The Occoronian Occasion

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    April 19th, 2013
    Approaching the coast of Occoron

    "You know", President Gaius Proctus mused aloud, "the last time I met with Fernando was in Julia's funeral. It will be alleviative, in a way, to see him again in more positive, happier circumstances, don't you think."

    "I should think so, Gaius", nodded Lothar Schalling, the elderly Minister for Commerce and Industry. "You two have much to discuss about building and creating anew. To, hm, emerge from the shadow of the loss you shared."

    To Proctus, Schalling looked a bit green. Despite all the stereotypes about the island-dwelling, sea-loving Aureans, Schalling had never quite possessed the stomach for seafaring. Perhaps it was due to his German descent? If so, that would also explain his meticulous talent with numbers and his overall effectiveness and punctuality, the president thought. He bore great affection towards his old friend with whom he had sat in more governments and committees and teams than he could possibly remember.

    When he had embarked upon his first state visit to Os Corelia as the President of Pax Aurea, Proctus had taken the route by plane, as was the norm of such visits. But this time, his love in ships had overcome the speed benefits of a flight, and he and the rest of his entourage were sitting in the comfortable lounge of the cruise liner Stella Maris III, on-route to Occoron. There, Proctus would meet with his colleague, President Fernando Mahanga, to cultivate the Aurean-Occoronian relations and, if fortune favoured, to begin new enterprises and projects between the nations.

    His voyage had been delayed due to a long and persistent illness that had kept him from bustling around as much as he would have liked. A most bothersome flu. He was late with his planned timetables, as there were so many nations he had planned visiting during his first year in office. "But better late than never", he mumbled to himself, pleased that he would soon see his friend and colleague again.

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    ((OOC: Chronologically this meeting takes place after Proctus's visit to Os Corelia.))

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    April 19th, 2013
    Presidential Palace

    _Mr. President, President Proctus is expected to arrive in 15 minutes.

    O my God, is it really that late?_ The President glanced at his watch and realized his secretary wasn't lying. Although she would never do that, he supposed.

    _Yes indeed, Mr. President. Your motorcade is waiting outside. President Proctus will arrive at the Port of Kusadasi, one of the smaller parts of the Port of Montevideo. The Guardia Civil did not want President Proctus to arrive at the main part, as they said they could not guarantee his safety. The Port of Kusadasi would be easier to protect. Minister Almunia will join you there.

    Alright, thank you!_

    Pedro Almunia, his Minister for Economics, Industry and Innovation, was someone you could count on. With his 35 years, he was quite a bit younger than the President. Mahanga liked to have younger people around him, "that's what keeps me young", he always said. On his way to the Port of Kusadasi, the President started thinking of his previous meeting with his Aurean counterpart. Julia's funeral was everything but a happy event. If he was honest, he had to confess he still couldn't believe she was gone. And he still missed her. But that's not very strange, he thought, considering their special relation. Luckily his wife was very understanding. Suddenly, he realized this would be his first time he meets with Gaius as the Aurean President. That actually sounded a little weird, and he still needed to get used to it. I've always known him as the Aurean Prime Minister, I hope I won't get confused later today, Mahanga worried.

    Mr. President... Mr. President!

    The words woke him up, and he noticed they had arrived at the port.

    Welcome to the Port of Kusadasi, Mr. President. President Proctus will arrive within five minutes, you can see the [i]Stella Maris III over there.[/i]

    Mahanga followed the look of the Director of the Port of Montevideo, and thought: Wauw, that really is a very nice ship. And this is indeed a beautiful part of the Port of Montevideo. Why are there so few tourists, he wondered?

    The Guardia Civil has locked the whole area, Fernando.

    Almunia knew he had startled Mahanga by suddenly approaching him from behind, and he smiled at the Occoronian President. After seeing the smile of the face of his minister, Mahanga started laughing while being surprised his minister had guessed correctly what he was thinking.

    Mr. President, the Stella Maris III has moored.

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  • Proctus was admiring the panoramic view over the ports and docks of Montevideo as the Stella Maris III swam closer to the shores. The sun was blazing over the deep blue waters, and he breathed deeply the crystal-clear sea air as the springly warmth enveloped him. "What a beautiful city this is!" he exclaimed to no-one in particular. The president was no stranger to Montevideo, but previously he had arrived by plane, and this was the first time he got a chance to see the city from this perspective. And this time, should his timetable permit it, he decided to reserve a day or two for supporting the booming local tourism industry and stick his nose in just about everywhere. This place emits an aura of centuries-old tales and memories! If only he had all the time in the world to explore all the sites of cultural and historical significance...

    Speaking of tourists, there were few where the ship was guided for berthing. The men and women of Guardia Civil were taking no chances and were dutifully making sure the presidents could meet each others without any unscheduled surprises of the malignous sort. As the Aurean delegation went through the final checklists, Proctus -- not a particularly tall gentleman -- was doing a bit craning to catch a glimpse of his colleague among the Occoronian welcoming committee.

    There he was. Punctual as always. He remembered Julia mentioning something about Fernando's wife ensuring the chief-of-state always found his mysteriously lost keys and personal calendars, recognized another common characteristic in himself, and decided to ask if the missus was interested in accompanying him on his next journey...

    As the Aurean delegation debarked, under the curious and excited eyes of the rest of the passengers of the ship, the president's pace was so brisk that it forced some of the younger members of his entourage to do their best to keep up with him.

    "Mr President", he greeted Mahanga with a sincere smile, switching from his native Latin to English; although he was fluent in Spanish, not everyone accompanying him was. "Fernando, my friend. It is so good to see you again. I hope this day finds you well. I am truly pleased to be in Occoron once again."

    Gesturing his fellow delegates to come forward, he continued: "And you are, of course, already familiar with Lothar Schalling, Moshe Baruch, and Beatrice Chabert, the Ministers of Commerce & Industry, Foreign Trade, and Science & Technology, respectively. I had the pleasure of working with them during my previous administration as the prime minister."

    All the ministers exchanged greetings and handshakes with President Mahanga and his own entourage.

    "Our meetings always seem to bear good fruits, and I have no doubt this time will be no different in that regard", Proctus said.

  • _?I can only agree with that, Mr. President. Welcome to Occoron, Gaius!?
    ?May I introduce my two colleagues, who will accompany me during this state visit: Pedro Almunia, Minister for Economics, Industry and Innovation, and Amalia Alonso, Secretary of State for Foreign Trade. _

    Also the Occoronian excellencies introduced themselves to the Aurean delegation.

    ?So, now we know who?s who ? I?m just kidding Gaius, how could I possibly forget you! ? I propose we immediately go to the ?Ch?teau de Chenonceau?. It was built by the Duke of Chenonceau in the 15th century. It is situated just outside the city of Montevideo, although you immediately forget you?re so close to the Occoronian capital. The nature is amazingly beautiful, and I particularly like the garden. And on a beautiful day as today, we can perfectly combine business with pleasure. If you?re wondering about the French name of the city and palace, that?s because of the French-speaking minority living in Occoron. Chenonceau is one of the larger cities with a French-speaking majority, so that?s why?

    Almunia and Alonso looked at each other and rolled with their eyes. If the President started with some history lessons, you knew where you began but never where you would end. And more importantly: when. Although they had to admit: the President was one of the best guides and also one of the best sellers of Occoron. Accompanied by some historic facts about the Ch?teau by the Occoronian President, the excellencies walked to the convoy of cars, waiting for them.

    ?May I also say you?re currently traveling in a new prototype car of Ford. It is experimenting with more energy-sufficient methods, the driver had a special training in ecologic driving, the fuel is said to be cleaner. I?m afraid I don?t know the technic details, but I think it?s driving pretty well. I visited the Ford designer headquarters last year, and they told me they were working on a prototype. Let?s say this is part of my support to ecological measures in the industry. God, I?ve been talking way too much, it seems we already arrived at our destination!

    Both delegations walked through the beautiful garden, to several garden chairs in the middle of a lawn. As soon as everyone had found his place, the Mahanga opened the meeting:

    ?So, let?s get started!?

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  • "Tres bien!" said Gaius, admiring their surroundings. "You have chosen a most excellent place for our talks. I would imagine these peaceful scenes ease tensions and difficulties even between feuding foes -- and we of all should not have any problems of that sort. If time permits, Fernando, I would be delighted for a chance to trek around these gardens and groves a little after the more serious matters. And speaking of those, yes, let us get down to business, my friend. But first, please allow me to give you a little present on behalf of Pax Aurea..."

    One of the presidential aides handed him an undescriptive suitcase. Gaius flicked it open and revealed a set of flame-coloured objects carefully packed in styrofoam. "These are cut and polished shrapnels of amber, recovered from several archaeological sites around the Golden Isles", he explained. "Some of them are rare Aurean amber, some originate from North Europa and have come to us among Norse traders, centuries ago. These three in particular are exceptional pieces of jewellery, for, as you see" -- he lifted one amber stone and held it against the sunlight -- "there is a prehistoric insect frozen inside of them. The poor thing was encapsulated and preserved by the sticky resin eons ago. It makes me wonder what the Aureans of antiquity thought they had found! Mosquitoes inside rocks, surely some odd jest of the gods. The Pacifican Museum of Natural History wanted to donate these to their Occoronian sister institution. Since you are a man who takes a keen interest to history, I suspected you might be interested to add these to your national collections."

    The amber was packed back into the steel suitcase and given to the Occoronian delegation. "Now, then", Gaius said, "I would like to begin with a few praising words, for they are in order here. Almost two years have passed since our governments had their first meeting, and a number of agreements and treaties have been signed then. Our friendship with Occoron has been prosperous for Pax Aurea. Thanks to honest and industrious Occoronian companies, our economy is booming, thousands have found employment, and we have firm ties to such industrial sectors that have been -- to say the word as it is -- the weak part in our national production, namely mining and agricultural industries. Not to mention the ambitious AORIST project, which is, I believe, the most grandest, most productive endeavour of its sort in the European Union! In sort, all these I would like to cultivate further."

    Gaius continued: "During my visit in Os Corelia, we made a deal with Miltok and acquired new cool waters for our aquacultural companies to cultivate kelp. Now, as you know, a great deal of our cereal industry relies on kelp. It is the potato of the Aurean kitchen. We have too little farming land to satisfy the needs of our large population. Farmscrapers in our big cities help, but vertical and hydroponics farming is more expensive than regular fieldwork. And", he chuckled, "people do wish to eat more than just kelp. So, what we are proposing..." He turned to Minister of Foreign Trade Moshe Baruch and raised his eyebrows quizzically.

    "A two-fold deal", Baruch continued, taking the cue. The minister, who still bore a few visible white scars in his face from the Christmas Day bombing of the Senate Hall, raised his index and middle fingers as he laid out the details. "First of all, we would be interested in renting areas of land suitable for agricultural cultivation here in Occoron. The government of Pax Aurea would be the holder of these lands. The cultivation would be given to Aurean agricultural companies, who would pledge to fill at least 50% of their employment needs with local workers. We could also set a percentage amount of crops yield that would be sold to Occoronian markets, although the largest portion would be shipped to Aurean markets. I'm sure we can strike a deal with Occoronian shipping companies for that. And second, in return, our agricultural laboratories have developed several new breeds of disease-resistant, high-yielding wheat, corn, oat, and potatoes. I understand very well that many nations have reservations concerning GMO grainstuff, so you must not find it awkward to bluntly refuse the latter part of this offer."

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    Minister of Foreign Trade Moshe Baruch

  • ?That?s a great present, Gaius, thank you! I?ll immediately ask the National Museum for Natural History in Montevideo to take care of it. This is by far the most beautiful present I?ve ever got. Well, technically the most beautiful present Occoron ever got ? since presents like these of course belong to the state ? but you know what I mean.?

    Minutes of silence followed, while Mahanga took a closer look at the Aurean gift. After what seemed like just a few seconds for him, but a decade to the other representatives, Occoronian Secretary Alonso whispered in his ear:

    ?Mr. President, I think we should continue with the discussion?

    Mahanga looked up, a little distracted, saying:

    _?Of course, of course. Beautiful present though, really!
    Anyway, there is not much I can add about what you said there, Gaius. No one can deny that the Occoronian-Aurean relations are amazingly good, and even improving. In the two past years, we have all built something we can be proud of! You've already mentioned several good projects, and I'm not going repeat them all. This is one though I still think is very nice: The Aureans are now the number one foreign tourists in Occoron ? by the way with the blessing of the tourist industry itself, since the Aureans were elected as the friendliest and most polite guests last month. The Federal Commonwealth is also the favorite country for going on holiday ? and I can?t blame the Occoronians, I love it there myself. Thanks to our cooperation, the Occoronian tourism industry is booming, and I can only say we learned a lot from our Aurean counterpart. For what concerns your proposal, I think that?s your domain, Amalia.? _

    ?Thank you, Mr. President. First of all, the Occoronian government has no problems with GMOs in general. I have to say though we are very careful with it and until now, private companies are not allowed to use them. Several Occoronian universities doing research, which also include field experiments. All this under strict supervision of the government, they have not been released yet for commercial use. I guess I don?t have to explain the reasons why we are so careful with them, especially since Pax Aurea is very concerned about the environment itself. It will certainly be a benefit though if our research institutes can be provided with the latest results of their Aurean counterparts. I will of course have my staff looking into your proposal and we will also need to work out the details further, but it sounds fair to me. I do have a question though regarding taxes. On one of the first meetings between our two countries ? between two heads of state who?re very unfortunately not with us anymore ? Pax Aurea and Occoron created a free trade zone. If I remember correctly though, Pax Aurea asked one exception, which was the shipping industry. I believe it is fair that also Occoronian shipping companies would be involved in the transportation, but that would mean they would be taxed quite a bit. Which would lead us to the rather strange situation that Pax Aurea would have an import tax on its own products. I?m not sure if I?m right though about the exception in that free trade zone agreement, but if I?m correct, we should find a solution for it: maybe an exception for the exception??

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  • "Ah. The original free trade zone pact, yes." Minister Baruch looked like he was flipping through files archived inside the vaults of his memory. "Two years ago, we did indeed ask for an exception for the Aurean shipyard, not shipping, industry. This exception is no longer valid, however, due to the Montevideo Treaty that saw the removal of all additional tariffs and protectionistic policies between Pax Aurea and the members of the Eurozone. The transition period has helped our shipyard companies adjust to the market situation and all the changes that've come with it, and though the competition is now more fierce..."

    "Challenging", interrupted Minister of Commerce and Industry Lothar Schalling, somewhat amusedly, "I do believe you intended to use the word challenging, Moshe."

    "Ahem", harrumphed Baruch, slightly embarrassed, "ah, yes, that. So, in any case, fortunately we won't have that problem in our hands. As for the GMO breeds, I understand the reservations, and I think we can see to it that they can go through your extensive research and quality control inspections before any agreements are made on that front."

    Minister of Science and Technology Beatrice Chabert was hardly an agriculturist, but she perked up immediately and nodded. "Of course. This can be arranged. We wouldn't want to sell you a pig in a poke. A few of those grain breeds are in fact a product of AORIST-related R&D, so it's only fair that you can get a thorough look at them all before making up your mind. In Pax Aurea, we have chosen to cultivate genetically altered crops to in many fields to reduce the use of chemicals and thus the burden to the environment. The results have been promising."

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    Minister of Science and Technology Beatrice Chabert

  • President Mahanga looked amusedly to his young Secretary for Foreign Trade, so eager to help out she forgets quite important treaties.

    ?So, I guess the nonexistent tax problem is solved then. For what concerns the GMOs, I can indeed confirm what Amalia just said. In Occoron, we?re doing research and we experiment with them, but under strict regulations. What are your thoughts on the matter, Pedro??

    Almunia, Minister for Economics, Industry and Innovation, looked up from his files and cleared his throat:

    ?Well, I believe it?s a decent and fair proposal. Although we indeed are very careful with GMOs in Occoron, I can?t see any problem why not to agree with the proposal. I especially agree with the proposal of Ministers Baruch and Chabert, to give our scientists a look before we take the final decision. That way, we?re indeed sure the products comply with our regulations and we will be able to take the decision knowing all information we need to know. To summarize: I support the proposal, but we?ll send some of our top scientists to Pax Aurea first, after which we will take the final decision. And then, we will of course work the final details out. I think that?s all what we can say about this proposal for now.?

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  • "This sounds perfectly reasonable to me", mused Gaius. "It is settled, then. And since we have been so eager to dig our fingers in Occoronian soil, in all fairness I believe we should give you the equal opportunity to do likewise. There is a matter that can carries both challenges and a promise of mutual profit, but it is something the Occoronian mining companies could succeed in, I believe. Lothar, if you could elaborate?"

    "With pleasure", beamed the elderly Minister of Commerce and Industry. "Last February, the Federal Geology Society confirmed a gold deposit discovery of a considerable proportions on the small island of Myrenia, some 75 kilometers off the coast of Celesta, one of our main islands. It was reported widely in the national media, too. Being true to the name "Golden Isles", surely, the initial surveys have been most promising: mining the deposit may produce up to several metric tons of gold annually. So we are talking about millions of Euros -- and many new jobs. But our islands have been mined for gold and more gold since the Greeks settled here, so why has not this deposit been already discovered and shaft-mined bare, you may ask?Well, I am afraid this is where the "but" must be presented."

    One of the aides brought Minister Schalling a tablet computer. His bony fingers conjured up maps and diagrams of Myrenia. "As you can see, the islet itself is rather small. It is barren, without any vegetation worth of mentioning, and its shorelines are fortified with steep, rocky cliffs. Construction on this site will be... complicated. Most of the deposit is also located relatively deep, and underwater. This will further complicate matters. The overall estimations of the FGS do suggest, however, that should these obstacles be surpassed, the profits would cover the costs and much more, in abundance."

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    Southern cliffs of Myrenia.

    "Our own mining corporations, which are mostly partly or wholly state-owned, have used to do smaller-scale operations", explained Gaius. "Many old gold deposits have run out, and distant are the days when the mining guilds of old employed thousands and thousands of people! So now we have turned our eyes on you, our Occoronian friends. Over the past two years we have gotten very positive experiences with your mining and metal industries, so you are the first we are approaching with this offer. We also know that you take environmental concerns very seriously."

    Minister Baruch added: "Here's what we would propose: In exchange for mining rights granted to Occoronian companies, the government of Pax Aurea would get a reasonable share of the yield -- the percentage can be negotiated." Schalling further added: "And one of the goals my ministry was give by Prime Minister Laetenius is to explore new investment options for the government. We would be interested in purchasing shares of the mining companies involved in the Myrenia project."

  • ?That sounds like a very interesting project to me, actually. It would give Occoronian companies the opportunity to participate in an ambitious project and to get more known abroad. What do you think of it, Pedro??

    After looking at the maps, diagrams and photos shown on Schalling?s tablet computer, Minister Almunia answered:
    ?This project indeed looks very promising. I immediately think of two mining companies, namely AB Inbev Mining and George Forrest. Both have participated in the AORIST and have access to the most recent technologies. It is indeed known they have a lot of respect for the environmental conditions, so that is indeed an advantage too. The benefit of the two companies working together would of course be that the amount of financial resources, the material and knowledge at your disposal would be doubled. I?m afraid I?m not an expert in mining industry, but it sounds the Myrenia Project won?t be a walk through the park. Any extra pair of hands or set of brains can be useful. Maybe it would be an interesting option to start a joint venture for this project, although that?s of course completely up to the companies themselves. The Occoronian mining companies will of course do some research by themselves first, to make sure the profit will indeed exceed the investments.?

    ?Although we of course have confidence in the estimations of the Aureans, the Occoronians will have to know what kind of resources and material will be necessary to start mining?, Alonso interrupted. ?The Occoronian mining companies have always been very keen on working in Pax Aurea, inter alia because of the high education standard. I think it is reasonable the Aurean government would get its fair share and I suppose the exact percentage shall be negotiated later by experts in the matter. It is also only fair for the Occoronian companies to work at least partly with Aurean employees ? and I the 50% standard, which will be used in the Occoronian-Aurean agriculatural cultivation deal, is quite fair. For what concerns the investment, I think Pedro?s joint venture is not a bad one, actually. It will make communication and the exchange of resources much easier. And it might allow the Aurean government to purchase some of the shares of the joint venture as an investment. A 40-40-20 division of the shares between the two Occoronian companies and the Aurean government can be worth considering. But of course ? we first need to know both companies are interested to participate in the project.?

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    ?I think you can convince them, Amalia, you?re very good at that!?, Mahanga chuckled. The other attendees laughed, while Mahanga continued: ?But I of course have to thank you for the confidence you have in Occoronian companies, Gaius. I promise they won?t disappoint you, I?ll keep an eye on it myself!?

    ((OOC: In that case, I'm afraid I'll have to cancel the meeting wink.gif ))

  • "I believe you, Fernando." Gaius smiled genially, then glanced at Minister Schalling. "What do you say, Lothar? I would think this is a good way to proceed."

    The Minister of Industry considered for a moment, his brow deeply furrowed, then nodded. "I agree. This does sound like a good start to me. I, too, would prefer a joint venture, considering the extraordinary conditions of the mining project. Purchasing the shares of these two companies will simplify matters for both parties. The expertise of the Federal Geology Society is of course at your disposal, and I am certain they will gladly share any research they have conducted so far with your companies' own survey teams."

    "As we all acutely know, it can be a sensitive subject to many when natural resources and foreign corporations meet in the same sentence", added Gaius. "Your proposal to fill half the positions required for the Myrenia Project with Aurean employers is a very bright one and will undoubtedly negate most of such sentiment. Also, I think we can all agree that the final percentage of the Aurean share can be left for further discussions, once we have properly analyzed the situation and seen how interested AB Inbev Mining and George Forrest really are."

    Minister Baruch, in the meantime, was busying himself with his tablet, furiously tapping all sorts of graphs and calculations, evaluating the pros and cons of various predicted expenses and the possible yield percentages for Pax Aurea. He was very good at that sort of things, although his dedicated infatuation with economics and mathematics didn't always make his wife so happy.

    Schalling cleared his throat. "And speaking of government investments, Mr President, I could not help but admire the Ford that brought us here from the marina. Back when I was a young man, heh-heh, well, I guess I was quite a daredevil with cars -- the faster the better was my motto. You mentioned several new green innovations, and we would be interested in learning more. Ford is one of the companies we have considered investing in, if the profits look promising enough."

    "Future is in cleantech", echoed Minister Chabert. "And we want to be involved and encouraging such projects and developments."

    "And making a few Aurean Marks in the process wouldn't hurt", muttered Baruch with a glimmer of laughter in his eyes.

  • ?Such a joint venture of the two Occoronian top companies regarding mining, combined with the expertise and knowledge of the Federal Geology Society ? and also the AORIST, since both companies participate in that project too ? that sounds like a promising undertaking to me. If the rest of this meeting will be equally fruitful, we might have doubled the Occoronian-Aurean GDP?, Mahanga smiled.

    ?For what concerns your proposal about the Ford Motor Company, Minister Almunia continued, ?I think some Aurean Marks are always welcome?

    Secretary Alonso immediately started typing on her tablet computer, and showed the screen to Almunia. After a quick glance, he nodded, after which Alonso said:

    ?And there are indeed shares available, so that won?t be a problem. 30% of the shares are still available. You of course don't have to buy all of it, I'm just saying everyone can still get a piece of the pie. And since Aurean-Occoronian cooperations always have been very successful, I don't see why we wouldn't pursue this idea. May I also add that the Fordari family, the owners and founders of Ford, also participate in the AORIST. That way, the Ford Motor Company always had access to the latest breakthroughs and innovations of the research project. That?s interesting, especially since one of the main tasks of the AORIST indeed is researching greener and cleaner ways to live on this planet.?

    ?And combining money with top researchers, that can only be a success I guess?, Mahanga finished her argument. ?So indeed, a few Aurean Marks wouldn?t hurt, he laughed.

  • "We had a strong feeling that Ford would be a suitable alternative for further investments when we arrived in Occoron, and I think I can speak for everyone when I say that this sentiment has become even more convincing", mused Gaius. "We will have to discuss the issue further with the Senate, but I believe we can already promise a..." He glanced at Schalling, who immediately produced an estimation: "Ten percent of the available shares, at least, would make a difference to the company as well as a reliable new source of revenue for the government. Perhaps more, if the committee favours."

    "Yes, indeed. This world is run not by presidents and emperors, but committees", chuckled Gaius. "Well. This may serve as a decent transition to another matter I would like to discuss with you, Fernando. Both Ford and the mining companies have been involved in the work of the AORIST. As you know, we did tentatively prod the subject during my visit to Aerodimus. The Corelians are interested in consolidating their scientific cooperation with both Pax Aurea and Occoron, but it was decided that any potential expansion of the AORIST's sphere of partnership would first have to be talked with your government."

    Minister Chabert confirmed: "Pax Aurea would be glad to explore these new possibilities. Already the inclusion of Northern Caesarea has proven to be fruitful. I see no obstacles to further increasing this R&D collaboration despite the ongoing plans of a university alliance Dominik Frank, for instance, has examined. Pooling our resources for common good will undoubtedly, as we've already seen, benefit all involved parties."

  • ?I can assure you that Ford is indeed a very good investment! I suppose the Occoronian ambassador in Pax Aurea will keep us up to date on the state of affairs in the Committee, but 10 percent of the available shares sounds very promising! Alonso worded the Occoronian response.

    ?I sometimes get the impression this world is more run by my wife, Gaius?, Mahanga laughed. Okay, I didn?t say that!? Mahanga?s catching laugh also made the other attendees chuckling. After a few moments, Almunia continued: ?I guess it would be useless to go over all the benefits of the AORIST once again. Especially since we all know it would be impossible to name them all. I can only agree that the inclusion of Northern Caesarea has both been a benefit to Occoron ? and I suppose to Pax Aurea and of course Northern Caesarea as well. Therefore, I would have no problem at all to see Os Corelia participating in the project? Mahanga nodded affirmative, while Almunia continued. ?As you say, it would generate new possibilities and that can only be good for the project. The more brains, the better, I?d say. And I also don?t think the University Collaboration Project by Commissioner Frank should make the AORIST impossible. To the contrary, I think this could be a very useful completion. Besides, with the AORIST, both our nations already have a lot of experience in scientific and academic cooperation, so we know what we?re dealing with. We can perfectly use our skills to convince other European nations the collaboration is certainly worth the effort. Although I think we?re not doing bad, since the AORIST will be now twice as large as when it started? Almunia smiled.

  • "Perhaps the best way to proceed, then, would be to organize a meeting between the AORIST representatives of our four nations -- Pax Aurea, Occoron, Northern Caesarea, and Os Corelia", proposed Minister Chabert. "With more than a year of fruitful research behind us, it'd also be a proper time to ponder the future course of our joint enterprise. So I think we'll be seeing a lot of each others in the near future, Pedro", she added, and -- maybe the Minister of Innovation imagined it all? -- gave a barely noticeable wink.

    The summit had progressed smoothly and already resulted in a great deal of consensus and deals that promised much after their implementation. It felt almost mournful for Gaius to divert the talks to darker matters, but he thought it had to be done, too. In times like these, it was more than necessary to have close and reliable friends around. Especially those with a like mind.

    "It pains me to marr the good spirit of our meeting by bringing ugly matters onto the bargaining table, but I think I may speak for all of us when I acknowledge that Europe has taken a turn into a lot murkier and more uncertain future over the course of the past months", the President began. "I find this latest development of European security issues most troublesome: on the other hand", he raised his left hand, palm cupped upwards, "we have the newly invigorated spirit of building nuclear reserves; and at the same time", he raised his right hand, "the spectre of terrorism that has taken root in so many nations, both internally and internationally. It relieves me to take notice that Occoron -- at least for the time being -- has been spared of this dreadful menace. Let us hope that it stays this way!"

    Gaius gestured with his index finger, and one of his aides handed him a simple, non-descriptive memory stick. "Within this little device is a collection of every piece of data we have managed to dig up on Benjamin Castus, the infamous "Shepherd" of the CACA, and his confessor, Father Ignatius Angelus. I trust this to your and your intelligence service's care. Who knows, perhaps your people can catch a scent that has eluded us, with enough luck -- but mainly, may this help you and Occoron prepare for and defend yourselves against Castus and his kind. As long as he and his ideological father, Owain Davies, remain at large, no-one is truly safe in our continent. He has proven once and for all that he does not care who gets killed in his brutal strikes against his imaginary adversaries. As our CACA expert Anna Cereno put it, there is no collateral damage to Castus, only friends and foes. And I fear that none of us sitting around this table can be counted among his friends..."

    Gaius sighed. "Fernando, I want to ask you something. I believe Councillor Orcello and Mrs Arcturus did the best job they could with the Europol Act draft that was presented to the Council. It did not pass, and this did not surprise us too much. Yet it was a disappointed. I am now inquiring if Occoron would join Europol if similar arrangements were organized in the form of an international treaty, instead of an EU law. As wary as I personally am when it comes to extensive and omnipresent intelligence organizations, I am convinced that the Europol is what needs to be done in order to better prepare our nations to this kind of unconventional, non-state threats like the Crusader movement. As we have seen, nations with and without traditional armies are vulnerable to the type of warfare Castus and his minions carry out."

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    Benjamin Castus, the Commander of the Crusade Against Corrupt Aureans movement. Photo courtesy of a careless CACA terrorist detained after the Christmas Day attacks.

  • ?That sounds like a good idea, Minister?, Minister Almunia started the Occoronian response. ?A meeting with all nations involved will be the best and most efficient thing to do. That way, we can get an overview of all different opinions. And I don?t mind seeing you a few more times, Beatrice?? Almunia emphasized his words by trying a wink, but it turned out to be a less subtle one than his Aurean counterpart. Mahanga, chuckling as he noticed the wink exchanging, thought the word ?clumsy? mostly described the actions of his Minister for Economy and Innovation.

    Mahanga?s smile disappeared as soon as the Aurean President brought up regional security. With a serious look on his face, he listened carefully to what Proctus had to say about the matter.

    ?First of all, I am very grateful that the Crusader movements did not yet succeed to get their grip on Occoron. It is a daily battle though and we all know it is impossible to win it. Our security services need a 100% success rate ? and none of the Occoronian top AORIST scientists ever got a 100% on any of his projects ? while the terrorists only need ?cero coma cero cero cero cero cero cero cero cero cero cero cinco?. And as you said ? like the terrorist movements isn?t enough ? the nuclearization of this Union is certainly a real concern to my nation. I have to say though that the meeting of the Occoronian Foreign Affairs Minister with the Prime and Foreign Commissioner of Davishire is going very well. I?d describe it as a ?small but necessary success?.?

    Mahanga accepted the memory stick and handed it over to one of his aides, saying: ?I will of course do everything within my power to make sure that Occoron will do everything possible to help the Aureans in bringing the culprits responsible for hundreds of deaths to justice. And I am still convinced that the Europol Act could have been a wonderful mechanism to increase the cooperation between nations in their joint fight against terrorism. Although we had some concerns at first ? I believe Councillor Dammo made some remarks in the Council ? we thought the amendments made the bill more than strong enough to be very useful to the European member states. That?s also why the Occoronian government supported the bill, and why Councillor Dammo voted in favor of it. The Occoronian government would thus fully support the establishment of Europol as an international treaty instead of EU law. This of course needs to be ratified and approved by the Occoronian Parliament, but I think most Members of Parliament would agree with me. I understand your concern regarding extensive and omnipresent intelligence services ? I?m not in favor of them either ? and I also believe we should be careful in exchanging information about Occoronian citizens with other, foreign nations. I am of opinion though that Europol takes these concerns into account and that it?s the ?golden mean? between privacy and security.?

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    "I agree that all these steps must be taken carefully, and we cannot allow ourselves get slowly sidetracked into an Orwellian situation where the Big Brother has become omnipresent, and just about everyone satisfied with the status quo", pondered Gaius. "I would have reservations about an independent international intelligence agency that operates beyond the control of national governments; the strength and weakness of this planned Europol agency is its dependency on existing national intelligence agencies."

    The president took a moment to gather his thoughts, gazing at the idyllic forest view outside of the large windows of the mansion. The urban background ambience was so distant he could actually hear birdsong outside in the gardens.

    "Truth is, Fernando, that I find it surprising that we Aureans have not reacted more... how to put it... frantically to what happened to us", he confessed. "Although there are calls for heightened security, which I fully understand and agree with, as a practical necessity, most of the ordinary folk are not willing to sacrifice the open and liberal society we have managed to build over the years and generations. Would curtailing the civil liberties prevent new terrorist attacks? Perhaps. Or it might result in an atmosphere of fear and distrust and hatred, a fertile soil for new radicals to spring from. It is a tip of a dagger we are trodding, seeking the right balance -- and I can only hope in earnest that we -- I -- have made the right calls at the right times."

    He frowned. "Those include the workings of the ENAA. Of course I cannot elaborate on all the details of what happens in the closed sessions of the Council, but it is besides the point anyway. This... nuclearization, as you put it, and may I say it is an excellent word to describe the situation, is a worrying development. Though the recent crisis that involved our Davishirian, Corelian, and Halsbergian friends seemed to have sprouted out of a series of elaborate bluffs and smokescreens ((OOC: If it has been established IC that the Davishirian government played a good bluff about its current nuclear capabilities?)), it does accentuate the gravity of the European security. The year 2013 has seen a rapid rise in the amount of nuclear weaponry and programs present in our region. Minister Carranza has performed superbly in mediating the Davishirian situation, and I would like to offer him my congratulations on a job well done. Though I am no prophet, I fear we may see similar tensions appear in other corners of Europe as this nuclearization proceeds. We are grateful for the Carranzas of our time -- but at the same time we should seek a route to make them unnecessary, if you understand my meaning. Europe is in need for a new vision of peace. Peace that is more than just the absence of armed conflict."

    Gaius cleared his throat, then continued: "I have contemplated about making a statement -- a statement of an unusual kind. A public declaration of anti-nuclearization for Europe. A treaty, of a sort, for nations to sign and declare their intentions of not pursuing a nuclear deterrent, or indeed any for of WMDs. Not a binding treaty -- that would be impossible to regulate, after all. But a public statement and vow of the strongest kind. Imagine the prestige nations freely declaring their intention to stay nuclear free may gain -- imagine the public shame if they later withdraw their pledge! Some of my advisers have warned me that such a move could be seen as overly smug and complacent, however. I would like to hear your view on the matter, Fernando, for I sense that Occoron under your administration might very well be one of the signatories of such a paper."

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    ?I understand your concern, Gaius, but I believe the lack of reaction by the Aureans is more the solution than the problem. I compared the necessary success rates of the security services and the terrorists. We will never be able to win the fight against terrorism with weapons or intelligence. It is our people, that?s our real strength. More than terrorist actions, the fear for them is the real treat to a European society. Only a few culprits causing a few casualties ? although there will always be too many, let?s be clear about that ? can completely turn down life in a nation. The government can try to locate terrorists, we can try to arrest them. But we can never do that with the fear they cause. And as long as that fear is not the dominant feeling, I think we should be very happy. We have to take into account the risks of terrorism and we should be aware of the possible effects, but we should never let it determine our life.?

    Mahanga, very concerned about the latest regional happenings, continued ?I fully understand it is impossible to elaborate on those details. And by the way ? I also understand I should congratulate you on your re-election in the ENAA. I have to say I?m very happy that the nuclear free European nations are represented by a real nuclear free European nation! The recent crisis involving all the nations you just mentioned, is indeed characteristic for the regional security. This time we could prevent a real escalation of the conflict, and we remained in the ?Look how tough I am?-phase ((OOC: That?s alright with me!)). But the problem with that phase is that you are very aware where and when you start, but you never know how it will end. The ? let?s call it ?snowball effect? ? can start something we don?t want to happen. And with the nuclearization of Europe, that chances things we don?t want to happen actually happen, only increase, while also the gravity of those things increase. And that?s surely not a good development. I fully agree that it should be our goal to make Carranzas unnecessary. That?s why I also fully support the treaty you just mentioned. As you stated very correctly, it would be impossible to connect legal implications to it. But that?s not necessary to give a strong signal to other European nations. I hope that the treaty will be signed by as many nations as possible, and I assure you Occoron will be among them.?

  • "I am pleased that you and I share a similar vision, although accomplishing it may prove challenging", said Gaius. "But if we had decided to drop ambitious plans only because the odds did not favour us at the time, then where would we be now? Probably quite far behind of our present situation, I would say!" The president seemed to grow a bit more excited as he continued: "Two years ago, the outcome of our Moon program looked rather dim, but we refused to abandon our ambitions, decided to team up, and half a year ago, the first Aurean walked on the Moon. Julia often said that if we can put a person on another celestial body, then we should be able to have a civilized discussion with any of our neighbours regardless of the circumstances."

    Clearing his throat, he added: "I shall continue with the pledge toward nuclear-free Europe. Once this voluntary treaty becomes reality, I am certain the European nations and leaders will follow with great interest which names can be spotted among its signatories."

    Gaius, glancing around in the bargaining table, smiled. "It appears we have had a fruitful meeting so far. Though now I feel like I have barged in with a bag full of offers and suggestions and ideas, and given you too little time to speak for Occoron's own interests. So, for now, let us turn our attention away from Pax Aurea to Occoron." The president leaned forward, expectingly. "What can we do for you, Fernando and dear Ministers?"

  • ?I completely agree that accomplishing our common vision will be challenging. But that indeed shouldn?t prevent us from pursuing them. And I suppose Julia was very right ? although I?ve actually never caught her being wrong? Also my government will continue to pursue a nuclear-free Europe, a Europe that is safe from the extreme dangers created by mankind itself. I hope ? and with your diplomatic and persuasive talents, Gaius, I?m sure ? that other European leaders will follow this example and join the treaty.?

    ?I completely agree that we had a fruitful meeting so far, and I am convinced we have some good results for Occoron too. Although you indeed came with a lot of suggestions and offers, I?m sure that all of the proposal were in Occoron?s best interest ? I wouldn?t allow otherwise, you see?, Mahanga laughed. ?But a lot of the concerns by my nation were also addressed, like the European security issues lately. This is of course not surprising, as two similar-minded nations have similar interests. But there is one thing that I would like to bring up, Gaius, before you leave for your visit to Inimicus. The Aurean-Occoronian cooperation has been very fruitful so far: abolishing visa limiations have resulted in a lot of Occoronians visiting Pax Aurea, the free trade zone has resulted in a significant increase of trade between our two nations, and I can go on for a while. The problem is though, that lots of Occoronians in Pax Aurea, all have their problems they want to see solved. The geographically position of your nation though, makes it very difficult for our embassy in Pacifica to help all the Occoronians who count on our help. That?s why the Occoronian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a proposal, which would increase the Occoronian representation in the Federal Commonwealth.? Mahanga looked at his Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, asking her ?Could you continue Amalia, since this is a proposal by your Ministry??

    Alonso immediately started typing on her tablet computer, after which a map of Pax Aurea appeared on a screen posted at one side of the room. ?Our proposal would expand the Occoronian representation in Pax Aurea, besides the diplomatic mission in Pacifica, with six diplomatic posts. A Consulate-General, led by a Consul-General, would be established in Aureanopolis and Port Aureus. They would be responsible for the isles of Celesta and Beatica respectively. Another Consulate-General, also led by a Consul-General would be established in Port Africa and would be responsible for consular issues on the isle of Colonia Africana as well as for the coordination between the other Consulates in the Outremer Colonies. They would be established in Colonia Nova, Celestica and Valenia, led by a Consul, and they would be responsible for consular issues there. The Occoronian Embassy in Pacifica would remain responsible for the consular issues on Insula Aurea and the embassy would of course remain the main representation of the Democratic Republic to the Federal Commonwealth. The Consulates and Consulate-Generals would only deal with consular issues, such as local public diplomacy, promoting trade and helping Occoronians there with educational, touristic, trade and I don?t know what else kind of problems. It would also be possible for Occoronians to cast their vote in a consular post for instance, so they don?t have to go to Pacifica if they want to use their political rights in an Occoronian election while being on holidays. In Occoron, Consuls and Consulate-Generals share the same status as ordinary diplomats. There is no different career track: most diplomats will have done consular work once, and the other way around. They are all part of the Occoronian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they all have to listen to the Occoronian Minister for Foreign Affairs. I know that granting full diplomatic status to consular personnel can be the cause of some concern, and that?s also why I would like your opinion on the matter, Mr. President. I would of course also like to hear what your thoughts are on the whole proposal.?

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