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by autofran (autofran@mac.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 12:01:35 AM EST
Ministers prepare plan to nationalise Northern Rock | Business | The Guardian

The government was last night preparing a contingency plan for a possible new year nationalisation of Northern Rock as it held last-ditch talks with the potential buyers of the stricken bank.

Ministers have reluctantly concluded that temporary state ownership may prove the only way to prevent a final collapse of the Newcastle-based lender.

In a bid to keep the private sector option alive, they agreed last night to give the bid from former Abbey National boss Luqman Arnold equal status to preferred bidder Virgin, amid fears that Richard Branson has been struggling to finalise a deal.

But while the prime minister and the chancellor remain committed to a private-sector solution to the crisis that has contributed to Labour's political problems over the autumn, they believe that a short period of nationalisation may prove the only option. With Northern Rock still losing retail depositors and relying on a line of credit from the Bank of England to keep it operating, ministers accept that the current life-support operation cannot continue indefinitely.

The government believes that the prospects for a quick sale that would safeguard the £25bn of taxpayer support for Northern Rock is being hampered by the turmoil in the world's financial markets, which led to the run on the bank in September.



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 12:24:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's funny how all the wise commentators who were convinced that NR was a viable business back in September that would soon get out of its "short-term" problems, are now saying that nationalsation was inevitable and should have happened as soon as it was obvious the problems were deep-seated.

Ah, the beneifits of the traditional media never having to account for yesterday.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 06:25:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Branson hasn't been 'struggling to finalise a deal.' Branson and the other eager suitor have been struggling to find someone stupid enough to lend him the £11bn the BoE wants paid back immediately.

If it were that easy to borrow £11bn - except from the BoE - NR would never have gone down in the first place.

So this will be another example of Colman's law - bail out->nationalise->privatise at a giveaway price->trebles all round!

Darling will probably lose his job over this. Eventually.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 07:44:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...Chavez and Morales are on the phone laughing their butts off, joking about the Bank of the South making a bid post-nationalization.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 03:52:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FT.com / World - Swiss rift as ex-minister threatens revenge

Christoph Blocher, Switzerland's leading rightwing politician, on Thursday warned he would exact revenge for his ejection from the new government, as his Swiss People's party, the SVP, called time on the consensual system that has dominated national politics for decades.

The billionaire industrialist turned politician said the SVP would go into opposition, overturning Switzerland's traditional system of coalition governments and taking the country into uncharted political territory.

The SVP, which took 29 per cent of the vote in October's general election, making it the biggest political party, could paralyse the new government, which Mr Blocher ridiculed as a "centre-left administration" in a bitter parting speech .

The party, which is well financed and formidably organised, said it would exploit the full potential of Switzerland's referendum-based, direct democracy to challenge any legislation it found unacceptable.

That could complicate attempts to deepen relations with the European Union or to dilute the harsh anti-immigrant law and order measures pushed through by Mr Blocher in his four years as justice minister.



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 12:25:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
right wingers behaving in a vindictive manner after being called on their behaviour ? Who'd'a thunk it ?

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 06:26:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
FT:
ridiculed as a "centre-left administration"

Being centre-left is a term of ridicule?

well financed

By whom?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 07:46:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Europe | EU leaders sign landmark treaty
EU leaders have signed a treaty in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, that is expected to greatly alter the way the 27-nation body operates.

The treaty creates an EU president and a more powerful foreign policy chief.

The document, signed at a ceremony at the city's historic Jeronimos Monastery, also scraps veto powers in many policy areas.

It is a replacement for the EU constitution, which was abandoned following French and Dutch opposition.

EU leaders insist that the two texts are in no way equivalent.

But the Lisbon treaty incorporates some of the draft constitution's key reforms, and several governments face domestic pressure over the document.

In a speech before the signing, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called on European leaders to use the treaty to make freedom, prosperity and solidarity an everyday reality for all European citizens.

"From this old continent, a new Europe is born," he said.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said the treaty would create a more modern, efficient and democratic union.

"The world needs a stronger Europe," he said.

The leaders signed the treaty, translated into the EU's 23 official languages, using specially engraved silver fountain pens as a choir sang Beethoven's Ode to Joy.

Mr Brown signed the treaty hours after fellow EU leaders. Foreign Secretary David Miliband attended the signing ceremony.

The UK's opposition Conservatives accused Mr Brown of "not having the guts" to sign the treaty, which is politically controversial in Britain, in public.



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 12:33:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
FT.com / World - Brown's late signing of EU treaty attacked

Gordon Brown arrived in Lisbon more than three hours after his fellow leaders to sign the European reform treaty on Thursday amid growing claims the UK premier is becoming detached from the rest of the European Union.

Liberal reformers in Europe saw Mr Brown's solitary signing of the treaty as a symptom of his retreat to the margins in the EU and even Nicolas Sarkozy, French president, implored in English: "We need Gordon."

Some British diplomats are close to despair at what they see as the prime minister's disregard for the 27-member club and warn that the UK-inspired liberalisation drive in Europe could stall unless the prime minister returns to the fray.

By the time Mr Brown arrived in Lisbon more than half the other European leaders had already left and his decision to miss a lavish official signing ceremony of the revamped EU constitution drew official and media criticism from across the bloc.

José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, is among those who want a strong British voice in Brussels, partly to balance French calls for more protectionism. Debates on energy liberalisation, climate change, temporary workers' rights and farm reform loom next year.



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 12:35:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If both Barroso and Sarkozy want Gordon's involvement, I can't but help to root that the G man will stay as, or become more, indifferent to the EU, especially with subjects as energy liberalisation, workers' rights and farm reform...
by Nomad on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 03:01:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Some British diplomats are close to despair at what they see as the prime minister's disregard for the 27-member club and warn that the UK-inspired liberalisation drive in Europe could stall unless the prime minister returns to the fray.

Maybe Gordon is really against liberalisation? lol

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 03:57:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Brown seems to be shrivelling in the glare of Premiership. His natural instinct has always been to slink away at the first sign of trouble and allow others to catch the crap. As PM we can still see him trying to do it, but the point of a leader is visibility and when he tries to hide now he's getting caught out which makes him look increasingly shifty and uncomfortable.

I wonder if Gordon may tire of this soon. Call an election and then bail.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 06:36:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The biggest problem with Brown is that he obviously lacks any vision whatsoever. He got the big job he yearned for and he doesn't know what to do with it.

It would be unforgivable to call an election that will yield a Tory majority. We need a hung parliament.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 06:46:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is a hung parliament becoming more likely?  I think Brighton has a not-so-outside chance of voting the UK's first Green MP, that'd be one from Labour.  Gary J knows a lot about this, and I'd expect the Lib Dems to be working out their possibilities....just wondering.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 08:17:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Straight green that may be true, but  in the early 90's Ceredigion had a combined Plaid/Green MP

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 09:20:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can anyone point me to a list of current marginals?  'Twould be interesting to see which other areas are due for a change

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 10:04:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here gives it in nice diagramatic form, but no figures.

the official report is here with figures, but is in PDF format

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 10:14:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As long as the Tories have over 40% of voter intent you can forget about a hung parliament.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 10:32:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
off-topic: it was surprise to me to find you had been discussing 2 days ago me and my ethnicity with lana.

Barring her usual insults she mentioned izvestia article calling it shocking. actually nothing shocking in it except subheadline - "Ethnic Russians have been living under local nationalism". But in article itself there are no facts confirming ethnic discrimination even President of this republic is ethnic Russian. Then journalist used highly questionable sources like Mr Yurkov who is known as scandal-prone figure and delighted to have any publicity saying anything to anybody what is needed. By the way there was lively discussion in forum under this article where overwhelming majority dubbed this article which lana seemed to believe and other articles in Izvestia (and many other Moscow-based media) as biased and unjustified.

But what lana has to explain is the reasons behind the rise of ugly racism and nationalism in Moscow and St Petersburg - just last month yet one more young man from Yakutsk was murdered in Moscow by Russian fascists (the text in Russian):
http://diaspora.sakhaopenworld.org/announ18.shtml
The murder caused widespread outrage and even demonstrations were held.

Obviously lana has no case and her posts do not deserve even troll marks.

by FarEasterner on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 08:42:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is the UK. We don't really do vision.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 08:52:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Say what you want about Blair but at least he gave the impression of having one.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 10:34:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Giving the impression of having one is as good as it gets.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 04:06:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The treaty is clever idea after failed referendums but can we expect stronger or more united EU since its member states have different priorities? I think it's unlikely before regime change in Washington and even after.
by FarEasterner on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 08:16:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
IMHO until the generation that had its formative years in the 1980's attains power EU member states won't shed their cold-war reflexes (including suspicion of Russia and love of all things US). Give it 15 more years, at least.

Unfortunately I don't think we have the luxury of waiting 15 years - things look set to unravel before that.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 10:37:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I certainly am cured from love of anything US, but the gentle Mr Putin gives some reasons not to treat everything from Russia at face value...

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi
by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 10:53:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Forging unity on Kosovo independence bid top priority at one-day EU leaders summit - International Herald Tribune

European Union leaders, keen to avoid the mistakes of the past, will try at a summit Friday to forge unity on how to handle Kosovo's bid for independence from Serbia without inciting new violence in the Balkans.

Memories of deep divisions over the Balkan wars in the 1990s -- which led to the union's inability to prevent the fighting -- still haunts EU capitals.

But the union remains divided over whether to recognize Kosovo's independence, putting at risk an administrative takeover of Kosovo from the United Nations, a mission that needs the backing of all 27 EU states.

On the eve of the summit, Swedish Premier Fredrik Reinfeldt said it would be best to wait until after the presidential elections in Serbia before recognizing Kosovo's independence. The Serbian election is scheduled for Jan. 20, with a possible runoff on Feb. 3.



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 12:39:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A lose - lose situation if ever there was. The lack of honesty by the two groups of peoples involved over the reasons why the the other side absolutely does not trust their intention means that, whatever happens, there will be violence and refugees.

Equally, such is their level of denial that they would rather blmae outside bodies such as NATO, EU, US & Russia than look to their own intransigence and behaviour.

So not only will they not help themsleves, but they will distrust anybody who tries to ease the necessary transitions.

What a mess !!

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 06:42:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why should they trust outside actors who have been equally as nefarious in their plans to "help" these two peoples?

I can point to at least 10 acts of calumny and deceit from NATO, the US and the EU that have wreaked havoc in the region. The lesson learned is obvious: international diplomacy is a game of lies, not a game of rules.

Operation Horseshoe, the ponzi pyramid scheme in Albania, Operation Storm, Dayton's quid pro quo, the Rambouillet negotiations, the 2004 Mitrovica riots, the arrest of Ramush Haradinaj, William Walker's presence as OSCE envoy, etc.

All these events orchestrated by the US, the EU and NATO have sent precisely the wrong signal to both Serbs and Albanians.

Have a look at this article: These are precisely the type of events that produce a complete lack of dialogue in the region:

http://www.innercitypress.com/ictykosovo121007.html

by Upstate NY on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 10:34:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
FT.com / World - Sarkozy presses `social partners' to reform

French union leaders and company bosses may have their differences, but when they meet on Friday for the final stages of a four-month negotiation on labour market reform both sides will know that failure is not an option.

After this Friday they have just one more official session before the December 31 deadline set by President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has threatened to legislate if France's so-called social partners cannot agree on how to modernise the conditions under which companies hire and fire employees.

For Mr Sarkozy this is the first crucial step to reducing the country's severe unemployment problem.

The two sides will have to show they are close to an agreement by next Wednesday, when the president hosts his landmark social conference to set out the agenda for more sweeping reforms in 2008 on issues ranging from the 35-hour week to the financing of unions. A negotiator from Medef, the powerful employers' lobby, was cautiously optimistic a deal would be done. He said: "We must be able to say that we are capable of shaping even bigger changes for our country. We want fewer laws and more collective agreements."

These negotiations are the first test of a law introduced in January that limits the state's ability to intervene in the workplace by making negotiations between constitutionally recognised employers and workers' unions mandatory before the government moves to legislation.



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 12:41:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
FT.com / In depth - France escapes surge in food prices

France has largely escaped the surge in European processed food prices that has heightened inflation fears at the European Central Bank - while German and Spanish consumers have borne far more of the brunt, according to a study published by the bank on Thursday.

The impact of the global food price "shock" varies significantly across the 13-country eurozone, the ECB study concludes - adding to uncertainty about the economic outlook.

The ECB looked at prices of processed food, including bread, cereal and dairy products, as a guide to the impact of higher global food prices.

Surging eurozone inflation, which hit 3 per cent in November, led the ECB to hint last week that it might yet increase its main interest rate from the current 4 per cent - despite the global credit squeeze.



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 12:43:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the article mentions rising oil prices as the reason for overall inflation.  but is that one is behind rising processed food prices in particular?  is there any relation to the shift towards biofuel crops?

but if so, then why should we expect prices to "fall back down" to "the historical average":

The ECB expected food price inflation to increase in the short term before falling back towards the historical average.

the article does not offer any explanation for why France has escaped this processed food inflation, except the hint that (French?) retailers are using profit margins to avoid passing on price increases to customers:

France's relatively mild experience with processed food inflation is puzzling, given rising public concern about increasing living costs. <...>

The ECB suggested prices were likely to rise less in countries where retailers were prepared to use profit margins as a buffer, especially if fears about the economic outlook made them reluctant to pass on price increases.

and does the following paragraph mean that "German economic optimism" entails ever more processed food inflation?

In Germany, by contrast [to France], fierce price competition, especially among discount supermarkets, has probably reduced the scope for rises to be absorbed through lower profit margins - and German economic optimism remains upbeat.

i.e. optimism => demand + smaller profit margins => continuing inflation ?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 03:15:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are right, this article raises more questions than answers.

As regards Germany, the retail grocery market is a snake pit dominated by large discounters operating on narrow profit margins. They don't have nearly as much scope to absorb price increases as, say, UK chains. But as for optimism, well, where I live I'm registering more discontent with rising food (and beer!!) prices than any "optimism".

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 03:54:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The ECB suggested prices were likely to rise less in countries where retailers were prepared to use profit margins as a buffer, especially if fears about the economic outlook made them reluctant to pass on price increases.

I don't know about "fears about the economic outlook", but there's a rather particular situation at the moment in France WRT big retail distribution. On the one hand, Sarko is pushing for the big chains to reduce or moderate prices, and we hear (propaganda?) reports of cheating since the euro came in, etc. On the other the same retailers are hoping for liberalisation, especially of the rules re new store opening and Sunday trading. I'd expect a quid pro quo: they will take a hit to their margins if they get what they want on the liberalisation side.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 04:27:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is there any relation to the shift towards biofuel crops?

rising food prices is a world wide phenomenon right now and I saw an interview with Joseph Stiglitz where he said "if you turn food into fuel, then with rising fuel prices, the price of food will increase".

Why France ? Well, I'm sure a france-based commentator will know better than me but it may be a cultural thing. The french simply may not base their diet around imported processed food in the way that others do. Plus I was told that whilst the rest of europe uses canadian and American wheat for bread, the french tend to use local wheat as it gives it the preferrred texture.

It would be interesting to find out if other countries with strong local fresh food cultures such as Spain Italy or Greece are suffering. I know that Italy has a problem with durum wheat prices, but that is cos they import most of it now.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 06:51:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wheat in Italy was also hit with a big drought because of low snow in the Alps last year.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 11:05:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Most wheat used in France is of local provenance, but that doesn't bring the price down - prices are pretty much global on grain markets, and are very high at the moment. Otherwise it's true that France is more an exporter than an importer of processed foods, and this may have some bearing on retail prices. Which are going up, all the same (even if less than elsewhere).

As to the price of grain, biofuels are part of the problem, but another is Global Warming and the unstable weather conditions it may bring. This year, only the US wheat harvest was a good one. Australian wheat production was hit by drought; overwarm conditions crippled the wheat harvest in Canada and Ukraine; the EU had a mediocre year with heat and rain at the wrong times. EU durum wheat had the same problems, while North Africa also had a bad harvest. Durum wheat makes two staples, pasta and couscous (bulgur etc), the prices of which have risen considerably.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 11:53:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wheat production in the US is concentrated in Hard Red Winter #2 -- used for breads.  Durum wheat production is relatively small and barely grown outside North and South Dakota.

Hard Red plantings increased here for the 2007/2008 growing season.  If I'm reading the data correctly that acreage came at the expense of Soy (Soya) bean production.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Dec 15th, 2007 at 02:02:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
well, i don't pretend to know, but could the fact that the french value their farms and fresh produce more than the germans have anything to do with it?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 08:54:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
France is blessed with a larger area of agriculturally productive soils.  The Northern European plain, most of northern Germany, is comprised, primarily, of sandy soils good for stock raising but lousy for cereals.

The upshot is: the German agricultural sector is small and politically powerless.  As they cannot hope to feed themselves they spend their time on other matters.

France has a vibrant agricultural sector so matters 'ag' are of more interest, politically and economically.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Dec 15th, 2007 at 02:08:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Europe | Col Gaddafi faces torture lawsuit
A Palestinian-born doctor jailed in Libya for allegedly infecting children with HIV has filed a suit for torture against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Ashraf Alhajouj, imprisoned with five Bulgarians for more than eight years, filed the suit through a French group.

The move coincides with a visit to France by Mr Gaddafi, which enabled the group to invoke an international anti-torture convention against him.

It is unclear how far the action can go as Mr Gaddafi has diplomatic immunity.



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 01:17:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is odd, but I don't know why:

-Gaddafi arrived in France Monday for 5 days and met Sarkozy.
-King JCI visited Sarkozy on Weds.?, or Thursday.
-Gaddafi is on his way to Madrid to meet with the king and Zapatero.

All this between Lisbon and Bali...


Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 04:51:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com
The European Parliament has severely watered down Brussels' plan to reform Europe's wine sector and make it more able to withstand the challenges of global competition.

In a vote on Wednesday (12 December), MEPs revised the proposal by the European Commission by dropping the elements which had sparked the strongest opposition by member states.

They rejected the commission's suggestion to ban adding sugar to wine, a practice traditionally used in some countries in northern and central Europe with less sunshine over the year.

At the same time, they called for subsidies to southern countries for using pure grape juice to be maintained and not scrapped as suggested by the commission.

The parliamentarians also rejected the idea of a full liberalization of planting rights for quality wine makers on areas previously not used as vineyards by 2014, seen as a way to allow competitive wine producers to expand their production.


"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 01:20:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Stupid stupid stupid.

Practically everything they vetoed was the way the industry needed to go.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 06:53:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's the power of lobbyists.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 10:45:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com
MEPs criticise Brussels' plan to collect data on air passengers

European lawmakers have said they are "concerned" about a European Commission proposal that EU member states collect 19 pieces of air passenger data, a move that mirrors the controversial US database on European air travellers.

On Wednesday (12 December), the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the fight against terrorism, stating it is "unacceptable" to introduce an EU-wide air passengers name recording scheme (PNR) without a thorough scrutiny of the existing PNR agreement between the EU and Washington, especially of its benefits for security and its impact on privacy and civil liberties.

Some 359 MEPs voted in favour of the resolution drafted by French liberal Jean-Marie Cavada, while 293 parliamentarians were against and 38 abstained.



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 01:24:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com
EU global image improving, US fading

The perception that the EU is a global player is increasing worldwide, while the image of the US as the world's biggest power is fading, a new survey has shown.

Citizens in major states across the globe see the EU as the fifth superpower in the world after the US, China, Russia and Japan - but by 2020, Europe is expected to move up by one place, according to a poll released on Wednesday (12 December) by the German foundation Bertelsmann Stiftung.

Respondents to the survey from within the EU are the most optimistic about the bloc's future as a global actor, with percentages ranging from 80 percent in Germany, to 70 percent (UK), and 38 percent (France).

Citizens from Russia (13 percent), Brazil (10 percent) and India (9 percent) rank Russia, the US and India top of the list, respectively.

The US will be "the great loser of the future", according to the poll.



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 01:25:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
at 33%:

Almost an equal number of respondents - 57 percent - think China will be the world's most important player in 2020, 37 percent say it will be Russia and 33 - the EU and Japan.

Which is totally bizarre (I see Japan's influence as far lower than the EU's, and the EU's as far higher than Russia's.)

China got 57% to the U.S.'s 61%.

And while the following is encouraging, as far as China and Russia go --

In addition, Chinese and Russians think their countries should develop closer ties with the EU (98 and 91 percent, respectively), while 78 percent of Americans, 68 percent of Indians and 48 percent of Japanese share the same view.

-- I'm puzzled and disappointed that relatively so few Japanese are interested in closer ties with the EU.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 03:24:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am disappointed by the apparent difficulty that my fellow human beings seem to have in counting to one.

Based on those figures, it seems that when you ask someone who will be THE MOST important player in 2020, you get, on average, 2.5 answers.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 03:30:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which I find a most appropriate answer in these schizophrenic times. ;-)

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 06:08:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Another example of our elites being out of step with public sentiment. We in europe are beginning to see our ability for united action as making us a significant contributor to global events, yet our leaders still crawl on their bellies to the White House for approval of their every action

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 06:57:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com
EU to fund pan-European radio station

Radio fans will from next year onwards be able to tune in to a new pan-European station, to be set up by a multinational group of broadcasters and funded by the European Commission.

The 'European Radio Project' (ERP) - a consortium of 16 radio stations from 13 member states - will from April 2008 onwards bring programmes "from a European point of view," according to plans seen by EUobserver.

The project, to be officially signed off this Friday (14 December), will see the ERP group jointly producing daily half-an-hour EU "hard news" shows, weekly magazines and coverage of big European cultural events.

The programmes will be broadcast on the usual frequencies of the participating radio stations, as well as through a new ERP internet site, which will be in the air from June onwards.



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 01:28:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
languages:

Original content for the radio shows will initially be produced in five "core" languages - English, French, German, Spanish and Polish - and will be translated into Bulgarian, Greek, Hungarian, Portuguese and Romanian.

More core languages and translated versions will be added in the coming years so that by 2012, all official 23 EU languages should be covered.

management:

Deutsche Welle will ensure the editorial coordination of the project, while Radio France will be responsible for financial affairs and Radio Netherlands will run the web portal of the euro-station.


Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 03:29:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I know many will disagree, but I have always felt it might be a good idea to introduce classes in esperanto for children across the EU. It would mean that when they met they would have at least one language in common and cold play and communicate. surely the basis of closer ties.

It's all very well to assume english as the default language in the EU, but experience tells me it's mighty rare east of vienna where german predominates. And that's not forgetting that most people are effectively monolingual.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 07:02:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Polish is quite a canny move. Although it's questionable how effective it will be at reaching the Hail Mary audience in Poland.

As an aside - I was in a local bank yesterday, and they had an ad on the wall for credit cards.

In Polish.

This is rural Wiltshire, and the only reason I can think of for having an ad in Polish is because someone has looked at the stats and realised that there's enough of a critical mass of Polish people here to make the ad worthwhile.

Which means immigration will have been huge - historically significant, and bigger than the influx of ex-pats after WWII.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 08:01:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is rural Wiltshire, and the only reason I can think of for having an ad in Polish is because someone has looked at the stats and realised that there's enough of a critical mass of Polish people here to make the ad worthwhile.

And perhaps a ploy to keep rich Poles from remigrating back to Poland:

Indeed, Britain may soon face a novel immigration problem. As Poland's economy has improved this year, immigration has slowed, which economists say could cause labor shortages in British industries.


Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 08:28:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com
Unions may take action over cheap labour, EU court says

Europe's highest court has ruled that trade unions have a right to collective action to prevent their employers from hiring cheaper labour from other member states.

But the keenly awaited ruling, delivered Tuesday (11 December), says that the industrial action can only be taken as a measure to protect existing work conditions and not as a tool to prevent a company from moving to another member state, even if that country has weaker labour rights.

The European Court of Justice said such collective action "can be accepted only if it pursues a legitimate aim such as the protection of workers."

But it left it up to the British Court of Appeal to decide whether the action taken by the ITF can be justified as legitimate.



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 01:32:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's already been spinned in every direction. Can anyone say what it actually means?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 04:11:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That would require reading the judgement...

What I gather from the media reports is that the ECJ is moving the decision space from rule derivation to a weighing of different factors. Courts love doing that because it gives them room to develop a doctrine on unfamiliar ground (and this is unfamiliar ground).

So unions have the right to take the actions they wanted, but this has to be "proportionate" and cannot compromise the basic right of "freedom of establishment" for businesses.

This is a case that was deferred from London (why the case is in London I don't know) and the London court would have to weigh those factors. I think the union should win it, because there is no real freedom of establishment issue I can see in just giving a ship a different flag and I don't think the union's actions were inproportionate. But then, I'm biased.

There's a related judgement coming up in a week. We should know more when that comes out.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 07:22:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
New York Times: In a Funk, Italy Sings an Aria of Disappointment

... these days, for all the outside adoration and all of its innate strengths, Italy seems not to love itself. The word here is "malessere," or "malaise"; it implies a collective funk -- economic, political and social -- summed up in a recent poll: Italians, despite their claim to have mastered the art of living, say they are the least happy people in Western Europe.

"It's a country that has lost a little of its will for the future," said Walter Veltroni, the mayor of Rome and a possible future center-left prime minister. "There is more fear than hope." <...>

The latest numbers show a nation older and poorer -- to the point that Italy's top bishop has proposed a major expansion of food packages for the poor.

Worse, worry is growing that Italy's strengths are degrading into weaknesses. Small and medium-size businesses, long the nation's family-run backbone, are struggling in a globalized economy, particularly with low-wage competition from China. <...>

There is a link between the nation's errant political system and its worsening mood. Luisa Corrado, an Italian economist, led the research behind the study at the University of Cambridge that found Italians to be the least happy of 15 Western European nations. The researchers linked differences in reported happiness across countries with several socio-demographic and political factors, including trust in the world around them, not least in government.

In Denmark, the happiest nation, 64 percent trusted their Parliament. For Italians, the number was 36 percent. "Unfortunately we found this issue of social trust was a bit missing" in Italy, Ms. Corrado said. <...>

These [Italy's "privileged and unaccountable" political class, and the camorra, i.e. organized crime, especially in the south] are Italy's age-old problems, but Alexander Stille, a Columbia University professor and an expert on Italy, argues that this moment is different. While the economy expanded, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Italians would tolerate bad behavior from their leaders.

But growth has been slow for years, and the quality of life is declining. Statistics now show that 11 percent of Italian families live under the poverty line, and that 15 percent have trouble spreading their salary over the month.

I was going to post this yesterday, then refrained, as the article seemed like the type that gets shot up to pieces on this forum for facile/sloppy presentation of facts, analysis, etc. (For example, one sentence: 70 percent of Italians between 20 and 30 still live at home, condemning the young to an extended and underproductive adolescence.  Is Italy actually exceptional in this respect?  I know there are many, many Japanese -- although I am not sure what percentage -- in their 20's, and even 30's, who still live at home.  Of course, Japan is going through it's own national crisis about the future, also involving a very low birthrate and an aging population.  also, regarding poverty rate, well, we have discussed here the issues regarding measuring poverty.  [nevertheless, startling to me, Italy ranks at the bottom among rich countries on the UN's Human Poverty Index, whatever worth that has.]) And yet, this article was written as an introduction to what it claims to be a general problem about Italy, designed, so to speak, for U.S. readers (like me) with very little knowledge of Italy beyond food, designer goods, romantic scenery, fine art, etc.  It is currently the number 2 most emailed article on the New York Times website, and it does quote several Italians asserting that something is not right in their country of late.  (Some can always be found to be negative about their own country, even if things are not that bad, but from just this article, we cannot know if they speak for the majority, or just a disgruntled minority.)

I would be very curious to get a reality check from people here as to whether there is any real fire behind the smoke here.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 04:27:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My response would be anecdotal and in a rush as I am under heavy deadlines at the moment. There have been surveys recently in Italy that point to a general disaffection. It appears that the only revolutionary left in Italy is the head of Italian fed reserve, Mario Draghi who insists that workers be paid more. Bank of Italy stats indicate a 30% fall in buying power in the past decade. But a 30% wage hike is beyond any government's wildest hopes.

President Napolitano was in the States yesterday and was received by Bush. It would appear that the article came out together with that event. As far as "national mood" analyses go, Cambridge or what not, I usually don't bother reading them.

There are far more interesting events going on in Italy at the moment, especially on politics. Berlusconi is under investigation for attempted corruption of centerleft Senators. The journalist, Giuseppe D'Avanzo, who made the scoop was subject to a search warrant on his private premises.

Berlusconi made the mistake to attempt to bribe an Italian Australian Senator, not realizing that Australians have a different concept of governance.

Berlusconi's brutal attack against the judges warranted an official reprimand by the magistrates' governing body.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 05:57:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have recnetly been reading the author Tim Parks experiences in Italy, Italian Neighbours. Across several chapters he details the cloying protectionism and petty corruptions that paralyse italian transactions.

He finds it amusing in the small scale, but I couldn't help but wonder how all of these little impediments add up to a society that is completely gummed up.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 07:22:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My impression is that Italy is gravely hampered not only by big-time corruption with its trickle down effects but the utter lack of responsability. I say responsability in its narrow meaning of being held to account for one's actions. The political class is largely immune from any sort of judiciary action thanks to their own laws. The consequences one must face for corruption in Italy are ridiculous. There would never be a Bernard Tapie in jail or Visco case in Italy.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 08:58:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
PL
President Tusk: "mend fences with Russia"
Russia lifts ban on PL meat imports...
www.ruvr.ru /
Polish President to meet PM Tusk and Foreign Minister Sikorski
According to the Polish presidential press service, the Polish President Lech Kaczynski is due to meet the country's Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski later today. The parties to the meeting are expected to try to agree the position of Warsaw on deploying a US antimissile defence base and consider the country's foreign policy, including relations with Russia. President Kaczynski is willing to have a US ABM base deployed in Poland; But Tusk reiterated on the 27th of last month that his government would discuss the planned deployment with Russia.

Now that's a step in the right direction !

by vladimir on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 06:58:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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