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: http://www.europeana.eu ...
... 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 ..."

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

USA : 18th November Joseph E. Stiglitz and the Bush Legacy

The Seven Deadly Deficits. Joseph E. Stiglitz, Mother Jones (en)
" ... George W. Bush assumed office, most of those disgruntled about the stolen election contented themselves with this thought: Given our system of checks and balances, given the gridlock in Washington, how much damage could be done? Now we know: far more than the worst pessimists could have imagined ... behind those losses lie even greater missed opportunities ...
... the trade deficit: Over the past decade, the nation has been borrowing massively abroad—some $739 billion in 2007 alone. And it is easy to see why: With the government running up huge debts, and with Americans' household savings close to zero, there was nowhere else to turn. America has been living on borrowed money and borrowed time, and the day of reckoning had to come. We used to lecture others about what good economic policy meant ...
... The laws of nature and the laws of economics are unforgiving. We can abuse our environment, but only for a while. We can spend beyond our means, but only for a while. We can free ride on the investments made in the past, but only for a while. Even the richest country in the world ignores the laws of nature and the laws of economics at its peril ..."

Newspapers : 18th November

French 'Barack Obama' still a dream. Henry Samuel, The Telegraph (en)
" ... If anything, age was an even bigger handicap than colour in France, said Miss Yade. "Obama's speechwriter is 25 years old: but in France at 30 you're not credible. The 68' generation are monopolising power. It's a shame, because a country that deprives itself of energy and youth is threatened with dying out." ..."

The euro is too dear . The Telegraph (en)
" ... It is doubtful that the euro can retain its value against the pound, even if the Bank of England continues to ease monetary policy here (something it would not be in a position to do had Britain joined the euro). The pound has come under pressure because the markets are not altogether happy with the fundamentals of the British economy, notably the public finances.
Yet it also offers the way out for the economy, which will push the pound up again.
In the current parlous circumstances, the value of the euro is too high, causing alarm among EU policy-makers. Further interest rate cuts by the ECB cannot be far away ..."

Editorial Comment: Bye-bye exports. The FT (en)
" ... But avoiding the sort of profligate spending of the US and UK has not saved Japan, Germany and China from credit bust fallout. Finding buyers for their exports is proving hard in a global economic downturn. To strengthen their economies, policymakers have to encourage their people to go shopping ...
...The German government has more room to manoeuvre, with a projected budget surplus for this year. It has to seize the opportunity and cut taxes so that consumers, after years of stagnating wages and rising taxes, have more left to spend. The European Central Bank should also cut interest rates further. This would offer additional short-term relief, but would not help wean the economy off exports ..."

Russia to raise import duties. Alan Beattie, The FT (en)
" ... Dmitry Pankin, deputy finance minister, said Moscow would increase tariffs on imported cars, a move that had already been planned to protect Russian car producers. Russia has also announced a general review of trade agreements, including commitments made as part of its application to join the World Trade Organisation. The review may result in duties being increased and import quotas for sensitive products being cut ...
... The European Commission said the news was not particularly troubling, as the duties would cover only a small part of trade ...
... Fredrik Erixon, director of the European Centre for International Political Economy, a free-trade Brussels think-tank, said: “I am not surprised at all. I don’t think the G20 was a meaningful exercise in trying to tie down its governments’ trade policies.”..."

Credit bottlenecks threaten businesses. Richard Milne , The FT (en)
" ... Banks withdrawing finance from small companies is the biggest problem facing the European economy, according to a group of 47 of the continent’s largest industrial groups ...
... “That is perhaps the single most important issue: the availability of credit to SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises]. It is a very severe situation,” he said. “It needs a lot of discussion with the banks. There are a lot of bottlenecks.”...

Queen Sofia Unamused by a Book Quoting Her . Victoria Burnett, The NYT (en)
In a statement read to the press late last month, a spokesman for the royal family said the queen “deeply regrets that the inaccuracy of the comments attributed to her may have caused discomfort or offense.”
The statement said the queen had been quoted “inexactly” and suggested that Ms. Urbano had published comments intended to be private.
Ms. Urbano denied this and said galleys of the book had been reviewed by the queen’s office, which had approved them for publication.
Journalists who closely follow the royal family said that the king was incensed by the book and that those responsible for giving it the green light may yet be fired.
" ... Depuis trente ans, les pays pauvres subissent de plein fouet les conséquences d'une course au profit effrénée qui a fait perdre la tête à la finance mondiale. A l'heure de refonder le système financier international, ils ne sont même pas conviés à la table des négociations.
La chronique du drame est éclairante. Acte I, l'endettement. Dans les années 1970, à la recherche de débouchés pour leurs liquidités, les banquiers occidentaux endettent massivement les pays du Sud à des taux (flottants) défiant toute concurrence. Les Etats leur emboîtent le pas, en faisant crédit à des dictatures féroces comme aux Philippines, au Congo (ex-Zaïre) ou en Argentine, en échange de leur allégeance au bloc de l'Ouest. Acte II, crise de la dette. En cause, au-delà des motifs géopolitiques : la remontée en flèche des taux d'intérêt, suite à une décision du Trésor américain, et la dégringolade des revenus d'exportation avec la chute des prix agricoles. Acte III, l'ajustement structurel. A partir des années 1980, les grands argentiers du G7 exigent des pays pauvres qu'ils sacrifient les dépenses de santé, d'éducation ou d'emploi pour rembourser la dette ..."
" ... tous ces plans ont été décidés dans l'urgence, mais "ces mesures sont-elles provisoires et seront-elles supprimées ensuite ? Ou sont-elles faites pour durer ?", s'inquiète M. Cohen.
A Bercy, on se semble loin de se poser la question. "La Commission a donné son aval aux plans nationaux, car ils sont compatibles et homogènes, veut-on croire dans l'entourage du secrétaire d'Etat à l'industrie. Et la disparition d'une entreprise réduit la concurrence. Donc le droit prévoit qu'un Etat peut aider une firme dans ce cadre."
"La Commission n'osera pas s'opposer aux actions des Etats membres", note M. Seabright. Et "l'Organisation mondiale du commerce préférera empêcher le protectionnisme et l'instauration de barrières tarifaires. Elle va fermer les yeux sur le droit de la concurrence", ajoute-t-il. Les contribuables et consommateurs en seront pour leurs frais ..."

Monday, 17 November 2008

Video : 17th November Sarkozy EU President and the Roumanians ... euh The Czechs

Blogs : 17th November

A Friday night out in Europe. Tobias Schwarz, A Fistful of Euros (en)

Former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt on Europe and the financial crisis. Guy La Roche, A Fistful of Euros (en)
" ... Russia and China particularly, but India as well, let no opportunity pass to show the world that they are a force to be reckoned with. The question is, though, whether Europe will be able, or willing, to play a part in this multipolar concert. ‘Able’ it most certainly should be, but ‘willing’ is another matter. Europe continues to suffer from cold feet ..."

Inflation Is Dead In Spain, Fasten Up Your Seat Belts For A Sharp Dose Of Deflation. Edward Hugh, A Fistful of Euros (en)
" ... But this slowdown in annual inflation isn’t the important point, the big news, and the part most analysts seem to be missing, is that the price index peaked in June (as can be seen in the chart below, and whether you measure on the Spain general index or the EU HICP), since which time it has been falling, and from now on (barring the slight possibly of a minor “blip”) it looks like it is going to be downhill all the way ..."

Odd Moments in Political Economy. Doug Merrill, A Fistful of Euros (en)
" ... I’m beginning to think that our neighborhood grocery store here in Tbilisi could be an interesting source of stories about the politics and economics in the Second World. The tastiest corn chips come from Turkey, the cooking oil brands are almost all Russian (though with relations being what they are, I don’t know if the products themselves come directly from the neighbor to the north), the peanut butter from China looks too suspect to buy, and a fair amount of the pasta is Italian Barilla ..."

Jean-Pierre Jouyet quitte le gouvernement. Jean Quatremer, Les Coulisses de Bruxelles (fr)
"... Surtout, l’équipe élyséenne montre un autisme préoccupant à l’égard de l’Allemagne : seul un conseiller technique parle allemand et personne, dans l’entourage de Sarkozy ne connaît ce pays. Alors qu’à Berlin, toute l’équipe européenne de la Chancelière parle français, d’où un certain ressentiment à l’égard de Paris.
Autant dire que tout plaide pour un remplacement rapide de Jouyet par une personnalité d’envergure. L’idéal serait même qu’elle accède enfin au rang de ministre de plein exercice pour ne plus dépendre d’un quai d’Orsay rétif à à l'idée de partager ses prérogatives avec « Bruxelles ». On pourrait même imaginer que ladite personnalité parle allemand, mais il ne faut pas trop rêver quand même… "

Cartoon : 17th November

The Times 2008

Chapatte, The IHT 2008

Newspapers : 17th November

Silvio Berlusconi denies reports of ill health. The Telegraph (en)
" ... Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, 72, denied reports that he had taken ill on a flight back from Washington and insisted that he had the health of a 20-year-old man ..."

German troops in Afghanistan drunk more than 1.8m pints last year. The Telegraph (en)
" ... Almost 70,000 litres of wine and seat, a German sparkling wine, was also shipped to the soldiers, the defence ministry figures showed. The figures imply that the 3,600 German troops in Afghanistan as part of Nato's ISA operation are each drinking around 490 pints or beer as well as 128 normal measures of wine ..."

What makes a Londoner a Londoner? Leo Hollis, The Telegraph (en)
" ... Dr Johnson was a Londoner amongst Londoners - which is to say that like most Londoners he was born outside the city. He is famous for his judgment that 'when a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford' ..."

Suspected ETA military chief arrested in France. The Independent (en)
" ... The suspected military leader of Basque separatist rebel group ETA has been arrested in south western France, the French interior ministry said today, the biggest blow to the organisation in months. Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina, known by his alias "Txeroki" or "Cherokee", was arrested in France's mountainous Pyrenean region, near the Spanish border, said the interior ministry statement, which misspelled his surname as Asiazu ..."

Poles savour British flavours. Martin Hickman, The Independent (en)
" ... Polish nationals working in Britain in the past few years have picked up more than their wages – with many developing a taste for British brands of food and drink. Poles and other eastern Europeans returning home have increasingly been ordering premium British products such as dark chocolate, tins of shortbread, specialist teas, and even bottles of honey-infused bitter. Sales of British chocolate in Poland, for example, increased 185 per cent in the first six months of the year ... "

The summit which marks the changing of the old order. Leading article, The Independent (en)
" ... Nothing emerged from the G20 meeting in Washington at the weekend that gives the financial markets great cause for bullishness today. There were no promises of co-ordinated interest rate reductions, or global tax cuts. There was support from the leaders present for "fiscal measures to stimulate domestic demand", which is likely to give Gordon Brown the cover he needs to cut taxes in a week's time, but nothing more definite. There were also some warm words on reinvigorating global trade talks, but nothing earth-shattering ...
... One of the most significant consequences of the credit meltdown since last year is that the old "West" has shed a considerable degree of economic authority. Sovereign wealth funds from the Middle and Far East have taken a sizeable share of some of the top banks in Britain and America. Those same players have been asked to fill the coffers of the International Monetary Fund to bail out emerging economies stricken by sudden capital withdrawals. The communiqué made clear that this new economic reality will be reflected in the governing arrangements of the IMF and the World Bank ..."

Andreas Whittam Smith: Putin's energy threat should be risible. Andreas Whittam Smith, The Indepedent (en)
" ... though, to compare the natural gas market with the oil market. Why does the former give rise to political considerations whereas the latter does not? Think of the world's large oil suppliers, from Venezuela to the countries of the Middle East to Indonesia. Not one of them issues threats based on denying supply. Russia is also a significant exporter of oil to western Europe, but it never uses that as an instrument of its foreign policy. Yet it does so with gas ...
... This international oil market is now 140 years old, but natural gas only got going in the 1970s. In western Europe, trading began in a monolithic way appropriate to the period. State owned, monopoly gas undertakings in France, Germany and Italy, signed separate supply agreements with the Soviet Ministry of Gas. They secured large volumes for 20 to 30 years ahead under rigid contracts designed to support massive investment in infrastructure, especially the 5,000km pipelines from west Siberia to Europe. These contracts were government-to-government agreements, whatever the names on the documents ..."

Spy in Nato sparks alarm over secrets . Roger Boyes, The Times (en)
" ... A spy at the heart of Nato may have passed secrets on the US missile shield and cyber-defence to Russian Intelligence, it has emerged. Herman Simm, 61, an Estonian defence ministry official who was arrested in September, was responsible for handling all of his country's classified information at Nato, giving him access to every top-secret graded document from other alliance countries ...
... The longer they work on the case, the more obvious it becomes how big the impact of the suspected treachery really is,” according to Der Spiegel magazine. A German official described the Russian penetration of Nato as a "catastrophe" ... "

UN spends aid money on £12m office ceiling . John Follain , The Times (en)
" ... £12m decorative ceiling for a United Nations building in Geneva has come under fire after it was disclosed that it was partly paid for by Spain’s overseas aid budget. The decision to hire Miquel Barcelo, 51, one of the world’s most highly paid abstract artists, to redesign a 14,000 sq ft dome has prompted furious protests from campaigners who believe it is an extravagant misuse of development funds ...
... The work, at the headquarters of the UN Human Rights Council, will be unveiled this week by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain and Jose Luis Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister ..."

Sarkozy calls for rethink over US defence system. David Charter, The Times (en)
" ... Mr Sarkozy, speaking at a joint press conference with Mr Medvedev, said: “I have suggested that in mid2009 we could meet within a framework to lay the foundations of what could possibly be a future pan-European security system. This would bring together the Russians, the Americans and the Europeans ..."

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Cartoon : 12th November Britain's Battle on Tax Cuts to Support the Economy

The Times, 2008

Identity : 12th November

Sarkozy: emotion not commemoration. Henri Samuel, The Telegraph (en)
... In Douaumont, the French choir sung the European anthem - Beethoven's Ode to Joy – but there was no hand-holding: Germany was represented by the president of the German senate, not by chancellor Angela Merkel. Mr Sarkozy's "decentralisation" of the commemoration from neutral Paris to the killing fields of Verdun was apparently not to her liking. The Franco-German motor is in serious need of anti-freeze ...
... "The time has come to honour all the dead, without exception," Mr Sarkozy went on. This phrase did not go unnoticed in France, as it signalled Sarkozy's wish to rehabilitate the 675 Frenchmen shot for deserting or cowardice even though many were too exhausted, injured or traumatised to advance ...
... He has always been fervent about revisiting the past to boost a sense of national purpose. But as so often with this president, his way of doing things irks many French. "Choosing Douaumont over the Arc de triomphe is siding with the victims rather than the victors," historian Antoine Prost told Le Monde. Mr Prost and others accuse the president of inappropriately trying to extract "emotion" from war rather than plain commemoration ..."

Newspapers 12th November

EU to allow 'wonky' fruit. Bruno Waterfield , The Telegraph (en)
" ... The European Commission will on Wednesday tear up bureaucratic "marketing standards" that set precise measurements for the appearance, weight and size of 26 types of fruit and vegetables – including the Brussels sprout ...
... An estimated 20 per cent of the British harvest is thrown away to comply with the EU regulations, rules which have been calculated to add as much as 40 per cent to the price of some vegetables, such as carrots.
"Nature does not always comply with a perfectly rounded apple and poker straight carrot. People should be given the chance to buy odd shaped fruit and veg as they taste just as good," said NFU Horticulture board chairman Richard Hirst ...
... The rule changes will be implemented from July 1 next year ..."

Why did the West ignore the truth about the war in Georgia? Mary Dejevsky, The Independent (en)
" ... The journalists travelled to the region separately and by different routes. They spoke to different people. But their findings are consistent: Georgia launched an indiscriminate military assault on South Ossetia's main town, Tskhinvali. The hospital was among the buildings attacked; doctors were injured even as they operated.
The timing of the Georgian attack, as of the arrival of the first Russian reinforcements two days later, coincides for the most part with the original Russian version. It was only then that the Russians crossed into Georgia proper in the invasion of sovereign territory that has been universally decried. For the record, it should be added that Russia has now withdrawn from uncontested Georgian territory, in accordance with the agreement mediated by President Sarkozy ...
... What has now transpired, however, is that the US and Britain had no excuse for not knowing how the war began. They were briefed by the OSCE monitors at a very early stage, and those monitors included two highly experienced former British Army officers ..."

Moscow signals depreciation of rouble. Charles Clover, The FT (en)
" ... Russia’s central bank signalled on Tuesday it was prepared to allow a sharp depreciation of the rouble as it lowered the floor at which it would defend the struggling currency, while capital outflows from the country took their toll on foreign exchange reserves ...
... A large depreciation could expose the government to serious political consequences ... But holding the rouble stable may ultimately be futile as the price of oil, Russia’s main export, falls and international credit markets dry up, analysts said ..."

Danes ‘bearing the cost’ of being outside euro. Robert Anderson, The FT (en)
" ... Denmark is paying the price for not adopting the euro, Nils Bernstein, governor of the country’s central bank, said on Tuesday, even though last month’s rise in interest rates has been successful in stopping pressure on the krone. “It is first and foremost a political question whether to join [the euro],” the Nationalbank chief said in an interview, “but as we now see there is an economic cost to being outside the eurozone.”

French agency to make debut in bail-out funding. Anousha Sakoui , The FT (en)
" ... A new French agency will make its debut in the international bond markets this week to raise bail-out funding for the country’s banks, marking the latest entrant to a growing investment class.
Banks running the bond sale for the Société de Financement de l’Economie Française (SFEF) are hoping to sell between €3bn and €5bn in three-year bonds this week.
The bonds are of the kind with which investors in Europe and beyond are going to become increasingly familiar – government sponsored debt issued either directly by or on behalf of the battered banking industry ...
... SFEF will provide up to €265bn in new loans to France’s banks, to ease lending conditions. The SFEF will use an explicit state guarantee to raise debt of up to five years maturity on the markets and pass it on to banks at a commercial rate plus a 20-basis-point fee for the government backing ..."

After U.S. Breakthrough, Europe Looks in Mirror. Steven Eslanger, The NYT (en)
" ... Mr. Obama is the only black in the current Senate, and unless he is replaced by an African-American, the new Senate will have none. The new House has 39 black representatives, about 9 percent. Blacks make up about 13 percent of the country’s population.
But Rama Yade, the Senegal-born state secretary for human rights, called herself “a painful exception” in the French government, despite President Nicolas Sarkozy’s appointment of three prominent black or Muslim women to his government. As for the political elite’s embrace of Mr. Obama, she said, “The enthusiasm they express toward this far-away American, they don’t have it for the minorities in France.”
It is not only immigrants who are pondering what Mr. Obama’s victory says about Europe. France’s defense minister, Hervé Morin, called the Obama victory “a lesson” for a French democracy late to adopt integration ...
... But the conservative Le Figaro blamed French minorities themselves for part of their exclusion. The paper noted that Mr. Obama’s success was based on his upbringing, education and success at integrating into the larger society and articulating its values, including patriotism.
“From this point of view, Obama should be the model to follow for young immigrants who have come to doubt their feeling of belonging to the nation,” the paper said. “Minorities, who have chosen their exile, in contrast to black Americans, still have a lot to prove.” ..."

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Blogs : 11th November

Is the EU speaking with one voice? Stanley Crossick, BlogActiv.eu (en)
" ... Unusually, the European initiative is French-driven, with broad British support but a reluctant Germany. A reactive role is unsatisfactory for Europe’s economic motor. Joschka Fischer rightly argues that Germany should stop opposing the very principle of economic governance and lead the way in fashioning it. “The EU needs an economic government for the deep and long crisis ahead. Germany, Europe’s biggest and most important economy, should lead the way decisively” ...
... There is an urgent need for macroeconomic and fiscal coordination at the EU level. The EU must be able to respond politically. “Simply put, Europe’s nation states are too small to address a crisis of this dimension on their own. Only the EU can protect the interests of all Europeans - including those outside the euro zone and even outside the EU. But, while Europeans have created strong institutions with the euro and the ECB, they still lack an adequate political superstructure to confront the coming economic crisis.”..."

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Helen, Bruges Group Blog (en)

Newspapers : 11th November

Merkel snubs WWI ceremony. Peter Allen, The Telegraph (en)
" ... Mrs Merkel is said to be furious with the choice of Tuesday's venue by Mr Sarkozy, with Verdun the site of arguably the most controversial battles in military history, with the Germans in particular portrayed as acting like industrialised killers ...
... But rather than being held in Paris - as is traditional - the 90th anniversary events have been switched by President Nicolas Sarkozy to Fort Douaumont, on the Verdun battlefield in the north east of the country. Arthur Titherington, a British veteran who was a prisoner of war during the 1939-45 conflict, said: "I would certainly have expected Prince Charles to be at a British battlefield on November 11th." ...
... Despite a number of recent meetings, there have been numerous reports of frosty relations between Mrs Merkel and Mr Sarkozy, with her even complaining about his Gallic kisses and hugs ...

Fischer urges Merkel to be ‘more decisive’. Bertrand Benoit, The FT (en)
" ... In an interview, Mr Fischer told the FT the government of Angela Merkel, chancellor, had played too passive a role in the debate over Europe’s response to the financial storm and was underestimating the severity of the coming economic crisis, “the like of which none of us has seen in our lifetimes” ...
... “Both Nicolas Sarkozy [the French president] and Gordon Brown [British prime minister] have made more decisive contributions,” said Mr Fischer. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the French proposals are the right ones. We don’t need a new protectionism, but only to say ‘no’ is not enough (...) Through its crisis management, Germany has given the impression that Europe’s largest economy is now acting purely nationally. This is a big concern because the economic crisis will put the European project, including the euro, at risk.” ...

European nations join forces on defence jets. Sylvia Pfeifer and Peggy Hollinger, The FT (en)
" ... the European Defence Agency said the European Air Transport Fleet initiative, which should be operational in the next decade, would pool aircraft such as the A400m being built by EADS, the European defence group, and Lockheed Martin’s Hercules C-130 transporters ...

European Union to Resume Russian Partnership Talks. Stephen Castle, The NYT (en)
" ... Monday’s decision to resume talks was a clear acknowledgment of how much Europe and Russia need each other economically, especially as the global financial crisis reorders priorities, foreign ministers and analysts said. Among the issues expected to be discussed when talks resume are energy, trade, and cooperation on security and combating terrorism.
Russia supplies a considerable portion of Europe’s energy needs, and many Europeans fear that makes them vulnerable to Kremlin pressure. Russia, meanwhile, needs the earnings from energy exports ...
... Britain and Poland, which initially took a tough line on relations with Russia, also supported new talks. The Polish foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, said the move put Poland in the “mainstream of the E.U.”
Nicu Popescu, a research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said it was “clear that the financial crisis is more important for everyone — the E.U. and Russia — than the crisis in Georgia.” Alexander Stubb, Finland’s foreign minister, agreed. “Realpolitik has influenced this,” he said. “It is in Europe’s interests to restart talks.” ..."

La revanche de "Super-Trichet". Frédéric Lemaître, Le Monde (fr)
" ... N'en déplaise au président français, qui se verrait bien jouer les prolongations, l'homme qui incarne l'euro à l'étranger, c'est le président de la BCE. "C'est ma signature qui figure sur les billets", aime-t-il rappeler. Il y a trois ans, un Silvio Berlusconi pouvait encore critiquer la monnaie unique et évoquer le retour de la lire italienne. Aujourd'hui, les pays périphériques de la zone euro, comme la Hongrie, le Danemark ou l'Islande, n'ont qu'un rêve : se mettre à l'abri des dévaluations en intégrant le giron de la monnaie européenne ...
... Le président de la BCE a deux types d'interlocuteurs privilégiés : les autres banquiers centraux et les dirigeants de la zone euro. Impossible d'analyser sa stratégie sans étudier leurs jeux de rôle respectifs ...
... M. Trichet tient son pouvoir, moins de son indépendance formelle que de son soutien dans l'opinion. "La confiance en la monnaie est la source véritable du pouvoir des banques centrales. C'est sur elle que les banques centrales prennent appui pour contraindre le pouvoir politique, et non sur leur indépendance statutaire", résume André Orléan (CNRS) dans l'ouvrage collectif ..."

La langue de la liberté. Editorial, Le Monde (fr)
" ... Comment résister à la tentation de parodier le discours de Barack Obama, le soir de son élection, il y a une semaine, à la présidence des Etats-Unis ? Si quelqu'un pense encore que la France est rétive à la diversité, si quelqu'un doute de la capacité de ce pays à assumer son métissage, si qui que ce soit s'interroge sur le rayonnement de la francophonie, l'élection de l'Afghan Atiq Rahimi par le jury du prix Goncourt et celle du Guinéen Tierno Monénembo par le jury du prix Renaudot viennent d'apporter une réponse éloquente ..."

Photo : 11th November Remembrance Day

Blogs Guardian, 2008

Monday, 10 November 2008

Identity : 10th November

Laurent Cohen-Tanugi: The Shape of the World to Come. Guy La Roche, A Fisful of Euros
" ... Laurent is courageous and correct in saying that today’s multi-polar world is not just more equal but also more unstable, contrary to the European hope of equalizing relations with the United States. Nationalism is returning and we are “moving away from the post-modern ideal of global governance,” and we are witnessing a return of “nineteenth-century geopolitics.” ..."

Laurent Cohen's video via the Columbia University Press Weblog.

Blogs 2 : 10th November

House crisis reality. Ironies Too (en)

A Panic cut in Interest Rates. Ironies Too (en)
" ... The media seems unanimous that the 1.5 per cent cut today is the first such a large cut since 1981. Looking at the Bank of England statistics page, here, I cannot see such an event in 1981 ...
... cut of 1.5 per cent from 4.5 per cent to 3.0 per cent is an historically massive decline of one third or 33.333r per cent and is totally without precedent and clearly an act of pure blind panic! ... "

Tracking: European parliament elections 2009 (XXIV) - supplemented. Julein Frisch, Watching Europe (en)
" ... http://www.eudebate2009.eu/eng/ The project is not yet launched, but as soon as it will air you will find, according to the description on the site:
an information site and a multilingual debate on the European elections in June 2009.We can expect to
read the latest news from the EU parliament, watch videos of Europe’s citizens, see opinion polls and campaign blogs, check our news on the politics and economy of Europe [...] EU candidate programmes? ..."

On not getting too excited. Nosemonkey, EUtopia (en)
" ... But, though a little bit of excitement and hyperbole is more than permissible on such an undeniably historic day, us non-Americans - perhaps especially us Europeans - shouldn’t get too excited by President Obama ... "

EU zombies react to credit crunch. Open Europe Blog (en)
" ... Sainsbury's spokesperson said: "We have been struggling to fit a square peg in a round hole for too long now when it comes to conforming to the more controversial elements of the EU regulations. We're not allowed to use up to 20 per cent of what's produced in this country and in the current crunch climate, we cannot continue to waste this much food before it even leaves the farms. Buying wonky veg would have saved cash-strapped Britons up to 40 per cent on some items such as carrots. It not only saves money, it also reduces waste and supports our British farmers." ..."

Polish political establishment. Vitaliy, The 8th Circle (en)
" ... These points miss fundamental changes in the Polish political establishment in the past decade and in the past year.
... 1) The Polish diaspora in the U.S. weighs very little influence today as it did in the 1980s and 1990s. Most of the Polish diaspora is not in Chicago, but works in the UK and Ireland ...
... 2) President Kaczyński’s policies toward Russia may have scored points with the “mohair berets” at home in 2005, but ultimately failed in the EU and abroad ...
... 3) After a year of the Tusk government, anti-Russian views hardly resonate for a large majority of the population at home… Many in Washington mistakenly believe that Poland gives unwavering support to the U.S. ...
... 4) Central Europeans, as members of NATO, are fully capable of handling a crisis emanating from Russia ...

Blogs : 10th November

Montenegrin Leaders visited Brussels. Discussion on Progress toward EU and NATO. Bocca.Brussels, BlogActiv.eu (en)
" ... Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic on Wednesday held talks in Brussels with the European foreign policy and security commissioner, Javier Solana. At the same time, the Montenegrin Parliamentary delegation visited European Parliament ..."

Obama’s ‘A’ list of foreign leaders. Stanley Crossick, BlogActiv.eu (en)
" ... 3. President Sarkozy of France 4. Chancellor Merkel of Germany 9. Prime Minister Brown of the United Kingdom ..."

The Commission’s economic forecasts are still too complacent. Simon Tilford, Centre for European Reform (en)
" ... The IMF’s forecasts look more realistic than those of the Commission. It is forecasting a decline in EU output of 0.2 per cent and 0.5 per cent for the eurozone. This means recessions in Germany (0.8 per cent), Spain (0.7 per cent) and France and Italy (0.5 per cent and 0.6 per cent respectively.) The IMF was heavily criticised earlier in the year for allegedly being too pessimistic about Europe’s economy’s outlook, but it has been vindicated as the European economy slowed dramatically even before the intensification of the financial crisis in September ..."

Rotten Potato. Doug Merrill, A Fisful of Euros (en)

Our new monetarist overlords. P O Neill, A Fisful of Euros (en)
" ... The IMF announcement makes repeated references to a “flexible exchange rate regime” and in particular "Base money will be the near-term anchor for monetary policy until an inflation targeting regime can be implemented". In other words, targets will be set for the growth of a narrow definition of the money supply and that will be the only explicit basis for interest rate adjustments. Among other things, the Fund doesn’t want the central bank to be blowing reserves on a futile defence of a particular level of the exchange rate ..."

Club Med finds a home. Certain Ideas of Europe (en)
" ... THERE was progress this week on plans for a new group to address issues of common interest to European and other Mediterranean-area countries. Agreement on everything from a new name (Union for the Mediterranean) to a new home (Barcelona) and maneuvering around Middle East tensions (the Arab League will have observer status, but not a vote, to accommodate Israel) suggests that so far, the 43-member regional union has legs, even if it is moving slowly. There has been talk for years of greater European cooperation with its Mediterranean neighbours ..."

English as a tool for Sarkozy-baiting. Certain Ideas of Europe (en)
" ... It was a very odd moment. Mr Barroso speaks many languages: including his native Portuguese, excellent French and English, and a magnificently mangled form of Spanish. But the French presidency of the EU has gone out of its way to stress the French language, in a rather vain attempt to stem the tide of English as the near-automatic working language of the EU institutions. Mr Barroso normally speaks French in such circumstances. But this time, he began by announcing that he would speak English "for the sake of linguistic diversity, and for the protection of minority languages". Why not speak Portuguese, if you want to defend minority languages, snapped Mr Sarkozy, before muttering audibly that French was a minority language nowadays ..."

Crise financière: mésentente franco-allemande? Jean Quatremer, Les Coulisses de Bruxelles (fr)
" ... La méfiance allemande est difficilement compréhensible face à la gravité de la situation économique que Berlin semble sous-estimer depuis le départ. Tout se passe comme si la chancelière allemande, Angela Merkel, désormais en campagne électorale, était totalement paralysée et engoncée dans de vieux schémas. Pour Berlin, Paris veut manifestement profiter des circonstances pour imposer un « gouvernement économique » qu’elle continue à percevoir comme une menace pour l’indépendance de la Banque centrale européenne (BCE). Pourtant, celle-ci a accepté de coopérer pleinement avec les autorités politiques, montrant ainsi qu’indépendance ne veut pas dire absence de dialogue. De même, elle craint de devoir payer pour les autres, en particulier pour la France. Alors qu’elle a non sans mal rétabli l’équilibre de ses finances publiques, l’Hexagone, fidèle à sa réputation de cigale, a laissé filer ses déficits et sa dette — qui va atteindre des sommets inédits (70 % du PIB en 2010). Or, là aussi, il s’agit d’un mauvais procès, coordination des politiques économiques ne voulant pas dire budget commun ..."

G20: "et moi, et moi, et moi". Jean Quatremer, Les Coulisses de Bruxelles (fr)
" ... L’Union court, en effet, le risque du ridicule : alors qu’elle proclame son « unité » sur la crise financière, une délégation trop fournie donnerait la désastreuse impression que chacun se méfie en réalité de l’autre, alors que l’Union en a déjà six sièges assurés : outre les quatre pays européens du G8, la présidence en exercice de l’Union et la Commission seront en effet présent …
... Néanmoins, le Président de la République a admis qu’il serait curieux d’exclure du G20 « la huitième économie du monde », en l’occurrence l’Espagne : « la France ayant droit à deux sièges en tant que présidente en exercice du conseil et membre du G8, l’Espagne occupera l’un des deux sièges ». Reste alors le problème des Pays-Bas : « à ma connaissance, c’est la seizième économie du monde et ils ont donc vocation à être présents » à un G20 des vingt premières puissances mondiales, a ajouté Sarkozy sans préciser quelle solution il avait en tête ... "

Unbelievable! Richard, EUReferendum (en)
More chaos and confusion. Richard, EUReferendum (en)

A vicarious thrill. Richard, EUReferendum (en)
" ... On the other hand, who has noticed that, yesterday, our own government met – in Brussels – to decide on its "common position" on reforming the global financial system? All 27 member state leaders were there – which includes our beloved premier – and, according to temporary boss-man Nicolas Sarkozy, "There is a pretty detailed common position from Europe … We will be defending a common position, a vision … for restructuring our financial system." ..."

Bush And Obama. Eursoc Two, EurSoc (en)
" ... President George W Bush delivers delivers a noble speech congratulating Barack Obama on yesterday's presidential election victory. It is difficult to imagine a similar handover happening with such dignity anywhere else in the world; Bush may have little in common politically with Obama but both men are aware of the trust placed in them by the American people and the obligations this trust imposes. No-one is greater than the will of the people ..."

Newspapers : 10th November

Silvio Berlusconi's top 10 gaffes. Nick Squires , The Telegraph (en)
" ... On business: "Another reason to invest in Italy is that we have beautiful secretaries – superb girls." ... On plans to base an EU food standards agency in Finland instead of Parma: "Parma is synonymous with good cuisine. The Finns don't even know what prosciutto is." ... On his career: "I don't need to go into office for the power. I have houses all over the world, stupendous boats, beautiful aeroplanes, a beautiful wife, a beautiful family. I am making a sacrifice." ..."

Carla Bruni angry at Berlusconi's 'suntanned' Obama jibe. Peter Allen, The Telegraph (en)
"My husband is not Obama. But the French voted for the son of a Hungarian immigrant, whose father had an accent, whose mother was of Jewish origin, and his stance has always been to say that he's French although he comes from somewhere else.
"He doesn't look like the traditional French elite but that didn't stop him. And, personally, I don't correspond to the profile of a first lady! I'm an artist, born Italian ..."

Ségolène Royal in shock political comeback. Henry Samuel, The Telegraph (en)
" ... Miss Royal was defeated by Nicolas Sarkozy in presidential polls last year and faded from the frontline of politics in France. But at a meeting of her Socialist party on Thursday night, her "motion" - a list of priorities for the Socialist party and seen as a gauge of her popularity - won the greatest support of a shortlist of six candidates to lead the Left in a poll of party members ..."

Tests for priests to screen out homosexuals. Andy McSmith, The Independent (en)
" ... After being hit by a series of sex scandals, the Vatican has given the seal of approval to the psychological screening to test for evidence of personality disorders or serious doubts about aptitude for the priesthood.
Controversially, the head of the Vatican committee that made the recommendations has made it clear they should be used to screen out homosexuals, even if they are celibate, because homosexuality is "a type of deviation" that disqualifies a priest from exercising "spiritual paternity" ...
... "The candidate does not necessarily have to practise homosexuality. He can even be without sin," the Cardinal said. "But if he has this deep-seated tendency, he cannot be admitted to priestly ministry precisely because of the nature of the priesthood, in which a spiritual paternity is carried out. Here we are not talking about whether he commits sins, but whether this deeply rooted tendency remains." ..."

Georgia fired first shot, say UK monitors . Jon Swain, The Times (en)
" ... On the night war broke out, Grist was the senior OSCE official in Georgia. He was in charge of unarmed monitors who became trapped by the fighting. Based on their observations, Grist briefed European Union diplomats in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, with his assessment of the conflict. Grist, who resigned from the OSCE shortly afterwards, has told The New York Times it was Georgia that launched the first military strikes against Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital. “It was clear to me that the [Georgian] attack was completely indiscriminate and disproportionate to any, if indeed there had been any, provocation,” he said. “The attack was clearly, in my mind, an indiscriminate attack on the town, as a town.” ...