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VoxEeurop | Trade and industry



The talk of the continent



 



Federal election in Germany: The Merkelisation of Europe

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 10:38:01 +0100

Der Spiegel, Hamburg – Angela Merkel is the most powerful of the EU’s heads of state and government, and she is running for a fourth mandate in Sunday’s general election. A data-driven look at what has changed in Europe during the twelve years of her chancellorship. See more.



Dieselgate: Car emissions in excess responsible for thousands of premature deaths

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 15:40:53 +0100

MobileReporter, Rome – About 10,000 people die prematurely every year across Europe because of pollution from diesel cars associated to Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), a new international study shows. This story is part of an international investigation run by MobileReporter. See more.



Tainted eggs: Summer menu

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 08:29:00 +0100

Cartoon movement, Amsterdam – Cartoon. See more.



Dieselgate: Killing smoke

Fri, 04 Aug 2017 22:12:39 +0100

De Groene Amsterdammer, Amsterdam – Cartoon. See more.



CETA negotiations: More democracy for Europe and a new star for the Left

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 08:13:40 +0100

, – Wallonia’s intervention in the final phase of the free trade talks between the EU and Canada may have permanently changed the way commercial treaties are negotiated. Key to this has been the conviction and strength of character of Paul Magnette, the Belgian region’s President. See more.



EU-Canada trade agreement: CETA can wait

Thu, 27 Oct 2016 21:48:33 +0100

Süddeutsche Zeitung, Munich – Cartoon. See more.



Completion of Berlin Airport in Sight

Mon, 28 Sep 2015 17:07:24 +0100

Blog

(image)

According to the German online magazine Postillon, an external study conducted by the Forschungsinstitut Steuergeldverschwendung concluded that the opening date of the Berlin Brandenburg Airport can be expected to be postponed by two years annually. The overall cost of the airport will therefore be increased by approximately two euros per euro invested.

Scientists derived a formula to calculate the year of the expected completion in any given year: (Current Year – 2012) x 2 + 2012 = opening date

The airport company FBB intends to call for additional investments to accelerate the construction. The time needed to postpone the opening date by two years could then be reduced from one year to nine or maybe even eight months.

Photo: Robert Aehnelt – Eigenes Werk. Lizenziert unter CC BY-SA 3.0 über Wikimedia Commons.




Automotive industry and climate change: Tough new car emission regulation essential for reaching EU targets

Mon, 20 Jul 2015 12:14:43 +0100

The Guardian, London – The EU will not meet its emission cut targets for 2025 if it does not tackle automobile pollution. Some countries want to set new ambitious goals, but others, starting with Germany, are strongly opposing. See more.



20 anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre: Safety zone

Sat, 11 Jul 2015 17:33:23 +0100

Trouw, Amsterdam – Cartoon. See more.



Rail transport: The map showing the distance between Brussels and the rest of Europe

Wed, 03 Jun 2015 15:29:48 +0100

By Lorenzo Ferrari.

Leaving from Brussels, how long does it take to reach another point in Europe? Using data provided by the Swiss Transport API, Peter Kerpedjiev has published on his blog a map showing the journey times by train to Europe's major cities. For the regions not reachable by train, it shows a time estimation of the journey on foot.

The distances illustrated by the map are not just physical, but also to some extent cultural. On the one hand, this map shows how the institutional heart of Europe is closely linked with France, Germany and southern England. On the other, it also demonstrates the wide gap separating Brussels from regions in the south and east of the EU.




EU complaint against Google: Free at last

Wed, 15 Apr 2015 16:26:48 +0100

The Nation, Bangkok – Cartoon. See more.



Firearms: A map of Europe’s countries ranked by gun possession

Sun, 12 Apr 2015 09:46:54 +0100

This map, published by Wikipedia and elaborated through data from the Small Arms Survey 2007, shows the estimated total number of civilian-owned guns in a country per 100 residents.

In Europe, Serbia is ranked as number one (and number 2 in the world, behind the United States), with 69.7 estimated guns per 100 inhabitant. It is followed by Switzerland, with 45.7 guns per 100 residents, and Cyprus, with 36.1. Four Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Finland) are amongst the top ten European countries, Romania being the last, with 0.5 guns per 100 inhabitants.




Trade: Map shows Germany über alles

Sat, 28 Mar 2015 16:06:46 +0100

A map of Europe where each country displays the flag of the other country that is the largest source of imports shows clearly that Germany is the champion to the vast majority of European countries, with 16 out of 28 EU members having it as their biggest trade parter – the number two being Russia. Its is curious noting that tiny Netherlands are the biggest imports source for Germany and reciprocally - the only pair in the EU.

The author, a Reddit user nicknamed Amiantedeluxe, used statistics from The Observatory of Economic Complexity, statistiques-mondiales.com and Wikipedia to make the map.




Finance: France, Germany and Italy want to join World Bank competitor

Wed, 18 Mar 2015 16:27:15 +0100

France, Germany and Italy are to join Great Britain in becoming members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a China-backed development bank for Asia. “The decision of the three European countries is the final blow for the American efforts to persuade its Western and Asian allies not to the join” the AIIB, writes De Volkskrant.

The Americans consider the bank, 49% owned by the Chinese, to be a rival to the World Bank and to be “insufficiently transparent”. They fear it will “increase the risk of dubious credit facilities”. Germany, France and Italy have declared in a press statement they want the development bank to work according to “the best standards and practices”.




Swedish defense deal with Saudi Arabia: Women power

Fri, 13 Mar 2015 09:32:33 +0100

Trouw, Amsterdam – Cartoon. See more.



Conflict in Ukraine: ‘Marines’ arms for Russians’

Mon, 02 Mar 2015 10:53:21 +0100

“Despite an embargo introduced 9 months ago, Czechs are selling Moscow the best rifles in the world”, writes Rzeczpospolita. According to documents seen by the daily, the weapons including American automatic Bushmaster 90705, 90838 as well as German Heckler-Koch rifles and Sig Sauer pistols used by US marines and Delta Force, were oficially ordered by Russian hunters.

Rzeczpospolita fears that the weapons delivered by the Czech Republic might be used by the Russians not only against Ukrainian army but also to stage a provocation (Moscow might want to prove that Washington has been furtively delivering arms to Ukrainians), adding that –

The news is even more shocking when considering the fact that so far no EU country has dared to supply Ukraine with deadly weapons.




Swiss Leaks: Scandal!

Wed, 11 Feb 2015 11:15:55 +0100

Le Temps, Geneva – Cartoon. See more.



Poland: Soaring Swiss franc hangs heavy on Polish mortgages

Tue, 03 Feb 2015 13:24:52 +0100

The decision of the Swiss central bank to abandon its currency cap on 15 January has cast a chill in Poland, Gazeta Wyborcza reports. Following the news, "the Swiss franc took off": within several hours, its rate rose from 3.5 zlotys to 5.2 zlotys (the euro is worth around 4.2 zlotys). The daily newspaper notes: it remains steady for the time being at 4.3 zlotys. Monthly repayments for people who took out mortgages in Swiss francs have unexpectedly risen. The average monthly mortgage repayment in Poland is 500 euros, but this now stands at 570 euros for those who took out debts in Swiss francs. As the New York Times observes, "In Poland, there were 562,487 home loans in francs in 2013, representing almost a third of the total number of mortgages." This means that a large number of households saw the value of their debt rise substantially in just one day. The American newspaper interviewed borrowers who had decided, between 2004 and 2010, to take out a loan in Swiss francs because, as one remarks, "everybody was doing it." The daily explains that "before the financial crisis gripped Europe, banks heavily marketed loans in Swiss francs," offering much better rates than for loans in zlotys. It gives the example of a man who repays a loan at 4.65% interest; had he chosen a loan in zlotys he would have paid 10-12%. At the moment, “they are terrified, they are scared, and they pray that the government does something”, the newspaper notes; one of those interviewed claims to have even considered "killing herself". The New York Times recalls that Poland is not the first country to find itself plunged into such drama: “Last year, Hungary, facing a similar problem, forced banks to convert home loans denominated in francs to Hungarian forints at below-market rates. The country was criticized for the policy, which chilled the banking sector. […] Poland had considered a similar path. The country’s prime minister, Ewa Kopacz, said […] that she would side with the people over the banks. [But then] Mateusz Szczurek, the finance minister, rejected the Hungarian approach saying “It isn’t the role of the government to be removing all possible risks people face.” However the Polish administration and market actors are employing other measures to calm investors. As Gazeta Wyborcza highlights, The government, the Financial Supervision Authority (KNF), the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK), and the banks themselves are attempting to come to borrowers' rescue. The banks have lowered the borrowing spread and have passed on negative Libor rates to consumers, with the result that their clients' interest rates have reduced. But the Warsaw newspaper questions the soundness of assisting those who have taken out a loan in francs: Are those Poles who took out mortgages in Swiss francs really the most disadvantaged? It is not clear that they are. Someone who took out a loan of 75,000 euros in zlotys in 2006 would now be paying larger monthly instalments. […] If he had taken out a loan in Swiss francs over 30 years, it is probable that it would ultimately work out cheaper. [...]



European poll on TTIP: An overwhelming majority against arbitrage courts

Fri, 30 Jan 2015 09:53:42 +0100

The European Commission has received 149,399 responses to its public consultation, published on 15 January, on the Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which is contained in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). But “nearly none of them was in favor of ISDS,” reports the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Thirty-five per cent of the total responses came from the United Kingdom, 23 per cent from Austria and 22 per cent from Germany. There was next to no participation in the eastern European states. According to the Commission, 97 per cent of all responses were mass replies forwarded by non-governmental organisations. The paper writes —

This though is not the end of the free trade agreement with the United States, according to trade commissioner Cecilia Malström. The consultation was not meant to be a referendum, sources close to the Swedish commissioner said. “We now need an open Discussion on the basis of the consultation,” she said in Strasbourg.

The paper stresses that Malström did not put forward concrete proposals to fix ISDS but only said the commission would work on several issues, such as “making sure TTIP does not restrict rights of states in terms of protection of the environment and of consumers”.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung adds that new discussions with the European Parliament, the member states and interest groups such as unions, consumer advocates and representatives of corporations further diminish hopes of a fundamental agreement on TTIP before the end of the year.




Swiss franc-euro: Sky-rocketing

Mon, 19 Jan 2015 09:50:49 +0100

Le Temps, Geneva – Cartoon. See more.



Poland: ‘40 bn crashed on the road’

Tue, 13 Jan 2015 11:58:01 +0100

The cost of road accidents nears 3 percent of Poland’s GDP and exceeded 40 bn zlotys (€10 bn) in 2013, headlines Rzeczpospolita quoting the most recent report by the National Council for Road Traffic Safety (KRBRD). The council’s forecast for 2014 is even dimmer as the losses are set to surpass 50 bn zlotys.

It is particularly worrying that costs are on the rise while the number of accidents has been declining in recent years. The daily explains that –

There are less accidents but they are more serious which leads to higher medical costs. Moreover, a rising number of victims is employed resulting in higher losses for the economy.




EU-Russia: EU bans trade with Crimea as Putin blames West for Russia’s woes

Fri, 19 Dec 2014 10:04:50 +0100

European and Russian leaders were both defiant in the face of economic tensions on 18 December, with EU leaders announcing new sanctions on Crimea and Russian President Vladimir Putin warning his country of two years of recession.

During an annual press conference that “usually serves as an arena for the president’s populist showmanship”, writes the Financial Times, Putin “faced more hard-hitting questioning from the usually loyal crowd, particularly on the economy”. But the financial daily emphasises Putin placed responsibility for the country’s woes elsewhere —

He claimed that a period of economic hardship was the price Russia would have to pay to maintain its independence in the face of western aggression, repeatedly blaming the rouble’s plunge and a looming recession on “external factors”.

At a Council of the European Union summit in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to maintain sanctions until Putin “makes major concessions” in Ukraine, writes EUobserver. The EU’s leaders also agreed to “ban almost all forms of business co-operation with Crimea” as of 20 December. According to the site, —

Given Russia’s financial crisis and that it has to supply Crimea by sea, it's likely to make the region, which used to live on Ukrainian subsidies, into an economic headache.




Space Exploration: ‘Europeans reach historical agreement on new Ariane 6 launcher’

Wed, 03 Dec 2014 17:42:35 +0100

Officials of the 20 member countries of the European Space Agency have reached an agreement on the building of a new launcher — Ariane 6 — after Germany gave its green light at a meeting in Luxembourg on 2 December. Until recently, Berlin supported “a progressive evolution of Ariane 5”, writes Le Monde.

The French daily points out that the programme was “put into orbit” 19 years after the Ariane 5 programme was launched in Rome.

Ariane 6’s first launch is scheduled for 2020. Ariane 6 “is poised to be the answer to the American launcher Space X”, which cut launch prices by 30 per cent, bringing them to €48.5m apiece. According to Le Monde, Europeans have to react swiftly if they don’t want to “lose their advantage on the commercial satellite launchers’ market”.




EU-US Free Trade Agreement: The silent revolution of the TTIP

Thu, 20 Nov 2014 08:22:16 +0100

“Civil society groups are attacking the European Commission, which they accuse of stifling the voices of citizens, and protesting the free trade agreement with the United States,” reports i.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) under negotiation between the EU and the US would “harmonise laws on both sides of the ocean to allow major European and American companies to invest and increase their profits on an equal footing in a larger market”, writes the paper.

Stop TTIP, a platform of more than 300 civil society groups, was formed to oppose what it calls “a threat to democracy, the rule of law, the environment, health, public services and rights of consumers and workers”. It has launched legal proceedings against the European Commission in the European Court of Justice, accusing the Commission of “stifling the voices of citizens” after the rejection of a European citizens’ initiative request against the TTIP. The campaign also launched a petition that has racked up more than 850,000 signatures in less than a month.

Carlos Gaspar, director of the Portuguese Institute of International Relations, tells i that “the discussions have happened behind closed doors” and that “journalists and citizens are excluded”. The paper writes —

”The most important thing”, he says, “is to ensure there is effective democratic control over the negotiation process, which is essential for the governments and parliaments of EU member states and of the European Union itself, which will have a greater potential power to intervene in order to defend their interests.” However, the Republican victory in the midterm elections in the United States and their control over Congress will complicate the conclusion of TTIP. Considered a priority by President Barack Obama, [...] it is seen with less enthusiasm by Republicans, who believe it would threaten social protection and labour law.




Rail Transit: End of the line for Europe’s night trains?

Thu, 13 Nov 2014 10:00:15 +0100

Night trains, which helped a generation of young Europeans travel abroad (does anyone remember the Interrail pass?) may soon be no more than a memory.

Economic and environmental magazine Terra Eco notes several companies have recently decided to end their overnight services, including Elipsos, which decided last December to “cancel its route between France and Spain, then the one between Switzerland, Spain and Italy.” At the start of October, International Railway Journal reported that German operator Deutsche Bahn, one of the biggest operators of overnight trains, would also withdraw its nocturnal services to France, Switzerland and Denmark.

If competition with low-cost airlines, obsolete equipment, heavy management fees and operating complications all contribute to the closures, International Railway Journal also notes European rail legislation has liberalised the sector —

It seems ironic that while the European Commission ploughs billions of euros into developing cross-border rail infrastructure, international links are being quietly curtailed because there is no common vision for their continued operation. This flies in the face of EU policy on modal shift and carbon reduction, effectively forcing rail passengers onto short-haul flights.

If tapping into the trains’ “huge potential” for tourism would require a “common vision for their continued operation”, the journal also argues operators should consider a “more pragmatic approach”, offering for example “value-added services such as premium cabins, promotions, and easy booking”.

For the moment, notes Terra Eco, only Thello appears to be developing, having expanded annual passengers on its Paris-Milan-Venice route from 200,000 in 2010 to “at least” 340,000 estimated for 2014. However, economist Yves Crozet tells the magazine that “Thello’s night line between Paris and Venice is a particular service where romanticism is obliged,” and a sign that night trains are becoming a luxury niche market: “they belong to the past, like crossing the Atlantic by sea.”




Austria-Hungary: Clouds gather over the former partners

Thu, 06 Nov 2014 08:23:20 +0100

Tensions are brewing between the two former partners of the Austro-Hungarian Empire: if, during his official visit to Hungary on 15 October, Austrian president Heinz Fischer “certainly received a warm welcome”, Kurier writes that “all his sympathetic gestures of neighbourliness […] could not hide the fact there is a real problem between Vienna and Budapest.”

As the Viennese daily explains, —

Since 1 May, a new law has been applied in Hungary. It puts an end to the retroactive effect of all usufruct contracts signed since 1994 providing beneficiaries the use and enjoyment of farmland and even simple gardens. As a result, some 200 farmers and a number of owners of secondary homes are at risk of expropriation.

The paper notes that “for months Austria has sent complaints to the European Commission,” which will announce its decision at the end of the month.

Also affecting the relationship is Hungarian prime minister Victor Orbán’s attitude towards the many Austrian banks operating in Hungary —

A new law should compel them to make all their foreign currency exchanges in forints, at a price fixed by the government. This could come at a cost of up to €3.2bn for banks operating in the country.




Banks: ‘Italy under pressure as nine banks fail stress tests’

Mon, 27 Oct 2014 08:44:46 +0100

The European Central Bank [ECB] published the results of its assessment of the 130 largest banks in the eurozone on 26 October, setting 11 of those banks a two-week deadline to explain how they would take remedial action to improve their balance sheets.

At the end of the test, which was conducted over the past year, “some 25 banks emerged with capital shortfalls,” writes the Financial Times, adding that Italy’s banking sector “emerged as the standout loser” of the ECB assessment, with Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena standing as the “biggest failure”, with 9 banks falling short, followed by Greece and Cyprus (3 banks each), Slovenia and Belgium (2 banks each), Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Austria (one bank each).

Reacting to the publication, —

officials at the Bank of Italy criticised parameters in regulatory stress tests as unrealistically harsh on Italian banks and disputed the exact number of failures.




Eurozone: The seven fears of the markets

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 10:51:46 +0100

“For two years it seemed to be getting better, but pessimism has returned to the financial markets”, writes Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant after the Amsterdam Exchange Index (AEX) closed at the lowest point in a year on 16 October: 376.27 points, a drop of 0.9 percent. The CAC 40 (Paris) and FTSE 100 (London) both lost 0.5 percent.

As De Volkskrant explains —

Share prices went up 17 percent last year, and continued to rise in the first six months of this year. Shareholders took an advance on economic recovery. But their anticipations have reached a dead end due to a report by the IMF [International Monetary Fund] that showed a third recession had to be taken into account. [...] The pessimistic expectations of the IMF were immediately backed up by poor results in the German economy.

The Dutch newspaper attributes the pessimism to seven factors: possible recession in the eurozone, deflation, the threat of Ebola, fears of a new euro crisis, divisions in the eurozone over the policy of the European Central Bank, financial unrest in the United States and China and “the most trivial reason: when the autumn leaves fall down, the financial markets are often in a crisis. The historical crashes of the financial markets of 1929 and 1987 took place in the month October.”




EU-Russia: Russia challenges sanctions in European court

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 10:00:12 +0100

Russia is taking the European Union to court over sanctions on its companies in what the Financial Times calls “a sign of the pain that the companies’ exclusion from global capital markets is inflicting on the Russian economy”.

State oil giant Rosneft and businessman Arkady Rotenberg have both requested that the European Court of Justice cancel the European Council’s decision of end July, which barred energy companies and state banks from raising funds on European markets.

The financial daily says the Court has previously —

gone against the council in relation to similar measures imposed on Iran and Syria. In particular, the court has ruled that in implementing sanctions, European states have been too reliant on confidential sources, which impair the targets’ ability to mount an effective defence.

The Financial Times adds that a potentially long appeals process means “legal action does not promise quick relief from the economic pain” of the sanctions.




Belgium: ‘Belfius trembling with fear over stress test’

Mon, 13 Oct 2014 12:54:44 +0100

Belfius Bank, formerly known as Dexia Bank prior to its nationalisation by the Belgian state in 2012, probably needs to raise new capital, and “there’s a real chance the bank won’t pass the stress test,” writes De Morgen.

On 26 October, the European Central Bank will publish the results of the test, but “more than one source has confirmed that it can work out badly” for Belfius. If Belfius needs refinancing, it would interfere with the plans of Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt, who wants to sell the bank.




Foreign Investment: ‘China changes tack with huge bet on European assets’

Tue, 07 Oct 2014 08:54:02 +0100

Chinese investors surged into Europe at the height of the continent’s sovereign debt crisis, writes The Financial Times in an investigation that finds Chinese direct investment in the EU grew from €6.1bn in 2010 to nearly €27bn by the end of 2012.

This “transformation in the model of Chinese outbound investment” saw the Asian superpower buying up cheap assets in “some of the hardest-hit countries of the eurozone periphery”, writes the daily.

The Financial Times investigation claims the trend reveals —

the strategies of Chinese investors and migrants caught up in a national effort – a “going out” policy in place since 1999 – to find new markets and enhance China’s economic strength. […] Analysts across the continent see robust deals in the making and signs that investment will increase significantly this decade.




Terrorism: Confusion over returning European jihadis

Tue, 30 Sep 2014 08:43:54 +0100

The conflict with the Islamic State is “jolting the process” among EU member states to reach an agreement on countering the threat of attacks from European citizens returning from Syria and Iraq, writes The Guardian.

The daily reports that interior ministers of the 28 member states will meet in Luxembourg in mid-October, along with “executives from the big social media providers, including Twitter, Facebook and Google”, in hopes of firming up measures they’ve been debating for the past 18 months —

Various schemes are under discussion, most notably an EU-wide Passenger Names Record (PNR) for all air travel within the EU supplying up to 15 parameters that are mixed in a computer algorithm to help identify suspects. The scheme is opposed in the European parliament on civil liberties grounds as it would monitor millions of ordinary travellers. […] Thomas de Maiziere, the German interior minister, has also been urging more rigorous screening of all passports and ID cards at airports [but] the proposal was also opposed on the grounds that it would cause massive queues. A police database known as SIS or Schengen Information System is also available as a tool for flagging up suspicious travellers and identities that have been entered into the system. The intelligence services […] are wary, however, of contributing information to this system for fear of compromising their material, thus rendering it less effective.

An investigation in French daily Libération shows how relations and communications with non-EU countries also impact the returns of suspects. The paper recounts the “incredible failure” by which three suspected French jihadists – one of whom is the brother-in-law of Mohammed Merah – were arrested in Turkey after leaving Syria, only to be extradited to the wrong airport. As intelligence services waited at Orly airport in the Paris region, the trio landed in Marseille, from which they freely returned home to Toulouse, where they turned themselves in, “knowing they would be sought.” According to Libération, disagreements at the Turkish airport led authorities to switch planes “at the last minute” —

The problem is that the Turkish border police did not report the change in strategy to its intelligence services, which in turn were not in capacity to alert the coordinating officer of the DGSI [French intelligence service] at the French embassy in Ankara. Which is to say little of how the blunder raised the ire of [French] Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.




Scotland: ‘Business onslaught over Yes vote’

Fri, 12 Sep 2014 07:41:35 +0100

Five Scottish banks have said they would move to England if the Yes vote prevails in next week’s referendum on independence, writes The Financial Times.

Polls showing the 18 September vote was neck-and-neck prompted the The Royal Bank of Scotland to sound warning calls, writes the daily, which estimates Scotland’s banking industry employs more than 35,000 people in Scotland —

The banks believe that they risk being penalised by investors and rating agencies if they keep their domicile in an independent Scotland and lose the support of the Bank of England as their lender of last resort. Inquiries from nervous customers about the consequences of a Yes vote have also increased since the polls narrowed last week.

The daily also says the polls provoked “an outpouring of corporate warnings” about the Yes vote. Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, denounced a campaign of “scaremongering” whipped up by the office of Prime Minister David Cameron, who the paper notes “has been urging business leaders to speak out against independence for months”.




United Kingdom: US banks bracing for Brexit

Tue, 19 Aug 2014 11:08:32 +0100

According to sources quoted by the Financial Times, three American banks — Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley — are “drawing up plans to move some London-based activities to Ireland to address concerns” the UK would leave the European Union after a referendum on EU membership to be held possibly in 2017.

“People familiar with the Wall Street banks told the City daily —

that they considered Ireland a favourable location for some of their European business if they needed to move them out of the UK. One said he was already planning to move some activities to Ireland. The people said their plans were in most cases still at very early stages. But they said the US banks had started preparing for the eurozone’s impending banking union that threatens to isolate Britain.

According to La Tribune, “Ireland would be attractive because of its low tax rate”. Should the “Brexit” eventually happen —

despite the heavy cost of transferring the activity from one city to another, Frankfurt and Paris would be acceptable fallbacks solutions on the Continent for non-European banks.




Economic sanctions: ‘Russia launches trade war with EU and US’

Fri, 08 Aug 2014 11:18:53 +0100

In response to sanctions imposed over the Ukraine crisis, Russia has banned food imports from the European Union and the United States in a move that could affect £50m (€63m) worth of Scottish goods and leave shelves empty in Russian cities, writes The Scotsman.

Although Scottish exports of dairy products, eggs, fish and seafood, fruit, vegetables and cereals are expected to suffer, the paper notes widespread support for the sanctions. “We recognise that this is a serious geopolitical issue,” says a fishing industry representative. “The solution to this international dispute is for Russia to come to the negotiating table.”

The daily also observes the harshest effects of Russia’s ban could be felt at home —

Russia depends heavily on imported foodstuffs – most of it from the West – particularly in the largest and most prosperous cities such as Moscow. […] The damage to consumers inflicted by the ban will be felt particularly hard in big cities such as the capital, where imported food fills an estimated 60-70 per cent of the market.




Economic sanctions: ‘Conflict between EU and Russia is already hitting farmers’

Thu, 07 Aug 2014 17:17:48 +0100

Moscow is studying retaliation measures on the EU for the sanctions imposed on Russia for its support to pro-Rusian separatists in Eastern Ukraine, writes Trouw.

According to the Dutch daily, European farmers are already facing the consequences of the EU-Russia relations’ cooling: since last week Moscow imposed a ban on Polish vegetables and fruits import, officially for sanitary reasons. Other countries may be affected by the same measure, notes Trouw.




Portugal: ‘Saving BES costs 4.9 billion’

Mon, 04 Aug 2014 10:47:37 +0100

Portugal Central Bank announced on 3 August its plan for the rescue of Banco Espirito Santo (BES). BES “Is accused of persuing ‘fraudulent financial transactions’” writes Jornal de Notícias, and has been involved in many recent scandals that led investors do flee. To the point that losses in 2014 first half were €3.58 billion, while shares fell by 73 per cent last week.

BES will be split in two entities, explains the Lisbon daily: Novo Banco, which will get the bank’s “healthy” assets and where the state will inject €4.4 billion of public funds taken from the ECB, EU, IMF Troika, plus €380 million from the Portuguese Banking Resolution Fund and €120 million from other banks; a “bad bank” will contain BES’ toxic assets.




EU-Russia: Flashback

Fri, 01 Aug 2014 09:29:58 +0100

The New York Times, New York – Cartoon. See more.



Economic Sanctions: ‘European companies already feel Russia pain’

Fri, 01 Aug 2014 08:40:25 +0100

The crisis in Russia and Ukraine is having a negative impact on business in the eurozone and beyond, writes the Financial Times as European Union-imposed sanctions targeting Russia’s energy, financial and defines sectors come into effect.

Adidas, Volkswagen and Metro have reported drops in shares and sales directly linked to declining activities in Russia, while Siemens has warned the crisis posed “serious risks” for growth in Europe for 2014 and 2015. Lenders, industrial groups and oil companies across eastern and western Europe also reported negative consequences on growth forecasts, trade and revenue.

Some companies were assessing the new sanctions before saying anything definitive. The daily cites the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, who said it was

a bit early to say how it will play out, what the consequences might be and how we will react.




EU-US Free trade agreement: TTIP in danger as Berlin might refuse agreement with Canada

Thu, 31 Jul 2014 08:18:52 +0100

The German Government might refuse the fully negotiated free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada (CETA) amidst “fears, foreign firms might get too much power”, according to a report by Cerstin Gammelin, EU correspondent for the Südddeutsche Zeitung.

German EU-Diplomats confirmed on Friday that the German Government cannot sign the treaty with Canada ‘as it is negotiated now’. Germany would generally be ready to initial the treaty in September, though the chapter on legal protection for investors is said to be ‘problematic’ and for now not acceptable.’

According to the paper, the acceptance of the Transatlantic investment and trade partnership (TTIP) agreement with the US “depends on” the acceptance of CETA by the 28 member states.

‘The free trade agreement with Canada is a test for the agreement with the USA’, said a high EU Commission official in Brussels. In case of a refusal of the agreement with Canada, ‘the one with the US is also dead.’

Berlin has repeatedly confirmed its reluctance to the investment protection clauses negotiated within the CETA and TTIP frameworks, even though Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed her general support for a free trade agreement with the US.

In some member states a dispute rages on the legal securities firms should get when investing in other countries. While the investment protection was generally accepted in the free trade agreement with Canada, the same clauses where generally rejected in the agreement with the USA. […] The federal chancellor for economics Sigmar Gabriel stressed that he believes the idea of granting American investors legal coverage in the agreement to be superfluous. There was no comment on the fact that the EU Commission has been tasked by the member states to negotiate these clauses, and to include them in the agreement with Canada.

Those investment protection clauses are known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism. Defenders of ISDS say it is necessary for making bilateral investments work. Opponents of the measure say it gives businesses to much power to tackle states and governments in court as well as to escape regulations.




EU-Russia: ‘Trade war can take years’

Wed, 30 Jul 2014 10:34:49 +0100

“The trigger has been pulled. After months of great hesitation, the EU decided on Tuesday to impose economic sanctions against Russia. It is the beginning of a protracted trade war with major financial implications”, writes De Volkskrant. The Dutch newspaper thinks “the EU had no other possibility”: the downing of the Malaysian Boeing MH17 on July 17 by a Russian missile was the “proverbial gamechanger”. The sanctions package is possibly just the beginning of a trade war that can take years. The arms embargo on China for exemple goes back to 1989. De Volkskrant adds that —

for the relatives of flight MH 17’s passengers, time might be standing still for the moment; things are different for companies who have to deal with the sanctions. For them, time is money.




Crisis in the Middle East: ‘Warning: products from Occupied territory’

Tue, 29 Jul 2014 09:38:01 +0100

The Belgian government is introducing a label for products coming from Palestinian territories occupied by Israel. “Though this is not a boycott, it is an important political lever”, writes De Morgen.

The EU has been advocating for a long time the introduction of a special label that designates the origins of products, but the Member States have not reached consensus yet. In the UK and Denmark, it has existed since 2009.




Portugal: ‘Suspect’

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:56:14 +0100

Ricardo Salgado, former president and founder of the Banco Espírito Santo (BES) bank in Portugal, was taken into custody on 24 July on suspicion of fraud, breach of trust, forgery and money laundering, reports Público.

Investigators in Lisbon interrogated Salgado for more than seven hours. He was later realeased after paying 3m euros in bail.

Shortly after his release, the principal shareholder in the BES group, the Espirito Santo Financial Group holding company, requested protection from creditors close to the Luxembourgish authorities.

For Público, these two episodes represent —

a turning of the page for the most influential centre of power in Portugal’s political, social and financial life for the past fifteen years.




Air disaster in Ukraine: ‘It’s Europe’s 9/11’

Tue, 22 Jul 2014 23:01:21 +0100

“The tragedy of Flight MH17 forces us to draw an important lesson about our safety in the turbulent 21st century”, writes Jonathan Holslag in NRC Handelsblad. The professor of international politics at the Free University Brussels believes a strong neighbourhood policy could be a solution for the increased insecurity in Europe. “Geopolitics are back”, writes Holslag: But it only begins to dawn that the distance between Kiev and Katwijk [a city in the Netherlands] isn’t that enormous. All Europe countries between these cities depend for their safety on each other. […] If you think we can afford us a return to the past times of conflicting European mini States, then the attack on Flight MH 17 will be a painful confrontation with the new reality. Putin will have to pay, adds Holslag, if a connection will be found between the disaster of Flight MH 17 and the Kremlin, but, he adds, Apparently, the crisis in Ukraine was not enough to get the European member states to cooperate more in the energy sector this not only about Putin. Apparently, the crisis in Ukraine was not enough to get the European member states to cooperate more in the energy sector. Consultations in Brussels to reduce the dependency on Russian gas lead to nothing. Holslag speaks of “short-sightedness and opportunism of our leaders” and adds — Of course, there is a big chance that, after the period of opportunism, now a period of panic starts amongst a large number of European leaders. Then they will side with the US and drive Russia into a corner. However, the political scientist thinks we shouldn’t let our own responsibility get out of sight. Europe has created a “power vacuum along its external borders” and has failed to “build strong partnerships with the regional superpowers”. He thinks the solution could be a strong neighbourhood policy and a new European sphere of influence that will provide more security in Europe. He also points out that the EU is not only threatened by Eastern Ukraine, but also by countries in the Sahel, where “there’s plenty of heavy weapons”. Not only airlines are at risk: with some “tinkering”, missiles can be used against our merchant ships in the Red Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar. That is why Holslag believes it is time for Europe to take the lead in the “battle against the uncontrolled proliferation of missiles. A convention about anti-aircraft missiles is the least we owe the victims of MH 17.” “This should be Europe’s 9/11, a pivot in our strategic thinking”, in which retaliation against our enemies and the safety of the five hundred million Europeans should be put first, he concludes. Geertje Teunissen[...]



Air disaster in Ukraine: ‘Terror attack on flight MH017: 298 dead’

Fri, 18 Jul 2014 09:12:33 +0100

On 17 July a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 298 people on board exploded while flying at 10,000m over Eastern Ukraine and crashed near the Russian border.

American intelligence have confirmed that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, while the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels blamed each other for the disaster. Among the passengers were 154 Dutch citizens, which makes it “the biggest air plane crash in the history of the Netherlands”, writes De Telegraaf.




Telecommunications: ‘Cheaper mobiles on holiday’

Tue, 01 Jul 2014 10:25:44 +0100

Roaming rates are to be lowered across the continent on 1 July for the third time since 2012 as a result of European Commission regulation, reports Rzeczpospolita. Call rates will drop by about 20 per cent, text messages by 24 per cent, and the cost of multimedia messages and mobile Internet services will be reduced by about 50 per cent.

“Lowering, and soon probably abolishing, roaming fees for those travelling abroad will give people more freedom to use telecom services”, Małgorzata Gaj, head of the Polish telecommunications regulator, told the daily. Rzeczpospolita notes that Brussels plans to eliminate roaming fees in 2015. According to European Commission estimates, lowering the rates will increase the number of mobile users using services abroad by 300 million.




Biotechnology: ‘GMOs: France will be able to say no’

Fri, 13 Jun 2014 11:50:43 +0100

The environment ministers of the 28 EU member states agreed during a 12 June meeting in Luxembourg to “legislation that would give member states the leverage to ban GMOs [genetically modified organisms] on their territory”, writes French paper Le Monde, bringing an end to a fifteen-year debate. However, notes the daily, “decisions concerning the use of transgenic seeds would be made at the European level” —

To break this deadlock, the European Council hopes to facilitate authorisation of transgenic seeds within the Union by granting refractory states a stronger legal basis to ban GMOs on their own territory. Aside from exclusively scientific considerations, they will be able to cite socio-economic and ethical factors, as well as the interest of keeping public order.




Competition: ‘End of low taxes for Apple?’

Thu, 12 Jun 2014 11:32:54 +0100

In Brussels on 11 June, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia announced that the Commission will investigate tax practices in Ireland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, which allow multinational corporations such as Apple, Starbucks, and Fiat Finance and Trade, respectively, to benefit from tax breaks, reports Gazeta Wyborcza. The Warsaw daily points out that in 2013, Apple paid no more than 2 per cent on its income in Ireland, where it already benefits from Europe’s lowest corporate tax rate of 12.5 per cent.




Banking Union: A major leap forward

Thu, 19 Dec 2013 16:45:23 +0100

Le Monde, Paris – The agreement concluded by European Finance Ministers on December 18 provides for a single resolution mechanism for banks and will pave the way for a single resolution fund. As such it amounts to an important step towards a real monetary union, but not a definitive one. See more.



Switzerland: ‘We resume dealing with the EU’

Thu, 19 Dec 2013 13:45:45 +0100

On December 18, the Swiss Federal Council mandated Didier Burkhalter to resume negotiations with Brussels “in the fields of the taxation of savings and institutional relations” from January 1, 2014, when he takes over the rotating Presidency of the Swiss Confederation, reports Corriere del Ticino.

“One thing is obvious,” notes the Tecino based daily —

The roadmap for the review of bilateral relations with the EU has been defined and can be judged with a certain clarity. However the way forward for talks on taxation is uncertain.

In particular, Swiss banks’ access to the European market is “a prerequisite for the review of taxation agreements,” while the “the question of the automatic exchange of data still remains vague.