Slovak diplomat Šefčovič likely to become EC Vice-president for energy union
European Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday officially proposed that Slovak diplomat Maroš Šefčovič become the Commission's Vice-President for the Energy Union. Šefčovič's initially proposed portfolio of transport and space should now be taken up by the Slovenian candidate Violeta Bulc.
In his first reaction to the proposed appointment, Šefčovič said that he'll be primarily in charge of creating an energy union. "The current crisis between the EU and Russia concerning gas supplies shows that this problem is becoming highly important and strategic," stated Šefčovič. The Slovak diplomat and incoming European Commissioner for Energy Miguel Canete are taking up their posts just ahead of winter, when the EU in its talks with Russia needs to secure sufficient energy supplies for all member countries. Šefčovič noted that they need to prevent dependence on a single source and work rather towards diversifying sources of energy carriers, build a single energy market and remove obstacles that the EU currently faces in this area.
Maroš Šefčovič is one of the most experienced Slovak EU diplomats. He held the post of the vice-president of the Commission in the previous cabinet for 5 years. Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is very proud of the fact that Slovakia is likely to take up the European Commission's vice-presidency responsible for energy policy. "This is a highly strong position, a position that usually reserved for large countries", stated Fico. The composition of the new Commission Cabinet of Jean-Claude Juncker should be finalised by next month.
Porsche is set to completely manufacture a car outside Germany for the first time, marking a departure from its proud brand claim that all its vehicles are “Made in Germany”.
Matthias Müller, Porsche chief executive, said on Tuesday that after 2016 the next generation of the Cayenne SUV – a vehicle that currently accounts for roughly half of Porsche sales – will be manufactured entirely in Bratislava, Slovakia.
The decision was taken as part of a reorganisation of production within Porsche and the wider Volkswagen Group.
Currently much of the Cayenne – including the bodywork – is made at a facility in Bratislava but the final assembly takes place in Leipzig.
Most German carmakers have long since abandoned the idea of producing all their vehicles in Germany and have opened production facilities overseas to be closer to fast-growing markets.
However, Porsche – maker of the 911 sports car and Panamera saloon – had partly resisted that trend because the “Made in Germany” label was considered a core part of its corporate identity and marketing.
Car buyers in emerging markets are prepared to pay a premium for German, UK and Italian engineering, and premium carmakers therefore tend to have reservations about setting up overseas.
For example, VW spent £800m last year to upgrade its factory in Crewe and keep Bentley models “Made in Britain”, rather than building its new SUV model in Slovakia, which would have been cheaper.
Fiat, owners of Porsche competitors Maserati, have also pledged to invest in their Italian factories to ensure that the sports car brand remains Italian-made, despite cost worries. Companies such as Rolls-Royce and Ferrari make their national identity the centrepiece of their sales pitch.
VW’s Bratislava plant produces the VW Group’s large SUVs such as the Touareg and Audi Q7. Therefore VW stands to derive significant synergy and time savings by manufacturing the Cayenne in its entirety in Slovakia, where labour costs are also lower.
Mr Müller said that for customers the decisive factor is that all Porsche vehicles will continue to be designed and engineered in Germany and noted that within the VW Group all production locations have to achieve the same high standards.
Porsche sales jumped last year by 15 per cent to more than 162,000 vehicles and it has become a big generator of profits for VW. Porsche is expected to be boosted further later this year when it launches the Macan compact SUV.
Martin N. Baily and Pål Erik Sjåtil lay out a three-pronged strategy for restoring rapid economic growth in Central and Eastern Europe. - Project Syndicate
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He added that Slovaks are clear favourites for BYD, with no other companies being addressed for now. In case the Chinese automotive producer agrees with the Slovak company, dozens of new jobs in development will be created and hundreds of thousands of euros invested, HN wrote on January 16. BYD already produces re-chargeable accumulators. Its existing electric vehicles have started to appear in Europe.
Suburbia in Central Europe
The 'burbs have left their mark on Central Europe and a two-year project is making an effort to help bring them to life
Dead suburbia is alive and (barely) kicking in Central Europe. In localities outside of the region's capital cities–where, in contrast, citizens are more actively engaged in the "fight" to improve their urban space–the communities are stagnant or sleeping.
In Psáry, located 7 km south of Prague, inhabitants who found themselves with fatter wallets in the 1990's and flocked to their newly built homes on the outskirts of the city have found that their Czech version of the "American Dream" hasn't lived up to their expectations. Working in Prague throughout the day they only return to their cookie-cutter homes at night where they peer out at a community their unfamiliar with, having no relationship with their neighbors since, along with rarely being there, the community is without shops, schools or other forms of infrastructure keeping them dependent on the city.
In Vienna's Sandleiten, a public housing project built after the First World War between 1919-1934, barriers exist between the old inhabitants and the younger, immigrant newcomers. What upon first impression looks like an idyllic community–it's clean, quiet, full of flowers and trees–is something of a dead zone.
In Rajka, located 20 km from Bratislava on the border between Austria, Hungary and Slovakia, people from Bratislava who followed the movement in the last ten years to settle down there–taking advantage of Rajka's proximity to the city–are disconnected to their community as their commuter lifestyle leaves them little time to actually live there. As well, local industry has shrunk and the Hungarian population who are dissatisfied with poor transport links to their home country and wish to take advantage of high property market sales as a result of a land use change from agricultural to suburbia are moving out.
In an effort to bring the region's issue of suburbanization and sprawl to light and help take some first steps toward positive change, Prague's Center for Central European Architecture (CCEA) in collaboration with six like-minded organizations from Central Europe began a two-year project in the spring of 2011 called Culburb. Derived from "Cultural Acupuncture Treatments for the Suburbs," Culburb's manifesto, as stated on their website, is to "activate the public realm in the suburbs of regional capitals through acupuncture interventions." In essence, through small actions they hope to contribute to bringing these suburban communities (back) to life.
"The ultimate goal of the project is to start at a local level, to start something new and to make some of the problems visible," Klára Mergerová, a project coordinator for the project from CCEA, told Czech Position. "[Through the project we would like to help] make a new environment for the inhabitants, to attach them to their environment."
The project's main component began after Culburb's first six months–a preparatory phase–during which the organizers held several workshops where they presented their ideas and discussed the topic of suburbia in Central Europe in general. Collectively they came to a decision to launch an open call in November of 2011 inviting architects, artists, urban researchers and activists as well as anyone interested in the topic, to submit proposals for interventions (with no limits on form, but only with the requirement that the interventions should "embrace the complex social and political situation, as well as the multi-layered character of the district's problems") in six specific localities. Four proposals for each location would be chosen and realized.
Along with Prague's Psáry, Vienna's Sandleiten and Bratislava's Rajka, the chosen localities included Warsaw's Ursus, Ljubljana's Zalog, Budapest's Delegyhaza and a second locality in Bratislava: Rosovce (the two Bratislava based localities are counted as one as they are in extremely close proximity to one another). Each, in their own unique way, "represent the typical suburban locality," says Mergerová, for that particular country and capital city.
Receiving 220 proposals from candidates from around the world, each of the six organizers made their own pre-selection of approximately 15 proposals before gathering in Prague to choose the four winners for each locality. In total, thirty projects will be realized as the organizers from each location will realize their own proposals as well.
For Prague's Psáry, the four chosen interventions include "Budget 50,000," which comes from Czech graphic design studio Labortory. This intervention leaves it up to the inhabitants to decide what they will do with 50,000 crowns. Advertised in Psáry's monthly community newsletter and at the community's first farmer's market where Culburb set up their own stall, inhabitants have the opportunity to propose their ideas about what to do with the money. The community will then vote on the best proposal and it will be realized.
In an effort to bridge an existing divide between Psáry's old inhabitants and its newcomers, Slovak couple Martin Rusina and Anezka Tkacikova's "Cross-Finding Game" will begin with collecting stories and oral history connected to the culture of Psáry from its older inhabitants. This information will then be organized into a game for the children of the newcomers. "Trail of Courage," the work of three Czech art students, borrows from the tradition of educational paths with freestanding informational signs in Czech forests, but, instead of signs about flora and fauna, these paths will bear information about the history of the community and issues of sprawl in an effort to educate and create a dialogue.
From a German architect and artist team, "Urban Farming Objects" or UFO will see the landing of a UFO in Psáry. Emerging from the suburban spacecraft will be four blue-egg-laying hens (the hens actually lay blue eggs by nature). On site, the organizers will teach the children and other members of the community how to care for the hens and together they will build a hen house. Once the organizers leave, it will be up to Psáry's inhabitants to care for the hens, creating the opportunity for an ongoing community project.