Friday, 19 December 2008

Cartoon : 19th December The Economist

The Economist 2008

19th December Charlemagne in the Economist

The magnificence of Nicolas Sarkozy. Charlemagne, The Economist (en)
" ... Amid all this manoeuvring, France often angered small countries, which felt pushed around. A multi-speed Europe is a risky idea that could break up the EU. But Mr Sarkozy was surely right that future global co-operation will take different, ad hoc forms. It is “untrue” that institutions stop Europe from taking decisions, he said. Europe’s problem is a lack of political will. Like Bosquet’s in 1854, Mr Sarkozy’s judgment was both harsh and correct. ..."

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Newspapers : 18th December

Even Sarko has started talking like a lefty. Charles Bremner, The Times (en)
" ... The European Parliament voted yesterday to end Britain's exemption from the maximum 48-hour working week. A bit of Euro-fudge with the member states should water this down, but across the Channel they are wondering why Britain bothers.
Since the early 1980s, les Anglais have been lecturing Europe on the virtues of long hours as the path to prosperity. While the grasshopper French were awarding themselves a 35-hour week in the 1990s, the British fought for the right to sweat away 24/7 in the name of competing with the emerging ants of Asia. Now the boot is on the other foot ...
... France has been profligate. It has piled up national debt and keeps a heavy trade deficit. Labour taxes are extraordinarily high, even by European standards, and red tape stifles entrepreneurs. But it has been helped by the conservative institutions and attitudes that looked so old-fashioned to the outside world. It has especially been protected by the strong euro -- albeit kept that way with the help of German austerity.
Against all the prevailing doctrines, France resisted investment-funded pensions, kept its big car industry, its generous welfare state, its 80 percent nuclear-generated electricity and expensive high-speed trains. And it has managed this while working the world's shortest week. Writing as a new-poor Brit in Paris, there may be a lesson here, or perhaps this is just another exception française ..."

USA : 18th December Time Person od the Year

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

"L'Europe est forte lorsqu'elle s'appuie sur des Etats forts et responsables (...) L'erreur est de croire qu'il faut des Etats faibles pour faire une Europe forte"
" The Europe is strong when it relies on strong and responsible States (...) The mistake would be to believe that we need weak States to create a strong Europe"

Nicolas Sarkozy, the 16th December, Strasbourg, European Parliament, end of the French EU Presidency

Monday, 15 December 2008

Blogs : 15th December

Why We All Need To Keep A Watchful Eye On What Is Happening In Greece. Edward Hugh, A Fistfull of Euros (en)
" ... EMU membership no longer gives an automatic guarantee of oncost-free external financing, and if you look at the names of the other countries lining up in the queue behind Greece - Italy, Spain and Portugal in particular - you can begin to see the outline of a contagion mechanism whereby the coming to reality of the worst case Greek scenario might just extend itself into a problem of sufficient magnitude to transmit Greek vulnerabilities across and into the entire euro area. No one is too small to be a problem when it comes to financial crises ..."

So Just When Does Spain’s Twin Deficit Problem Become Unsustainable? Edward Hugh, A Fistfull of Euros (en)
" ... Spain urgently needs someone leading the country who is able to turn the page, put some realistic numbers on the table, and try to work to meet objectives, instead of simply failing to achieve them time after time. What do I mean by this, well, if you seriously think that the contraction next year will be of 2% of GDP then it is better to say 3%, and beat your target, that say 1% growth and come in with a 2% contraction. Not only will your citizens be getting more and more fed up with all of this (and the impact on morale should not be treated lightly) but much more to the point, since Spain is heavily dependent on foreign finance to buy the debt that the government is going to need to issue (see more below) to finance the fiscal deficit, then each and every failure to achieve target is likely to be punished with a higher cost of financing debt (as the yield spread on the risk rises) ..."

European energy intensity and dependence. Antal Dániel, Blogactiv (en)
" ...The energy intensity of a country shows how much energy is needed to produce a single euro of gross domestic product (GDP). Central-Europe, which is more industry-oriented and has been addicted to cheap Soviet natural gas needs a lot more energy to produce its lower national income than Western Europe. This partly explains the worries and the political economy of energy-related issues in the region ..."

La chaise de Jean-Louis Borloo. Jean Quatremer, Les Coulisses de Bruxelles (fr)
" ... ‘demandez lui de rentrer’." Immédiatement, on lui répond: " Ah, ça ne se fait pas". François Fillon, le Premier ministre, qui occupait la seconde chaise de la France aurait donc du sortir. Le chef de l'Etat poursuit: " J'ai dit ‘on va faire une révolution, un putsch, on va mettre une chaise de plus’ (...) J'ai dit si vous la mettez pas, je vais la chercher moi-même. C'est pas un détail, ils sont capables de passer des heures pour savoir le nombre de chaises par délégation, ça n'a aucun sens", a conclu le président français sous les éclats de rire des journalistes ..."

Sarkozy séduit par Trichet. Jean Quatremer, Les Coulisses de Bruxelles (fr)
" ... Nicolas Sarkozy (photo: Thierry Monasse) fait son mea culpa: "J'ai apprécié le pragmatisme dont Jean-Claude Trichet fait preuve en ce moment. Je n'avais pas compris que c'était possible", a déclaré le chef de l'Etat français aujourd'hui, à l'issue du sommet européen. En privé, il reconnait qu'il s'est totalement planté sur la Banque centrale européenne et qu'il a été surpris par sa souplesse. De fait, depuis le début de la crise bancaire et financière, la BCE a montré qu'elle était capable de se couler dans un système coopératif qui n'est pas sans rappeler ce qui se passe aux Etats-Unis entre la Réserve Fédérale et le gouvernement ..."

Barroso n'apprécie pas les critiques de Sarkozy. Jean Quatremer, Les Coulisses de Bruxelles (fr)
" ...Il faut dire que l'Elysée ne cache plus guère son mépris à l'égard du grand homme qu'il accuse de ne pas savoir gérer sa Commission: "il dépend trop de ses grands féodaux" (c'est-à-dire de ses commissaires) dit-on au château. Ce qui montre que le soutien que lui apporte Sarkozy pour un second mandat à la tête de la Commission est stratégique: il s'agit bel et bien confirmer l'affaiblissement de l'exécutif européen. Avec Barroso, c'est une assurance tout risque qu'il prend ..."

A vacuum at the heart of politics. Richard, The EURefernedum (en)
" ... Booker, of course, takes it further, pointing out that the confrontation in Hradcany Castle confirms "the inability of the Euro-elite to accept anyone else's opinions," and also puts it in context. He writes: Imagine that a Franco-German MEP, invited to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace, plonked down in front of her an EU "ring of stars" flag, insisting that she hoist it over the palace alongside the Royal Standard, and then proceeded to address her in a deliberately insulting way. The British people, if news of the incident leaked out, might not be too pleased ..."

Countdown to Pound/Euro Parity. Frank Schnittger, European Tribune (en)
" ... Perhaps we need a "Countdown to parity" diary series chronicling the decline of Sterling relative to the Euro. It currently stands at .89 £ to € or 1.12 € to £ as in the graph below. This is down from a high of 1.75 € to £ in the early 2000's ...
... Although the nominal Debt to GDP ratio is c. 40% of GDP, some authorities now estimate the real Debt GDP ratio to be closer to 100% once all the contingent liabilities taken on by the Bank nationalisations are taken into account - the highest figure for over 50 years. Sober analysts like Willem Buiter are warning of a triple financial crisis: a combined banking crisis, sovereign debt crisis and sterling crisis and advocating an immediate move to join the Euro as a means of stabilising the crisis ..."

Yet another agency: The Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators. Julien Frisch, Watching Europe (en)
" .... While the Court of Auditors has criticised existing agencies for their financial abuses, the Council of the European Union proposes in a Common Position issued today to establish yet another EU agency.This one is titled: Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators and its main function, according to the document linked above, seems to be to co-ordinate the national gas and electricity regulators, advise the European Commission on market regulation for this sector, and develop "non-binding frameworks". The only really interesting part of the Draft Regulation establishing the agency is § 8 ...."

Video : 15th December Medvedev Mimicing Sarkozy During G20 Press Conference

Video found Via Charles Bremner's Blog, The Times 2008.

Newpapers : 15th December

France hails Sarkozy, European saviour -- Germany doesn't . Chearles Bremner, The Times (en)
" ... The hyper-active President is convinced that he has galvanised Europe and given it new power in the world with deft management of the financial crash and the other emergencies, such as the Russia-Georgia war in August. Close partnership with Britain's Gordon Brown is part of the new European power balance, says Sarkozy ...
... The satisfaction in Paris is not dimmed by the glaring failure of the French Euro-presidency: Sarkozy's cold war with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor ...
... She calls him the Energizer Bunny (Lapin Duracell in French) and she has watched the films of Louis de Funès for clues to understanding the ever-agitated French president. (De Funès, a brilliant and much-loved comic actor, played the manic, excitable vain Frenchman in many hit films ...
... Spiegel magazine has just explained that the Chancellor sees Sarkozy as "an unfeasibly vain Jack-in-the-box...She has so far failed to find a way to handle him....She has watched de Funès' films... but she has nothing to counter him apart from her eternal impassiveness. Her fist may be clenched but she keeps it in her pocket." ...

Sarkozy praised for Brussels agreement. Tony Barber, The FT (en)
" ... Meanwhile, in Brussels and in EU national capitals from Dublin to Vilnius, officials say that memories of France under Jacques Chirac, Mr Sarkozy’s occasionally cantankerous predecessor, are fading fast ..."

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Video : 11th December Super Brown "We Saved The World"

Video found via Irony Too. Post : 'Brown saves the world, Cameron claims Britain is Bankrupt'

Blogs : 11th December

Irish people to be made an offer they can’t refuse. P O Neill, a Fistfull of Euros (en)
" ... The package will essentially be unchanged from what was voted on before, but the 26 others will have to agree to keep the Commission at a size allowing at least one commissioner from each country. Declarations regarding Ireland’s neutrality and tax autonomy will apparently also be added, but the Irish government will be in the slightly strange position of arguing that these declarations are significant when it previously argued that the associated concerns were meaningless ..."

Spare a thought for Edison. Certain Ideas of Europe (en)
" ... Proponents of the EU plan, which has not yet been finalised, have plenty of arguments. They contend that the average family will save $64 per year on electric bills, and carbon emissions could be cut by 15 million tons. On the flip side, some 3,000 jobs could be lost since most incandescent bulbs sold in Europe are made in the region, while the fluorescent variety come from elsewhere ..."

L'avenir de l'Europe selon Nicolas Sarkozy. Jean Quatremer, Les Coulisses de Bruxelles (fr)
" ... Nicolas Sarkozy, qui n’était pas, lors de son accession au pouvoir, un Européen de cœur, a pris goût à l’Europe au cours de son semestre de présidence de l’Union. Le chef de l’État ne le cache pas : il est épuisé, mais heureux d’avoir réussi à faire bouger ce « moloch bureaucratique », pour reprendre l’expression de l’ancien chancelier allemand, Helmut Kohl ...
... Nicolas Sarkozy a compris ce moment-là que les institutions européennes étaient plus malléables qu’il ne l’imaginait et qu’il pouvait pousser son avantage : « il n’a jamais aimé le consensus mou, l’immobilisme, la pensée unique, les négociations interminables » ...
... Sarkozy a une claire idée de l’architecture de l’Europe du futur. Elle devra comprendre trois niveaux : un « espace économique et de sécurité » englobant l’Union, la Russie, l’Ukraine et la Turquie. L’Union ensuite. Et enfin, la zone euro, noyau dur de l’UE. Le chef de l’État estime que la Russie est un partenaire incontournable qu’il est hors de question de traiter comme un ennemi potentiel : c’est pour cela qu’il s’est rallié, le 14 novembre à Nice, à l’idée de Moscou de négocier un traité sur la sécurité en Europe, suggestion rejetée par ses partenaires qui redoutent de voir les États unis marginalisés sur le vieux continent… Dans une telle organisation, il est clair que le rôle des institutions communautaires restera marginal et que l’essentiel du pouvoir reposera entre les mains des États. Sarkozy, de ce point de vue, reste fidèle à l’idée gaulliste d’une Europe des États ..."

It's the economy stoopid. Richard, EUReferendum (en)
" ... The level of unrest here, and the huge support for direct action, is clearly more than a rump of disaffected youths running amok. The whole country is crying out, and there is clearly something seriously and fundamentally wrong ... "

UK - DE War of Words. Jerome, Eruopean Tribune (en)
" ... Beyond the addition to crassness that this last argument brings, and the panic in London it reveals, I'd like to note two things:
1 one is that the profligate profiteers visibly have no intentions of repenting, and fully intend to make those that behaved more responsibily to pay for their continuing follies, rather than accept that in the recent past, they were not rich and successful but only blowing unearned money (which they have to pay now via lower standards of living);
2 the other, more worrying, sight is that of Sarkozy standing on the side of the irresponsible Anglo-diseased rather than on that of the more prudent Germans. This promises evil tensions for the EU;
To side with Brown now and say that we need to spend debt-provided public money in order to avoid a nasty recession that will hurt the poor first is, once again, to accept that the financiers take the rest of the population as hostage. Public money needs to be spent, yes, but it should not be debt-provided (and that is the - correct - Germans' point): it should be tax-funded, and distributed in much more discriminate and selective ways (and I use distribute on purpose) ..."

UK Interest rates must rise. Irony Too (en)
" ...What can stop sterlings continuing plunge which threatens the wealth of all the country's citizens?This blog has been arguing for austerity and interest rate rises - it is the only cure after all these years of profligacy (why wait for the IMF to insist, further delay risks even they will lack the funds to help) ... "

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Newpaper : 10th December Tribune on Le Monde

Un besoin d'Union face à la crise. Tribune, Le Monde (fr) by :
Jean Luc Dehaene, ancien premier ministre belge ;Jacques Delors, président fondateur de Notre Europe, ancien président de la Commission européenne ;Joschka Fischer, ancien ministre allemand des affaires étrangères ;Felipe González, ancien premier ministre espagnol ;Pascal Lamy, directeur général de l'OMC ;Paavo Lipponen, ancien premier ministre finlandais ;Denis Macshane, membre du Parlement britannique ;Péter Medgyessy, ancien premier ministre hongrois ;John Monks, secrétaire général de la Confédération européenne des syndicats ;Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, président de Notre Europe, ancien ministre italien de l'économie et des finances ;Romano Prodi, ancien premier ministre italien, ancien président de la Commission européenne.

Identity : 10th December The National Interest

The EU vs the national interest. NoseMonkey, EUtopia (en)
"... The Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent Bruno Waterfield has made an interesting contribution to a pamphlet by the Manifesto Club, No Means No! Essays on the Eve of the European Council Meeting ... Ignore the populist eurosceptic rhetoric of the title, there’s actually a lot of interest here ...
... As such, Waterfield’s essay goes to the heart of this ongoing dispute about both the “democratic deficit” and future direction of the EU that’s a perennial favourite among those of us who like to blather on about the thing, and ends up effectively a short overview of the more secretive aspects of EU decision-making - and a very useful one at that. I do urge you to go have a look ..."

Cartoon : 10th December

Grigory Pasko: The Economic Extremists. Grigory Pasko, Robert Amsterdam (en)
" ... Poster from the times of the USSR. The text (in fine print) on the poster: «American number - minus 22 percent bears witness to the economic crisis that has already begun in the United States and together with this to the crisis that is growing in all capitalist countries. The Soviet number - plus 20 percent speaks of the further mighty rise of Soviet industry». The evil capitalist is holding a paper entitled "war plans" and has a lightning bold forming the word "Crisis" over his head. The main slogan (in large print) says "Same years, different «weather»" ..."

Quote : 10th December Rama Yade on the EP 2009

« Je suis très honorée de cette proposition, mais je suis davantage motivée par un mandat national (…). Je veux aller où je suis utile. Je ne veux pas être là juste pour occuper une fonction…».
" I am honored by this proposition, but I am more motivated by a national mandate (...) I want to go where I am useful. I do not want to be there just to hold a sit ..."
Rama Yade on Sarkozy's offer to head the European Election Campaign for the leading French right wing.

Answer from the Elysee after her decision :
«... s’étonne qu’au XXIe siècle, on ne soit pas intéressé par les affaires européennes ».
" ... (The Elysee Palace) is atonished that in the 21st century, one is not insterested by European Affairs."

Blogs : 10th December (en)

Ouf, ni Nadine Morano ni Rama Yade ne succéderont à Jouyet. eurojunkie, (fr)

Nicolas Sarkozy exclut de nommer Rama Yade secrétaire d'Etat aux affaires européennes. Jean Quatremer, Les Coulisses de Bruxelles (fr)
" ... On estime, au château, que Yade sous-estime gravement l’importance du Parlement européen, où cette polyglotte aurait été « une star » et aurait pu se constituer un carnet d’adresse qui lui fait défaut. On fait aussi remarquer qu’elle n’aurait pas été obligée d’effectuer un mandat plein, mais qu’elle aurait ainsi prouvé sa capacité à affronter le suffrage universel. Mais, après tout, Rama Yade est peut-être tout simplement fidèle à elle-même: comme me le rappelle un internaute, elle a reconnu avoir voté non au traité constitutionnel européen en mai 2005... Pas très sérieux pour un secrétaire d'Etat aux affaires européennes ..."

Powerful Women: Follow-up on Rama Yade. Julien Frisch, Watching Europe (en)
" ... It is quite hard to judge from the outside which reasons have led to the decision of Rama Yade, but she does not seem to have serious backing in the French government, with France's foreign minister Kouchner saying that it was a mistake to create the post of secretary of state for human rights (the position Yade occupies today).In this sense, one could also interpret the proposal made to her to run for European Parliament as a smooth possibility to get her out of the way, to keep her somewhere where she could have become a star, but one with very limited influence, far away from the necessary political networks in Paris - something with great disadvantage for a woman who has made her way into influential circles so early in her life ..."

Join the (EU) Navy. Richard, EUReferendum (en)
" ... Since the Royal Navy has already been involved in NATO led counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, using HMS Cumberland, NATO is obviously good enough for this operation. There is no need for an EU presence. But the EU has its vainglorious ambitions to become a military power in its own right. So it is using another of our ships with our men – and a few women – and boasting that it has its own Navy. And our government is mad enough, stupid enough, treacherous enough to let this happen ..."

The New Geopolitics of Oil. Jerome, European Tribune (en)
As a first point, I noted that we were oscillating between supply driven prices and demand-driven prices. In one case, when there is enough supply around, markets balance via supply variation, and the price of oil reflects the marginal cost of production, ie the price to add one more pump to a deep offshore platform off Angola. In the other, with supply constrained, it is demand that has to adjust (via demand destruction), and the price of oil has to go high enough, to imply, to force someone to take the bus instead of the car.
In the summer, we were clearly in a demand-constrained world and that explained the price peak more than any reference to speculation; we've now moved back to a supply-driven one, as the financial crisis has caused massive demand destruction of its own.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Newspaper : 9th December (fr)

L'essoufflement d'Erasmus, Brigitte Perucca, Le Monde (fr)
" ... Paradoxe ? Au moment où la ministre de l'enseignement supérieur, Valérie Pécresse assure urbi et orbi son désir que "la mobilité des étudiants européens devienne la règle et non plus l'exception", le plus populaire des programmes européens ne fait plus recette. Erasmus, qui a entraîné, en un peu plus de vingt ans quelque 1,7 million d'étudiants hors de leurs campus nationaux, ne séduit plus. Ou plutôt il séduit moins. Quand les jeunes des nouveaux pays membres sont encore en appétit, la Vieille Europe fait la fine bouche ...
.... Chacun sait qu'il est impossible ou presque de ne pas valider son semestre ou son année Erasmus ! Les universitaires commencent à se plaindre ouvertement de ces séjours à vocation plus touristique qu'universitaire. L'Auberge espagnole, le film de Cédric Klapisch, qui a fait un malheur auprès des jeunes, fait désormais l'effet d'une mauvaise pub. Ce qui était considéré comme positif - peu importe le contenu académique, un séjour dans un autre pays ouvre l'esprit - commence à être remis en question ..."

Identity : 9th December Eurobarometer Anniversary

La la la la I can't hear you. Open Europe Blog (en)
" ... I went to Paris for w.hat was billed a "very special birthday party" - the 35th anniversary of the Eurobarometer (what, you missed it?)Well it was worth it. Not in a fun way - more in the sense that it was an invaluable insight into the Commission's attitude to the latest 'no' vote.When I walked in I was handed a nice canvas briefcase (full of stationary) which would otherwise prove useful in future were it not for the '35th Eurobarometer anniversary' logo on the front. Good to see the Commission is still rolling out the expensive taxpayer-funded propaganda in these times of recession ...
... Silly, silly voters.No mention of people's feeling that the EU is undemocratic. No mention of the fraud, the waste, the lack of transparency. No mention of the problematic trade policy and unpopular CAP. No, the only thing wrong with the EU in the eyes of the Commission is that the people of Europe know nothing about the EU, and are therefore ungrateful for it ..."

Picture : 9th December Sarkozy in N-TV Campaign


Blogs : 9th December

Will the Dalai Lama wreck the Sino-European relationship? Stanley Crossick, (en)
" ... The gulf of misunderstanding between China and the West over Tibet and the Dalai Lama is enormous and misperceptions abound. This subject is highly sensitive to all Chinese, whereas it is not on the radar screen of most Europeans. Even highly intelligent, Chinese scholars, who also feel deeply concerned, find it difficult to appreciate that their European counterparts have no interest in it. Tibet goes to the very touchstone of Chinese sovereignty and anything seen as a threat to China’s territorial integrity is hypersensitive ..."

The Irish send out good vibrations on Lisbon. Hugo Brady, Centre for European Reform (en)
" ... The report sets down some sensible parameters for the debate to come:
... Saying no to the Lisbon treaty automatically implies that some further action must be taken. Legally, the EU can continue as it is with the current treaties. In reality, if the treaty is declared dead, other member-states will find ways of working together more closely. Ireland would become increasingly isolated ...
... Ireland’s rejection of the treaty is affecting its ability to “promote and defend” its national interests ...
... One of the views underpinning investment by multinational companies in Ireland is that the country is and will remain a full member of the EU. Foreign companies which invest in Ireland are worried about the uncertainty thrown up by the current situation ..."

Aides aux banques: Neelie Kroes dénonce "le petit jeu de la recherche du bouc émissaire". Jean Quatremer, Les Coulisses de Bruxelles (en)
" ... La Commission a eu quelques difficultés, de fait, à adapter sa politique en matière d’aide d’Etats, celle-ci étant traditionnellement destinée à sauver des établissements en difficulté. Or, notamment dans le cas du plan français, l’argent de l’Etat n’est destiné qu’à réamorcer la pompe à crédits : il n’est donc pas question de « punir » les banques qui y ont recours en exigeant par exemple un gel des dividendes ou une rémunération trop élevée, comme en Grande-Bretagne ...
... Pensez-vous que les Etats, en particulier la France, ont tenté un coup d'Etat contre la Commission en la remettant ainsi en cause?
- Je ne crois pas qu’ils aient essayé de remettre en cause la politique de la Commission. L'idée européenne, qui vient de France d'ailleurs, est de ne pas mettre la France et l'Allemagne face à face, (ou ses variantes: Etats riches contre Etats pauvres), mais d'utiliser l'arbitrage d'une institution supranationale comme la Commission. Une guerre des subventions ne tournerait pas forcément à l'avantage de la France, qui n'a pas les caisses si bien remplies que son voisin germanique par exemple ..."

Grecian flames. Richard, EUReferendum (en)
" ... Certainly, The Daily Telegraph is directly reporting that the shooting has been but a catalyst for the violence. It comes against a background of high youth unemployment, the rising cost of living, stalled pension reform and a widening gap between rich and poor ..."

Mind Your Language. EURSOC Two, EuroSoc (en)
" ... The latest edition of Britain's Oxford Junior Dictionary drops words associated with Christianity, the Monarchy and the British countryside, replacing them with words taken from the technology and corporate worlds.
Out go abbey, chapel, saint, sin and devil, in come broadband, MP3 player, attachment and database. Monarch, coronation and empire are consigned to the dustbin of history, while interdependent, citizenship and EU are swept in to replace them. Dozens of nouns related to wildlife and the countryside are removed: acorn, ash, gorse, hazel, chestnut, clover and lavender, replaced by concepts like celebrity, tolerance, vandalism, bilingual and committee...
... They are mistaken: Orwell trod this path first, in his prophetic novel 1984, when he wrote how Newspeak limited citizens' expression, and thus their understanding ..."

The fake strategy: European scientific co-operation. Julien Frisch, Watching Europe (en)
" ... In other words, the member states invite themselves not to start but just to encourage a dialogue. They just facilitate consultations, they don't encourage them, and they do it just in order to identify, not to address opportunities in global scientific co-operation ..."

Blog update and ouch for Bulgaria. Vitaly, The 8th Circle (en)
" ... The more problematic issue seems to be the use of Transparency International CPI rankings to provide justification, in part, for cutting Bulgaria’s funds (i.e. Bulgaria is “described by Transparency International as the most corrupt country in the EU” therefore it deserves to have its funds cut). What may happen is that countries nearest the bottom of the EU corruption scale, such as Romania, Lithuania, Poland, and Italy may wonder if they are next? In effect, the Commission’s decision places the TI in a powerful position, because its ranking is now used to guide policy with real consequences ..."

USA : 9th December Detroit Meldown and Bail Out Hearings

AutoBlog, 2008

Monday, 8 December 2008

Identity : 8th December

“Under the illusion that the borders are disappearing, they are actually rapidly growing”. Nosemonkey, EUtopia (en)

Nosemonkey's perspectives on multiculturalism. Julien Frisch, Watching Europe (en)
" ... And although rather negative, the article is extreme well written ..."

Picture 2 : 8th December (en)

Chapatte, 2008

Blog on Blogging : 8th December

A European Blogging Compettition. Nanne, European Tribune (en)
" ... From June 4th to June 7th 2009 elections will be held in the second largest democracy of the world. That is, the European Union Parliament Elections. The elections will establish the mandates of 785 Members of European Parliament, and will also inaugur a new Commission to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union ...
...Think about it is a European blogging competition that is run by the European Journalism Centre. The obvious objective is to kickstart something more of a lively European dialogue, and in that sense it's a bit of a top down effort to form a grassroots movement. This seems conflicted, but the competition is open to anyone and I think this is as good a way as any to seed a dialogue ..."

Blog 2 : 8th December (en)

Qui sera le prochain secrétaire d’État aux affaires européennes ? Jean Quatremer, Les Coulisses de Bruxelles (en)
" ... Le jeu des pronostics est lancé, dans les couloirs du gouvernement, depuis l’annonce du départ de Jean-Pierre Jouyet pour la présidence de l’Autorité des marchés financiers qui sera effectif le 15 décembre. Il semble désormais acquis que le poste n’ira pas à une personnalité d’ouverture, mais à un encarté de l’UMP, Nicolas Sarkozy ne voulant pas courir le risque d’une mauvaise communication dans un domaine devenu central dans son agenda ..."

La BCE frappe fort contre la récession. Jean Quatremer, Les Coulisses de Bruxelles (en)
" ... ramener son principal taux d’intérêt (le Refi) de 3,25 % à 2,50 %. Cette baisse de 75 points de base est sans précédent depuis la création de l’institut d’émission, en juin 1998 : elle procédait jusqu’ici par de prudents palliés de 25 points ou, dans les périodes de crise, comme au lendemain des attentats du 11 septembre, de 50 points ...
... Trichet a même donné sa bénédiction aux plans de relance keynésien annoncés par les gouvernements. Mieux, il estime qu’ils « devraient être mises en œuvre rapidement afin de concourir à assurer la confiance dans le système financier et à empêcher des contraintes sur l’offre de crédit aux entreprises et aux ménages ». Il s’est d’ailleurs réjoui qu’il n’y ait « aucun signe patent d’un assèchement de l’offre de crédit », même si le « rythme de croissance des prêts consentis » diminue. Le « credit crunch » tant redouté n’a donc pas eu lieu. Ou pas encore ..."

Plan d’aide aux banques : le mensonge de Christine Lagarde. Jean Quatremer, Les Coulisses de Bruxelles (en)
"... En ces temps de sauve-qui-peut général, tous les pays, et pas seulement la France aimeraient bien se débarrasser de règles jugées trop contraignantes afin de pouvoir aider leurs entreprises nationales comme ils l’entendent, sans se préoccuper des effets chez leurs voisins. Le ministre allemand des finances, le social-démocrate Peer Steinbrück, n’a pas hésité à accuser la Commission d’agir de façon trop « bureaucratique » : « il ne faut pas réagir à une telle crise financière d’une façon aussi bureaucratique », a-t-il lancé à l’issue de la réunion d’aujourd’hui. Pour rappel, l’Allemagne n’a jamais aimé la politique de concurrence qui a été notamment pensée au lendemain de la Seconde Guerre mondiale pour briser les Konzern allemands qui avaient fait la puissance des Reich… Son collègue suédois, le libéral Anders Borg, n’a pas voulu être en reste en s’en prenant aux « légions de bureaucrates » qui examinent les aides d’État : « nous avons besoins de rétablir les canaux du crédit. La Commission n’a pas été constructive ». À gauche ou à droite, le discours est donc le même.

Which one's the democrat? Richard, EUReferendum (en)
Excerpts from the transcript of a meeting between Václav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, and members of the Conference of the Presidents of the European Parliament, Friday 5 December 2008, Prague Castle.

Europarl (European Parliament Web site) and RSS feeds. en.europa-eu-audience (en , fr)

A Welsh waste of time. John Worth, Euroblog (en)
" ... Ordovicius is happy and Alun Ffred Jones who spoke Welsh at the Culture Council stated “Welsh is one of Europe’s oldest languages and I am delighted that my ministerial colleagues from across the union will hear it as a living and dynamic language of business.” Well yes, Alun, you’ve hit the nail on the head there: they will hear Welsh, and then they will have to wait 20 seconds for an inadequate relay translation through the headphones. Welsh to Finnish or Slovak anyone? ..."

No new pan-European security strategy. Julien Frisch, Watching Europe (en)
" ... Meeting last week in Helsinki, the foreign ministers of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have disagreed with the Russian proposal to create a new European security strategy (i.e. organisation) ...

The new European Economic Area. Julien Frisch, Watching Europe (en)
" ... The European Union is starting to look eastwards, and what it sees are six countries with European aspirations: Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan ... The future EEA will require the six states to "take over the entire acquis communautaire [the EU's legal code], including the acceptance of European Court of Justice rulings."The Eastern Partnership will aim to create visa free travel in the long-term, but to waive the cost of obtaining EU visas more quickly and to set up Common Application Centres in the six countries to help people enter the EU's passport-free Schengen zone." ..."

Picture : 8th December Anyone But Barroso

TSB (Tout sauf Barroso). Jean Quatremer, Les Coulisses de Bruxelles (en)
" ... Des bloggueurs viennent de lancer une campagne sur le net explicitement intitulée: "Tout sauf Barroso". Il y a une pétition ouverte à la signature réclamant la non reconduction de l'actuel président de la Commission et un groupe Facebook. ..."

Blogs : 8th December

Power and. Doug Merrill, A Fistful of Euros (en)
" ... Roughly speaking, power is the ability to make people do things (or suffer the consequences); influence is the ability to get people to do things on their own (to gain the benefits). NATO has lots of power (and a good bit of influence), while the EU has an enormous amount of influence, but less power. Pointy-haired bosses use their power; good businesspeople use their influence ..."

Too flexible. P O Neill, A Fistful of Euros (en)
" ... Ukraine ... the program emphasized a flexible exchange rate, to avoid blowing reserves on a futile defence of a peg (something on which the Fund’s reputation took a hammering during past crises in Russia and Argentina). But the effect seems to have been a worst of both worlds situation where the failure to establish a credible range for the hryvnia led to a severe loss of confidence in it, with the result that the IMF loan is essentially covering a dollarization of the economy ..."

Read Martin Wolf on Global Imbalances ... Alpha Sources.CV (en)
" ... Enter Wolf's first paragraph. The world has run out of willing and creditworthy private borrowers. The spectacular collapse of the western financial system is a symptom of this big fact. In the short run, governments will replace private sectors as borrowers. But that cannot last for ever. In the long run, the global economy will have to rebalance. If the surplus countries do not expand domestic demand relative to potential output, the open world economy may even break down. As in the 1930s, this is now a real danger.

Domestic China in a global crisis. Stanley Crossick, (en)

The EU takes on defence procurement. Clara Marina O'Donnell, Centre for European Reform (en)
" ... The EU is in the middle of a little noticed – but potentially important – debate about defence markets. For the first time, the European Commission could be authorised to help reduce barriers amongst the EU’s segmented national defence markets ...
... As Europe's paltry defence budgets are barely adequate to maintain today’s spending programmes, the current system makes little sense. So the Commission has proposed two new directives. The first is designed to open a substantial amount of defence procurement to EU competition ... The second proposed law aims to simplify procedures to move goods around the EU ...
... The two draft directives have the potential to bring about significant improvements. Defence companies would get access to previously closed markets, while ministries of defence, and European taxpayers, would benefit from cheaper defence goods. Easier transfer of goods across the EU would make life a lot easier for defence companies. And delays in importing new kit needed by national militaries would be reduced ..."

Beijing turns up the heat (again) on Sarkozy. Certain Ideas of Europe (en)
" ... Having already pulled out of a bilateral summit with the European Union last weekend, a move that the Economist labels "a rare breach of diplomatic manners", Beijing has apparently failed to dissuade Mr Sarkozy from his plans. In Brussels the Dalai Lama, seemingly bouyed by the support he has received in Europe, reportedly ..."

Does Europe matter enough to China? Certain Ideas of Europe (en)
" ... China's decision to cancel a planned bilateral summit with the European Union this week is raising questions about just how much Beijing cares about Europe...
... Even with its own financial problems, the move seems to suggest it feels in a better position than Europe to cope with the global economic crunch. But the action looks puzzling to those who note that Europe is a key trading partner with China. Mr Fox argues that Beijing can thumb its nose at Europe precisely because we are not a strategic threat and because there is little Europe can do to China in return for its outrageous actions. Our market is open (and anti-dumping actions represent a minuscule amount of China's trade with Europe). China's industrial policies mean it can strong-arm European companies into handing over key technologies they wouldn't do elsewhere. And it is not like we have the best reputation in recent years for reigning in US unilateralism ...

Er, Britain may not actually qualify for the euro. Certain Ideas of Europe (en)
"... Your correspondent hates to spoil a party, but surely one slight problem has been overlooked. Last week, the British chancellor, Alastair Darling, announced that government borrowing was to soar, to pay for a stimulus package for the economy: taking the budget deficit over 8% of GDP in the next couple of years, according to Treasury projections, with a return to balanced books in 2015 (a date backed to some pretty optimistic growth forecasts).
That means something rather simple about British membership of the euro: even if the British decided to join any time soon, Europe could not allow it. The British economy, as it peers into the abyss, looks set to break the strict "Maastricht criteria" for joining, one of which sets 3% of GDP as the reference value for a country's budget deficit, for some years to come ..."

Instead of turkey in November, how about coq au vin in June? Certain Ideas of Europe (en)
" ... So why don't Americans celebrate over coq au vin washed down with a nice French red every year? Mr Davis points the finger at the Spanish and the British who, respectively, massacred the French in Florida (admittedly they had been attacking Spanish treasure ships) and then demoted them to "second-class status" in the history books, behind English settlers at colonies such as Jamestown and Plymouth.
So rather than feeling guilty about their turkey feast today, perhaps Americans should consider the addition of a second thanksgiving celebration next summer. Depending upon one's individual point of view, they could either mark the occasion with good food and wine on a beach somewhere, or simply give thanks that they aren't speaking French today ..."

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

UK Prebudget : Answer to the Crisis ? 25th November

Osborne: Cut interest rates instead of taxes. James Kirkup, The Telegraph (en)
" ... He said: "Interest rates are 3 per cent here, they are 1 per cent in the US. It is clear they can come down."
Mr Osborne pointed out that the US Federal Reserve is now lending direct to businesses, something that could happen in the UK. "That might be the ultimate place you end up," he said. ... He said: "They are going to wake up, they are going to look at those headlines, listen to programmes like this and then realise the entire country now is very, very heavily in debt, and for the first time really since the 1970s, we have this enormous bill ..."

Barack Obama's in a different boat from Gordon Brown. John O'Sullivan, The Telegraph (en)
" ... However often Darling or Gordon Brown insists that the crisis began in the US sub-prime mortgage market, neither can escape the bulk of the blame for a crisis that dates entirely from their time in office. It was the banks supervised by New Labour's regulatory system that bought the dodgy loans, and the Brown Treasury that oversaw a spiralling credit boom that financed such purchases. Such a boom had to go bust eventually ..."

An election by late spring 2010. Simon Heffer, The Telegraph (en)
" ... the Prime Minister may well want to go to the country much sooner than that, before the full damage becomes apparent. That was what the pre-Budget report was largely about.
It was an aggressively sectarian set of measures. Labour has identified its "people" - the client state of public sector bureaucrats, operatives and claimants sedulously created by Mr Brown since 1997 - and Monday's main purpose was to protect them ... "

Is Britain Going Bankrupt? Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Telegraph (en)
" ... Yes, credit default swaps (CDS) are dodgy instruments, but they are the best stress barometer that we have.
Today they reached 86 basis points, near Portuguese debt in the league table. For good reason. Alistair Darling has had to admit that the British economy faces the most sudden economic collapse since World War Two, and the worst budget deficit of any major country in the world.
Ok, this is a lot lower than Iceland, Ukraine, Hungary, and other clients of the IMF, but is significantly higher than Germany (35), USA (43), and France (49) ...
... But this is not to excuse the Brown Government for the total hash it has made of the British economy. It presided over a rise in household debt to 165pc of personal income. How could the regulators possibly think this was in the interests of British society? What economic doctrine justifies such stupidity? Why were 120pc mortgages ever allowed? Indeed, why were 100pc mortgages ever allowed? Debt is as dangerous as heroine ..."

Monday, 24 November 2008

Blog : 24th November

L’Union en 2025 : un « géant boiteux » dans un monde incertain. Jean Quatremer, Les Coulisses de Bruxelles (fr)
" ... Ce nouveau rapport insiste sur le déclin du monde unipolaire, dominé par les États-Unis, qui a succédé au monde bipolaire à la suite de l’effondrement du communisme en 1989. Désormais, la planète sera multipolaire et la puissance américaine sérieusement concurrencée par de nouveaux acteurs, en particulier la Chine et l’Inde et, dans une moindre mesure, la Russie et le Brésil. À l’horizon 2040-2050, selon le CNI, le PNB de ces quatre pays sera équivalent à celui des membres du G7… Le problème est que les ressources sont limitées : selon le rapport, il y aura donc très probablement des conflits entre ces différents blocs afin de contrôler les matières premières (eau, nourriture, etc.).
Un tableau particulièrement pessimiste qui donne tout son relief à la page consacrée à l’Union : alors que le monde devient de plus en plus dangereux et incertain, alors que le partage des richesses va se faire à notre détriment, l’Union, elle, continue à s’empailler sur le sexe des anges… L’histoire ne repasse pas les plats, le CNI nous le rappelle ..."

Europeana se plante magistralement… Jean Quatremer, Les Coulisses de Bruxelles (fr)
" ... N.B.: en fait, les dix millions de "hits" dissimulent, selon la Commission, 4000 visiteurs simultanés!!! On rêve. ..."

IMF to Italy: Carry on Restructuring. P O Neill, A Fistful of Euros (en)
" ... Nonetheless, the Fund wants to be clear that while the G20 summit might have sounded like a call for many countries to engage in fiscal stimulus, Italy shouldn’t think of itself as one of those countries. It doesn’t have the room and should concentrate instead on getting the budget under control. Indeed, the Fund’s emphasis on expenditure cuts for Italy makes it sound like the kind of medicine that David Cameron will be prescribing for the UK when the Pre-Budget Report comes out next week — but he is not going to get the gift of an IMF report saying that the UK should join Italy as a country needing to get its fiscal house in order ..."

Are Baltic Devaluations Now In The Works? Edward Hugh, A Fisful of Euros (en)
" ... Now this is a very interesting question, isn’t it? The only honest answer I can give is that I don’t know, and indeed I haven’t the faintest idea. The government of Latvia (the Baltic state which is currently most rife with “rumours” about imminent devaluations) works in its own wondrous ways, and neither we (nor Latvia’s citizens) have any idea at all how they plan to lift their country out of the deepest depression they have experienced in many a long year...."

Back in The Saddle (with some random observations). Alpha Sources.CV (en)
" ... As in the US we are far from an actual state of deflation, but given my argument as I laid it out (see link above) the negative momentum we are observing suggests that what comes next on the macroeconomic front may be quite "unexpected" as those ever incoming stream of Bloomberg headlines are so fond of noting. If we look at the evolution of data the interpretation is quite clear. As can be seen from the graphs below, the decrease in inflation is currently being produced solely as a function of declining headline inflation (this is the same picture as the one emanating from the US and Japan). ..."

PCA? The EU needs a real Russia debate. Katinka Barysch Centre for European Reform (en)
" ... The signal the EU has sent now is that it is prepared to accept new realities in the Caucasus and return to business as usual. In fact, the EU did so long before the November 14th summit. After a lull in September, EU-Russia co-operation restarted in October, with several EU-Russia ministerial councils (on energy, foreign affairs and justice and home affairs) and various technical working groups getting together that month. It makes little sense for the EU to continue co-operation at all levels, from expert meetings to summits, while keeping the PCA talks on hold. So unfreezing the talks was consistent, if not exactly brave ..."

Newspapers : 24th November

France stuck in the past . The Telegraph (en)
" ... The chaos is a disaster for a party whose decline has been easy to measure at the ballot box. Since the socialist president François Mitterrand left office in 1995, the PS has never regained the keys to the Élysée Palace ...
...After all, the Socialist Party is all about ideas, not implementation; dogma, not pragmatism. Mr Sarkozy promised to do, not to ponder, and so was richly rewarded by voters. Meanwhile, the elephants risk taking their party down the path of the dinosaurs ..."

Why the French maid is about to clean up – and save her nation from economic ruin. Adam Sage, The Independent (en)
" ... Mrs Gomes Ricardo, 38, costs €25 a hour, but 50 per cent of that can be deducted from income tax under the government policy of promoting domestic services. She is paid about €12 an hour by her agnecy.
“Frankly, with people working longer and longer hours and more and more women working, I can only see this service growing,” she said.
Julien Moineau, the chief executive of Axeo, agreed. “The English understood a long time ago that we had to move to a service society. We’ve only just realised that in France and that’s why the Government is trying to accelerate the change.
“In the 19th century, the French were reputed for these sorts of services, but today we’ve got a lot to learn from the Anglo-Saxons.” ..."

Avant-garde – at last. Laura Henderson, The FT (en)
" ... Nowhere does nostalgia quite like Paris. The gothic buildings, the ornamental fountains, the gilded walkways across the river Seine – all are intricate reminders of a city inextricably linked with its past. But take a closer look at the French capital today ...
... “The capital is literally running out of space, particularly in the inner districts, [and] pressure has been mounting on the government for ages,” says Brendan Macfarlane of Paris-based architects Jakob & Macfarlane. “The one-size-fits-all approach – uniform buildings and tree-lined boulevards of the Haussmann era – has all but paralysed the urban grid, with limited scope for developers to design something visionary ...
... But others see the audacious new projects as linchpins of the capital’s future. “Key-note projects of this stature give Paris creative scope, a means of escape from the quixotic vision the rest of the world has of it,” says architectural consultant Nicolas Libert of estate agency Ateliers, Lofts et Associés. “For the first time utilitarian use of space is creeping in among the formalist beige and stone as a 21st-century solution to the city’s housing shortage. Add to this a new generation of investors demanding arty, designer real estate stock and it’s not too hard to predict where the metropolitan landscape is heading.” ..."

Germany’s president lashes out at bankers. James Wilson and Ralph Atkins , The FT (en)
" ... Investors had chased profits while the US Federal Reserve had kept money artificially cheap, Mr Kohler said in comments that seemed aimed at German and other European banks. “But too many of you ... ignored the multiple warnings and preferred to play along, rather than going against mistaken developments.”
Mr Kohler warned banks not to let down “our Mittelstand” – the country’s strong sector of mainly family-owned industrial companies. “They deserve trust. Even in the crisis. A panicked slashing of bank balance sheets does not help anyone. Bank supervisors should also be aware of that.” ...
... On Friday he called for bankers to return to simpler banking practices. “Do not only rely on computer models, and test what sort of investment banking really creates value,” ...
... he said the benefits of a European economic model, emphasising social equality, were proved and should be more widely adopted. “We in Germany do not need to reinvent the wheel,” said Mr Kohler. “The social market economy can now break through internationally. We have the chance of globalisation that is to everyone’s benefit.” ..."

Iceland thaws over clash with UK . David Ibison, The FT (en)
" ... Secret talks between the UK and Iceland governments may strengthen London’s case in the dispute over its use of anti-terror legislation to freeze Icelandic assets, according to the chairman of the board of governors of the central bank in Reykjavik.
“Not all conversations concerning this matter have been made public . . . When the matter is investigated, other conversations will have to be made public. I am aware of what they are about and I am aware of what in fact determined the position of the UK authorities,” said David Oddsson, former prime minister and one of Iceland’s most influential power brokers ..."

Thursday, 20 November 2008

UK Special : BNP Member List Link

Are your Neighbours on the List ? always good to know ...

Blogs : 20th November

Le plombier polonais n'était qu'un ectoplasme. Jean Quatremer, Les Coulisses de Bruxelles (en)
" ... C’est une étude rendue publique, hier,à Strasbourg par la Commission, qui tord le cou à ces préjugés. Dans un document d’une trentaine de pages (1), elle affirme n’avoir pu établir d’impact négatif significatif sur les salaires ou les emplois locaux, les finances publiques ou les systèmes de protection sociale des pays d’accueil. Certes, elle reconnaît qu’à la marge il y a eu des problèmes (par exemple un hôpital débordé, une pénurie de logements, une demande supplémentaire d’allocations familiales, etc.). De même, elle admet une pression à la baisse sur les salaires « à court terme » de… 0,08 %, mais nulle à long terme. La Commission estime qu’au contraire, la mobilité des travailleurs des huit pays d’Europe centrale ayant adhéré en mai 2004, a eu un impact positif sur la croissance économique, ceux-ci répondant aux besoins en main-d’œuvre dans un certain nombre de pays (0,17 % à court terme, 0,28 % à long terme dans l’Union à 27) ..."

Sorry 007, dry martinis are out. Certain Ideas of Europe (en)
" ... Reality, it seems, is another matter. MI6, Mr Bond's employer, has launched a new recruitment campaign that downplays the danger and past, macho responses to cold war-era threats, and plays up the need for diversity to respond to modern realities. About 10% of the British spy agency's latest intake for the most elite jobs are ethnic minorities and 35% are women. MI6 says it wants those numbers to rise.

In a fantasy world. Richard, EUReferendum (en)
" ... "Cameron and Osborne need to prove how, under a Tory administration, things would get better." ...
... 'There have been failings of policy, of presentation, but, above all, of connection. To have gone so wrong implies that the leadership and its advisers are inhabiting a fantasy world. What is truly alarming is that they show little sign of leaving it' ... Indeed, they are in a "fantasy world" – this is the "Westminster bubble" of their own making, with walls more solid than concrete, through which nothing but the most carefully selected messages can filter. And Heffer is quite right to be alarmed that the Tories show "little sign of leaving it".

Cartoon : 20th November BNP (UK fascist party) Members List Goes Online

The Independent 2008

Video : 20th November, Europeana Project

EU plans online library. The Telegraph (en)
" ... Items have been collected from 1,000 museums, national libraries, galleries and archives — including the Louvre in Paris and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam — so users can scour for books, paintings, audio files, maps, videos and other artifacts in one website: ...
... The site has 3 million items now and officials hope to get 10 million items on it by 2010. Even that is just a start, as only one per cent of the historic works, documents and cultural artifacts across Europe have so far been digitized. "You may download most of what is on there (for free)," Ms Cousins said. The project, which started two years ago, seems to be Europe's answer to Google's efforts to build a private digital library and is to be launched amid much fanfare by the EU's ministers on Thursday ...
... Santiago de la Mora from Google's European office welcomed the launch, saying Google hoped to collaborate with Europeana "taking part in what could become the biggest technological leap in disseminating knowledge since Gutenberg invented the printing press." ..."

Newspapers : 20th November

First carbon auction raises £54 million. Louise Gray, The Telegraph (en)
" ... Under the European emissions trading scheme (EU ETS), energy intensive industries - that are responsible for half the region's emissions - are given an allowance for the amount of carbon dioxide they produce ...
... In order to claw back some of the money and to better control the price of carbon so that industry is forced to cut emissions, the UK Government has put seven per cent – or four million of these allowances – in an open auction. The hour-long auction sold the allowances to traders and companies at £13.60 each for £54 million ... "

Scottish Parliament must do the math before its next ID cards crisis. Alan Cochrane, The Telegraph (en)

Recovery cannot begin until house prices bottom out. Adrian Hamilton, The Independent (en)
" ... How can he get away with it? While David Cameron laboriously carries out a U-turn on taxes, the Prime Minister positively somersaults over every position he has ever held and yet seems to get only stronger in the opinion polls. He has abandoned all his golden rules, embraced unfunded tax cuts as the panacea for our recessionary woes and declared the whole thing a global problem in which we are but guiltless victims. Meanwhile, poor old Cameron has to do his manoeuvres in full public glare before an audience who never saw the point of his much-vaunted commitment to keeping Labour's spending plans in the first place, and are just as unmoved by his reversal of it now ...
... But Brown's greatest deception has been to claim this is all a world problem, not a British one – and worse, to keep claiming we are in a better position to manage it than anyone else. This is simply not true ...
... Just as in the US, but unlike most other countries, it will not really be until the fall in house prices reaches bottom that you can hope to start proper recovery ..."

Genetic code of woolly mammoth mapped-out . Mark Henderson, The Times (en)
" ... “By deciphering this genome we could, in theory, generate data that one day may help other researchers to bring the woolly mammoth back to life by inserting the uniquely mammoth DNA sequences into the genome of the modern-day elephant,” said Stephan Schuster ...
... The results have shown that the mammoth differs from the African elephant by as little as 0.6 per cent, making the two species more closely related than are humans and chimpanzees. The Indian elephant is an even closer cousin of the mammoth, but the precise comparison cannot yet be done as its genome remains unmapped ...
... The research also suggests that woolly mammoths had very little genetic diversity, which would have made them vulnerable to extinction.
Professor Schuster said: “We discovered that individual woolly mammoths were so genetically similar to one another that they may have been especially susceptible to being wiped out by a disease, by a change in the climate, or by humans.” ..."

Sarkozy’s Fiscal Meeting Raises Diplomatic Hackles. Mark Landler, The NYT (en)
" ... President Nicolas Sarkozy of France left the summit meeting on the financial crisis here last weekend in a triumphal mood, declaring that it had tamed the animal spirits of American capitalism. Then he went home and announced that he would hold his own summit meeting in a few weeks in Paris — on the same topic ...Presidents Bush and Nicolas Sarkozy last week at a meeting on the economic crisis. That has raised hackles in diplomatic circles, not just because the meeting appears to compete with a planned gathering of 20 world leaders next April. Mr. Sarkozy’s aggressive statements have put American officials on edge, with some saying that he seemed determined to turn the global crisis into a referendum on the ills of untrammeled capitalism ...
... The common ground between Europe and the United States is greater than these public statements suggest. The United States has shown a willingness to accept regulation of a wide variety of institutions and markets, including credit default swaps — a form of bond insurance — and possibly private equity firms and hedge funds, that are not now regulated.
“People may have been surprised by the U.S. willingness to cooperate on issues,” said David H. McCormick, under secretary of the Treasury for international affairs.
Although the French favor a strong state role in the economy and are partial to regulatory agencies with cross-border authority, they did not propose such measures at the talks here. That was mainly because Britain and Germany had earlier resisted a supranational regulator ..."

France Dominates Europe’s Digital Library. Stephen Castle, The NYT (en)
" ... France has never been shy about promoting its culture, so few were surprised when it took a close interest in a new digital library intended to showcase Europe’s history, literature, arts and science ...
But when the new site, called Europeana, begins life on Thursday, more than half of its two million items will come from just one of the 27 countries in the European Union: France.
So comprehensive is France’s cultural dominance over this cyberspace outpost that other countries are having their own history written for them — in French, of course.
“I find the figures extraordinary,” said Viviane Reding, the European commissioner responsible for the project. “France has half the content — the collapse of the Berlin Wall is illustrated with a French TV documentary.” ...
... Europeana combines the digital resources of museums and libraries, and the information provided includes paintings, maps, videos and newspapers.
Material is free of copyright so it can be downloaded for blogs, research or schoolwork by anyone with an Internet connection ..."

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Blogs : 19th November

Italy’s Unicredit Has Definitely NOT Made Losses On The Russian Interbank Market. Edward Hugh, A Fistful of Euros (en)
" ... The real roots of this problem are to be found in the fact that Unicredit has very substantial exposure to losses in a number of key Central and East European countries, and the Italian government, which already has a debt to GDP ratio of over 100%, is in no position - especially with an economy which looks set to shrink all the way through from here to 2011 - to offer much in the way of cash to support the bank. As I point out in this post, Austria (which is a much smaller country than Italy, but which has similar East European exposure) has already lined up an initial 100 billion euros to support its banks, while the Italian government has remained hesitant to be specific about anything, but seems to be talking about support which only amounts to something like 20 billion euros. So we are left with the rather undignifying spectacle of the leaders of the eurozone’s third largest economy having to rely on Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi and Vladimir Putin for vital support to keep one of Italy’s leading banks alive ..."

A cyclist city is a civilised city. A Certain Idea of Europe (en)
" ... THE popularity of bicycle-rental schemes across Europe, inspired by the "Vélib" programme in Paris, continues to spread. Instead of sitting in gridlocked traffic, a growing number of Europeans are picking up a bicycle in one corner of town, dropping it off in another, and doing the reverse on their way home at night. Barcelona, Amsterdam, Lyon and Rome are some other cities that have embraced the idea. Now Boris Johnson, the London mayor who is an avid cyclist himself, has given the go-ahead to the placement of 6,000 rental bikes at 400 stations around central London by May 2010 ..."I have long held the view that a cyclised city is a civilised city'' ..."

Heading north. A Certain Idea of Europe (en)
" ... NOT all of those Polish plumbers leaving Britain and Ireland as the economies slow are necessarily going straight home. Sweden has seen immigration surge to record levels this year ..."

Economic stupidity strengthens. Ironies Too (en)
" ... I have just returned from a few days in England. Incredibly there still seems no general understanding of the treachery of the nation's parliamentarians or understanding of the depths of the social and economic crisis now prevailing.The media in particular seem to be goading the brainless Brown and his Treasury team towards the almost certain national suicide of large unfunded tax cuts ..."

The power of the pen. Richard, EUReferendum (en)

Tracking: European Parliament elections 2009 (XXVI). Julien Frisch, Watching Europe (en)
" ... So yes, EP elections are often used to sanction national governments, an act which on the national level sometimes leads to far-right votes, but right now I don't see a great danger of a Euro-radicalisation on the right wing of the political spectrum ..."

Charming MEPs. Open Europe Blog (en)

Cartoon : 19th November UK Monarchy

Corrigan, 2006

USA : 19th November

California Port Overrun by Unsold Foreign Cars. Matt Richtell, The NYT (en)
" ... For now, the port itself is the destination. Unwelcome by dealers and buyers, thousands of cars worth tens of millions of dollars are being warehoused on increasingly crowded port property ...
... But the inventory glut in Long Beach is not limited to imported cars. There has also been a sharp drop in demand for the port’s single largest export: recycled cardboard and paper products. This material typically goes to China, where it is used to make boxes for new electronics and other products that are sent back to the United States. But Chinese factories reacting to sharply falling demand are slowing production, so they need less cardboard. Tons of paper are piling up recycling businesses around the port, the detritus of economies on hold ...
... Roughly 20 percent of the nation’s container imports last year came through Long Beach, putting it close behind the largest container port, Los Angeles. This year, shipping volume at Long Beach is down 10 percent from 2007, and nearly all major ports around the country have seen similar declines ...

Newspapers : 19th November

Blair and Sarkozy to host summit. Henry Samuel and Robert Winnett, The Telegraph (en)
" ... The Jan 8-9 meeting, "New world: values, development and regulation", would include "international political leaders" as well as economists such as Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, according to the Elysée Palace.
French officials say it is too soon to list which heads of state will attend. "It's a kind of brainstorming on the future of our societies in the light of the financial crisis involving academics, economists and politicians," said an Elysée source. "Tony Blair wishes to be in the preparation of this event." ..."

Silvio Berlusconi plays impromptu game of hide and seek with Angela Merkel. Nick Squires, The Telegraph (en)
" ... Mr Berlusconi, 72, ducked behind a lamp post and then jumped out with a cheery "boo" when she approached during a summit between the two countries in Trieste, in Italy's north-east. The Chancellor evidently found the surprise amusing because she spread her arms and gave Mr Berlusconi a hug, addressing him as "Silvio" ..."

Hamish McRae: Recessions serve a useful purpose.
" ... So there will be tax cuts here and elsewhere, and there will be further cuts in interest rates around the world too. There is no dispute about any of that. There is however a serious debate about the scale of what should be done. You can always puff up economies for a few months with such policies, but the more you artificially boost them in the short term, the greater the problems a few years down the line. You can buy growth now but have to pay for it later ...
... It sounds harsh to say it and I don't mean it to be so, but recessions, slowdowns, squeezes, however you describe them, do serve a purpose.
They force efficiency. They force our whole society to figure out simpler and more effective ways of doing things. Increasing efficiency is the only way our whole society – not just a few talented or cunning individuals – gets richer. Why is Germany the world's largest goods exporter? Because its companies have lived through the fire, first of a high deutschemark and then joining the euro at too high a rate. Again and again the pressure on them has forced them to lift their game ..."

Poles offered break on carbon emissions. Joshua Chaffin, The FT (en)
" ... The French proposal, a copy of which has been obtained by the Financial Times, is intended to address Poland’s concerns about the expansion of Europe’s emissions trading system, a central pillar of the EU’s ambitious plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020 ...
... The French proposal, a copy of which has been obtained by the Financial Times, is intended to address Poland’s concerns about the expansion of Europe’s emissions trading system, a central pillar of the EU’s ambitious plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020 ...

Labour shortage dims Denmark’s vision. The FT (en)
" ... The apartment complexes that have sprouted round Copenhagen over the past few years say a lot about Denmark. The designers have, as usual, combined practicality and beauty to produce some of the world’s most stunning homes. Unfortunately, many of them are empty and those that are occupied are often let out by developers because they have been unable to sell them ...
... In theory Denmark’s “flexicurity”, a combination of flexible labour market rules and a generous welfare system, should allow companies to hire and fire more easily than some of their international. But Denmark faces a skills shortage because of the combination of full employment, an ageing population, tight restrictions on immigration and a tendency for the unemployed to prefer living on benefit rather than move or retrain to find work ..."

Bulgaria brushes aside warning signs. Kerin Hope and Theodor Troev, The FT (en)

Iceland braced for big bond sell-off. David Ibison, The FT (en)
" ...Iceland is braced for the second wave of a financial crisis that has already destroyed its banks, as foreign owners of billions of dollars of Icelandic bonds dump them as soon as the country refloats its currency ...
... The central bank is prepared to intervene in the currency market to offset the impact of the overseas selling by using its existing reserves of IKr409bn and $5bn in loans from the IMF and other governments ... “Using the foreign currency loans to stabilise the currency would mean subsidising the carry traders’ exit at the expense of future taxpayers who will have to pay back the loan,” said Jon Danielsson, reader in finance at the London School of Economics ..."