat leads with the stolen billion, which was never found.

The SHOR phenomenon is not in his charity work, which, by the way, he led long before he entered politics. It is rather a matter of the general apathy that Moldovans feel both towards the political class and the content of political life. Over the past decade, after the removal of communists from power, who ruled the country for two four-year terms, Moldova’s political and electoral agenda has been reduced to a geopolitical choice. Citizens of a small agrarian country are being persistently offered to decide and swear to one or another foreign policy vector. A part of the political class favors rapprochement with Russia, the other - with European integration. "Europeans" are winning with a slight margin. But the only “Europe” that can be found in Moldova is in Orhei.

This city was not different from other provincial towns of post-Soviet Moldova - the same devastation, unemployment, social depression. However, when three and a half years ago Ilan Shor was elected as its mayor, the transformations started to deploy rapidly. Today, after only three years, Orhei became a true European city with carefully cleaned, build roads and sidewalks, with a full lighting system, landscaped parks and squares, landscaped courtyards, and a grand center for family leisure OrheiLand. Having solved the basic problems, Orhei begins to afford a glaring "excesses", such as heated sidewalks and free public transport at peak times.

Unnoticeably, the word “Orhei” has become a household word. For most Moldovans, this is a symbol of rapid development, restoration of infrastructure, and implementation of social initiatives. And also a symbol for holidays, since Ilan Shor loves to pamper the citizens with cultural events. People who are forced to move along broken roads and in pitch darkness due to non-working street lighting in their settlements, when visiting Orhei, express a major delight and say that “..it feels like in Europe”.

However, Ilan Shor at all the meetings and in all the interviews emphasizes: he is not building Europe in Orhei, he is building Moldova. His information campaign, which is being built over the well-known achievements of Orhei, emphasizes that this could be achieved throughout Moldova, if politicians kept their electoral promises. The list of his own promises to the residents of Orhei, Ilan Shor practically exhausted with the meticulousness of a businessman. Feeling a strong disappointment with the class of professional politicians who have ruled Moldova for 28 years, he calls himself not a politician, but a manager hired by citizens to effectively manage Orhei. He proposes to introduce criminal liability for unfulfilled promises. He assures that the Orhei experience of quickly solving the most pressing problems can be equally rapidly spread throughout Moldova.

Shor avoids in an emphasized way the geopolitical disputes. He speaks of “pragmatic patriotism”: the authorities are obliged daily to create new reasons for the citizens to love their homeland. He sees no other alternatives in building a welfare state in Moldova, then the model of Scandinavian socialism, which is also the basis of his political program. He even intends to introduce a basic guaranteed income to every citizen of Moldova. He keeps using the Soviet experience, knowing well that namely this period, on the background of the post-Soviet apocalypse is most attractive for the majority of Moldovans. He even restored a Soviet-style collective farm in the rural commune of Jora de Mijloc, which is managed by his party deputy, Marina Tauber.

Shor insists that the state should open industrial enterprises to create new jobs and dramatically increase budget revenues through the introduction of a state monopoly on the import of petroleum products, tobacco and alcohol.

All these proposals are appealing to the residents of Moldova. Like the fact that Ilan Shor avoids calling himself a politician. Being a politician in Moldova today is unpopular.

This complex of factors has led to the fact that the popularity of Ilan Shor and his political project is constantly growing. He responds to the request of Moldovans for new faces, names, ideas. Has the renewal of the discredited political class started in Moldova? This is not yet completely clear. But with firm certainty it can be said that in a country that for 30 years couldn’t get out of the protracted crisis, a third force has appeared.

 

coronavirus

Whistle blower exposes threats posed by Russia’s unverified Covid-19 vaccine

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Greetings, my name is Natalya Tupota. I am one of the leading researchers at the Russian State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology Vector and I feel obliged to warn the international community about the treats posed by the Covid-19 vaccine developed by my country.

It is likely that many of you have already heard the news that Russia is the first country in the world to test vaccines against the novel coronavirus. Currently, there are three scientific institutes in Russia working on the development of the vaccine: 1) Gamalei Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology (Moscow); 2) Chumakov Federal Scientific Center for Research and Development of Immune-and-Biological Products (Moscow); 3) State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology Vector (Novosibirsk). The latter, which is also my workplace, is planning to register its vaccine on October 15th this year.

In June this year, I was unwarrantedly awarded President Vladimir Putin’s honorary accolade for my work on the vaccine EpiVacCorona. Considering my direct involvement in the development of this vaccine, I refuse to accept this award, since it is evident that the vaccine will not be ready by the designated date. Everything you may have heard about the successful tests of the vaccines developed in Russia is charlatanism by the government against the Russian people!

I have conducted numerous virological studies (including practical research of the spread of diseases in different regions of Russia and the ability of different treatments to combat these diseases) and I can declare with utmost certainty that no vaccine can be developed in such a short amount of time as set by our leaders in the Kremlin.

I want to remind everyone that in the history of mankind the fastest vaccine developed was the vaccine for mumps, which happened in the sixties and took four whole years! And now our government (along with other governments around the world) is telling us that a vaccine against a considerably more complicated disease has been developed in mere six months! This is nothing short of absurd, and I am saying this as an experienced specialist who was tasked with completing this impossible mission. I am tired of lying and servicing the regime. What is more, I am absolutely convinced that none of the scientific institutes in Russia will be able to develop an effective vaccine in the nearest 3-5 years.

First, Russia’s virology sphere is severely underfunded. The salary of a junior researcher at Vector reaches just 20,000 rubles (224 euro). This is barely enough to pay utility bills and buy the cheapest available food. And exactly because of the minuscule salaries, the industry is unable to attract new employees or keep the old ones. This has resulted in a catastrophic drop in the level of scientific research in the country since the collapse of the USSR.

Second, our research center, just like others in Russia, is gripped by rampant corruption. Ten years ago, the future of our center was uncertain due to the incompetent leadership by doctor Drozdov. Now, a decade later, nothing has really changed. Our leadership, in the person of Rinat Maksyutov, continues to squander our budget for their personal benefit, while the salaries of employees remain pathetically low. What is more, in order to receive government funding, the leadership is willing to lie about Vector’s achievements, as was the case with the development of the vaccine against Covid-19.

Third, our leadership and our scientists have been ordered to keep their mouths shut and pretend that the process of developing of the vaccine went without any incidents. Make no mistake, these too are utter lies. As I already mentioned, in June this year several employees at Vector (including myself) received honorary accolades for developing the vaccine. Even our center’s chauffeur received a medal, and his only duty is to transport our corrupt leadership to and from work. The intention behind these medals and monetary incentives was to keep us silent and show us that it is in our interests to cooperate with the regime.

It is immediately evident that Moscow’s officials care for the vaccine exclusively because of its propaganda and nationalistic significance. They are completely indifferent towards the fact that an unfinished and ineffective vaccine will lead to grave consequences if it was to be distributed among the public. Consider the following: people who receive this fabricated vaccine will cease observing protective measures and will put the entire nation at risk of a new outbreak. Even more, an untested vaccine can weaken a person’s organism, and this in conjunction with Covid-19 can lead to the individual’s death.

Considering the aforementioned, I urge everyone – people around the world and my compatriots – to distrust Moscow’s lies regarding the effectiveness of the vaccine. Do not put your life and the lives of others at risk and please continue following the prescribed safety measures, because there will not be a miracle cure to this disease any time soon.

Senior researcher at the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology Vector Tatyana Leonidovna Tupota.

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Brexit

Brexit - EU starts infringement process for UK's failure to act in good faith

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As anticipated, the European Commission today (1 October) has sent the United Kingdom a letter of formal notice for breaching its obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement. This marks the beginning of a formal infringement process against the United Kingdom. It has one month to reply to today's letter.

The Withdrawal Agreement states that the European Union and the United Kingdom must take all appropriate measures to ensure the fulfilment of the obligations under the Agreement (Article 5). Both parties are bound by the obligation to cooperate in good faith in carrying out the tasks stemming from the Withdrawal Agreement and must refrain from any measures which could jeopardise the attainment of those objectives.

The UK government tabled the UK Internal Market Bill on 9 September the Commission consider this a  flagrant violation of the Protocol on Ireland Northern Ireland, as it would allow the UK authorities to disregard the legal effect of the Protocol's substantive provisions. Representatives of the UK government have acknowledged this violation, stating that its purpose was to allow it to depart in a permanent way from the obligations stemming from the Protocol.

The UK government has failed to withdraw the contentious parts of the Bill, despite requests by the European Union. By doing so, the UK has breached its obligation to act in good faith, as set out in Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Next steps

The UK has until the end of this month to submit its observations to the letter of formal notice. After examining these observations, or if no observations have been submitted, the Commission may, if appropriate, decide to issue a Reasoned Opinion.

Background

The Withdrawal Agreement was ratified by both the EU and the UK. It entered into force on 1 February 2020 and has legal effects under international law.

Following the publication by the UK government of the draft ‘United Kingdom Internal Market Bill' on 9 September 2020, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič called for an extraordinary meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee to request the UK government to elaborate on its intentions and to respond to the EU's serious concerns. The meeting took place in London on 10 September between Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič.

At the meeting, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič stated that if the Bill were to be adopted, it would constitute an extremely serious violation of the Withdrawal Agreement and of international law. He called on the UK government to withdraw these measures from the draft Bill in the shortest time possible and in any case by the end of the month of September.

At the third ordinary meeting of the Joint Committee on 28 September 2020, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič again called on the UK government to withdraw the contentious measures from the bill. The UK government on this occasion confirmed its intention to go ahead with the draft legislation.

The Withdrawal Agreement provides that during the transition period, the Court of Justice of the European Union has jurisdiction and the Commission has the powers conferred upon it by Union law in relation to the United Kingdom, also as regards the interpretation and application of that Agreement.

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Cyber-espionage

EU countries test their ability to co-operate in the event of cyber attacks

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EU member states, the EU Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) and the European Commission have met to test and assess their co-operation capabilities and resilience in the event of a cybersecurity crisis. The exercise, organized by the Netherlands with the support of ENISA, is a key milestone towards the completion of  relevant operating procedures. The latter are developed in the framework of the NIS Co-operation Group, under the leadership of France and Italy, and aim for more coordinated information sharing and incident response among EU cybersecurity authorities.

Furthermore, member states, with the support of ENISA, launched today the Cyber Crisis Liaison Organization Network (CyCLONe) aimed at facilitating cooperation in case of disruptive cyber incidents.

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “The new Cyber Crisis Liaison Organization Network indicates once again an excellent cooperation between the member states and the EU institutions in ensuring that our networks and critical systems are cyber secure. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and we should work collectively in preparing and implementing rapid emergency response plans, for example in case of a large-scale cyber incident or crisis.”

ENISA Executive Director Juhan Lepassaar added: "Cyber crises have no borders. The EU Agency for Cybersecurity is committed to support the Union in its response to cyber incidents. It is important that the national cybersecurity agencies come together to coordinate decision-making at all levels. The CyCLONe group addresses this missing link.”

The CyCLONe Network will ensure that information flows more efficiently among different cybersecurity structures in the member states and will allow to better coordinate national response strategies and impact assessments. Moreover, the exercise organized follows up on the Commission's recommendation on a Coordinated Response to Large Scale Cybersecurity Incidents and Crises (Blueprint) that was adopted in 2017.

More information is available in this ENISA press release. More information on the EU cybersecurity strategy can be found in these Q&A and this brochure.

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