Greek EconomyIn May 2010, Greece experienced its first economic bailout from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union to rebuild the Greek economy. As a result, Greece was given $146 billion in loans. Greece suffered economic frailty, in part from hosting the 2004 Olympic Games, the global economic crisis, and switching to the euro. Then, in August 2018, Greece received its final loan from European creditors. This loan signaled the end of the bailout program that began in 2015. To work toward financial security, Greece has committed to running a budget surplus until 2060 and accepting continued support from the EU.

Despite this financial turmoil, tourism presents a bright light for the Greek economy in increased revenue. Tourists’ interest in Greece began to boom during the 2004 Olympics, held in Athens. Although the Olympics have been cited as the main cause of the economic crisis in Greece, tourist industries in Athens were surveyed and concluded “the Games upgraded the validity of Athens on the international tourist market.” Since the 2004 Olympics, Athens, on average, has lengthier tourist stays than other major urban destinations, such as Paris and Barcelona. Athenian hotels have also become more efficient since the Games. And ticket purchases for historical sites have also seen an incline.

Tourism Helps the Greek Economy

This surge in tourism has sparked a large revenue intake for the Greek economy. In 2018, travel services in Greece reported an intake of 16 billion euros, approximately $18 billion, up 14 million euros since 2017. They attribute this surplus to a 40 percent increase in travel receipts and a 53 percent increase in travel sales. That year, the effect of tourism on Greece’s gross domestic product was an estimated 20.6 percent, reaching $44.6 billion. In fact, this is double the global average of 10.4 percent. This means one out of every five euros spent in Greece stems from travel and tourism.

Greece is happy with how tourism initiatives have been implemented in the past several years. The country also acknowledges 988,000 jobs lie in its tourism and travel industries. In 2019, Greece expects this job market to reach 1 million jobs. As such, travel and tourism is the largest employer in Greece. Minister of Tourism of the Hellenic Republic Elena Kountoura has noted Greece’s plan for the continued growth of the tourism sector: “We intend to maintain Greece’s strong momentum in tourism and maximize its benefits for the local communities across Greece, acknowledging tourism’s immense value as a major driving force for employment, economic and social prosperity.”

The reparation of the Greek economy has developed a dependence on tourism and travel. From the deep blue waters of the Aegean Sea to historical sites such as Delphi, people from all over the world flock to witness a small piece of Greece’s beauty. What they may not realize, however, is they are working to support an economy on the mends. And the positive effect of tourism will continue to increase annually, as Greece works toward financial stability.

Claire Bryan
Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure Projects in Romania
Perhaps the most well-known motoring experts and critics, the host of the BBC’s Top Gear, named Romania’s Transfagarasan Highway the best road in the world in season 14, episode 1. In general, infrastructure has not been Romania’s strong suit; however, both Romanian politicians and the European Union alike see large infrastructure projects in Romania as the key to Romania’s social and economic future. There are plans to build roads, railways, ports and a variety of buildings to support the health and safety of Romania.

Unfinished Business

Mismanagement has always been a problem for a post-communist Romania. In 2003, the country began construction on what was supposed to be a nation-changing Autostrada Transilvania highway project that would have stretched from Brasov to Oradea, near the Hungary border, spanning the length of the nation. Construction was canceled in 2013 after high costs and poor management forced the government to abandon the project.

In 2014, the European Union guaranteed 9.5 billion Euros for infrastructure projects in Romania through 2020. Due to shifting government policies and elections in Romania, the EU has had a difficult time effectively following through with the project. Unfortunately, the initial plans went nowhere.

New Commitments to Infrastructure

In 2018, the President of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) met with the President of Romania, giving the world its vote of confidence when it was announced that the EBRD would increase their commitment in funding infrastructure projects in Romania.

Road projects are important. Only 4.3 percent of roads in Romania are highways. To remedy this Romania is planning two major highway expansions. In 2019, Romania will begin planning a 51-kilometer highway called the Bucharest Belt. The Craiova-Pitesti Expressway is the second highway for which Romania has begun to plan and accept bids. It will be 121 kilometers in length and is projected to cost nearly 820 million Euros.

Railways are another important way to move goods and people through and around the country. The Romanian government has big plans for the rehabilitation and upgrading of its rail system. There are 58 investment projects underway to improve Romania’s railway system at an estimated cost of 2.8 billion Euros.

Other Projects in Place

Infrastructure projects in Romania are not only dedicated to roadworks. The Danube river is one of the most important rivers in European history. In Ancient History, it served as the border of the Roman Empire, from which Romania gets its namesake. The Danube has served as a major artery for trade, bordering 20 countries starting in Germany and ending in Romania and Ukraine at the Black Sea. The Romanian government plans to upgrade the Port of Constanta from 2020 to 2025. Improvements to the piers are estimated to cost $991 million dollars.

Other improvements underway are plans to upgrade and expand Romania’s sewage and water treatment systems. The EBRD and the Romanian government have earmarked 2.2 million Euros for the project. The project will help provide more clean water and better water waste removal to the people of Romania. The EBRD will not only provide money but will also provide expertise in the planning process so that the funds are used most efficiently.

It will not be a quick process. Romania has many years of improvement ahead of it. It will be an expensive and long-term task. Hopefully, the commitment of those involved will not falter like earlier projects but will use future roadblocks as opportunities to grow as they work together.

Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

Brexit and Poverty in Britain
In 2016, 51.9 percent of voters in The United Kingdom voted for Britain to leave The European Union. This controversial decision left many scholars and politicians scrambling to predict what social and economic consequences would follow for the country. Many significant studies have been conducted on the possible effects of Brexit and poverty in Britain, but it is impossible to definitively know what repercussions the transition will bring.

In March 2019, the transition out of the EU is set to begin. Many facets of British life, politics and economics will be impacted by this shift, yet the effect of Brexit on poverty in Britain remains complicated and vague. Some may claim that Brexit will not increase British poverty rates while others argue that it will. Some of the most influential determinants of national poverty are healthcare, food security, and household income and expenditure.

Health Care and Medical Services

The British National Healthcare System (NHS) has historically been dependent on non-U.K./ EU nationals to contribute to the medical workforce. In 2017, 60,000 workers in the NHS were non-U.K./EU nationals. Since Brexit, however, many medical professionals have left The U.K. due to uncertainty about legal status and protections post-Brexit. Leaving the EU also makes recruiting international employees more difficult as there will be less recognition of professional qualifications received in other countries.

Immediately after the Brexit vote, the number of non-U.K./EU nurses applying to join the British nursing register fell by about 96 percent. Patients are being forced to wait over longer periods of time for treatment simply because there are not enough medical professionals available. This is a dangerous and potentially fatal repercussion of Brexit.

Food security

In the case of a no-deal Brexit, food security would suffer as 30 percent of the national food supply comes from the EU The country does not have a clear food stockpiling location as it is accustomed to importing food and consuming it rather quickly afterward. The EU is such a large provider of food for Britain that no other country could easily replace this supply.

The U.K. itself will have trouble producing enough to make up for the deficit since it faces its own problems with food production as a result of things like changing weather conditions. Many are concerned that a no-deal Brexit could cause catastrophic food shortages in the country.

Household costs and incomes

Brexit will have a negative impact on the ability of the U.K. to import any kinds of foreign European goods and services. Because of this, the prices of goods and services will increase. Of course, this will affect all populations in Britain, but it will be felt most intensely by poorer households who will not be able to keep up with these price increases.

On the other hand, it is possible that if Brexit may lead non-U.K./EU workers to leave Britain, there may be an influx of job opportunities in the country. This could mean that some poor British citizens may be able to find more lucrative work.

As Brexit approaches, the United Kingdom is beginning to take precautions to ensure that the transition occurs smoothly. Though there is disagreement on what a proper Brexit would entail, all seem to agree that the priority should be the protection of the British citizenry. The political and partisan debates over what Brexit will mean for the country can only involve precaution and prediction as no one can be certain what March 2019 will bring or what the effect of Brexit on poverty in Britain will be. One can only hope that the well being of vulnerable citizens will be considered.

Julia Bloechl
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in SerbiaThese top 10 facts about poverty in Serbia indicate both the struggles and progress of the country. Serbia officially became its own nation in 2006, following the split of the country known as Serbia and Montenegro. Being a newly independent country, it faces challenges of poverty and unemployment. Nonetheless, progress is being made, as these top 10 facts about poverty in Serbia are showing:

  1. Twenty-five percent of Serbians are impoverished. This percent translates to close to 1.8 million people. Absolute poverty, a more severe condition of poverty has been slowly decreasing, from 7.6 in 2010 to 7.3 in 2016.
  2. Poverty levels vary greatly in each region of Serbia, but in general, the south has a greater rate of people at risk of poverty than the north. Rural areas, where almost half of the population lives, has the double rate of poverty comparing to urban areas.
  3. Households are 10 times more likely to be impoverished if the head of the house has not completed primary school. The risk of poverty directly correlates with the level of education of the head of the household.
  4. Serbia is vulnerable to floods and earthquakes. Earthquakes affect 60,000 people a year and result in losses of $300 million. Floods are even more frequent and also more impactful, affecting 200,000 people and causing a loss of $1 billion yearly.
  5. The primary school completion rate is 94.8 percent. High school completion rate is 90.1 percent. Enrollment rates have been rising since 2010, for males and for females as well. In fact, female higher-education enrollment rate surpasses the male enrollment rate by 17 percentage points.
  6. The overall unemployment rate is 14.8 percent. Youth unemployment rate is 44.2 percent. According to UNDP, the reason for these high rates is the disparity between workforce needs and the Serbian education system. Serbia has adopted the youth employment-focused National Employment Action Plan, among other plans, in an attempt to decrease unemployment from 23 percent when it began in 2013.
  7. The YF Innovation Serbia project, which was completed in 2016, is another way Serbia has made progress towards improving unemployment rates. One of the goals of the project was to encourage entrepreneurship in Serbia by assisting startups, funding projects and opening research institutions. It ultimately helped improve Serbia’s economic growth and create more job opportunities for its citizens.
  8. Serbia is currently working on becoming a member of the European Union. To achieve this goal the country must go through a pre-ascension phase which includes economic development, increased human rights and an improved government system. To aid with this process, the European Union has allocated 1.5 billion euros for Serbia’s development.
  9. Serbia’s GDP is projected to grow by 3 percent or 4 percent by 2020. In 2017, Serbia’s economic growth was slowed by drought and energy production issues but this was a temporary setback. Other sectors, such as industry and services, did show growth despite these problems.
  10. Serbia’s Human Development Index score was 0.745 in 2014 with an average annual increase of 0.6 percent. This score reflects the high level of human development in Serbia

While poverty still remains an issue in Serbia, the action is certainly being taken to counter it, especially through joining the EU. The standards that the EU holds for its members encourage a better economy and quality of life of its citizens. In the past, most countries have seen economic growth as a result of this same process. Evident in these top 10 facts about poverty in Serbia, Serbian poverty shows promise of slowing down.

– Massarath Fatima

Photo: Flickr

Greece
The past decade has not been kind to Greece. The global recession in 2008 ravaged its markets and cut wages, leaving millions destitute and reliant on government handouts to survive. Despite the fact that a relatively large portion of Greece’s population is educated, many still cannot find employment within national borders. An ongoing EU bailout in the magnitude of billions of dollars has not brought an end to the financial predicament of Greek citizens. Here are the top 10 facts about poverty in Greece.

10 Eye-Opening Facts About Poverty in Greece

  1. The Greek unemployment rate, though lower than it was in 2014, sits at 20 percent — a fifth of the population cannot find a source of steady income. It comes in at last of all countries in the EU.
  2. The government is still largely inefficient, and its bureaucratic functions are largely characterized by personal connections and a lack of transparency. The Tsipras administration, which came to power in 2015, has failed to affect significant change.
  3. The recent fires in Greece took 93 lives. Investigations have shown both the possibility of arson and insufficient responses from the government to have exacerbated the fires.
  4. Slightly over 34 percent of Greece’s population is deemed to be at risk of poverty — one of the most unnerving facts about poverty in Greece. However, without government handouts and pensions, this figure would leap to nearly 51 percent.
  5. The Greek brain drain remains high, though slowing down in recent years. Over 130,000 postgraduates have left Greece since 2010, a trend that bears dire consequences for the future of Greece if they do not return.
  6. Greece’s GDP has recovered somewhat since its implosion in 2008. GDP growth was estimated at -0.2 percent in 2015, 0 percent in 2016 and 1.8 percent in 2017. GDP is a measure of economic performance and individual wealth, and last year’s small surge is good news for a country whose GDP had shrunk by a quarter from 2007.
  7. The fertility rate in Greece went from a local high of 1.5 births per woman in 2009, to a low of 1.29 in 2013 and steadily climbed (though very slowly) to 1.33 in 2016. Too-low fertility rates result in an aged and reduced workforce that cannot meet the demands of the market, culminating in a lack of competition and economic decline.
  8. Facts about poverty in Greece relating to children are the worst off in the European Union. The poverty rate for minors stands at 45 percent, according to a report by UNICEF in 2017.
  9. After a decade of international economic bailouts and austerity packages valued at nearly 250 billion euros, or $288 billion, Greece is due to stop borrowing by the end of this summer. If it maintains an efficient budget and pays back its debts, Greece can finally re-enter the international market as a self-sustaining economy.
  10. In March 2018, the Bank of Greece reported a 7 percent drop in the number of nonperforming loans or unpaid loans. At about 43 percent, it still has major hurdles to overcome; the EU average is below 10 percent.

Hope on the Horizon

Despite the palpable negativity of these top 10 facts about poverty in Greece, hope is on the horizon. The economy is better off now than it was at the height of the recession; though growth is slow, consumer confidence has grown and individual spending has increased in the past year. Foreign investment is also mounting — an indication of international expectations of an economic recovery.

Greece’s government is the crucial actor. If it blunders in its management of foreign debt and continues its streak of opacity, Greece could head towards another economic recession. If it initiates sizeable social and economic reforms ahead of expectations in the international community, Greece could even reach past its previous economic heights before the recession. Time will tell.

Alex Qi
Photo: Flickr

How the European Union Fights HIV/AIDS
The European Union (EU) is an economic and political coalition of 28 European nations; countless individuals chosen by the state represent his or her nation within the alliance. The governmental body addresses public health, human rights, development, climate action along with numerous other subjects. The European Union is well-known economically, yet they should also be renown for their work to research, inform and prevent diseases, such as HIV/AIDS. The European Union fights HIV/AIDS through surveillance, data and prevention programs.

Surveillance

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) work together to collect data on HIV/AIDS in 31 European states. The surveillance programs allow the EU to monitor groups who are at higher risks to contract the disease, to improve responses to those affected and to learn more about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

The European Union utilizes their monitoring techniques to better its “evidence-based action;” for example, if one European country reported lower diagnoses than another nation, they would then be able to statistically analyze which system worked. The country resulting in fewer cases would, therefore, have the more effective approach to decrease HIV/AIDS.

Surveillance programs help the EU understand trends so they are better able to understand the disease and the efficacy of their treatment programs.

Data

Recent data collected by surveillance programs show an overall decline in HIV/AIDS within Europe. Additionally, AIDS-related deaths have substantially decreased since 1990.

In 2016, 29,444 people were newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 31 countries; this number is relatively lower than the predicted 30,000 diagnoses. The prevalence rate currently stands at 5.9 per 100,000 individuals, which is also drastically less than other places such as Sub-Saharan Africa.

The rate among men is higher than that of women; men are currently at 8.9 cases while women are at 2.6 cases per 100,000. These numbers are significantly lower than those of the past; therefore, the surveillance and prevention programs have proven effective.

Prevention Programs

Due to the high rate of late diagnoses, the EU recognized that there are issues with “access to, and uptake of, HIV testing and counseling in many countries.” The ECDC, which is a partner of the EU, developed the “European Test Finder” to help with locating the closest testing facility.

The European Union fights HIV/AIDS now by allowing quick and easy access to testing. The EU realizes that an early diagnosis can save a life, and locating a testing site is vital in helping those who have HIV.

The EU has also allowed pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is an antiretroviral medication that tries to prevent or reduce the likelihood of contracting HIV. France is the only nation that has used this prevention program, and it has proven successful. The EU is trying to make the drug more available across the union.

The “ART regimen” is one of the most efficient ways to prevent HIV/AIDS, and it works to extend the lifespan of someone with the disease. It is also an antiretroviral medication; yet, it is given when someone is HIV positive. This medication could lead to viral suppression, which means that one cannot transmit the disease to someone else.

A United Front

Another way the European Union fights HIV/AIDS is by using Facebook and Twitter. Social media platforms have been very effective as boosting awareness is crucial to HIV/AIDS prevention programs. The ECDC offers a helpful, digital guide to prevent STI/HIV.

The European Union fights HIV/AIDS by combining surveillance, data and prevention techniques. Although each state may have a different approach to preventing HIV/AIDS, the EU acts as an overarching body that researches and implements the best means to end the disease. The EU unites each country so they can eliminate the disease together.

– Diana Hallisey
Photo: Flickr

Examples of Trade EmbargoesTrade embargoes are government-imposed barriers to international trade. Countries often justify these restrictions using political reasons, such as violations of national security or human rights.

10 Examples of Trade Embargoes

  1. U.S. Sanctions on Nicaragua: On July 5, 2018, the U.S. imposed sanctions on three Nicaraguan government officials, in response to the Nicaraguan government’s treatment of anti-government protesters, which has led to over 200 people being killed during violent demonstrations. Due to the 2012 Global Magnitsky Act, the U.S. can implement sanctions against those who commit human rights violations and corruption. The LA Times reported that under the sanctions, “any assets the three men have in the United States will be frozen, and U.S. citizens are barred from business transactions with them or any companies in which they have 50 percent or more ownership.”
  2. U.S. Sanctions on Russia: In April 2018, the U.S. passed new sanctions against Russia, intending to penalize Russian officials for their alleged involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and their presence in Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria. According to CNN, assets will be frozen for 17 senior Russian officials.
  3. European Union (EU) Sanctions on Russia: As of July 5, 2018, the EU unanimously agreed to extend sanctions against Russia for at least another six months. According to PBS, the sanctions’ extension was no surprise and were “imposed after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and backed pro-Russia separatists fighting the government in eastern Ukraine.”
  4. Canada Sanctions on Venezuela: In September 2017, Canada enforced an asset freeze and dealings ban on Venezuela. Under the Special Economic Measures Act, Canada prohibits citizens and any Canadian residents from providing  “any goods, wherever situated, to a listed [Veneuelan] or to a person acting on behalf of a listed [Veneuelan].” The sanctions are based upon a U.S.-Canada alliance in response to human rights violations in Venezuela. For example, the Venezuelan government arrested thousands of protestors in April 2017, and many civilians were injured or killed during the protests.
  5. U.N. Sanctions on North Korea: In 2006, the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) imposed sanctions in response to North Korea’s first nuclear test. The sanction prohibited the supply of heavy weapons and select luxury goods. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the UNSC announced more restrictions—extending to oil and metal imports, agricultural exports, and labor exports in December 2017. However, the U.N. does allow humanitarian aid to enter North Korea.
  6. U.S. Sanctions on China: Most recently, the U.S. and China are in trade wars—each responding with their own tariffs. On April 16, 2018, the U.S. imposed a seven-year ban on exports to ZTE, a Chinese telecom company. The Washington Post explained that ZTE was reprimanded for “illegally exporting U.S. goods to North Korea and Iran.” On June 7, the U.S. ended the ban.
  7. U.S. Embargo on Cuba: In 1962, the U.S. placed a full embargo against Cuba when the Kennedy administration announced the ceasing of all trade. However, in March 2016, President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to “allow commercial flights between the two countries for the first time in more than fifty years.” In September 2017, President Trump proposed the withdrawal of two-thirds of his embassy staff from Havana, Cuba and announced the return of travel restrictions.
  8. EU Sanctions on Sudan: The EU imposed an arms embargo on Sudan in 1994. The embargo was amended in 2011 due to the independence of South Sudan and now applies to both Sudan and South Sudan.
  9. U.N. Sanctions on Iran: In 2006, the U.N. authorized an embargo on supplies for uranium production and ballistic missile development, harming Iran’s economy. In April 2015, the U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew noted that “Iran’s economy was 15 to 20 percent smaller than it would have been had sanctions not been ratcheted up in 2012.”
  10. U.S. Embargo on Japan: In 1941, the same year the U.S. entered World War II, the U.S. imposed a comprehensive trade embargo against Japan. The U.S. froze “all Japanese assets in America,” which eventually contributed to Japan’s loss of “access to three-fourths of its overseas trade and 88 percent of its imported oil.”

These 10 examples of trade embargoes demonstrate how countries engage with one another to serve their domestic interests and to punish others for violations of human rights.

– Christine Leung
Photo: Flickr

closed its portsRecently, Italy’s newly formed government has closed its ports to migrant ships. The new political atmosphere is run by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League party, known for its strong anti-immigration beliefs.

In particular, a rescue ship named Aquarius, which was carrying 629 rescued migrants on board from 26 countries in Africa, was denied entry into an Italian port on June 10. The ship was forced to stay out at sea until another European country, Spain, gave the ship access to its ports the next day.

The new Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, who is also the League’s leader, made the decision to close Italy’s ports. In the past, Salvini has called Sicily “the refugee camp of Europe,” and his actions reflect Italy’s struggle with the high numbers of refugees arriving each week. The Italian government wants Europe as a whole to play a larger role in accepting refugees.

Why Italy Has Closed its Ports

Since 2013, 690,000 immigrants have arrived in Italy. While some may be legal, many are not and 500,000 of them still reside in Italy. Among them are denied asylum seekers and those who have overstayed their visa.

In 2017 alone, 120,000 migrants arrived and the Italian government has estimated that 4.2 billion is the cost of taking them in, roughly $4.9 billion. That figure is divided between caring for asylum seekers, who are generally not allowed to work, as well as paying for sea rescues and providing medical assistance. This is one of many contributing factors as to why Italy has closed its ports.

Italy’s Changing Relationship to Refugees

In 2017, Italy formed a deal with Libya to enforce Libya’s coastguard in order to keep migrant ships from entering Italy. Since the deal, in the first five months of 2018, the number of migrants reaching Italian ports has dropped to 13,808. This is down 84 percent compared to the same period of time in 2017.

Part of Salvini’s campaign was to repatriate at least 500,000 migrants during his five-year term, as Italians have grown increasingly afraid of migrants and associate higher crime rates to the influx of migrants. Italy has closed its ports as a way to combat this sentiment.

International and National Response

As the nation has closed its ports, mayors across the south of Italy have spoken out against this decision and have pledged to open their ports to these rescue boats. However, without the direct support of the Italian coastguard, it is unlikely that much can be done.

This sentiment, however, gives hope to the changing attitudes toward helping these migrants. It demonstrates that opinions are changing and that people are more interested in saving the lives of refugees, rather than keeping them out.

As a response to Italy having closed its ports, European leaders and humanitarian groups have denounced this decision. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees appealed to Italy and Malta, stating that issues such as these should be addressed after the rescue and that the lives of the migrants should have been put first. Furthermore, Spain and France have offered to help take in the migrants.

As a solution, the European Council President Donald Tusk has proposed regional disembarkment platforms outside of the European Union. This would allow a more manageable way to differentiate between economic migrants and migrants in need of protection. As a result, the strain would be taken off countries such as Italy and allow for a more efficient system, which would benefit E.U. countries, the migrants and public sentiment toward this issue.

– Trelawny Robinson
Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in RomaniaGiven its turbulent history throughout much of the twentieth century, it is inspiring to see Romania’s economy thrive. Romania experienced economic difficulties as part of the Soviet Union and was especially hard hit by the recent global recession. Despite its recent accomplishments, Romania still has many economic woes including a high poverty rate. With its problems, credit access in Romania is essential if the country wishes to alleviate some of its economic hardships. After its most recent elections, the Social and Liberal Democrat parties formed a coalition government. Many of the coalition’s goals and priorities centered on economic issues, some of which include: the improved absorption of European Union (EU) funds and a focus on securing investments in infrastructure and health care, reforming the pension system, and simplifying tax administration.

Poverty in Romania

Generally speaking, much of Romania’s wealth does not “trickle-down” to all of its citizens, which explains part of the country’s problems with combating poverty. The World Bank cites the following statistics regarding poverty in Romania.

  • Romania has one of the highest poverty rates in the EU.
  • The share of citizens at risk of poverty after social transfers increased from 21.6 percent in 2010 to 25.3 percent in 2016.
  • There was a decrease in the share of the at-risk population in Romania: from 41.5 percent in 2010 to 38.8 percent in 2016.

Economic Reform

Much of Romania’s financial system needed reform before its acceptance into the European Union in 2007. Romania’s financial systems were in ruin after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 so the European Union urged the Romanian government to reshape its financial sector in order to better adjust to the new, open-market economy of the EU. Because of its reshaping and restructuring, the Romanian economy was the second fast-growing in Europe in 2017. The World Bank predicts that the Romanian economy will continue to grow.

New legislation regarding access to credit was passed in Romania in 2016. Elena Iacob, an attorney who has analyzed the legislation, concluded: “It remains to be seen whether the various measures enacted by recent legislation will actually help the consumers to have access to more fair terms and affordable credit to satisfy their needs, or, on the contrary, will ‘help’ to the raise of the cost of the credit and to the demise of the market for residential real estate development, already weakened by the economic and financial crisis.”

Benefits of Credit Access

Credit access in Romania would potentially give Romanians more purchasing power. Romanians could spend their money on things they have always wanted, or they could save that money for the future, in preparation for healthcare expense or for a relative’s education. With more disposable income, Romanians could funnel more money into their economies, strengthening their own local and national economies as well as that of the EU.

Iacob’s analysis is cautiously optimistic about Romania’s economic future. While unsure of the effects of the new legislation, Iacob argues that the legislation does favor the consumer. Hopefully, with greater credit access in Romania, many will be able to better themselves financially, all in an effort to lessen the country’s poverty rates. Given its recent economic advances, credit access in Romania could allow the nation to increase its standing and influence in the EU while becoming a shining example of the successes in the war on extreme poverty.

– Raymond Terry
Photo: Flickr

Revolution of DignityIn November 2013, student protests in Ukraine turned into a full-fledged revolution against government corruption that has since been dubbed the Revolution of Dignity. Now, with a new government in place, the country is attempting to align itself with its European neighbors and become a stable democracy. With multiple roadblocks in the way, such as the annexation of Crimea by Russia, Ukraine will need to rely on its allies in order to achieve its goals.  

How the Revolution of Dignity Began

Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity started out as a series of student protests to pressure the prime minister to sign an association agreement with the European Union. However, as the protests raged on, they became a catalyst for the rest of the country to express its discontent with larger issues with the government like the regime’s power grabs and rampant corruption.  

Despite these issues, protests only became a revolution when violence broke out between the government and protesters on Nov. 29, 2013. After this point, the goal became to overthrow the government and establish a more democratic state, one free of corruption and acting in the people’s best interests. In 2014, the people in overthrowing the government, reinstating the previous constitution and holding new elections in May.

While the revolution was successful, it was not without consequence. The destabilization in the country helped lead to the annexation of the southeastern Crimea region by the Russian Federation. On top of that, while the previous regime was friendly to the Russian government, the new one looked for a more independent governance supported by the E.U. and other western allies. With tough challenges ahead, Ukraine needed to look to allies for help.

What Allies Are Doing to Help

Since the protests initially started to pressure the Ukrainian president to sign an agreement with the E.U., it comes as no surprise that the E.U. is a key ally in helping Ukraine handle its political turmoil. One of the first things the newly elected government did was pass the Ukraine-European Union Associated Agreement and join the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. These moves strengthen the nation’s economic, political and cultural ties with Europe through mutually beneficial relationships.  

While the U.S. is not as geographically close to Ukraine as the E.U., it has a vested interest in keeping the region stable and independent. Currently, over $204 million is planned in foreign aid for Ukraine. Among this, 33 percent is for peace and security, 32 percent goes toward human rights, democracy and governance, 29 percent is for economic development, and six percent goes toward health. With this aid, the U.S. hopes to keep Ukraine free of Russian influence and welcome them into the western world.

Through USAID, foreign aid is being used to help out local communities of Ukrainians.  In 2017, the organization helped 50 communities effectively manage resources and become sustainable without the central government. This not only fights corruption but also helps improve the everyday lives of Ukrainians who face instability in the face of recent changes.   

Continuing Progress in Ukraine

The aftermath of the Revolution of Dignity and the struggle with Russia has left many Ukrainians in a state of upheaval. With an uncertain future and violence a real possibility, it is key that allies help the country through this traumatic point in its history. The humanitarian impact of political uncertainty is often understated in the media, but it is real. While there are larger political reasons for Ukraine’s allies to help it, the aid these allies give to the Ukrainian people has an impact on the ground that can help save many lives.

– Jonathon Ayers
Photo: Flickr