Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Greece gets help, but debt quicksand is all around

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After five months of struggling to stay afloat in the quicksand of a debt crisis, Greece has finally asked the European Union and the IMF to throw it a lifeline

Some might think that’s the end of it — Greece now has access to up to 45 billion euros in special funds, it can finance its deficit and refinance its debts at better rates, and speculators (who have metaphorically been stepping on Greece’s head while it thrashes around in the quicksand) have to beat a retreat.

But not so fast. Greece is just one link in the chain of 16 countries using the euro single currency. As such — and under the terms of the rescue package the euro zone agreed for Greece this month — the 15 others share a part in hauling Athens out of its predicament.

While Germany, France, Sweden and the Netherlands may have the financial strength to do that, other euro participants are far weedier and are already up to their knees or ankles in quagmires of their own. In the playground-bullying that is often the driving mentality of financial markets, this is just the sort of situation where speculators start pressing down on the heads of some of the other countries wading in debt. And there are quite a few candidates to choose from.

Which companies are oiling the cogs of EU legislation?

If Europe’s lobbying register is correct, oil giants like Shell and BP are spending just a few hundred thousand euros a year on EU lobbying, sums that are dwarfed by the millions they spend across the Atlantic.

Europe’s voluntary Register of interest representatives, launched in 2008, shows that Shell and BP spent 400,000-450,000 euros each on lobbying in 2008. 

Biofuels’ green credentials called into question

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Biofuels were once seen as the perfect way to make transport carbon-free, but a series of EU studies are throwing increasing doubt on the green credentials of the alternative fuel.

The latest to be released gave a preliminary assessment that biodiesel from soybeans could create four times more climate-warming emissions than conventional diesel.

Luxury brands ride high in online trade dispute

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The European Union’s competition regulator made an important move this week, issuing revised rules governing the sale of goods and services over the Internet in Europe.

The so-called “vertical restraints block-exemption regulation”, unveiled on Tuesday, set down new guidelines for online retailers who don’t operate a ‘bricks-and-mortar’ outlet. In doing so, it sought to resolve a debate that has been going on for years between luxury brand retailers such as Gucci and Chanel and discounters who sell big-name brands more cheaply from warehouses over the Internet.

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If how quickly a company sends out a press release welcoming an EU decision is a measure of how popular that decision is, then the European Commission’s updated rules were just what luxury goods manufacturers were waiting to hear.

Volcano spews up more criticism of EU

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Ash and steam rise from an erupting volcano near Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland

Ash and steam rise from an erupting volcano near Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland

The Icelandic volcano that has caused havoc with European travel has also spewed up more criticism of the European Union.

A travel-affected European Parliament session on Tuesday turned into a forum for bashing the EU and other European authorities over the response to the crisis.

EU asks public what it thinks of CAP reform

EU Commissioner Dacian Ciolos

EU Commissioner Dacian Ciolos

The European Commission’s agriculture department launched a public debate this week on the future reform of Europe’s common agricultural policy (CAP) from 2014. It wants everyone – not just farmers and politicians – to have their say on how the European Union should support agricultural production.

It’s odd then that the only question that’s off limits in the debate, according to EU Farm Commissioner Dacian Ciolos, is the one on everybody’s lips: how much taxpayers’ money should the CAP get?

Head scratching over EU plans for EMF, helping Greece

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IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn

It was no great surprise that the managing director of the International Monetary Fund looked perplexed when asked during a visit to Brussels to comment on proposals to create a European monetary fund.

 ”I would be very happy to comment if I knew what it was,” Dominique Strauss-Kahn told a committee in the European Parliament.

Lapland’s part in EU foreign policy

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Last weekend, Finland’s foreign minister gathered six of his colleagues and the EU’s foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, in the frozen far reaches of Lapland for two days of talks on the future of European foreign policy.

As informal ministerial gatherings go, it was a rather jolly (if cold) affair, complete with a ‘family photo’ taken with a pair of nervous reindeer, a chance to see the northern lights and activities such as skiing, sledging and snow-mobiling. Some of the ministers even brought along their families.

What flesh will be put on the bones of an EMF?

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In the space of a few weeks, the idea of creating a European Monetary Fund to rescue financially troubled EU member states has gone from being a high-level brainwave from a pair of economists to a major policy initiative backed by powerbroker Germany. In EU terms, that’s Formula One fast.

Yet while German Chancellor Angela Merkel appears to be behind the concept, even if she has concerns about a possible need to change the EU’s treaty, no one has put much flesh on the bones of the idea apart from the original proponents — Daniel Gros of the Centre for European Policy Studies and Thomas Mayer, the chief economist of Deutsche Bank.

EU to tackle gender pay inequality

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By Sangeeta Shastry EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding

Men are still paid more than women in Europe but the European Union is promising to narrow the gap.

The executive European Commission set out its plans to address the pay gap between men and women at a news conference to coincide with International Women’s Day, saying women were on average earning only 82 percent of male rates in the EU.

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