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The talk of the continent


Paradise Papers: Sun shade

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 14:23:59 +0100

Trouw, Amsterdam – Cartoon. See more.

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.

Labour and social issues: Unemployment rate in the EU at record low since 2008

Fri, 25 Aug 2017 13:02:38 +0100

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According to the latest Eurostat findings, the unemployment rate in the EU was 7.7 percent in June 2017, the same rate as in May, and down from 8.6 percent in June 2016. The current rate is the lowest recorded in the EU since December 2008.

The euro area seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in June 2017, down from 9.2 percent in May 2017 and down from 10.1 percent in June 2016. This is the lowest rate recorded in the euro area since February 2009.

Eurostat estimates that 18.725 million men and women in the EU28, of whom 14.718 million in the euro area, were unemployed in June 2017.

Among the Member States, the lowest unemployment rates in June 2017 were recorded in the Czech Republic (2.9 percent), Germany (3.8 percent) and Malta (4.1percent). The highest unemployment rates were observed in Greece (21.7 percent in April 2017) and Spain (17.1 percent).

Compared with a year ago, the unemployment rate fell in all Member States for which data is comparable over time, except Estonia which showed an increase (from 6.5 percent in May 2016 to 6.9 percent in May 2017). The largest decreases were registered in Spain (from 19.9 percent to 17.1 percent) and Croatia (from 13.3 percent to 10.6 percent).

As a comparison with the United States, in June 2017, the unemployment rate in the US was 4.4 percent, up from 4.3 percent in May 2017 but down from 4.9 percent in June 2016.

Download the dataset here.

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.

Austerity in Europe: Trump to the rescue

Thu, 09 Mar 2017 07:56:27 +0100

Alternatives économiques , Paris – In criticising Eurozone leaders' embrace of budgetary discipline – starting with Angela Merkel, the American president is right to point out how austerity penalises both Europeans and the world economy, says the editor in chief of Alternatives économiques. See more.

Boosting public investment requires a new EU rulebook

Wed, 08 Feb 2017 11:18:48 +0100

BlogBy Arnaud Dessoy and Pierre-Emmanuel Noël This “old” idea reconnecting with Keynesian theory has never elicited such unanimous consent. In recent months, many mainstream economists and fiscally-conservative international organisations (IMF, OECD) have been pleading in unison for an increase in public investment in infrastructure – not to mention the many colloquium initiatives that have sprung up to support this idea (Construction Federation, Brussels Parliament, Union of cities and municipalities, etc.). On the political front, the “Juncker Plan” at European level and the “national pact for strategic investment” launched by Belgium’s Prime Minister last September, are clearly in line with this approach. Even the new President of the United States has placed an ambitious investment stimulus programme at the very core of his future economic project, a target nobody challenged. The context is particularly favourable by all accounts. The economy (mainly in Europe) is sluggish, interest rates are at historically low levels, the financing offer is overabundant and last, but far from least, the societal and modernising needs for our infrastructure must urgently be addressed to tackle future challenges (energy, mobility, health, education, housing, sustainable development, etc.). The needs are all the more pressing in Belgium as our country is suffering from structural under investment, not since the last economic and financial crisis of 2010, but for more than 25 years. Since 1995, public investment accounts for 2.2 percent of GDP in Belgium on average, compared with more than 3 percent in Europe. Paradoxically, this impressive unanimity runs up against an incomprehensible deadlock situation in Belgium and in Europe. The fiscal straight jacket imposed by European regulations is constraining public investment. The answer is to be found primarily in the European System of Accounts (or the “ESA standards”, as they are known in the jargon), which penalise the implementation of public investment projects. Indeed, these standards fail to distinguish between the “bad” public debt (which stems from the financing of current expenditures) and the “good” public debt (which corresponds to investments in infrastructure). This budgetary criterion thus totally ignores a “balance sheet” vision of the State as the condition of a country’s infrastructure and facilities is not taken into consideration in the overall assessment of the economic situation of the State concerned, the sole focus being on its debt-to-GDP position. Another aggravating feature is that investment expenditures have to be recorded in one go and in full for the accounting period, thereby impacting the result, irrespective of the economic lifetime of the asset and without regards for the financial reserves established from surpluses in previous financial years. The logical consequence of this “double punishment” in the accounting treatment of public investment is to discriminate against investment by governments that have embarked on a process of fiscal consolidation, which leads to the creation of a “hidden debt,” as recently illustrated by the saga of the Brussels tunnels. The ESA standards are not the only culprits, however. The euro crisis and above all the battery of new European governance measures – Known as “six pack” in the European jargon (i.e. consisting of 5 regulations and one directive) and “two pack” (2 new additional regulations), supported by the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union –  and the adoption of the supposed “golden” rule have hardened the budgetary framework even more, further discouraging investment and compounding the above-mentioned penalising effects of the ESA standards: The significant tightening of budget targets, which henceforth [...]

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.

Euro crisis: Why Joseph Stiglitz is wrong

Mon, 12 Sep 2016 15:24:09 +0100

Alternatives économiques , Paris – In his latest book the American Nobel prize for ‘a smooth exit’ from the euro. Unfortunately, his stance reflects a deep misunderstanding of the realities of the old continent, says the editor-in-chief of Alternatives Economiques. See more.

EU crisis: Yanis Varoufákis launches his campaign to ‘save the Union’

Wed, 24 Feb 2016 08:10:10 +0100

“Europe’s political elite – Angela Merkel, Jean-Claude Juncker, Mario Draghi, Jeroen Dijsselbloem and their entourage – ‘are destroying Europe’. Their policies first led to economic decline, then took an authoritarian turn, before finally prompting a return to nationalism.” This was the mood that announced the start of DiEM 25, Democracy in Europe 2025, on 9 February in Berlin. This pan-European movement is the vessel for Yanis Varoufákis, former Greek Finance Minister, “and a good dozen prominent supporters to fight against the disintegration of the European Union,” Harald Schumann reports in Der Tagesspiegel, a German daily.

The movement has set out to “mobilise citizens around a radical democratisation of European institutions and to ‘give Europe back to the demos, the people,’” Schumann writes. It aims to stop the “’retreat to the cocoon of the nation-state’” which “offers no solution, but will only ‘bring to power populists and fascists.’”

In the movement’s manifesto, Varoufákis “places his hopes on a deep-rooted democratisation of the EU’s decision-making bodies, through a process that will open up EU institutions to citizens and, eventually, lead to the election of a constituent assembly,” Der Tagesspiegel notes. The paper cautions however that these ideas are still under discussion, while “the central questions have not even been mentioned.” Responsibility for the EU’s current crisis is almost entirely placed on “’European economic policies based on austerity’, that is, on the steady reduction in public expenditure that has had such a drastic impact on most EU countries and is pushing ever more citizens to oppose European institutions,” the paper observes.

To tackle this type of politics, DiEM25 has drawn inspiration from Spain’s citizen opposition movements, and Varoufákis “is counting on his personal charisma and on the enthusiasm of his fans. ‘Yes it’s utopian,’ he concedes, but it would be ‘even more utopian’ to think that ‘things can continue as they are in the EU.’”

EU rules that Bitcoin is a currency

Thu, 26 Nov 2015 10:06:07 +0100



Bitcoin has had a terrific year in 2015. Its price has held fairly steadily above $250 (and lately closer to the $300-$400 range), and it's gained greater relevance around the world as more individuals seek to use it and more vendors accept it. However, the biggest story about the digital currency in recent months has been the debate over whether it should in fact be treated as a currency—rather than as a commodity.

Just this fall, a U.S. regulator officially recognised Bitcoin as a commodity, which probably wasn't a comfortable moment for those hoping for a more mainstream emergence of digital currency. Commodity status doesn't prevent anyone from using Bitcoin as a functional means of payment, but it classifies Bitcoin more as a resource in line with gold and oil than as money. As in the rest of the world, many in the U.S. are still trying to decide what to make of Bitcoin, and the commodity status is likely to sway many to look at it as something to be invested in long-term (if at all), as opposed to spent and traded on a regular basis.

In Europe, however, the same debate has recently gone in a different direction. Asked to judge a case regarding taxes on the exchange of Bitcoin for currency (and vice versa), the European Court of Justice ruled that Bitcoin should be exempt under the provision concerning transactions relating to currency, bank notes, and coins used as legal tender. This ruling establishes the EU's official position toward Bitcoin: the digital currency is indeed viewed technically as a currency in Europe, and not merely a commodity or valuable product.

What exactly this means for the future of Bitcoin in Europe can't be said for sure, but it's clear that freedom from the VAT (value added taxes) on transactions should allow it to grow and expand at a more natural rate. Currently the largest number of Bitcoin-friendly merchants reside in the U.S. and UK, but Western Europe is steadily warming to Bitcoins, with increases in the number of accommodating merchants in the past year or two. This means that there are more and more opportunities for those who wish to use Bitcoin as a functional currency to do so, and the recent ruling facilitates those actions.

That's not to say we'll suddenly see a massive increase in the use of Bitcoin as a currency in Europe, but things certainly appear to be headed gradually in that direction. Avalara VP Richard Asquith called the EU ruling the first step in securing Bitcoin's future as a genuine alternative to national currencies. While that sounds a little dramatic in the short-term, it's likely a sensible analysis moving forward.

Photo: Antana/Flickr

Washington Advised Greece in Bailout Negotiations

Wed, 30 Sep 2015 14:17:52 +0100



The English edition of the Greek daily Kathimerini reveals the United States advised the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks government in the months that preceded the agreement of July 13 on a third bailout.

Washington was interested in keeping Greece in the eurozone and advised Athens to avoid attacks on Germany and to try to create an alliance including the UK, France, Italy and Austria by convincing those countries that it was serious about implementing reforms in exchange for their support.

Photo: White House Photostream/Wikimedia Commons

Completion of Berlin Airport in Sight

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



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.

Greece gets third bailout: Back home

Thu, 13 Aug 2015 10:58:04 +0100

Trouw, Amsterdam – Cartoon. See more.

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.

More austerity for Greece: Loading up the boat

Sat, 18 Jul 2015 16:34:32 +0100

I Kathimerini, Athens – Cartoon. See more.

After the agreement on the Greek debt: ‘Greece might no longer be a country by the end of this week’

Tue, 14 Jul 2015 14:09:03 +0100

This press review has been made with the contribution of euro|topics and for Internazionale.After a deal between Greek and eurozone leaders was hammered out following 17 hours of arduous negotiations, there is really nothing to cheer about, writes Michał Sutowski in Krytyka Polityczna. “With PM Tsipras’ back against the wall, the German government has pushed through nearly all its conditions; it’s a minor consolation for the Greeks that a ‘temporary Grexit’ turned out to be a negotiation stunt rather than a real proposal and that the restructuring fund will be located in Athens instead of Luxembourg”, writes Sutowski. He stresses that the negotiations have clearly shown the EU leaders’ goal was “to crush the Greeks’ resistance and not to reach a compromise” –Angela Merkel had a chance to join the pantheon of the great, in a way, of “progressive” European conservatives. Had she forced through, against the German press and her own finance minister, a civilized reform package in exchange for a partial debt restructuring, she would have been on the same footing with Otto von Bismarck and Benjamin Disraeli. It seems though that she decided to become a ‘thrifty housewife’ instead.“It may sound a bit dramatic, but there is no better and shorter way to describe the emergency situation”: Greece might not be a country anymore at the end of this week, writes Tine Peeters, journalist at De Morgen. Due to the new agreement the Greeks no longer have self-determination, both on political as well as economic and financial level —The growing chaos can be attributed to the European and Greek leaders. Alexis Tsipras hoped by organising the referendum he would have made Greece stronger against Europe. But he has gambled it away and lost Greece everything. Now pawnshop-Europe takes over, under strict conditions, ‘the state formerly known as Greece’.Larry Elliott criticises the latest bailout conditions, which, he claims, rely on dodgy economics. By stripping the Greek government of “automatic stabilizers” – the ability to increase the deficit in bad times to promote growth – Greece’s creditors have condemned the country to further pain. Elliott suggests two ways to end the crisis —The first is to write off a large chunk of [Greece’s] debts. The other is to allow it to grow at a pace that allows it to service its debts. This deal offers neither. [...] This is not a solution. It is a chink of light filtering through the bars of the debtors’ prison.Stephan-Andreas Gasdorff points out one German politician that lost during the negotiations over Greece: Social-Democratic vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel. By flip-flopping his position on a temporary Grexit, Gasdorff writes, “Gabriel has failed his practical test” which required him being “trustworthy, value-driven, and consistent.”The drama around Greece has ended badly; but first and foremost for the SPD. Because the party lost a future candidate for Chancellor. […] And the worst part: everybody saw it; everybody knows it. Even Sigmar Gabriel himself – his political instinct will tell him this.Europe has deprived Greece of its sovereignty and is treating it like a little child, Lucio Caracciolo writes in anger in the centre-left daily La Repubblica:Greece has ceased to exist as an independent state. What remains are the Greeks, who are called on not only to make devastating economic sacrifices but also to suffer the humiliation of being treated like minors not allowed to take care of their own affairs. Custody is formally being handed to Brussels a[...]

Greek crisis towards a solution: ‘The confidence argument will end up going against those parties who betted on a Grexit’

Mon, 13 Jul 2015 11:28:41 +0100

Merkel is tougher than ever on Greece, writes De Volkskrant in an analysis. On Sunday afternoon she repeated the essence of her position on Greece: “A deal is still possible, but should not come at any price.” Merkel knows her fate is connected to what happens to Greece and has to take into account the fact she has to deal with both the German citizens – she promised more than once they wouldn’t have to pick up the check – the disagreement in her own party, the CDU-CSU, the “decomposing” French-German axis, the IMF, the threat of the opposition party AfD and the US.The field of forces in which she has to operate is a complex entity, consisting of partially conflicting domestic and foreign interests that she can’t possibly serve all at the same time. That is why she is cautious, as ever. “If this weekend’s discussions allow us to see more clearly each party’s position, the future they promise is not a happy one for Europe. For the very idea of Europe”, David Carzon writes in the French daily. For Carzon —The confidence argument will end up going against those parties who betted on a Grexit. How can we believe in a Europe that prioritises domestic political considerations above everything else? If we are not convinced of Greece’s ability to respect a repayment schedule, we should not start talking about its departure from the eurozone. But rather about what conditions will actually allow Greeks to get their heads above water and rediscover some of that famous confidence. And that along with our own confidence in the future of a Union for solidarity and democracy that is close to European citizens.Writing in the Monday edition, foreign editor Stefan Kornelius reminds us that Europe and the eurozone are a “political and legal community,” which “can only function if the laws and political boundaries of all partners are respected.” Both of which Greece did not do. He adds that the ESM asks for stricter rules than his predecessor the EFSF, but these do not come from Germany, but are the result of years of political consensus. Different rules for different countries would lead to the end of the euro as we know it.Greece is not failing because of Germany or the nearly dozen countries that have similar ideas than Germany. Greece is failing because of itself. But this is also true: if the eurozone invents a Lex Greece, it will need a Lex France and a Lex Italy. This would be the end of the euro.For a long time France and Germany have been the main engines of the EU integration. But as far as the Greek crisis is concerned, they stand on opposite sides of the barricades, writes Bartłomiej Niedziński in Dziennik Gazeta Prawna –Paris is the most willing to make concessions to Greece while Berlin is among the most intransigent [member states]. According to unofficial information, last week French advisors had even assisted Greece in drafting the newest proposals and when they were finally presented, president François Hollande called them ‘serious and credible’ […] As the French economy lags more and more behind the German one, France’s readiness to compromise results from its own anxieties and fears.Casimiro García-Abadillo, the editor of Spanish daily El Mundo, considers the negotiations on the Greek crisis to be centered on “an essentially political dilemma”, because —What does membership of the euro mean? Budgetary discipline. What is the essence of Syriza’s programme? An end to cuts, and so a refusal of budgetary discipline. What does membership of the EU mean? The [...]

20 anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre: Safety zone

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

Trouw, Amsterdam – Cartoon. See more.

Greece and the rest: The map of the most indebted countries

Fri, 10 Jul 2015 10:27:06 +0100

Among the members of the European Union, Greece is by far the country with the highest level of public debt. This map, created by, is based on IMF estimates published in April. Since then, Greece's financial situation has worsened.

The map shows how the relation between public debt and GDP varies in EU countries. Seeing the differences between countries allows for a better understanding of the reasons for their different political orientations. Spain's serious situation helps explain the success of Podemos. On the other hand, the countries on the East of the eurozone are among the least indebted of the EU: this is why their governments are some of the most harsh when it comes to Greece.

A battle between neoliberalism and democracy is going on in Greece

Thu, 09 Jul 2015 22:27:23 +0100



George Monbiot writing in the Guardian provides a historical context for the current crisis in Greece and in the Eurozone which ought to be seen under the light of the long story of “subordinating human welfare to financial power.” This subordination has always been exercised in the name of what was historically known as “laissez-faire,” and which we know today as “market fundamentalism” or “neoliberalism.” From the 19th century Indian and Irish famines and the gold standard to the “structural adjustment programmes” administered by the IMF in the late 20th century, it is always about “keeping the majority poor while the rich enjoy a gilded age.” The Maastricht Treaty, which established the European Union, and the institutional management of the financial crisis since 2010, arose from the same impulse of an “extreme version of market fundamentalism.” Although they present themselves as “the only adults in the room,” the people who are responsible for and design these policies turn out to be “demented utopian fantasists, votaries of a fanatical economic cult.” This helps explain the “seigneurial horror with which the troika’s unelected technocrats have greeted the resurgence of democracy in Greece.”

The crushing of political choice is not a side-effect of this utopian belief system but a necessary component. Neoliberalism is inherently incompatible with democracy, as people will always rebel against the austerity and fiscal tyranny it prescribes. Something has to give, and it must be the people. This is the true road to serfdom: disinventing democracy on behalf of the elite.

Photo: Athens, June 2011. A demonstration in front of the Greek Parliament. Ggia/Wikimedia Commons

European press review: ‘Everybody has begun to agree that the eurozone is not one, sacred and indivisible’

Wed, 08 Jul 2015 15:51:48 +0100

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard argues that Tsipras never expected to win Sunday’s vote, with Greece is now “hurtling” towards eurozone exit. This is in no small part due to the shortsightedness of Europe’s leaders. In spite of US pressure –15 of the 18 governments now sitting in judgment on Greece either back Germany's uncompromising stand, or are leaning towards Grexit in one form or another. [...] [In the event of Grexit] it is hard to imagine what would remain of Franco-German condominium. Washington might start to turn its back on Nato in disgust [...] a condign punishment for such loss of strategic vision in Greece. Most in Brussels and in Berlin, writes Ulrich Schäfer, think that Varoufakis stepping down is a good thing. But despite “insulting” others, the former Greek finance minister “raised the right questions, the right subjects – but he used the wrong tone.” He raised questions about European crisis management, the sharing of social burdens, a debt write-off and the problem that a broken economy suffocates under more austerity.Varoufakis is not alone among economists for what he stood for. [...] But he disregarded the fact that to succeed in politics you need majorities – not only at home, in Greece, but also in 18 other countries of the eurozone. [...] But this should allow the EU to finally have the debate started by Varoufakis – and to go some way to correcting its policies.“An uncommon situation has occurred in Europe: everybody has started to agree that the eurozone is not one, sacred and indivisible”, writes Hubert Kozieł in Rzeczpospolita. As a result, top EU representatives are suggesting that “nothing terrible will happen” if the Greeks eventually leave the eurozone –Since nearly everybody agrees that the euro without Greece is possible, then maybe after the parliamentary elections in Spain everyone will suddenly admit that euro without Spain is also possible […]. And why not throw out the troublesome Italians, too? Or the Irish accused of tax dumping? Or Portugal and France, the latter often called the sick man of Europe? Indebted Belgium or Slovenia dealing with the banking crisis’ fallout? Maybe only Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Slovakia and Luxembourg should stay in the Eurozone? Finally we would have some peace and quiet while Europe could calmly integrate.Milan Vodička points out that the eurozone is divided into three groups regarding Greece. While Germany and Eastern Europe, which underwent painful reforms and austerity, do not have sympathy for Greeks, others are less severe and still strive to keep the country in the eurozone. Such division helps Tsipras to play his dangerous game.It's like a game of chicken when two cars in a movie are heading towards each other and the one who gives way loses. But driver of one car is well aware that in the other car a bunch of people with a different view of the race are at the steering wheel. Bart Eeckhout, commentator at De Morgen, calls the negotiations between the EU and Greece a poker game with high stakes. “The fact this highly risky, ‘playful’ tactic has won out over a problem solving strategy is the fault of both parties”, he writes. Although the negotiations are taking too long, Eeckhout sees one big advantage, the game is now played by “the real chiefs”:They are also playing poker with a lot at stake: the historical responsibility for breaking the unbreakable currenc[...]

After the referendum in Greece: ‘Eurozone leaders will face Grexit’

Tue, 07 Jul 2015 14:32:05 +0100

“This evening the 19 Eurozone countries leaders will face Grexit”, writes Jurek Kuczkiewicz in the Brussels daily: “they will have to decide whether Greece will remain in the eurozone and this will inevitably lead to questions about whether it should stay within the EU”. “Today”, adds Kuczkiewicz –It’s not VAT or the pension reform that are at stake. It’s not the debt nor the cult of financial austerity. It’s even not the morals according to which those who spent too much should pay back their debts. Greece is on the brink of financial collapse – and it could be inevitable at this point – that will trigger serious problems and will bring the Greek people’s resentment of Europe to a level hard to come back from. […] Tonight the nineteen European leaders – including Tsipras – will have to move beyond finger pointing about who is right and who is wrong, and will have to find the right words to say where the common good lies – if there still is any. And sometimes it exists only because true leaders have been able to locate it.Columnist Markus Bernath tries to answer the fundamental question of the moment: “How will things be, moving forward?” The most plausible outcome for him is that, given the deepening economic crisis, a new bailout would require more austerity than the one Tsipras could have had in June. Still, Bernath writes, “Tsipras still thinks he can have a better agreement":The Greek referendum is a confusing revolt against Europe. [The No-voices in Greece] want respect, equal treatment in the EU, economic help, no recession and to keep the Euro. But if there is no deal, some might not care; even the return to the Drachma isn’t scary anymore.Today the Greek PM Tsipras will meet his EU colleagues in Brussels. De Volkskrant wonders how both parties can reach out to each other. One of the options for the EU would be to oust the eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem –New brooms sweep clean. However for the European negotiators it is more difficult to sacrifice people than it is for the Greeks. The real fire-eater is the German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, but the euro countries can’t force national politicians to resign. Jean-Claude Juncker, who openly campaigned for a Greek yes, has only just become president of the European Commission. President Draghi of the European Central Bank isn’t politically responsible. That leaves Jeroen Dijsselbloem. [...] For many Greeks he is the bogeyman and the face of the unwillingness in Brussels to reach out to the Greeks.Columnist Enric Juliana echoes in the Barcelona daily the turmoil within European institutions, after the referendum in Greece and the possibility that Spanish Economy minister Luis De Guindos will replace Jeroen Dijsselbloem as Eurogroup chief – The European leadership’s political defeat in the Greek referendum leaves the Eurogroup president, [Dutchman Jeroen Dijsselbloem](4944565), badly hurt, as he was percieved as the hardliner’s voice. Spanish ministers have been aspiring to Dijsselbloem’s job for months – it was a promise made by Angela Merkel to Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy before the 2014 European elections – but Dijsselbloem refuses to quit. If the Greeks have sacrificed Yanis Varoufaikis, the Eurogroup could end up suggesting the Dutch Finance minister should leave.The European elites mishandled the Greek crisis which ended with a major defeat fo[...]

After the referendum in Greece: ‘The odyssey is far from over’

Mon, 06 Jul 2015 12:28:49 +0100

“The odyssey is far from over” headlines The Guardian, which economics editor Larry Elliott gives as a warning to eurozone leaders determined to impose austerity on Greece despite Sunday’s no vote. “Put simply,” Elliott argues, “they should try a bit less stick and a bit more carrot” through debt relief. Even if leaders come to a deal, the crisis has unsettling long-term implications —Greece has highlighted the structural weaknesses of the euro, a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t suit such a diverse set of countries. One solution would be to create a fiscal union to run alongside monetary union [...]. This, though, requires the sort of solidarity notable by its absence in recent weeks. The European project has stalled.The message of the Greeks is clear, writes Bart Sturtewagen, editor-in-chief of De Standaard. After a week of (almost entirely) closed banks and the considerable damage this caused to daily life business and the economy, “an unexpectedly large majority anyway chose to take the risk to say no to the bailout of the European Union and the IMF.” Although the price to pay will be incredibly high and the results will be a dramatic blow to the eurozone and the European Union as a whole, Sturtewagen says —The inclination to no longer support the Greeks is an understandable reaction. But this is pre-eminently the moment to keep our heads cool. It is the dialectic of crime and punishment that has brought us in this misery. This approach has proven its uselessness over and over again. The question of a debt rearrangement can no longer be avoided. Even the IMF knows that. If Tsipras really wants to do something with his victory, he needs to prove his country doesn’t only want to receive money, but also wants to change himself and his government. Voting no was provocative, but unfortunately also the easy part.Athens is on the brink of Grexit following a referendum in which Greek voters rejected the terms of the bailout, but “there is still flickering hope” that there will be no return to the drachma, writes Tomasz Bielecki in Gazeta Wyborcza. The Warsaw daily stresses that it is now up to Paris and Berlin to decide what comes next —New aid for Greece has to be accepted by 18 eurozone members and Germany is not the most hawkish of them. However, if chancellor Angela Merkel were to yield to the Greeks, she would have to allay the anger of the Dutch, Spanish and Lithuanians who are tired with the Greeks’ stubbornness. It is not certain whether she would succeed as emotions fly high on both sides and the situation could easily spin out of control. “The EU must minimize the debris caused by the Tsipras government,” writes Stefan Ulrich in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The EU should, he argues, grant emergency aid to Greece; for any new big aid programme, Greece will have to make proposals for reforms or “the Euro could very well live without them.” He calls the result of the referendum a “no to compromise” —The Greeks are not the only people in Euro-Europe. They can decide their own destiny. But they cannot dictate anything to other people and their governments. And they especially cannot dictate terms to other eurozone members which would see Greece receive billions of euros from them with no conditions. Given the referendum’s outcome, SME’s Peter Schutz is sceptical about any deal on the Greek cri[...]

Greferendum: OXI!

Sun, 05 Jul 2015 22:31:50 +0100

To Ethnos, Athens – Cartoon. See more.

Referendum in Greece: Europe at its worst

Sat, 04 Jul 2015 15:53:17 +0100

eutopia, Rome – It could not have gone worse, says political scientist Piero Ignazi: the most pessimistic predictions have all turned out to be true. Worse than that, they are past every limit. There is, in fact, no limit to the worse. See more.

Greek Crisis: ‘Greece and euroland: A battle for credibility’

Thu, 02 Jul 2015 10:55:41 +0100

More billions of euros in aid is not the only thing Greece and the Eurozone are scuffling about as credibility is even more important, writes Rzeczpospolita. The Warsaw’s daily stresses that saving credibility is particularly essential for Chancellor Angela Merkel, the main advocate of the bailout plans offered so far to Greece –

Merkel has to defend her politics [towards Greece] in Germany as well as in Europe and must prove that euroland is alive and so are its rules. At this stage, it means resisting negotiations of any possible future compromises with the Greeks. At the other extreme of credibility is the Greek government. PM Alexis Tsipras is seen in Europe as totally unpredictable. He is sending new proposals to Brussels that nobody believes in. Maybe he is afraid of Greece entering unchartered waters of bankruptcy or maybe he fears for the result of the referendum in which distressed Greeks may not want to turn their backs on the euroland.

Referendum in Greece: Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz calls to vote ‘no’ to bailout plan

Thu, 02 Jul 2015 08:42:16 +0100

This weekend's referendum gives Greek voters a choice between two radically different futures, Joseph Stiglitz writes in Project Syndicate. Approval of the IMF-ECB-EU troika's terms will mean "depression almost without end" for the country, while a rejection leaves open the possibility of a "far more hopeful" outcome, even if Greece never regains its former prosperity.

Stiglitz notes that, when it comes to reducing a primary deficit, "few countries have achieved anything like what the Greeks have achieved in the last five years." But this has come at an unacceptably high human cost: austerity measures have so far been responsible for a 25% drop in Greece's GDP and a youth unemployment rate of 60%. That the troika is demanding further cuts is a sign that ideological motivations have trumped financial considerations.

The troika's demands on Greece, Stiglitz claims, are founded on "abysmal" economics. It wants a primary budget surplus (excluding interest payments) of 3.5% of GDP by 2018. "Economists around the world have condemned that target as punitive," he writes, "because aiming for it will inevitably result in a deeper downturn." The troika's current position has more to do with ideology than money: Greece must be forced into accepting not simply austerity, but punishment.

Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, calls attention to the real beneficiaries of the series of bail-outs so far issued to Greece —

We should be clear: almost none of the huge amount of money loaned to Greece has actually gone there. It has gone to pay out private-sector creditors – including German and French banks. Greece has gotten but a pittance, but it has paid a high price to preserve these countries’ banking systems. The IMF and the other “official” creditors do not need the money that is being demanded. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the money received would most likely just be lent out again to Greece.

But it is for the eurozone that Stiglitz reserves particularly strong criticism. He argues that representatives of the eurozone are attempting to force a democratically elected government to go against the wishes of its voters. The eurozone, for Stiglitz the "antithesis of democracy", believes it can bring down Syriza "by bullying it into accepting an agreement that contravenes its mandate." Given the severity of these bail-out conditions, there is, for Stiglitz, only one viable option: Greeks should put democracy first by rejecting the troika's terms. While the outcome is far from certain, a no vote would allow Greece, "with its strong democratic tradition, [to] grasp its destiny in its own hands."

Greek crisis: Greece will need much more

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 11:06:35 +0100

According to Czech economic daily’s editor David Klimeš negotiations between the Eurozone and Greece are seemingly technical as both sides are throwing out numbers but in reality the outcome will be pure politics as no credible data on Greek economy are actually available and Greek proposals are impossible to verify and Greece will need more money it asks now.

At the moment, the bargaining between Greece and the Eurozone is purely political exercise that is not about billions but rather a political will to save Greece or let it down. Everyone knows that numbers don’t match and that Tsipras' commitments to reforms are not worth much. We are left with one certitude that has become unfortunately a tradition: Greece will need much more than it says today.

Greek crisis: Greece is now in bad company

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 10:49:16 +0100

The Standaard editor-in-chief Bart Sturtewagen writes that today Greece has joined the same circle as Zimbabwe, Somalia and Sudan. Although it isn’t the first time the country has gone bankrupt, the fact it is now part of the European currency union changes everything.

The fact that a member of the eurozone is on the brink of default is a disgraceful defeat for all leaders concerned. The euro is not a market instrument only in the hands of the principle of supply and demand. It is the most concrete manifestation of the desire of hundreds of millions of Europeans to throw their lot with one another. The way it was messed about the last months and years, harms the credibility of the entire European project.

Greek crisis: Greece and the EU are flexing their muscles

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 10:43:57 +0100

Marek Beylin, Gazeta Wyborcza’s commentator, is urging Greece and EU to make a last-ditch effort to reach an agreement which should be, however, more favourable to Greeks. In the absence of it, the Greek crisis may spill over into the rest of Europe, including Poland, destroy “European solidarity”, strengthen europhobes and undermine Europeans’ “faith in the EU”. According to Beylin, "Grexit" will also pose other serious threats –

Bankrupt and abandoned, Greece may permanently destabilise Europe and become a breeding ground for extreme forces – fascist and neocommunist – radiating across the continent. Compared to them, Prime minister Tsipras’ Syriza would look as a good-natured centrist party. Most probably, Greece would also form an alliance with Russia thus weakening Europe’s security.

Greek debt crisis: Tsipras played his last chips

Tue, 30 Jun 2015 09:39:18 +0100

I Kathimerini, Athens – By calling for a referendum on 5 July on on the series of austerity measures demanded by Greece's creditors in exchange for a bail-out plan, Greek prime minister spread distrust among Eurozone partners and put his country on the brink of economic disaster. See more.

Profile: Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the euro doc

Wed, 17 Jun 2015 10:31:13 +0100

Vrij Nederland, Amsterdam – Can he hold together the monetary union and prevent a Greek default? As Jeroen Dijsselbloem is likely to be reappointed as president of the Eurogroup, Vrij Nederland looks into the career and style of the Dutch Finance minister. 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.

Advertising the EU

Fri, 22 May 2015 23:57:27 +0100



The cover of the latest issue of the German business weekly Wirtschaftswoche pays tribute to the European Union. The magazine asked nine important German advertising agencies to produce for its print and online editions pictures and videos promoting the EU. They are meant to remind readers of the benefits of EU membership regardless of the Eurozone crisis and of a possible Grexit or Brexit. Says editor in chief Miriam Meckel:

The meaning of European integration is being questioned like never before since 1945. National interests come back to the fore and old prejudices against neighboring countries wake up again to full bloom. We don't want to let it remain like this. Even leaving aside ideal pursuits, the EU provides tangible economic benefits for export world champion Germany. A functioning Europe is in the interest of the German economy. As Germany's leading business magazine it's only logical that we have a clear commitment to European integration.

Of course we can see the problems of the Eurozone and don't deny Brussels' penchant for bureaucracy, but we should sometimes take a step back and pay tribute to the considerable achievements of European unification. The excellent campaign proposals of nine advertising agencies will help us doing so.

Readers of Wirtschaftswoche are asked to choose the best campaign proposal to be published in the next issue and on the magazine's site.

Under its previous editor in chief Roland Tichy Wirtschaftswoche campaigned against Eurozone bailouts and gained a reputation as anti-European.

Germany endangers eurozone stability

Mon, 18 May 2015 22:03:02 +0100


British paper The Daily Telegraph argues that not only is Germany's current account surplus out of control, but for the fifth year in succession the European Commission has failed to impose fines on Germany for endangering eurozone stability and breaching the EU's Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure. It states that "cynics might justifiably conclude that big countries play by their own rules in Europe, and that Germany can defy all rules".

The article goes on to refer to the IMF warning to Germany last year that its budget surplus is destructive for European monetary union as a whole, is not in Germany's economic interest, and makes it harder for EMU crisis states to claw their way out of trouble. It makes the point that the surplus

is a chronic structural abuse, rendering monetary union unworkable over time, and is surely more dangerous for eurozone unity than anything going on in Greece.

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.

Taxation and solidarity: Why Europe needs a supertax

Tue, 07 Apr 2015 10:14:44 +0100

Les Echos, Paris – Despite the crisis, the world of European finance has vast wealth at its disposal. What would be more natural than to impose a tax on it, in order to free up resources for economic recovery and to face the challenges of the future? See more.

Investigating Germany’s new role in Europe: The Fourth Reich, really?

Wed, 01 Apr 2015 11:56:12 +0100

Where does Germany stand in Europe? And are its downtrodden southern neighbours justified in comparing its current dominance to the dark days of Nazi rule? These are the questions that a group of journalists attempt to answer in a special enquiry for German weekly Der Spiegel. They draw from Germany's troubled past to argue that Europe's “reluctant leader” paradoxically considers itself both too big and too small to fulfil its current role: The eurozone is clearly ruled by Germany, though Berlin is not unchallenged. It does, however, have a significant say in the fates of millions of people from other countries. Such power creates a significant amount of responsibility, but the [German] government and other policymakers nevertheless sometimes behave as though they were leading a small country. Germany has gained de facto political dominance through economic success, but is largely unprepared to take up real political leadership by compromising on its short-term interests, Der Spiegel's writers argue. Its diplomatic brashness is born out of an intransigent desire to see all eurozone members adhere to the German principles of thrift and efficiency. This is grist to the mill for the increasingly vocal opponents to German hegemony — For almost all critics of German policy, a single word has become the focus of their complaints: austerity. It refers to policies of thrift, a concept that has positive connotations in Germany. But in European countries hit hardest by the debt crisis, it stands for a bleak policy of externally-imposed deprivation. Germany isn't just exporting its goods anymore, it is also exporting its rules. Interviewing dissenting figures from Greece, Italy and France, Der Spiegel's team reports that the comparisons to the Third Reich stem from Germany's efforts to safeguard its own economic interests. While the newspaper discounts such comparisons, claiming "no one would actually associate Merkel with Nazism", it adds that "further reflection on the word "Reich," or empire, may not be entirely out of place." For Germany undoubtedly exerts a powerful influence well beyond its borders, imposing a politics of austerity on unwilling economic partners. Historical precedents provide unsettling lessons for the current masters of Europe. Germany's Second Reich, formed under Bismarck and lasting until defeat in the First World War, found itself in a precarious position: it had become Europe's leading power and yet was not strong enough to dominate the continent alone. Germany, the authors argue, is in a similar situation today. Its trade surplus now stands at €217 billion, while capital exports from German banks have spread its economic interests across Europe. But while Germany towers over its neighbours, it is uniquely vulnerable to economic collapse in Europe's south. Once again, it is both too big and too small to lead effectively — Creditors want to have power over their debtors because th[...]

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, and Wikipedia to make the map.

Poland: ‘Youth unemployment drops’

Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:42:53 +0100

The number of unemployed Poles below 25 years of age has dropped from 395,000 to 301,000 in the last year, according to Eurostat data quoted by Gazeta Wyborcza. In January 2014, some 26.3 per cent of Poles in this age group remained jobless, compared to 21.1 per cent today, while total unemployment also declined from 10 per cent to 8 per cent, the fastest drop in the EU.

Economists are surprised by the pace of this downward trend, as it is not accompanied by an exceptionally high GDP growth or any significant emigration wave, the daily notes, quoting an economist from Warsaw University, who attributes the trend to investments made by Polish companies in recent years.

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.

Economic recovery: Looking within as a growth model for Europe

Fri, 13 Mar 2015 08:41:52 +0100

eutopia, Rome – The EU is the world’s largest and most elaborate internal market. If it is to survive, it has to look within to see its potential as a driving force to trigger growth, writes Italian economist Innocenzo Cipolletta. See more.

Debt crisis: Black sheep Berlin

Fri, 06 Mar 2015 15:37:29 +0100

Greek newspaper Avgi, close to the Syriza party of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, has published a cartoon of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble “dressed in a uniform of the Wehrmacht, the army of the Third Reich, with a war cross around his neck”, observes Brussels correspondent Jean Quatremer of French newspaper Libération. Tsipras did not condemn the cartoon until two days after it was published. The Greek prime minister, writes Quatremer, was in fact the first to “open the floodgates of anti-German sentiment” by asking Germany for compensation for damage suffered by Greece during the Second World War. With the crisis, anti-German sentiment is creeping around the continent, and Berlin “is starting to worry”. In the United Kingdom, “part of the political class […] and the popular press are upset to see the loser of the two world wars impose itself as the uncontested master of the eurozone,” writes Quatremer, adding the hostility towards Germany is growing in France as well. Right-wing sovereigntist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan qualifies the European Union as the “Fourth Reich”, Left Front leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon says “the attitude of Germany is arrogant, domineering, and leading Europe to chaos”, and the leader of the National Front, Marine Le Pen, has denounced “Greece’s capitulation to Berlin’s blackmail”. The journalist notes anti-German discourse is even gaining ground with the centre-right UMP and ruling Socialist Party, due to divergences in the handling of the euro crisis. “The Germans work according to the rules. It’s only afterwards that they consider the context, while we and the Anglo-Saxons are much more pragmatic,” a French government minister tells Quatremer, who explains that — it is enough [for Berlin] to follow the agreed rules and to not get into creative interpretation or adapt to the circumstances. As such, their “neins” become repetitive: no to a European plan to rescue the banks, no to a European recovery plan, no to financial aid for Greece, no to a soft interpretation of the rules. However, the Bundestag endorsed the result of the most recent negotiations with Greece, “which was not a foregone conclusion”. German tabloid Bild campaigned against extending aid to Greece, and the plan was far from winning wide public support. Quatremer writes that — Each time, Germany has accepted what it initially rejected: keeping Greece in the eurozone, financial solidarity with countries in difficulty, banking union, relaxing the terms of the Stability Pact, the European Central Bank’s new expansionist monetary policy, the agreement given to a partial recognition of the reforms sought by Athens, and so on. The journalist asks whether France is responsible for these anti-German sen[...]

Debt crisis: Let’s kick Germany out of the Eurozone

Tue, 03 Mar 2015 11:11:38 +0100

Germany's towering trade surplus is the key force behind Europe's economic malaise, writes Patrick Chovanec in Foreign Policy. And Berlin’s departure from the Eurozone would help rebalance both the European and the global economy. Chovanec deploys the ideas of nineteenth-century economist David Ricardo to argue that Europe's trade imbalance must be reduced by increasing Germany's domestic demand – and therefore its borrowing. Historically, Germany's surplus income has been lent back its neighbours, resulting in Europe's current debt crisis

It’s hard to argue that Germany’s excess savings, which its banks often struggled to put to use, were well invested. Instead, they gave Germans the illusion of prosperity, trading real work (reflected in GDP) for paper IOUs [debt acknowledgement] that might never be repaid.

Under normal circumstances, Chovanec continues, exchange rates would narrow the gap by boosting the competitiveness of Germany's trading partners. But the fixed rates of the eurozone do not allow for this re-adjustment. The zone's debtor nations are forced to move "in lock step" with the German economy, so their trade imbalance can be reduced only by decreasing demand for imported German goods. This requires a plunge in overall consumer demand. The eurozone's southern members have reduced their deficit with Germany, but at the expense of growth.

For Chovanec, it is not a question of Europe's economies becoming more like Germany, but rather of re-thinking what Germany does with its surplus —

The excess savings are already there; the only question is where to lend it all. Borrowing it domestically to drive a genuine European recovery might be preferable to (once again) throwing it at foreigners to buy things they really can’t afford.

A German exit from the euro would give a competitive advantage back to its debtors, increasing domestic borrowing and allowing the surplus to be spent at home. This would relieve pressure in Europe and globally, since Germany's reliance on the American market – "the world’s consumer of last resort" – has also led to ever more debt, and to fears that it may never be repaid.

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.