The Sort Of News We Don’t Need

The FT is running the following story about Barroso:

Jos? Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, will drop his supervision of antitrust cases affecting the shipping industry, shortly after it emerged he took a holiday on the luxury yacht of a Greek shipping tycoon….

the timing of Mr Barroso’s decision is likely to reignite the controversy over his summer holiday as a guest on a yacht belonging to Spiros Latsis, son of John Latsis, the Greek shipping magnate.

Are these people all so desparately lonely that they have nothing better to do with their time? I have simply one question: with all the money we pay our leaders, don’t they have sufficient resources to organise their own holidays?

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

6 thoughts on “The Sort Of News We Don’t Need

  1. Why single out Barroso among EU Commissioners for special mention?

    “PETER MANDELSON was at the centre of a new row over sleaze last night after it emerged that he attached a free Caribbean holiday to an official trip just months after his political comeback as a European commissioner. Mr Mandelson, who resigned twice from Tony Blair?s Cabinet over allegations of sleaze, admitted that he took a free four-day holiday over the new year en route to an official engagement in the Caribbean. . . ”
    http://business.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,13130-1575570,00.html

  2. I’m not singling out Barroso, Bob. I’m not even suggesting he’s been involved in ‘sleeze’, or even done anything ‘improper’. I would have no information about any of this.

    All I am doing as a perhaps rather naieve and idealistic European citizen is expresssing my frustration, and possibly outrage, that we keep shutting this type of stuff out through one door only for it to walk in again through another.

    I expressly say naieve and idealistic since I prefer that side of me to the worldly-wise and cynical side. This I suppose more about me (or any of the rest of you) than it is about Barroso: I want to be able to still be surprised and shocked rather than become so hardened I don’t even notice. Years shall not weary us.

    Also remember that, as the FT points out, this one has a history:

    “Mr Barroso only agreed to take on several competition dossiers because of potential conflicts of interest affecting Neelie Kroes, the Dutch competition commissioner. Ms Kroes handed over the shipping dossiers to Mr Barroso because she was a board member at Royal P&O Nedlloyd, the sea-freight company.”

    Anyway thanks for the link with background on the whole affair. If you wanted to glean something even vaguely positive from all this, you could always highlight the fact that Barroso resigned his responsibilities for overseeing competition in the shipping industry. Of course, if he is such a close lifelong friend of Spiros Latsis, maybe he should have thought twice about accepting the dossier in the first place.

  3. Moving on from a moment from a politician who bears all the hallmarks of becoming utterly unmemorable (Barroso: who – eg – was that guy between Delors and Prodi) to someone who is undoubtedly able to leave his mark, for good or for ill: Peter Mandelson.

    He is someone, it seems, you either love or you hate. He seems to revel in the “anti”, publicity and is undoubtedly an intellectual snob. Now………..here comes my question (and it is a genuine and not a trick one): will Mandelson make a good Trade Commissioner?

    Maybe it seems a kind of a-moral exercise to try to stand back from all the controversy, and make this kind of judgement, but at Commissioner level real talent seems to be a scarce commodity, and Mandelson is highly intelligent and extremely able. The job of Trade Commissioner is maybe *the* hot seat at the moment, and a lot of economic livelihoods around the world depend on a good performance here.

    I was interested to note that the Economist waxes positive about him and the US representative Rob Portman in the context of the agricultural breakthrough. He obviously has a clear intellectual committment to free trade, and this is going to be important. And at the same time in the textile ‘affair’ he seems to have the French, Italian, Spanish and Greek representatives out jogging laps round the playing field while tempers calm down. Not everyone has the flair to carry this kind of thing off, and at the sametime it is precisely this ‘flair’ that sometimes seems to get him into so much trouble.

  4. Hi Edward, I’m not renown for being a signed-up member of Mandelson’s fan club.

    His predecessor in post as EU trade commissioner, Pascal Lamy, was widely and highly regarded for his calibre and it seems likely he will move on to become head of the WTO with support of the American administration despite having successfully negotiated his way through several high-profile US v. EU trade disputes. Mandelson has much to live up to in consequence. The recent resuscitation of the almost moribund Doha Trade Round is certainly encouraging but I’m not entirely optimistic for considered reasons.

    As some readers here will know, relations between Mandelson and Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (our quaint name for Treasury minister) in Blair’s governments are not friendly. In fact, relations have been so perennially strained that they and their respective aides and followers have maintained a public vendetta for years but with most of the public sniping coming from Mandelson.

    One among several causes of friction has been the hugely divergent personal positions of the principals over the Euro, with Mandelson’s unbridled enthusiam for European monetary union contrasting with the detached, analytical approach of Britain’s Treasury and Gordon Brown’s resulting undisguised scepticism about the prospective benefits to Britain from adopting the Euro. As things stand, Brown’s view has prevailed and Tony Blair has gone along with that. No prospect of Britain joining the Eurozone is remotely in sight.

    When Mandelson took up his post as EU Commissioner last autumn, he went public and suggested this dispute with Brown was now over. However, he went on to reiterate his enthusiam about Britain joining the Euro and said that Brown should name a date by when this could be achieved. Neither Brown nor the Treasury made any public response to what was evidently intended as a genuine peace gesture by Mandelson. We can only speculate about whether Mandelson’s public pressure on Brown to name a date for Britain to join the Euro was deliberately intended to irritate but it certainly suggested that Mandelson doesn’t quite understand the issues at stake. Britain’s economy seems to be diverging rather than converging with that of the Eurozone and no foreseeable window of opportunity appears to be in sight when conditions will be sufficiently propitious for Britain to join without the prospect of destabilising either our economy or the housing market or both, more likely.

    Another insight: in 1998, when I was still on the new book launch circuit, I was invited to a celebration for the launch of David Butler’s standard tome on the then recent general election of 1997. The event was suitably crowded. Several political celebrities and commentators attended, some of whom made suitably appropriately commending speeches about the book, including David Butler himself, as well as Peter Mandelson, in the capacity of one of the founders of New Labour.

    His speech was greeted with appropriate applause during which the man standing next to me in the crush, whom I had never seen before and haven’t seen since, said in my ear, “Doesn’t he make you shudder?” It was true. There was something so oleaginous about Mandelson’s delivery that grown men were inclined to shudder.

  5. Thanks for this perspective on the situation Bob. Clearly the fact that Mandelson has left for Europe after a long feud with the person widely assumed to be Blair’s successor gives some indication of the level he is able to operate on. This confirms my feeling that – for good or for ill – he will leave his mark: Brussels will note his presence.

    On the euro, obviously we broadly agree. I have no doubt Mandelson doesn’t understand the issues involved, but he is not alone in this (Blair eg clearly doesn’t either).

    At the risk of taking this thread even further away from its origins, you mention the housing market. The Economist currently has a piece about the ‘cooling’ UK housing market, and a slowdown in personal consumption has been evident for some time no. Now Brown also has his ‘enemies’. So the interesting question to you would be: how do you think Brown’s succession prospects would be affected by a more complicated than anticipated unwinding of all this?

  6. Intersting that Barroso is removing himself from the shipping portfolio. I suspect that this story has many more legs now there are questions about a huge pipeline contract.

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