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Dismissing misunderstandings on the EEA Agreement

by Luis de Sousa Fri Sep 22nd, 2017 at 04:07:00 PM EST

Much confusion - or outright misinformation - continues to circulate in the UK media regarding the exit of the country from the EU. Particularly affected is the difference and relationship between the EU, the political union, presently governed by the Lisbon Treaty, and the European Economic Area (EEA), the trade union, ruled by the EEA Agreement.

Days ago The Independent newspaper published an enigmatic article in which it is claimed, among other oddities, that article 127 of the EEA Agreement can stop the current process of exit from the EU. Reproduced below is a short note I sent the editors of The Independent clarifying some of the misunderstandings in the article.

Front paged - Frank Schnittger

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What the fall of the Sterling really means

by Luis de Sousa Mon Aug 21st, 2017 at 07:50:38 AM EST

Last Friday the Sterling closed at 1.094 to the Euro. Not only is it a remarkable figure for crossing below 1.1, it is the lowest weekly close since 2009. In effect, since the common currency was introduced to currency markets in 1993, the Sterling closed against it below this level only in eleven other weeks. They all took place between December of 2008 and October of 2009, at the height of the housing crisis, when European institutions failed to address financial markets with the haste seen in grown-up economies.

This brief note puts this monetary devaluation into a broader perspective, within the context of the UK's exit from the EU. Sterling is just a visible facet of an overall economic setting deteriorating in anticipation of the UK's shift into a new - and largely unknown - economic paradigm.

Front paged - Frank Schnittger

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Tailor made politics

by Luis de Sousa Mon Mar 6th, 2017 at 05:48:47 PM EST

2017 is election year in various economic heavy weight members of the EU. The Netherlands comes first, with the suffrage scheduled for the 15th of March.

Polls keep showing the PVV of Geert Wilders ahead, with twenty odd percent of votes, almost double of the record score the party obtained in 2010. In face of such projections the foreign  media focuses almost exclusively on Wilders, the candidate that easily produces sensational headlines with his extreme right rhetoric.

If the rise of Wilder's party is substantial, more important is what is happening with the remaining parties.

Promoted - Frank Schnittger

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The Nemesis

by Luis de Sousa Fri Feb 3rd, 2017 at 01:18:22 PM EST

This is a translation into English of an article originally written in  Portuguese for BomDia.eu.

I had in a previous career a diplomatic post where I helped bring down the Soviet Union. So maybe there's another union that needs a little taming.

It was this way that Theodore Malloch described the functions he will soon take by the EU, as ambassador of the USA. This is in no way a lapsos linguae, but rather a symptom of an overt drive by the USA to dismantle the EU. The support provided by the US government to euro-phobic politicians, or the announced arrival to Europe of BreitbartNews (an extreme right propaganda medium whose director integrates the new US government) are other pieces of the same puzzle.

Irrespectively of the credibility one may lend to personalities like Theodore Malloch, it is important to understand the root of this threat to the European Union.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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The UK falling back to the WTO

by Luis de Sousa Fri Jan 20th, 2017 at 11:16:36 AM EST

Frank Schnittger has been a proficient writer here at ET on the exit of the UK from the EU. One of the questions he has been raising is the assumption that the UK will automatically fall back to WTO rules if it leaves the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA). The UK is a member of the WTO by virtue of its membership of the EU, if it leaves the union how can it still be member of the WTO?

With the UK government indicating to the press that indeed it wishes to extract the country both from the political and economic unions, the WTO question becomes pivotal. Days ago I raised this issue in the Financial Times commentary box and got an elaborate reply from a reader that seems far more acquainted with the subject. It is rather worthy of reproduction in this forum.

An important and under reported issue: Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Leaving the EU implies automatic exclusion from the EEA?

by Luis de Sousa Tue Nov 29th, 2016 at 07:35:18 PM EST

This question is slowly percolating through the wall of noise  around the UK's exit from the EU. More attentive folks are wondering if to leave the European Economic Area (EEA) a formal notification is required. I.e., if beyond triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, in order to fully exit its social and economics commitments the UK needs to trigger Article 127 of the EEA Agreement.

This question is highly relevant for a simple reason: membership of the EEA was not voted in referendum, therefore the UK institutions - Government, Parliament and House of Lords - are not morally obliged to any particular course of action in this regard. If leaving the EU does not automatically exclude the UK from the EEA, it will then remain a full member of the so called "Common Market" with all the rights and obligations it entails.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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The US Presidential race from the distance

by Luis de Sousa Mon Feb 15th, 2016 at 04:33:45 PM EST

To whomever likes politics, the Presidential election in the United States is always an interesting, and sometimes exciting, event. Not only because it is the largest economy in the world, but most especially for the unique political setting, that in essence forces the squeeze of a vast swath of candidates into just two parties. The indirect election system (with great electors per state), coupled with the party primary system produces a rather intricate process, divided in two phases that drag on for well over an year.

The election this year is no exception and is clearly falling into the exciting category. It can actually become an even more exciting race than that that gave the Presidency to Barack Obama in 2008. With the first primaries already in, most candidates already in firm ground and plenty of polling, one can already speculate on the outcome and its implications.

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Portugal: Left Front government prospect rocks the establishment

by Luis de Sousa Mon Oct 19th, 2015 at 08:08:13 AM EST

"As if we were overthrowing the remainder of the Berlin Wall." That is how António Costa, the leader of PS, described the events of the past two weeks in Portugal. Beyond all the metaphors this sentence may carry, it properly conveys the sense of fundamental shift in the country's politics. Right from election night, events took an unusual course, departing from the traditions instituted since the 1974 revolution.

This note digests the events of these past two weeks and the political choices the country faces. It then reflects on the particularly delicate situation in which the Social Democrats now find themselves, to which there are many parallels at the European scale. I then try to anticipate forthcoming developments.

Update 23-10-2015: President Cavaco Silva addressed the country yesterday evening to communicate his decision to appoint Pedro Passos Coelho as prime minister, leaving the right in power. With an uncharacteristic surly tone, the president made clear he will not accept a left front government, calling such solution "inconsistent". The president now hopes for a rebellion within PS to support his government. If that does not happen, Portugal will remain effectively without a government until next March, when Cavaco Silva leaves office.

Promoted by DoDo

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Portugal Parliamentary Elections 2015

by Luis de Sousa Mon Sep 28th, 2015 at 06:37:09 AM EST

Portugal is going for regular Parliamentary elections on the 4th of October. The international press wonders now and then why after five years of austerity the political landscape remains apparently unchanged, with the three parties that signed the agreement with the Troika in 2011 still harnessing more than two thirds of the votes in polls.

While it is true that political upheaval seen in Spain, Italy or Greece is yet to materialise in Portugal, the outcome of this election is not as straightforward as might appear on the surface.

This post provides an overview on the election method, the parties with possibilities of electing MPs and the prospects for a resulting government.

Promoted by DoDo

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Ready for tomorrow?

by Luis de Sousa Sun Jun 28th, 2015 at 12:41:56 PM EST

Greece was left between the sword and the wall and the Greeks opted for the former. Portugal is next in the line of fire, but an eerie serenity reigns in the country. The mercury is up and most folk are at the beach this weekend; the media speak of football and hockey.


In reality much has changed since yesterday, and Portugal, even if not yet aware, is today a much more fragile country. Events will go sour, and possibly much faster than most expect. Hereby a short list of the gravest developments that  are to take place from tomorrow onwards.

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Footing the bill in Libya

by Luis de Sousa Fri May 1st, 2015 at 02:12:33 AM EST

Muammar Gaddafi visited Europe for the last time in August of 2010, received in Rome with all the honours of a chief-of-state. At the time he requested five thousand million euros from the European Union to help the fight against illegal immigration. His words were peremptory: "Tomorrow Europe might no longer be European, and even black, as there are millions who want to come in".

One year later Gaddafi would be summarily executed at the hands of an Islamic militia.

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Whatever happened to Ukraine's treasury?

by Luis de Sousa Sat Nov 1st, 2014 at 01:20:45 PM EST

The story of the Ukraine crisis can be told in many ways, but the gas supply is perhaps the most important starting point. Half of the gas that transits from Russia to the European Union flows through multiple pipelines striping Ukraine. The over-dependence of the country on this fuel is above all a convenience, from it obtaining a large share of its heating and electricity.

The government of Viktor Yanukovich, facing a gripping economic crisis, managed to get from Russia a reduction of the gas price to about half of that paid by costumers in the European Union. But this timely aid had a price: the definitive absorption of Ukraine into the sphere of influence of Russia and the BRICS. Reacting to this re-approximation towards Russia, various nationalist groups united against the government, paralysing the capital, boycotting negotiations with opposition parties and finally taking power in February.

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Scotland independence: the case for Yes

by Luis de Sousa Tue Sep 9th, 2014 at 04:28:55 AM EST

Thursday the 18th Scotland is going to vote what may well be the most important political decision in several centuries for itself and the UK. The reasons that prompted this process are many: the perception of a slow derision of Scottish identity and culture, the crystallisation of the UK's democracy (where non elected individuals still retain important powers), natural resources, budget sharing, NATO, just to name a few.  

I am not Scottish, nor do I live in Scotland, thus I can not possibly fathom everything driving the vote. But one exercise I can make: assess the economic risks associated with the decision. And by doing so the complexity of this question becomes apparent, as so how uncertain is the outcome.

front-paged by afew

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Quick update on Portugal

by Luis de Sousa Thu Jul 11th, 2013 at 03:23:57 AM EST

A quick update on the political situation in Portugal, that last evening dived further into uncertainty. Little attention is being given to these events by the international media. So far only the BBC and Deutsche Welle have picked up the story, but they haven't actually understood the President's address.

The key messages of the President's address were:

a) the agreement reached by the coalition last weekend for a new government was tacitly rejected;

b) snap elections are to take place in June 2014, when the first aid programme ends and in time for a new government to draft a budget for 2015;

c) in the following days the President will try to find support among the largest parties for a national unity (Monti-style) government to lead the country up to June 2014;

e) regular evaluations by the Troika to unlock further aid monies are tacitly suspended sine dia.

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The Price of Solar Power

by Luis de Sousa Fri Feb 22nd, 2013 at 04:09:44 AM EST

All across Europe feed-in tariffs and subsidies for solar power are being cut or even scrapped. In Portugal and Spain these actions are justified with the debt crisis, even though they expand these states' trade deficit. This month the Spanish government took a decisive move to scare investors away and expel most renewable energies from the electric grid, particularly Solar.

Reuters
Exclusive: Foreign investors set to sue Spain over energy reform
14-02-2013

(Reuters) - Foreign investors in renewable energy projects in Spain have hired lawyers to prepare potential international legal action against the Spanish government over new rules they say break their contracts.

The Spanish Parliament approved a law on Thursday that cuts subsidies for alternative energy technologies, backtracking on its push for green power.

That measure, along with other recent laws including a tax on power generation that hit green energy investments especially hard, will virtually wipe out profits for photovoltaic, solar thermal and wind plants, sector lobbyists say.
Diving into the numbers what one finds behind this policy U-turn is something entirely different.

front-paged by afew

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The MUSIC project

by Luis de Sousa Mon Dec 3rd, 2012 at 03:30:42 AM EST

This is what I do and these are the folk whom I work with. When I moved to Luxembourg I had no clue I'd be involved in something like this; all I can say is that I feel very fortunate.

front-paged with minor edit by afew

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September 2012 - a turning point for Portugal

by Luis de Sousa Sun Sep 30th, 2012 at 01:11:41 PM EST

This blog entry is an experiment. Instead of the usual text there's a sound recording to listen to. Unfortunately I haven't managed to embed the sound player here at ET. I invite you to jump to my blog, AtTheEdgeOfTime to listen to it.

Below the fold are a few relevant links on the topic. Enjoy and please leave feedback on the feasibility of this blogging mode.

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Bundes-Europa oder Tod

by Luis de Sousa Fri Jun 15th, 2012 at 05:29:46 PM EST

Since early age I've been fascinated with politics and the eternal melee around the steering of the common future. In many ways it resembles chess, a game that I much appreciate, were each side lays a series of tactics supporting a final strategy. Last week we had a display of political chess at its best, justifying once more my passion. In chess sometimes a player that had been losing material and apparently getting cornered to his half board can pull out an unexpected play that by exploring some weakness in the opponent's back defence can give him back the initiative. It was more or less that that Angela Merkel achieved by directly calling for a European Federation last week, exploring the fact that François Holland, her main opponent today, had to associate himself with euro-sceptics in his road to the French presidency.

Irrespective of her faith in her words, as usual Angela Merkel got the timing wrong. She says the federation has to be built in the next 5 years, but Europe doesn't have even 5 months, it might not even have 5 days. This call for a European Federation should have been issued 4 years ago, in the wake of the credit freeze. The elections in Greece this Sunday may just mark another moment when events overcome Angela Merkel, sending her back to the defensive.

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The last ASPO conference

by Luis de Sousa Tue Jun 5th, 2012 at 05:30:46 AM EST

On the evening of the first day of the 10th conference of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas (ASPO), in Vienna, Rembrandt asked me if I'd write again the usual summary. My immediate answer was "No". Lack of time and motivation let me far from such undertaking. Hours later a title popped up in my mind; the dead time at airports and air planes provided the necessary space for the content.

The title "last conference" can be interpreted in varied ways. It can refer simply to the latest, it can also allude to this being the last ever, or even the last I'll ever attend. I haven't quite decided which is it. Below the fold is a short account of my feelings about ASPO 10, may it shed some light on the title.

This is a crosspost from AtTheEdgeOfTime.

front-paged by afew

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A Postcard from Portugal

by Luis de Sousa Tue Apr 24th, 2012 at 04:39:42 AM EST

After 7 months in Luxembourg, where my professional carer has been successfully relaunched, I returned to Portugal for this Easter. It was a time to review family and many friends, to rest and see a bit more of a country that can have many good experiences to offer. I brought back mixed feelings, while it is always pleasing to return home, the contact on the flesh with the present social context was rather depressing. Portugal has changed a lot these past months, the crisis has installed itself and spread like the plague. Most folk are being hit one way or the other and families that seemed to be in a comfortable situation when I left are now facing daunting difficulties. This text is a postcard from my visit to Portugal. It has no real photos, like a black and white documentary about war, I prefer using words to paint an hideous scenery.

front-paged by afew

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