Category Archives: Europe

Spain probes Goggle tax dodging allegations

And some good news for leakers who exposed other tax-dodging multinationals.

But first the main story, via El País:

Spanish tax officials raided Google’s Madrid offices on Thursday as part of an ongoing investigation, with the internet company saying it was cooperating with local authorities.

A spokeswoman for Google said in a brief statement the company complied with fiscal legislation in Spain just as it did in all countries where it operated, adding that the company was working with authorities to answer all questions.

The search is linked to an investigation in to possible tax evasion. Google’s complex system of tax payments has been under scrutiny by the Spanish tax authorities for several years, which suspects it could be reducing its tax burden in Spain by channeling some income through Ireland.

The Spanish Tax Agency opened an investigation into Google’s tax affairs in 2011. The company’s Spanish affiliate was paying virtually no taxes and had even declared a loss for the previous tax year. The company eventually agreed to pay an extra €1.9 million on its 2007 and 2008 statements and the case was closed.

The European Commission has also been investigating Google’s tax affairs, and the company faces other probes throughout Europe. Google’s Paris offices were raided in May by French tax inspectors, who say the company owes €1.6 billion.

No prison for leakers who exposed tax dodgers

It’s a good news/bad news story, with the good news being that they’ll not serve time, and the bad news being that they were still convicted — although the journalist who received their leaks was no charged, the only unalloyed good news in the story.

From Radio France Internationale:

Two French whistleblowers have been given suspended sentences and a journalist acquitted in the Luxleaks trial over revelations of tax-dodging deals between multinational companies and the Luxembourg authorities. Their lawyers had already declared their intention to appeal, claiming that their clients acted in the public interest.

Antoine Deltour, 31, Raphaël Halet, 40, were found guilty of leaking documents belonging to their former employer Price Waterhouse Coopers but journalist Edouard Perrin, who broke the story in the French TV programme Cash Investigation, was found not guilty.

Deltour was given a 12-month suspended prison sentence and a 1,500-euro fine, while Halet was given a nine-month suspended sentence and a 1,000-euro fine.

The 30,000 pages of confidential documents they passed to the press revealed that multinationals, including Amazon, Apple, Ikea, Pepsi, McDonald’s and BNP-Paribas, negotiated “tax rulings” that allowed them to pay as little as one percent tax if they registered in the Grand Duchy.

Chart of the day: European graduation divides

From Eurostat, the diploma divides in European collegiate education:

BLOG Ed divide

European Commission blocks Roundup ban

There may be a Brexit, but there’s to be no Monsantxit, at least for now.

Why are we not surprised?

From Science:

The widely used weed killer faced a 30 June deadline for reapproval of its safety—without which it could not be sold—but the decision has been stuck in political gridlock. So the European Commission stepped in to extend the safety approval until December 2017. The decision was mentioned by Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis during a press conference today and may be officially announced tomorrow, according to a commission source.

The safety of glyphosate has been hotly debated ever since the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared it a “probable human carcinogen” in March 2015. Regulatory agencies had previously declared glyphosate safe when properly used, and the European Food Safety Authority was on track to renew its approval. (The differing opinions caused some confusion, which is clarified here.) Opponents of the herbicide campaigned for the commission not to renew the market license. Glyphosate manufacturers and the farm lobby objected fiercely, and member states could not reach a majority decision about how to proceed.

In his comment, Andriukaitis said that the commission granted the 18-month extension in order to have the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) complete its review of glyphosate. ECHA is responsible for classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals, and during commission deliberations in May, some member states wanted to know ECHA’s opinion on the carcinogenicity of glyphosate before voting on its reapproval.

And now for something completely different. . .

Would you believe a bicycle that walks?

Theo Jansen [previously] is a Dutch physicist-turned-artist, a creative mind who has fabricated kinetic sculptures, including a remarkable assemblage he calls the Strandbeest.

Here’s one example, a wind-powered version from his Strandbeest Workshop:

Amazing, no?

But what other possibilities exist for Jansen’s remarkable idea?

Well, Blaine Elliott and a group of creative friends in Santa Barbara, California, picked up the basic concept and applied it to the bicycle.

From Blaine’s Blog:

In late 2014, two friends and I decided to begin building a bike based on the Strandbeest. The Strandbest is a walking machine created by Theo Jansen in the 1980s. Imagine this machine below, scaled down to the size of a bike, where the back wheels of a bike are replaced with legs. That is more or less what we set out to do. The process involved 3 people, took 6 months and 1000 man hours to complete.

As complicated as this machine may appear to be, it can be simple when broken down. The Strandbeest is a series of Jansen’s linkage’s. Each Jansen Linkage imitates the motion of a leg. A leg by itself is trivial but when they function together, you get something much more complicated.

Our idea was to leverage the concept of the Jansen Linkage to construct a bicycle that has rear legs instead of a rear wheel. In this blog I’m going to review the various work that was involved in order to make that idea a reality. By this point, most of the bike is done. There’s some painting and fine tuning to do. I’m pleasantly surprised with the results. We had a lot of confidence this bike would work and it wasn’t until maybe 70% through the project we we really able to unit test it.

And here’s the result, from his vlog:

Riding the Strandbeest Bike

And that, dear reader, is something completely different. . .

Oh, and if you’re visiting Northern California this summer and interested in seeing more of Jansen’s creations and learning more about the artist, the Exploratorium is currently featuring through 5 September an exhibition, Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen.

France turns thumbs down on the TTIP

Yep, that Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership pushed so eagerly by the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State has met with a solid rebuff from Paris.

From RT:

France’s Foreign Minister Manuel Valls has dismissed the possibility of an agreement on the US-EU transatlantic trade deal, since it goes against the interests of the European Union.

“No free trade agreement should be concluded if it does not respect EU interests. Europe should be firm. France will be vigilant about this,” Valls said addressing members of the governing Socialist Party on Sunday, AFP reported.

“I can tell you frankly, there cannot be a transatlantic treaty agreement. This agreement is not on track,” Valls added.

Valls pointed that the agreement “would impose a viewpoint which would not only be a breeding ground for populism, but also quite simply be a viewpoint that would be bad for our economy.”

The TTIP – or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – is a EU-US free trade treaty project that was dubbed as controversial the moment it was proposed three years ago and has been criticized for its secretiveness and lack of accountability ever since.

The TTIP is also against the interests of any democratic government, given that it creates a secret court in which corporations and banksters can sue governments for any revenues lost because of laws and regulations designed to protect human beings, with no transcripts ever provided to folks who wonder why their health and well being is valued less than the bottom line.

If only Paris had demonstrated similar independence during the Bush/Obama military adventures that gave rise to ISIS. . .

The Brexit Boogie: A vote that shook the world

Is the world headed into another Great Recession even before that shockwaves of the last one have settled down?

When one of the world’s two major financial centers pulls out of its continental base, there’s good cause for concern.

But that’s just one of the issues raised by Thursday’s vote.

Here’s a roundup of rumbles. . .

British buyers remorse?

Even before the dust settled, Brits were flocking online to sign a petition for a do-over.

From Agence France-Presse:

More than two million people have signed a petition calling for a second referendum, after a shock vote to pull Britain out of the EU, an official website showed Saturday.

The website of the parliamentary petition at one point crashed due to the surge of people adding their names to the call for another nationwide poll following Thursday’s historic vote.

“We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60 percent based (on) a turnout less than 75 percent there should be another referendum,” says the petition.

The blame game begins

Guess who’s catching the heat?

Hint: He’s already resigned his job in disgrace.

From euronews:

Blame for the failure to convince British voters to remain in the European Union lies at the door of David Cameron, European Commissioner Günther Oettinger told Euronews.

The Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society told Euronews that the decision by the Prime Minister to “order” the Commission to stay “out of the game” was a mistake.

Asked whether Cameron was to blame, Oettinger responded: “ I think so, yes. What he did is not acceptable.”

The Commissioner insisted that Scotland and Northern Ireland, which both voted overwhelmingly for ‘remain’, could only rejoin the European Union as independent nations. He predicted that Scotland would “probably” split from the rest of the United Kingdom.

And fear runs rampant

Shrinks call it Separation Anxiety Disorder, and it’s an ailment running rampant these days, especially in Berlin.

From Sky News:

Germany fears France, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands and Hungary may follow the UK and leave the EU, a government paper says.

The finance ministry strategy paper expresses concern that the UK’s historic vote may trigger a Brexit domino effect across Europe, according to the German newspaper Die Welt.

It recommends that the EU enters into negotiations aimed at making the UK an “associated partner country” for the remaining 27 nations.

As it stands, the UK’s exit may cause Germany’s contribution to the EU’s budget to rise by 3bn euros (£2.44bn) a year, the paper adds.

And there’s good cause to worry, reports Reuters:

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union fired up populist eurosceptic parties across the continent on Friday, giving fresh voice to their calls to leave the bloc or its euro currency.

Right-wing and anti-immigrant parties in the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and France demanded referendums on membership of the union, while Italy’s 5-Star movement said it would pursue its own proposal for a vote on the euro.

Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch anti-immigrant PVV party, said he would make a Dutch referendum on EU membership a central theme of his campaign to become prime minister in next year’s parliamentary election.

“I congratulate the British people for beating the political elite in both London and Brussels and I think we can do the same,” Wilders told Reuters. “We should have a referendum about a ‘Nexit’ as soon as possible.”

After the jump, Boldness in Bratislava, a British downgrade, trillions in losses, the pain in Spain, grief in Greece, troubles in Tokyo, and a Schadenfreude alert. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: Material deprivation in Greece

From the Hellenic Statistical Authority:

BLOG Greece

Among the findings:

  • 47.5 % of the poor households declare incapacity to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day, while the respective percentage of the non-poor households amounts to 1.8%.
  • 29.2% of the total households declare inability to keep their home adequately warm, while the share of the poor households is 50.8% and the share of the non-poor households is 23.7%.
  • 87.2% of the poor households and 44.5% of the non-poor households report difficulties in facing unexpected financial expenses of approximately 410 euro.