Paul Taylor

Analysis: EU needs “who lost Italy” debate on austerity

Paul Taylor
Mar 4, 2013 06:56 UTC

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European policymakers should be asking themselves “who lost Italy” after a grassroots revolt against austerity, unemployment and the political elite caused an electoral earthquake in the euro zone’s number three economy.

Instead, most are insisting that their policy mix to fight the currency area’s debt crisis is right, even though the latest EU forecasts have pushed any prospect of meaningful economic recovery in southern Europe back into the middle distance.

A surge in support for anti-euro populist Beppe Grillo and the surprise resurrection of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on an anti-austerity platform in last week’s election have plunged Rome into political deadlock.

Italy, which had been governed by respected technocrat Mario Monti for 15 months since Berlusconi’s last government fell, is far from the worst affected by the three-year-old debt crisis.

Unemployment there stands at 11.7 percent, less than half the rate of Greece and Spain, where one of every two young people is without a job.

EU’s Barnier: banker bonus curb good for Britain

Paul Taylor
Feb 28, 2013 15:10 UTC

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Britain should welcome a cap on bankers’ bonuses agreed by European Union lawmakers on Thursday as a fair response to taxpayers’ anger over the huge cost of rescuing imprudent banks, Europe’s top financial regulator said.

EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier said he did not believe the curbs would drive banks out of the City of London, Europe’s biggest financial centre, to less regulated markets outside the European Union such as Switzerland or Singapore.

“I don’t think it is likely that banks that have an interest in working today and tomorrow in the single market will take the risk of leaving the single market simply because of this reason of the remuneration of their executives,” he said at a Reuters Summit on the future of the euro zone.

Barroso says confident UK will stay in EU

Paul Taylor
Feb 26, 2013 17:00 UTC

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Tuesday he was convinced Britain would vote to stay in the European Union if a promised referendum takes place, despite opinion polls showing a plurality in favor of leaving.

However, he also told a Reuters Summit on the future of the euro zone the EU could not revise its policies just because one country was thinking of holding a vote on continued membership.

Prime Minister David Cameron promised last month to give Britons an in-out choice on whether to remain in the 27-nation bloc if he is re-elected in 2015, after trying to negotiate a reform of EU policies to meet British concerns.

Analysis: Egypt in political clinch as economic cliff looms

Paul Taylor
Feb 19, 2013 08:07 UTC

CAIRO (Reuters) – Two years after a pro-democracy uprising, Egypt resembles a rickety bus rolling towards a cliff, its passengers too busy feuding over blame to wrench the steering wheel to safety.

Foreign exchange reserves are dwindling. Tourism is moribund. Investment is at a standstill. Subsidised diesel fuel and fertilizer are in short supply, while the cost of subsidies is swelling the budget deficit unsustainably.

The Egyptian pound has lost 14 percent of its value since the 2011 revolt. Dollars are scarce. An IMF loan that could unlock wider aid is on hold. Unemployment is rising. Public security has deteriorated, and arms smuggling is rife.

Egypt flooded tunnels to cut Gaza arms flow: aide

Paul Taylor
Feb 18, 2013 17:02 UTC

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt will not tolerate a two-way flow of smuggled arms with the Gaza Strip that is destabilizing its Sinai peninsula, a senior aide to its Islamist president said, explaining why Egyptian forces flooded sub-border tunnels last week.

The network of tunnels has been a lifeline for some 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza, bringing in an estimated 30 percent of all goods that reach the enclave and circumventing a blockade imposed by Israel for more than seven years.

But Essam Haddad, national security adviser to President Mohamed Mursi told Reuters in an interview: “We don’t want to see these tunnels used for illegal ways of smuggling either people or weapons that can really harm Egyptian security.”

Egypt currency has further to fall: business leader

Paul Taylor
Feb 17, 2013 18:52 UTC

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt has begun devaluing its currency to help revive the economy and meet the conditions of an expected IMF loan and the depreciation has further to go, a business leader in the ruling Muslim Brotherhood said on Sunday.

Hassan Malek, chairman of the Egypt Business Development Association and a senior informal adviser to President Mohamed Mursi, told Reuters the government had begun steps to cut the budget deficit and stabilize the country’s finances, but tougher measures would have to wait until after parliamentary elections expected in April.

“We have started already some increase in taxation, and there is the devaluation of the pound and we raised some prices of petrol and gas,” Malek said in an interview.

Diesel shortage pushes Egyptians to the brink

Paul Taylor
Feb 13, 2013 12:01 UTC

CAIRO, Feb 13 (Reuters) – Fathy Ali is beyond anger as he
queues for hours in a line of 64 trucks and buses to fill his
tank with scarce subsidised diesel fuel, known in Egypt as

“This has become part of my life. I come and wait for hours
or days, depending on my luck,” the chain-smoking bus driver
said at a besieged gas station on Cairo’s Suez High Road,
wrapped in a scarf and thick coat for the long ordeal. “At the
start it used to upset me a lot but now I’ve kind of given up.”

Diesel supplies are drying up as a cash-strapped government
struggles to cap a mounting bill for subsidies it has promised
the IMF it will reform to secure an elusive $4.8 billion loan
desperately needed to keep a sagging economy afloat.

U.S. concerned at “climate of impunity” in Egypt

Paul Taylor
Feb 12, 2013 17:23 UTC

CAIRO (Reuters) – The United States expressed concern on Tuesday about growing political polarization in its major ally Egypt and a “climate of impunity” over abuses by police and security forces in the most populous Arab nation.

At a news conference after a four-day visit, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Democracy and Labour Michael Posner avoided direct criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of President Mohamed Mursi.

But he said young people’s economic and political concerns, which had led to recent violent protests, should be addressed, and the government should “reach out widely” to other political and social forces and hold consultations on concerns about the Islamist-tinged constitution it pushed through in December.

U.S. says Egypt needs to move fast to fix economy

Paul Taylor
Feb 11, 2013 13:53 UTC

CAIRO (Reuters) – The United States has urged Egypt to move fast to agree a loan deal with the IMF, reform its energy sector and guarantee investors against “arbitrary acts” to avert a deeper slide in its economy.

In unusually blunt comments, U.S. Ambassador Ann Patterson said Egypt’s government and opposition must stop ignoring economic problems and work together to fix them.

“The most catastrophic path is for the government and the political leadership of the country – whether in power or in opposition – to avoid decisions, to show no leadership, to ignore the economic situation of the country,” she said in a speech delivered in Alexandria on Sunday, according to a text posted on the embassy’s website.

Islamic summit opens with calls for Syria dialogue

Paul Taylor
Feb 6, 2013 13:07 UTC

CAIRO (Reuters) – Leaders of Islamic nations called for a negotiated end to Syria’s civil war at a summit in Cairo that began on Wednesday, thrusting Egypt’s new Islamist president to center stage amid political and economic turbulence at home.

The summit of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation opened on a day when the assassination of a leading Tunisian opposition politician highlighted the fragility of “Arab Spring” democratic revolutions in North Africa.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki canceled his trip to the Cairo meeting after Shokri Belaid, a staunch secular opponent of the moderate Islamist government, was shot dead outside his home, triggering street protests.