Category Archives: Europe

Will Pirates soon take the helm in Iceland?


That’s a real possibility, after conservatives failed to form a government coalition to head the parliament in the nation with the world’s oldest parliament.

And that could mean the next prime minister could be Birgitta Jónsdóttir [previously], cofounder of Iceland’s Pirate Party [Píratapartýið], and a woman who calls herself a poetician.

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Prate Party co-founder and, possibly, the next Prime Minister of Iceland.

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Prate Party co-founder and, possibly, the next Prime Minister of Iceland.

From RT:

The Pirate Party in Iceland, who won seats in parliament earlier this year, have been asked to try to assemble a government coalition, after two other parties with more seats failed to do so.

The radical Pirate Party, headed by Birgitta Jonsdottir, was asked to form a government with other parties by the country’s president, Gudni Johannesson, AP reported Friday, citing the president’s office.

The two parties who came first and second in the parliamentary election in late October, the Independence Party and the Left-Greens, respectively, had already held talks to assemble a coalition, but to no avail. No party won an outright majority in the election.

Prime Minister Sigmurdur Ingi Johannsson of the Progressive Party takes part in a debate ahead of parliamentary elections in Iceland, October 28, 2016. © Geirix Iceland PM resigns as Pirate Party makes election gains

The Pirate Party, founded four years ago by a group of internet activists and hackers, came third in the election, having won 10 out of 63 seats in the nation’s parliament. They will now have to negotiate with four other parties, both centrists and left-wingers.

According to Jonsdottir, the main issues on the agenda for the island nation are health care reforms and fishing rights, which have become sticking points for the lawmakers trying to form a coalition. The country has also suffered from troubles in its economy, after its banks collapsed during the 2008 global financial crisis.

Chart of the Day: European celebratory isolation


blog-drinks

From Eurostat, which reports:

13.0% of the population aged 16 or over living in the European Union (EU) reported in 2014 not being able to get together with friends/family for a drink or meal at least once a month due to lack of resources, while 17.8% could not afford to regularly participate in a leisure activity.

Working age people (aged 25 to 64) were slightly more affected. The shares in this age group stood at 13.9% and 19.6% respectively, while they were 11.0% and 16.3% for young people (aged 16 to 24) and 11.2% and 13.5% for the elderly (aged 65 or over).

Around one third of the population in Hungary (36.5%), Romania (35.7%) and Bulgaria (30.0%) said they could not afford to get together with friends/family for a drink/meal at least once a month. High shares were also observed in Greece (20.7%), Malta (19.2%), Ireland (18.4%) and Lithuania (17.4%). The elderly in Romania are particularly affected: in the age group over 65, the share there reaches 43.0%. In Hungary, the share is higher among the young (40.0%).

At the opposite end the scale, the share was below 1% in all age groups in Sweden. Less than 5% of the population feel unable to get together with friends/family for a drink/meal at least once a month also in Finland (1.5%), Denmark (3.2%), the Netherlands (3.3%), the Czech Republic (3.4%) and Luxembourg (4.1%).

Economy: Spain’s Millennials live with parents


While Eurocrats have hailed Spain’s “recovery” from the Great Recession, lauding themselves for accomplishing a miracle with bailout loans from the International Monetary Fund, and European Central Bank, the reality is quite different.

The draconian austerity regime dictated by the by the financial oligarchs effectively destroyed the futures of millions of young Spaniards.

From El País:

For the first time in 12 years, less than 20% of people aged between 16 and 30 are living outside the family home. In the second quarter of 2016, the figure was 19.6%, a 4.84% increase on the period in 2015, says Spain’s Youth Council. It adds that of those who have managed to leave their parents, only 16.7% are living alone.

The official unemployment rate among the under-30s is 34.4%, but the reality is that only two out of every 10 under-24s is working, and more than 55% of them are on short-term contracts, while 60% are earning less than €1,000 a month.

Victor Reloba, of the Youth Council, says that while unemployment has fallen slightly, young people are unable to leave the family home because even if they are in work, they will likely be on zero-hours contracts, short-term contracts, or earning money from a number of different activities. “One in four young people is poor,” he explains.

Most under-30s who have managed to leave home are living in shared accommodation with two or more other people.

Chart of the day: The collapse of Greek retailers


From Elstat, the Hellenic Statistical Authority:

blog-greece

While Greece’s retail trades, the bulwark of the middle class, have continued to fall since the start of the Great Recession, the lenders of the Troika continue to battle over terms of the next round of bailout cash, even though Greece has already sold much of its public holdings [rail and transit systems, ports, and even islands] while imposing draconian pay and pension cuts while downsizing its civil service.

From Greek Reporter:

The “serious disagreement between the IMF and European institutions” puts the chances of Greece’s economic recovery at risk, said Bank of Greece governor Yiannis Stournaras on Monday.

Stournaras spoke about the Greek economy at the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce conference and talked about the crucial negotiations on the second bailout program review. He warned that “a possible failure to reach an agreement could halt the upward trend of the economy, resulting in the return to uncertainty and would undermine confidence.” He said that the disagreement between euro zone partners and the International Monetary Fund on debt relief measures is pushing back decisions.

The central bank chief urged Greece’s European partners to make decisions on the measures that will ensure the long-term sustainability of the state debt and reduce the target for the primary surplus to 2% of GDP from 3.5%, in order to enhance the prospects of growth.

Stournaras said that,  Despite the mistakes and setbacks, despite the significant economic and social costs of the crisis, Greece has made significant progress over the last six years in terms of budget adjustments and external imbalances.”

However, he said, the harsh measures Greek governments have implemented and the burden Greek people have shouldered are at serious risk. “Despite positive forecasts for the second half of 2016 and 2017, serious risks for the Greek economy still lurk. The main danger is a possible failure to reach an agreement for the second evaluation of the program and delays or setbacks in the implementation.”

More from To Vima:

The head of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem argued that European lenders should be “realistic” in the fiscal targets they set for Greece after 2018, when the program of financial aid will end.

“We need to be realistic” Jeroen Dijsselbloem told the economic affairs committee of the European Parliament, saying that the International Monetary Fund has a point when it says “running a primary surplus of 3.5 percent for a very long time is a huge thing to ask”.

Dijsselbloem’s remarks come a few days before a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels on 5 December, when Europe’s Finance Ministers are set to decide for how long Greece should maintain a primary budget surplus – which excludes debt servicing costs – of 3.5% after 2018, when its current program of financial aid expires.

Even Barack Obama, who has otherwise shown himself a faithful apostle of neoliberal “reforms,” is calling for the banksters to back off and give the beleaguered Greeks some measure of debt relief.

And well he should, considering that it was the avarice of Wall Street banksters who caused the crash in the first place.

Swiss reject quick phaseout of nuclear power plants


A followup to yesterday’s story, via Deutsche Welle:

In a referendum, Swiss voters came out against a quick phaseout of nuclear power. The main institutional opponents of the measure were the government and energy companies.

Voters have decided against a timetable that would see Switzerland stop using nuclear power by 2029. A projection by public broadcaster SRF showed a 55 percent rejection of the referendum with votes from eight of 26 cantons counted.

A majority of cantons voted against the plan in Sunday’s referendum. According to the Swiss direct democracy system, proposals require a majority of both cantons and votes to pass.

Promoted by the Green Party, the proposal would have called on the government to close three of the country’s five nuclear power plants next year and phase out nuclear energy production in the remaining plants by 2029. Switzerland adopted a plan calling for a gradual transition away from nuclear energy but which also allowed for nuclear plants to operate as long as they were deemed safe.

Swiss to vote Sunday on nuke shutdown speedup


Will Swiss voters opt for a sunset on all nuclear power plants in their Alpine republic?

We’ll know the answer soon as voters head to the polls Sunday to decide on a measure which would set an end date for the shutdown of the nation’s nuclear power plants.

From TheLocal.ch:

Swiss voters will head to the polls on Sunday to decide whether or not to speed up the process of phasing out the country’s nuclear power plants. Switzerland has already vowed to do so but a “yes” vote would force three of its five reactors to close next year.

Just a few months after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant was wrecked in the March 2011 tsunami disaster, Switzerland decided to gradually close its nuclear plants, but without setting a clear timeline.

The government’s plan was to decommission Switzerland’s five ageing reactors, which today produce around a third of the country’s electricity, as they reached the end of their safe operational lifespan.

But all of Switzerland’s nuclear plants have open-ended operating licences, meaning they can continue operating as long as they are deemed safe. That was not good enough for Switzerland’s Green Party, which five years
ago launched the initiative that comprises Sunday’s vote, calling for the reactors to run no longer than 45 years.

Without a clear time limit, “you have to wait until there is a breakdown or an incident before you can close the nuclear plants”, spokesman for the initiative Mathias Schlegel told AFP in an email.

Trump’s not Adolf Hitler, says Noam Chomsky


While Adolj Hitler was a sincere, dedicated ideologue, Donald Trump is a thing-skinned megalomaniac, firing off tweets at 3 a.m. when anyone angers him, says Noam Chomsky in this extended interview with Al Jazeera.

And in some ways he’s worse: “The most predictable aspect of Trump is unpredictability. I think it’s dangerous, very dangerous.”

And in many ways, he says, it’s the Republican Party itself that’s the greatest threat to humanity’s future.

Topics covered include the failure of the news media to cover real issues, climate change, Barack Obama’s assassination program, NATO and threats to peace in Eastern Europe, and more

From Al Jazeera English’s UpFront:

Noam Chomsky on the new Trump era