AuthorMartin Hladík

ET CETERA STREET ART

“On the wings of freedom”
20.09|03.10 2019 Embassy of Italy in Prague

The Eleutheria Foundation in collaboration with the Embassy of Italy in Prague renews the cultural brand “Et Cetera” with a new exhibition about the ultra-modern Street-Art, involving young Italian and Czech artists. An initiative whose high symbolic value is rewarded by the introduction in the program of the centenary of the Italian representation in Prague and the start of diplomatic relations. The initiative was curated by FrancescoAugusto Razetto, Ottaviano Maria Razetto and Genny Di Bert, respectively President, Vice-President and Curator of the Eleutheria Foundation. Located in Thunovská street, in a part owned by the Italian Embassy, the exhibition was inaugurated, with great public success, on 19 September 2019 in the presence of the Italian Ambassador, His Excellency Francesco Saverio Nisio, and the Deputy Minister of Culture of the Czech Republic, and will open to visitors to Malá Strana, in the historic center, from 20 September to 03 October (free admission). The theme chosen for the event is “freedom” commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Jan Palach and Jan Zajíc, two Czech boys who in 1969 sacrificed their lives in the name of the rights of their people against the pressing grip of the regime state to which Czechoslovakia was subjected. Two symbols of freedom and the struggle against oppression that, after half a century, remain icons of an incorruptible and ever-present message.

209th Anniversary of the Mexican Independence

Commemorative event held September 16, 2019 at Lucerna Cinema.

“On Monday, September 16, the Embassy of Mexico to the Czech Republic celebrated the 209th Anniversary of the Independence of Mexico with a magnificent event held at the iconic premises of Kino Lucerna, with full attendance of official authorities, including the Vice President of the Senate, Mrs. Miluše Horská, members of the Diplomatic Corps, Mexican community and friends of Mexico.

The occasion started with the fabulous interpretation of the Mexican and Czech Anthems by Mexican soprano Naomi Villegas, followed by the official messages of Ambassador of Mexico, H.E. Leonora Rueda and Vice Minister of the Foreign Ministry Martin Tlapa.

The traditional “Grito” could not be absent and after many “Viva Mexico”, the fiesta continued with the colorful, joyful, vibrant folkloric dances performed by the so called“Grupo Achai” (Brother in yaqui language), whose members, from the State of Sonora, Mexico, presented their talent with the steps of different regions of the country: Veracruz, Jalisco, Chihuahua, Yucatan, Guerrero and Veracruz. During their show, an impressive projection of the tourist attractions of the country was an unbeatable choreography for the presentation”.

The importance of recovery

Some time ago I wrote an article for Thrive Global about resilience as our ability to bounce back when things don’t go as planned. However, resilience also depends on our ability to thrive amidst tough challenges.

We won’t be able to build any resilience if we don’t recharge, recover, renew the energy we spend on our daily activities. Technology should make our lives easier but instead, in many cases, technology creates increased demands on us while with age, our capacity decreases.

Capacity is what we all are given; however, many of us take it for granted and typically try to increase it using more time. Harvard Business Review published an article titled ‘Manage your energy, not your time’ which clearly shows that the core problem with working longer hours is that time is a finite resource. Energy is not. Defined in physics as the capacity to work, energy comes from four main sources in human beings: the body, emotions, mind, and spirit. In each, energy can be systematically expanded and regularly renewed by establishing specific rituals or behaviours that are scheduled, practised and eventually become automatic.

If we don’t work on renewing our energy, we won’t be able to manage our lives effectively and at some point of time, the whole house of cards we have been steadily building will collapse including ourselves.

So, what kind of energy do we have to consider? First, physical energy which we need to function properly and which we get from:

Nutrition: this is nothing new, and there has been a lot written on proper nutrition and eating light and often.

Exercise: Dr James Levine, Director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative and inventor of the treadmill desk, has been studying the adverse effects of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles for years. He says that we all stopped smoking but now we are getting same impact as if we were still smoking just by sitting for 8-9 hours per day. According to him, ‘sitting is the new smoking’.

Sleep: it affects our physical, emotional and mental capacities and it’s been proven that lack of it has adverse impact on us.

Rest: with so many of us working long hours to keep up with a growing workload, and risking burnout, the importance of rest can be easily forgotten. Prioritising rest and vacation time is critical for doing our best at work and living a healthy life.

Inadequate nutrition, exercise, sleep, and rest diminish people’s basic energy levels, as well as their ability to manage their emotions and focus their attention. Nevertheless, many people don’t find a way to practice healthy behaviours, given all the other demands in their lives.

In addition to physical energy, there is emotional energy. Did you know that our brain is built to deal with stress that lasts about 30 seconds?

Let’s be honest now, how long does our stress last these days? Hours, days, weeks? For some, stress can last months and years, which may lead to chronic stress and that can be damaging to the body. Some individuals eat less when they’re stressed, but most increase their food intake, particularly food high in sugar and fat. Science Daily refers to a research the findings of which reveal a vicious cycle, where chronic, high-insulin levels driven by stress and a high-calorie diet led to more and more eating. This study indicates that we have to be much more conscious about what we’re eating when stressed, to avoid a faster development of obesity.

When people are able to take more control of their emotions, they can improve the quality of their energy, regardless of external pressures they’re facing. To do this, they first must become more aware of how they feel at various points during the day and of the impact these emotions have on their effectiveness. Most people tend to perform best when feeling positive energy. The lower our reserve of positive emotions, the more vulnerable we are.

What is recovery? Recovery is organising our life to ensure we perform at our highest level. That is what successful people do when they don’t do what they excel in but that is also what makes them excel in what they do.

Recovery is about focus. If we work longer and harder, it’s like cutting a tree with an axe that is getting blunt. Proper recovery sharpens it but also helps determine which trees are the right ones to chop. Intermittent breaks for renewal result in higher and more sustainable performance. The length of renewal is less important than the quality. It is possible to get a great deal of recovery in several minutes provided it involves a ritual that allows you to disengage from work.

Recovery is about being present. Most people are not present these days; they are distracted and when not working, they are checking their phones and notifications; they are everywhere else but where their body is. “Wherever you are, that’s where you should be,” wise words by Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach.

In addition, people can tap into the energy when work really matters to them. However, the high demands and fast pace of corporate life don’t leave much time to pay attention to anything else, and many people don’t even recognise the meaning and purpose of their work as potential sources of energy. Therefore, some companies started adopting new ways of working, and others even set up ‘renewal rooms’ where people can go regularly to recharge and relax.

So, do we need to work 24/7 to achieve our dreams? No, we don’t. Therefore, it is important to start thinking about using our energy to our best ability and advantage, perhaps developing little rituals which can contribute to energy renewal, while companies, in turn, need to come up with solutions to ensure the demands at work are manageable and employees have opportunities to recharge and recover.

By Tereza Urbánková

Tereza Urbánková is a PR, communications and marketing professional with 20 years’ experience and proven success in delivering award-winning communications programmes for multinational companies operating in industries such as hospitality, retail, IT, defence, broadcast, logistics, pharma and engineering. After having lived and worked in the UK for 12 years, she moved to Germany where she now works for Boehringer Ingelheim, a global pharmaceutical company, as Head of Global External Communication, Animal Health. Tereza is a member of the Executive Committee of the Czech British Chamber of Commerce in London. She speaks Czech, English, Spanish and Russian and can be reached through her LinkedIn profile.

How to Travel the World on a Budget

Do you want to travel the world full-time but just can’t figure out how people do it on such a tight budget? Well, we’re here to give you some insight into the world of budget travel and how you can do it too. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll get to see the world without breaking the bank.

Pick the right destinations

This is the most important part of traveling on a budget: choosing the right destinations. Of course, you want to swim in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, but that country is super expensive. Before you create your itinerary, check whether destinations fit into your budget. Asia is a great place to explore, especially countries like Nepal, India, Vietnam and China. After some time living on a budget, you can throw in a lux destination like Hong Kong or Taiwan. Central America is also perfect for budget travelers. Not only fun and beautiful, destinations like Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua are also quite budget-friendly.

Learn how to save

If you’re a master in spending wisely, you’ll get to travel the world and not work a day in between your trips. Traveling on a budget requires smart spending strategies! It might sound easy to hold back on spending, but just remember how many people you have in your life who are in debt and spend all their money paying for it. In order to travel without spending too much, you need to know your limit. Sure, partying in Berlin or Vegas might be fun, but can you really afford it? You might have money to stay a few more days in Bali, but are you willing to sacrifice the rest of your trip just to prolong your stay in such an expensive destination? The way you save before and during your trip will determine how far you can go on your budget.

Spend smart

Oftentimes, cash is your only option while traveling, especially if you’re going through more rural parts of your destination. However, using cash might not be the smartest way to pay. If you want to save up some money, find a practical travel credit card that will provide you with benefits when booking online, earn you miles and get you some cash back. So, before you embark, make sure to grab a travel card and spend smart.

Wait for cheap flights

If you don’t have the time to spend hours and hours in front of your computer waiting for affordable tickets, you can check out some websites that allow you to compare prices and show the cheapest flights you can find for your destination. Some even have notification systems in place that inform you when flights drop to your budget level.

Do free things

Wherever you go, you’ll be able to find amazing free things to do. These will allow you to explore the destination yet save a bunch of money (most entrance fees and activity prices are grossly overpriced). In order to find these freebies, just Google ‘free things to do in’ and enter your destination. You’ll be blown away by how many amazing museums, walking tours, hikes, religious sites and local events are 100% free. Pro tip: if you’re friendly, locals will often invite you to have coffee or beer with them just to practice their English or chat about your travels.

Get to work

If you’re willing and able to work while you travel, you’ll explore the world in no time. Working while abroad is the best way to keep your trip going without breaking your bank. Make some money doing an easy job, save something for traveling and move onto the next one. Of course, you’ll need to experience in finding quick jobs, but there is more than one way. You can live as a digital nomad if you have certain computer skills that allow you to freelance and earn your paycheck. A lot of other jobs require visas and work permits, but you can often find a way to skip these. Many hostels are willing to exchange work for lodging, but you can also try your luck as a babysitter, personal fitness trainer, tour operator or English tutor. Some people are lucky enough to find work on a private yacht which means you have to work for 6 months but you also get to travel for 6 months!

Try woofing

Woofing is a new way to earn money while traveling. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is an organization that connects laborers with farmers looking for help on their properties. If you’re willing to lend a hand on the farm for some food and lodging, sign up with WWOOF and you’ll get the opportunity to find work in over 100 countries all over the world.

If you save smart, spend smart and work smart, you’ll get to travel the world, experience new things and meet new people without spending all your life savings. So, study these tips, pack your bags and start the adventure of a lifetime!

By Peter Minkoff

Peter is a lifestyle and travel writer at Men-Ual magazine, living between Ústí nad Labem and Antwerp. Follow Peter on Twitter for more tips.

Czech-American relations and changes in the US through the eyes of the Czech ambassador

“Relations between the Czech Republic and the US are at a very decent level today.” This information opened the meeting of members and friends of the Czechoslovak Foreign Institute with Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States of America Hynek Kmoníček on August 29.

He has substantiated his claim with a variety of data that are not well known in the Czech Republic. For example, Czech products occupied 25 percent of the US market for ultralight aircraft, or 60 percent of the market with explosives. Czech antivirus firms placed in the top three positions in the US market. CZ-USA, a subsidiary of Česká zbrojovka Uherský Brod (the Czech Armory Company) in Kansas City, which has been active on the US market since 1997, plans to invest two billion crowns in a new factory in Arkansas. Altogether, Czech firms, which operate mostly under English-sounding names, create several thousand jobs in the US, and the governors of individual US states attract other Czech investors to the country with a variety of incentives or tax breaks. According to the ambassador, the current level of relations between the US and the Czech Republic can almost be compared to their level during the First Republic period, and could remain so for some time. In the economy, the US is still number one in the world. “The American economy is in principle blooming,” the ambassador said. Gross domestic product is rising, currently up 2.1 percent, inflation is low and unemployment is at its lowest in fifty years. It seems irrelevant to the economy who is president, the economy is going its own way. On the other hand, the ambassador pointed out that growth in the US economy was slowing gradually after all: GDP growth reached 4.8 percent in the 1960s to the 1980s, and now only 2.1 percent. The reduction is offset by an increase in debt.

“The future of the Czechs in the US is assured,” ambassador Hynek Kmoníček said in another part of the talk. It can be assumed that the number of Czech Americans will grow. Currently, about a hundred thousand Czech Americans, mostly descendants of the emigration wave from the second half of the 19th century, claim Czech origin and relation to the Czech Republic at all. In Texas, about 12,000 people say they speak Czech at home. But the most Czechs are in Nebraska, where they account for 5.5 percent of the population. New Czech schools are also being set up in the US. The condition is that at least 5 Czech-speaking children are taught in them.

Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the Czech Republic, H.E.Serzhan Abdykarimov, informed members and friends of the Czechoslovak Foreign Institute about changes in Kazakhstan within this year at his talk. He called his speech “Kazakhstan between the past and the future”.

He reminded participants of the meeting how Kazakhstan, which spans 2.7 million square km and has a population of more than 18.5 million, has changed over the past nearly 30 years of independence. “It has succeeded in transforming Kazakhstan into a modern state that has been included in a group of the 50 world’s most competitive countries,” he said. Last year, Kazakhstan recorded 4 percent economic growth. GDP, which is 27 percent accounted for by SMEs, has risen from $11 billion in 1993 to $170 billion currently. A National Fund with more than $86 billion has been created to address social-economic problems in crisis situations. Foreign direct investment reached $320 billion. Industrial production is being modernised, digitisation is being introduced, important infrastructure projects are being implemented. 12.5 thousand kilometres of roads, 2.5 thousand kilometres of railways or two modern ports at the Caspian Sea were built. Thanks to the Kazakh program of Nurly Zho and the Chinese initiative of One Belt, one way the transport of goods from China to Europe via Kazakhstan is now four times shorter than shipping, and the country has earned 1.5 billion in sales from transit in the past year. Kazakhstan has gas and oil reserves and is currently the world leader in uranium mining, which is sold under the control of the International Atomic Energy Organization.

The Demand for Vegan Food Tours Is Growing — and These Are 9 of the Best Around the World

The rise in plant-based eating has inevitably led to more demand for vegan food tours around the world. From 2014 to 2017, the United States alone saw a whopping 500-percent increase in people identifying as vegan — and this isn’t counting the growing number of vegetarians, flexitarians, and “reducetarians” (those trying to reduce meat consumption). The U.K. and Canada are also seeing rapid growth in vegan eating. So an increase in travel experiences catering to vegan foodies makes perfect sense.

Food tours are one of the fastest-growing categories on the travel site TripAdvisor, and vegan food tours are no exception.

“I’ve been watching vegan tours start to pop up all over the world, and it’s exciting to see this demand start to be met,” Diana Edelman, who launched the Vegans, Baby Las Vegas food tour in 2018, told Travel + Leisure. “I get emails all of the time for more dates for my tours, so it’s really encouraging in terms of what vegan tour operators can expect in the coming years.” Edelman is currently expanding to new cities to meet demand, and she has plenty of competition.

So if you’re looking for a vegan food tour experience, which should you pick? Based on a mix of insider recommendations, personal experience, and reviews, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best vegan food tours around the world.

1. Thailand Vegan Food Adventure

Most vegans know that many traditional Thai dishes are already plant-based, and this tour, hosted by Intrepid Travel, takes full advantage. This nine-day vegan food tour is for the adventurous; guests eat their way through Kanchanaburi, Bangkok, Ayutthaya, and Chiang Mai, where they experience a homestay in a small Thai village. In addition to sampling local markets and dishes like tofu red curry, sweet sticky rice, and traditional Thai banana cake, guests will enjoy a cooking course so they can take the local flavors home.

Neil Coletta, Intrepid’s brand and product manager of food tours, says research was important in crafting their vegan tours. Also key was ensuring that guides were all vegetarian, if not vegan. “Our guests can be safe in the knowledge that their leader will not only know the safest and cleanest stalls and restaurants but also where to order food that will be 100-percent vegan,” he said.

2. Vegano Italiano Tour

This tour is led by none other than popular vegan cheese purveyor Miyoko Schinner (of Miyoko’s Kitchen). The nine-day tour includes lodging at Lavimia Vegan Hotel and takes guests through Venice and the Dolomites. Designed for foodies who want to relax, this luxurious trip includes four cooking demonstrations and visits to local sites.

“I love leading these tours because it gives folks an intimate, insider perspective on the regions we visit, including local vegan cuisine that most people aren’t even aware of,” Schinner told T+L. “Italy is rich in cucina povera, or peasant cuisine, which is mostly veggie, legume, and grain based, but you won’t find those dishes on most restaurant menus. The trick is to have a super Italian operator who knows all the places to go so that vegans can have fabulous feasts in places off the beaten path.”

See the rest here.

Reception for all Czech Ambassadors at the Senate

At the end of August, the traditional meeting was held between ambassadors and President of the Senate, Jaroslav Kubera, who alongside other representatives of the upper chamber, the Minister of Industry and Trade and the President of the Chamber of Deputies, welcomed them in Wallenstein Garden. The Senate President thanked all the ambassadors for their work, highlighting their service towards the Czech Republic’s good reputation abroad, and also their successes in economic diplomacy.

Thai Market: Dobrý den z Thajska

On 19 September 2019, the Royal Thai Embassy in Prague, in collaboration with Team Thailand offices in Prague, namely Thai Trade Office, Prague and Tourism Authority of Thailand, Prague Office and Czech-Thai Committee, Foreign Section of Czech Chamber of Commerce, organized a Thai Market: Dobrý den z Thajska, at the garden of the Thai Residence in Prague. Owners of Thai Restaurant, importers of Thai food products, Thai beverage, Hom Mali Rice, Thai massage shops and a Czech Tour Operator were present at the event. Thai food, prepared by Ambassador’s chef and also by professional Thai chefs, Thai Singha Beer, and Thai products were sold at the event. In addition, a demonstration of Thai umbrella painting, live music and Thai massage were also parts of the main attraction at the event. Visitors and invited guests also had a chance to try 4 different ready-to-eat meals from CPF. The event was attended by approximately 1,500 visitors. The event helped promote Thai food and Thai ingredients in the Czech market and also raise awareness about Thainess and the visibility of Thailand in the Czech Republic.

Yet another regulatory myth explained

Nobody in the financial industry could have missed how notable the attention has been in all recent regulations paid to the conflict of interest and its mitigation. All those MiFIDs, IDDs, MCDs and other Directives, have substantial parts dedicated to so called “inducements”. This is a euphemism for preventing the advisors (distributors) from taking too much money that would skew their advice and recommendation to clients. Because even a little kid knows that those essentially undesirables in the financial world (we love Fintech!) will recommend even the worst product with the highest commission, right? Wrong.

As with many presumptions of current consumer protection dogma, this cliché has very little empirical backing. Considering investments, as the most observed segment, even scholarly literature is deeply divided, as to whether higher commissions lead to worse advice or not. Seeing this and the huge costs incurred by the colossal inducements’ regulation, I decided about two years ago to take a look at the situation in Central-Eastern Europe. That “wild East” of the European Union, which is not empirically mapped at all. So, what was our journey and what have we found?

Our research, which will be published in a few months in one of the prestigious European journals, was based on the examination of a total of 2,066 advised sales realised between 2013 and 2015. Using a quantitative model, we have examined whether, in those sales, the amount of commission paid to the final adviser had anything to do with the costs, yield or volatility of the recommended investment product. Participating companies were divided according to their sales model (MLM, pool or flat structures) and their size, to make results most granular. We certainly had many expectations regarding the outcomes, but what we found surprised us all. Although we have observed a relationship between commission and sold product costs, this was for the biggest part of the market (MLMs) compensated (for the investors) by significantly higher returns from the recommended funds.

How can we interpret such an outcome? Well, simply put: the majority of financial advisers recommend products with higher fees, but also higher returns. Does this suggest the consumer detriment that the Brussels legislators’ are claiming? Hardly. Because, on the negative side of the equation, the consumer must also add the costs of the regulation itself. Which are, unsurprisingly, enormous and are already pushing smaller companies out of business. Sceptics might ask: is this not the true goal of the regulation storm that we are enduring, despite the rhetoric about “smart regulation? Only time will tell.

Notes:
The paper referred to above can be accessed here and the previous author’s work on the topic at both here and here.

By Jiří Šindelář
Broker Consulting, a.s.
former Deputy Chairman of FECIF

Alexandr Vondra

I would recommend the government not to underestimate the Presidency

Alexandr Vondra, Czech right-wing politician, Member of the Civic Democratic Party and former dissident and signatory of Charter 77

Alexandr Vondra
Vondra is a Czech right-wing politician, Member of the Civic Democratic Party and former dissident and signatory of Charter 77. In 2006, he worked for several months as a Minister of Foreign Affairs and then until May 2009 as a Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs. From July 2010 to December 2012, he served as a Minister of Defence. Since July 2019 he has been a Member of the European Parliament where he sits in the ENVI Committee and in the Delegation with the US.

You have spent seven years outside politics. You say it “oxygenated” yourself. What brings you to the European Parliament? What are your priorities?

I decided to run for the European Parliament because I was worried about what was going on in Europe. I went into trying to prevent Europe from committing suicide. My priority in the European Parliament is to work in the ENVI Committee which has become the main battlefield of European politics during this parliamentary term. I want to promote reasonable environmental policy over the next five years, one that does not ruin us. We must protect nature but not in the way envisaged by the new red-green European Commission of Ursula von der Leyen.

The new Commission is preparing the European Green Deal in order to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent. What will this mean for the businesses?

That’s a question! The European Green Deal has neither clear parameters nor any impact assessments at the moment but some groups in the European Parliament are trying to come forward with stricter 2030 and 2050 goals and set a separate budget line for the European Green Deal as soon as possible. I am much more cautious. The European Green Deal will definitely be an opportunity for many businesses but we should carefully assess its possible disproportionate impacts, especially on SMEs. Moreover, structure of our economy as well as expectations of Czech citizens are different than those in Western part of Europe and we, as their representatives, should take it into account.

You consider global warming a hysteria. Are you convinced it doesn’t exist?

Climate has always changed and so will be the case in future too. I do not have a problem withaclimatechange,Ihaveaproblemwith a hysteric reaction of the EU. I am afraid all the EU efforts to become a climate change avantgarde at global level, leading to regulations artificially increasing costs of living in Europe, will hamper our economic growth and let the others – China and USA, for instance – to take advantage of it.

In practice, can there be a legislation that promotes both sustainability and competitiveness?

I am convinced so. But, first of all, the EU should come up with a legislation which is not revised “instantly”and, on the other hand, gives the Member States enough room for manoeuvre. One size does not fit all. Greens in all groups, including very weak EPP representatives, are of a completely different opinion. And their respective steps are leading to a revolution of rich and for rich. We need to support a policy which avoids climate change as a new religion and, instead, considers protection of environment in a more contextual way. No one should be left behind and, for example, biodiversity issues or protection of water resources should not be neglected.

How do you assess the Commission’s new portfolios? Is Ms. Jourová ́s portfolio “Values and transparency” an opportunity for the Czech Republic?

The Commission as an institution is trapped inside The system “one Member State – one Commissioner”. That’s why some portfolios are, let’s say, questionable. On the other hand, this arrangement gives Ursula von der Leyen much leeway to set up her team in a way which suits her most. Věra Jourová’s portfolio is not as significant as Andrej Babiš or Jourová herself presents it. It might seem that her task will be to assess the rule of law in, for example, Poland and Hungary. In fact, Jourová will only deal with the issue of European elections, fight against fake news, media pluralism, promotion of a “European identity” and dialogue with churches. None of this can be considered an executive competence. The question of compliance with the rule of law falls under the Justice Commissioner. So Věra Jourová will only serve the Poles and Hungarians what the Belgian cooks. And a second-rank Vice-Chair? Věra Jourová only recognizes it on her payslip. This is Babiš’s total bargaining defeat.

The Von der Leyen Commission will continue in regulating digital market. Do you think the same rules should work for online and offline world?

From consumers’ point of view, there is no difference between offline and online world. We all expect high level of protection to fulfil our consumer rights anywhere in the EU. That’s why I am happy that geoblocking, for instance, has become a part of history. On the other hand, I am not a friend of regulating any aspect of life without assessing possible negative impacts on businesses and/or consumers, as was the case with mortgages. I am convinced EU should use legislation as a last resort solution, primarily to eliminate useless hurdles which block functioning of the EU Single Market.

You are a Member of the Parliamentary Delegation for relations with the U.S. How will the EU-US relationship evolve? Do you think there is a chance to negotiate a trade agreement similar to the unfinished Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)?

We would need to negotiate a trade agreement with the US. But what form it will take, and if it really happens, is a question. It takes two to tango. And both sides, including the EU, must be able to compromise. The trend that the EU is contaminating trade agreements negotiations with new conditionalities, such as compliance with the Paris Climate Agreement, is not conducive to any trade negotiation.

You have represented the Czech Republic during the first Czech Presidency. What do you recommend to politicians for the next Presidency in 2022?

The Czech presidency in 2022 will be significantly different from the 2009 presidency. At the time of our first presidency, the Treaty of Lisbon was not yet in force and the role of Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs was much more prominent and stronger than today. On the other hand, the Presidency still presents an opportunity to pursue national priorities and to train new officials who will be able to work with European legislation even after the end of the Presidency. Therefore, I would recommend the government not to underestimate the Presidency.

We always hear that the EU should reform. What could the EU do in order to become more efficient and more appreciated by people?

The EU should stop complicating people ́s lives. The newly planned European Green Deal will bring price increase – housing, transport and food will become more expensive. This will certainly not help neither us, nor the EU. The EU should stop unifying things that simply cannot be unified. The key is simplifying and removing the barriers that still exist in the EU. If the EU applies this principle, perhaps much more people would trust it, even in the Czech Republic.

How do you imagine we will live in twenty years?

I hope that the free movement of the four freedoms will be preserved, because it is a great advantage for us, which leads to the development of wealth in all respects. I will pray and work to keep it that way.

Thank you for the interview!

Alena Mastantuono

Want to Avoid Bad Weather All Year Round? This Trip Will Keep You a Perfect Temperature Every Season

Bad weather can certainly put a damper on any trip.

However, if you’re a savvy planner, you can find “perfect” weather pretty much any time of the year, depending on where you go, Lonely Planet reported.

Reservations.com created a globe-trotting itinerary, broken down week-by-week, for people looking to figure out the best parts of the year to visit amazing destinations, especially if they’re seeking mild weather. Reservations.com defines “perfect” weather as ranging between 70 and 75 degrees and sunny forecasts.

“Each person has their own personal bias, so it’s a tricky thing to pin down,” it says on the company’s website. “We’ve read a number of articles and posts and found that the range of daily highs between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit…was a pretty solid indicator of acceptable temperature among the majority of people”

From the look of the travel website’s suggestions, you can even travel the world throughout the entire year and avoid bad weather.

If you’re looking for the ideal place for your trip, depending on the season, here’s where you should go, according to Reservations.com.

Spring

The months of March, April, and May mean you’ll be able to get away from torrential rains at home by escaping to the Mediterranean, as well as parts of the Middle East and Northern Africa.

In March, Tunisia, Egypt, and Israel are where you’ll find mild heat, palm tree-lined beaches, and lots of sunshine, according to Reservations.com, as well as being close to some of the most interesting historical sites on earth. In April, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, and Italy all boast some truly wonderful opportunities to soak up the sun, visit fascinating ruins, and treat yourself to some of the best food (especially seafood) in the world. In May, a visit to Croatia and Spain is good for some sunny weather.

Summer

The beginning of summer will bring you further north in Europe, while July and August, surprisingly, are a great time to visit Africa. In June, Reservations.com suggests exploring Portugal, France, Switzerland, and Germany if you’re trying to beat the heat. Plus these places are well known for their excellent food and wine options.

July is a great time to visit places like Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. One of the most popular trips is to take a safari to see the migrating wildlife during this time as well as seeing Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park. In August, visit the east African island of Mauritius, which is well known for its beaches and the lush environment – which means it’s a little on the cooler side. You can also enjoy ancient historical and cultural sites in India or Bhutan.

Fall

Autumn is the perfect time for people to explore Asia, Oceania, and North America. In September, the countries of Japan, China, South Korea, and Mongolia have the best weather as well as accommodations for any type of traveler. Want a super-urban trip? Tokyo or Beijing are excellent choices. Relaxation? South Korea and Sapporo, Japan are wonderful places to sit back and enjoy delicious cuisine. Adventure? Head to the Great Wall of China.

Fall in the northern hemisphere is actually spring in the southern hemisphere, so October is the best month to see the most beautiful cities in Australia. By November, Napa Valley and Los Angeles, California are ideal for nightlife and country winery tours. Austin, New Orleans, or Las Vegas are also great options for people who are tired of leaf-peeping.

Winter

Who doesn’t want to escape the bitter cold? In December, you can enjoy a Caribbean Christmas by visiting southern Florida, including Orlando and Miami, or heading to the Bahamas or Bermuda. Many resorts in these areas are open for business and actively encouraging travelers, despite hardship caused by Hurricane Dorian.

In January, ring in the new year by visiting places in South America, which will be cooler, drier, and more temperate than they are in other parts of the year. Hiking in the Andes is a popular trip for many travelers out there. You can also soak in some sun in Guatemala or see the bustling cities in Argentina, Chile, Peru, or Columbia. In February, Mexico and Morocco offer a break from the cold and wet weather. Sitting on a beach along the Pacific coast of Mexico is always a good option for people trying to get through that last slump of winter. For people who want a little more adventure, explore the markets of Marrakesh without breaking too much of a sweat.

More details on this travel-friendly weather itinerary can be found on the Reservations.com website.

The 52nd Anniversary of the Founding of ASEAN

On 5 September 2019, the Royal Thai Embassy in Prague hosted a reception celebrating the 52nd Anniversary of the founding of the ASEAN at the Thai Ambassador Residence. H.E. Mrs. Ureerat Chareontoh, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand to the Czech Republic delivered her welcome speech emphasising the importance of ASEAN and its dynamism and forward-looking character. On this occassion, H.E. Mrs. Eliška Žigová, Director-General of the Department of Asia and Pacific, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also presented as the guest of honour. ASEAN ambassadors from other five different countries, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, and Vietnam also presented at the event. During the celebration, the six ASEAN countries provided national dishes and cultural performances. The event was attended by diplomatic corps, especially, ASEAN dialogue partners, representatives from the government, private and academic sectors, including Czech media in total of more than 160 people.

SCREENING OF FILM ADAPTATION OF THE TRIAL BY JOHN WILLIAMS

September 17, Evald Cinema (Komorní kino Evald)

The Franz Kafka Society organized the premiere Czech screening of a film adaptation of Kafka’s novel The Trial (JPN, 2018, 118 min.), set in contemporary Japan and directed by British filmmaker John Williams, in original version with English subtitles. The film screening was followed by a short presentation and discussion with director John Williams and film journalist Antonín Tesař.

The film has appeared at festivals in Paris, Rotterdam, Düsseldorf and Hamburg and it will screen at the Unfolding Kafka Art Festival in Bangkok (November 2019). The event took place on the occasion of the 105th anniversary of the writing of The Trial.

John Williams transposes Kafka’s tale of paranoia, guilt and existential anxiety to modern day Japan. One of the previous films by John Williams (Firefly Dreams, JPN, 2001, 104 min.) screened in Official Selection – Competition at 36th KVIFF (2001).

ASEAN

ASEAN or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is an intergovernmental organisation, established in Bangkok, Thailand, on 8 August 1967, aimed primarily at promoting economic growth and regional stability among its 10 members including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

ASEAN aims to promote collaboration and cooperation among member states, as well as to advance the interests of the region as a whole, including economic and trade growth. In 2015, it established the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), a major milestone in the organization’s regional economic integration agenda. The AEC envisions the bloc as a single market with free flow of goods, services, investments and skilled labour, and freer movement of capital across the region.

The theme for ASEAN 2019 under Thailand’s Chairmanship is “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability”, the grouping is looking towards the dream of building a community that is oriented towards the people, centers on the people and leaves no one behind. It intends to promote sustainability in all dimensions to enable ASEAN to respond to changes and challenges, such as climate change. It also aimes to maintain peace, stability and look towards the future; capitalise on opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to promote the digital economy and green growth; enhance relations with partners to develop sustainably and gain a higher global stature for ASEAN; and step up connectivity in all fields towards a seamless ASEAN.

As for relationship with the Czech Republic, there is an increasing economic development between ASEAN Member States and the Czech Republic. Last year, trade volume between the two sides has reached over 7 billion US dollars. The Czech Republic is certainly a major hub in Central Europe. At the same time, ASEAN, the region with almost 650 million population, a common market of a combined GDP over US$ 2.92 trillion, is now one of the most dynamic economy in the world. There are significant potentials for closer economic cooperation between the Czech Republic and ASEAN.

Currently, in Prague, there are six ASEAN embassies, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Phillipines, Thailand, Vietnam, and, the newest member of the ASEAN family, Myanmar. This year, ASEAN celebrated the 52nd Anniversary of its founding. Let’s see what the ambassadors have to say about ASEAN.

“Thailand, as the Chair of ASEAN 2019, is proud to say that the salient characteristic of ASEAN is dynamism and forward-looking with the ability to sustain changes and remain resilient and relevant, as reflected in its constructive engagement in the regional and international issues of common interests and concerns as well as its active role in addressing many security challenges, both in traditional and modern sense of the word” said H.E. Mrs. Ureerat Chareontoh, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand to the Czech Republic and the current Chairperson of the ASEAN Committee in Prague.

“ASEAN is a perfect example of diverse countries being able to overcome their differences and co-exist in peace and security as well as achieve progress and development as the ASEAN leaders are committed to working together for mutual benefit” said H.E. Ms. Zanariah Zainal Abidin, Ambassador of Malaysia

“Under the Philippine leadership, two landmark documents were signed by the ASEAN Leaders at the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila in 2017: The ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers and the ASEAN Declaration on the Role of the Civil Service as a Catalyst for Achieving ASEAN Vision 2025.” said H.E. Mr. Ombra T. Jainal, Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines.

“Indonesia has been very active within the framework of ASEAN cooperation includes ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific and has recently inaugurated the new building of ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta.” said H.E. Mrs. Kenssy D. Ekaningsih, Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to the Czech Republic.

“Being a diplomat from ASEAN country, apart from bilateral relations we are also responsible to promote ASEAN in Czech and contribute to the ASEAN-EU relations.” said H.E. Mrs. Kay Thi Soe, Ambassador-Designate of the Embassy of Myanmar

“As the ASEAN Chair in 2020, Vietnam will promote the achievements of the ASEAN over the past decades and continue to strengthen the community bonding, reinforce the regional peace, security and stability, uphold the ASEAN identity, and improve the global partnership for sustainable development”, said H.E. Mr. Ho Minh Tuan, Ambassador of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

SHELeads is coming up!

More tips and advice to help you with your communication and managerial endeavours are coming!

The 4th iteration of SHELeads, an online program for female managers by Alena Huberova is fast approaching! If you are looking to grow your skills then this program could help you!

Are you ready to move to the next level in your career?

To develop skills and abilities to powerfully + positively influence people?

And become the boss you always wish you had?

Take a look at the SHELeads Program. The group is forming with female managers of different nationalities and will be ready to embark on the journey on Wednesday, October 2nd. Wanna join?

Click here.

4 Reasons Sitting is the New Smoking

Today, individuals spend more time sitting in front of computer screens at work, playing video games or watching movies and TV shows. This lack of activity has become a concern among health experts.

Recent studies find that sitting too much can be as hazardous to the body as smoking. The constriction of blood flow and lack of movement can cause a number of effects that damage overall health. The findings are causing many individuals to rethink how they spend their work and leisure time, striving to find ways to add more motion, stretching and healthy activity to their day. Here are 4 ways that a sedentary lifestyle can affect your body.

1. Sitting Negatively Affects Posture

Working in a sitting position puts the body into positions that are detrimental to good posture. Many people develop low back problems, hip pain, upper back and neck pain from constantly sitting in a hunched position over work tasks or in front of computer screens. Over time, this limited position can lead to joint problems, poor vein function and weak muscles in the lower body.

The sitting position also constricts internal organs. In addition, chronic sitters often develop weak abdominal muscles, lower back pain and neck dysfunction, with limited range of motion. Sitting constricts the blood vessels and affects circulation throughout the body. When you stand and move around throughout the day, you counteract these damaging effects.

2. Sitting Slows Your Metabolism & Increases Risk of Obesity

The human metabolism is designed to provide fuel for movement, so when individuals move less, they burn food for fuel abnormally. This effect can cause more abdominal body fat, a slower metabolic rate and creeping weight gain. Experts believe that a more sedentary population is why type-2 diabetes is increasing, worldwide.

Obesity is one of the prime factors that increase the risk not only for diabetes, but also for heart disease, stroke and a host of other health problems. Even certain types of cancer have been linked to obesity. Movement helps to burn calories and maintain a healthy weight. Even standing while you work burns more calories than merely sitting, which is why standing desks have become so popular in the workplace.

3. Sitting Increases Blood Sugar & Cholesterol Levels

Research also finds that the decrease in circulation and metabolic processes can also lead to higher blood cholesterol levels and higher blood sugar levels. Maintaining a sitting position for long periods can also increase triglyceride levels, a component in the blood associated with heart function.

These factors can lead to greater risk for type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in individuals who spend long periods of each day in a sitting position. Making sure you increase your physical movement throughout the day can help to counteract this effect.

4. Sitting Affects Brain Health

The surprising results of many studies are that sitting has such wide-ranging effects. While you would expect sitting to affect muscle tone and joint health, you might not consider that it could also have an effect on brain health.

Scientists have found individuals who sit for long periods during the day have thinner tissue in the area of the body associated with memory. Although they are unsure whether this thinning of tissue can lead directly to Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, they recommend more physical activity during the day to counteract the effects of sitting.

Unfortunately, studies suggest that increasing exercise to make up for long hours of sitting may not be enough to offset the negative effects of constant sitting. Regular breaks and movement throughout the day may be helpful in counteracting the negative brain effects of sedentary living.

Human beings are designed to move, and this movement provides many beneficial effects for the body. If you want to stay healthy, well into your later years, be aware of the damaging effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

You can counteract the negative effects of constant sitting by changing your daily habits. Take active measures to get your body moving, with regular exercise, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking some distance away from your building to increase walking and getting up to stretch your muscles throughout the day. Your efforts will be rewarded with a longer and healthier life.

By Amanda Richardson

KLÁRA KLOUCHOVÁ

“Prostě já a nic jiného”

Klára Kolouchová se nedávno vrátila z vydařené výpravy na druhou nejvyšší horu světa, himálajskou K2. Není ale jen úspěšnou horolezkyní, dokázala se prosadit i v byznysu. Proto jsme tuhle mimořádně zajímavou osobnost požádali o rozhovor.

Jste první Češka, která vylezla na tři nejvyšší hory planety a teprve dvacátá žena na světě, která pokořila K2. Jaký je to pocit?

Z K2 jsem se vrátila teprve nedávno, takže jsem ještě neměla čas to všechno úplně zažít a vstřebat… Ale když se takhle ptáte, musím říct, že pocit je to docela dobrý!

Z portrétu na vašem webu jsem pochopil, že jste byla od malička aktivní, naučila jste se výborně anglicky, začala pracovat pro velké firmy a poměrně brzo se pracovně přesunula do Londýna. Ale až do té doby jsem neviděl žádné zmínky o lezení, ty tam jsou až od Británie. Zdá se mi neskutečné, že byste opravdu začala lézt až tam.

Když to trochu přeženu, je skoro jedno, kdy do lezení naskočíte. Odmalička jsem se věnovala závodně různým sportům, hrála jsem tenis, a tam když nezačnete včas, tu správnou techniku a styl už později nedoženete. Ale v lezení jde o dobrý fyzický základ,a pak už především o sbírání zkušeností, které jsou nepřenosné. Já prostě reaguju na určité vnější podněty, které se mi nabízejí. A pak už umím jít do hloubky. Lezení, to je pro mě ideální symbióza všech elementů, které mě baví.

Které to jsou?

V první řadě ráda potkávám zajímavé lidi a miluju cestování, pokaždé jsem díky lezení na jiném zajímavém místě. Není to taky přesně vydefinovaný prostor jako na fotbalovém hřišti pořád stejný míč, je to vždycky spojené s krásným dobrodružstvím. Díky lezení nejsem nutně jen v prostředí určité bubliny sportovců, kteří nežijou ničím jiným, a totéž platí pro byznys. Vlastně neustále překračuju hranice, můžu se pohybovat mezi vrcholovými sportovci i manažery, potkávám nesmírně zajímavé osobnosti. Zároveň je vždycky součástí nějaký emoční příběh. No a pak je tu samozřejmě hodně důležitá fyzická stránka. Jednak se nerada válím, byť i to samozřejmě občas umím, ale lezení mi dává ještě něco navíc. Nejen že v horách dokážu totálně vypnout a zrelaxovat sebe sama, ale taky si hrábnout hodně hluboko do sebe, což občas potřebuju. Je to asi jediná příležitost užít si čas, který mám sama pro sebe, prostě já a nic jiného.

Tenis, výborná angličtina, důležité posty v zahraničních firmách, pracovní pobyt v Londýně. Byla jste dříč od mládí?

Řekla bych, že jsem byla normální tvárné dítě a že rodiče dobře využili mých predispozic, energie a chuti něco dělat. Odmalička jsem v něčem jela – sportovní gymnastika, atletika a taky ten už zmiňovaný tenis. Dlouho jsem snila tom, že vyhraju Wimbledon, často jsme si o tom povídali s tátou, bavilo mě to. Pak ale přišla puberta a s ní jiné zájmy. Přidala jsem se k partě lidí, kteří chodili do kopců a hor. A postupně jsme si začali vybírat těžší a techničtější cíle. Jenže pak jsem měla úraz na lyžích, které miluju, přetrhla jsem si křížové vazy a taky přišel Londýn, to pro mě byla nová mise. No a lezecké plány šly na druhou kolej.

Na svém webu píšete, že pobyt v Londýně pro vás znamenal zásadní posun. V čem? Jak vás to ovlivnilo?

Především je Londýn úžasné, kosmopolitní město. Má energii a drajv, který vás buď semele nebo vykopne nahoru. Potkala jsem tam jednoho kluka z Nového Zélandu, Martina, který měl v plánu vyrazit na Aconcaguu v Jižní Americe. A já se rozhodla jít s ním. Jak už jsem zmiňovala, v mém případě jde o vnímání a reakce na to, co život přinese. A tohle bylo jednoznačně osudové setkání, jak na osud nevěřím. Začali jsme spolu trénovat, hodně jsme lezli na stěně, což pro mě byla skvělá škola z hlediska techniky. Když jsme pak do Ameriky vyrazili, v letadle mi líčil svůj sen vydat se do Himálaje, na první „osmičku“ a pak na Mont Everest. Tehdy to se mnou neudělalo naprosto nic.

Kdy se to zlomilo?

Martin pak „Akču“ nezvládl. Bylo mu hrozně zle a já nakonec na vrchol vylezla sama. Ten pocit tam nahoře byl nepopsatelný, čistá radost. Bylo to něco fantastického. A pak si začnete klást otázky: co dál a kam výš? Jenomže pak už vlastně následují právě jen Himálaje! A s tím i nový cíl, sen… Když jsem se pak v roce 2006 stala součástí britské expedice, kde jsem byla jediná ženská, a stála společně s Tashi Tenzingem na šesté nejvyšší hoře světa Čo Oju, nebylo co řešit. Poté mi dal Tashi nabídku, která se neodmítá – vyrazit na Mount Everest. A všechno se rozjelo naplno. Dneska můžu říct, že je to návykové.

Tehdy jste pořád byla v Londýně, pracovala jste a zároveň se připravovala na Everest. Snadné to asi nebylo.

Tenkrát jsem si myslela, jak hodně je to těžké. Když se na to podívám zpětně, jasně vidím, že moje mladší tělo tehdy snášelo mnohem víc a s menší péčí než dnes. Myslím, že šlo spíš o disciplínu, abych zvládala všechno to skloubit. Nesmírně důležití byli lidi kolem mě, jejich spontánní nadšení a podpora. Byl ale velký rozdíl mezi mými blízkými v ČR a v Británii.

V čem?

Moji čeští přátelé i rodina komentovali rozhodnutí pro expedici na Everest spíše negativně, kdežto v Británii to prakticky všichni přijali se svým typickým „Oh really? That’s wonderful, darling!“ Byl to obrovský kontrast. Kolegové v Londýně se k tomu navíc ptali, jak mi můžou pomoct. Díky tomu se z přípravy nestala nudná rutina, ale tréninkový kolotoč, který jsem absolvovala se svými přáteli. Dělali mi ty nejlepší sparingpartnery.

Jak jste se připravovala?

Byl to docela mazec. Moje práce byla dost intenzivní i časově náročná, jen ranní cesta autobusem a metrem do kanceláře mi zabrala přes hodinu. Ale když jsem zjistila, že mi to bude trvat stejně dlouho, když poběžím, začala jsem trénink zařazovat de facto i do pracovního režimu. Ráno jsem tedy hodinu běžela do kanceláře, dala si sprchu a pak jsem do oběda pracovala. V polední pauze jsem chodila běhat na požární schodiště, ostraha si na tu „zvláštní holku” brzy zvykla. Poté sprcha a znovu práce. Večer pak přes posilovnu nebo atletický ovál zas běh zpátky domů. Tehdy jsem měla jen návodný tréninkový plán vypracovaný agenturou, dnes už svou přípravu svěřuji profíkům.

Jak vypadaly vaše tréninky, když jste se na K2 chystala potřetí?

Už několik let spolupracuji se dvěma trenéry z Dukly, perfektně znají mě i mé tělo a přesně vědí, jak mě dostat do optimální kondice. Podle mého kalendáře si nejprve nastavíme konkrétní plán. Přibližně dvě třetiny přípravy pak probíhají pod jejich přímým dozorem, zbytek si odtrénuji sama v rámci víkendů, času s rodinou či dovolených. Začali jsme devět měsíců před odletem na expedici, šest měsíců před startem pak už to byl vrcholový sportovní trénink. Zaměřujeme se hlavně na vytrvalost a sílu, takže jsem naběhala stovky kilometrů a strávila stovky hodin v posilovně. K tomu jsem samozřejmě trénovala i v terénu.

Někde jste pronesla, že je neskutečné, co všechno tělo vydrží. Třeba i Karel Čapek o tom píše ve svých povídkách, konkrétně o neuvěřitelném hodu kamenem mladého cihláře, kterého na druhé straně řeky naštval statkář Pudil, protože mu nadával a bil malého chlapce. Mají tedy naše těla skryté rezervy?

Člověk něco takového zažívá často. První signál těla ve smyslu „dál už to nejde“ zdaleka neznamená, že už opravdu nemůžeš. Mozek prostě brzdí dřív, než je potřeba, a je to tak správně. Každopádně mi jeden můj kamarád, bývalý člen britských elitních jednotek, kdysi řekl: „When you think you are fucked, you are just 70 percent fucked“. Já zkrátka vím, že když lezu na K2, bude to bolet a budu muset jít za hranu. Tohle se učím s každým dalším kopcem. Obzvlášť K2 je mentálně hodně specifická. Mou první cestu na ni v roce 2016 ukončila lavina. Po dvou letech jsem šla znovu, a tělo mi vystavilo stopku. Nebylo mi dobře, navíc jsem tam neměla parťáka, se kterým bych mohla situaci na místě zhodnotit.

A letos?

Cítila jsem se fantasticky a připadala si opravdu silná. Bylo to ale komplikované. Šerpové po prvním vrcholovém pokusu situaci vyhodnotili tak, že to je stejné jako v 2016, že nejsou správné podmínky a hora nás nechce přijmout. Takže to všichni začali balit. Říkala jsem si, že to už snad není možné, protože totéž jsem zažila před třemi lety. Navíc jsem to měla mentálně nastavené tak, že tenhle pokus je, jak se říká, do třetice všeho dobrého.

Co se v takový moment v hlavě odehrává?

Začíná probíhat určitá mentální hra, kdy máte právo si říct: máš za sebou vrcholový pokus, a už to stačí. Že tělo dostalo pořádně zabrat, a tak jdeme dolů. Jenže pak přišla úplně nová vlna energie, do základního tábora přišel Nims se svým týmem Project Possible. Všichni byli nabušení a pozitivní, jednoznačně prohlásili, že oni jdou za dva dny nahoru. Na stole ležela nabídka, zda se k nim nechceme přidat. Všichni jsme v tu chvíli zvažovali, jak velký je to hazard… Pak mi proběhlou hlavou, že tohle už jsem jednou zažila a nechci o svojí šanci znovu přijít. Když jsme poté zahájili druhý vrcholový výstup, doslova jsem v sobě vyškrabávala všechny rezervy, ale strašně jsem si to užila a tělo šlapalo. Možná jsem byla i v nějakém transu – nic jiného než já a kopec. V tu chvílí cítíte, že na to máte.

K2 je nejnebezpečnější hora na světě, 84 horolezců tam zemřelo. Jak v tomhle kontextu člověk přemýšlí o výstupu, zvlášť ve chvíli, kdy má rodinu, děti?

Vždycky se s tím nějakou dobu pasuju před tím, než odlétám. Patří to k tomu, strach je nedílnou součástí. A já se vždycky bojím, občas i brečím. Ale zároveň je to i pojistka, do jisté míry je důležité si tohle připouštět, je to určité varování. Expedice, to je prakticky neustálý tlak, je to extrémně náročné fyzicky i mentálně. Pořád si musíte něco hlídat, přesvědčovat se, že všechno funguje, protože se zkrátka nic neodpouští. Nesmíte udělat chybu.

Trénuje horolezkyně svou mysl, měla jste i nějakou mentální přípravu?

Na to v celém tom kolotoči nebyl čas, ale určitě by pro mě bylo zajímavé zpětně se k tomu vrátit. Mám ovšem pocit, že spíš než mentálního kouče bych se potřebovala trochu srovnat v normálním životě a naučit se aspoň lehce zvolnit. A pokud jde o ty kouče, ty máme na kopcích. Jsou to tzv. expediční lídři, kteří toho mají za sebou násobně víc než my. Lehce nás stimulují a ve vhodný moment dokážou postrčit správným směrem.

Zaujala mě taky tahle vaše věta: „Není to ale jen touha po dobrodružství, po něčem stále novém, ale i hledání a nalézání duševní pohody, zákonitostí našeho života a jeho smyslu.“ Daří se vám ten smysl nacházet?

Pořád hledám. A kdykoli se vracím z hor, zdá se mi, že jsem ho našla. Návraty jsou krásné, byť svým způsobem samozřejmě i těžké. Přilétám s nadhledem, odpočinutá, všechno je v tom období pocitově intenzivní, užívám si každý den. Pozoruju věci kolem sebe a často mám pocit, jako bych sem ani nepatřila. To se ale začne měnit ve chvíli, kdy přijde realita všedního dne. Prvotní euforie vyprchává, nastávají každodenní povinnosti a první rodinné trable. Pro mě je ale důležité si ten nadhled připomínat. Už proto, že občas se necháme pohltit zbytečnými hloupostmi, a přitom žijeme v úžasné, štědré a pestré době. Je potřeba si čas od času uvědomit, že jsme rozmazlení všemi těmi možnostmi, které dnes máme, a taky jak špatně a málo je využíváme. Je důležité neustále se pokoušet překračovat komfortní zónu, na což určitě jeden víkend nestačí.

Jaké teď máte plány?

Ká dvojkou se pro mě téměř uzavřela jedna kapitola, lezecká i životní. Ale ještě zbývá dokončit finále, a tím je celovečerní dokumentární film o mé cestě na K2, na kterém pracujeme s Janou Počtovou a Bontonfilmem. Natáčení je ukončené, momentálně probíhají závěrečné práce. A také sháníme partnery, kteří by nám pomohli s finančním zajištěním projektu. Do kin by měl film jít příští rok na jaře.

Zdroj: ELAI

Where is the most expensive place to live?

It’s the Cayman Islands, according to data collected from thousands of expats around the world. The cost of living in the capital George Town is 41% more expensive than New York. The other most expensive countries include Bermuda, Switzerland and Norway. Everywhere else in the world rates cheaper than New York. See more here.

Sudan 2019: A difficult path to Sudanese democracy

After several months of mass protests, which started in December 2018 due to bread and fuel shortages, the Sudanese finally achieved the ouster of their long-term dictator Omar Al-Bashir who has been overthrown by the army. Since 1989 his uninterrupted ruling has been marked by oppression of the black and non-Muslim population.

In July 2008 he was charged by the Hague-based International Criminal Court with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the Darfur war.

Sudan was on the brink of civil war between the protesters on one side and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on the other side. The Forces are commanded by another war crimes suspect Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, a self-proclaimed general who never served as a soldier nor received any military education. He was granted his military rank by President Al-Bashir in return for his services in Darfur that he performed with extreme cruelty. RSF is composed of former members of the Janjaweed militias which have committed most brutal crimes and atrocities in Darfur since 2003 with at least 300,000 killed and three million civilian population displaced.

In their massacre attack in Khartoum on 3 June 2019, shortly before the agreement was achieved between the ruling military council and the opposition, RSF killed 128 peaceful demonstrators. General Dagalo has established good relations with Saudi Arabia where he is in charge of recruiting Sudanese mercenaries to fight on the side of Saudi coalition in Yemen. The Sudanese army has remained neutral in the current crisis and thus proved its professionalism.

Doubts about the capacity of transitional government

After long and many times interrupted talks and following the intervention by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, the Constitutional Charter was signed between the opposition coalition and the military council on 17 August 2019. The coalition called Forces of Freedom and Change unites the Sudanese Professionals Association, the National Consensus Forces, Sudan Call and the Unionists (DUP).

The agreement should pave the way to the formation of civilian government after almost have a century of military rule. Despite great optimism among the citizens doubts are still present about the capacity of the transitional government to limit the army’s and especially the RSF’s influence on politics.

After the ousting of long-term President Al-Bashir an agreement was reached between the military council and the opposition on 11 April 2019. This represents a new chapter in Sudan’s modern history that has already seen three civil wars: the conflicts between the northern part of Sudan and the southern Sudan region from 1955 to 1972 and from 1983 to 2005, and the ethnic cleansing in Darfur and south Kordofan from 2011 till present.

So far Sudan has avoided the Egyptian scenario

The process of transition to democracy brings along challenges such as new domestic and foreign policy, economic reforms, protection of rights and freedoms and a balanced foreign policy, all of which would enable Sudan to be removed from the international community’s black list and sanctions.

The transition process necessitates fair elections and a new or modified constitution. The democratic process would trigger political and economic reforms whose consequences would especially hit the army and its interests. The recently agreed period of three years and three months would be enough for a smooth transition. The opposition coalition and the army have thus avoided the radical overnight changes as was the case in Egypt where such quick changes led to the military coup in 2013. Sudan’s experience in limiting the army’s role with cooperation rather than with confrontation is important for the whole Arab world and for the Arab Spring. +

After tough negotiations the opposition made a very difficult decision to appoint General Dagalo, who is charged with war crimes, as the vice president of Transitional Military Council.

Pursuant the Constitutional Charter the opposition coalition and the military council agreed that the Transitional Council would be Sudan’s highest body. The Council comprises 11 members (five from the army, five from the opposition coalition and one independent member). The mandate for forming the government was entrusted to an experienced economist Abdullah Hamduk, who served as Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNEC) from 2011 to 2018.

Of course, not all issues have been completely resolved. Within the opposition there are still strong fractions that have reservations about the agreement, while some have not even joined the opposition coalition.

There are four factors that enabled Sudan to overcome the difficult phase of unrest and civil war with the least possible losses in comparison with the events in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and also Algeria where it is still not clear whether the Algerian army will take complete control over the country like it did in Egypt or it will allow a democratic transition of power following Sudan’s model.

Four positive factors

Four key factors contributed to the resolution of the situation in Sudan:

Firstly: The patriotic Sudanese army refused to shoot at the protesters, except for its D-unit. Despite the conflicts and mistrust among the army and the opposition coalition they continued with the negotiations to reach the agreement and to meet at least the minimum expectations of the protesters.

Secondly: Sudanese opposition is comprised of relatively strong political parties with a long tradition, political maturity and wisdom. Their activists from the civil society maintained the initial momentum, so the protests, did not devolve into anarchy and consequently the army and RSF did not quell the uprising. During the protests and negotiations the opposition coalition was patient in resolving the critical issues. They agreed to the acceptable and realistic solutions in order to resolve the severe economic and ethnic problems in the country. They did not demand that the army be excluded from the political process and agreed to share power with the army during the transitional period. Thus they avoided the mistakes made by the opposition protesters in other Arab Spring countries.

Thirdly: Probably the most important factor was that Sudanese opposition prevented the army from abusing the local and social vulnerability of minorities and tribes. Unlike during the previous civil wars in South Sudan, Darfur and elsewhere, they focused on uniting the whole nation with the aim to ensure a better future for them and for their future generations without any discrimination.

Fourthly: Most of the credit for reaching the agreement goes to the Ethiopian Prime Minister Ali and his assiduous mediation activities in the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Both Prime Minister Ali and the OAU prevented the interference of some Arab countries such as United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia and their financing of the military junta to carry out a coup, as was the case in Egypt where they provided over 12 billion dollars to remove the democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi in a coup that took place on 3 July 2013.

Once the 17th fastest growing economy in the world

Sudan, which was the largest African state until the Republic of South Sudan gained independence, is now the third biggest country in Africa (following Algeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo) with a surface of 1,886,000 km2.

According to estimates from 2010 Sudan was the 17th fastest growing economy in the world. Its fast development, which was mostly based on high income from oil (despite international sanctions), was mentioned and described in The New York Times article from 2006. After the separation the Republic of Sudan lost 80% of its oil fields that remained on the territory of the Republic of South Sudan. Being a landlocked country South Sudan has to rely its oil exports on the pipelines running through Sudan’s ports on the Red Sea coast. It also lacks the oil processing facilities that remained in the northern territory. In August 2012 Sudan and South Sudan signed the agreement on the transportation of South Sudan’s oil through Sudan’s pipelines to Port Sudan. Today Sudan produces about 250,000 barrels of oil per day. Until the secession of South Sudan in 2011 Sudan’s economy depended substantially on oil exports.

Agriculture was Sudan’s main source of income in the past, employing over 80% of the population and accounting for one third of the economic sector. The country has 16.9 million hectares of irrigated agricultural land. Sudan is the world’s third biggest sesame producer following India and China, while cotton is its main export crop. Nile is the main source of irrigation. The country has 643 km of coastline along the Red Sea. There are still unexploited possibilities of fishery, coastal tourism and tourism in the three national parks.

The main factors preventing Sudan’s economic growth in agriculture are frequent droughts and instability due to the civil war.

Sudan has rich mineral resources including asbestos, chromite, cobalt, copper, gold, granite, gypsum, iron, kaolin, lead, manganese, natural gas, nickel, oil, silver, tin, uranium and zinc.

The new Sudanese transitional government needs international support for reforms and economic development and for rescheduling of public debt towards IMF and other international lenders.

As far as its internal policy is concerned, the new government needs inter-ethnic and inter-tribal peace and consensus. Besides Arabs which represent 54% of the 36 million population in Sudan there are 597 Arabized ethnic groups with more than 400 different languages and dialects.

Sudan’s legal system is based on Islamic Sharia law. After the 2005 Naivasha peace agreement that ended the civil war between north and South Sudan, Khartoum introduced several measures to protect the non-Muslims. The use of Sharia law in Sudan does not comply with the tradition of Sudanese people and with the modern times. Sudanese Muslims are divided between Salafism and Sufism, therefore the use of Sharia law which favours the Salafis is not appropriate for Sufis and Darfurians who belong to Sufis.

Analysts believe that Sudan’s foreign policy should turn away from supporting terrorism and start to cooperate closely with the international criminal court in order to achieve the lifting of international sanctions. The Sudanese army should urgently withdraw its 10,000 soldiers from Yemen. The Yemen war is illegal and illegitimate pursuant to international law and it undermines the reputation of the Sudanese army.

The International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses events in the Middle East and the Balkans. IFIMES has prepared an analysis of the situation in Sudan and examined the possibilities for resolving the tensions and appointing a civilian-led transitional government. The most relevant and interesting sections from the comprehensive analysis entitled “Sudan 2019: A difficult path to Sudanese democracy” are published above.

Czech Republic has a higher Quality of Life than the USA, according to new 2019 Index

The Czech Republic’s quality of life has been rated 24th out of a total of 149 countries in the 2019 Quality of Life Index, representatives from the Deloitte company revealed to local press this morning.

The country jumps two positions over 2018, when the Czech Republic was rated #26, and also leapfrogs the USA for the very first time. The United States came in at #26 in this year’s Quality of Life Index.

“Even the richest countries have weak spots they must address,” Deloitte President Josef Kotrba told ČTK.

“Worldwide, we should be concerned about the decline of personal rights. It is even happening in the cradle of democracy, like the USA.”

To determine scores in the 2019 Quality of Life Index, countries were ranked according to three main categories: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity. These categories included sub-indices such as Personal Safety, Medical Care, Environmental Quality, Access to Basic Knowledge, and Personal Freedom.

The Czech Republic ranked highest in the Basic Human Needs category, coming in at #15 of the 149 countries surveyed, and ranked #24 in Opportunity and #31 in Foundations of Wellbeing.

In a number of subrankings, however, the Czech Republic ranked at or tied for #1. These included Undernourishment (2.5% of the population), Access to Electricity (100%), Adult Literacy Rate (99%), Mobile Telephone Subscriptions (119%[!]), and Early Marriage (0%).

As in most of these surveys, Scandinavian countries dominated the top of the quality of life rankings, with Norway taking the #1 position. Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden rounded out the top five.

New Zealand (#7), Canada (#9), Japan (#10), and the Republic of Korea (#23) were the only non-European countries to rank in the top 25.

Czech neighbors Germany (#8) and Austria (#20) also rated highly in the new Quality of Life Index. The Czech Republic ranked ahead of its other neighbors in the 2019 Quality of Life index, however, with Poland coming in at #33 and Slovakia at #35.

“If we compare the countries of the Visegrad Four, the Czech Republic is far ahead of Slovakia, Hungary and Poland,” Kotrba added.

Among the 149 countries surveyed in the index, the lowest quality of life was found in African nations South Sudan, Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

These are the world’s top 25 countries according to the 2019 Deloitte Quality of Life Index:

1.Norway
2.Denmark
3.Switzerland
4.Finland
5.Sweden
6.Iceland
7.New Zealand
8.Germany
9.Canada
10.Japan
11.Netherlands
12.Australia
13.United Kingdom
14.Ireland
15.France
16.Luxembourg
17.Spain
18.Portugal
19.Belgium
20.Austria
21.Slovenia
22.Italy
23.Republic of Korea
24.Czech Republic
25.Estonia

Article source

The Best Place to Live in 2019

If you’re on the move and hunting for a new place to call “home” a new study has a suggestion for you: Clarksville, Tennessee.

On Monday, MONEY unveiled its list of the best places to live in 2019. According to its rather scientific study, the city located about fifty miles outside of Nashville is hands down where everyone should move.

To come to this finding, the magazine looked only at cities with populations of 50,000 or greater. The team then eliminated any place that had more than double the national crime risk, less than 85 percent of its state’s median household income, or a lack of ethnic diversity. After narrowing down the list the team was left with 1,796 places.

Next, it collected almost 160,000 different data points including a city’s economic health, cost of living, ethnic and economic diversity, public education, income, health and safety, ease of living, and amenities. According to MONEY, it put the greatest weight on economic factors, housing, health and safety, diversity and cost of living.

But, not leaving it up to chance, reporters went on the ground to interview locals and experts to ensure their choices were sound. And after all was said and done Clarksville came out the winner thanks to its affordability, charm, and welcoming attitude toward millennials, young families, and the military.

“The housing market is just crazy right now,” Megan Baggett, a 25-year-old business owner in Clarksville, shared with MONEY. “You can barely even keep a house on the market for longer than a week before it sells.”

But, it’s still a highly affordable place, even with all the demand. According to MONEY, the average Clarksville home sold for just under $156,000 in 2018.

Beyond homes, jobs are also abundant in Clarksville. In fact, its job market is projected to grow by just over 9 percent by 2023, MONEY explained.

And, of course, we can’t forget that the town is adorable too.

“You’re not going to find a Starbucks down here,” Tony Shrum, a 34-year-old resident shared. “A revitalization of downtown is not a revitalization by putting corporate companies in here.”

BRB, going to pack my bags and move to Clarksville right now. Want to see who else made the list? Check out MONEY’s entire list of Best Places to Live in 2019 now.

Mango the Magnificent

Mango & Food Festival and Cultural Evening

Host for the evening: H.E. Ambassador of Pakistan Dr. Israr Hussain and Mrs. Dr. Rubina Israr

Mango, King of Fruits, is known in the world for its excellent flavour, attractive fragrance, beautiful shades of colour, delicious taste, and nutritious value.

It adorns the cuisine as raw fruit, salad, pickles, ice cream, juice and with yogurt as mango lassi. Pakistan is the 4th largest producer of mango in the world. More than 200 varieties are grown in Pakistan. The most famous varieties include Chaunsa, Sindhri, Langra, Dusehri, Gulab, Khas and others.

9 Weird Things That Happen to Your Body When You Fly — and What You Can Do About Them

It’s more than just jet lag and popping ears.

When your flight touches down in another city, state, or country, it may feel like the journey is just beginning, but for your body, the adventure started when you boarded your flight (unless flight cancellations threw a wrench in your travel plans). Though it’s an effective and fast means of getting from point A to point B, flying the friendly the skies puts your system into overdrive.

From a change in altitude and pressure to an increased risk for certain ailments, there are a slew of fascinating (and a little wacky) things that happen to your body between takeoff and landing. Here, doctors reveal what happens when you’re miles high in the sky—plus solutions to ward off any unwanted side effects.

You will become dehydrated

There’s a reason many flight attendants will walk around throughout a flight offering water to passengers: Dehydration isn’t just common, it’s pretty much guaranteed when you fly. On a short, three-hour flight, you will lose 1.5 liters of water, says Ralph E. Holsworth, DO, a board-certified physician and the director of clinical and scientific research for Essentia Water. You’ll feel thirstier, but you may also notice your skin suffering. He recommends hydrating before, during, and after your flight, so you land without feeling parched. You can also use a moisturizer during and after your trip to ensure your pores receive the extra TLC they need.

Your ears experience stress

In addition to bringing on headaches or making you feel sleepy, extreme elevation can also be tough on your ears, says Janette Nesheiwat, MD, a family and emergency room doctor. This is even more intense if you are boarding a flight with a cold or sinus infection, since she says mucus and congestion build up with increased pressure.

Because of this, it’s ill-advised to take a long flight when you’re sick—not only do you put other passengers at risk, but Dr. Nesheiwat says prolonged periods of flying can lead to severe ear pain, hearing changes, or (at worst) hearing loss. If you’re healthy but still sensitive to these symptoms, chewing gum can be an effective way to make your ears pop, which releases some of the pressure.

Read the rest here.

The Best Places to Travel in November

November is a month of transitions: weather is cooling in most places, and as the days move towards Thanksgiving, momentum picks up and we’re rushing headlong into the winter holidays. It could be a good time for a trip, whether you’re looking for warm weather, taking advantage of cheap shoulder season rates, exploring a new exotic destination, or heading to the southern hemisphere to trade autumn for spring. Or you just might want to begin the holiday season early, get a head start on gift shopping, and jump right into winter’s chilly weather. Travel during November has something for everybody.

Morocco certainly qualifies as an exotic destination, and it could be fun to do some holiday shopping at their world famous markets. If there’s time, Abu Dhabi’s unique surroundings would make a memorable pre-holiday excursion. Or enjoy spring in New Zealand along with their fresh seafood, wines, and beaches. In Buenos Aires you can watch tango dancers while sipping a glass of Malbec — or get up and dance. Bermuda’s convenient location, sunshine, luxurious hotels, and November events give visitors plenty to do, but a lounge chair by the pool will be pretty inviting as well. The same can be said for Palm Springs, where it’s warm enough for poolside relaxing or al fresco dining and cool enough for cozying up to an outdoor fireplace at night. Warm weather awaits in Belize along with a clear blue sea ideal for snorkeling and diving.

There are always those travelers who celebrate the end of summer and the opportunity to don a sweater and take out the wool scarves and quilted jackets. For them, Iceland would be a perfect destination, with a chance to see the Northern Lights and adorable sled dogs. Montreal is another place with a winter chill, and at the end of the month, you might even find an early Christmas market. San Antonio gets into the holiday spirit at the end of November as well. Sedona offers chilly nights and gorgeous scenery, while Hilton Head Island still enjoys autumn weather and activities.

Whether you’re resting up ahead of a busy December or jumping into the holiday buzz that begins in late November, there’s a trip that will make you comfortable and energized. Let some of these ideas get you thinking about a new locale for Thanksgiving or at least a way to face the family dinner relaxed and refreshed after your November getaway.

See the slideshow here.

CZECHS RENTING HOMES SPEND MORE THAN HOMEOWNERS

Czechs living in rented homes spend more than homeowners, according to a study by the Partners consulting agency, presented on Wednesday. On average, Czechs renting a home pay 1800 crowns a month more than those who own their home. At the same time, flats are rented mostly by people with lower income.

People who live in their own flat or house spend around 27 percent of their income on housing costs. Those who are renting from private owners pay spend some 37 percent of their income and those renting a municipal apartment spend around 27 percent.

“According to the rules of financial literacy, the ideal housing costs should not exceed 30 percent of your income,” financial adviser of Partners consultancy, Vladimír Weiss, told the Czech News Agency.

The costs of living include rent or mortgage payments, as well as water, energy and other fees.

The survey suggests Czechs prefer to live in their own homes. More than three quarters of those asked regard it as an undisputable advantage, while another 13 percent think it is a major advantage.

Two thirds of respondents who took part in the survey have a flat in private or cooperative ownership, most of them between the ages of 31 and 50 with higher education. One third of people who took part in the survey live in rental accommodation.

People between the ages of 20 and 30 are most pessimistic about the chances of home ownership. Most of them blame the sharp increase of apartment prices which exceeds the growth of salaries. They also believe that home ownership will increasingly become available only to a small group of people.

Based on the recommendation of the Czech National Bank, Czech banks are no longer providing 100-percent loans.

“It is a slightly paradoxical situation. While banks are decreasing interest rates to make mortgages more accessible, the Czech National Bank has been releasing recommendations that make mortgages less affordable,” Vladimír Weiss of Partners Consultancy told the Czech News Agency.

According to data provided by Fincentrum Hypoindex, the average mortgage interest rate dropped in July to 2.68 percent, from 2.76 percent in June. The rate went down for a sixth consecutive month. The mortgage interest rate reached its minimum in December 2016, when it stood at 1.77 percent.

Source: Prague Monitor

The future rests on education

Financial literacy and education are key elements of the path to economic growth and social inclusion in the European Union. At the same time, it is important to remember the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted on 25 September 2015 by Heads of State and Government at a special UN summit, which includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2030 Agenda, a world-wide landmark achievement, highlights the importance of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all, as it is recognized by its Goal 4.

Nowadays an increasingly important aspect of education concerns financial literacy and education. To begin with, it is necessary to make a distinction between the two concepts. According to the OECD, financial literacy is a combination of awareness, knowledge, skill, attitude and behaviour necessary to make sound financial decisions and ultimately achieve individual financial well-being; whereas financial education is the process by which investors improve their understanding of financial products and services and, through information and objective advice, develop the skills and confidence to become more aware of financial risks and opportunities, to make informed choices, to know where to go for help, and to take other effective actions to improve their well-being.

If we consider the European context, the EU contains in itself the world’s best performers (Nordic countries) as well as the countries that score below global average (Romania, Portugal) in financial literacy rankings. Also, for Italy the results are not encouraging; according to a G20 report on adult financial literacy with questions surveying knowledge, behaviour and attitudes in financial topics, Italy ranked only 19th. This evidence shows that there is still considerable scope for improvement, especially in Southern and Eastern European countries.

Financial literacy and education should therefore be an integral part of the policy agenda of the EU institutions and Member States, as they can help tackle some critical social problems. The first one is the pressure on the pension systems, caused by a rapidly ageing population, which requires empowering occupational and personal insurance systems. Another critical issue is mortgage-debt and its impact on the total debt of households. Finally, financial literacy is functional to inclusive growth.

As more and more EU citizens are asked to make their own decisions about such issues, financial literacy is vital for their life-time welfare. All these problems are especially sensitive in the case of young people and their future, both as investors – especially when they have to plan their savings for retirement – and as household owners.

Europe is facing a serious problem of an ageing population, especially in some countries such as Italy. This problem is also evident in the financial sector. Investors and their financial advisors are getting older year by year. According to the statistics of Assogestioni – the Italian association of asset managers – the average age of people investing into mutual funds is 60 (2018), with a general increase over the past; it was 52 years in 2002 and 58 in 2013. In 2018 the share of investors between 26 and 35 years has consequently decreased from 15% to 6%. Similarly, the average age of Italian financial advisors is 51 (2018), whereas only 11% of them are under 40.

This evidence clearly shows that it is necessary to promote financial education and advice among young people, both as potential investors and financial advisors. Financial education, being pivotal towards delivering fundamental social values, can be described as a process which enables citizens to enhance their knowledge of financial concepts and products, understand the risk-return trade-off and find the most suitable solutions to their needs and dreams. This process shall be considered a life-long activity which should begin at a young age.

The starting point is financial planning, based on a life-cycle perspective. Financial advice can be seen as a fully-fledged service which complements financial education, as it is aimed at providing citizens with personalized and integrated solutions (investment management, tax planning, retirement, family and health protection) according to a life-cycle perspective. However, financial education and advice can perform their social roles and achieve their inclusive goals only if we consider that, according to the above-mentioned statistics, it is crucial to get young people involved with tailored initiatives. For instance, policy incentives aimed at promoting job opportunities in the financial sector are vital for the future of the profession of financial advisors. At the same time, financial education needs to be promoted, starting from school age.

Italy provides some positive examples. Since 2009, ANASF and PROGeTICA have been organizing “Economic@mente® – Metti in conto il tuo futuro”, a financial education programme for high school students. Economic@mente® provides students with a set of skills, based on their personal experiences, in order to teach them how to manage their future savings throughout their life by means of simulations, practical classes and tests.

In light of this evidence, the framework is crystal clear. It’s time to act and everyone is called upon to contribute.

Vania Franceschelli
FECIF Vice-President & Foreign Affairs, ANASF

These Are the World’s Safest Cities in 2019

We spend so much time, money, and energy planning a vacation, so it should be a given that where we go should also give us a sense of security as well.

If you’re looking for a great destination where you can also get peace of mind when it comes to your own personal safety as well, it might be a good idea to book a trip to Tokyo, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2019 Safe Cities Index (SCI).

The annual report gathers information and ranks the world’s top cities in regards to each of their digital security, health security, infrastructure and personal safety standards, CNN reported.

According to the report, Tokyo, Japan, ranked number one overall, with a score of 92 out of a possible 100. The city also topped the list in the previous two reports in 2017 and 2015, according to CNN. It’s no wonder why Japan is such a sought-after destination.

Tokyo also topped the digital security category, so tourists can rest assured their online identities and other personal information are secure from cyber thieves.

Other cities that topped the overall list include Singapore, Osaka, Amsterdam, and Sydney to round out the top five. Only two North American cities make the top 10, Toronto (sixth) and Washington, D.C. (seventh). Six of the top 10 cities were from the Asia-Pacific region.

Tokyo, Overview of Shibuya one pedestrian crossing, street lines markings

Singapore also leads the world in infrastructure and personal security while Osaka is number one in health security.

Some of the biggest takeaways of the report, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, can be narrowed down to “getting the basics right,” the summary says. Many of the top cities rank highly because these places invest in quality healthcare, disaster preparedness, community police patrolling, and dedicated cyber security services. Cities who do well in even one of these categories are also very likely to be high performers across the board as well.

In addition, the Economist Intelligence Unit noted that a dedication to accountability was key to making cities safer. The places with better scores also have reputations for being well-governed, use effective planning and policies, and are transparent with their communities, according to the report.

The report also acknowledges that cities with the highest average income and access to technology tended to rank higher on the list, though a high income is not a perfect indicator for a safe city.

A full, downloadable report can be found on the Economist Intelligence Unit website.

Universal Truth: Dialogue I.

Universal Truth

Dialogue I: Think Nothing[1],[2]

“Silence is a sign of great strength.” — Lao Tzu

James A. Cusumano, PhD; Chairman Chateau Mcely s.r.o. Prague, Czech Republic

The boy’s name was Peter.

It was a stunning Saturday sunrise as he entered the edge of the forest, about a half kilometer from his home in the small village of Nebušice, a rural suburb of Prague. He and his parents have lived there as a convenience since he entered the International School of Prague (ISP) 10 years ago. One of the best private schools in the Czech Republic, it’s less than a five-minute bike ride from his home.

By most standards, 16-year old Peter is considered handsome. He’s thin, a bit lanky with longish, dark brown hair, a matching short beard, large penetrating brown eyes, and reasonably tall at 192 cm. He is considerate, but can be a bit precocious and tenacious when seeking answers to his challenging questions and concerns.

ISP has been good for Peter, especially in languages. In addition to his native Czech, he has become fluent in English and French—both with nearly no detectable foreign accent. He is a bright student and studies diligently for excellence, primarily driven by his passionate quest for knowledge—quit unusual for a 16-year old, but then again, Peter is not your usual 16-year old.

The school has prepared him well towards his long-time goal of admission to Harvard to study physics. He and his teachers are optimistic. Peter has taken a number of Advanced Placement (AP) courses in the sciences and mathematics. He not only enjoys learning advanced concepts in these subjects, but also hopes good grades in his AP courses will help him land admission to Harvard.

Peter is not your typical myopically-focused science geek. He’s a bit of a natural philosopher, a kind of alchemist, and on his own has read writings by Plato, Socrates, Euclid, Copernicus, Paracelsus, Pythagoras and Archimedes. Some of his favorite words seem to be why, what, when, how, where and who. His fellow students see him as somewhat of a nerd because of his passionate quests to answer what they think are unanswerable questions. But they all like and tolerate him, just the same.

But Peter isn’t a nerd in the conventional sense. He likes sports, admittedly a distant second to his interests in academic endeavors. He plays volleyball and soccer for ISP, something he feels keeps him physically fit and his life in balance. As far as girls are concerned, he has several close girl friends, but has never had a girlfriend. This doesn’t faze him. He has enough on his plate, already. Girls can wait.                                           

It’s late June and school let out just a few days ago. Peter walks slowly and thoughtfully on his favorite hiking path in the forest. As usual, he’s lost in contemplation, thinking—Summer is such a great time of the year in this forest. It’s super to live so close and have a place to think clearly away from all distractions.

Peter had walked for nearly 30 minutes, thinking about questions he has thought about time and again—how did the universe really begin? Where does consciousness come from? What’s my purpose?He came across a fork in the path. He stopped and thought; I’ve seen this alternate route so many times before and always pass it by. It looks like everyone does.

There were huge tall weeds growing on the path.As he stood there gazing up the steep trail, smothered in overgrowth, he wondered—Nope, I better not. I’m not in the mood to be skirting high weeds and over-brush. It’ll take away from my relaxation and thoughts on things of interest to me. Who wants to be a weed dodger anyway?

So Peter passed the alternate path, but some 100 meters later, he stopped and looked back. He wasn’t sure why. Suddenly and for no reason he could fathom, he recalled from last year’s literature class the concluding lines from Robert Frost’s famous poem, The Road Not Taken.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And it made all the difference.

Peter turned around and walked slowly back to the fork in the path. He looked up the hill and somewhat reluctantly started his trek on this new route (Figure 1). He didn’t know why. It wasn’t an easy hike, being much steeper and covered with high weeds which made progress slow and cumbersome. He had to walk carefully to avoid stinging nettles and his socks were increasingly covered with spiny grass burs that scratched unmercifully at his ankles. He stopped periodically to remove them. But, he persisted, wondering at times, was this really a good idea?

After 45 minutes or so, Peter stopped to catch his breath and rest. It was exhausting avoiding nettles and all of the higher weeds with thorns. He was nearly to the top of the incline. Wiping the sweat from his forehead with his right sleeve, he gazed towards the top. Suddenly, he saw through the bushes and trees what looked like an older man with a long silver beard, sitting on a red carpet. What in the world? Peter discontinued his rest and moved cautiously to the crest of the hill.

His eyes had not deceived him. There sat an elderly man on a bright red carpet placed neatly under an evergreen tree. Peter stopped some distance from him to assess the situation. The man was dressed in a flowing white robe with a gold-colored cape and matching cap. On his left side, there was a pair of sandals placed neatly next to the red carpet. They were very basic and appeared to have been hand-made – unprofessionally, for sure.

The gentleman had clear dark brown skin, wore his hair in a long ponytail, maintained in place by a gold ring. He had plump slightly-rosy cheeks and looked like a combination of a Middle Eastern Santa Claus and a character out of Lawrence of Arabia.

As he approached the man, Peter slowed his pace and noticed the gentleman was sitting in a lotus position, his eyes closed, hands folded in front of his chest as if in prayer and his mouth poised in a slight smile, kind of like a bust of Buddha. Peter stopped and stood directly in front of the man. The man did not move.

Old Man

Suddenly, in a humorous, slow, rising, high-pitched voice, “I see you.”

Peter

“How can you see me? Your eyes are closed.

Old Man

In a rising cheerful tone, “Not my third eye.”

Peter

“Huh?”

Old Man

“Only kidding,” as he opened his eyes—deep dark blue, a striking contrast to his ebony-colored skin.

Peter

“What are you doing up here?”

Old Man

“Oh, nothing really; I’m just sitting here notthinking or doing, just being.”

Peter

“You’re just being. What does that mean?”

Old Man

“Just what I said—being!”

Peter

“How often do you come here to do your being?”

Old Man

“Oh, every day that it doesn’t rain. And when it rains, I sit in one of those hunters’ blind platforms up over the hill in the farmer’s field. They have nice overhangs so I don’t get wet.”

Peter

“Why haven’t I run into you before?”

Old Man

“Oh that’s easy; because like everyone else, you never take this path. It’s steep, overgrown and a much more cumbersome and uncomfortable hike than the other path.”

Peter

“I see.”

Old Man

“And why have you taken this path today?”

Peter

“I don’t know; curiosity, I guess. I’ve never taken it before. I always take the path down below because it’s flat, no rocks, no weeds and it’s well groomed for walking and thinking.”

Trying for a little humor, Peter quipped, “But I guess this is the ‘no thinking, just being’ path, right?”

Old Man

“Well I guess you could call it that. You know the act of being is pretty important. After all, you are a ‘human being’ and not a ‘human doing.’ Oh, please don’t get me wrong. Doing is an important part of life. Ah, but being, that’s where great things happen.”

“Just take your very existence. Have you ever thought about your probability of being here at this exact moment in time?

Peter

Not really; should I?”

Old Man

Absolutely! It’s much more important and rewarding than you might think. Tell me, do you like math?”

Peter

“Actually, I love math.”

Old Man

“Great! Then allow me to do a simple calculation for you—the probability of your being here at this very place and this very moment in time.”

Peter

“Sounds interesting, but how are you going to do that?”

Old Man

“Okay; let’s see, in your life, you have had two parents, four grandparents, eight grandparents—well, you get the idea, right?

Peter

“Sure.”

Old Man

“Okay; this is a simple statistics and probability calculation. Suppose we go back just 30 generations to calculate your probability of being here. Then the total number of people responsible for your being here at this moment is 2 + 22+ 23+ 24+ . . . 230, which gives 2 + 4 + 8 + 16 + . . . , etc., all the way up to 230. You’re good in math, so I’m sure you get the idea. Guess what the answer is?”

Peter

“Well, it’s a straightforward calculation, but I couldn’t do it without a calculator. It certainly must be a very big number.”

Old Man

“Right you are. The answer is 2,147,482,646 or about 2.2 billion people!”

Peter

“Hey! Are you kidding me? You couldn’t do that calculation in your head.”

Old Man

“Oh yes I can . . .

The old man then pulled out a small hand calculator from his backpack and handed it to Peter, who immediately did the calculation.

Peter

“Oh my God, it’s 2,147,482,646. That’s amazing! How did you do that?”

Old Man

“Yes, it is amazing; not millions or hundreds of millions, but billions of people! And if one of them had been missing, died prematurely, or had not been in the ‘right mood,’ you would not be here at this moment in time! And that’s true for everyone else on the planet. All you have to do is go back 30 generations. So, Peter, is your life here on Earth at this point in time just an accident or a coincidence? Is it a total statistical improbability? Well if it is, that’s amazing! And if it’s not, then that’s amazing! It’s amazing either way! Your existence should throw you into a state of sheer ecstasy. As Rabindranath Tagore, the famous Indian poet and Nobel laureate once said, ‘If you’re not perpetually surprised by the fact of your existence, then you don’t deserve to exist.’”

Peter

“That is amazing—it’s a straight-forward calculation with an incredibly surprising perspective! Who would have guessed?”

Old Man

“Let’s go back to our original discussion. Tell me, what do you do on your ‘thinking’ path?”

Peter

“I think about questions concerning my life and life in general, sometimes even about the universe.”

Old Man

“For example, what kinds of questions?”

Peter

“You know—the ones that everybody thinks about at one time or another; like—Why am I here? Where did I come from? What’s my purpose? How did this universe come into existence? The really tough ones!”

Old Man

“And have you gotten any answers?”

Peter

In a somewhat dejected tone, “Honestly—no.”

Old Man

“Well maybe you should try the ‘no thinking’ approach—you know, just being.”

Peter

“Huh, that doesn’t make any sense to me.” Peter could see the man was a foreigner, but he spoke perfect English, but with a kind of peculiar, though pleasant, accent. “Say, where do you come from anyway? Do you live here in Nebušice?”

Old Man

“Oh no—I’m from Mesopotamia.”

Peter

Stunned by his answer, but then smiling, “Mesopotamia; are you kidding me. It no longer exists.”

Old Man

“Sure it does; it’s a big part of what today you call Syria and Iraq.”

Peter

Trying not to be sarcastic, “Well that’s quite some travel every day. How in the world is that possible?”

Old Man

“Oh, I have my ways.”

Peter

Chuckling with disbelief, but then changing to a serious demeanor—“Iraq and Syria—terrible places! They’ve been overrun by war and all kinds of human atrocities and travesties.”

Old Man

“Today, yes, and it’s most unfortunate, as they were the cradle of civilization. It’s in Mesopotamia where I learned how to answer the questions you ask of yourself. But I did it by not thinking, just by being.”

Peter

“You must be kidding me.”

Old Man

“No, I’m not.”

Peter

“Can you share any of those answers with me?”

Old Man

“Eventually, yes; but, first we should get to know each other.”

They both were quiet for several beats.

Old Man

“Peter, would you like to learn about the power of being?”

Peter

“Sure. Hey! How did you know my name? I never mentioned it.”

Old Man

Humorously, “Oh, a lucky guess, I suppose.”

Peter

“Yeah, right. And your name is . . . ?”

Old Man

“My name is Huriya. In Czech it would translate as Svoboda, which as you know, in English means ‘freedom.’ But, please, as all my friends do, call me Boda (see Figure 2). ”

Peter

“Right . . . now what is it you want me to do?”

Boda

“Did you take any challenging courses last semester at ISP?”

Peter

“Sure . . . Wait a minute, how did you know I attend ISP?”

Boda

“That’s easy. It’s the only school in this small village that could possibly teach you such excellent English.”

Peter

“Right . . . I guess.” Continuing, “Yeah, I had a challenging math class, AP Math-501 in advanced calculus and linear algebra.”

Boda

“Wow! That’s pretty hefty for a high school student. Do you think you could find in your textbook a problem that is so difficult, you are unable to solve it?”

Peter

“Sure. That would be easy.”

Boda

“Okay. Tonight, I want you to try one of those problems and be sure you cannot get the answer. Then, I want to sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and relax your hands in your lap as you focus on your breath. Take ten slow deep breaths before returning to a natural pace of breathing. For those deep breaths, it’s best if you hold your breath for five seconds after inhalation and before exhaling. With each inhalation, please mentally say the word ‘So’ and with each deep exhalation, mentally says the word ‘Hum’.

These words are a mantra and you will be doing a brief meditation, called the So HumMeditation. Try to push all thoughts from your mind, and every time one returns, don’t be disturbed by it, simply mentally repeat the mantra, So, Hum.After about 30 minutes or so, you can relax, and when you are ready, open your eyes. Then I would like you to again try to solve that same problem again and see what happens. Got it?”

Peter

“I guess. But I can’t imagine that this meditation thing will make much of a difference (see Figure 3)?.”

Boda

“Maybe not; we’ll see. Can you be back here tomorrow morning at about 8:00 a.m.?

Peter

“Sure, then can we can talk about how to answer those challenging questions I mentioned to you?”

Boda

“Peter—everything in the fullness of time. See you tomorrow.”

Peter

“Yeah, right, okay.”

And with that, Peter continued on his way, a bit confused as to what had just happened, but certainly intrigued to see what would happen.—To be continued.

Sat, Chit, Ananda!

Enjoy your journey, make a difference!

[1] EDITOR’S COMMENT—This is the first article in a new series by the author, based on his forthcoming book, “The Dialogue—A Journey To Universal Truth,”a conversation between a bright young boy and an Avatar, concerning the most challenging questions of all times.

[2]  The author may be reached at Jim@ChateauMcely.Com.

[Figure 1] 

There are times during life that we come to a “fork in the road” and must decide which path to take. As the great American poet said in his famous poem, The Road Not Taken, “I took the one less traveled by, and it made all of the difference.’

[Figure 2] 

Boda was a handsome man with an aura of kindness and wisdom.

[Figure 3] 

Peter was about to discover the incredible power of meditation to access the true power within.

The Top 10 Cities in Central and South America

Brazil, City of Rio de Janeiro, City Center, Elevated view of Largo da Carioca.

Our readers had heaps of praise for the best cities in Central and South America, but one word came up repeatedly: beauty. With their mix of old and new, these places continue to entrance Travel + Leisure readers.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping, and overall value.

Of course, we’ll always have Rio. “The people are friendly and there are a variety of international restaurants,” wrote one reader. “The nightlife is like no other, full of light and joy, including many carnivals and shows.” A few voters cautioned about the city’s safety, but as one reader gushed, “The character of the people, the music, and the beaches more than make up for it.” Buenos Aires won plaudits for its laid-back way of life and old-world allure. “The Paris of South America hasn’t lost her charm,” wrote one reader. “Buenos Aires is rich in culture, with many free events, like concerts and tango milongas. If you like steak and red wine, this is the place for you — the city has the best ice cream, too.”

Smaller cities received their fair share of accolades as well. One reader praised the festivals in Antigua Guatemala, recommending that fellow travelers “try to be there on a Sunday between Lent and Easter, because that’s when they have wonderful processions, in which men clad in purple robes carry floats that describe the Passion of Christ.” Of Mendoza, in the heart of Argentina’s wine country, one reader wrote of the “wonderful tasting experiences. The Argentines welcome visitors and are excited to educate about their wines. The food is amazing as well.” Of Quito, the capital of Ecuador, one voter adored the markets, with their “diverse and delicious fruits that I’ve never seen before.” And one reader recommended staying in the old part of Cartagena, Colombia, “where there are incredible restaurants — it’s also a good place to shop for emeralds.”

10. Valparaiso, Chile

Score: 78.25

Colored and steep neighborhood of Valparaiso, Chile

9. Lima, Peru

Score: 78.92

Landscapes of Lima city – Peru

See the rest here.

Reception on the occasion of the celebration of Fete du Trone (Morocco National Day)

H. E. Hanane Saadi, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco hosted the traditional Throne Day reception marking the 20th anniversary of the date of His Majesty the King Mohammed VI’s accession to the throne. A glorious celebration took place at the Ambassador’s residence in Prague.

Free Online Training: Stop Self-Doubt And Activate Your Inner Mojo!

Tell me. Have you ever experienced self-doubt?

I have a feeling I know what you might say 🙂 You’re not alone! Actually, we women are master self-doubters and this can be a major problem, especially if we are in a managerial role. Self-doubt can have a disastrous impact on our performance.

Even my very confident clients from senior management often confess that they go through periods of time feeling completely consumed by self-doubt.

There’s nothing to be ashamed of! But there’s definitely something that we can do about it to feel a whole lot better…

If this resonated with you, you’re going to absolutely love this!

As I am preparing for the launch of SHELeads, my program for female managers, I decided to offer one of the resources to you completely FREE OF CHARGE. An online training to help women beat self-doubt and activate their inner mojo! It’s available and you can have it too!

Watch my mini-video and get your free online training delivered to your email today…

Enjoy it! You deserve it!

Alena Huberova

How can AI and virtual reality improve client experience?

Technology can give advisers ‘opportunities that can revolutionise’ the sector

Advice has overtaken investment performance as the most valued aspect of an IFA or wealth manager’s offering and this means consumers need to have the best experience money can buy.

In a bid to stand out from the crowd, wealth companies are looking to virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) to bolster their interactions with clients.

John Gamble, director of professional services at tech provider C5 Alliance, told International Adviser: “AI and VR technology presents us with opportunities that can revolutionise our everyday lives.

“It can be used to enhance customer experience, especially in the finance sector, where advisers are dealing with clients from all over the world.”

Gamification

Virtual reality is used in many different sectors and is now becoming part of the weird and wonderful world of wealthtech.

Financial services tech provider Synechron, which wrote a masterclass article in June on client prospecting, has developed a virtual reality wealth journey accelerator which enables investors to visualise their own financial plans.

Answering yes/no questions on their retirement goals; they experience a personalised, VR-simulated journey to visualise their financial future – including home, holidays, health, and insurance.

“A key challenge facing many financial advisers and wealth managers today is that the ongoing advisory experience focuses on communicating investment returns rather than really engaging with clients,” Ben Musgrave, head of digital UK at Synechron, said to IA.

“By using VR, financial advisers and wealth managers have an opportunity to use innovative technology to fully engage with their clients, creating a highly-immersive experience that is ideal for identifying and gamifying goals, building relationships and communities, reinforcing positive behaviours, and generally delighting customers.”

Ben Goss, chief executive of Dynamic Planner, also told IA: “Visual tools like cashflow are powerful means of bringing potential futures to life.

“Today, systems use numbers and graphs, but VR provides an immersive experience which could help bring choices to life: ‘Save more now and you retire in this lovely, three-bed place in the sun. Save less and it’s this one bed’.”

AI

Elsewhere, AI is also becoming a fundamental aspect of a client’s experience with an IFA, including onboarding, which has already adopted the tech to improve accuracy, limit fraud and reduce manual intervention.

AI can play a vital part in terms of helping clients understand their investment appetite and make better decisions.

“The assessment of ‘attitude to risk’ will have far greater sophistication,” Thomas Lowe, head of product at Winterflood Business Services, told IA. “Artificial intelligence will be able to assess client’s biodata and tailor questions related to their profiles.

“While more distant on the horizon, artificial emotional intelligence will be able to understand client’s reactions to questions by reading facial expressions, which will then be utilised to determine assessment questions.”

Goss added: “Technology will do more of the heavy lifting.

“Probability-based models are already widely used to crunch the numbers and help build suitable strategies, which are more likely to succeed.

“As data sets grow, AI’s pattern recognition capabilities will be able to provide ever more valuable insights and assistance for advisers to spot potential opportunities and issues.”

Confusion

David Miller, investment director at Quilter Cheviot, said to IA, that using AI should not be confused with robo-advisers, which merely automates conventional ways of managing money.

Miller also discussed the future of AI in the wealth space.

“The reality is that hybrid solution, using a combination of human and artificial intelligence, are evolving; investment managers have access to huge amounts of information and perhaps without even realising it are using AI models to aggregate and simplify and, of course, all of us use ‘intelligent’ search engines like Google as part of daily life, “ he added.

“For now, the onus is on using all the tools at our disposal, including AI, to generate the best customer outcomes that we can.

“AI may be able to beat humans at games like chess and Go, but investment is far more complicated and so humans still have the edge for now.”

By Robbie Lawther

These Are the World’s Best Restaurants in Asia, Australia, and Europe

For the first time ever, Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine have partnered on an ambitious and exciting new platform — curated by one anonymous critic, who journeyed around the world to discover the best restaurants that travelers must visit right now. As much about the destinations as it is about the food, this list aims to reflect the most vibrant aspects of each location it represents, capturing dining experiences that fully express the culture of each country, city, or region.

The list was curated by James Beard Award-winning writer Besha Rodell, who has been reporting on food and culture for almost two decades, in multiple cities and across two continents. Currently the dining critic for the New York Times’ Australia bureau, Rodell accepted recommendations from a global panel of experts across the hospitality and restaurant industries made up of our own editors and 22 noteworthy culinary personalities (you can see the panel here).

Over four months, she visited 81 restaurants in 24 countries and across six continents, stayed in 37 hotels, spent 279 hours in the air, and traveled more than 100,000 miles to arrive at the list of 30 restaurants. To read more about how our critic chose the list, check out the explanation of our methodology.

Here, we are publishing a portion of this collaborative project between Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine.

ASIA + AUSTRALIA
Attica, Melbourne

What is Australian food? It’s a question that gets asked a lot, and there’s rarely a satisfying answer. But if I could employ the show-don’t-tell method of explanation, I’d take the asker for a meal at Attica. Through his thoughtful and playful tasting menus, chef and owner Ben Shewry explores myriad aspects of Australia’s culinary personality, from avocado toast to emu liver.

Yes, there was at one time a take on avocado toast on the menu (a nod to Melbourne’s most ubiquitous cafe culture dish): a cracker topped with avocado cut in an impossibly tiny and perfect dice, garnished with finger lime and mint. Shewry also plays on the country’s nostalgia with versions of the cheesy Vegemite rolls that every Australian child ate as a snack and the iconic teatime dessert, lamingtons. But the lamingtons come coated in black ants instead of shredded coconut, and what comes off the barbecue here are things like saltwater crocodile ribs. Shewry is one of the chefs leading the charge on incorporating native Australian ingredients into almost every dish.

The restaurant resides in a storefront in Ripponlea, a historically Jewish suburb to the southeast of the city center. The neighborhood’s past is explored in a dish called “An imperfect history of Ripponlea,” which comprises three small tarts representing the three eras of the area. Over the years, the backyard has served as a garden for the restaurant and then — when the kitchen’s needs outgrew the space and the garden was shifted off-site — a souvlaki stand where diners were taken for a taste of Melbourne’s iconic late-night snack along with beer poured from pitchers. (A wink to the city’s Greek population, one of the largest outside Greece.) Recently, the outdoor space was transformed again, this time into an art installment meant to transport diners 100 years into the future.

While the menu and backyard and dynamic wine list change regularly, the constants are even more impressive: This is some of the best service you’ll find anywhere. And Shewry’s dedication to finding ingredients and dishes that are — above all else — Australian is a blessing. In doing so, he allows the diner to fully explore the unique terroir of this wide country.

EUROPE
Antichi Sapori, Montegrosso, Italy

The notes on my itinerary said to take a cab from my Puglia hotel to Antichi Sapori, but there are no cabs in Montegrosso, so the innkeeper drove me herself. “We call it a town,” she said as we pulled up to the tiny collection of buildings anchored by a church where the restaurant is located, “but really Montegrosso is just one street.”

Set among the endless olive groves of Puglia, Antichi Sapori is the passion project of Pietro Zito, who tends to a large garden nearby, much of which is set aside to allow for the cultivation of wild greens and herbs. Zito’s aim is to keep the historic cooking traditions of the region alive. Everything about this place is an embodiment of the word rustic, from the tiled dining room with its wooden tables and farm-tool decorations to its hearty and delicious cooking.

Though there is an à la carte menu, the set menu costs around $45 and is an obscene amount of food. You might start with a bowl of fresh fava beans topped with sharp cheese, a smattering of antipasti, toast with a puree of wild herbs, baked artichoke hearts, and more. Then come the two servings of pasta — which you choose from the pasta list — before you move on to the main course: grilled sausage, beef, pork, or sometimes donkey.

This is where I discovered what chicory really tastes like in its original state, bitter and bracing, intermingled with handmade orecchiette. I marveled at the quality of the pork, with its deep, intense flavor, and found new hunger I thought I didn’t have when five or six different desserts appeared.

Antichi Sapori represents Italian dining as it has been for hundreds of years: rustic, handmade, entirely reliant on the countryside around it. Most of all it feels outrageously generous, in its cooking and hospitality but also in its spirit. I left full, happy and sleepy — and one of the waiters was kind enough to drive me home.

Discover the rest of the winners at foodandwine.com.

THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND (THE MUST DO LIST!)

Iceland is an incredible destination, unlike any other. Whether you’re making a once-in-a-lifetime trip or you visit every year, you’ll want to make the most of your time on holiday.

But in this fascinating country of glaciers, mountains, volcanoes, thermal lagoons, and black sand beaches, narrowing down the best things to do in Iceland can feel overwhelming.

That’s where the Cultured Kiwi guide about what to do in Iceland comes in! If you’re stuck for what to do in Iceland, or you don’t know where to head first, read on to find out the best things to do on this magical island for a truly memorable holiday!

From the spectacular natural beauty to exhilarating experiences, we’ve picked out the top attractions that you won’t want to miss!

From sightseeing around the old town of Reykjavik to exploring waterfalls and glaciers, hunting for the Northern Lights, or going on a hair-raising snowmobile tour, there’s lots on offer in Iceland! Here are our recommendations for the best things to do in Iceland:

Explore Reykjavik

Reykjavik is such a charming city to visit – it feels more like a small, friendly town than a capital city. The old town is colourful, quaint, and fascinating to walk around, and once you’ve had your fill of sightseeing, you can find a cosy little cafe to warm up with a hot drink. If you’re more of a party person, you’ll love the vibrant nightlife on offer, from hip bars to cool clubs – Icelanders love a good night out with friends!

Arts and culture thrive in the Icelandic capital – don’t miss the impressive architecture and serene beauty of the Hallgrimskirkja cathedral. Check it out after dusk if you can, to see it spectacularly lit up against the dark night sky. Another fascinating sight to see in Reykjavik is the Harpa, the city’s main concert hall which was opened in 2011.

It’s an incredible work of architecture and well worth seeing If you can visit it during daylight hours, you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of the North Atlantic ocean and of the mountains in the distance. At night, it stands out against the city backdrop as the facade is beautifully lit up.

Read the rest here.

France: Chaos or a New Social Compact?

At the end of the parade, a few dozen people release yellow balloons into the sky and distribute leaflets saying “The yellow vests are not dead.” The police disperse them, quickly and firmly. Moments later, hundreds of “Antifa” anarchists arrive, throw security barriers on the roadway to erect barricades, start fires and smash the storefronts of several shops. The police have a rough time mastering the situation, but early in the evening, after a few hours, they restore the calm.

A few hours later, thousands of young Arabs from the suburbs gather near the Arc de Triomphe. They have apparently come to “celebrate” in their own way the victory of an Algerian soccer team. More storefronts are smashed, more shops looted. Algerian flags are everywhere. Slogans are belted out: “Long live Algeria”, “France is ours”, “Death to France”. Signs bearing street names are replaced by signs bearing the name of Abd el Kader, the religious and military leader who fought against the French army at the time of the colonization of Algeria. The police limit themselves to stemming the violence in the hope that it will not spread.

Around midnight, three leaders of the “yellow vest” movement come out of a police station and tell a TV reporter that they were arrested early that morning and imprisoned for the rest of the day. Their lawyer states that they did nothing wrong and were just “preventively” arrested. He emphasizes that a law passed in February 2019 allows the French police to arrest any person suspected of going to a demonstration; no authorization from a judge is necessary and no appeal possible.

On Friday, July 19, the Algerian soccer team wins again. More young Arabs gather near Arc de Triomphe to “celebrate” again. The damage is even greater than eight days before. More police show up; they do almost nothing.

On July 12, two days before Bastille Day, several hundred self-declared African illegal migrants enter the Pantheon, the monument that houses the graves of heroes who played major roles in the history of France. There, the migrants announce the birth of the “Black Vest movement”. They demand the “regularization” of all illegal immigrants on French territory and free housing for each of them. The police show up but decline to intervene. Most of the demonstrators leave peacefully. A few who insult the police are arrested.

France today is a country adrift. Unrest and lawlessness continue to gain ground. Disorder has become part of daily life. Polls show that a large majority reject President Macron. They seem to hate his arrogance and be inclined not to forgive him. They seem to resent his contempt for the poor; the way he crushed the “yellow vest” movement, and for his not having paid even the slightest attention to the protesters’ smallest demands, such as the right to hold a citizen’s referendum like those in Switzerland. Macron can no longer go anywhere in public without risking displays of anger.

The “yellow vests” seem finally to have stopped demonstrating and given up: too many were maimed or hurt. Their discontent, however, is still there. It seems waiting to explode again.

The French police appear ferocious when dealing with peaceful protesters, but barely able to prevent groups such as ‘Antifa’ from causing violence. Therefore, now at the end of each demonstration, “Antifa” show up. The French police seem particularly cautious when having to deal with young Arabs and illegal migrants. The police have been given orders. They know that young Arabs and illegal migrants could create large-scale riots. Three months ago, in Grenoble, the police were pursuing some young Arabs on a stolen motorcycle, who were accused of theft. While fleeing, they had an accident. Five days of mayhem began.

Democracy receding

President Macron looks like an authoritarian leader when he faces the disgruntled poor. He never says he is sorry for those who have lost an eye or a hand or suffered irreversible brain damage from extreme police brutality. Instead, he asked the French parliament to pass a law that almost completely abolishes the right to protest, the presumption of innocence and that allows the arrest of anyone, anywhere, even without cause. The law was passed.

In June, the French parliament passed another law, severely punishing anyone who says or writes something that might contain “hate speech”. The law is so vague that an American legal scholar, Jonathan Turley, felt compelled to react. “France has now become one of the biggest international threats to freedom of speech”, he wrote.

Macron does not appear authoritarian, however, with violent anarchists. When facing young Arabs and illegal migrants, he looks positively weak. He knows what the former interior minister, Gérard Collomb, said in November 2018, while resigning from government:

“Communities in France are engaging in conflict with one another more and more and it is becoming very violent… today we live side by side, I fear that tomorrow it will be face to face”.

Macron also knows what former President François Hollande said after serving his term as president: “France is on the verge of partition”.

Macron knows that the partition of France already exists. Most Arabs and Africans live in no-go-zones, apart from the rest of the population, where they accept the presence of non-Arabs and non-Africans less and less. They do not define themselves as French, except when they say that France will belong to them. Reports show that most seem filled with a deep rejection of France and Western civilization. An incressing number seem to place their religion above their citizenship; many seem radicalised and ready to fight.

Macron seems not to want to fight. Instead, he has chosen to appease them. He is single-mindedly pursuing his plans to institutionalise Islam in France. Three months ago, the Muslim Association for Islam of France (AMIF) was created. One branch will handle the cultural expansion of Islam and take charge of “the fight against anti-Muslim racism”. Another branch will be responsible for programs that train imams and build mosques. This autumn, a “Council of Imams of France” will be established. The main leaders of the AMIF are (or were until recently) members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement designated as a terrorist organisation in Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — but not in France.

French President is aware of the demographic data. They show that the Muslim population in France will grow significantly in the coming years. (The economist Charles Gave wrote recently that by 2057, France will have a Muslim majority). Macron can see that it will soon be impossible for anyone to be elected President without relying on the Muslim vote, so he acts accordingly.

Macron apparently sees that the discontent that gave birth to the “yellow vest” movement still is there. He appears to think that repression will be enough to prevent any further uprising, and so does nothing to remedy the causes of the discontent.

The “yellow vest” movement was born of a revolt against exorbitantly high taxes on fuel, and harsh government measures against cars and motorists. These measures included reduced speed limits – 90 km/h on most highways — and more speed-detection cameras; a sharp rise in the penalties on tickets, as well as complex and expensive annual motor vehicle controls. French taxes on fuels recently rose again and are now the highest in Europe (70% of the price paid at the pump). Other measures against the use of automobiles and motorists still in force are especially painful for the poor. They were already chased from the suburbs by intolerant newcomers, and now have to live — and drive — even farther from where they work.

Socio-culturally disenfranchised

President has made no decision to remedy the disastrous economic situation in France. When he was elected, taxes, duties and social charges represented almost 50% of GDP. Government spending represented 57% of GDP (the highest among developed countries). The ratio of national debt to GDP was almost 100%.

Taxes, duties, social charges and government spending remain at the same level now as when Macron came in. The debt-to-GDP ratio is 100% and growing. The French economy is not creating jobs. Poverty remains extremely high: 14% of the population earn less than 855 euros ($950) a month.

“How else to explain that the post-WWII come-and-help-our-recovery slogan Gastarbeiter willkommen became an Auslander Raus roar in a matter of only two decades. Suddenly, our national purifiers extensively shout ‘stop überfremdung of EU, we need de-ciganization’ of our societies, as if it historically does not always end up in one and only possible way– self-barbarization. In response, the socially marginalized and ghettoized ‘foreigners’ are calling for the creation of gastarbeiterpartie. Indeed, the first political parties of foreigners are already created in Austria, with similar calls in Germany, France and the Netherlands. Their natural coalition partner would never be any of the main political parties. We should know by now, how the diverting of the mounting socio-economic discontent and generational disfranchising through ethno engineering will end up, don’t we?” – warned prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic years ago in his brave and farsighted essay ‘Denazification urgently needed in Europe’.

Consequently, our top executives pay no attention to the growing cultural disaster also seizing the country. The educational system is crumbling. An increasing percentage of students graduate from high school without knowing how to write a sentence free of errors that make incomprehensible anything they write. Christianity is disappearing. Most non-Muslim French no longer define themselves as Christians. The fire that ravaged the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris was officially an ‘accident’, but it was only one of the many Christian religious buildings in the country that were recently destroyed. Every week, churches are vandalised — to the general indifference of the public. In just the first half of 2019, 22 churches burned down.

The main concern of Macron and the French government seems not to be the risk of riots, the public’s discontent, the disappearance of Christianity, the disastrous economic situation, or Islamization and its consequences. Instead, it is climate change. Although the amount of France’s carbon dioxide emissions is infinitesimal (less than 1% of the global total), combatting “human-induced climate change” appears Macron’s absolute priority.

A Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, age 16, — nevertheless the guru of the “fight for the climate” in Europe — was recently invited to the French National Assembly by members of parliament who support Macron. She delivered a speech, promising that the “irreversible destruction” of the planet will begin very soon. A Baby-revolutionary added that political leaders “are not mature enough” and need lessons from children. MPs who support Macron applauded warmly. She received a Prize of Freedom, just created, which will be given each year to people “fighting for the values of those who landed in Normandy in 1944 to liberate Europe”. It is probably reasonable to assume that not one of those who landed in Normandy in 1944 thought he was fighting to save the climate. Such minor details, however, seem beyond Macron and the parliamentarians who support him.

Macron and the French government also seem unconcerned that Jews — driven by the rise of anti-Semitism, and understandably worried about court decisions infused with the spirit of submission to violent Islam –continue to flee from France.

Kobili Traore, the man who murdered Sarah Halimi in 2017 while chanting suras from the Qur’an and shouting that the Jews are Sheitan (Arabic for “Satan”) was found not guilty. Traore had apparently smoked cannabis before the murder, so the judges decided that he was not responsible for his acts. Traore will soon be released from prison; what happens if he smokes cannabis again?

A few weeks after the murder of Halimi, three members of a Jewish family were assaulted, tortured and held hostage in their home by a group of five men who said that “Jews have money” and “Jews must pay”. The men were arrested; all were Muslim. The judge who indicated them announced that their actions were “not anti-Semitic”.

On July 25, 2019 when the Israeli soccer team Maccabi Haifa was competing in Strasbourg, the French government limited the number of Israeli supporters in the stadium to 600, not one more. A thousand had bought plane tickets to come to France to attend the match. The French government also banned the waving of Israeli flags at the game or anywhere in the city. Nonetheless, in the name of “free speech”, the French Department of the Interior permitted anti-Israeli demonstrations in front of the stadium, and Palestinian flags and banners saying “Death to Israel” were there. The day before the match, at a restaurant near the stadium, some Israelis were violently attacked. “The demonstrations against Israel are approved in the name of freedom of expression, but the authorities forbid supporters of Maccabi Haifa to raise the Israeli flag, it is unacceptable,” said Aliza Ben Nun, Israel’s ambassador to France.

The other day, a plane full of French Jews leaving France arrived in Israel. More French Jews will soon go. The departure of Jews to Israel entails sacrifices: some French real estate agents take advantage of the wish of many Jewish families to leave, so they buy and sell properties owned by Jews at a price far lower than their market value.

Fighting the ghost

Macron will remain as president until May 2022. Several leaders of the parties of the center-left (such as the Socialist Party) and center-right (The Republicans) joined The Republic on the Move, the party he created two years ago. After that, the Socialist Party and The Republicans electorally collapsed. Macron’s main opponent in 2022 is likely to be the same as in 2017: Marine Le Pen, the leader of the populist National Rally.

Although Macron is widely unpopular and widely hated, he will probably use the same slogans as in 2017: that he is the last bastion of hope against “chaos” and “fascism.” He has a strong chance of being elected again. Anyone who reads the political program of the National Rally can see that Le Pen is not a fascist. Also, anyone who looks at the situation in France may wonder if France has not already begun to sink into chaos.

The sad situation that reigns in France is not all that different from that in many other Euriopean countries. A few weeks ago, an African cardinal, Robert Sarah, published a book, Le soir approche et déjà le jour baisse (“The evening comes, and already the light darkens”). “At the root of the collapse of the West”, he writes, “there is a cultural and identity crisis. The West no longer knows what it is, because it does not know and does not want to know what shaped it, what constituted it, what it was and what it is. (…) This self-asphyxiation leads naturally to a decadence that opens the way to new barbaric civilizations.”

That is exactly what is happening in France — and Europe.

Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.

Earlier version published by the GeterstoneInstitute under the title France Slowly Sinking into Chaos

5 Ways to Enjoy Summer When You’re Stuck at Work

The unbearable heat of the sun beating down on the melting asphalt. The city seems a bit emptier than usual, perhaps because everyone has gone to a tropical vacation – or they’re just hiding in air-conditioned apartments and offices. You lose a liter of sweat on the way to work and on the way back home. Things seem hopeless as you just can’t leave on your vacation for another month. Or worse, you have already been and the images of the seaside chill have already started disappearing from your brain. Don’t give up just yet – let us go over all the good things the summer brings to the city life!

Wear summer clothes

Hey, even if you have a dress code, a heat wave is nothing to sneeze at! Wear as little or as colorful clothes as you want – at least to the entrance to your offices. And let’s not forget the casual Friday, which is an excellent excuse to show off that chic thing you bought the other day. The important thing is, it’s summer and you can wear it short, feeling the sun on your skin. Just watch out when the sun index is high – make sure to use sunscreen generously on your skin.

Wake up with the sun

Normally the sun has a tendency to wake you up – why not jump the gun and get up early, before the scorching heat kills your every desire to actually go outside? If you’re looking to get some exercise going, really early morning is your friend. Get some weather-appropriate gym wear and hit the treadmill or go for a run or a swim while most people are still in their beds. Not only is it refreshing, but there are no crowds either!

Make a work get-together

You are spending a lot of time together with your colleagues at work. It is summer and you are all in this together – stuck behind desks, in (hopefully) air-conditioned offices. Why not doing something together that will make the day go by faster and recharge your batteries? If your office building has a yard or a rooftop – organize a picnic for lunch instead of a visit to the local cafeteria. Or go together for a lunch in the park.

Find another way to get to work

If you are lucky enough to be living in a city with good public transportation and cycling path and you are still coming to work by car, what are you even doing with your life? Not only is cycling one of the best things you can do for your body and mind, but you can learn new ways to get to where you work or even find shortcuts that are impossible to take in any other form of transportation. And if you have options to commute via trains, buses or subway, you can even use the extra time for reading or catching up with the news, so that you don’t feel the need to do it when you get to the office.

Make good use of your weekends

Working in the long summer days is already tough enough, don’t overdo it. Keep your weekends clutter free – don’t take on work that you don’t absolutely have to. Go out and enjoy the cool, fragrant nights of the summer and meet new people. Or leave the city for two days, run to the nearest body of water and go for a swim to cool off. Do whatever you want, just make it active and happening outside – your brain will thank you once you get back to work on Monday.

By Peter Minkoff

Peter is a lifestyle and travel writer at Men-Ual magazine, living between Ústí nad Labem and Antwerp. Follow Peter on Twitter for more tips.

South Africa’s Freedom Day Celebrations and International Nelson Mandela Day

On Thursday 18 July 2019, the South African Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Her Excellency Ms N. R. Mosholi, hosted an event at the Hilton Hotel in Prague to mark South Africa’s 25th Freedom Day. The event also provided the Embassy with the opportunity to celebrate the 10th Nelson Mandela International Day as declared by the United Nations. The highlight of the Celebrations was the handing over of a violin, which was handmade by three young children of “Akord Kvint” from the town of Luby, to a talented child in South Africa. In her official address Ambassador Mosholi expressed her appreciation for this gesture and said it was proof of the special relationship in existence between the peoples of the Czech Republic and South Africa. The Czech Government was represented at the celebrations by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Mr Martin Tlapa, who said that South Africa was the Czech Republic’s biggest trading partner on the African Continent and that both countries would continue to look at various ways to further strengthen relations through increased investment and bilateral trade as well as people-to-people diplomacy.

Dancing in the summer rain

WITH THE GERMAN-CZECH CHAMBER OF INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE

On June 20th, the annual summer party of the German-Czech Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DTIHK/ČNOPK) took place at the historical site of the German embassy in Prague. The organizers and the more than a thousand guests also commemorated the historical events 30 years ago, when thousands of refugees from the GDR fled to the garden of the embassy and were finally allowed to leave and travel to the Federal Republic of Germany after a long wait. Among the guests were high-ranking representatives of the Czech-German business, of governments, associations and cultural institutions. Apart from networking, the chambers’ guests had a perfect time by checking out current and vintage Škoda models, dancing in the rain with a great show of famous Tonya Graves or enjoying the legendary Genscher balcony. All this together with delicious food and cocktails made it an unforgettable summer night.

Hana Součková

 

A company built on values always offers something extra

 

Hana Součková, ManagIng Director, SAP Czech Republic

Hana Součková has been the Managing Director of SAP Czech Republic since August 2018. I’ve had the privilege of meeting Hanka several times . She guards her privacy closely, so I greatly appreciated that she was willing to give this interview for Czech and Slovak Leaders Magazine, discussing not only intelligent enterprise but also her leisure time. Our hour-long interview passed by quickly. Hanka spoke with enthusiasm about Czech customers, value-based companies, as well as mindfulness and the art of taking time for oneself. She spoke with fervour and passion about the necessity of continuous learning and about herself being always ready to take on new challenges. Hana Součková is deserving of her ranking amongst the 125 most influential Czech women.

Intelligent enterprise has been a key issue for SAP for two years now. What exactly does this term, which may be confusing to Czechs, involve?

From its very beginnings, SAP has always endeavoured to understand enterprise in general, as well as the processes of our key customers. We use the experiences thus gained to create best practices for particular fields within the software we have developed, so that we can subsequently share these procedures with the entire market. Our SAP S/4HANA application, in combination with our traditional applications for managing purchasing, marketing or human resources, offers us another opportunity to move forward the processes amongst our customers and thanks to the connectivity of all current technologies we receive a new angle which brings not only new insights but above all intelligent solutions. In a nutshell, intelligent enterprise is about assessing current best practices, which are under constant development. Remember what best practices used to be five years ago in different areas, whether in sales, human resources or purchasing, and compare it to the situation today. There is still room for further digitisation or optimisation but there will be much greater benefit in thinking about how to utilize the data we have available to us for new models of enterprise or for modifying processes in general.

Instead of incremental improvement, SAP also offers a disruptiveapproach,said todaytobetheonlysuitable approach for succeeding in an ever more complex and linked-up world.

Exactly. Personally, regarding the intelligent enterprise trend, I most appreciate the discussion with customers regarding our solutions and how our technologies can help them in their business. Customers are aware that trends of disruption and agile management are on the agenda, and they are looking for ways to support these more. Thus, we not only lead discussions on how things are now, but we also hold strategic discussions on the necessary targeted vision in ten years’ time, regardless of the current solution. Personally, I think it is important not to let oneself be tied down by history, or the current state of implemented solutions, but rather come to a point where the business or company begins to focus more on the future in terms of functionality, rather than mere reaction or modification of the current state.

Your talk for journalists, organised in a futuristic style within an interactive truck, was focused on customer experience. You proudly presented cases of large Czech companies which have grown from their original family firms over the last quarter- century, and which use SAP solutions for further expansion, now on a global scale.

I think these Czech companies represent the true wealth of the Czech economy. It is extraordinary that quite a large percentage are still managed by their founders. Founders who have built up companies on the foundations of a long-term vision, resting on authentic values, give the business something extra, and for you, that is a reason to come back to them. The next generation today has a different approach to loyalty than the previous generations. In this context, it is important to stress that values and the customer experience linked therein play a great role. So-called “customer experience” is another term that is hard to translate into Czech. It isn’t just about general experience, but increasingly about the emotional experience the customer links to a particular service. The young generation is responding increasingly to whether they can identify with a company, its campaigns, its representatives and the values it embodies. If they do not, they can conclusively reject that brand. SAP recently undertook the acquisition of Qualtrics in order to refine our data on customer experience, aiming to help our customers to answer the question of whether they have the right product for the right customer, offered at the right time and in the right way. Thus, we are now ready to help the company bridge the difference between what customers expect and what they actually get. In this way, intelligent enterprise is not only about actual operative data. Its strength is hidden in the ability to link together current data on company management as well as feelings, experiences and emotions experienced not just by our customers, but also by employees and business partners. This gives the enterprise new meaning.

You’ve said that a company built on values always offers something extra. But in the past, SAP had a reputation as a company offering a costly solution, and thus it focused above all on global corporations that could afford such a solution.

As I’ve already mentioned, SAP sets out to bring best practices to the market. However, you can only bring these when you have a customer base of a certain critical size, creating vital knowledge. Best practices do not evolve based on two or three single experiences. Nowadays, SAP has 437,000 customers worldwide, and more than half of them are so-called SMEs. These stunning numbers can often be taken by Czech companies with a pinch of salt, but it is the experience of our local customers that confirms that SAP is definitely not suited only for global corporations. There is a parallel here with cars in terms of the costs. A car will take you from A to B, but it all depends on speed, safety, comfort, etc. Each of us, whether we are individuals or legal entities, has the ability to make a choice. We offer not just best practices, but also safety in terms of transparency, audits and a connection to company values, long-term commitment and vision realisation. Since 2010, SAP has invested 70 billion USD in development, which has involved not just developing our flagship SAP S/4HANA database, but also follow-up acquisitions, thus meeting our long-term commitment to continue our efforts at innovation, keeping up with the times. In regard to prices, a cloud solution may be one option for optimisation.

Let’s return to the Czech customers, who are your core. I appreciated the fact that your conference was attended by hostesses in beautifully tailor made dresses from Bernhardt Fashion, a company that was also one of the winners of the SAP Quality Awards in the “business transformation” category.

I wouldn’t like to name specific companies here, because then I might leave out others. So let’s discuss specific customer groups. I’ve already mentioned companies that are still lead by their original owners, whom we have managed to persuade about the added value of our solutions, and we appreciate that our cooperation with these companies is long-term, allowing them scalable growth at a global level. For traditionally medium- large and large players with foreign ownership interest, we are successful in considering new solutions and possibilities for trying out new approaches. We cannot forget about public administration and national enterprises, which imitate the approach of corporations. With most of these companies, we cooperate in some measure of SAP transformation, and further use of the added value that SAP can offer today. These customers monitor new trends around the world using what we call expert user groups; recently, for example, a meeting was held with an entity with the notable acronym of SUGARRAIL, although this comprised experts in the railway.

SAP Czech Republic’s important status within the global corporation was most recently attested to by the fact that the new Managing Director for Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has chosen to work in Prague.

Tom Kindermans comes from Belgium and has had an international career not just within the EMEA region (Europe, the Middle East and Africa), but also the APJ region (Asia, Pacific, Japan). His wife is Czech so Prague was a natural choice. He has said he appreciates the fact that Prague is close to everywhere. Belgium is comparable to the Czech Republic. It is good that the region’s management is based in Prague and thus has a better overview of the diversity of all 16 countries the region comprises. Sometimes size can be both over and underestimated at the same time. In terms of opportunities, these seem to be the same everywhere. In reality, we have to serve the same number of ministries as our colleagues in large countries, but with a far smaller team. The magic of small countries within corporations can be compared to the magic of start-ups. You need to know how to select your priorities well; you cannot focus on everything. You also have better flexibility than in larger countries with large teams, which are more difficult to co-ordinate.

You’ve given many interviews, but you guard your privacy. I only found out from one of the interviews on SAP’s Facebook page that you follow three principles in your private life: family, yoga and planning. In your leisure time you have also managed to organise kids’ mountain bike races on the weekends.

Right now, I am reading a book in which one of the protagonists shared an experience, one that resonated with me. On the one hand, this person worked hard and intensely, but on the other hand enjoyed doing it all. Over time, ended up working for 20 hours a day and unable to disconnect. I hope that doesn’t happen to me (laughter). I had to give up organising mountain bike races after four years, because organising races in which 2000 children take part each year was basically more work. I think I am able to set a balance. My previous role was a regional one, so nowadays there is less travelling. I am aware, however, that my response to the question“How is it going?”is“Fast”. I sometimes regret not being able to experience the present moment more. On the other hand, during a crisis the wave passes over quickly and I don’t remain sad for long. In terms of yoga, I am still able to find the time for it. I’ve already mentioned the impact of emotions on decision-making, but essentially 27 emotions control our life, you have to give yourself the space to experience them and live them through. Yoga and mindfulness techniques are not objectives for me, but rather a means to take time out. The largest percentage of workaholics is amongst the thirty- something generation, who often do their work virtually and cannot set boundaries and unplug. I think one’s response to the question: “When did you last spend a whole day doing nothing?”may be a good indicator of whether they have succumbed to workaholism.

You give a lot of support to young girls in IT. What final advice would you give as a mentor?

I, myself, follow the advice: You always need to work on yourself. It doesn’t matter what your position is. Don’t work on yourself in order to achieve a particular position in five years; rather be ready to take on new impulses and ideas. I see today that some girls try too much to plan their future, and this narrows their opportunities. I studied at the Physical Education and Sports Faculty because I was interested in coaching and sport psychology. It might seem to some that I jump around too much, but I think we are shaped by all of our experiences. Last year, after a not particularly long period in a regional position, I transferred to my current local role. I consulted my husband on the matter, and he gave me support: Sure you’re ready. And I was.

For Czech and Slovak Leaders Magazine, Linda Štucbartová, DES, MBA

Why Finland Is Consistently the Happiest Country on Earth

“It’s the way life is lived in those countries.”

If you’re feeling low, it may be time to book a trip to Finland.

The results of the seventh annual World Happiness Report have revealed that residents of Finland are the happiest in the world — for the second year in a row. But it’s not something inherent in Finnish DNA, according to the researchers.

“It’s true that last year all Finns were happier than rest of the countries’ residents, but their immigrants were also happiest immigrants in the world,” John Helliwell, co-editor of the report and a professor of economics at the University of British Columbia, told CNN. “It’s not about Finnish DNA. It’s the way life is lived in those countries.”

And that same sentiment can be extended to countries geographically near Finland. Despite winters without much sunlight, Scandinavian residents are the happiest in the world, according to this report. The following most happy countries were Denmark, Norway, Iceland and The Netherlands.

The report, which is produced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, ranks 156 countries around the globe based off of “how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.” Categories considered include wealth, life expectancy, social support, freedom to make life decisions and levels of government corruption.

While Scandinavia may have reason to celebrate, the rest of the world is not so happy. According to the report, world happiness has fallen in recent years, largely driven by a significant decrease in India. Emotions like worry, sadness and anger have increased throughout Asia and Africa in that same time.

The U.S.’s ranking in the survey slipped from 18 to 19, which researcher credit in large part to rampant “compulsive pursuit of substance abuse and addictive behaviors,” including consumption of digital media and gambling.

“We are living a moment of transition to a new age and this generates a sense of uncertainty,” Andrea Illy, Chairman of illycaffè and Member of the Board of Fondazione Ernesto Illy, which co-sponsored the study, said in a statement.“Social happiness is therefore even more relevant, in order to give a positive perspective and outlook for the present and for the future.”

A new EU or same old, same old?

Will this summer see a new Europe or the return to the “good old continent”? What are the challenges for our profession and our clients?

It will not have been easy but finally, Ursula von der Leyen was elected as head of the Commission and Christine Lagarde took the lead at the ECB, leading some commentators speaking about a new Europe.

But beyond the symbolism represented by these two nominations, should we anticipate a real renewal of the European Union – and what can we, as professionals, and our clients expect from the new team?

Our continent bears both the name of a Phoenician princess first loved by Zeus, and then given by him to another, and that of an icy moon of Jupiter. Will our new leaders prevent us from ending up as an abandoned and forgotten land of the Gods and bring us, after Brexit, to – at least economically – equal play with the other great powers?

What should we expect? A change in European policy and strategy or an extension of the one already implemented?

An analysis of the past 5 main leaders of the Union and the President of ECON, the commission which mostly deals with the subjects which concern us, is quite instructive.

While the new President of the Commission is a heavyweight of the German CDU, 3 times Federal Minister and, at times, imagined as being able to take over from the Chancellor, the Governor of the ECB is well known to have been a great advocate, as well as one of the most robust French Ministers of Economy and nothing less than Director General of the IMF.

Regarding the 3 men who complete the management team, we find Charles Michel. The former Belgian Prime Minister who was able to form and run a government in a country in the midst of a political crisis becomes the President of the Council, that is to say the “chamber” made up of the representatives of the Governments. Josep Borrell, a Catalan ex-Spanish Foreign Minister who has the distinction of also being Argentinean takes over our diplomacy. Finally, David-Maria Sassoli takes the Presidency of the Parliament; he is a former Italian journalist, classified between moderate socialism and the centre right, known to be a “facilitator” of trade.

With regards to the financial institutions of the Union, the ECON will be chaired by Roberto Gualtieri, an Italian socialist, historian by trade, who is involved in exchanges and negotiations with Latin America and, particularly, Brazil.

The 3 ESAs (the high-level EU regulators for Banking, Finance and Insurance) and the DG FISMA (Directorate for Stability and Financial Services), have not, for now, changed their leaders. They are presently headed up by Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese and French individuals.

What conclusions can we draw from the reorganisation?

First of all, it is not a reorganisation of substance!

Although some of the people have changed, the main civil servants are not, or not yet, concerned.

The policies are very new, even for 4 of them, who are “heavyweights” in their respective countries, often with major international expertise. However, they represent traditional, pro-European and even classic parties.

There is probably no inflexion of policy and logic to be expected with regards to the European project itself and what concerns us in the foreground, the internal market. The rise of new parties, anti-European or those with a wish for a different Europe will probably not have major consequences in the short term.

On the other hand, it is at the international level that the message and the claims of the Union seem very different. The newly established personalities seem to have been chosen for their connections and particularly good knowledge of other countries and cultures.

Overall it seems obvious to me that if the style can change, it will only be necessary to rely on the quality and personal perception of these leaders to open up new voices or think about new ways of doing things, but that in any case, the direction followed will remain the same.

So we should remember the programme that was announced to us: to begin with, there is the plan to revise the PRIIPS Regulation at the margin, since some of our opinions, which were not heard at the time, have ended up appearing as obvious corrections to make. Of course, the banking union project will still progress. Finally, more specifically in relation to our professions and our offerings to clients, the Capital Markets Union and all related projects such as PEPP, financial education, digitalisation of finance and savings, alternative financing methods and regulation, although very advanced, are yet to be completed and were recently announced as priorities.

The programme promises to be loaded and the stakes for both our members and their clients are considerable.

Of course, all the leaders and representatives of FECIF’s member organisations and the entire executive board team, will continue to carry the voice of our advisors and intermediaries and we will aim to organise, from September, a series of meetings with the new personalities in charge of, or important to, our sector.

Before then, I wish a very good month of August to all.

David Charlet
FECIF Chairman

Best Full Body Exercises For Office Working Women

Women on TV shows are always killing it at the office, they attend countless business dinners and still manage to have amazing bodies. But of course, in reality, ladies who are juggling demanding jobs and other life responsibilities often struggle to find enough time to exercise on a regular basis. However, just because it is difficult, doesn’t mean it is impossible! Here are some nifty tricks and full-body exercises which will help you stay fit and healthy without having to sacrifice your career.

New and improved squats

You really don’t have to spend hours at the gym. Instead, focus on exercises that work the whole body in a short amount of time like these modified squats. Just grab your hand weights, stand hip-width apart, and squat down by bending your knees at a 90-degree angle. Keep in mind that your torso should bend forward slightly. As you come up out of the squat, lift the hand weights up over your head to a full extension and kick one leg out to the side at a 45-degree angle at the same time. Come back to standing position, repeat, but this time kick the other leg.

Woodchopper

If you have ever seen a lumberjack at work you will easily get the hang of it. At the beginning of the exercise, you should be standing with your feet hip-width apart with your weight on your left leg. Grab your hand weight with both hands and hold it up by your left shoulder. Make a chopping motion down toward your right hip while allowing your feet and knees to pivot.

Lunges with a twist

We all know that doing lunges is not as easy as it seems, and this exercise spices things up even more. Lunge forward on your right leg but while extending your arms straight out in front of you, hold that position for a second and then raise your extended arms above your head. Come back to standing position and do 15 reps on each leg.

A five-minute routine you will love

Who says exercising has to be boring? Since this exercise routine is only five minutes long, you can do it during a commercial break or while watching your favourite TV show. Simply do 20 squats, 15 mountain climbers, 10 push-ups and 5 burpees and you will work up a sweat in no time.

Short but intensive workouts

Instead of jogging for days focus on simple workouts that have a strong impact and don’t take much time you will be able to squeeze them into your busy schedule. For example, get on your treadmill and run uphill for 15 minutes or turn to Tabata training where you perform a high-intensity exercise for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds, for 8 rounds. The point is to exercise smarter, not longer, so focus on high-intensity workouts that hit different muscle areas. You can also try resistance band exercises which allow you to get a challenging workout in no matter where you are.

Back to the childhood

Jumping rope is not just for little girls, you know? In fact, it is one of the most effective cardio exercises out there, even more than jogging. In addition, it burns more calories per minute than swimming or rowing, so definitely give it a try. At the beginning keep it simple and jump with two feet at once, then alternate your feet, jump on one foot, then graduate to double-unders and criss-cross. When you have mastered all of that, you can get creative. The best think about skipping rope is that you can do it anywhere, at a park, the back room of the office or at home.

Workout early in the morning

Exercising in the morning will help you clear your head and prepare you for the following day. This is the time of the day when you have the most energy, so you will easily do those lunges, squats or burpees. On the other hand, after a hard day at the office you probably will be easily waylaid by the prospect of your couch or a glass of wine, and working out will be the last thing on your mind. If you don’t feel motivated enough to exercise before work, try to find a morning fitness crew that will give you that boost you need to complete your goals.

Keep your gym clothes at the office

Even if you are dedicated to getting to the gym before work, there will be those days when you just hit the snooze button and roll out of the bed at the last second. For those emergencies keep your sneakers and workout clothes in a bag under your desk at work, so you will be able to jog home whenever needed.

In order to get in shape, you don’t have to spend half of your day at the gym. Instead, squeeze short but intensive full-body workouts into your busy schedule and soon you will see the results.

Claire Morgan is a marketing consultant and lecturer who, thanks to her integrated approach to business, stands behind many digital strategies of renowned brands. She enjoys travelling and passionately blogs about the latest marketing and lifestyle trends.

A dream career and/or a dream man?

All those years of hard work are finally paying off! You got a promotion, have been entrusted with more responsibility and a budget to build a brand new unit. Your boss has high expectations of you and you’re committed. You won’t let him down! You’re hyper-busy but loving it! Everything would be just perfect if it weren’t for the troubles back home… Your relationship is falling apart. Or, perhaps, you don’t even have one and the men who are interested are of no interest to you. Now what?!

15 Years of the Czech Republic in the EU

celebration in the Senate

The ambassadors of EU member states set out for the Senate to commemorate the important anniversary of 15 years since the Czech Republic joined the European Union alongside senators. Since April 2014, the picture “The European Union has a Heart” has been hung in the Senate, a reminder of the Czech Republic’s position in the centre of the EU.

Greek-Canadian summer concert

On 29 June, the Ambassador of Greece, Mr. Efthymios Efthymiades, in cooperation with the Ambassador of Canada, Ms. Barbara C. Richardson, hosted, at the Greek Residence, a Greek-Canadian summer concert with selections from “Charlotte – a Tri-Coloured Play with Music” as well as other well-known arias and songs, performed by Ariana Chris, mezzo soprano, Peter Tiefenbach, pianist, and other cast members. The concert was followed by a Greek-Canadian buffet with delicacies and wines representative of both countries.

2nd Women Entrepreneurial Mission from the Czech Republic to Israel

FRI, November 8th – THU, November 14th, 2019

Following our successful 1st Mission last year, discover a unique ecosystem of Israeli start-up nation, from start-ups to incubators, universities, multinationals, VCs as well as advisory groups.

Learn about the newest trends and innovations in life-sciences, edu-tech, mobility, social innovation and more. Extend your business network and initiate new partnerships.

7 DAYS of inspiration how to innovate business, community and society
10 HI-TECH INNOVATIVE SPOTS
4 UNESCO Heritage sights
3 Guided tours
15 INSPIRATIONAL MEETINGS

OUR OFFICIAL PROGRAM has been arranged as follows:

The price is 54 900 Kč

Price includes:

  • 2 Flights with ElAl
  • Accommodation at 4* hotel Colony Haifa & 4* hotel Melody Tel Aviv; breakfast included
  • 7-day bus transportation

The price does not include meals and tips. Speakers and venues subjects to change. Minimum 10 participants required.

About the 1st mission

Reference

For more details, please contact the organizer Linda Stucbartova on linda@stucbartova.cz.

Best Beaches in Italy

There’s plenty to recommend Italy already: The rolling hills of Tuscany , the canals of Venice, the charm of Cinque Terre, the wine and food of…well, everywhere. After all, there’s a reason it’s consistently ranked among the most-visited countries in the world, with tourism revenue well into the twelve figures. But add the incredible number and variety of beaches to the equation, and suddenly the country becomes a mandatory item on every traveler’s to-do list.

Here, we’ve collected fifteen of the best beaches to visit across the nation. Whether you’re hoping for a rustic retreat in the mountains, a tropical getaway for luxury and leisure, or an authentic look at life in an Italian coastal town, there’s a locale on this list to meet your needs. And if your vacation to Italy is already in the works, you’re in luck: no matter where in the boot you’ll be heading, there’s a place on this list that’s within range for a detour. Decompress after a busy Florentine adventure with a few days on the Ligurian coast, or spend a morning at the Lido to cleanse your palate after too many gondola rides in Venice. Even on the ever-popular Amalfi Coast and Italian Riviera, tourist-free beaches can be found within spitting distance of the most overrun resort towns.

Ready to traverse the boot? Read on to start plotting the perfect itinerary. And if beach-hopping across Italy isn’t in your future, this list is still worth a look: these places are beautiful enough to cure even the most severe cases of Monday blues, mean reds, or winter doldrums. And after a few glimpses, you may find yourself tallying up your vacation days, scoping out your savings, and planning your next Italian excursion.

Acquafredda di Maratea Beach, Basilicata

Six miles outside of the hamlet of Maratea, this rugged stretch of shoreline has the same blue water and dark gray sand of the Amalfi Coast, but it’s further north with none of the accompanying throngs of tourists. It’s a prime place for beachgoers in search of rustic beauty: In spite of neatly arranged sun loungers and beach umbrellas placed by local hotels, the rocky shoreline and cliffs jutting up on either side of the cove preserve the untamed feel of the area.

Marina Grande Beach, Positano

As if the views of deep greenish-blue seas weren’t enough, the stacks of pastel houses hugging the cliffs make Positano’s main beach feel like something plucked from a midcentury postcard. With over 300 yards of dark sand—large swathes of it dedicated to tidily arranged rows of beach umbrellas and lounge chairs in Technicolor shades of orange and blue—this spot always feels open and roomy in spite of summer crowds. Start in town with a leisurely outdoor lunch overlooking the Mediterranean, then sleep off the limoncello buzz with a snooze on the sand.

Camogli Beach, Liguria

Northwest Italy’s coastal towns tend to live in the shadow of the neighboring French Riviera, but that means beaches like Camogli’s have all the Mediterranean beauty with a fraction of the crowds you’ll find in Nice or St. Tropez. The beach in this little fishing village is pebbly but picturesque — the ancient Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta is perched on a promontory at the harbor’s northern end, with mountains rising up behind it. This spot has something for every traveler: swimming lessons to keep the kids busy, beachside drink service for the laid-back crowd, and rowboats, canoe rentals, and diving lessons for the adventure-seekers.

Scalo Maestro, Marettimo

Just off the western tip of Sicily, the island of Marettimo (population: 700) has the kind of wild beauty that gives every moment here a dreamlike quality. The tiny beach of Scalo Maestro is one of the few you can access from the shore, and its gentle slope and clear, calm waters are particularly swimmer- and snorkeler-friendly. Once you’ve had your fill of beach time, charter a boat for a tour of the island: it’s the only way to access Marettimo’s hidden sea caves. You can’t truly appreciate the magic of the Aegadian Islands until you’ve gone swimming in a sun-dappled Mediterranean grotto.

See the rest here.

PRESIDENT MILOŠ ZEMAN REPRESENTING THE CZECH REPUBLIC

Events organized and attended by Miloš Zeman, President of Czech republic

UNYP celebrates its 18th Annual Graduation Ceremony

On the 21st of June, 2019 the University of New York in Prague held their graduation ceremony at Palác Žofín on the beautiful island, Slovanský ostrov. The ceremony was opened by H. E. Stephen B. King, US Ambassador to the Czech Republic, followed by an inspirational speech by PhDr. Jindřich Fryč, State Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic. “The education our graduates have received will be their passport to future success and one of the most valuable assets in their lives and I am so proud of all of them,” said Sotiris Foutsis, UNYP General Manager.

Zuzana Čaputová at the Senate

President of the Senate Jaroslav Kubera and his fellow senators welcomed Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová to the Czech Parliament’s upper chamber. Čaputová visited the Czech Republic during the first week of her mandate. During discussions in the Senate, she underlined the excellent mutual relations of both countries, and also laid out a number of areas which she wants to focus on as President. Despite the different opinions in society, she wants to strengthen Slovaks’ common values.

18th annual International Trebbia Awards 2019

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Spanish Hall of Prague Castle, Prague, Czech Republic

Why everyone needs retirement advice

Recent research in the UK has shown that 20% of people – more than 10 million people! – say they’ll work until they’re physically unable to do so, while around 6% – another three million people – say they expect to work until they die! The picture across Europe cannot be much different.

See more here.

So hard being a woman around here!

Have you ever found yourself sitting in a meeting frustrated and talking under your breath: It’s so hard being a woman around here! No matter what I say or do, they won’t take me seriously! Welcome to the club, fellow female sufferer! You’re not the only one feeling that your efforts are in vain sometimes or that your voice is not loud enough in the tough man’s world. I hear you. No doubt there are situations in which women are still not fully recognized and appreciated and that there are individuals amongst us who still have reservations about women and their capabilities. But, is it really so bad? Or are we – women – making it worse than it really is?

I work with a lot of female executives and one in particular comes to mind. She was a product manager in a sector ladies don’t venture into that often. The only women on the team, and in fact pretty much everywhere she set her foot in, customer events, conferences, etc. She was intelligent, extremely capable and working (much too) hard. She loved her job yet she was exasperated, she didn’t see any future for herself in the company due to being a woman. Every time we met for our coaching sessions she had a story to tell and it would start with something like this: “Alena, would you believe what my boss told me today?!” “You should see how my colleague treated me in front of the whole team!” “This is pointless, they will always see me as a weak link!” She would go into great length to prove how unfairly she was being treated and how mean her colleagues were to her simply because she was a woman. I am not here to diminish the difficulties she had to face but I could see how she was adding fuel to the fire. When I tried to analyze the situation with her, I hit a wall. For her the issue was crystal clear: she was treated unfairly for being a woman.

Is that the truth? Or is that your truth?

When we experience frustrations and difficulties at work, it’s easy to blame others or external circumstances or misfortunes. But are they the true causes behind our career failures? Let me ask you this. How many times have you entered a meeting thinking it was going to be a disaster and it was? What about the time you finally met John, a guy you heard so much about and how hilarious he was; did he turn out to be just hilarious?! Or, this woman you met at a networking event; you had a bad feeling about her right from the start and when you got the chance to talk to her, bingo! She was just as obnoxious as you thought.

My friend, I am not a behavioral scientist, but there’s something that I am painfully aware of. The power of preconceived ideas, beliefs and biases that we all succumb to more often than not. I say painfully because some of these beliefs can be extremely detrimental to our careers, relationships and our overall health and wellbeing. Our life is a reflection of our beliefs. Our beliefs shape our reality because they influence our behavior and the behavior of others towards us.

What is a belief? It is an inner conviction, an acceptance that something exists or is true. It’s a feeling of certainty about something or what something means. Whether something is true or not, a belief makes it true for you. We have beliefs about ourselves, about others, about life, about the meaning of things, about what’s possible. We acquire beliefs during our developmental years, we also draw them as conclusions from our past experiences, we adopt them from the media or from others. Have you heard the saying, whatever you believe becomes your reality? That’s exactly it. Your beliefs become the lens through which you perceive others and the world around you and through which you interpret all that’s happening in your life.

So, what do you believe?

Let’s consider the beliefs you have about yourself. These are critical because they shape all your important decisions such as which career path you choose, whether you’re willing to voice your opinions in the workplace, ask for a promotion or raise. What you think and believe directly influences how you feel and how you behave. If you think you’re a failure, you’ll feel like a failure, and then you’ll act like a failure, which reinforces your belief that you must be a failure.

Image source: joshuanhook.com

Whatever your beliefs (about yourself or anything else for that matter), the confirmation bias kicks in. Confirmation bias is a cognitive bias in which one tends to search for, interpret, favor or remember information which confirms one’s preconceived beliefs, while undervaluing or ignoring information which contradicts those beliefs. In other words, you will tend to look for evidence that supports your beliefs and discount anything that runs contrary to your belief. Whatever your belief, whether drinking five coffee cups a day is a good idea because it improves mental performance, or that the death penalty reduces crime rate, or that your employer is actively trying to discriminate against you, you will always find the evidence that will support your belief! Seek and you shall find! Oh yes my friend. We love to be right and be proven right. We love when our ideas, assumptions and beliefs are validated! Or better still, if other people validate them. Check your library shelf, what kind of books and magazines do you find? To what extent do they support your beliefs and your view of life? Think about the people you most admire or people you love surrounding yourself with? To what extent do they share your beliefs? We have a clear tendency to favor people or information that confirms our assumptions or preconceptions (whether they’re true or not). And the moment we encounter something or someone that threatens our beliefs, we laugh at them, discount them, condemn them. We choose to see what we want to see. We’re constantly looking for reassurance of our values, because the contrary is uncomfortable. When our values and beliefs are questioned, so is our entire being, our way of life, our identity and that can be deeply disturbing. We’re shaken to the core because who would want to face the realization that maybe, perhaps they were wrong all along?

Gender stereotypes impact us directly…

We also ought to know that the source of many of our negative beliefs are hidden in stereotypes. I recently read an article in the Harvard Business School Magazine about how gender stereotypes determine people’s beliefs about themselves and others. It’s been shown that women lack confidence in their ability to compete in fields that men are stereotypically believed to perform more strongly in, such as science, math, and technology. And that’s even if they receive positive feedback on their performance and are shown their brilliant results! Women tend to downplay their achievement or discount them. Similarly, women are less likely to speak up on topics in fields where they believe their gender is weak. Going back to my client and the issue of women in business. Beside the fact that my client had a whole array of negative self-beliefs she was unaware of, she also had very strong beliefs about others, in particular about men and how they actively try to discriminate women in business. Whether she acquired them during her childhood or as a result of gender stereotyping is something we’ll leave aside for now.

Imagine you have that same strong belief about men as my client and you get yourself into the following hypothetical situation. How do you think the story will unfold? Here’s what I think:

Your male boss asks you to fetch him a coffee on the way to a meeting room. The chances are you will feel infuriated by his request. Depending on your emotional maturity and communication skills, you may decide to bring him the coffee but in your silent anger you almost spill it all over his shirt; you may utter a remark with a heavy dose of sarcasm or you may loudly object to his absurd request, making him see his wrongdoing. Even if you don’t say a word, your body will radiate your fury which is something your boss is likely to pick up on from your body language and your facial expression. He gets a feeling that something is going on but he has no idea what. He may be very surprised by your reaction because asking his colleagues to fetch him a coffee is something he does habitually in order to gain time to set up his presentation in the meeting room. Depending on his emotional maturity and communication skills, he responds to you or not, in any case, he is likely to think, what’s wrong with her today? Or, isn’t she a bit over-sensitive? Depending on his previous experiences with women he may even think, for god’s sake who can understand them!? So hard to have women around here! And so the story goes… You both will probably end up feeling frustrated but with a comforting sense of certainty that you were right all along… For you it’s clear that men are discriminating against women and for your boss it’s clear that women are overly sensitive and difficult to work with…

What reality do you want for yourself?

Beliefs have tremendous power. They impact how you feel and how you behave which in turn impacts how other people behave towards you. Beliefs have so much power, that they can heal or kill and I mean that literally. You can do your own research on people who cured themselves of a terminal illness thanks to the power of their beliefs, and on the contrary, who died just because they believed a diagnosis that was later proven wrong.

There are empowering beliefs and there are destructive beliefs. We all have them and we ought to be aware of them. Only then we are able to decide which ones to cultivate and which to eliminate. Beliefs are here to stay and will get reinforced over time. That is, unless we actively challenge them, unless we introspectively question our attachments to our beliefs, to a particular ideology, to our patterns of thinking. I believe that just like our computer software, our mind also needs an occasional ‘upgrade’ for the most optimal performance.

And so, next time you feel frustrated at work and think how hard it is to be a woman in the tough man’s world, think about your own beliefs and biases and how they contributed to your situation…

Remember, beliefs create your reality, you have the power to decide what reality you want for yourself. Make it an awesome one!

My best wishes!
Alena

By Alena Huberova
Leadership Trainer / Keynote Speaker
Helping Women to Become the Bosses
People Love
www.alenahuberova.com
alena@alenahuberova.com

ABOUT ALENA HUBEROVA

Fifteen years in the corporate arena with roles in marketing, sales and communication, living in 5 different countries across Europe and Asia. Alena assists business leaders in developing a powerful personal presence on and off stage and delivering presentations that capture hearts, change minds, and inspire action. More recently, with her signature program ‘SHELeads’, Alena has been helping female executives build self- confidence, find their voice and become leaders that people love to work with.

Alena’s achievements include speaking at the TEDx UNYP 2017 conference, winning the second place in the 2018 Czech National Championship of Public Speaking, and coaching X.GLU, a team from the Czech Technical University to win the world title at the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2017 in Seattle, USA (in collaboration with Presenation.com).

Alena is regularly asked to speak at industry events and conferences. She is a contributor to various magazines and newspapers including Czech & Slovak Leaders and Business Woman. You can read her articles and follow her blog at:

www.alenahuberova.com

Gunta Pastore

 

I Am Privileged to Serve in a Like-Minded Country

 

H.E. Gunta Pastore, Ambassador of Latvia to the Czech Republic

What comes to your mind when you hear Latvia?

Latvia deserves attention that goes beyond the “one of the three Baltic states” characteristic. According to the Lonely Planet guide, Latvia has much to offer, beyond its forests and architecturally rich cities and towns. The capital Riga, which is listed as a UNESCO heritage site, is famous for its art nouveau architecture, comparable to Vienna, St. Petersburg or Barcelona. The endless golden sandy beaches stretching along 500 kilometres coastline might be the second reason and a nice surprise for the first-time travellers. Economically, Latvia like Estonia has been quick with regards to high-tech development. Historically, next to the Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution, Latvia prides its history by the peaceful Singing Revolution which started already in 1987 and called for Baltic emancipation.
H.E. Gunta Pastore has served her country for 25 years; since November 2018 she has been the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Czech Republic. She holds three degrees and her Ph.D. thesis addressed the EU’s foreign policy and how small states can punch above their weight in EU.
We both exchanged experiences on what it meant to serve in diplomacy during the foundational times, when our countries were joining EU and NATO. However, soon our discussion turned to future challenges represented by EU unity or hybrid wars, the need for technology and innovation and last but not least women empowerment. Did you know that Latvia has above the average representation of women in the parliament, which is at 30.4 %? It also has the highest proportion of women in managerial positions (53%) and the highest proportion of women holding a doctoral degree in the world (60%).

What is the current status of Czech-Latvian relations?

I am happy to represent my country in the Czech Republic. We are friends and close allies. Both countries are members of EU and NATO and our views on many topics are almost identical. Our societies are vibrant; our people are hard- working and creative. This year we commemorate 30 years of the Baltic Way in Baltic States and 30 years of Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic. In 30 years, both Czechs and Latvians have achieved a lot. Our successful development is based not only on own efforts, but also on the stability of international rules-based system. Today Latvia and the Czech Republic work together in the EU to advance competitiveness, cohesion, internal market, digitalization, to respond to hybrid and cyber-threats. We strongly support EU neighbours, including the East neighbours. Membership to NATO is essential for our countries. This year the Czech Republic celebrates 20th anniversary of accession to NATO and Latvia its 15th anniversary. Czech soldiers are part of the NATO battle group in Latvia and we are thankful to Czech pilots safeguarding the Baltic airspace. All this is a great signal of solidarity which is strengthening our region. The task of the embassy is to bring our people, represented not only by politicians, but also businesses, experts or artists, together. For me it is a great experience to work together with the Czech Foreign Ministry. Czech diplomats are open, skilled, cooperative and efficient.

What is the current country brand of Latvia? How did you manage to transform it from the geographical or historical definition of the post-Soviet Baltic state?

We are pragmatic EU and NATO member, and we belong to the Nordic Baltic region. We value the rule of law and human rights. I am proud that the former Judge of European Court of Justice Egils Levits has been elected as the new President of Latvia. Latvia is a green country combining rich cultural heritage and innovative spirit. We call our approach “Greenovative”, inspired by nature, advanced by scientists and put in practice by entrepreneurs. Latvia is a data driven nation, among global leaders in IT speed & consumption, our annual ICT sector growth is 15%. I am proud to say that our country is the ninth most literate nation in world, more than 60% of population speak three languages. Last year we celebrated the centenary of the Latvian statehood. The “Latvia 100” celebration was a genuine nationwide movement. The Latvian Song and Dance Festival 2018 was attended by 40,000 people. The festival is on the UNESCO Masterpieces of Oral Heritage list.

What are the challenges for your country? Are there any challenges specific for post-communist countries? Regarding the discourse before the EU parliament elections, some “old” EU member states brought back the “old” vs. “new” division between the member states.

I see all the myths regarding any imaginary divisions within the EU being dangerous. There are many potential divisions, including north vs. south or divisions on migration or convergence issue. Latvia wants to be a constructive EU and NATO partner and I see the same approach in the Czech Republic. After 15 years we are mature members of the EU and both countries have held successful Presidencies of the EU Council. The Baltic states are also eurozone members and they cooperate closely with the Nordic countries. When I came to the Czech Republic, I realized that the Czechs do not view their past as negative trait since the past gives us the opportunity to appreciate and take care of what we have achieved. Our people tend to look forward instead of backwards, our people are not tired of living in democracy, they are curious and full of energy.

Let me turn to your personal career journey. You have three degrees, studying at Vienna Diplomatic Academy, being a guest researcher at the Swedish Defense University in Stockholm, confirm the popular saying “learning being the new fitness”.

However, international studies are my true and unending area of interest, so after the regime change, I started to study political science, international relations and security studies. Diplomats need to learn constantly as the nature of the work evolves. Today we need to learn about cybersecurity or technological innovations.

How do you manage work-life balance? Being an ambassador sometimes entails two full time work loads. Working during the day, attending events in the evening and reading Financial Times before you go to bed.

I understood and learned the need for balance. I make sure to do a lot of physical activities to recharge my batteries. I also spend enough time withmyfamily.

Latvia seems to be the country for women. It follows the trend of Nordic countries having high proportion of women both in parliament as well as in managerial positions.

Women and men had equal rights to vote and be elected from the first day of foundation of Latvia in 1918, similarly to Czechoslovakia. With regards to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we have mostly women diplomats. We still have some stereotypes to challenge or the gender pay gap to address but I can see the situation changing and evolving very fast. Moreover, the country has already had a female President and Prime Minister. I believe that the future belongs to women.

What are your final words for Czech and Slovak Leaders Magazine readers?

Come and experience Latvia yourself. You will see how much in common our countries have. As the Czech Republic is now rebranding “the country for the future”, we also follow the trend and concentrate on our green innovations and technologies. Enjoy our capital Riga and profit from the sea. I hope you will feel there like it’s your second home which is exactly how I feel in the Czech Republic. We are indeed like-minded countries.

By Linda Štucbartová

Marcel Kolaja

 

We need to bring the European politics back home

 

Marcel Kolaja, Member of the European Parliament for the Czech Pirate Party and the head of delegation of the European Pirates in the European Parliament

Marcel Kolaja is a Member of the European Parliament for the Czech Pirate Party and the head of delegation of the European Pirates in the European Parliament. He has been focusing on digital policies in Europe since 2003, when he contributed as an activist to stopping the software patent directive. Furthermore, he actively worked on founding an organization called Open Cities (Otevřená města), which helps municipalities to be transparent and open to citizens. Professionally, he is an information technology expert with focus on Open Source Software. Before his election, he worked as a Product Manager of a successful enterprise Linux distribution.

First of all, congratulations on your election results. You are one of the new faces in the European Parliament, when have you decided to focus on European politics and why?

Thank you! I started to focus on European politics back in 2003, i.e. when the Czech Republic wasn’t part of the European Union yet. At that time, the European Commission put forward a proposal of a directive introducing software patents in the Union. As it would be a major obstacle not only for Open Source Software but also for small and medium enterprises and innovation in general, I have decided to contribute as an activist to rejection of the directive. That goal has been achieved in 2005.

Before the elections, your party had estimated that you could have gained around 20 per cent of total votes. Do you perceive the final result, nearly 14 per cent of votes and 3 seats in the European Parliament, a success or do you feel there was a potential for a better outcome?

In percentage, we have almost tripled the result from the previous European elections 5 years ago as well as we achieved a percentage increase from the last national elections. In addition to that, we have quadrupled the number of Pirates in the European Parliament and doubled the number of countries that Pirates represent in the Parliament. I consider it not only a Czech success but even a European one.

You are heading to the Greens/European Free Alliance group of the European Parliament. What are the main reasons for joining this group and was one of them the fact that overall, the Greens gained a stronger mandate compared to the previous legislative term and therefore will have a stronger position in the Parliament?

It was a combination of reasons. We were able to negotiate great conditions with Greens/European Free Alliance, especially when it comes to the committees we want to work in. Being part of the group, we have PHOtO: ARCHIVE also determined that Greens/European Free Alliance became bigger than the nationalistic populists Identity & Democracy (formerly known as Europe of Nations and Freedom, ENF), which gave the group and the Pirates a much better position in the Parliament. After all, I have been nominated by Greens/ European Free Alliance for one of the five Quaestors of the European Parliament. In addition to all that, Renew Europe (formerly known as Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, ALDE) did not make a single step to withdraw their support for the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and his party ANO. We refused to join the same group as the party whose chairperson is criminally prosecuted and in a major conflict of interest.

Which committees would you like to join and what are the priorities that you would like to focus on?

I’d like to work in the Internal Market and Consumer Protection committee (IMCO) as a full member and in the Culture and Education committee (CULT) as a substitute member. I want to focus especially on removing barriers on the Digital Single Market, consumer protection and fundamental rights protection in the digital era.

Digitalization is one of the key topics of your party. How do you evaluate the work of the EU regarding the creation of the Digital Single Market so far and what will be the main topics in this area that will arise in the next 5 years?

There is a ton of work that needs to be done. Besides a comprehensive copyright reform, the legislation on removing terrorist content on-line wasn’t finalized in the previous term. In addition to that, re-evaluation of some legislation is expected in the new term, including geo-blocking, platform regulation, and the directive on the accessibility of websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies.

In the list of your priorities for the EU elections, you also mention that the copyright legislation needs to be reformed. However, the high profile modernisation of the EU copyright rules was concluded at the beginning of this year and it was the first modification of the rules since 2001. Why do you think there will be a strong political momentum to change the rules again in such a short time?

The Commission, the Parliament, and the Council have failed to reform copyright in a meaningful way in the last term. The Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market has not come to the necessary harmonization and brought even more issues with articles 15 and 17 (originally 11 and 13) by introducing the link tax and Internet censorship machines. A comprehensive copyright reform is still due and is for example a prerequisite for a complete removal of geo- blocking in media services and a functional Digital Single Market. A fragmented digital market is harmful for consumers and impeding innovation in Europe. People taking part in the public demonstrations across Europe, academia, European digital start-ups, and SMEs recognized the pitfalls of the new legislation. Now it’s up for the EU leaders whether they react accordingly.

European politics and the European legislative procedures are not easy topics to communicate to the general public, especially in the Czech Republic. What will you do to change the scepticism towards European politics among Czech citizens and how will you communicate the work you’ll be doing in Brussels towards your voters back home?

We are in the process of building our communication strategy right now. We will surely link the national and European politics together, so that it becomes more understandable and logical to the general public. We definitely need to bring the European politics back home, so that people understand how it relates to their lives, which we will do both through on-line media and our physical presence in Czechia as much as possible.

Thank you for the interview!

By Tomáš Hartman

Round Table of Comenius

Discussion session with Lubomír Metnar, Minister of Defence
TOP HOTEL Prague – June 18, 2019

June 18th, Comenius organised a discussion with Czech Defence Minister, Lubomír Metnar. This meeting with the minister was a fascinating one with good attendance of those debating, and the minister well-prepared and knowledgeable about his department, with questions posed covering diverse topics. There was great interest in participating in the Round Table from all those invited.

The principal topics of the evening were equipping the Czech Army with new types of weapons including the project of combat operations robotisation. Amongst other matters, discussion focused on Czech industry’s involvement in the delivery of Czech Army supplies. There was also discussion of exporting Czech military equipment abroad and support for this from the Ministry of Defence. The head of Military Forests answered questions on the battle against bark beetle infestations.

Metabolism: The Superhero That Needs Your Help

Superheroes wouldn’t be much without their sidekicks. When the going gets tough and they can’t defeat evil all by themselves, they count on their trusty sidekicks to help them save the day. In this story, the superhero is your metabolism and the sidekick is you. Without your help, it can’t take care of your body or keep you healthy and fit. No matter how busy you are, you simply need to make time for your second and most important job: taking care of yourself.

1. Rest up for the bad guys

What crime-fighting team wins at the end of the day if they’ve only got forty winks of sleep last night? Resting up so you can defeat the bad guys is absolutely necessary. Though you wouldn’t think that your metabolism is what’s affected by a lack of sleep, it actually suffers greatly. This is because sleep deprivation leads to an increase in the production of cortisol. For those who don’t know, this hormone is responsible for creating stress.

You don’t need to be a doctor to know how bad stress can affect your gut. From constipation to causing a nervous tummy, bloating, loss or increase of appetite, stress can damage your gut in many ways. As well as all that, it can also cause inflammation which just further complicates your tummy health. Eight hours are the optimal amount of sleep for many people but don’t be afraid to get more if your body needs it. If you don’t manage to get enough sleep over the night, you should definitely make time for a nap the following day.

2. Watch your diet

Heroes need to have strict diets if they’re going to defeat evil. It’s the food you put inside you that determines how healthy your gut is and how well your metabolism is doing. That being said, you need to avoid inflammatory foods. Though not all people are or need to be vegetarian or vegan, it’s still important to limit the dairy and meat you put into your body. These products might be delicious, but they make it really hard for your tummy to digest.

Saturated fats, sugar, and starch are all linked to an inflammatory response of your bowels. This can lead to improper nutrient absorption, and in some cases, it’s even the cause of more serious illnesses. Among them are Crohn’s disease and inflamed bowel syndrome. Ideally, your diet should include between 20 and 25 percent of meat, while the rest should all be plant-based products. Don’t forget to take in high-fibre foods, too. They’re excellent for aiding digestion and will help your metabolism a lot.

3. Use the secret weapon

No superhero team is going to win the big battle without having a secret weapon. In this case, we’re talking about natural gut health supplements. As a busy individual, you can and should do your best to eat healthily, but sometimes that simply won’t be possible. To help your metabolism and stay on the right track, you can take the supplements and keep things running smoothly.

With natural supplements, you won’t have to worry about anything out of the ordinary happening. You’ll feel less full, be more energetic, and most importantly, your metabolism will be working the way it’s supposed to. Supported digestion is something each and every one of us should take into consideration due to the lifestyle we all share. Aside from junk food hindering your health, stress and worry can also make it harder for you to digest or give you strong stomach aches.

4. Be physically ready

Have you ever seen a superhero that wasn’t fit? It’s your job to get in shape so that your metabolism can reap the benefits. Exercise is great for many things, and improved digestion is one of them. Aside from prompting the production of happy hormones, regular exercise also gets your blood pumping, thus bettering your blood flow and giving your body what it needs. Your tummy functions better and has no problem digesting food, while also helping with cramps and bloating.

Your wellness journey may not be easy in the beginning, but it will be worth it. The most important thing you need is determination and motivation. You can start slow with just a few easy sessions per week and then build up your routine. Remember that sticking to it is much more important than giving your all at the very start and tiring yourself out. After all, slow and steady wins the race. Try starting with Yoga or Pilates, as these activities can relax you better than anything else. They also help you stretch and are very pleasant for your tummy.

5. Avoid kryptonite

You can’t expect to achieve success when your biggest weakness holds you back. Though that’s kryptonite for Superman, it just might be antibiotics for you. The thing with antibiotics is that they help us, but they’re also very strong and can destroy our stomach if we use them too much. Today, we tend to just pop an antibiotic whenever we feel bad but this shouldn’t be your first solution. Antibiotics can complicate your digestive system a lot, which is why you should avoid them when you can.

Instead of turning to them, you can look for plant-based medicine and maybe even some natural remedies. When you do need to take antibiotics, make sure you take probiotics with them. This will help your bowels and tummy heal faster and aid digestion. As well as trying to avoid antibiotics all-together, you shouldn’t start taking another just after you’ve finished one.

Conclusion

Though the battle against tummy aches and bad health may seem long and futile, with the right tips, you can gain the upper hand. Your metabolism is a very important part of your body’s clockwork, and without taking care of it, the whole system can easily fall apart. To live a happy and healthy life, you’ll need to devote a lot of attention to helping the hero your body needs and deserves.

The Top 100 Hotels in the World

Travel + Leisure readers explore far and wide, and the hotels that impress them reflect not only their high standards but also their ever-expanding sense of curiosity and adventure. This year’s list of the top 100 hotels in the world reflects 33 countries and all continents except Antarctica. The honorees include sweeping Western ranches in the United States, intimate African safari lodges, and palatial estates in Italy. Still, a handful of qualities unite them all: superlative service, outstanding surroundings, and luxurious amenities.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.

Once again, Asia reigns as the region with the most hotels honored by T+L readers — a total of 22 properties in a broad range of settings. The stunning Belmond La Résidence Phou Vao (No. 91) is set amid the cloud forests of Laos; the “exceptional” Leela Palace New Delhi (No. 31) puts guests in the center of the bustling capital city; and the brightly colored No. 6 JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa sits steps from Khem Beach.

Coming in second is Africa, with 17 properties earning accolades. Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge (No. 86) got praised by one reader for “unique décor that provides a sense of place.” Eight South Africa hotels made the list, with Singita Sabi Sand coming in highest at No. 3. “Amazing lodge, impeccable service, fantastic food, and incredible game viewing experience,” said one reader.

Rounding out the list are 39 more top-notch hotels and resorts. Some are in well-traveled locations, such as the Lowell (No. 98) in New York City, Meadowood Napa Valley (No. 75) in California’s wine country, La Réserve Paris Hôtel & Spa (No. 55), and Hotel Matilda (No. 18) in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Others are destinations in themselves, like New Zealand’s the Farm at Cape Kidnappers (No. 4) and No. 15 Tierra Patagonia in Chile.

Read on to find out which property snagged this year’s coveted No. 1 spot.

100. Borgo Egnazia, Savelletri di Fasano, Italy

Score: 95.29 More information: borgoegnazia.com

98. (tie) The Spectator Hotel, Charleston, South Carolina

Score: 95.29 More information: thespectatorhotel.com

98. (tie) The Lowell, New York City

Score: 95.29 More information: lowellhotel.com

See the rest here.

Taste of Greece

On June 20th, the Embassy of Greece, in cooperation with the Greek delicatessen shops “Greek Corner”, organized, at the Ambassador’s Residence, a tasting of Greek wines and extra virgin olive oil, from the winery “Semeli” and the company “Molon Lave” respectively. The companies’ representatives presented their products to the Czech and international guests, including diplomats, officials, sommeliers, representatives of major restaurants, hotels, trading companies, as well as journalists.

Can you decode BRITISH POLITENESS in business?

As an intercultural consultant I have been working with companies all over the world for more than 15 years. I have been supporting leaders of international companies, multicultural teams, sales representatives and HR managers to find the right strategies how to cooperate together. The focus of my workshops and consulting sessions is to support the clients to create strategies they can use immediately after our training. We discover cross-cultural values and differences related to business communication, communicating changes, motivating and providing feedbacks. We deal with all phases of cross-cultural business negotiations. Our common goal is to make their cross-cultural journey successful.

Recently I have been asked by an automotive company to support their R&D team cooperating with a customer in UK. They have been working together for nearly 2 years and collected several questions.

Our discussion started with the question about small talk. They were curious how much time they should devote to small talk and what topics to focus on. They knew that weather is a key topic, however, as Slovaks usually struggle with it, they were looking for some other tips. They have already learnt that “How are you?” doesn’t mean a real invitation for a talk on your day and feelings.

My colleague Rita, an intercultural trainer in UK, provided the following recommendations: Be prepared to do a lot of small talk with your British team members. This is a must when starting a conversation. Jumping straight into important topics (no matter how pressing) will be considered as abrupt or even rude. Take your time with them, drink your tea and enjoy listening to the moaning about the weather – it is however polite not to agree too much, instead say that you have come from very similar (not worse) weather in your own country. If you are standing up, leave your British colleague about one meter of personal space. Learn your colleagues’ first names and use them frequently.

What do British really mean? Why do they use words such as “brilliant” or “interesting” whey they do not match the context. The training participants were aware that Brits employ an indirect communication style. However, they were not sure how to decode it. In their language “I need the information to complete the project. “ is fully accepted and understood as an urgent matter. “Could you provide the information…” doesn’t give them any sense when there is an emergency.

And what does my colleague, Rita, say?

Unless you are very used to communicating with British people, you will inevitably be surprised by how indirectly they express themselves. Your British colleagues may use understatements such as “a bit of a problem” where you see a major disaster, or “not bad” of something that is clearly excellent. They may claim that they “will get back to you” when they do not agree with you at all and do not want to discuss the topic further. They can preface the most important thing they have to say with a vague “Oh, by the way …” and only give you a hint to make a crucial, deal-breaking change in a contract with the words “that would be helpful”.

Agree a meeting well in advance, detail who will take part, when and where it will take place and what will be discussed. Arrive on time and inform your British colleagues if you are going to be late. Send your most knowledgeable people to the meeting – the British will ask questions. Every business meeting must start with small talk about weather, the traffic or some other neutral topic – avoid politics, religion, money or private matters. Your presentations should be clear and factual – avoid anything that could come across as boasting or exaggeration. Even if you are selling, your self- promotion should be shrouded in modesty.

Avoid aggressive negotiation tactics and confrontations at all cost. If your British counterpart starts a sentence by saying “with all due respect” you have crossed the line and will have to mend bridges to continue the discussion. On the other hand, if you hear the words “Are we still on your Christmas card list?” your British colleagues think they may have pressed you too hard. Fair play and win-win scenarios are important for the British. After the meeting, capture key points and action items, and email them to your British colleagues and get their approval for them. Note that British do not like to talk about money, so financial details are often finalised via email. Once you have shook hands on something, the contract has been made and you are expected to stick to it. A deal is a deal.

In general, Slovaks do not have any problem with been organized and scheduled for a meeting. They welcome an agenda and sharing information. What makes them a bit lost is the understatement they do not fully understand. They do not pay attention to the issues mentioned “by the way” at the end of a meeting. Indeed, they are shocked to discover later that “by the way” was the key point. The phrases “with all due respect” or “let’s consider some other solutions” are perceived directly. As one of the training participants said: “We need the explanation of the codes the British use in their messages.”

Cross-cultural communication hides a lot of challenges for leaders, managers and team members to adapt a communication style and be aware of cross-cultural differences. Successful global leaders and multicultural teams understand the importance of a cross-cultural training and consulting. What about you?

Eva Gaboriková

Eva Gaborikova has been an intercultural consultant and certified ICF leadership coach supporting leaders and multicultural teams all over the world. She has been supporting international companies in Central Europe and their HR managers to build talent development trainings. You can reach her at: egaborikova@gmail.com or www.evagaborikova.eu.

Rita Rosenback is an Intercultural youth trainer and consultant, speaker and author, who lives in the UK. After moving from her native Finland 20 years ago Rita worked as a manager in IT and retail, until setting up her own business in 2012, within which she also works as a Family Language Coach. You can learn more about her activities on www.multilingualparenting.com.

I, the Brand – Career Capital Loss or Transformation?

Have you ever wondered what you would do if, from a day to another you couldn’t practice what you do today? How would you pay your bills? How would you handle your family, economic and social commitments? How about your sense of self-worth – how would it be impacted by a potential loss of career capital?

One of my favorite questions that I ask wherever I go to speak about personal branding is: What would be left of you if suddenly someone took away your business card? Many people are shaken by this simple thought. That’s because we rarely take the time to reflect at who we really are behind the roles that we are currently playing at work. People start addressing such issues only in times of personal emergency: company restructuring, lost opportunity for promotion or salary upgrade, relocation and need to find a job on a new market, personal sickness or need to care for a beloved person etc.

This is however too late: not tackling one’s career capital management proactively means lost time, money, opportunities and, sometimes, relations – all in all, a lot of unnecessary anxiety for you and those close to you. On the other hand taking proactive charge of your career capital can not only prevent loss, but also empower you to lead a life that is more in line with your own goals, dreams and desires. In fact managing our career capital is prone to become the nr. 1 professional skill of the future. We just need to understand what we’re talking about, then take the first steps in this direction.

What is career capital?

Our career capital is made of everything that happened to us since we started being active outside our families, during school and on the labor market. It includes:

1. Our education. A degree from a fancy college provides you with powerful referrals, opportunities and a solid network of alumni. However, don’t worry too much if you don’t have an Ivy League degree – just reflect on how your educational background enriches you and be able to communicate that message with the world.

2. Our network. We start building our contacts early during our school years. In fact some of the most successful businesses have been created by high school or college buddies who leveraged mutual compatibility and the trust built along the years to bring new ideas to life. As we advance in our careers so should our network. Be proactive about expanding your network and keeping it vibrant and alive. It will always serve you well on your journey.

3. Our experience. Every project, every new assignment, every new client is stretching our understanding of our profession and the world. If you look at your work as if it were an endless reservoir of learning opportunities, you start to see the gold nuggets of career capital even in the most challenging of your professional experiences.

4. Our competencies and skills. At the end of the day when we leave a company this is what we sell to our next employer or business customers: what we know and how exactly we create value for them. Make sure you have an up-to-date list of your current skills. Also don’t hesitate to look into the future to see what skills your might need a few years down to road to be able to steer your career in the right direction.

5. Our reputation and personal brand. The more you invest in your personal communications to build a premium reputation, the easier it gets for you to navigate whatever challenges life might throw at you on your career journey.

There are other aspects of career capital that would be worth mentioning such as our family background (being born in a well-off family does have its perks) or our language (how amazing it is today to be born an English native speaker?!). Some of these career capital aspects are more valuable than others. However, in order to manage our career capital skillfully we need to focus on those aspects that are more under our control and thus lead to more personal empowerment.

From loss to transformation

Yes, you may ask – all this is clear, but why should we care about our career capital in the first place? The Czech economy is doing great, salaries are rising, career opportunities are by no means in short supply on the market these days. As lovely as that may be, managing the perception of our name and career capital is important because it is precisely during good times that we should use the opportunity to invest in ourselves and thus bulletproof our careers for potential downturns. If life taught me anything, it is precisely this mindset. Looking back at my own journey I remember distinctively two moments when I felt that I lost my entire career capital. One was when I decided to leave Romania immediately after finishing my studies in journalism and move to Prague. Journalism, I thought, was something that you can do masterfully only in your mother tongue. So at the beginning I struggled. I got a part-time job in a Czech consultancy that required French and English-speaking skills. At the same time I was teaching private lessons of French and English to make ends meet. I was in this company for almost a year when it started to crack and it became clear that I would need to look for another job. It took me huge courage and an immense leap of faith to put together a CV and a few articles and send them around to the three major English language publications: the Prague Monitor, the Prague Post and the Czech Business Weekly. Fortunately it was CBW that decided to give me a chance. The best thing that ever happened to me uplifted my career from a freelance position to becoming the deputy editor-in-chief right before the magazine was suddenly closed in April 2010. This was my second major moment of career capital loss, as it became crystal clear that I would need to reinvent myself in order to avoid such systemic shocks in the future. Even though I made the right decision – deciding to start training leaders and future leaders in media and crisis communications – it took me nine long years to become a fully-fledged people developer with the skills, experience and career capital that now allow me to stand in my full power and embrace my new professional identity.

Your career journey doesn’t need to be so dramatic. However, one thing is certain: you will face moments at the crossroad when you won’t know which path to take. Reinventing ourselves professionally twice or even several times during a lifetime is becoming the new normal in career management. Handle your career capital – your education, network, skill development and personal branding well and you can turn any surprise life throws at you into an opportunity. Don’t handle it and each surprise can turn into potential losses. The choice is ours and there is no better time to start reflecting on our career capital management than today.

By Cristina Muntean

Cristina Muntean is a consultant, trainer, mentor and coach who specializes in personal branding, strategic communications, emotional and systemic intelligence for leadership. A former journalist with more than 12 years of experience in the Czech, Romanian and international media, she founded Media Education CEE, a PR advisory and training agency in Prague in May 2010. Her clients are executive level managers and entrepreneurs with Top100 companies in the Czech Republic and Central and Eastern Europe. Cristina is also an internationally certified trainer and coach with the Enneagram, a complex system of personal development, and a facilitator of systemic dynamics in organizations. She provides services in English, Czech, French and Romanian, her mother tongue. Cristina can be reached at +420 776 574 925 or at cm@cristinamuntean.com.

Jill Meron

 

I am proud of my Czechoslovakian Roots

 

Jill Meron, wife of H.E. Daniel Meron, the Ambassador of the State of Israel to the Czech Republic

Jill Meron is not only the wife of H.E. Daniel Meron, the Ambassador of the State of Israel to the Czech Republic, she is a mother of four, a shy but significant volunteer for many community activities and more recently, a dedicated family historian. When coming to Prague she knew that, this time, her husband’s posting would be a different one, as they arrived in a foreign country for the first time without their four adult children who remained in Israel studying and working. Little did she know that discovering her family relatives would lead her to a new mission: becoming a family genealogist. She ensured that memorial stones called “Stolpersteine”, which commemorate victims of Nazi persecution, were laid in Olomouc for three Lindenbaum family members, with their names, dates of birth and dates of death. Jill managed to accomplish a procedure that usually takes years in several months. Our readers might find it interesting to know that more than 70 000 Stolpersteine have been laid so far which makes the Stolpersteine project the world’s largest decentralized memorial. I met Jill in my favorite café at Slovanský dům garden. During our interview, we discussed not only the past and the Holocaust legacy but also the promising current stage and future of Czech-Israeli relations, shared views on motherhood and dual-career marriages and, last but not least, Jill’s various involvement in Prague charity and community life.

Let me begin with a famous Elie Wiesel quote that you used at the end of the Stolpersteine ceremony. “One person of integrity can make a difference”. In the general public view, the Stolpersteine is linked to the past, while you linked it to the present. You said you did it not for those who died but for your children and other children.

I wanted my children to realize how my family and the Lindenbaum family and their fates were closely related. It could have been my children’s grandparents just as easily. My grandparents were fortunate enough to escape from Vienna to London just after the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, the Lindenbaums were less fortunate and had nowhere to go.

You knew that you had Czechoslovakian origins that you are proud of. Has the discovery of the fate of other family members changed your perception of the Czech Republic?

I spent two years on the process of researching that led to the ceremony. It was an incredible learning process. I knew that I had family roots back in Uherské Hradiště. My grandmother used to tell me stories about going from Vienna to Uherské Hradiště and spending time with her Berger family cousins. However, the Lindenbaum family was from my grandfather’s side and my grandfather did not talk about his family. The whole process brought me into contact with historians, archivists and many other people I would not have met otherwise. Everybody was just so willing to help get as much information as possible. It was surprising to see how many people here care about the Jewish history. And so many people in the Czech Republic have Jewish heritage or roots. What made me sad is how little the Jewish life has been reflected in the modern history of the country. Yes, there was the Holocaust but I wasn’t aware of the fact that surviving Jews were not allowed to live as Jews after 1945. I didn’t understand the impact of communist persecution on Jewish life, the impact of the communist infiltration into the Community and other factors.

There was an interesting research presented on the occasion of the Czech- Israeli Innovation Day, addressing the “Neurobiological and psychological markers of reaction to extreme stress and its impact on offspring: a three-generation of Holocaust survivors and their offspring” carried by the Masaryk University. The issue of second and third generation of Holocaust survivors has been one that resonated within the Israeli society for the last couple of decades. The research proves that despite higher stress, survivors and their families also possess higher resilience and sense of fulfillment. How do you view the impact of your family experience on your life, as you mentioned that the Holocaust was part of what motivated you to leave England and move to Israel in 1985, as a 21-year-old graduate?

My childhood was heavily influenced by the Holocaust. In England, it is very common that as a sign of respect, you call you parents’ close friends auntie or uncle. My grandmother would never allow my mother to do that because all her real aunts and uncles were killed by the Nazis. We would never buy a German car or any other German products. This being said, we never considered ourselves as Holocaust survivors. Even if the case could be possibly made, as my grandparents left Vienna as refugees the day after the Nazis came. Personally, it never crossed my mind to associate any of my personal characteristics to my grandparents being refugees.

Let us move from the family past to the issue of motherhood. You have a profession of your own, at the same time you have been following your husband and supporting him in his career and raised four children on three continents. How do you see the reconciliation of the roles of a wife, a mother and a working professional?

I grew up in a different era. When I met my husband, he was already a cadet (attending Diplomatic Academy training – note by LŠ) in the Foreign Office and it was clear what his career path would be. I do not have a problem giving up on a career in order to give Daniel the opportunity to pursue his career. On the other hand, Daniel in pursuing his career, has always made choices that will allow me both professional satisfaction and prioritize our family values. As Daniel and I are both immigrants to Israel, we agreed that both a strong Jewish education and developing strong roots in Israel is important to our children. We made the decision to spend significant time in Israel between diplomatic postings at the expense of Daniel’s career. We also made the decision that Daniel would apply to a position to the US where I would be able to work and our children could attend a Jewish school. As in any relationship, partnership is important. There has to be give-and-take and the understanding that what is right for one person is not necessarily right for the other. Having said all that, I am not sure that if I had been born thirty years later, I would have thought in the same way. And I am sure that our daughters today have different expectations than my generation had.

Prague is the first posting where you do not work professionally, however, you have been incredibly busy and engaged in many community and non-profit organizations. On top of keeping up with the very busy schedule of Daniel, how do you manage to fit so many activities of yours?

I must say that not being engaged professionally was purely my decision. I said to Daniel that it could be reversed at any time, since I know I am highly employable. But it is true that over the course of two years, I have become incredibly busy that now I truly do not have time to work professionally. The advantage that I see is that I have the privilege of choosing. I can look at my calendar and in case of conflicts, I can make a choice. Not many people have that luxury. Literally, right before I moved to the Czech Republic, I was approached by the Diplomatic Spouses’ Association to become a Treasurer. I did not know that association but I said yes. I have never been a treasurer but I knew how to work with numbers, so I agreed. For the last two years, I was treasurer of the Diplomatic Spouses’ Association and each year we donated more than 2 mil. Czech crowns to various Czech charity organizations which I consider an amazing achievement. I have also been involved in the International Women’s Association of Prague, now I am the Treasurer there. I have been devoting so much time to family research which is a full-time job. The last two years, I have been researching my family, now I have begun to research Daniel’s side. It is much harder, because my father’s family name Brody, originally Brodawka, made it easier and my mother’s family name was Kriss, which is really very rare. My husband’s family name is Miller, so it will be rather challenging. As his family comes from a different part of the world, I am looking to start my research from scratch. I have been also active within the Jewish community. I love travelling with Daniel around the country and to enjoy the unique opportunity to see places that tourists would never get to.

After two years being here, what are your impressions about the Czech Republic and the Czech people?

I think it is a beautiful country and I am proud to be partly Moravian. We went to Písečné, a very small town, and I found the graves from 1830’s that belonged to my great grandmother’s grandparents. Unfortunately, the cemetery in Uherské Hradiště was destroyed, however I managed to meet my cousins living in Uherské Hradiště and Jeseníky. I miss my children and yet no matter, how much I enjoy this beautiful country, I really feel that my home is in Israel.

The Czech Republic, next to the United States, is the best ally of Israel. What is the potential of further strengthening of mutual co-operation that goes on not only on the governmental level but also to the level of individuals?

On the Czech side, I see language as a problem. Too many Czechs do not speak English. However, I am pleased to have met many Czechs that are exploring the opportunities of doing business with Israel. On the Israeli side, Israelis need more educating about the opportunities that the Czech Republic offers. The best way to do that is on one-on-one level,like you do with your women entrepreneurial missions. If there is a personal touch, everything is easier. Israelis should know how much Israel is loved and respected in the Czech Republic. Israelis know about the history, but they should be told more with regards to the current relations and opportunities. As for Czechs and the potential for cooperation, I think they need to understand that Israelis are like sabra, also known as prickly pears – prickly on the outside but soft on the inside.

By Linda Štucbartová

Tomáš Petříček

The legacy of Václav Havel and the Velvet Revolution remains relevant

Tomáš Petříček, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic

Tomáš Petříček is part of a new generation of politicians who place particular focus on issues of the environment and human rights. He has been Minister of Foreign Affairs since October 2018. He previously held the role of Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and held the same role at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. He has been Deputy Chairman of the Czech Social Democratic Party since March 2019. His work experience encompasses both the Europe-wide level within the European Parliament, and the municipal level within the Prague City Administration. He studied at Charles University’s Faculty of Social Sciences, where his doctoral thesis was entitled “The Prospects of Energy Security for the European Union”. He completed degrees abroad at Brussels’ Centre Européen de Recherches Internationales et Stratégiques and at the University of Warwick.

What are Czech diplomacy’s challenges 30 years after the Velvet Revolution? In 1989 our society was far more united. We were sure that we wanted democracy and that we wanted to rejoin the West. Today, it is not just Czech society that is far more polarised and fragmented.

I am convinced that even 30 years after the Velvet Revolution, its legacy remains relevant, and the values we stood for remain a guide to our foreign policy. Czech diplomacy continues to advocate for these values, which include defending democracy, defending the rule of law and defending human rights. We do so both in bilateral relations and through membership of international organisations. At the same time, we can all see how the world around us is changing and becoming more complex. The 1990s were a lot simpler in many regards. Today, information is often available to us through the internet much more quickly than through the official channels, from embassies to Prague. It is much more difficult to get a handle on the large amount of information we receive. On the other hand, one of the jobs of the diplomatic service is to provide detailed information on events around the world, including possible risks. We are facing new challenges, hybrid threats and cyberattacks alongside challenges relating to global warming, and Czech diplomacy is going to have to pay greater attention to these challenges. Along with traditional diplomacy, an ever greater role is being played by tools such as development and humanitarian aid. Because society is divided, it is important that Czech diplomacy explain to the Czech public what its objectives are, what specific steps we are making, and generally strengthen the area known as public diplomacy. Today, foreign policies cannot be pursued without public support.

Recently, a new slogan was launched, presenting the Czech Republic as “The Country for the Future”.

I firmly believe that we are the country for the future. It is my conviction that the Czech Republic has a lot to offer in the field of innovation. We can be proud that we have so many talented scientists and cutting-edge research institutes. We are world leaders in emerging sectors – e.g. in nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and energy. The EU Beamlines Centre in Dolní Břežany is unique in the world. So our strategy of presenting the Czech Republic as an innovation leader is the right one. We need the clear vision that the strategy provides. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want us to see the Czech Republic merely through the lens of innovation, thus neglecting the importance of the artists, doctors and athletes who help us to enhance our reputation abroad. Recently, I awarded the Gratias Agit Award, given for the promotion of the good name of the Czech Republic abroad, to renowned plastic surgeon Bohdan Pomahač and others. Since I started here, I have endeavoured to engage important figures in Czech public life in helping to present the Czech Republic abroad in an informal way, thus demonstrating that the Czech Republic has a lot to offer. We reached out to rock climber Adam Ondra and YouTuber Karel Kovář, known as Kovy, who took part in the UN’s ECOSOC Youth Forum. Last but not least, we should not forget the wonderful Czech countryside. Quite rightly, tourist interest in the Czech Republic continues to grow each year.

My next question also relates to building the Czech Republic brand. In 2006, I was on a commission receiving new students at the Diplomatic Academy. We were very careful at that time that candidates spoke of the Czech Republic as a medium-sized country. Discourse has now shifted, and we hear from many politicians that we are a small country. So what size are we?

It is my conviction that we are a medium-sized country. We mustn’t underestimate ourselves. We are the same size as Portugal and Belgium, and we’re bigger than Norway and Sweden, countries considered diplomatic powers. Our stature is perceived in a wide range of fields, such as human rights, where Václav Havel’s legacy remains alive and we can even set the tone in the global debate. Since the fall of communism, we still haven’t overcome our tendency to put ourselves down. We have it within ourselves to make a mark on the world; we just need to want to do so and to do something about it. In foreign policy, my goal is for us to promote ourselves as a self-confident country, clear about what it wants and knowing how to get it. At the same time, we should remain realistic. Excessive expectations often lead to frustration. We are not China, but we can deal with China with self-confidence.

Your bold entry into politics has enhanced the difference in the new generation of politicians, who emphasise new fields, such as environmental and human rights. How are you doing in pursuing these fields?

We have things to build on. In human rights, on the legacy of Václav Havel, and in protecting the environment and climate change, on the legacy of our first Environment Minister, Josef Vavroušek, who was tragically killed in an avalanche in the Tatra Mountains. These fields span the generations, and climate protection also spans the political spectrum. Finding allies isn’t entirely difficult, but nor is it entirely easy. I’m glad we have a vibrant civic society that offers a helping hand to politicians.

What are the current trends in diplomacy? You’ve mentioned humanitarian diploma- cy, we still talk about strengthening trade diplomacy, and the Czech Republic also has three science diplomats in the United States of America, Israel and Taiwan.

I’ve already spoken about the importance of public diplomacy. Regarding new trends, a parallel with medicine comes to mind, in which we always know that we need to focus on preventing new problems. Within diplomacy, we focus on the issue of mediation. Even human rights, as previously mentioned, should be perceived as a part of prevention, in that non-observance of human rights can result in problems with far-reaching consequences. By taking a comprehensive approach, we aim to intercept problems at an early stage when they are easier to manage, and this is why we need to focus on the causes of problems, not just their manifestations. The migrant crisis has shown that the situation in regards to Africa has been long underrated. If we do not secure economic and social stability in the Sahel region, then we are going to feel the effects in the form of increasing migration flows to Europe. That’s why I am advocating that we take a more active approach in this region. A more comprehensive approach also includes more intensive co-operation with other departments. The Ministry of the Interior is involved in our projects, supporting our civilian mission within the EU, as is the Ministry of Defence through the presence of our soldiers in Mali, where we want to continue by strengthening our diplomatic presence. The tools of humanitarian and development co- operation aim to strengthen local involvement in solving problems. We advocated strongly in this field through the presidency of ECOSOC (the United Nations Economic and Social Council), and it is also one of the so-called Sustainable Development Goals. In terms of European policy, we need to realise that this is no longer purely a matter of diplomacy. The links between different countries within the European Union, and the linking of different fields within European institutions, has led to a situation where diplomats co-operate directly with people in other departments, with European policy becoming a lot more similar to domestic policy than to international policy. For a long time now, European policy has not been a matter of foreign policy, but rather a part of domestic policy, involving the whole of public administration, including regional authorities, as well as wider civil society through consultations, and finally business. Today there is no major sector that does not have a home and representation in Brussels and that does not deal directly with European institutions. Thus, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs remains responsible for foreign relations and co-operation within development policy.

You are father to two small children, and your wife is very active in supporting women. How do you manage to reconcile your work and family life? Is workaholism part of politics?

Reconciling work and family life requires a certain amount of discipline, and I must admit that I don’t always manage it. Politics, especially foreign policy, requires being on the alert 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Global problems don’t usually take weekends off; world events don’t ask whether you’re planning a trip to the zoo. I’ve got used to it, and I went into politics knowing this was the case. This is in contrast to my wife, who would like to go to the Krkonoše Mountains, including places where there is no mobile phone signal. I always try to reserve a part of the weekend to be with my family. Like most Czechs, I enjoy going to our cottage, where I cut the grass, paint the fence and relax. Either I clear my mind of thoughts, or in contrast I think about things that I don’t have time for in my hectic daily life.

What is your final message for Czech and Slovak Leaders readers? I suppose this will relate to the summer and travelling …

I’ll begin by wishing readers a wonderful summer and relaxing holiday. Ideally without having to seek out our consular employees. Read our Travel Rules, which also involve registration in the DROZD travellers’ database, a project involving voluntary registration of Czech citizens travelling abroad, allowing for the effective organisation of help for Czech citizens in the event of natural disasters or social unrest. In the event of an unexpected situation, we are available to Czech citizens. In summer, we boost the presence of consular employees in tourist destinations such as Spain, Croatia and Bulgaria. Unfortunately, holidays can also reveal a dark side. I would call on citizens to act responsibly and not overestimate their abilities. Czechs have a reputation in the world for being frivolous adventurers. We underestimate risks and overestimate our abilities. Even on holiday, we need to follow basic rules and act on common sense. Czechs have a bit of a reputation of being too easygoing adventurers. Do not go walking in the Tatra Mountains in flip-flops, and when at sea it is a good idea to take shelter from the midday sun… So once again, I wish you a great holiday!

By Linda Štucbartová

Tento rozhovor je k dispozici v českém jazyce! Klikněte zde.

When you can’t stand them…

Is there someone you can’t stand being around? Someone you actively try to avoid because they trigger all kinds of negative feelings and emotions in you? This can be a major hurdle, especially if it’s someone you have to deal with on a daily basis, a coworker for instance. Avoidance is not an option, so what do you do now?

5 Stunning Places You’ve Probably Never Heard of but Need to See

Traveling is always an exciting experience, but nothing quite compares to discovering something new.

Unfortunately, the prospect of visiting uncharted territory is becoming increasingly rare in this Instagram-saturated world. However, if you really want to feel like one of the first few tourists to see a place (and maybe even ‘gram about it), Mar Pages, a woman who has traveled to 100 countries, has a few ideas for you.

“I have visited 100 countries, travel 40–50% of the time for the last 12 years and specialise in places nobody visits so here are a couple of ideas,” Pages wrote in a Quora thread asking, “What is your favorite place to visit that no one has heard of?”

The first place Pages recommended was the tiny African nation of Djibouti. She advised people “forget the Dead Sea,” and instead head to Lake Abbe and Lake Assal, a salt lake, which both happened to be filming locations for “Planet of the Apes.”

Next, Pages recommended spending some time at the Aitutaki Lagoon in the Cook islands. It’s “one of the most stunning lagoons you will ever see, the waters are incredible,” she wrote.

Read the rest here.

SingularityU Czech Summit Returns to Prague! Are YOU ready for the exponential era?

Anita Schjøll Brede: The Future of AI

Visionaries and futurists met again in the Czech Republic, at the representative premises of Žofín Palace, in the beginning of April 2019. For the second time, leading-edge speakers from Singularity University joined Central European leaders and innovators for a visionary journey on learning, inspiration and sharing. SingularityU 2019 focused on young leaders, future generation and women. A live band and a special graphic recording made the event even more engaging for the audience, unique and unforgettable. Czech and Slovak Leaders Magazine had the opportunity to interview the two very distinguished speakers. Fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the journey to the future.

Anita Schjøll Brede: The Future of AI

Anita is the CEO and Co-Founder of Iris.ai; one of the 10 most innovative artificial intelligence startups in 2017 according to Fast Company. Iris.ai is an AI Science assistant, able to read, digest and connect scientific knowledge, that will grow up to be the world’s first AI Researcher within a decade. Designed to democratize access to science, Iris.ai can reduce R&D departments’ time to map out existing research by 95% and remove the current necessity of having deep domain expertise involved in the process, thus allowing more people to solve more difficult problems. Anita has never had what she refers to as “a real job” and Iris.ai is her fourth startup. The past 10 years of her career have spanned over 9 industries including developing an e-learning tool in Silicon Valley, performing theatre for babies, reducing energy consumption in the process industry through heat exchanger network optimization, getting 30 (mainly middle-age, male) engineers to dance to ABBA in front of their co-workers, facilitating solar light business creation in Kenya, being in the center of several startups crashing and burning, organizing entrepreneurial conferences and trying to disrupt the recruitment industry. She also dropped by 6 universities on the way. And built a race car.

Anita, speaking to you as a mother of a teenage daughter gifted in STEM, what is that our society fails to tackle to bring more girls to tech?

The basic answer goes to the way we treat our children from early childhood. We give the girls dolls and we give the boys fire-trucks. At school, when a boy gets a bad grade in math, he is encouraged to keep trying. If a girl gets a bad grade in the same subject, it is likely suggested that she concentrate on other subjects. Many studies on the way we socialize our children are now available. One of my favourite stories is from the US: one congresswoman had another congresswoman as a friend and enjoyed spending free time together. One day, one of their children asked, “mummy, can men be a congresswomen too?”. For this child, there were only congresswomen around, no congressmen. Therefore, I believe that role models are extremely important. The next important thing is to teach our children that they can. The problem is that many decisions are still made by people brought up in a system that was very different from the one that we hope to build now – a system where a 15-year-old girl can be whoever she wants to be. Systemic change needs to happen and at the same time it is happening very fast. According to the latest outcomes of the Draw a Scientist Test, more women scientists or female role models are now being drawn by children. Research proves that we are on the right track. We need to take further actions. Let us not forget that diversity has more angles than gender. We need visible women role-models on stage, people of color on stage as well as people with disabilities on stage, all talking about their experiences. We live in a world that is more and more inclusive.

Anita, I admire your work with Iris.ai concentrating on artificial intelligence in science. We know that science is also gender biased. Some AI systems actually discriminated against women in the past, such as the Amazon HR system, as it was based on algorithms and data coming from mostly men candidates. How will you make sure that this will not happen?

Our algorithms do not use the citation system that holds incredible amount of data, but is biased itself, biased towards researchers with the most citations, financially strong institutions, and yes, most researchers are white men of certain age. Currently we are reading the texts and comparing whether the text is relevant to the area of the research one is interested in. Hopefully one day we will have data proving the socialized differences. There are differences in the way men and women present their experiences. Even if you remove gender markers, the fact is that men present themselves differently and eventually AI might favor them. So far, we do not have data on whether women and men write research differently. I am looking forward to finding out one day. Is there a difference how male and female scientists write their abstracts and conclusions and how does that affect our algorithms? So far, I assume that compared to the citation system biases, the difference is small.

Your system is open. Is there enough of interest for evidence that might be conflicting one’s preliminary finding or have we become comfortable just to confirm the idea of our social bubble?

We are specifically targeting academics and researchers. We tend to see a generational gap, those who have been in the field for more than two decades are more likely to possess the “I know what I am doing attitude”. To a certain extent, this might be true, just imagine that there are 300 researchers and you have met them all over the course of your career. However, there are always tendential fields, as well as interdisciplinary research, that one might be not aware of. On the other hand, the person who knows it all and has been everywhere does not need our tool anyway. For anyone dealing with interdisciplinarity, the tool is useful, since you cannot absorb it all. We also see that our tool is very much appreciated by recent master’s students or PhDs, as they do not have the overall view, but have the open mindedness to use the new tool. We are selling the premium version as a tool to university libraries but our basic version is free.

You have reinvented yourself many times. Are you already thinking about a new project? What is the next big thing outside of AI?

I want to write more; writing is an incredibly funy and lovely process, but it will happen after I am not involved with Iris. I am deeply fascinated by the idea of convergence between quantum computing and AI and them mutually reinforcing one another.

What is your mentoring advice for kids and teens?

No matter how cliché it sounds but do your own thing! Do not worry about what your parents or classmates or teachers think. Follow what makes you excited, happy and makes you get up in the morning. It does not matter what it is. Look at the happiness index. Some professions, such as lawyers, score miserably and most of lawyers will be replaced by AI anyway. If you can choose between what makes you happy or miserable, choose what makes you happy.

By Linda Štucbartová

Amin Toufani: Exonomics

Amin is the CEO of T Labs. He brings a unique set of technological, entrepreneurial and policy perspectives to the dialogue about innovation. In what he calls exponential economics or “exonomics,” Toufani breaks the tech-driven changes happening in the modern economy into seven pillars: people, property, production, price, power, policy, and prosperity. Toufani pointed out that exonomics’ ultimate goal is to connect people and prosperity, and he shared his thoughts on how to do so. He has founded for-profit and social impact organizations in a range of domains: artificial intelligence, peer to peer lending, bitcoin, human rights, international development, carbon offsetting, and solar energy. In addition to his work at Singularity, he is building the World’s first hedge fund for the poor, as well as Reversopedia – a reverse encyclopedia composed of things we know we don’t know.

You ended your speech by claiming that we tend not to think big enough. Looking at the recent elections results bringing polarized societies, a half of the population does not want to think big anymore. How to bridge the gap? How can we actually return to critical thinking at all?

Past success usually gets in the way of future success. We are noticing that entire cohorts of society are comfortable because they have optimized their lives based on the way the world used to work. That is why we are concerned with the emergence of exponential technologies taking society by surprise. We are aware that a lot of society members are not trained or educated enough and that is why such conversation matters on upgrading the education. Thanks to exponential technologies, such as biotechnologies, nanotechnologies, information technologies and others, our reach exceeds our imagination. We actually can do much more than we realize. The biggest risk is than not thinking big enough because most of us do not realize how far we can go. This applies to individuals with regards to personal lives, to businesses and finding the right value proposition and all the way we are running our countries. I have met nine prime ministers within last three years and none of them have been prepared for the systemic, all at once happening, challenge. Self-driving cars will probably take away jobs at least from 1% of the workforce, they will disrupt at least 2% of GDP due to lower car ownership and 3% due death, destruction and car accidents. 5% of GDP lost and 1% of workforce that needs to be re-trained.

You call the next decade as the decade of bifurcation, an era to be likely remembered next to the great depression and the great recession. What can we expect?

Societies, companies and individuals will split up into two groups. Those benefitting from the exponential growing technologies and those left behind. The technology is amplifying both extreme negatives and also positives on both sides. Technology cannot be viewed simplistically as good or bad. The average outcome has stopped to be the most common. One of our projects at T Labs is to make sure that life extending technologies are not available only to the most affluent members of society.

In order to belong to the first group, you mentioned that we need to both learn and unlearn. What have you personally unlearned?

I have unlearned a lot of management science I learned in business school. Modern management science has taught us that collaboration is the high-water mark in how we build our organizations and teams. If you ask people anonymously, 76% prefer working alone to working in a team. As the expectations from teams are continuously growing, the more stress and friction collaboration brings. We see a shift from collaboration towards coordination. You do not have to give up creativity, you just need to concentrate more on certainty in the environment. I have re-learned a science on happiness and organizational psychology design. These give us what we call the velvet triangle that makes happy employees and links mastery – autonomy – purpose. These three components predict how happy people are at work. At T Labs, we do not have managers, we believe in self-management. We believe in giving the team members the right information, the right tools and the right feed-back to self- manage and that makes a happier environment.

From unlearning, let us move to stripping of the property. You talked about circular economy and sharing. You asked the audience to think of what they do not have to have. I was hoping that in your 7 Ps model, going from people, property, production, price, power, policy, all the way to prosperity, you would eventually mention another “P” standing for planet.

I love this idea and I will be glad to share it with my wife, being a co-author. Now, let me share why even though planet is not included, the environment is still a great focus for us. Just think about the impact of exponential technologies, such as solar growing double exponentially, and the shift from oil supply to oil demand. At what point actually we are not going to demand oil and gasoline? Our prediction is this is going to happen in between 2027-2030. In fact, we hope to write 2030 in the history books as the year when humans stopped killing each other because of energy. Vast majority of wars today are still commodity wars, masked as religious or ideological. Once we move toward “solar supremacy”which is our term for solar becoming dominant source of energy already happening in many parts of the world, then we begin to reverse many trends that have destroyed the planet. If you can figure out all the implications of our model starting with people, ending with prosperity, the positive externality on the planet will be automatic. However, it does require intentionality and conversations that need to be focused on moving away from business models.

Let us hope for healthier planet. Will prosperity also result in people becoming happier? Well-being was also one area you commented upon, not very frequent topic to hear during standard economic lectures.

Automation, AI and technologies will impact unemployment. Our prediction is that also by 2030, the public debate about universal basic income will be held in every country on this planet. We promote UBI and many models exist for its financing, including technological deflation which means that things get faster, cheaper and more effective because of exponential growing technologies. The most important conversation is whether there is life after work? I do not think we need to work to define who we are. We do not need to work for meaning. We need a purpose in our live. We will see the emergence of purpose driven lives, that might not be commercial based on economic assets and devices. An emergence of kinder society where we care for another, a society where we do not stab each other in the back because of possessions driven by scarcity. The transition from traditional zero- sum game thinking to abundance thinking is approaching but it is going to be painful and disruptive. It brings us back to the issue of bifurcation that we have already discussed and also is the subtitle of my book that I am going to publish later this year.

How many persons have called you the dreamer?

Many. I believe that the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. Let me share my favorite quote of all times: Intelligence is hitting the target that nobody else can. Genius is hitting the target that nobody else can see.”

By Linda Štucbartová

CEBRE founders met MEP candidates

Two months before the elections to the European Parliament, representatives of Czech business organizations met with candidates to Members of the European Parliament to present them their priorities for the 2019-2024 legislative term. Representatives of the founders of CEBRE – Czech Chamber of Commerce, Confederation of Employers’ and Entrepreneurs’ Associations of the Czech Republic and Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic explained the candidates their requirements in the areas of the single market, trade policy, data economy, environmental policy and labour market. Businesses create jobs and GDP, and therefore CEBRE founders believe that elected MEPs will hear their demands.

CFO Leadership MasterClass in Budapest

A CFO’s mastery of the financial skill is a given; however, such a skill alone is not enough to become a successful corporate leader. The finance function is a core component of the operational structure. It serves as a guardian of the shareholder’s resources by providing financial stewardship, making effective value-creation decisions, managing the financial risk and practicing good corporate governance. Consequently, a successful leader in this area needs to be armed with a variety of additional skills, including: an awareness of organisational and personal psychology, ability to manage a variety of stakeholders, a strong and effective communication skill, and possess an astuteness akin to politics. This course is designed to develop and fortify the CFO’s skills and acts as a primer for the attendee to become a more visionary and charismatic leader.

By the end of this MasterClass participants will:

• Gain commercial insights, perspectives that feed into decisions making
• Learn how to lead through change, business transformation and performance optimisation
• Be able to communicate business insights, decision choices more succinctly and intelligently
• Get to know more about how to use diplomacy and politics to generate consensus and decisions
• Understand your leadership style and linking it to financial objectives
• Learn how to evaluate the practical implications of investment decisions and acquisitions
• Acquire the skills to drive innovation, organisational transformation and cultural change

Join our CFO Leadership Masterclass on 24-25 September, 2019 in Budapest, Hungary led by Raheen Sacranie, a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAEW) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), in the UK!

For more information, please visit our website and request the Agenda!

Discussions in the Czechoslovak Foreign Institute

In cooperation with Czech & Slovak Leaders

Invitation to the February discussion in the Czechoslovak Foreign Institute was accepted by a personality well known for his wisecracks, humour, and immediacy – by Jaroslav Kubera, the president of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic. The popular guest touched a variety of topics: global warming, the quality of the work of media, division of today’s society, orientation on nuclear power, the quality of laws. The aim of discussions was not to seek or solve the problems, however, it did not hurt to listen to the half-serious, half-jokingly mentioned possible ways of solution.

The discussion showed that the president of the Senate, as well as other participants, does not find as beneficial manipulative activities of the media, the bias of all sorts of scientific studies, which are based according to who is paying for them, the inability of political groups to carry the electoral defeat and let the winners of the election implement the program for which they were elected, the weakness of the state, the unreasonable amount of legal norms, and many other phenomena in today’s Czech society.

At the invitation by a member of the Institute, Ing. František Hřebík and a member of the Institute’s managing board Hana Hlaváčková, the owner and director of the Mozaika nursery school in Praha – Kunratice, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Czech Republic, H. E. Zhang Jianmin came to visit children and their teachers in kindergarten in March, accompanied by six staff-members of the embassy, the chairman of the Czechoslovak Foreign Institute Jaromír Šlápota and other members of the Institute.

Director Hana Hlaváčková showed them the nursery school, which has been in operation for two years, has a capacity of around three dozen children and an experienced six-member teaching staff and is equipped with the latest tools such as the interactive learning devices, musical instruments, toys, the gym and garden-area with two paddling pools for the aquarium with a large turtle. “The kindergarten Mosaic gives its children the basic English language, the correct posture and good behaviour into the life,” summed up Hana Hlaváčková. H. E. Zhang Jianmin then explained to children how their peers are taught in China. The interesting thing was that ways of teaching children of preschool age in the Czech Republic and China are in many ways similar. The guests then surprised the kids with a demonstration of teaching Chinese writing.

At the end of March, the ambassador of Turkey to the Czech Republic, H. E. Ahmet Necati Bigali accepted an invitation to discussion in the Czechoslovak Foreign Institute once again after two years. He explained in particular, how Turkey faces the problems of terrorism and how it affects the policy of the Turkish government and its relations with neighbouring countries. “Between Turkey and the Czech Republic there are good economic relations and we never had problems in political relations,” he said at the introduction, and recalled that the Czech Republic and Turkey are allies, because they are jointly members of the Atlantic Pact, and that diplomatic relations between Turkey and Czechoslovakia existed since 1924, when the Turkish embassy was opened in Prague. In 1949, Turkey was among the founding members of the Council of Europe, in 1952, it joined NATO and 60 years ago, in 1959, it officially expressed interest to join the European Economic Community, with which it is still working. The actual process of adoption into the European Union began in October 2005. Out of the 35 negotiated chapters, so far only 16 have been opened and only one – science and research – was negotiated and concluded. Turkey, however, keeps seeking to join the EU.

In May, the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), H.E. Abdulla Mohamed Almaainah spoke about his country in the Czechoslovak Foreign Institute. The main theme of his talk was tolerance. Emirates, considered the heart of the business and financial world, are preparing for the 2020 World Expo and this year is dedicated to tolerance, opening up to other cultures and spreading awareness in that sense. The ambassador mentioned that in the Emirates, members of 200 different nationalities, cultures and religions live in harmony and tolerance. The government of the UAE has taken on the task to build bridges to remove hostility between nations and states. H. E. Abdulla Mohamed Almaainah also spoke about the position of women in the Emirates, which is one of the first Arab countries struggling to overcome gender difference. Out of 32 ministers there are 9 women there and a woman is also the chairperson of the Parliament.

Zlatá koruna awards

On the 30th May, Top Hotel in Prague held the Gala Evening of the 17th Year of Zlatá koruna (Golden Crown), the biggest and oldest competition of financial products in the Czech Republic. Financial Academy of Zlatá koruna, with its chairman Michal Mejstřík, awarded the best products in 17 categories including the innovative FinTech. Besides public categories, Cena veřejnosti (Public Award) and Cena podnikatelů (Entrepreneurs Award), they were also given the award for the Academic Year and CSR Project. The event took place under the auspices of the Governor of the Czech National Bank, Jiří Rusnok and the Minister of Finance, Alena Schilerová, who appreciated the role of Zlatá koruna as a project that helps to grow and promote financial education in the Czech Republic.