We begin today’s collection of news political, economic, environmental, and nuclear — including the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now! — with a take on the merger de jour from Kevin Siers of the Charlotte Observer:
From the Washington Post, consequences of enserfing students:
Student debt may hurt housing recovery by hampering first-time buyers
The growing student loan burden carried by millions of Americans threatens to undermine the housing recovery’s momentum by discouraging, or even blocking, a generation of potential buyers from purchasing their first homes.
Recent improvements in the housing market have been fueled largely by investors who snapped up homes in the past few years. But that demand is waning as prices climb and mortgage rates rise. An analysis by the Mortgage Bankers Association found that loan applications for home purchases have slipped nearly 20 percent in the past four months compared with the same period a year earlier.
First-time buyers, the bedrock of the housing market, are not stepping up to fill the void. They have accounted for nearly a third of home purchases over the past year, well below the historical norm, industry figures show. The trend has alarmed some housing experts, who suspect that student loan debt is partly to blame. That debt has tripled from a decade earlier, to more than $1 trillion, while wages for young college graduates have dropped.
A decline from the Los Angeles Times:
Builder confidence down sharply in February
Builder confidence in the new home market plunged in February, a combination of debilitating weather and few lots available for construction, a trade group said.
The National Assn. of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index tumbled 10 points from January to a seasonally adjusted level of 46, the largest drop since the index launched in 1985. A level higher than 50 means more builders see the market for new, single-family homes as good rather than poor.
From the Los Angeles Times again, another decline:
Coca-Cola announces $1 billion in cuts as demand, profit slide
Coca-Cola Co., faced with tepid demand and a drop in fourth-quarter earnings, said Tuesday it was initiating a $1-billion cost-cutting campaign to improve profitability.
The world’s largest beverage company said Tuesday that profit fell 8.4% in the fourth quarter of 2013 compared with the same period a year earlier.
Investors were selling on the news. Shares of the Atlanta company were down $1.46, or nearly 4%, to $37.47 at 9 a.m. PST.
Another sort of decline from the Associated Press:
After UAW defeat, can GOP fulfill promise of jobs?
Republicans fighting a yearslong unionization effort at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee painted a grim picture in the days leading up to last week’s vote. They said if Chattanooga employees joined the United Auto Workers, jobs would go elsewhere and incentives for the company would disappear.
Now that workers have rejected the UAW in a close vote, attention turns to whether the GOP can fulfill its promises that keeping the union out means more jobs will come rolling in, the next great chapter in the flourishing of foreign auto makers in the South.
Regardless of what political consequences, if any, Republicans would face if that fails to happen, the Volkswagen vote established a playbook for denying the UAW its goal of expanding into foreign-owned plants in the region, which the union itself has called the key to its long-term future.
CNBC posits the negative:
$10.10 minimum wage could hit total employment: CBO
Raising the U.S. federal minimum wage to $10.10, as President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress are proposing, could result in about 500,000 jobs being lost by late 2016, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated on Tuesday.
The non-partisan CBO also said that increasing the hourly wage could reduce U.S. budget deficits by a small amount for several years, but then increase them slightly in later years.
The current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
Democrats who control the U.S. Senate could try to advance minimum wage legislation as early as next month.
Foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury debt hits record in December
Foreign buyers continued to increase their holdings of U.S. Treasury securities for a fifth straight month in December, even though the two largest holders of U.S. public debt trimmed their shares, U.S. Treasury Department said Tuesday.
The total foreign holdings rose to 5.79 trillion U.S. dollars in December, up 1.4 percent from that in November, showed the Treasury International Capital report. The figure surpassed the all-time high hit in March of 5.73 trillion dollars.
China, the largest foreign buyer of the Treasury debt, trimmed its holdings by 47.8 billion dollars to 1.27 trillion dollars in December, its first reduction in the past four months, the report showed.
Japan, the second largest holder, sold 3.9 billion dollars to 1. 18 trillion dollars in December, according to the figures.
Virginia county sheriff hosting anti-Muslim training by disgraced conspiracy theorist
- John Guandolo says Muslims “do not have a First Amendment right to do anything.” Now he’s instructing law officers
The Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia is planning to host a three-day training by John Guandolo, a notorious Muslim-basher and conspiracy theorist who resigned from the FBI before he could be investigated for misconduct, according to promotional materials.
It’s hard to believe that the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office would knowingly associate itself with such a disreputable character, who regularly attacks the U.S. government, claims that the director of the Central Intelligence Agency is a secret Muslim agent for the Saudi government and says that American Muslims “do not have a First Amendment right to do anything.”
Guandolo joined the bureau’s Counterterrorism Division in the wake of 9/11, but by 2005 he was posing as a driver for a “star witness” in the corruption case of former Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA). He made “inappropriate sexual advances” to that witness and soon was having an “intimate relationship…that he thought could damage an investigation.” He also unsuccessfully solicited the witness for a $75,000 donation to an organization he supported and carried on extramarital affairs with female FBI agents.
And the Los Angeles Times talks a deal:
U.S.-Mexico-Canada talks will focus on strengthening economic ties
Mexico is expected to avoid discussions about its drug-related violence and focus on its oil and gas industry, along with border and immigration issues.
Twenty years after their countries signed a landmark regional trade agreement, the presidents of the United States, Mexico and Canada will meet this week to attempt to strengthen the economic ties envisioned in that pact, correct the omissions and find ways to expand.
Trade and commerce are expected to dominate the agenda when President Obama meets with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts — President Enrique Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Stephen Harper — in the Mexican city of Toluca, just west of Mexico City, on Wednesday.
Large squads of soldiers and police were patrolling Toluca, the capital of Mexico state, and blocking off major roadways Monday. Schools in the central city were suspending classes. Leftist political parties were planning demonstrations, with several hundred people marching from Mexico City to Toluca.
EUbusiness covers another deal in the making:
EU, US reps meet ahead of free-trade talks
US Trade Ambassador Michael Froman received his European counterpart Karel De Gucht in Washington Monday, preparing for next month’s fourth round of talks on creating the world’s largest free-trade area.
The two sides have been in discussion since last year over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which aims to expand trade, investment and regulatory cooperation between the two huge economies.
Froman and De Gucht spoke briefly to reporters in Washington before two days of closed-door meetings with the EU trade commissioner, meant to take stock of progress made during three past rounds of negotiations, which wrapped up in December.
On to Europe and a call from The Guardian:
Eurozone countries should form United States of Europe, says EC vice-president
- Viviane Reding calls for full fiscal and political union for 18 eurozone countries but says UK should remain apart
A celebrated call by Winston Churchill for the creation of a “United States of Europe” was revived on Monday by a leading member of the European commission who said the 18 eurozone countries should form a full fiscal and political union.
Viviane Reding, a vice-president of the commission, told Cambridge University’s law faculty that “bold reforms” were needed to avoid tensions across Europe as new governance arrangements were introduced to stabilise the single currency.
A lop-sided take from New Europe:
EU industry: Towards an unbalanced recovery
- The output of the EU industry remains below the pre-crisis levels
The EU industry lacks of a cohesive growth as according to a report by the European Commission most sectors have still not regained their pre-crisis level of output and significant differences exist between sectors and Member States.
The data for the EU industry shows a mixed picture. The economic output of the manufacturing sector has declined significantly, but important differences between sectors remain. According to the “EU Industrial structure report 2013: Competing in Global Value Chains,” the pharmaceuticals sector has experienced sustained growth since the start of the financial crisis, while high-technology manufacturing industries have, in general, not been impacted to the same extent as other industries.
Moreover, EU manufacturing output indicates significant differences between Member States. Strong recoveries can only be seen in Romania, Poland, Slovakia and the Baltic States, which all regained and exceeded their pre-recession peaks. On the other hand, the EU manufacturing recovery remains below the pre-recession levels in 20 Member States.
The Swiss Virus: Europe Gripped by Immigration Worries
- The Swiss aren’t the only ones in Europe deeply concerned about immigration. Many across the Continent would also like to see limits placed on newcomers from elsewhere in the EU. Europe must remain firm, but right-wing populists stand to benefit.
Greeks, Italians and French blame economic policy from Brussels for their difficulties. At the same time, Germans and other Northern Europeans are afraid they will ultimately be forced to cough up for EU countries to the south. What some call “reform” and others call “austerity” is driving a wedge between Europeans. And now, the issue of free movement across the EU is being thrown into the discussion because many are concerned they could lose out on the employment market. But questioning the EU principle allowing people to choose where they wish to live and work is akin to questioning the entire European project.
On to Britain and the austerian price of a flooding disaster, via The Guardian:
Thames flood defences among schemes hit by coalition funding cuts
- Avoidable damage estimated to cost £3bn as projects at Heathrow, Dawlish and Somerset Levels delayed or downsized
Planned defences along the length of the flood-hit Thames Valley were delayed and downsized after government funding cuts following the last election, the Guardian can reveal.
The schemes, totalling millions of pounds, include projects near Heathrow, near David Cameron’s country home in Oxfordshire and in the constituency of the minister who oversaw annual flood budget cuts of almost £100m.
West Drayton, near Heathrow, the scene of significant flooding in west London, was in line for £2.8m of funding to build up concrete and earth bank defences by 2014-15. But following budget cuts, the Arklyn Kennels scheme was downgraded to a £1m scheme and delayed until at least 2018-19.
At Penton Hook, on the Thames near flood-affected Staines in Surrey, a £5.6m dredging scheme was due to be completed by the end of March 2014, but has received just £2m to date. The scheme was also intended to clean up a site where contaminated silt dredged from the river was dumped.
From New Europe, a warning:
Reding: UK would lose influence outside EU
European Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding warned that the EU would lose influence outside the EU and that all the talk of opt-out by the British government distracts from the real issue which is to find solutions for the EU economy.
“The truth is, outside the EU, the UK would lose influence. If the UK were to leave the EU, it would no longer be able to influence EU regulation. It would have to live with the rules decided on by the other EU countries,” Reding told an audience in Cambridge on February 17.
“To get access to the Single Market, you have to apply its rules. Just ask the Norwegians. It’s difficult to see why the other Member States would grant the UK unfettered access to their markets without requiring it to apply the EU’s rules,” she added.
The federalist Commissioner also added that the rhetoric of David Cameron’s Conservatives – who want to renegotiate Britain’s EU membership and have promised a referendum on the issue in 2017 should they win the next election – distracts from the real issues facing the bloc.
And from CNNMoney, the latest instance of Banksters Behaving Badly:
Ex-Barclays bankers charged with Libor rigging
Prosecutors have charged three former Barclays bankers in connection with the rigging of global interest rates.
The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office, which prosecutes complex cases of fraud, said Monday that it’s started criminal proceedings against Peter Charles Johnson, Jonathan James Mathew and Stylianos Contogoulas in connection with manipulating the London interbank offered rate, or Libor.
All three have been charged with conspiring to defraud between June 2005 and August 2007.
Pondering a change of course with the London Telegraph:
Interest rate rise ‘a last resort’ to cool housing market
- David Miles, a member of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), describes rate rises as a “blunt tool” that will only be used if other policies fail
The Bank of England will only use interest rate rises to cool the housing market if its financial stability toolkit is “not up to the job”, one of its policymakers has said.
David Miles, an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), said rate rises were a “big stick” that would only be used as a last resort.
“We do have, as the last line of defence, the blunt instrument, the big stick of interest rates,” he told Bloomberg TV. “If you did get into a situation where the tools that the Financial Policy Committee (FPC) have seem not up to the job of stopping overheating in the housing market, we would then turn to the blunter instrument of using bank rate.
“We’re a long way from that.”
The Guardian delivers a jeremiad:
New Catholic cardinal renews attack on ‘disgraceful’ UK austerity cuts
- Roman Catholic archbishop Vincent Nichols, who is to be made a cardinal by Pope Francis, inundated with messages of support
The leader of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales says he has been inundated with messages of support after branding the government’s austerity programme a disgrace for leaving so many people in destitution.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4′s Today programme to mark his imminent appointment as a cardinal by Pope Francis, Archbishop Vincent Nichols expanded upon his comments to the Telegraph when he criticised the government’s welfare reforms as “punitive”.
“The voices that I hear express anger and despair … Something is going seriously wrong when, in a country as affluent as ours, people are left in that destitute situation and depend solely on the handouts of the charity of food banks,” Nichols said.
In his Telegraph interview, published on Saturday, Nichols accused ministers of tearing apart the safety net that protects people from hunger and destitution. He said since he made those comments he had been “inundated with accounts from people … saying there are indeed many cases where people are left without benefits, without any support, for sometimes weeks on end”.
On to Sweden and a case of that Swiss fever from TheLocal.se:
Roma migrants evicted from Stockholm site
Officials evicted all remaining Romanian migrants from a campsite in southern Stockholm on Monday morning, just days after over 100 campers were given a free bus ride home.
The Swedish Enforcement Agency (Kronofogden) carried out the eviction in Högdalen, a suburb in the southern reaches of Stockholm, at 9am on Monday, just days after a bus load of the campers went home.
“All I know is that it’s more or less empty,” Henrik Brånstad, spokesman at the agency, told the TT news agency. “Many have apparently moved to other places while others have jumped at the chance of a bus ride home to Romania.”
Over 100 EU-migrants accepted the bus tickets home, many of whom had earned money begging in the Swedish capital. One of the buses crashed in southern Sweden on Sunday morning on the way to Bucharest. Only the driver was injured.
Rumbles from the right head to court with TheLocal.se:
First charges filed for Stockholm Nazi attack
Seven people were charged on Monday in the wake of a neo-Nazi attack on anti-racist demonstrators in Stockholm last year. But prosecutors say more indictments are on the way.
Charges were filed on Monday against people who took part in a violent riot in Stockholm’s Kärrtorp suburb in December last year. Four of the suspects were charged with violent rioting (våldsamt upplopp) and hate speech (hets mot folkgrupp) and another three were charged with instigating violent rioting. According to the indictment, several of those charged threw bottles, rocks, and firecrackers.
“There will be more charges filed than just these, altogether there were around 30 people detained after the demonstration,” Ulf Sundström of the Söderort police told the TT news agency.
And TheLocal.se, and a word for the teacher:
Teacher salaries too low in Sweden: OECD
Teacher salaries in Sweden are lower than in countries with higher–performing schools, according to an extra OECD evaluation requested by the government on the heels of Sweden’s dismal performance in the latest Pisa rankings.
“The quality of an education system can never exceed the quality of its teachers,” Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s Deputy Director of Education and Skills, told reporters at a press briefing in Stockholm on Tuesday.
“In higher-performing countries, teachers have higher salaries but also clear career possibilities.”
The analysis, which marks the first time ever that Sweden has asked the OECD for extra help in evaluating its school system, also found that Sweden has relatively high costs per student, with only nine other OECD countries spending more money per pupil.
The Associated Press covers a Norwegian whiner:
Breivik hunger strike threat: wants bigger gym
Convicted Norwegian mass-killer Anders Behring Breivik has threatened to go on hunger strike unless he gets access to better video games, a sofa and a larger gym.
In a letter received by The Associated Press Tuesday, Breivik writes the hunger strike will continue until his demands are met or he dies. Breivik’s lawyer Tord Jordet confirmed the letter was authentic and said his client is waiting for a response from prison authorities before starting the hunger strike.
Breivik is serving a 21-year prison sentence, which can be extended when it expires, for killing 77 people in bomb and gun massacres in 2011.
Among his demands, Breivik wants the lifting of restrictions on communications and improved air conditions. He wants the available PlayStation 2 console replaced by a modern version.
Germany next and a call for a New Deal from Deutsche Welle:
IW think tank urges change in German investment policy
A leading German economic think tank has announced that massive investments in infrastructure are needed so as not to lose out to competitors. The institute found many companies were worried about possible disadvantages.
In its study released Monday, the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW) said despite a relatively good infrastructure many companies polled were increasingly worried about a deterioration of the country’s road network.
They also voiced concerns about the future state of the energy grid, with the shift to renewables currently posing enormous problems and a necessary expansion of the network facing community-level resistance.
Companies also worried about broadband Internet connections not being created fast enough in all regions. About two-thirds of the 2,800 firms polled reported that they were already experiencing disadvantages as a result of infrastructure problems.
The research institute calculated that all in all some 120 billion euros ($164.6 billion) would have to be invested into infrastructure over the next 10 years, to be spent evenly on road maintenance and extension, the broadband communications network and the national energy grid, with a major new north-south line.
From TheLocal.de, a cartel cabal busted:
Sugar giants fined €280m for price fixing
German consumers have been paying over the odds for sugar for years, it emerged on Tuesday, when authorities fined Germany’s three biggest sugar firms €280 million for illegally fixing prices.
Pfeiler & Langen, Südzucker and Nordzucker, along with seven unnamed individuals were found to have been fixing prices, sales territories and quotas between them for many years, the Federal Cartel Office in Bonn said.
The three German sugar producers agreed on various strategies between them aimed at pushing up sugar prices across the board, whether they sold to households or the food industry.
The manufacturers agreed “to keep to their traditional sales territories and not get in the way of the other cartel members,” said Cartel Office president Andreas Mundt in a statement.
And Europe Online notes a decline:
German investor confidence posts surprise fall in February
German investor confidence posted a surprise decline in February over concerns of a slowdown in the United States and uncertainties in emerging economies, a key survey showed Tuesday.
The closely watched indicator gauging the mood among analysts and institutional investors slipped to 55.7 from 61.7 in January, the Mannheim-based ZEW institute said.
While Spiegel covers blowback:
Child Porn Investigation: Merkel Cabinet Rife with Suspicion and Mistrust
It is a disastrous start for Angela Merkel’s new government: After details of a child pornography investigation were leaked, a cabinet member was forced to resign. Now, the chancellor’s new cabinet is consumed by backbiting and mistrust.
Deutsche Welle notes another downside to the German miracle:
Study: Eastern Europeans underpaid in Germany
- Massive poverty-driven migration from Eastern Europe? Recent studies suggest a different situation: More than half of all immigrants from these countries have good credentials, but work for low wages in Germany.
The Employment Agency’s statistics show that a far larger percentage of Eastern Europeans receive low wages than their German counterparts do. In December 2012, around 52 percent were paid low-wage salaries, meaning they earned less than two-thirds of the country’s average income. The share of such workers among Germans makes up just under 20 percent.
At the same time, the educational level of immigrants keeps rising, says Nina Neubecker from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW): “We found that those who moved to Germany after 2004 are considerably more qualified than immigrants from years in the past.”
Neubecker says her research revealed that two thirds of Eastern European immigrants hold a university degree or have completed a vocational training course. She also found that a significant part of Romanians and Bulgarians who moved to Germany after 2007 carry out jobs not requiring their level of education. Depending on the method used, estimates of the proportion of these overqualified immigrant workers range from 40 to 58 percent.
And a call to chill from Deutsche Welle:
Merkel calls on EU to remain calm after controversial Swiss referendum curbing immigration
German Chancellor Merkel has called on EU states to remain calm after a controversial Swiss referendum which limits the number of immigrants within its borders. The comments followed a meeting with the Swiss president.
Chancellor Merkel warned fellow EU members against “rashly breaking” relations with Bern. “It can’t be that because one side did something in one specific area that the other side says nothing works in other areas,” she said, referring to Brussels’ retaliatory moves.
“The challenge will now be that we deal with the results in a way that relations between the European Union and Switzerland remain as intense as possible with respect for the referendum,” Merkel added.
Merkel and Burkhalter also reaffirmed their commitment toward maintaining German-Swiss ties. The current bilateral trade volume is worth roughly 75 billion euros ($103 billion) and some 350,000 Germans are employed in Switzerland.
On to France and a fear from TheLocal.fr:
French TV execs want protection from Netflix
French TV executives have asked to meet with top leaders to plead for “urgent measures” that would guard them against the pending arrival of video service Netflix and tech giants like Google.
The heads of France’s three largest private television networks have asked the government to protect them from US competitors like Google, Apple and Netflix who are set to enter the market.
The bosses of TF1, Canal+ and M6, alarmed by the impending arrival of the American tech giants, have sought a meeting with Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti to discuss “urgent measures” to reform the sector.
“It is not an economic crisis that is being faced by TF1, Canal+ and M6 but a rapid sectoral change,” Nonce Paolini, Bertrand Meheut and Nicolas de Tavernost said in the letter written last week and seen by AFP on Monday.
And another Roma tragedy from TheLocal.fr:
Blaze ravages another Roma camp in France
Fire raged through a Roma camp in Marseille on Sunday, just days after a blaze in a Paris area Roma camp killed an eight-year-old girl. Following that deadly fire the local mayor said it was time France dismantled its slums.
No one was hurt in the latest fire on Sunday morning, but all 15 makeshift homes near the Marseille port were completely destroyed, said the local fire brigade in a statement.
“Preliminary investigations suggest the fire was started accidentally,” a judicial source told AFP.
Around 45 people who were in the camp will now be housed by authorities in a hotel for the next week, but their future is in doubt since the local government was on the verge of evicting them.
Switzerland next and blowback from TheLocal.ch:
EU freezes research and student exchange funds
In a tit-for-tat retaliation, the European Union has frozen research grants for Swiss universities worth hundreds of millions of euros and suspended the involvement of Switzerland in the Erasmus student exchange programme.
A spokesman for the EU announced the freeze on Sunday, a day after after Bern announced it had refused to sign a deal opening labour market access to Croatia, the ATS news agency reported.
The Swiss government said it was unable to ink the deal because of the February 9th referendum decision to scrap the freedom of movement of labour agreement with the EU and impose immigration quotas.
But Brussels considers that Horizon 2020, an €80-billion research and innovation programme spread over seven years (2014-2020), and Erasmus, are tied to the free movement of people accord, ATS said.
More blowback from TheLocal.ch:
Moody’s: Swiss migrant vote ‘credit negative’
Curbs on immigration from the European Union will hurt Switzerland’s economy and its banking sector, ratings agency Moody’s said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
Swiss voters on February 9th supported an initiative to reintroduce quotas on immigrants from the EU in a move that has already led to retaliation from the 28-country bloc.
“Limiting immigration is likely to affect the country’s growth potential, wealth and overall economic strength,” Moody’s said, noting that the effect of the vote was “credit negative”.
The agency noted that Switzerland has benefited over the past decade from the “strong inflow of highly qualified workers”.
And from RT, tucked in for the night:
Swiss jets not scrambled over hijacked plane because ‘airbases closed at night’
An incident with a highjacked Ethiopian passenger jet has exposed the Swiss Air Force’s inability to deal with threats in ‘off-duty’ hours. An emergency escort to the aircraft in distress was carried out by vigilant colleagues from Italy and France.
Early on Monday morning, an Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot told ground control he had highjacked flight ET-702 from Addis Ababa to Rome and was going to land in Geneva. The Swiss Air Force was caught off guard and missed a rare opportunity to go on a real mission. It turned out that they were unable to scramble any jets because they only work during office hours!
“Switzerland cannot intervene because its airbases are closed at night and on the weekend,” Swiss Air Force spokesman, Laurent Savary, commented to AFP later on, adding that it is “a question of budget and staffing.”
According to Laurent Savary, the Swiss Air Force operates during office hours only, specifically from 8am until a lunch break at noon. A return to cockpits happens at 1:30 pm and they watch over Switzerland’s skies until 5pm.
Spain next, and blowback from anti-immigrant violence of another kind from El País:
Immigration law change in works: interior minister
- Rajoy defends civil guards’ reaction to tragic Ceuta stampede
- Brussels denies receiving Spain’s request for border help
Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz on Tuesday announced that the Popular Party (PP) government is preparing a change in the immigration law to help civil guards facing mass attempts by migrants to cross the border into the Spanish North African exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.
“The law is not designed for events such as the stampedes in Ceuta and Melilla,” Fernández Díaz said in the halls of the Senate after a tense session. “It is not the same as controlling the border at Barajas or Melilla [airports]. We are working on a reform to control the borders, so that the Civil Guard has adequate regulations to confront these situations.”
Earlier in the upper house he and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy vigorously defended the actions of civil guards at the Ceuta security fence on February 6, when 15 sub-Saharan migrants died as a result of a mass attempt to cross the border during which rubber bullets were fired.
TheLocal.es has a deal for you:
Spain rolls out plans to flog off failed bank
Spain will sell its stake in bailed-out bank Bankia in stages over two or three years, its president said in an interview published on Sunday.
Bankia became the symbol of Spain’s financial crisis when it lost more than €19 billion ($26 billion) in 2012 and pushed the government to ask its eurozone partners for €41 billion in rescue loans to shore up the entire banking system.
Under the terms of the European Union’s 2012 bailout, the Spanish government has until 2017 to sell its 68 percent stake in Bankia.
“It would be reasonable for the privatization process to be similar to what is being carried out with Lloyds. That is, that it be carried out in phases and take two or three years,” Bankia president Jose Ignacio Goirigolzarri said in an interview published in daily newspaper ABC.
Europe Online covers another record:
Spain’s public debt at record high
Spain’s public debt has risen to its highest level since records began, data released on Monday showed, with the country posting an unprecedented deficit of 961.6 billion euros (1.3 trillion dollars) at the end of 2013.
The debt level marks an 8.7-per-cent increase on the previous year’s figure, the Bank of Spain revealed on Monday.
It represents around 94 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), which is slightly higher than the Spanish government’s 2013 target of 94.2 per cent.
El País covers departures:
- Some Spanish firms are abandoning China because of the problems of doing business there
“The wave of news stories about the rise in the Chinese market is creating a very distorted image of what it means to do business in this country and the risks involved.” This is the opinion of the director of a big Spanish industrial company with a presence in China. The director spoke on the condition that he was not named. “Currently, although the opposite image is given, very few Spanish companies are making a profit in China, and many are having great problems finding room for themselves in a particularly difficult market,” the director says.
Cases such as those of Revlon and Garnier, which this year decided to pull out of China, have shown that such problems are common to all foreign companies, although the idea persists that Spanish firms are finding it particularly difficult because they “lack the right background and financial resources.”
“Many companies are reaching desperation point. Traditional markets are not working and they’re convinced that anyone can make money in China. But they limit themselves to putting an intern in a business center and hoping for results that obviously will never come,” says the director, who is a leading member of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. “The problem of human resources is a major one: they don’t invest enough in personnel, there is a lack of talent and the turnaround in staff is one of the highest in the world.”
On to Lisbon and a caution from the Portugal News:
‘Crisis not over’ – finance minister
Portugal’s finance minister, Maria Luís Albuquerque, said on Monday in Brussels, that one of the country’s biggest challenges was not to be tempted to give up on budget discipline because it felt the worst part of the crisis was over.
Maria Luís Albuquerque, who was speaking at an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) meeting before a Eurogroup meeting, said that “ among the reforms being implemented across Europe, the banking union was clearly the priority for Portugal”, since the current “credit conditions are a very negative factor for the competitiveness of Portuguese companies and the economy as a whole”.
Noting that the structural reforms, one of the topics of the seminar, are also high on the agenda, and there were reasons to be satisfied with the results, but added that there was “still a lot more work ahead”.
Italy next and a change at the top from ANSA:
Renzi handed govt mandate, sets ambitious reform goals
- Premier-designate eying one major reform every month till May
Democratic Party (PD) leader Matteo Renzi set ambitious reform targets on Monday after being given a mandate to try to form a government from Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.
Renzi, 39, is set to become Italy’s youngest-ever premier after torpedoing the coalition administration of his PD colleague Enrico Letta last week over his lack of progress with much-needed institutional reforms and measures to revive the troubled economy.
Italy is slowly emerging from its longest postwar recession, but it is still ravaged by unemployment of over 12% with over four in 10 under-25s out of work. Constitutional changes are also needed to streamline government and reduce the cost of the country’s expensive, slow-moving political system.
Les than enthused with TheLocal.it:
Italians think Renzi takeover is ‘pointless’
Matteo Renzi was nominated as Italy’s new prime minister on Monday after a “palace coup” which saw Enrico Letta resign from the leadership. But a new poll has found that few Italians believe it is a positive political move.
Just 31 percent of Italians think replacing Letta with Renzi, who aged just 39 is set to be Italy’s youngest-ever prime minister, is positive, an Ipsos poll on Sunday found.
While 23 percent found the move outright wrong, 26 percent said it was “pointless” while 15 percent found the current situation “absurd”.
Still more enthusiasm absent from ANSA:
Fitch keeps outlook negative, ‘Renzi faces same problems’
- Letta’s resignation highlights ‘volatility of Italian politics’
Ratings agency Fitch said Monday it was keeping a negative outlook for Italy with a BBB+ rating, saying premier-designate Matteo Renzi “will probably have the same problems as his predecessor” in pushing through reforms if he manages to form a new government.
Fitch said the resignation of outgoing Premier Enrico Letta on Friday highlighted the “volatility of Italian politics” pointing out that Renzi was set to be the country’s fourth premier since November 2011.
A plutocratic spat from the London Telegraph:
Tycoons quarrel over Italy’s young jobless
- Two of Italy’s business heavyweights have gone to war over the country’s soaring levels of youth unemployment
- Italy’s youth unemployment reached a record 41.6pc in January
Diego Della Valle, head of the Tod’s luxury leather goods empire, launched a blistering attack on John Elkann, the president of the Fiat auto giant, after Mr Elkann said Italy’s young unemployed had no desire to look for work.
Mr Della Valle, the colourful entrepreneur known for his exuberant ties and gold-tinted spectacles, labelled Mr Elkann an “imbecile” after a week of bitter exchanges between the two.
Unhappy other from TheLocal.it:
Desperate business owners march on Rome
An estimated 60,000 Italians protested in central Rome on Tuesday, calling for greater action to save the millions of small- and medium-sized businesses which employ almost half the country’s workforce.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo on Tuesday; a collective army of business owners demanding the government do more to stem the worrying rise in bankruptcies.
“Without business there is no Italy,” was the slogan of the day, organized by the Italian Enterprise Network (Rete Imprese Italia) along with a number of business associations.
Among a series of demands was an overhaul of the tax system, often described as a barrier to growth with such high rates many Italians simply evade their tax duties.
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