Israelis are buying real estate: a new record for mortgage lending
Israelis are buying real estate: a new record for mortgage lending

The Israeli mortgage market is breaking new records. In June, Israelis took out mortgage loans totaling 11.6 billion shekels.

This is 22% more than the previous record set in May, when mortgages in Israel were taken for 9.5 billion shekels. The activity with which Israelis took out mortgage loans in the first half of this year indicates that the market is entering a new level, according to the economic publication Globs.

Mortgage data for May and June predicts the approximate volume of transactions and price increases (and there is usually a positive relationship between these three factors), which means that the Israeli real estate market does not stop for a second, and certainly not to find out what the new government is planning.

The information released by the Bank of Israel on mortgages in June is only partial, but even this data is enough to understand that 2021 promises to be remembered for its absolute records in the real estate market.

The sharp increase in the number of mortgage loans occurred just in the month when the Minister of Construction Zeev Elkin announced that apartment prices will continue to rise. However, it is hardly worth linking the current mortgage record with his predictions made on June 16, because the monthly growth in mortgage volumes has been going on almost continuously since May last year. The actual degree of influence of such statements on the situation in the Israeli real estate market will be determined, presumably, not earlier than in a few months.

UNODC and Siemens AG strengthen partnership for business integrity
UNODC and Siemens AG strengthen partnership for business integrity

Vienna (Austria), 2 August 2021 – The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Siemens AG signed a funding agreement worth US$ 4 million to strengthen business integrity.

The sum represents the largest single contribution by the private sector to UNODC’s anti-corruption work. It will be dedicated to funding a new UNODC project, called Global Action for Business Integrity, which aims to prevent and fight corruption by strengthening legal frameworks, helping small businesses identify corruption risks, and involving youth, civil society, and academia in developing anti-corruption responses. The scope of the project is global with a focus on seven countries: Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan.

The Executive Director of UNODC, Ms. Ghada Waly, said: “To recover better from the COVID-19 crisis, businesses will need to recover with integrity. Thanks to the support of Siemens AG, UNODC will be able to help private sector companies build their capacity to play a bigger role in preventing and countering corruption, in line with the political declaration adopted in June by the UN General Assembly at its special session against corruption. I commend Siemens AG for its dedication to collective anti-corruption action, and I urge more companies to follow their lead.”

Sabine Zindera, Vice President, Siemens Legal and Compliance and head of Siemens’ global Collective Action activities and the Siemens Integrity Initiative added: “The fight against corruption is a clear business case for companies. What is more, Siemens has been constantly driving Collective Action over the past decade and has with a commitment of around 120 million US-dollars and 85 projects around the world strongly supported practical implementation on the ground. This is in our view indispensable for achieving lasting change and transforming the everyday into a true level playing field. We are very much looking forward to continuing our long-standing international cooperation with UNODC who is especially through the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) ideally positioned to engage and inspire many partners for practical implementation on the ground.”

The project Global Action for Business Integrity will mobilize stakeholders from the public sector, the private sector, civil society and academia to develop common responses:
• In Brazil, the project will conduct a youth hackathon to identify solutions to improve the dialogue between public sector, private sector and civil society on business integrity.
• In Colombia, the project will target civil society and academia and build their capacity to participate in collective action against corruption.
• In Egypt, the project will implement “On the Job Training” modules on business ethics for senior university students to build a culture of integrity among young professionals.
• In Ethiopia and in Saudi Arabia, the focus of the project is on training small- and medium-sized enterprises on corruption risk assessment.
• In Malaysia, UNODC will assist national authorities in the development and implementation of regulations on the liability of legal persons and beneficial ownership transparency.
• In Uzbekistan, the project will build the capacity of the public sector and civil society organizations in the area of strengthening anti-corruption components in legislation.

The project’s implementation is guided by the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument to prevent corruption and criminalize conducts such as bribery, trading in influence, abuse of functions and various acts of corruption in the private sector. In addition to the initiatives led in the seven focus countries, the project includes a global outreach component designed to identify good practices on business integrity and share them widely through publications and a global webinar series.

The project Global Action for Business Integrity is funded by Siemens AG under the Golden Stretch Funding Round, which builds upon the earlier three funding rounds. Siemens AG will now contribute US$ 4 million to UNODC over the next three years. Since the launch of the Siemens Integrity Initiative in 2009, Siemens AG has contributed over US$ 13.5 million to UNODC, enabling the Office to deliver nine projects in 17 countries.

EU agri-food trade increased in January – April 2021, compared to last year
EU agri-food trade increased in January – April 2021, compared to last year

Publication of the latest agri-food trade figures.

During the period from January to April 2021, EU agri-food trade (exports plus imports) reached a value of €103.4 billion; i.e. 1.1% less than in January-April 2020. While EU exports increased by 1.7% compared to the same period in 2020, reaching €63 billion, EU imports attained €40.3 billion, still 5.1% less than in the first four months of 2020. The monthly value for EU exports in April 2021 were 7.7% lower than March 2021, but also 9.8% higher than April 2020. EU imports in value also were 2.5% lower in April 2021 compared to March 2021, but 3.7% higher than the value observed in April 2020.  On a year over year basis, for the period January-April 2021, EU agri-food export values fell most with respect to those towards the United Kingdom (minus €806 million, -6%), when compared with the same period in 2020.

The highest increases in the EU export values were recorded with respect to China (plus €912 million, +16%). This continued to be primarily driven by an increase in the EU exports value of pork meat. EU export values to the United States have also increased by 7.1% (plus €488 million) compared to the same period in 2020, mainly driven by wine and spirits. Looking at agri-food imports over January-April 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, a significant fall in the value of EU imports from the United Kingdom continues to be observed (minus €1.844 million, -37%).

A further decrease was also observed in the EU imports from the United States (minus €387 million, -10%). On the other hand, countries for which the EU import values increased the most over the first four months of 2021 include India, Brazil, Serbia, Australia and Argentina. The resulting agri-food trade surplus’ value stood at €22.7 billion, an increase of 17% compared to the period January-April 2020. This net trade balance continued to be driven by high exports of wine, spirits and liqueurs, pork meat, chocolate and confectionary, bulbs, roots and live plants. More information is available here.

UK signs trade deal with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein
UK signs trade deal with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein

Britain’s government said it signed a free trade deal with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein on Thursday, its latest post-Brexit trade agreement. The signing of the deal on Thursday followed an agreement in principle reached last month by the four countries.

The deal would help sectors including digital, financial and professional business services and cut tariffs for British exports, boosting a trading relationship worth £21.6 billion last year, the trade ministry said in a statement

“Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein have gone further with us than any other FTA partner, including new cutting-edge digital provisions to enable slicker trade across our borders,” UK’s International Trade Minister Ranil Jayawardena said.

The UK is Norway’s top trading partner outside the EU, and in terms of their overall trade volumes, this deal is more significant for Norway and Iceland than it is for the UK. 

At the same time, as London is no longer part of the European Common Fisheries Policy, it must deal directly with Oslo and British fishing fleets are keen to have access to the country’s sub-Arctic seas.

Turkey begins construction of the Istanbul Canal
Turkey begins construction of the Istanbul Canal

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan took part in the solemn ceremony of the beginning of the construction of the Istanbul canal. which will run parallel to the Bosphorus and connect the Black and Marmara seas.

Construction will begin with one of six bridges across the future canal. Erdogan called this a new page in Turkey’s development.

The channel will have a length of 45 km and a minimum width of 275 meters at a depth of 21 meters.

Erdogan recalled that 45 thousand ships a year pass through the Bosphorus today and each such passage poses a threat to the city, since the ships carry different cargo.

“We look at the new project as a project to save the future of Istanbul,” Erdogan said.

At the same time, it will be a key bridge, which is the last part of another mega project already built – the Northern Ring Road of Istanbul, which starts from Silivri district, passes through the new Istanbul airport, continues across the Bosphorus on the newly built third bridge Yavuz Sultan Selim and joins the highway to Ankara. Thus, transit is carried out through Istanbul without having to enter the busy areas of the metropolis.

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The Istanbul Canal will be built on the European side of the Turkish metropolis and will be about 45km long, 275m wide and 20.75m deep.

Following Erdogan’s announcement of the project, studies to assess the route of the Istanbul Canal were conducted by various universities in 2011-2013.

In 2013-2014, a preliminary design was prepared after receiving geological and geotechnical data from the drilling works along the route determined for the canal.

Through a study of the experience of artificial waterways in the world, a roadmap of research projects was prepared and in 2014-2017, preliminary studies for the research project were conducted.

Detailed field, laboratory studies and an environmental impact assessment report process of the Istanbul Canal were conducted in 2017-2019.

A total of 204 scientists and experts from various universities and institutions have worked on the Istanbul Canal project.

It is also planned to build a marina, container ports, a recreation area and a logistics center as an additional component of the project to the facilities and structures needed for the Istanbul Canal.

The total cost of the project is estimated at 75 billion Turkish lira ($ 8.6 billion) and is expected to be built within the framework of public-private cooperation. During the meeting at which Erdogan announced the project, he also said the project would be funded entirely through national resources.

The project is expected to be completed in seven years, with about a year and a half of preparatory work and five and a half years of construction.

Six bridges will be built over the Istanbul Canal, which will turn Istanbul into a city with two seas.

New residential areas with more than 250,000 apartments are planned to be built on both sides of the Istanbul Canal.

ECOLOGISTS: FOR AND AGAINST

Turkish environmentalists have long been sounding the alarm because the ships that pass through the Bosphorus pollute the environment, “poison” the lives of residents of the 16 millionth (according to official data) and 20 millionth (according to unofficial data) megalopolis. And the natural channel itself grows shallow, including not withstanding the load. In addition, in the event of an accident and an oil spill during the passage of oil tankers along the Bosphorus, this could have catastrophic consequences for an already disturbed ecosystem. And if we add to this the dissatisfaction of the ship owners themselves with the need to wait, sometimes for weeks, in line to pass through the Bosphorus, then the construction of an artificial canal could become a very profitable alternative for everyone. But here again the ecologists were the first to say their word (“Uluslararası politika açısından Kanal İstanbul: 310 milyon insan için bir risk”). They are convinced that an intervention of this magnitude, namely the confluence of the waters of the Marmara and the Black Seas, may have even larger negative consequences than the excessive use of the Bosphorus. We are talking about an increase in the level of hydrogen sulfide in the Sea of ​​Marmara after its merger with the Black Sea, which can lead to the death of some representatives of flora and fauna, and also threatens an unpleasant smell from the channel.

Another – the transformation of the historical center and business districts of the European part of Istanbul into an island, according to experts, also poses a threat not only to nature, but also to the historical and archaeological attractions that this region is rich in.

Scotland to build a plant to remove carbon from the air
Scotland to build a plant to remove carbon from the air

In Scotland, the concept of a carbon capture plant was presented. It can slow the rise in temperature and mitigate global warming.

In the north-east of Scotland, a large enterprise will appear that can extract a significant amount of carbon dioxide from the air. According to scientists, it can process up to a million tons of carbon – the same as about 40 million trees absorb.

The produced gas can be stored for a long time deep under the seabed off the coast of Scotland. But critics argue that technology is not a “magic pill” for fighting climate change.

This direct air capture (DAC) plan is a joint venture between UK-based Storegga and Canadian Carbon Engineering. It is at a very early stage of development – they want to commission the plant in 2026.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that in order to keep the planet safe, by the end of this century, the rise in global temperatures must be contained and made so that it does not exceed 1.5 degrees.

However, in 2020 the temperature was already 1.2 degrees above the historical level. To contain the rise in temperature, the researchers propose limiting the emissions of heating gases that contribute to their rise.

Scientists at Rice University have developed a way to convert carbon from various sources into useful forms like graphene or diamonds. The new technique uses a “flash” of electricity to heat carbon. The length of the flash determines its final shape. The research is published in the journal ACS Nano.

The method itself is known as flash joule heating (FJH), and the team first described it in January 2020. An electric current is passed through the carbonaceous materials, heating them to about 2,727 ° C, which turns the carbon into pristine turbostratic graphene flakes.

The researchers have now refined the process to create other materials. The initial flashes lasted 10 milliseconds, but scientists have found that by changing their duration from 10 to 500 milliseconds, carbon can be produced in other forms. For example, in the form of nanodiamonds.

In industry, small diamonds have long been used in cutting tools and as electrical insulators.