In Search of A Lost Time

I don’t know if one day when historians come to examine what exactly happened (or should I say what went wrong) with the EU they will be able to identify that defining moment, the decisive hour, when everything went sailing down the river. If they are so able I wouldn’t mind a quick bet that it might be sometime about now. The ideal of the EU, it seems to me, is being blown away before our very eyes. Maybe the fault is with the politicians, maybe it is with the institutions, maybe it is with all of us: but this cannot be like this. Failure to advance a consensus on reform and the constitution cannot (or at least should not) let us fall back into our old ways of cynical cutting up the cake, power politics and triple alliances. We have, as I have been trying to suggest, a Euro which is about to fall apart between the competing pressures of Northern stringency (the Netherlands) and Southern laxity (Italy), while what is being proposed here will do nothing to help whatsoever.
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Those Perfidious Frenchmen

It is too early to grasp the real aftermath of 9-11 in Hollywood, but some trends are more obvious than others. Couple of last year’s major Hollywood productions indicate that the major change is afoot in American film industry, closely resembling shifts in American foreign policy resulting from 9-11.

The changes are very visible for those who paid attention to clich?s in 1990s Hollywood films, especially those dealing with films’ villains. Some films – like Braveheart, Michael Collins and Patriot ? were more explicit than others, but in those times almost all villains were British, people with heavy British accents or at least people played by renowned British actors.
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Welcome To The World Of Kofi Annan

While EU politicians over at Davos have been mulling over the possibilities of Turkey’s membership of the EU, Kofi Annan apparently has things much clearer. In a speech to the European parliament he bluntly told MPs that Europe needs migrants to ensure a prosperous future and that Europeans should stop using immigration as a scapegoat for their social problems.
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We Read Business Week, So You Don’t Have To

You can just skip to the good bits. (Free registration may be required, but it’s worth your while.)

Italy’s Coming Credit Crunch

Sounds a lot like what Edward’s been describing. Glad BW agrees.

China is the Talk of Davos

If Europe can’t manage domestically driven growth, maybe China will. Or will American demand have to drive the world economy forever?

Have a look at the inside.

A Global Demographic Time Bomb

“A shocking report released at the World Economic Forum lays out how aging and falling populations could slam world growth”

Europe’s Hidden Champions

Apparently there’s still life on the Old Continent.

Parmalat Update

Well, well, what do you know: Paramalat’s real debt is much bigger than was first thought. What a surprise. According to the Financial Times Parmalat’s gross debt now stands between ?14.5bn and ?14.8bn ($18.08bn-$18.46bn). At the same time its main Italian operations barely made a gross operating profit last year. Meantime Italy’s unions are threatening a strike iif the government reduces the regulatory role of the central bank. The dispute has arisen as a result of the Parmalat scandal, which the government blames partly on a failure of oversight at the central bank. As a solution the finance ministry wants to reform financial market regulation in Italy so that the central bank would no longer supervise corporate bond issuance and competition in Italy’s banking sector. The unions object to this.

Actually this was meant to be a quick post, but while writing it I cannot help reaching the conclusion that Italy may be begining to fall apart. Just wait till you read this.
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This Is One To Keep An Eye On

2003 was a good year for the Spanish banks, with interest rates at historic lows, lending boomed. News has it today that net profits at Santander Central Hispano, Spain’s largest bank, rose 29.6 per cent in the fourth quarter to ?681m ($857m) mainly on strong mortgage lending in Spain and growth in its consumer finance business in Germany and Portugal. Net profits totalled ?2.61bn for the full year, a 16 per cent increase over 2002 and the best year on record, while credit inside Spain was up 16.2 per cent as the housing boom continued on its relentless path hence generating strong demand for mortgages.

So good luck to the bank, and that’s it. Well again, not exactly. Why is there a boom in consumer credit and mortgage lending right now in Spain? That really should be the question.
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