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ARCHAEOLOGY

Unique medieval Venetian coin found in abandoned Swedish port

Archaeologists in Sweden have discovered a gold ducat from early medieval Venice in Elleholm, a once thriving port that has now entirely disappeared.

Unique medieval Venetian coin found in abandoned Swedish port
The ducat shows St Marcus passing over a standard to the doge Andrea Dandalos. Photo: Blekinge Museum
The ducat was minted during the reign of Doge Andrea Dandalos, who ruled the powerful Italian city state from 1343 to 1354.
 
“To find the first coin ever found in Sweden from the medieval Venice here, suggests it was an international trading port,” Marcus Sandekjer, head of Blekinge Museum, told The Local. 
 
The Archbishop of Lund controlled the city from 1450 right up until the reformation in 1536, when it was passed to the Swedish crown. 
 
“Of course when you find coins from Italy in the Archbishop's city, it's tempting to think that it has something to do with ties to Italy and to the Pope,” Sandekjer said. “But that is just a hypothesis.” 
 
On one side of the coin there is an image of St Marcus passing over a standard to the Doge, and on the other there is an image of the prophet Jesus Christ surrounded by an almond-shaped aureole of light, or Mandorla.
 
The city once took up most of the Elleholm island in the middle of the Mörrumsån river in Blekinge, and included the Sjöborg castle and a church. 
 
“It's a fascinating place, just imagine this little city on an island in the middle of a river,” Sandekjer said. “It was very compact.” 
 
The city was destroyed at least twice, once in 1436 during the Engelbrekt rebellion against the Kalmar Union, and once in 1524 during Søren Norby's Scanian rebellion. 
 
The ongoing dig, a collaboration between the Blekinge Museum and Kulturen, a folk history museum in Lund, is the first on the site since 1924. 
 
The city's disappearance has been linked to the Reformation, which stripped the Archbishop of most of his power, as well as to the development of the nearby port of Karlshamn, and to the changing requirements for a successful trading port. 
 
“This is a small island in the river, upstream, which means they could never go in with ships to the actual island,” Sandekjer explained. “It's a medieval solution for a city to put it upstream.” 
 
As trading volumes increased, ports moved directly to the sea, he said. 
 
Sandekjer said a dendrochrological study of the remains of the bridge to the island had dated it back to 1340, indicating that the site had hosted a port for at least 100 years before it was formally granted city status.   
 
The archaeologists have also found a lead seal from Flanders, dating to the first half of the 14th century. 
 
“It was probably a seal for cloth or clothing,” Sandekjer says. “So that shows us that it was an active place before we knew that it was active.” 

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EUROPEAN UNION

Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you’re moving country

Have you ever wondered what to do with your private pension plan when moving to another European country?

Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you're moving country

This question will probably have caused some headaches. Fortunately a new private pension product meant to make things easier should soon become available under a new EU regulation that came into effect this week. 

The new pan-European personal pension product (PEPP) will allow savers to take their private pension with them if they move within the European Union.

EU rules so far allowed the aggregation of state pensions and the possibility to carry across borders occupational pensions, which are paid by employers. But the market of private pensions remained fragmented.

The new product is expected to benefit especially young people, who tend to move more frequently across borders, and the self-employed, who might not be covered by other pension schemes. 

According to a survey conducted in 16 countries by Insurance Europe, the organisation representing insurers in Brussels, 38 percent of Europeans do not save for retirement, with a proportion as high as 60 percent in Finland, 57 percent in Spain, 56 percent in France and 55 percent in Italy. 

The groups least likely to have a pension plan are women (42% versus 34% of men), unemployed people (67%), self-employed and part-time workers in the private sector (38%), divorced and singles (44% and 43% respectively), and 18-35 year olds (40%).

“As a complement to public pensions, PEPP caters for the needs of today’s younger generation and allows people to better plan and make provisions for the future,” EU Commissioner for Financial Services Mairead McGuinness said on March 22nd, when new EU rules came into effect. 

The scheme will also allow savers to sign up to a personal pension plan offered by a provider based in another EU country.

Who can sign up?

Under the EU regulation, anyone can sign up to a pan-European personal pension, regardless of their nationality or employment status. 

The scheme is open to people who are employed part-time or full-time, self-employed, in any form of “modern employment”, unemployed or in education. 

The condition is that they are resident in a country of the European Union, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein (the European Economic Area). The PEPP will not be available outside these countries, for instance in Switzerland. 

How does it work?

PEPP providers can offer a maximum of six investment options, including a basic one that is low-risk and safeguards the amount invested. The basic PEPP is the default option. Its fees are capped at 1 percent of the accumulated capital per year.

People who move to another EU country can continue to contribute to the same PEPP. Whenever a consumer changes the country of residence, the provider will open a new sub-account for that country. If the provider cannot offer such option, savers have the right to switch provider free of charge.  

As pension products are taxed differently in each state, the applicable taxation will be that of the country of residence and possible tax incentives will only apply to the relevant sub-account. 

Savers who move residence outside the EU cannot continue saving on their PEPP, but they can resume contributions if they return. They would also need to ask advice about the consequences of the move on the way their savings are taxed. 

Pensions can then be paid out in a different location from where the product was purchased. 

Where to start?

Pan-European personal pension products can be offered by authorised banks, insurance companies, pension funds and wealth management firms. 

They are regulated products that can be sold to consumers only after being approved by supervisory authorities. 

As the legislation came into effect this week, only now eligible providers can submit the application for the authorisation of their products. National authorities have then three months to make a decision. So it will still take some time before PEPPs become available on the market. 

When this will happen, the products and their features will be listed in the public register of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA). 

For more information:

https://www.eiopa.europa.eu/browse/regulation-and-policy/pan-european-personal-pension-product-pepp/consumer-oriented-faqs-pan_en 

https://www.eiopa.europa.eu/browse/regulation-and-policy/pan-european-personal-pension-product-pepp_en 

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK. 

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