Monday, 23 February 2009

Magazine : 23rd February

" ... The new passengers reflect a revolution in Spanish travel. Domestic airlines have lost a fifth of their passengers in the space of a year. And long-distance trains have gained almost a third.
document. This shift is the consequence of an ambitious programme for high-speed rail. The streamlined AVE trains, with their sleek corridors, work tables and spectacular views, are stealing the show ...
... The opening of the Barcelona-Madrid line a year ago marked the beginning of the end of airlines’ dominance. In its first ten months it carried 2m passengers; in 2008 its share of the total market rose from 28% to 38%. Josep Valls, of the ESADE business school, predicts that trains will carry most long-distance travellers within two years ..."

English is Coming. Charlemagne, The Economist (en)
" ... European efforts to resist the rise of the English language have now reached the same point. The latest Anglo-surge comes from the European press, with a dramatic increase in the number of heavyweight publications launching English-language websites, offering translated news stories and opinion pieces ...
... Editors’ motives are a mix of idealism and commercial ambition. Bosses at Spiegel have a political dream to create a platform where “Europeans can read what other Europeans think about the world,” says Daryl Lindsey, who runs the magazine’s international edition. But an English presence is also a “calling card” when pitching to international advertisers. It has proved helpful to journalists seeking interviews with world leaders. Kees Versteegh of NRC Handelsblad talks of creating a European “demos”, but also admits to frustration at publishing some “very fine pieces” in Dutch that the rest of the world never notices ...
... Thanks to EU enlargement to the east (and poor language skills among British and Irish visitors to Brussels), this is almost always English. That means Britons find it ever harder to justify learning other languages. Even when they do, they have to speak other languages extremely well to avoid inflicting halting French, say, on rooms of fluent English-speakers. And it carries other costs. In Brussels, native English-speakers are notoriously hard for colleagues to understand: they talk too fast, or use obscure idioms. Mr van Parijs has a prediction: Europeans will become bilingual, except for Anglophones, who are becoming monolingual ..."
" ... In the commercial centre of Shrewsbury, on the border between England and Wales, shops are closing one after the other. “All the shops seem to be closing. Even on this street, there’s just Woolworths,” said an alarmed resident in the city's centre. “Extra Personnals is closed down there, and I think there’s a place at the bottom of the hill looking to close" ..."

Newspapers : 23rd February

Vatican buries the hatchet with Charles Darwin. Richard Owen, The Times (en)
" ... The Vatican has admitted that Charles Darwin was on the right track when he claimed that Man descended from apes. A leading official declared yesterday that Darwin’s theory of evolution was compatible with Christian faith, and could even be traced to St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas. “In fact, what we mean by evolution is the world as created by God,” ..."

European MPs earning £1 million profits in a term. Andrew Porter, The Telegraph (en)
" ... But a leaked copy of the 92-page document details the full extent of "corruption, dodgy dealing and poor financial controls" in the European Parliament, according to the Taxpayers' Alliance. It revealed that some MEPs claimed money for assistants that were neither accredited nor registered with the parliament ...
... Over five years, each MEP can claim this includes a subsistence allowance of 117,000 Euros, staff allowance of 489,840 Euros, office expenses of 243,120 Euros, travel expenses of 60,000 Euros and an accrued pension of £350,000. This does not include the MEP salary of £63,291, which is set to increase to £73,584 after the European Parliament elections in June 2009 ..."

UK Poles finding greener grass in Poland. David Harrison, The Telegraph (en)
" ... Thousands like Mr Wozniak sense that, after five years in the European Union, Poland now offers better opportunities than the UK where unemployment is rising, wages are falling and there is growing resentment against foreign workers ..."

Czech leader attacks EU. The Independent (en)
" ... The Czech Republic President said the EU was undemocratic, elitist and reminiscent of Soviet-era Communist dictatorships in an attack which provoked an angry response from EU legislators. Vaclav Klaus, who holds the rotating EU presidency, also won applause from nationalists and other anti-EU legislators during his first address to the EU chamber ...
... "Not so long ago, in our part of Europe we lived in a political system that permitted no alternatives and therefore also no parliamentary opposition," he said. "We learned the bitter lesson that with no opposition, there is no freedom" ..."

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Newspapers : 19th February (Fr)

Le sous-marin "Le Triomphant" serait plus endommagé qu'annoncé. Le Monde (fr)
"... Ouest-France relève que cette immobilisation sans doute longue du Triomphant fragilise le dispositif de dissuasion nucléaire de la France, qui ne dispose plus que de deux SNLE utilisables pour assurer ses patrouilles dans l'attente de la livraison fin 2010 du Terrible, quatrième bâtiment de nouvelle génération qui doit compléter l'arsenal nucléaire français ..."

Révisons notre modèle de croissance. Henri Lachmann, Le Monde (fr)
" ... principales caractéristiques : recours excessif à l'effet de levier ; endettement non soutenable des ménages qui seul a permis le maintien de la consommation ; croissance fondée essentiellement sur la valorisation des actifs, en particulier immobiliers, par essence inégalement répartie entre les générations. Au total, une accumulation de mécanismes d'enrichissement artificiel dont la crise a mis à nu tous les risques qu'ils comportent... Ce mode de croissance n'a pu servir de modèle que parce qu'il se fondait sur l'oubli de lois économiques élémentaires, dont la situation actuelle montre toute la pertinence a contrario.
Les rendements exigés par les investisseurs, tout d'abord. Alors que ces derniers devraient être en ligne avec la croissance à long terme de l'économie, le diktat du Return on Equity ou ROE (retour sur fonds propres) de 15 % a agi comme un pousse-au-crime, et ne pouvait être atteint que par une politique malthusienne de réduction des fonds propres et un recours excessif à l'endettement ..."

Video : 19th February, Sarkozy's Adress to the Nation, A lesson of Communication

Discours de Nicolas Sarkozy suite au Sommet Social !, from Hugues2 18th February, DailymotionLes Dessous Social (fr)

La leçon de com' de maitre Sarko. Marc Landre, Les Dessous du Social (fr)
" ... l y a eu d'abord l'allocution du président de la République lui-même en ouverture des journaux de 20 heures qui a relégué en deuxième voire troisième sujet les commentaires de Thibault, Chérèque, Mailly et consorts. Puis les ministres ont été dépêchés dans les médias pour prêcher la bonne parole présidentielle : Luc Chatel sur iTélé, Christine Lagarde dans le Soir 3... Rebelote jeudi matin à la radio : François Fillon sur RTL, Raymond Soubie (le conseiller social du président) sur Europe 1, Brice Hortefeux sur France Inter, Christine Lagarde sur RMC-BFM TV ..."

Blogs : 19th February

The EU Bonds Story Rumbles On. Edward Hugh, A Fistfull of Euros (en)
" ... we are faced with is innocence and inability to react, and frankly I am not sure which is worst. I say “innocence” because it is by now abundantly clear that they simply haven’t yet grasped the severity of the problems we face (in countries like Spain, or even Germany itself, let alone in the East), and I say inability to react, since they are always and forever moving too little and too late. The initial response to the banking crisis last October was one example (where we saw a landshift-style volte face in the space of only one week) and the way we are now confronting the need to live up to the promises then made about guaranteeing the banking sector, and in particular the “systemic” banks, would be another ...
... The problem is that it is not just one or two quarters of negative growth we are talking about here, we are talking of deep depressions, and ones during which deep structural damage can be inflicted on the economies of those states who are hardest hit. “When push comes to shove Germany, France, the larger players will bail out those smaller peripheral players,” said Alex Allen, chief investment officer of Eddington Capital Management. “You can’t let one part of the system fail because it leads to failure of the whole system.” European deficits have evidently surged enormously this year as governments are faced with the need to provide funding for the heavily strained banking system and provide some kind of stimulus to their rapidly contracting economies. EU member states have already committed more than 1.2 trillion euros in an attempt to save the banking systems from collapse, and it is evident that a second and possibly larger wave of bailouts may now be imminent ..."

Ukraine GDP Down 20% In January. Edward Hugh, A Fistfull of Euros (en)
" ... Well, Paul Krugman certainly got it right on this one, the Great Depression may now reasonably be considered to have arrived in Ukraine. Ukraine’s GDP declined 20 percent in January year-on-year, according to Valeriy Lytvytsky chief advisor to the chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine. “The decline in GDP in January was about 20 percent according to my reckoning. It’s the biggest drop ever. It’s a bad start,” he said. According to Lytvytsky the construction and industry sectors have been the hardest hit by the economic crisis ..."

Staring into the Abyss? Alpha Sources (en)
" ... With respect to the data, I am not sure whether to laugh or cry (although I am pretty sure it is the latter at the IMF and in Latvia). Actually, my first reaction when I saw two research snippets, sent around by some friends, on Latvia was to laugh. This is Mickey Mouse numbers folks! An expected 20% contraction here and 10% there. The actual numbers confirm this. Q4 GDP fell a healthy 10.5% in Latvia and 9.4% (yoy) in Estonia. This means that 2008 saw a contraction, in Latvia, of 3.6% which follows a 6.3% expansion in 2007. Now, how long was it that we had the discussion about a soft v hard landing in the Baltics? Ah well, I will refrain from commenting ... "

World´s Largest Trade Bloc. Florian Pantazi, (en)
" ... While fears of protectionism are sweeping the EU and the US, China is preparing the launch, in 2010, of a regional trade bloc which will extend the benefits of free trade to the ASEAN countries (Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos). The move will create the world´s largest trade bloc, covering 1.7 billion people, with a combined GDP of around 1.5 trillion euros. Initially, the economic bloc will include the original six founders of the ASEAN group, with Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar to join them by 2015. Nor is that all. As a consequence of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, its member countries are also contemplating the adoption of an Asian Currency Unit (ACU), emulating the example of the euro´s predecessor, the ECU. Most, if not all, of these countries´economies are dominated by expatriate Chinese business elites, popularly known as the “maritime Chinese”. Since China´s inauguration of the “open doors” policy, they have been doing brisk business with the mainland and have contributed with large amounts of money to developing the Chinese economy ... "

A farewell post. Certain Ideas of Europe, 15th December (en)
" ... In that time we have also developed new ways to cover the region online—see our multimedia features, Europe.view column, and correspondents' diaries—which have made this blog somewhat redundant. So as of today we will stop blogging in this space in order to focus our efforts elsewhere. Readers interested in continuing the conversations started here are encouraged to visit our Europe home-page ..."

Crisis : 19th February

Sarkozy pledges £2.3bn aid.
" In a televised address to the nation after talks with union leaders, Mr Sarkozy announced new measures worth 2.65 billion euros (£2.3 billion) to help vulnerable people across France weather the crisis, including tax breaks for low income households and bonus payments for the unemployed ..."

We must print more money, says Bank. Sean Farrell, The Independent (en)
" The Bank of England is to start ‘printing’ new money for the first time in 30 years as it runs out of options to kick-start the economy. The Governor of the Bank of England will write to the Chancellor within days to get permission for the unprecedented action ...
... The Bank will create the money by buying government and corporate bonds from financial institutions for new supplies of sterling. Termed “quantitative easing”, it is the modern equivalent of printing money. It is designed to put more cash into the economy, creating more money for companies to spend and for banks to lend. The move marks the most dramatic step taken yet by the Bank as it tries to stop the deepening recession turning into a slump. One of the main reasons for the financial crisis has been the unwillingness of banks to lend money after the sub-prime losses in the US ...

Zoellick urges EU to help east Europe . Lionel Barber, Chris Giles, and Stefan Wagstyl and Tony Barber, The FT (en)
" ... Robert Zoellick, World Bank president, has called for European Union-led co-ordinated global support for the economies of central and eastern Europe, even as divisions emerge in the EU over handling the crisis ...
... ast European leaders reinforced their calls for stronger EU-led region-wide action. Andrius Kubilius, Lithuania’s premier, told the FT: “It would be good to see a more co-ordinated approach from the EU authorities.” Ferenc Gyurcsany, Hungary’s leader, urged central and east European government to jointly support Austria’s proposals for an EU bank package ... "

Germany ready to help eurozone members. Bertrand Benoit and Tony Barber, The FT (en)
" ... Asked on Wednesday whether Germany would risk seeing the eurozone break up rather than take action, Peer Steinbrück, finance minister, told a press conference: “Could you imagine anyone would be willing to put up with this? We would have to take action.” Mr Steinbrück told an event in Düsseldorf on Monday night that “the euro-region treaties don’t foresee any help for insolvent countries, but in reality the other states would have to rescue those running into difficulty” ...
... he remarks do not indicate that Germany was proposing to abandon the “no bail-out clause”, which is contained in Article 103 of the EU’s governing treaty and is a cornerstone of European monetary union. Rather, Berlin appears to be thinking in terms of pre-emptive measures to help a eurozone country before it reached the extreme point of being unable to refinance its debt ..."

Newspapers : 19th February

Britain has most expensive train fares in Europe. Nick Allen, The Telegraph (en)
" Average season tickets and day returns in the UK cost almost twice as much as the next most expensive country, according to a comprehensive study by the rail watchdog Passenger Focus ...
... A commuter travelling between 10.6 miles (17km) and 25 miles (41km) each morning to London spent an average £1,859.96 on an annual season ticket, compared with £990 in the next most expensive country, France, and £443,69 in the cheapest country, Italy ... "

Blueprint for EU army. Bruno Waterfield, The Telegraph (en)
" ... The plan, which has influential support in Germany and France, proposes to set up a "Synchronised Armed Forces Europe", or Safe, as a first step towards a true European military force. The move comes as France, a supporter of an EU army, prepares to rejoin Nato and to take over one of the Alliance's top military posts. General Charles de Gaulle withdrew French forces in 1966 ...
... The EU proposals, drafted by Karl von Wogau, a German MEP, envisage a "dynamic to further development of co-operation between national armed forces so that they become increasingly synchronised - this process [should] be given the name Safe" ... "

" Rama Yade's extraordinary choice of words sheds new light on the bizarre relationship the unconventional head of state has with his women colleagues. They follow revelations that Mrs Yade, 33, sent the president heart-shaped chocolates in a bid to keep her job as human rights minister ... "

Hollywood learns a history lesson at last. Andrew Roberts, The Telegraph (en)
" ... Hollywood is finally releasing a movie about a British historical subject that is truthful, intelligent, nuanced and pro-British. Here, at last, is a film in which a cut-glass English accent does not denote colonialist evil, sexual perversion or serial killing.
For decades Hollywood has treated its audiences like morons, straitjacketing complex historical issues into goodies versus baddies. A classic example is the recent release Valkyrie, in which the German generals' assassination plot against Hitler is presented as having been launched in order to promote human rights and the decent treatment of minorities. The fact that Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the undeniably brave would-be assassin described Poles as "an unbelievable rabble" of "Jews and mongrels" is conveniently forgotten ..."

" ... Mr Sarkozy believes that rejoining the command structure – giving France many senior Nato positions and influence over military planning – would hand Paris and Europe more influence in the alliance, remove a source of distrust between France and its US and European allies and add impetus to efforts to develop a strong European Union defence ­policy Opponents say it would curtail French autonomy and, as Mr Bayrou put it, end “an element of our ­identity in the concert of nations”. Ironically, whereas de Gaulle’s decision to withdraw France in 1966 was ­criticised at the time by ­centrists and the moderate left, it is they who have become the standard-bearers of Gaullism ... "

With Swipe at U.S., Iraq Builds Ties to French. Marc Santora and Allan Cowell, The NYT (en)
" ... Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq signaled a desire to gradually diminish American power over Iraqi politics and increase ties to other Western powers, during a visit ... resident Nicolas Sarkozy of France ... According to political advisers, Mr. Maliki is intent on changing the nature of Baghdad’s relationship with Washington, shifting Iraq’s role from a client state to a more equal partner ...
... The French overture came at a time of intense jockeying among the world’s leading oil companies for contracts in Iraq, with France’s Total among the major competitors ..."

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Update : 17th February

During my absence on the European Web front, I focused my time on my research proposal for my application for a PhD that should be starting in September 2009 if it is successful.
I am particularly interested in the European integration process, the future of Nationalism and the emergence of a European political identity among the EU citizens. Thus, my thesis proposal roots from the idea that the current financial crisis seems to have some impacts on the support of the European integration in countries such as Iceland, Ireland and Denmark. Its main model will have to do with the impact of external armed conflicts and economics crises on levels of national and European identities of citizens, both at the individual level and at the aggregate level. It will, therefore, advance the current understanding by examining the link between external shocks, its consequences on political identities formation and the support of public opinion for the European Union political integration. My major preoccupation, in undertaking this piece of research, is to establish whether crises have "integrative or disintegrative consequences" (Inglehart 1970) for Europe and its current process of integration.

Now with this projet well advanced, I will have more time to restart my Blog on European news. I would like to thank all the regular reader of this blog and to apologize for the 2 months break from the Web.