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Romanian president and government clash over moving embassy to Jerusalem!

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BUCHAREST: A row erupted today between Romania’s government and President Klaus Iohannis over a proposal to move the country’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The foreign ministry announced that “a process of analysis and evaluation with the aim of transferring the embassy has been launched”.

Prime Minister Viorica Dancila of the left-wing Social Democratic Party confirmed Friday the government had adopted a memorandum on moving the embassy but added that other steps needed to be taken before a final decision.

In December US President Donald Trump sparked global controversy by announcing that his country would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Romania would be the first EU country to follow suit. 

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No Canadians: Air France unions want French CEO

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PARIS: Air France-KLM was tipped to name its first non-French chief executive on Thursday, with Canada’s Ben Smith set to be unveiled despite resistance from the group’s powerful trade unions.
It was “inconceivable that the Air France company, French since 1933, falls into the hands of a foreign executive whose candidacy is being promoted by a competitor,” said a statement from nine out of 10 Air France unions on Thursday morning.
The competitor referred to was Delta Airlines, the US airline which owns 8.8 percent of the capital of Air France-KLM, the parent group formed out of the merger of Air France and KLM of the Netherlands in 2004.
The union statement added that the new boss needed “intimate knowledge… of the French social model”, which often results in confrontations between employees and management.
Widely tipped in the media to be unveiled later on Thursday after a board meeting, the current number two at Air Canada won approval from the French government, which retains a 14.3-percent shareholding.
“I think he’s an excellent candidate,” Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said when asked about Smith during a press conference in southwest France.
He confirmed that the state’s representative on the board would vote in his favor. One of Smith’s biggest tasks would be negotiating a new pay deal with the French labor groups behind a series of strikes between February and June that forced out former boss Jean-Marc Janaillac.
As the chief operating officer at Air Canada, Smith has experience of sensitive labor negotiations, having led talks with pilots’ and flight attendants’ unions at Air Canada ahead of the launch of low-cost operator Air Canada Rouge.
But his proposed salary, reported to be several times higher than that of Janaillac, could also undermine goodwill towards him among employees, who have suffered years of cutbacks and job losses.
Liberation newspaper reported it could be as high as 3.0 million euros ($3.4 million dollars).
The union representing pilots at KLM, the Dutch arm of the group, has also made fresh pay demands and threatened strikes unless a new deal is offered to its members.
“I’m sure he has an idea of the magnitude of the challenge,” Chris Tarry, an aviation analyst in Britain, told Bloomberg news agency.
“Would I book a long-haul flight on Air France? It’s a question because there’s a risk they’ll be on strike,” he said.

A relevant piece: Air France-KLM named its first non-French chief executive on Thursday, handing the reins to Air Canada’s Ben Smith despite strong resistance from the group’s powerful trade unions.
It was “inconceivable that the Air France company, French since 1933, falls into the hands of a foreign executive whose candidacy is being promoted by a competitor,” said a statement from nine out of 10 Air France unions on Thursday morning.
The competitor referred to was Delta Airlines, the US airline which owns 8.8 percent of the capital of Air France-KLM, the parent group formed out of the merger of Air France and KLM of the Netherlands in 2004.
The union statement added that the new boss needed “intimate knowledge… of the French social model”, which often results in confrontations between employees and management.
The group’s management said Thursday evening that Smith, the current number two at Air Canada who won approval from the French government, would start work with the group by the end of September.
“It’s a chance for Air France-KLM to attract a leader of this stature who has great experience acquired through 19 years with Air Canada, an openness to dialogue and a large capacity to transform,” Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire and Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne said in a joint statement.
The French state retains a 14.3-percent shareholding in Air France-KLM.
One of Smith’s biggest tasks will be negotiating a new pay deal with the French labor groups behind a series of strikes between February and June that forced out former boss Jean-Marc Janaillac.
“I am well aware of the competitive challenges the Air France-KLM Group is currently facing and I am convinced that the airlines’ teams have all the strengths to succeed in the global airline market,” Smith said in a statement after the announcement.
As chief operating officer at Air Canada, Smith has experience of sensitive labor negotiations, having led talks with pilots’ and flight attendants’ unions ahead of the launch of low-cost operator Air Canada Rouge.
But his proposed salary, reported to be several times higher than that of Janaillac, could also undermine goodwill towards him among employees, who have suffered years of cutbacks and job losses.
Liberation newspaper reported it could be as high as 3.0 million euros ($3.4 million dollars).
The union representing pilots at KLM, the Dutch arm of the group, has also made fresh pay demands and threatened strikes unless a new deal is offered to its members.
“I’m sure he has an idea of the magnitude of the challenge,” Chris Tarry, an aviation analyst in Britain, told Bloomberg news agency.
“Would I book a long-haul flight on Air France? It’s a question because there’s a risk they’ll be on strike,” he said.
The Franco-Dutch airline had been searching for a new boss since Janaillac resigned in May, having gambled his job on getting Air France staff to accept a new pay deal after months of strikes.
Smith’s nomination may also be accompanied by a shake-up of the company’s governance, with the splitting of the roles of chairman and chief executive, which were previously held by the same person.
Les Echos business daily, which reported the change, said the new management structure would bring the company into line with American and British practice.
Air France shares have plunged more than 35 percent since the start of the year, although they have stabilized since Janaillac’s departure.
The group this month estimated the cost of the 15 days of French strikes between February and June at 335 million euros.
After years of losses and restructuring, the company has returned to profit, leading to the increased pay demands from unions.
It reported net profits of 109 million euros for the second quarter — down sharply from 593 million for the same period last year, although that figure was boosted by new accounting rules.

 

 

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Italian bridge company under fire as rescuers toil for third day

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GENOA: Italy’s populist government intensified its attacks Thursday on the bridge operator it blames for the viaduct collapse that killed dozens of people in Genoa as rescuers picked through rubble on the third day of desperate efforts to find survivors.
Anger is mounting over the tragedy and the structural problems that have dogged the decades-old Morandi bridge, which buckled without warning on Tuesday, sending about 35 cars and several trucks plunging 45 meters (150 feet) on to railway tracks below along with huge chunks of concrete.
The government has accused infrastructure giant Autostrade per L’Italia of failing to invest in sufficient maintenance — a claim the company denies — and said it would seek to revoke its lucrative contracts.
Shares in Atlantia, the holding company of Autostrade, slumped more than 21 percent Thursday in the wake of the barrage of criticism.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on Thursday demanded that the company offer up to 500 million euros ($570 million) to help families and local government deal with the aftermath of the disaster.
“If we’ve put up five million euros, they should offer 500 million,” he told reporters.
“There needs to be an immediate, concrete and tangible signal for these families: they should put their hands on their hearts and in their wallets.”
With people still missing under huge piles of concrete, rescue workers clambered across the rubble hoping to find survivors.
Fire official Emanuele Gissi said the unstable mountains of debris made the search operation dangerous.
“We are still looking for cavities that can hide people, living or not,” he said, adding that the round the clock search had failed to find any more victims overnight.
Cranes and bulldozers worked to help clear the site as rescuers try to cut the biggest hunks of concrete and remove them.
“Then our personnel will try to see if there are any positive signs,” Gissi said.
At least 38 people were killed, according to an update by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte Thursday.
The dead include children aged eight, 12 and 13, according to Salvini, while three Chileans and four French nationals are among those killed. Sixteen people were injured.
Genoa’s Morandi viaduct was completed in 1967 but has been riddled with structural problems since its construction, which has led to expensive maintenance and severe criticism from engineering experts.
Its collapse during a storm prompted the government to announce a year-long state of emergency in the region and day of mourning Saturday, as hundreds of people remain displaced from apartments beneath the remaining shard of the bridge.
The government, in power only since June, has pinned the blame on Autostrade, which operates and maintains nearly half Italy’s motorways.
Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said the company should be fined up to 150 million euros ($170 million).
Conte said Wednesday his government would seek to revoke Autostrade’s contract for the A10 motorway, which includes the bridge, while a transport ministry spokesperson told AFP the government was considering revoking all other motorway contracts awarded to the company.
Autostrade, which estimates it will take five months to rebuild the bridge, denies scrimping on motorway maintenance, saying it has invested over one billion euros a year in “safety, maintenance and strengthening of the network” since 2012.
Atlantia slammed the government for threatening to revoke its contracts “without any verification of the material causes of the accident”.
It warned that the government would have to refund the group the value of the contract, which runs until at least 2038.
The incident is the latest in a string of bridge collapses in Italy, where infrastructure generally is showing the effects of a faltering economy.
Senior government figures have also lashed out at austerity measures imposed by the European Union, saying they restrict investment.
But the European Commission said it “will not engage in any political finger pointing”.
It said Italy is set to receive around 2.5 billion euros of European funds for investments in network infrastructure, such as roads or rail, in the period from 2014 to 2020.
High above the frantic rescue effort, the engine of a green truck perched at the edge of the remaining strand of bridge continues to whir, a symbol of the heart-stopping moment when the bridge buckled, tossing vehicles and chunks of concrete into the abyss.
The driver saw the ground in front of him collapse in the driving rain and managed to slam on the brakes just inches from disaster.
He did not cut the engine as he fled the crumbling structure and his employer has said the truck has enough fuel to run for several more days, wipers and lights still on.
As desperate families wait to hear the fate of those still believed trapped, incredible stories of survival have emerged.
Davide Capello, a former goalkeeper for Italian Serie A club Cagliari, plunged with his car but was unscathed.
“I was driving along the bridge, and at a certain point I saw the road in front of me collapse, and I went down with the car,” he told TV news channel Sky TG24.
While around a dozen apartment blocks in the shadow of the viaduct were largely spared the impact of the falling concrete, the Liguria regional government said some 634 people had been evacuated.
Salvini said their homes would have to be pulled down.

Motorway viaduct collapses in Genoa (Italy), dozens feared dead!

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Bayer begins integrating Monsanto after merger conditions met

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FRANKFURT AM MAIN: German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant Bayer said Thursday it would begin integrating US seeds and pesticides maker Monsanto into its business, after meeting competition authorities’ final conditions for the merger.
Even as its stock suffers over the American company’s legal woes, the Leverkusen-based group said “the integration of Monsanto into the Bayer Group can begin” after it sold a final tranche of crop sciences businesses worth 5.9 billion euros ($6.7 billion) to rival BASF, under concessions imposed by cartel watchdogs.

 

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