Category Archives: Europe

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:

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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

Troika demands another pound of Greek flesh


Greek’s debt crisis, brought about by a combination of the Wall Street-greed-created Great Recession and expensive military contracts, most with German companies [many won with hefty bribes], the fragile Greek economy has relied on loans to keep marginally afloat.

The loans, from the neoliberal Troika of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission, came with draconian demands, including massive public sector layoffs, pension and pay cuts, imposition of more taxes on those least able to afford it, and severe cuts to the national healthcare system, also mandated the sale of public assets, including ports and public transit systems as well as the sale of major shares in national power systems.

And now they want more, including additional impositions on workers and a further selloff of the public energy grid,  if they’re to fund another round of bailout loans.

Meanwhile, unemployment remains at staggering levels.

First up, the latest hitch from To Vima:

The latest talks between the Greek government and the representatives of the institutions on the second bailout review, which concluded at 5:30am on Tuesday, did not result in an agreement between the two sides. As the representatives leave Athens, to continue talks via teleconference, a series of critical issues remain unresolved.

Greek officials commented that the two sides were closed on the fiscal gaps for 2018 and out-of-court settlements for non-performing loans. Technical talks on the gap will continue, as well as on energy and financial issues. As for the primary surplus targets after 2019, they will be discussed at the 5 December Eurogroup in conjunction with measures to be taken for the Greek debt.

Some progress was achieved in the joint collection of taxes and contributions, which will later be refined based on the road map that must be agreed upon between the Ministry of Labor and the General Secretariat of Public Revenue, as well as implementing the OECD’s “toolkit”.

A high-ranking Finance Ministry official estimated that the timetables have not changed and that the goal of reaching a political agreement by the Eurogroup remains. The same official noted that the government intends to reinvest a portion of the one billion euros above the surplus targets towards social benefits.

Some particulars from Kathimerini:

Finance ministers of core European Union countries are expected to meet later this week in Berlin to discuss the possible concessions Brussels could offer to secure the participation of the International Monetary Fund in Greece’s third international bailout, paving the way for debt talks.

Government officials suggest that the IMF, which has yet to decide whether to join Greece’s third bailout, is to blame for the slow process of talks between Greece and its creditors.

In a media briefing on Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos acknowledged that the differences between Greece and its creditors remain too great for an agreement on all prior actions to be reached by the December 5 Eurogroup meeting and said that Athens was aiming for a political agreement by that time.

There is enough time until December 5 for agreements to be reached in talks on labor laws, fiscal issues and the overhaul of the Greek energy sector, Tzanakopoulos said, noting that the government has shown the political will necessary to achieve a breakthrough by the deadline.

Chart of the day III: Europe’s women legislators


From Eurostat’s Sustainable development in the European Union — A statistical glance from the viewpoint of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a comparative look at the number of women in the lower houses of Europe’s national legislatures:

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By way of comparison, while the average for Europe is 29 percent of seats held by women in the lower houses of parliament of single house legislatures, in the United States, only 15.5 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives will be held by women in the 115th Congress, and 21 percent of Senate seats.