VIEWS: 12 PAGES: 7 POSTED ON: 11/14/2009
FRONT PAGE Complex path An arbitration commission of experts in international law coordinated by the European Union (or, in alternative, a bilateral agreement) will seek a solution to Slovenia and Croatia's unsolved dispute. This is a first important step. The dispute, ongoing since 1991, has deadlocked Croatia's EU accession negotiations over the past ten months thus limiting EU enlargement to the Balkan States, born on the ashes of former Yugoslavia. This is crucial step for the establishment of peace in the region, putting an end to armed conflicts once and for all. The EU has a unique opportunity to play a major role in the future development of the Balkan area, taking the floor of the United States and Russia. It is an opportunity to erase the Country's internal divisions and struggles notably in Kosovo - whose tragic consequences still drag on, from the public opinion's memories. Zagreb accepted to invalid the documents submitted after June 25 1991 - when the Country declared its independence - aimed at the resolution of the dispute. As a result and under pressure of the US and of several Western Countries, Lubijana lifted the veto to the prosecution of Croatia's EU-adhesion negotiations. The two States' land-and-sea borders will be defined through arbitration or with a bilateral agreement. At present Slovenia has no direct access to international waters (with considerable consequences on fishery) and urges Croatia to extend by one-and-a-half kilometers the sea border in the Gulf of Piran. Given this situation, it is most likely that "a co-managed" solution will be sought to protect both parties' interests. However other questions such as the stockpiling of Krsko's nuclear plant radioactive waste (on Slovenian soil but in co-ownership) and the debt of ex-Ljubljanska Bank to Croatian depositors, whose deposits have been frozen for the past five years, are yet to be solved. Croatian neo-Premier Jadranka Kosor, (who succeeded dimissioner Ivo Sanader at the beginning of July) dearly needs this success to counterbalance the unpopular measures adopted by her government to heal the Country's tragic economic situation. Despite the Euroskeptic increase over the past ten months, nobody dares question that EU adhesion is the only path leading to Croatia's stable political and social future. Once Liubijana has given the green light, Zagreb's yearning for Europe will need to address the reservation of several EU governments - notably The Netherlands - which protest Croatia's lack of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, especially as the relates to the submittance of papers documenting the tragic artillery assault on Knin in 1995. In the meantime, the intergovernmental conference regarding Croatia's EU accession is scheduled for Friday October 2. Items on the agenda include the 14 negotiating points between Zagreb and Brussels, 5 nearing completion and 9 yet to be addressed. Indeed, arbitration protocol negotiations are due to resume on the same day. It is to be assumed that Croatia's EU membership will take place in 2012, while the Country's adhesion to the Schengen Treaty and the adoption of the euro currency is expected to take much longer. Croatia's EU-adhesion is expected to cause a domino effect involving all the Countries of former Yugoslavia. It is an intricate path, considering the region's complexity, which is however crucial to Europe's future. MAURO U NGARO <br>Balkan politics scholar Slovenia and Croatia's initiatives ensuing EU membership The bishops of Bretagne voiced their concern over the "cry of desperation" of milk producers. In a joint message released by the French Bishops' Conference, the bishops invoke "solidarity" with the farmers and urge large distribution companies to "adequately remunerate" the farmers' work. The Bishops of Rennes, Dol and Saint-Malo, Saint Brieuc and Tréguier, Quimper and Léon jointly signed the appeal. "Farms are undergoing acute and complex crises. We hear the cries of desperation of milk producers", who went so far as to destroy part of their produce to attract attention to their cause. The Bishops ask whether "society can receive this call of pain", and add: "the milk crisis occasionally has serious consequences on the families, not to mention the repercussions on other professional figures in the agricultural sector". Hence the Bishops call everyone, primarily the Christian community, to activate France, Austria, Czech Republic France: the bishops' appeal for farmers solidarity actions for this bracket. "Farmers have the right to see their work acknowledged through the just remuneration of their work that will cover their families' expenses. They have the right to aim at a profession that deserves to be better appreciated by consumers. Agricultural production - the bishops point out - has its own criteria, which ought to be acknowledged and respected". The Bishops call upon "large distribution manufacturers" to "value the agricultural products with appropriate retributions". Austria: Christianity's contribution to Europe The inalienable meaning of Christianity for Europe was highlighted on September 17 in Strasbourg by Msgr. Egon Kapellari, bishop of Graz, in a speech delivered at the "Klingenthal-Symposion", organized by the "Johann Wolfgang von Goethe" foundation in Basil, that closed September 18. Msgr. Kapellari reiterated, "Those who fail to mention Christianity's human and cultural inspiration to Europe are denying the fundamental ongoing contribution of Christianity to the patrimony of values of European societies". The Bishop, who is responsible for European Questions at the Austrian Bishops' Conference added, "Churches tirelessly recall that Europe is not only an economic community. Rather, it is a community marked by cultural and spiritual values. Europe has all reasons to reiterate and reaffirm its very own Christian tradition". In this framework, as reported by Austria's Catholic news agency Kathpress, Msgr. Kapellari described Christianity as the "cultural guide" of Europe, although the "Jewish, ancient, Islamic and Enlightenment traditions are part and parcel of Europe's soul". The "inalienable" values of this culture, the bishop said, include "human dignity, solidarity and the respect for life". Msgr. Kapellari said he hopes the EU acts as the guarantor, combating "wild and unrestrained globalization" and upholding "the unique cultural and social standards of Europe". "The EU must step up its engagement for a social union", he added. The bishops pointed out that solidarity cannot be restrained to Member States only, and that the EU's "ultimate goal" ought to be "world solidarity, notably towards populations experiencing seriously tragic situations". In order to achieve this goal, Msgr. Kapellari said, a "fundamental" contribution is to be found in the "force of Christianity" and in "the principles of the Catholic social doctrine". Czech Republic: awaiting the Pope's arrival There are great expectations in the Czech Republic for the apostolic visit of Benedict XVI next September 26-28. The Country is witnessing a flowering of initiatives in view of this important event. The Pontiff will visit Prague, Stará Boleslav and Brno, on the occasion of the feast of Saint Wenceslaus, Patron saint of the nation. The apostolic journey will take place upon the 20th anniversary since the fall of Communism. Initiatives promoted for the occasion include a conference on the Magisterium of Benedict XVI held on September 19 in Brno. In an interview released for the occasion to Slovakia's Catholic television Tele Lux, the Cardinal archbishop of Prague Miloslav Vlk said: "We're a small people, a small State in the heart of Europe and for us the visit of the Holy Father is a grace, a true blessing. We expect his visit to strengthen our faith". His Eminence remarked, "There is an urgent need for a stronger witness of Gospel proclamation in our Country. The Christian witness must be spread throughout our society". ECUMENISM An encounter marked by an optimistic outlook of the relations' development and of the ecumenical cooperation between the Catholic Church and Moscow's Patriarchate. This is what emerges from the official statements and declarations ensuing Vatican meetings with Metropolitan Hilarion, neo-President of the Department for External Relations of Moscow's Patriarchate, during his trip to Rome, culminated on September 18 with the audience with pope Benedict XVI. The deputy of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion, had a meeting with Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. During the meeting, held September 16 -states a Note of the Russian patriarchate - were addressed a series of issues including the activities of theological dialogue promoted by the international mixed Commission (the Commission is due to meet again in Cyprus next month) and the possibilities for Orthodox-Catholic cooperation "to address the challenges of the modern world". Interviewed by the Vatican Radio Cardinal Kasper described a "new situation between the Catholic Church and Moscow's patriarchate. We overcame all the tensions of the past years. Our current relations are normal, peaceful and also positive and constructive". The Orthodox Metropolitan met with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, who conveyed the hope - according to the Patriarch's official statement - to Holy See-Russia, Austria Holy See-Russia: Hilarion in Rome be consulted by the Vatican in case of "activities" carried out by the Catholic Church in Russian Orthodox-majority Countries Church. In the meeting with Cardinal Bertone the Metropolitan bishop addressed once again the cooperation between the two Churches on issues pertaining to public and private ethical code "in order to defend traditional Christian values". Metropolitan Hilarion delved into the thorny issue of "the ongoing problems between the Orthodox Church and the Greek-Catholics in Ukraine" during his encounter with Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches. The Metropolitan bishops -states the communiqué- asked the Holy See to put "all efforts to hasten the resolution of the problem". He added that the meeting with Cardinal Sandri was marked "by mutual understanding and good will". The Metropolitan bishop concluded his trip to Rome with a visit to the Saint Egidio Community. "We live is a de-Christianised world", he declared in that circumstance "and contemporary society with its consumerism, hedonism, practical materialism and moral relativism represents a serious and difficult challenge to all of us Christians". "The future of humanity also depends on our response to this challenge". Austria: a commitment for reconciliation An ecumenical meeting commemorating the deportation of 427 Protestants in Zillertal in 1837, was the opportunity to reiterate the joint commitment for reconciliation on the part of the Catholic and Protestant Churches. The ceremony, held in Zillertal on Septmber 16 was attended by the bishop of Innsbruck Msgr. Manfred Scheuer, who remarked, "It is an unglorious page for Catholics" that is "linked to shame and to the plead of forgiveness". Msgr. Scheuer and the Evangelical superintendent of the Land Luise Müller, recalled the historical circumstances of the event. "Protestants were viewed as a danger for the Tyrol", that was traditionally Catholic. They eventually became the object of intolerance and criminalization. As relates to the present, Msgr. Scheuer condemned social impulses that marginalize other citizens making them appear as enemies. "To view with diffidence and contempt other people and other Countries, or including in one's enemies those who do not align and succumb, is viewed as a weakness", said Msgr. Scheuer, who called for "mutual respect along with the respect for human dignity. Superintendent Müller suggested that "the dark episode" of 1837 may "not have been overcome completely" to the light "of politicians' statements on the occasion" of the 200th anniversary of the Tyrol that recurs this year. As relates to relations with the Catholic Church, Müller declared, "Ecumenism is positively experienced by women" and "in some areas there is a positive cooperation with Catholic priests. However", she added, "backward steps are occasionally made, like the refusal to toll the bells of Catholic Churches during Evangelical funerals and when joint religious classes are rejected". CATHOLICS AND ORTHODOX Overcoming indifference Passionate involvement in the encounter and in the dialogue with the other is the challenge Christian Churches are called to face today in Europe to be more incisive in the continent's cultural debate. This is the view of the Apostolic nuncio to the Russian Federation archbishop Antonio Mennini. SIR Europe interviewed the Nuncio during the 17th International Conference on Orthodox spirituality held at the Monastery of Bose September 9-11 on the theme "Spiritual struggle according to the Orthodox tradition". Orthodox and Reformation Church theologians and scholars from 21 world countries attended the encounter. Is there a spiritual struggle, a path of conversion that the Churches are called to address in order to achieve communion? "A few years ago, on the occasion of the Week for Christian unity, Msgr. Grab, who at the time was the President of the Bishops Conferences in Europe, said during a homily that communion will be attained only if an increasing number of Orthodox, Anglicans and Catholics realize that Church division causes individual suffering. In this way only will the ecumenical journey and the quest for unity have the power to overcome occasional stases. The spiritual struggle stems from the fact that the person that is near me loves Jesus like I do. Sadly, indifference prevails in many cases, while every so often dialogue is hindered by ideological and cultural prejudice. Prior to Church missionary commitments in the Far East, in Africa and India, it is necessary to learn the local language and mostly, the local traditions. Effort should be put in valuing the positive elements of local realities for Gospel proclamation. Past misunderstandings between Churches were due to the fact that this kind of approach was missing". It has been said that the public arena grants space for the spiritual struggles caused by contemporary hot issues - primarily the debate on life. This requires the Churches' joint effort in the cultural realm. What is Msgr. Antonio Mennini, Apostolic nuncio to the Russian Federation your opinion? "Christian faith ought to be delved into in the perspective of reception while addressing contemporary questions. In fact, the Orthodox Church is in the front line as relates to the defense of life, from the moment of conception to its natural termination, and genetic engineering. However, it's necessary to act at the right moment since safeguarding the tradition didn't bring the Churches to promote the dissemination of intrinsic values. It's a treasure yet to be disclosed whose contents require accurate analysis". How is this situation experienced today, especially in the relations with the Russian Church? "There is a new atmosphere, marked by mutual understanding, also owing to the work of the mixed commission set up a few years ago. This understanding extends far beyond tolerance. It's the yearning to establish a deep communion, which is not limited to formal encounters. Recent cooperation regarded the preparation of religious school-books. At the end of July, during a meeting with the heads of the so-called 'traditional' religions, President Medevev conveyed the government's decision to introduce the teaching of religion as a trial-test to be coordinated not by ecclesiastical staff but by teachers appointed by the Ministry of Education. He reiterated that religion classes are taught on a voluntary basis, meaning that students can choose whether to attend them, in order to prevent discriminations". How do you view this decision? "It's extremely important since for centuries Christian faith in Russia was unspoken of. Since the onset faith education was one of Patriarch Kirill's primary concerns, following the wake of Alexis II. It will be possible to choose between the Orthodox religion, one's own Church or civic and moral education. The process will require time, since teachers' formation is needed along with the appropriate school-books. The Orthodox are the most prepared, since they have been engaged in this issue for years, and many Muslim communities in Russia are promoting this option in schools, on a voluntary basis. The Catholic Church' involvement in this project amounts to one every 2-3 million Russian pupils, however, we gave our availability in drawing up the contents, notably some chapters relating to the relations between Orthodoxy and Catholicism to prevent misunderstandings and the reiteration of earlier approaches. The proposal was received positively, which shows the willingness to cooperate on important themes". ECCLESIAL MOVEMENTS Together for Europe On September 19-20 the event "Together for Europe" was held in Italy for the first time. Dozens of ecclesial movements, associations and new communities in Italy were represented by 1400 participants. The encounter, co-organized by the Focolari Movement, by the John XIII association, by the Renewal in the Holy Spirit and by the Saint Egidio Community follows the wake of the meetings held in Stuttgart in 2004 and in 2007 and similar events held in 2009 in cities across Europe. The event was endorsed by the Italian Bishops' Conference and by the President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano. In a telegram President Napolitano reiterated the "special relevance" of the commitment of "those who contribute to the promotion of a strong sense of solidarity and social cohesion". The final statement. The following points were highlighted in the final statement signed on September 20 th by movements and associations representatives in Loppiano: "To promote the love for life from the moment of conception to its natural termination, to protect the family, to devote attention to the youth, granting solidarity and reception to people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds". The final statement clearly states the Ecclesial movements' commitment to "renew and give Europe a soul", starting from Italy. "We walk together for an economy to the service of the common good, for the development of disadvantaged Countries, starting from African Countries, and for fraternity in all environments, between different populations and ethnicities, to the service of peace and for the unity of the human family". These commitments, is written in the statement, stem from a culture of "sharing" that comes from putting into practice the Word of God. This concept was reiterated by Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity in a message sent to the event's participants, "Your contribution is for a Europe capable of humanity, a Europe of the spirit which gives a soul to all human realities, living and bearing witness to your faith in your daily lives", His Eminence wrote. A new spirit. Maria Voce Emmaus, national coordinator of the Focolari movement, retraced some episodes of the life of the Movement's founder Chiara Lubich, and reaffirmed the centrality of the Word of God and its role in the erection of the European home. "Indeed, the life of the Gospel flourished in all the movements, with the Reiterated the commitment for unity in Loppiano (Italy) peculiar traits of the different charismas that the Lord munificently bestowed, whose thrust was perceived by all those who underwent this path of communion. Sharing the fruits of this life has brought us to share also our hopes and our dreams, joining our strategies and forces in the quest of a new spirit that may give new vitality to the Christian roots of Europe". "Europe is undergoing a moment of difficulty", acknowledged Marco Impagliazzo, from the Saint Egidio Community, referring to voters' lack of interest in the latest European election, the increasing sentiments of separatism and division in Great Britain, Belgium, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Austria, the surging xenophobic and localistic movements, discrimination against gypsies, oppressive legislation against foreigners and the ongoing distancing from Africa. "Europe's mission ought to be reconsidered, given the globalised, contradictory and confused world. There still is a need for Europe", Impagliazzo said, "but European citizens don't seem to realize it. Europeans have grown scared and detached". Impagliazzo calls upon self-absorbed Europe "to become a unifying force, capable of engendering dialogue among peoples that were divided by historical events, without erasing their identities. This is the charisma of Europe, which has a mission and a vocation for unity and peace. Europeans possess precious human values for the future of the world which they cannot disperse". Thus, Europe's Christian lay movements "ought to ensure that Europe continues being constructed. Christianity can force the doors of fear and closure and give rise to a new humanism". "We experience the evil fabric of our Continent - warned Salvatore Martinez, President of Renewal in the Holy Spirit - Europe is missing God. Our presence must not pass unnoticed. In order to create peoples' unity on the basis of spiritual values and spiritual roots, we must jointly refer to our Holy Scriptures that constitute the noblest part of the history of European peoples. We must prevent others from estranging Christianity. The Gospel is unchanged and Europe in Christ shall never age. Men and women in prayer are the greatest treasure of hope for this world". EUROPEAN COUNCIL With one voice At the Pittsburgh summit "the EU will speak with one coordinated voice", declared Fredrik Reinfeldt, Swedish Premier and current President of the European Council. The summit of the 27, a summit he had actively promoted, was held in Brussels on 17 September: it was "a turning point" in establishing the common position Europe will support at the G20 in Pittsburgh, USA on 24-25 September. Financial crisis and post-Kyoto. European leaders meeting in Brussels last week "reviewed the measures adopted to tackle the financial crisis" and the global economic situation "that is beginning to show signs of recovery". The improvement has been achieved, according to the explanations furnished by Reinfeldt himself at the end of the summit, "thanks to massive state support for the financial sector", though this in turn has led to "large public deficits". The heads of state and of government of the member countries of the EU agreed on the need to "work towards exit strategies that can pave the way for a return to sound public finances". "A sustainable economy - this is the widely shared conviction - is an essential prerequisite for safeguarding employment". At Pittsburgh the representatives of the EU will sit at the same table as the "big powers": USA, Russia, China, India and various other "emerging countries". They will discuss the reform of the international financial system, including the salaries and bonuses paid to top managers. Discussion at the G20 summit will also focus on the costs to counter climate change, in preparation for the UN Conference on post-Kyoto due to be held in Copenhagen in December. "We must stop the acting and start the action", said Fredrik Reinfeldt, commenting on the slow progress of the negotiations so far. Recovery, markets, rules. As always, a final statement agreed among the leaders present was issued at the end of the EU summit (even an "informal" one like that held on 17 September). It comprises various chapters: Achieving a sustainable recovery; Giving priority to jobs; Rapidly implementing the commitments made for the reform of the financial market; Promoting responsible remuneration practices in the financial sector; Reinforcing the international financial institutions; Consolidating the recovery of the world's poorest countries; Sharing the effort to fund measures for tackling climate change; and Promoting energy security. It's a series of chapters that - apart from their high-sounding titles - suggests the wide spectrum of issues discussed by EU leaders at their summit, the global concerns that the 27 share and the many challenges that await shared, concrete and effective responses from the EU. Labour market at the forefront. On the eve of the Pittsburgh summit the position of the European Union is Economic crisis: the EU at the Pittsburgh Summit sufficiently clear: "The G20 ought to reaffirm its determination to continue to implement coordinated political measures with a view to creating the foundations for sustainable growth and preventing any recurrence of the financial crisis". The efforts must continue "until recovery is assured". EU leaders, based on their analysis of the present and their hopes for the future, then made a prediction: "Global support for the EU economy in 2009 and 2010 ought to reach approximately 5% of GDP". The document speaks of sustainable budgetary policies to prepare for the post-crisis; and of the need to reinforce global macroeconomic coordination at the international level. It expresses its clear opposition to any form of economic protectionism, and hopes for a successful conclusion to the current Doha round of WTO trade negotiations in 2010. Finally the document places labour at the forefront, and underlines its primary significance in an efficient economic system: "To prevent permanent exclusion from the labour market, particular attention needs to be paid to the following aspects: maintenance of employment, creation of new jobs and promotion of mobility; reskilling the workforce; and increased access to employment" (youth, women, those made redundant by the recession). For the 27, therefore, "employment and social cohesion must be at the centre of reflection" at the G20. The poor are paying too high a price. Lengthy chapters are also devoted to the reform of the financial market (new rules, proper regulatory framework, functioning of the credit system, cracking down on "tax havens", reinforcing such institutions as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund). Of particular interest is the chapter devoted to the poor countries, which, due to their economic and social fragility, are - EU leaders recognize - paying too high a price for the recession. "The G20 ought to pledge to strengthen the recovery of the world's poorest countries", says the final document of the EU summit. "In particular, it ought to express support for investments in long-term food supply security, the reduction of energy poverty and better access to credits for small and medium businesses and for low income families". Raising the awareness of citizens about the importance of learning languages and celebrating the European cultural heritage of which languages are an integral part: these are the two main objectives enunciated by the European Commission as part of the programme of events leading up to the European Day of Languages scheduled for 26 September. Events at the European level (national events are also being organized by individual member states) began on 22 September with the first meeting in Brussels of the "Enterprises" platform for multilingualism in the economic field. A conference is being held in Luxembourg on the theme "Technologies at the service of translators" on 24 September". Several different events are being planned for 25-26 September, including lectures, seminars and meetings with youth groups. Leonard Orban, European Commissioner for multilingualism, underlined a particular aspect: "Very young children are particularly gifted when it comes to learning languages. From a scientific point of view, everything seems to show that learning languages ought to begin as early as possible". The Commission is therefore dedicating a conference in Brussels (on 24-25 September) to precocious learning. For further info: www.europa.eu/languages. Eu news in brief Linguistic diversity is a "European heritage" Energy market: the position of Parliament The European Union should "operate at the international level with a common energy policy to ensure supplies to the whole of Europe and prevent future interruptions of gas". With a view to defining shared policies in the sector, and overcoming the problems registered in previous years, for example as a result of disputes between Russia and its neighbouring countries, the European Parliament has sent a resolution on the energy market to the Commission. Adopted during the EP's last plenary session, the resolution asks that "gas stockpiling capacity be increased" and "interconnections between networks be improved". It also approves the funding of the infrastructural projects presented in the European Economic Recovery Plan (250 million euro). The priorities spelt out by the EP also include connections with new gas supplies from the Middle East and from the Caspian Sea region. The Nabucco project, according to the EP, will "help the Union to reduce its dependency on Russian supplies". MEPs invite the Commission to exercise vigilance and take action against "hostile takeover bids by non-transparent foreign entities" in the internal energy market. Sustainable mobility, for higher quality cities European Mobility Week (16-22 September), which has just ended on a positive note, was aimed at promoting sustainable mobility to improve the quality of life in medium and large scale cities. Promoted by the EU, it involved 2000 cities with a wide variety of initiatives and enjoyed the participation of local authorities in 38 states. The theme of European Mobility Week 2009 - it is now in its eight year - was "improving the climate in our cities". Specific actions were taken "at the local level to tackle climate change and improve the quality of life by promoting methods of transport as an alternative to the car, such as bicycles, going on foot and using public transport". Stavros Dimas, EU Commission for the Environment, commented: "Cars produce a high percentage of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change and have a damaging impact on quality of life. It's important that public authorities and citizens throughout the European Union should adopt less polluting methods of transport". The more original initiatives included that of Almada, in Portugal, where citizens received free tickets for public transport in exchange for recyclable material. New web design for the Union's portal A portal that's easier to use to facilitate the access of citizens to information on the EU: to achieve this goal the European Union has proceeded to a "makeover" of its portal on the website www.europa.eu including "new methods for surfing, modern graphic design" and improvements "to simplify searches in all languages". The EU portal is in fact one of the largest in the world with some six million pages: "For this reason it is not surprising that sometimes it seems a bit laborious to find a specific piece of information", points out a press release of the Commission. "To make the entry pages more manageable, we have simplified their design, dividing them into six main sections defined on the basis of users' needs". So we find separate sections devoted to "Information on the EU", "Your Life in the EU", "Policies and Activities", "How to Participate", "Documentation Centre" and "Media Services". "The official portal of the Union is in general the first port of call for those seeking information. Apart from providing information on EU institutions and legislation, the portal also explains how to move from one country to another, how to gain access to European funds, what are the main activities of the EU, and who are their beneficiaries".
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