Europe / Global
Rebranding the Canary Islands, charting the Latvian elections and an interview with a new Athens councillor.
Flight path no.14
Rebranding an island
Gran Canaria [BINTER AIRLINES]
Route: Gran Canaria to Nouakchott
Airline: Binter Airlines
Plane: Bombardier crj-900
Frequency: Three times a week
As oil and gas exploration gathers pace along the west African coast, European and North American resource giants are scrambling to secure the spoils. But the region’s airports and airlines still leave a lot to be desired. Just 114km from the African coastline, the Canary Islands is hoping to posit itself as an alternative home base. This year the regional government launched an ambitious rebrand as a “European Business Hub to Africa”, trumpeting the islands’ security, legal framework and quality of life.
A flight to Morocco takes 30 minutes, while a two-hour commute will land you in Cape Verde. The aim is to attract the orbiting troupe of freelance consultants and their families to the archipelago. “Companies have been posting their workers in London or Paris but we have the quality services, infrastructure and international schools right here on Africa’s doorstep,” says the Canary Islands’ African relations minister Pablo Martín Carbajal González. There are hopes that the plan will diversify the islands’ services sector.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Binter Airlines is benefiting from the increase in regional economic activity, chartering 1,714 African-bound flights in 2014 – up from 522 in 2011. The airline now flies to nine west African cities – up from just two cities three years ago.
The carrier recently inaugurated its route to the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, meaning that petroleum products trader Alejandro Roque can visit the country’s biodiesel plantations and be back home having dinner with his family in Gran Canaria before sundown. “With more than 30 companies drilling in the region, the next 15 to 20 years will witness exponential growth,” he says.
Andreas Gennimatas, an entrepreneur, recently became one of the youngest people elected to the Athens municipality.
Why did you get into politics?
It’s the right time for new faces to appear after Greece was rocked by deep economic and social turmoil. As a citizen I’d been hearing a litany of complaints. The only way out is to take action: so here I am.
What do you hope to achieve?
Making Athens a more attractive city to live in. Putting an emphasis on innovation and offering infrastructure for start-ups and young entrepreneurs. Placing solar panels on schools and state buildings. Increasing playgrounds, parks and making the city accessible for the disabled. Decreasing bureaucracy and red tape that hinder investment. And, as always, tourism: there is so much more to be done.
What have you learned from working in the private sector?
The speed of decision making and implementation. Projects that can be executed in one day in the business world can take months in the Greek public sector. I understand the problems the private sector faces, which has been worse hit by the crisis. I can help find solutions. It’s time to make policies for the wellbeing of society instead of just certain businessmen.
But you still face Greek state bureaucracy.
That will be a major handicap. But this is just an incentive to persevere and implement our policies. I remain optimistic and resolved for change.
As the threat of attacks by Basque terror group ETA recedes, Spain’s interior ministry is moving to reduce the number of bodyguards it provides for public officials. In 2011 more than 1,600 judges, politicians and even journalists were under round-the-clock protection. In the rest of Europe this number is usually around 30.
Following ETA’s declaration in 2011 of an end to armed activity, the ranks of bodyguards for Basque and Navarre politicians were cut by 424 – saving the state €3.8m annually. Since then more than 600 police officers have been assigned new duties and more recently 200 bodyguards and 30 vehicles have also been reposted.