The Great Debate UK
-Jane Foley is research director at Forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.-
Next month’s UK general election is not the only one of significance in Europe. There is the possibility that the German regional elections in North Rhine-Westphalia on May 9 could result in the end of the CDU/FDP government’s majority in the upper house of parliament.
While this would not alter Angela Merkel’s status as Chancellor, lessened support would make it more difficult for her to implement planned tax cuts and health services reforms. Fear that she may lose support in NRW is currently delaying the transfer of a German loan to Greece. In turn this means the markets are bracing themselves for a possible default in Greece; an event which could change the present composition of the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union.
German popular opinion is firmly set against the notion of providing loans to Greece; although Germany as the largest EU economy is obliged to lend around 8.4 billion euros to Greece very soon to help the latter avoid default. While the election in NRW will not be fought on the subject of Greece it does give an added edge to concerns about lack of fiscal manoeuvrability in the region.
The more the scandal of Catholic priests sexually abusing boys in Germany spreads, the more the focus turns to Rome to see how Pope Benedict reacts. The story is getting ever closer to the German-born pope, even though he has been quite outspoken denouncing these scandals and had just met all Irish bishops to discuss the scandals shaking their country. Nobody's saying he had any role in the abuse cases now coming to light in Germany. But the fact that some took place in Regensburg while he was a prominent theologian there, that his brother Georg has admitted to smacking lazy members of his choir there and that Benedict was archbishop in Munich from 1977 to 1982 lead to the classic cover-up question: what did he know and when did he know it?
Britons have never really got the euro zone. "Its not really going to happen, is it?" was a typical question from a City analyst to Reuters back in the mid-90s. The political drive behind the creation of the monetary union was beyond many in eurosceptic Britain.
So the results of a straw poll at an event sponsored by independent City advisers Lombard Street Research were somewhat suprising. A hundred or so mainly British investors were asked whether the euro would be around in five years with its current membership. Response was about 80 percent saying yes to 20 percent saying no.
-Jane Foley is research director of Forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.-
Germany’s Finance Ministry this week denied a report in Le Monde that Germany, France and other countries were working on a package to rescue Greece. It seems that for now the official line from the grandfathers of European Monetary Union is that Greece can sort out its own budget deficit. The official line from the Greek government is much the same; it continues to maintain that it doesn’t need a bailout.
-John Reid, formerly the UK Defence Secretary and Home Secretary, is MP for Airdrie and Shotts, and Chairman of the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies at University College, London. The opinions expressed are his own. -
The fall of the Berlin Wall, on November 9, 1989, was one of history’s truly epochal moments. During what became a revolutionary wave sweeping across the former Eastern Bloc countries, the announcement by the then-East German Government that its citizens could visit West Germany set in train a series of events that led, ultimately, to the demise of the Soviet Union itself.
Twenty years on, what is most striking to me are the massive, enduring ramifications of the events of November 1989. Only several decades ago, the Cold War meant that the borders of the Eastern Bloc were largely inviolate; extremist religious groups and ethnic tensions were suppressed, there was no internet (at least as we know it today) and travel between East and West was difficult. The two great Glaciers of the Cold War produced a frozen hinterland characterised by immobility.
Germans have voted for change. A centre-right government with a clear parliamentary majority will replace the ungainly grand coalition of conservatives and Social Democrats that ran Europe's biggest economy for the last four years.
This should mean an end to "steady as she goes" lowest common denominator policies, and at least some reform of the country's tax and welfare system. The liberal Free Democrats, who recorded their best ever result with around 14.7 percent, will try to pull the new government towards tax cuts, health care reform, a reduction in welfare spending and a loosening of job protection in small business.
Has this been dullest German election campaign in decades or the most exciting? Has the battle for power in Berlin between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier that concludes with Sunday’s election been a memorable showdown or a forgettably boring contest?
Many journalists, pundits and voters have complained it’s all been a merciless bore compared to the high-octane battles of the past with little action and precious few highlights.
No longer just a hopeless cause for anti-capitalist activists, the idea of a global tax on financial transactions is gaining ground in Europe.
European Union leaders could not agree to put it on the agenda of this week's G20 summit on reforming the financial system in Pittsburgh, but the leaders of France, Germany and the European Commission endorsed the concept.
More strikingly, the head of Britain's Financial Services Authority, which regulates the world's second biggest banking centre, said last month that such a levy could help shrink a swollen financial sector.
from Global News Journal:
Founded by computer geeks in Sweden in 2006 and now active in 33 countries, the Pirate Party is hoping to win over young, disaffected voters in Germany's federal election on Sept. 27 with demands to reform copyright and patent laws along with their policies that oppose internet censorship and surveillance. But do the single-issue activists, with no stance on foreign policy or the economy, even have the faintest hope of overcoming the five percent hurdle needed to enter parliament?
This looks unlikely given the 0.9 percent of the vote they won at the European parliamentary elections in June. Nonethless, the Piratenpartei with more than 8,000 members is the fastest growing party in Germany, a development partly sparked by the German parliament's ratification of controversial legislation on blocking certain websites in a bid to fight child pornography.
Lord Mandelson was in buoyant mood on Thursday night.
The future ownership of British car-maker Vauxhall had finally been decided. U.S. giant General Motors agreed to sell its European unit — which includes Vauxhall — to Canadian car parts maker Magna and its Russian backers. According to Mandelson, this was good news for the Vauxhall’s 5,000 British workers as it removed the uncertainty over their futures. Everyone can get back to work making cars and live happily ever after.