Is The German Economic Recovery Really So Sustainable?

Of course, I could be accused of only latching-on to the data that suits me, and it is true that there has been some reasonably optimistic reporting about the German economy of late: we had the German IFO index, and there was the apparently world cup driven consumer confidence index rise. So todays news that retaill sales fell by 1.4 % in December as compared with November while German unemployment rose in January for the first time in four months must have come as a bucket of cold water for some. Not here at Afoe though, since at least one of us has been stubbornly maintaining (and here) that a sustained internal consumption driven recovery was one thing which was definitely *off the cards*.

Unexpectedly weak German retail sales figures for December have setback hopes that Europe’s largest economy is staging a comeback. Retail sales in the Christmas month tumbled by 1.4 per cent compared with November, according to the federal statistics office. Economists had expected a rise. The figures will heighten fears that overall German growth weakened at the end of last year.

Unemployment in Germany rose in January for the first time in four months, the Federal Labour Office reported today. The seasonally adjusted jobless total increased by 69,000 to 4.699 million from December, pushing the rate to 11.3 from 11.2 percent. In unadjusted terms, the jobless total rose by 408,000 to 5.012 million, taking the rate to 12.1 percent.

The Second Annual Satin Pajama Awards

…The Satin Pajamas have been delayed because of the webhost migration and some other unforeseen things. The voting will begin soon, within a week at least, so I’ll bump this post again.

‘Tis the season of blog awards, among them our own European Weblog Awards or Satin Pajamas.

Last year I wrote: The purpose of the awards is to recognize the efforts and contributions of Europe’s many talented bloggers, to maybe help build a sense of community among us, and, more than anything, it’s a chance for people to discover lots of new good blogs.

Last year’s awards did just that, and they were great fun. I’m sure this year will be no different.

…I really should clarify the rules. A blog is eligible if it’s written by Europeans or has a European (Czech, Catalan…) theme. Our own blogs aren’t eligible. Finalists are chosen based on the number of nominations as well as editorial discretion. So you want to nominate your favored blog even if someone else already mentioned it.


Nominees for Best Southeastern European Weblog
Nominees for Best CIS blog
Nominees for Best Writing
Nominate Best Culture Weblog
Nominees for Best Personal Weblog
Nominate Best New Weblog
Nominees for Best European Weblog Overall
Nominate Best Political Weblog
Nominate Most Underappreciated Weblog
Nominees for Best German Blog
Nominees for Best French Weblog
Nominate Best UK Blog
Nominees for Best Expat Blog
Nominate Best Academic Weblog

Hot Labour Anyone?

This post has one sovereign virtue: apart from in the current sentence it will not refer, either directly or indirectly, to the Catalan Statute. The topic it does deal with however is probably equally vital for the future of Spain. The issue is Spain’s housing boom, and the role of immigration in fuelling it. Two facts above all others stand out: Spain is currently ‘enjoying’ the longest and deepest housing boom (in the current round) among all the world’s developed economies (see this useful article from the Economist, or this one from Business Week), and Spain is also enjoying sustained rates of immigration which – at around 2% of the population per annum, may well be the most intense ever experienced in a developed economy. For purposes of comparison I could point out that Spain’s net migration rate of 17.6 per thousand in 2003 contrasts sharply with that recorded for the old European Union 15 for the same year – 5.4 per thousand – and is even well above the level recorded by Germany in the early 1990s – a maximum of 9.6 per thousand in 1992 – or by France in the early 1970s. So there is a housing boom, and there is immigration, the question is, what is the connection?
Continue reading

Danish Pastry Cooking?

As the Quartet of would-be Mideast peacemakers meets in huddled session, and as Angela Merkel does some plain talking, another closely related issue is going the rounds today (and this, and this):

“In a demonstration on the West Bank, members of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades threatened Danes in the area and told them to leave immediately, the Danish news agency Ritzau reported on Sunday. The demonstrators burned the Danish flag and called on the Palestinian authorities to cut diplomatic ties with Denmark, Ritzau said.”

“Libya has said it is closing its embassy in Denmark in protest against a series of caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper.”

“A roadside bomb targeted a joint Danish-Iraqi military patrol near the southern city of Basra on Monday — the first attack on Danish troops since protests against a Danish newspaper for publishing widely criticized caricatures of Islam’s prophet.”

Danish Blogger Claus Vistessen has the story as it is seen from inside Denmark:

Four months ago the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten posted 12 drawings of the muslim prophet depicting him as they saw him but with a clear provocative bordering to tactless zeal … the most notable drawing was one showing Muhammed, with a turban containing a large bomb.

The cartoons resulted in immediate protests and demonstrations from Muslims in Denmark, but to sum it all up; two very important things happened as a result of the drawings.
Continue reading here.

They Started With The Bus Drivers….

I don’t intend to make this a long post. I think we’ve already explored most of the issues, (and here, and here), but I do feel we need to be vigilant about what is happening on a day to day basis in Iran. This story seems to confirm the general picture I’d been forming:

Clashes erupted between Iran’s State Security Forces and bus drivers and union activists in the Iranian capital Tehran on Saturday after authorities arrested activists in an attempt to prevent a demonstration that had been planned for the day, local residents told Iran Focus.

Agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), Iran’s notorious secret police, raided the homes of bus drivers in Tehran in the early hours of the morning, arresting hundreds of bus union activists and in some cases their relatives as well, one resident reported.

Those arrested have been taken to unknown locations.

This is an extremely repressive administration, which seems to be bent on systematically tightening its grip and eliminating all serious opposition. If you want a run-down on the various opinions about what to do about the situation, you could do worse than start here.

On the road again…

Gentle readers, the 2006 Satin Pajama voting period is approaching and we have a couple of great things in the afoe r&d pipeline, which we will tell you more about soon. But for all this we needed a less error prone server. So we’re on the road again, and thus, there’s a certain probability you might have problems accessing afoe and afem during the period of DNS propagation, which will probably begin Thursday night.

Update, 23:10 CET – Our comment function has been disabled temporarily to ensure database integrity during the move.

Update, 00:45 CET – Comment functionality has been reenabled.

Secret Sources

Germany’s Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung/bpb, Germany) now publishes a nice, daily, free round-up of the European press. It’s by no means comprehensive, and thank goodness or it would be impossibly long, but I like the eclectic selection of papers and topics. Today brought items from Czech, Austrian, Francophone Swiss, German, Francophone Belgian, Spanish, Italian, Irish, Latvian, Polish, Cypriot and French papers. Nifty. Plus it’s available in English, French and German.

The bpb is doing it in cooperation with Perlentaucher Medien GmbH (Berlin) and Courrier International (Paris). More details at Eurotopics.

You must all be very kind to Tobias today

Regionalist tensions in Spain, murderously cold weather and French nuclear stroppiness are all important enough in their way, I suppose, but let’s not lose sight of what truly matters: Bayern Munich move ahead to the semi-finals of the DFB Cup. It will be scant comfort to Tobias, I fear, that his boys from Mainz 05 punched way above their weight, owning the pitch during the first part of the match and making Bayern worry down to the very last minutes of extra time. Special mention goes to second-string Mainz keeper Christian Wetklo, who had no reason to feel embarrassed standing on the other end of the pitch from Oliver Kahn.

Germany’s other national keeper and his Highbury comrades didn’t fair as well in their own face-off against an upstart promotee, taking a long walk off Wigan pier and out of the League Cup. But the real nailbiter is tonight in Hamburg, where piratical misfits FC St. Pauli of the northern regional league take on Bundesliga power club Werder Bremen. Come on Pauli!

UPDATE: And damned if on Pauli didn’t come! 3:1 against mighty, mighty Werder; well done the lads!

Troglodytes Making Waves

A couple of weeks ago I posted here about how a senior officer in the Spanish army – Lt. Gen. Jose Mena Aguado – had been placed under house arrest for insinuating that the Spanish military might have a responsibility to intervene in defence of the Spanish Constitution if the new Catalan Statute of Autonomy went forward in its present form. Well yesterday news of this seems to have reached the New York Times. Describing the officers in question as troglodytes, the NYT has especially harsh words for the opposition Partido Popular, whose leaders, it should be remembered, described Aguado’s statement as ‘logical’ in the context of what was being proposed:

The response of the center-left government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has been appropriately firm, including the dismissal and arrest of one of the culprits, a senior army general. Regrettably, the center-right Popular Party, the main opposition group, seems more interested in making excuses for the officers than in defending the democratic order in which it has a vital stake.

“Spanish society, Spanish politicians and, for the most part, Spanish military officers have come a long way from that (the Franco) era, moderating their views and deepening their commitment to democratic give-and-take. But the Popular Party has had a hard time getting over its electoral defeat nearly two years ago, days after the terrorist bombings of commuter trains in Madrid. It has never really accepted the democratic legitimacy of that vote. It is time for the Popular Party to move ahead. Spanish democracy needs and deserves vigorous bipartisan support.”

The NYT does arrive rather late on the scene. The Economist had this piece on the 12th January, and the FT this one on the 10th January. Meanwhile, the New York Times story is itself making waves here. The Basque news agency EITB24 covers it here. And all of which on the day in which the Partido Popular has begun collecting signatures for a referendum (in defence of the constitution and) against the the new Statute, a referendum which would itself be, well, guess what, unconstitutional, and on which Josep Piqué, leader of the PP in Catalonia, had to be given a three hour talking-to to convince him not to resign from the party, since, again guess what, he thinks the latest version of the text isn’t at all bad!