London, 4 September 2014
The firm of Amsterdam & Partners has been retained by Stephan Templ after his conviction by an Austrian court.
Mr Templ, an Austrian citizen, has been sentenced to three years in prison for “defrauding the Austrian Republic” following a restitution claim for a share of a 19th-century hospital in Vienna that was seized by the Nazis in 1938.
Mr Templ has been an outspoken critic of Austria’s poor post-war record of returning art and property confiscated from Viennese Jews during World War II.
A 2000 treaty between the U.S. and Austria pledged the return of Nazi-looted property to owners and their heirs. Mr Templ is accused of failing to name an aunt in his application for restitution.
“This is a case that cries out for justice. For an Austrian court to convict and sentence to jail a Jewish citizen under these circumstances echoes back to a very dark period of history. The importance of addressing institutional discrimination cannot be stressed enough.” Robert Amsterdam said.
The comprehensive repression taking place in Thailand today under the military junta is by any measure comically absurd.
In what other country on earth can one imagine being arrested for playing the French national anthem, for reading George Orwell, or throwing up the three-fingered Hunger Games salute? The “happiness” campaign seemed to beg for ridicule, and then when British comedian Jon Oliver delivered, he too was threatened with jail if he ever set foot in the country.
And then, after all that, the same junta turns around and asks people not to call it a “coup” or a “dictatorship.” If this were a Hollywood movie, it would be derided as implausible.
But underneath this heap of symbolism, there is a more dangerous plot, one that resonates with past coups in Thailand to control how these events are understood and interpreted among the public, and who gets to write the history.
From the very diplomatic ties that were developed in the early stages of our Independence over fifty years ago, Austria and Nigeria have been building a closer geopolitical relationship with each passing day.
Presently, with cautious yet undeterred optimism in mind and a historically documented long-term prognosis on Nigeria’s investment potential, Austria continues to take great strides in positioning itself as a pragmatically prosperous European trade colleague of Nigeria and West Africa for years to come.
Nigeria has emerged as one of Austria’s leading partners on the continent. From manufacturing to the construction of hospitals and schools, and to indeed our very culture, as witnessed in the ‘Austrian Laces – Nigerian Fashion’ forum held in Lagos, Austria has made an indelible imprint on the Nigerian socioeconomic fabric.
This year alone, the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (AFEC) disclosed that the volume of trade between Nigeria and Austria has climbed to $1.4 billion USD. For Austria, this remarkable feat in the bilateral relationship no doubt took the skilful mobilization of their diplomatic machinery in order to inform and educate its business community and lead political stakeholders domestically and within the EU as to the prospects of doing business in Nigeria. This is considerably more commendable as having been undertaken at a time rife with would-be sensational causes for potential trepidation.
Nigeria looks to continue its own journey to better commit itself to sustainable business development and social responsibility in order to fortify this relationship and mutually benefit.
The policy outlined in the “Kazakhstan-2050” Strategy program to increase the number of citizens of Kazakhstan speaking three languages – Kazakh, Russian and English – is beginning to show results. According to the Ministry of Education and Science, there are now 32 higher educational institutions in Kazakhstan where education is conducted in the three languages. This now involves over 5,500 students. The improvement in tri-lingual education has been aided in the last two and a half years by an influx of more than 3,500 foreign teachers from Europe, the US and South-East Asia.
The Ministry of Industry and New Technologies (MINT) is developing a plan to make grants available for businesses which are prepared to cooperate with the scientific community to promote research projects. The grants would be available for targeted technology programs, and would receive part-project funding. Business would fund the rest, on the basis of private-public partnerships (PPP). The first pilot schemes under the program are scheduled to be launched in 2014.
This week’s government meeting approved the national budget from 2014-2016 and the prediction of the socio-economic development of the country from 2014-2018. During the meeting, the Minister of Economy and Budget Planning, Yerbolat Dossayev, relayed the figures that his Ministry is expecting. Real growth in the economy from 2014-2018, he said, is expected to be between 6.0 and 7.1%. Much though, will depend on the increase in investments, the development in industrial-innovative and infrastructure projects as well as when oil from the Kashagan Field in the Caspian Sea will start to be refined. The growth of consumer demand is also a key consideration.
Mr Dossayev mentioned that Kazakhstan’s GDP is expected almost to double from KZT 38.6 trillion in 2014 to KZT 65.9 trillion in 2018. In the same period, the Ministry expects that the per capita GDP will rise from USD 14,600 to USD 24,000; and that annual inflation will be in the 6-8% bracket.
Last week the Minister for the Protection of the Environment, Nurlan Kapparov, visited the site where on July 2 2013 a Russian-built Proton-M rocket crashed shortly after take-off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Immediately after the rocket exploded and crashed to the ground, a government commission was established to deal with the clear-up operation. The commission included representatives of the mayor’s office of the Kyzylorda Region where the rocket came down and Roskosmos, the Russian space agency, which launched the rocket.
Mr Kapparov declared that he was not satisfied with the results of the work to clear up the contamination of the site which the accident caused, nor with the speed with which the process was being carried out. The representative of Roskosmos asked for a further 15 days to complete the detoxification process. Mr Kapparov insisted that further research be carried out into the negative consequences which the crash may have had on the ecology and the health of the local population both in Baikonur and surrounding villages. He also called for more urgency in the process of talks on the implementation of the ecological code of Kazakhstan on the territory of Baikonur.
President Nazarbayev held a meeting this week with the Agriculture Minister, Asylzhan Mamytbekov. The President noted that, as the harvest is drawing to a close in the southern regions of the country, over one million tons of grain has already been gathered. However, he said that he was aware that in the north of the country there had been some difficulties early on. He advised the Minister to ensure that there was strict control over the technical aspects of gathering the harvest.
The Prime Minister, Serik Akhmetov, met members of the construction trade this week as they celebrated Construction Workers’ Day. Mr Akhmetov said that the construction sector is playing a crucial part in helping to bring about the task set by President Nazarbayev to make Kazakhstan one of the most dynamically developing countries in the world. He pointed out that construction accounts for 6% of Kazakhstan’s GDP, and said that in many ways the pace of growth in this sector is an indication of the well-being of the whole country. Thanks to the “Affordable Housing-2020” program, in 2012 nearly 7m square meters of new housing was built, and almost half of that figure was achieved in the first half of this year.