The European Free Trade Association: Bon appétit!

September 4th, 2018 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: Editorial, European Union, General

© efta.int

© efta.int

The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is a regional trade organization and free trade area consisting of four European states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. The organization operates in parallel with the European Union (EU), and all four member states participate in the European Single Market and are part of the Schengen Area. They are not, however, party to the European Union Customs Union. EFTA was historically one of the two dominant western European trade blocks, but is now much smaller and closely associated with its historical competitor, the European Union. It was established on 3 May 1960 to serve as an alternative trade bloc for those European states that were unable or unwilling to join the then European Economic Community (EEC), which subsequently became the European Union. The Stockholm Convention, to establish the EFTA, was signed on 4 January 1960 in the Swedish capital by seven countries (known as the “outer seven“). Whilst the EFTA is not a customs union and member states have full rights to enter into bilateral third-country trade arrangements, it does have a coordinated trade policy. As a result, its member states have jointly concluded free trade agreements with the EU and a number of other countries. To participate in the EU’s single market, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway are parties to the Agreement on a European Economic Area (EEA), with compliances regulated by the EFTA Surveillance Authority and the EFTA Court. Switzerland has a set of bilateral agreements with the EU instead.   read more…

Kite surfing

February 9th, 2018 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, Sport

Kitesurfing © flickr.com - Christopher Michel/cc-by-2.0

Kitesurfing © flickr.com – Christopher Michel/cc-by-2.0

Kiteboarding is a surface water sport combining aspects of wakeboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, skateboarding and sailing into one extreme sport. A kiteboarder harnesses the power of the wind with a large controllable power kite to be propelled across the water on a kiteboard similar to a wakeboard or a small surfboard, with or without footstraps or bindings. Kitesurfing is a style of kiteboarding specific to wave riding, which uses standard surfboards or boards shaped specifically for the purpose. There are different styles of kiteboarding, including freestyle, freeride, downwinders, speed, course racing, wakestyle, jumping and kitesurfing in the waves. In 2012, the number of kitesurfers was estimated by the World Sailing and International Kiteboarding Association at 1.5 million persons worldwide.   read more…

The World Trade Organization (WTO)

January 19th, 2018 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General

© Imalipusram

© Imalipusram

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization that regulates international trade. The WTO officially commenced on 1 January 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement, signed by 123 nations on 15 April 1994, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which commenced in 1948. It is the largest international economic organization in the world. The WTO deals with regulation of trade in goods, services and intellectual property between participating countries by providing a framework for negotiating trade agreements and a dispute resolution process aimed at enforcing participants’ adherence to WTO agreements, which are signed by representatives of member governments and ratified by their parliaments. Most of the issues that the WTO focuses on derive from previous trade negotiations, especially from the Uruguay Round (1986–1994).   read more…

La Chaux-de-Fonds in Neuchâtel

January 5th, 2018 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, UNESCO World Heritage

Museum International d'Horlogerie © Schwizgebel/cc-by-sa-3.0

Museum International d’Horlogerie © Schwizgebel/cc-by-sa-3.0

La Chaux-de-Fonds is a Swiss city of the district of La Chaux-de-Fonds in the canton of Neuchâtel. It is located in the Jura mountains at an altitude of 1000 m, a few kilometres south of the French border. After Geneva and Lausanne, it is the third largest city located completely in the Romandie, the French-speaking part of the country, with a population of 40,000. In 2009, La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle, its sister city, have jointly been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status for their exceptional universal value. It is the tenth Swiss Site to be awarded World Heritage status, joining others such as the Old City of Bern, the Rhaetian Railway and the Abbey and Convent of St. Gallen.   read more…

The Palace of Nations in Geneva

December 1st, 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, House of the Month

Palace of Nations © flickr.com - Ville Oksanen/cc-by-sa-2.0

Palace of Nations © flickr.com – Ville Oksanen/cc-by-sa-2.0

The Palace of Nations is the home of the United Nations Office at Geneva, located in Geneva, Switzerland. It was built between 1929 and 1938 to serve as the headquarters of the League of Nations. It has served as the home of the United Nations Office at Geneva since 1946 when the Secretary-General of the United Nations signed a Headquarters Agreement with the Swiss authorities, although Switzerland did not become a member of the United Nations until 2002. In 2012 alone, the Palace of Nations hosted more than 10,000 intergovernmental meetings. An architectural competition held in the 1920s to choose a design for the complex described the project as follows:   read more…

Ice hockey

February 8th, 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, Sport

Secretary Kerry prepares for ceremonial puck drop with U.S. Olympians Wheeler and Carlson © U.S. Department of State

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry prepares for ceremonial puck drop with U.S. Olympians Blake Wheeler and John Carlson © U.S. Department of State

Ice hockey is a contact team sport played on ice, usually in a rink, in which two teams of skaters use their sticks to shoot a vulcanized rubber puck into their opponent’s net to score points. Ice hockey teams usually consist of six players each: one goaltender, and five players who skate up and down the ice trying to take the puck and score a goal against the opposing team. A fast-paced, physical sport, ice hockey is most popular in areas of North America (particularly Canada and the northern United States) and northern and eastern Europe. Ice hockey is the official national winter sport of Canada, where the game enjoys immense popularity. In North America, the National Hockey League (NHL) is the highest level for men’s hockey and the most popular. The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) is the highest league in Russia and much of Eastern Europe. The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) is the formal governing body for international ice hockey. The IIHF manages international tournaments and maintains the IIHF World Ranking. Worldwide, there are ice hockey federations in 74 countries.   read more…

Golf

February 6th, 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, Sport

Golf Costa Teguise - Golfers on green © flickr com - Sands Beach Lanzarote/cc-by-2.0

Golf Costa Teguise – Golfers on green © flickr com – Sands Beach Lanzarote/cc-by-2.0

Golf is a club and ball sport in which players use various clubs to hit balls into a series of holes on a course in as few strokes as possible. Golf, unlike most ball games, does not require a standardized playing area. The game is played on a course with an arranged progression of either nine or 18 holes. Each hole on the course must contain a tee box to start from, and a putting green containing the actual hole or cup (4.25 inches in width). There are other standard forms of terrain in between, such as the fairway, rough (long grass), sand traps, and hazards (water, rocks, fescue) but each hole on a course is unique in its specific layout and arrangement. Golf is played for the lowest number of strokes by an individual, known as stroke play, or the lowest score on the most individual holes in a complete round by an individual or team, known as match play. Stroke play is the most commonly seen format at all levels. The rules of golf are internationally standardised and are jointly governed by The R&A, spun off in 2004 from The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (founded 1754), and the United States Golf Association (USGA).   read more…

Field hockey

February 3rd, 2017 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, Sport

Rio 2016 - Spain vs Netherlands © flickr.com - Jonas de Carvalho/cc-by-sa-2.0

Rio 2016 – Spain vs Netherlands © flickr.com – Jonas de Carvalho/cc-by-sa-2.0

Field hockey is a team sport of the hockey family. The earliest origins of the sport date back to the Middle Ages in England, Scotland, France and the Netherlands. The game can be played on a grass field or a turf field as well as an indoor board surface. Each team plays with eleven players, including the goalie. Players use sticks made out of wood, carbon fibre, fibre glass or a combination of carbon fibre and fibre glass in different quantities (with the higher carbon fibre stick being more expensive and less likely to break) to hit a round, hard, plastic ball. The length of the stick depends on the player’s individual height. Only one end of the stick is allowed to be used. Goalies often have a different kind of stick, however they can also use an ordinary field hockey stick. The specific goal-keeping sticks have another curve at the end of the stick, this is to give them more surface area to save the ball. The uniform consists of shin guards, shoes, shorts, a mouth guard and a jersey. Today, the game is played globally, with particular popularity throughout Western Europe, the Indian subcontinent, Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and parts of the United States (such as Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania). Field Hockey is the national sport of India and Pakistan. The term “field hockey” is used primarily in Canada and the United States where ice hockey is more popular. In Sweden the term landhockey is used.   read more…

Portrait: Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist, pacifist, socialist and Zionist

November 21st, 2016 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: Portrait

Albert Einstein in New York, during his first visit to the US in 1921 © Life magazine

Albert Einstein in New York, during his first visit to the US in 1921 © Life magazine

Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist. He developed the general theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics). Einstein’s work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. Einstein is best known in popular culture for his mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc² (which has been dubbed “the world’s most famous equation”). He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for his “services to theoretical physics”, in particular his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect, a pivotal step in the evolution of quantum theory. Near the beginning of his career, Einstein thought that Newtonian mechanics was no longer enough to reconcile the laws of classical mechanics with the laws of the electromagnetic field. This led to the development of his special theory of relativity. He realized, however, that the principle of relativity could also be extended to gravitational fields, and with his subsequent theory of gravitation in 1916, he published a paper on general relativity. He continued to deal with problems of statistical mechanics and quantum theory, which led to his explanations of particle theory and the motion of molecules. He also investigated the thermal properties of light which laid the foundation of the photon theory of light. In 1917, Einstein applied the general theory of relativity to model the large-scale structure of the universe.   read more…

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