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Posts Tagged ‘EU’

Brussels under attack: What you should know

If you somehow haven’t heard yet, ISIS (Daesh) terrorists carried out bombings at Brussels International Airport and a metro station downtown near the EU HQ on March 22. There are thought to be 34+ deaths and 200+ injured, with those tolls probably to rise as forensics teams struggle to identify victims.

Flights have been canceled in and out of Brussels, as well as Eurostar trains. Brussels metro system is also shut down. Contact your travel company for information on your individual plans. Belgian authorities are calling for vigilance.

You can see up-to-date coverage on media including France 24, BBC, NY Times, Economist, Flanders News (local) and CNN. I also recommend following the news on Twitter. For those of you who are American, I suggested registering for the US State Department travel alerts & warnings and their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). The UK’s Foreign Ministry has a similar service, as does Australia.  Belgium’s Foreign Ministry and that of France are also great resources.

In addition to social  media outreach, diplomatic letters of support were sent the world over including from the US and France.

My thoughts and prayers with the families and victims of Brussels. I personally have over 20 friends there and luckily they are accounted for. I’ve been there several times and each time the Belgian people are very welcoming. My heart goes out to you.

 

 

FranceBelgiumSolidarity2016

NYT: How France is confronting change

August 27th, 2013 2 comments

The New York Times had a piece the other day talking about the French economy and political system and its confrontation with social realities. “A Proud Nation Ponders How to Halt Its Slow Decline”.

This is certainly not a new theme. Indeed, in my travels and living in France, I often heard the refrain “France changes not by evolution, but by revolution.” It echoes perhaps true today, with a political system that sees its citizens protest in the streets in an attempt to get their voices heard – it’s the French equivalent of citizen lobbying and activism that can come off as much more noticeable than activist efforts through citizen groups like NGO’s in the US.

It’s an insightful read, no matter where you stand in the political spectrum.

Here are the first few excerpts:

The New York Times
Steven Erlanger
August 24, 2013
Memo from France – A Proud Nation Ponders How to Halt Its Slow Decline

“For decades, Europeans have agonized over the power and role of Germany — the so-called German question — given its importance to European stability and prosperity.

Today, however, Europe is talking about “the French question”: can the Socialist government of President François Hollande pull France out of its slow decline and prevent it from slipping permanently into Europe’s second tier?

At stake is whether a social democratic system that for decades prided itself on being the model for providing a stable and high standard of living for its citizens can survive the combination of globalization, an aging population and the acute fiscal shocks of recent years…”

European American Chamber of Commerce event in Lyon 4/16

The European American Chamber of Commerce, Lyon chapter, is a part of a network organization that facilitates business and best practices between the US and France. It has chapters in Paris, Lyon, Boston, Cincinnati, New Jersey, New York and a partner in Italy.

They hold conferences and events on business-related topics. On April 16th, they’ll be holding a talk on ETI size companies. The event details are below. RSVP required.

Happy networking!

EACC & KPMG present:

Focus on ETIs,
Intermediate sized companies

Europe counts over 30,000 ETIs – an intermediate category between small and medium enterprises and large companies, more than 3,000 of which are in France, where they are considered to be an essential driver of economic growth.

Speaker: Sara Righenzi de Villers, Expert comptable Commissaire aux Comptes, KPMG

Who are they?
How do they resist the effects of the current economic crisis?
What are their challenges?
What are their key growth drivers?

Tuesday 16 April 2013
from 6:30pm to 8:30pm

KPMG, 51 rue de St Cyr 69009 LYON

6:30pm to 7:00pm – Welcome cocktail
7:00pm to 8:00pm – Presentation and Q&A
8:00pm to 8:30pm – Networking cocktail

The Economist’s France 14-page special report

November 19th, 2012 3 comments

The Economist this week has a 14-page special report this week in its print edition that focuses on France, from its economy to politics, under the central theme of how economic structural reform is necessary in order to avoid a “time bomb” going off at the heart of the Eurozone. You can access the Nov. 17, 2012 print edition contents here. The leader article introducing the special report is here, and the special report link can be found at the table of contents site under “Special report: France” (there are 8 articles).

I’m delving into all this right now and encourage you to do the same. Even if you don’t agree with the magazine’s analysis, it is a highly-regarded publication for a reason: for asking important questions.

This is the not the first time the British news magazine has waxed poetic about France’s economic woes and potential for growth. Indeed, French economic and business paper Les Echos puts past covers and stories into perspective (in French).

What do you think are France’s biggest problems and do you think Hollande and Ayrault’s government can solve them?

 

French news: Eurozone crisis, Socialists and Islam

I wrote up a piece for Bonjour Paris covering this diverse topics. You can read the article here.

Comparing the Europe and US debt crises

The Economist has an insightful commentary on both debt crises. Excerpt below.

Both the US and the European Union have public finances that are out of control and political systems that are too dysfunctional to fix the problem,” Mr Rachman writes. I have some quibbles about the way he frames the economic issues as a generalised problem of “an unsustainable and dangerous boom in credit”, viz homeowner credit in America and the overdrawn borrowing of Greece and Italy in Europe. This seems to smooth over a lot of differences a bit too easily; the American housing bubble was fueled by CDOs, but the economic problems in Europe aren’t about an asset bubble caused by Greek or Italian government borrowing, and to the extent that the problems are due not to asset bubbles but to financial interconnectedness, the interconnectedness caused by private-sector issuance of CDOs and CDSs isn’t really the same as the interconnectedness caused by the adoption of the euro across 17 countries.

US travel tax angering EU, which could react with similar policy

September 28th, 2010 2 comments

In German news magazine Der Spiegel, European Union officials are responding negatively to a travel fee ESTA that the US is imposing on residents of countries that are currently not required to obtain visas to visit the US, “36 countries worldwide including every EU country except for Bulgaria, Cyprus, Poland and Romania.” Although the $14 fee is small, $10 of it goes to promoting tourism in the US. While the US economy is certainly not at its strongest point, it is the #2 travel destination in visitors (France is #1) and already pulls in the most revenue. This fee, combined with notorious US customs and immigration officials, make for a very unwelcoming and unattractive image of America abroad as a travel destination. This is undermining our global image and respect. I certainly hope this policy is repealed and that the EU does not retaliate with similar measures.

Excerpts below.

European Union Up in Arms over US Travel Tax

“European Union officials are furious with a new US fee mandatory for most travelers from Europe. Calling the charge tantamount to a new visa requirement, the EU is now considering introducing a similar fee for American travelers. Fourteen dollars may not sound like a lot. But this autumn, the sum — in the shape of the new fee being charged by the United States to some overseas visitors coming into the country — is proving enough to inflame tempers in the European Union. This month, an increasing number of members of the European Parliament and other EU officials are blasting the charge for being both incongruous and for running counter to US-EU agreements.

“I think it is a bit bizarre to introduce a tax to promote tourism,” intoned Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, a member of European Parliament with Germany’s business-friendly Free Democratic Party during a recent debate on the issue in Strasbourg. In addition to pointing out that such a tax could actually dissuade people from traveling to the US, Lambsdorff also said “it seems a bit absurd that the US of all countries would tax people who are not represented in this debate. Taxation without representation, I believe, has played a certain role in American history.”

At issue is the so-called Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), a $14 fee which travelers from 36 countries now have to pay prior to visiting the US. While $4 dollars of the fee is to be for ESTA administrative costs, $10 is to pay for US efforts to promote the US as a tourism destination. Travelers to the US, in effect, are being asked to pay for the advertising aimed at encouraging them to travel to the country…Now, the EU is exploring the possibility of introducing a similar system for travellers from the US, according to the European Commission for Home Affairs. A “policy study” is currently being undertaken to investigate the feasibility of such a fee…

…The US fee applies only to travelers from countries not currently required to obtain a visa prior to travel — a list comprising 36 countries worldwide including every EU country except for Bulgaria, Cyprus, Poland and Romania. In a parliamentary debate last week, several members of the European Parliament (MEPs) complained that the fee was simply a different kind of visa, particularly given that those travelers who do not pay the fee can be refused entry into the US…

…The fee, part of a tourism promotion package pushed through primarily by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has been controversial in the travel industry as well. “It’s like inviting a friend over for dinner and then charging them a fee at the door,” Steve Lott, a representative for the International Air Transport Association, told CNN earlier this month. “If the idea is to make the United States more welcoming and to increase tourism, raising the entry fee seems to be counterintuitive to what you’re trying to do.”

European Commission officials have promised to take up the issue in upcoming meetings with their US counterparts. Speaking on behalf of EU foreign policy representative Catherine Ashton, EU State Secretary for European Affairs Olivier Chastel insisted that “the EU places great importance on the issue of reciprocity” when it comes to trans-Atlantic travel. He said his office “will pull out all the stops to work with the Commission to establish the principle of reciprocity on travel…”

AFP: Energy bill, euro fall, hit French trade balance

August 6th, 2010 1 comment

This article courtesy of AFP.

(PARIS) – The French trade balance showed a reduced deficit in June but an increased gap for the first six months of the year, data from the economy ministry showed on Friday.

In June the deficit fell to 3.796 billion euros (5.0 billion dollars) from 5.179 billion euros in May.

The fall came after exports picked up to total 33.0 billion euros in the month from 30.0 billion euros in May, helped mainly by sales of equipment for transportation, notably airliners.

But for the first six months, the deficit increased to 24.5 billion euros from 20.4 billion euros for the same period of last year.

The trade balance is an important indicator of the competitiveness of an economy and the ability of a country to pay its way in the world in trade in goods and services. The trade data form part of an even more critical measure of long-term fundamental forces in the economy, the balance of payments.

France has been running a structural trade deficit for some time, and analysts say that this reflects a number of underlying weaknesses in the economy.

The deficit over six months increased mainly because of an increase in the energy import bill, as denominated in the euro which has fallen against the dollar.

The ministry noted that exports had risen by 10.0 percent in the first half on a 12-month comparison and that for the second quarter they had risen by 6.0 percent.

Junior Trade Minister Anne-Marie Idrac said that this “shows the capacity of French exports to bounce back as the economy emerges from the crisis.”

She welcomed a particularly big increase in trade with emerging economies.

Separate data from the budget ministry showed that the central state budget showed a sharply reduced deficit of 61.7 billion euros at the end of June from 82.4 billion euros in the first six months of last year.

This reflected the ending of exceptional measures to stimulate the economy through the downturn and a rise of tax revenues, it said.

The central government budget is one of three components forming the public deficit, which is the figure used by the European Union to measure excessive deficits.

EU countries, and notably countries in the eurozone, are bound to contain any public deficit to less than 3.0 percent of output. Several countries, including France, have far higher ratios, notably because of the costs of facing the global economic downturn.

France, in common with several other countries, is now working on reforms to reduce its structural deficit.

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