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The Irish Times - Ireland | 23/11/2015

Risky bank bailout paid off for Ireland

The Irish government has announced plans to start selling shares next year in the Allied Irish Banks (AIB) group, which was nationalised in 2009 to avert bankruptcy. The group's positive performance since its bailout justifies what at the time was a risky operation, the centre-left daily The Irish Times comments in praise: "For most people, a key concern is whether the €21 billion advanced by taxpayers to save AIB can be repaid. ... And AIB's former chief executive David Duffy, when asked when full repayment was likely, indicated 10 years. From a position where some years ago the bailout of AIB was seen as a high-risk gamble, given doubts about the bank's basic solvency, its strong recovery and the prospect of full repayment of its bailout money is a prospect few then would have envisaged." (23/11/2015)

De Volkskrant - Netherlands | 23/11/2015

ABN Amro bank shy of taking risks

Eight years after being bailed out in the midst of the banking crisis the state-owned Dutch bank ABN Amro returned to the markets on Friday, selling 20 percent of its shares. The institute won't embark on any more risky adventures in the future, the centre-left daily De Volkskrant comments approvingly: "As the seller, Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem made the right decision in keeping the Anglo-Saxon banks [entrusted with the IPO] at bay. Their remuneration was very restricted, also as a signal to investors that the bank being sold is a modest one. … For their part [bank chief Gerrit] Zalm and his team have put ABN Amro on the market as a solid bank without a proclivity for wild adventures. Investors are being promised decent dividends but they were not to believe that extra risks will bring them extra gains. The message was understood. … If above all long-term investors buy shares in ABN Amro now they won't be so quick to go looking for quick profits." (23/11/2015)

Kathimerini - Greece | 19/11/2015

Greek wine falls victim to austerity policy

The Greek parliament approved further measures demanded by the country's creditors by a slim majority on Thursday, including a new special tax on wine. The conservative daily Kathimerini is appalled at the decision: "The coalition government's financial team does not seem to have any contact with the country's productive forces and reality. While on the one hand it appears ready to impose taxes and secure funding in order to sustain the state's least productive sectors, it is unable to provide any kind of support to those who are actually producing and generating some kind of growth in the economy. ... The latest outrageous example in this case is the imposition of a new tax on Greek wines. Local wine producers have made huge leaps forward in the last few years. The quality of Greek wine production has improved considerably and the local industry is now exporting large quantities to international markets. Greek wines are finally being linked to the local tourism industry. … Imposing a special tax in this sector at this particular point in time is simply inexplicable." (19/11/2015)

Helsingin Sanomat - Finland | 20/11/2015

Carefully deregulate Finnish taxi fares

Finland's Ministry of Transport is considering cautious moves towards breaking up the taxi monopoly in the country. A first step could be deregulating taxi fares, the liberal daily Helsingin Sanomat suggests: "At present the authorities stipulate a maximum fare for a ride. But in practice taxis always charge the exact authorized amount. So the maximum fare is at the same time the minimum fare. Such price regulation is meant to protect customers. The idea is that taxis and customers are not on an equal footing when it comes to negotiating prices. When the taxi arrives at its destination the customer must pay whatever the driver demands - if they haven't agreed on the fare beforehand. ... The government wants to develop digital services in this sector. If the customer books a taxi on the Internet, in principal he can agree on the price before he gets in the cab. In that case it would no longer be absolutely necessary to set a maximum price." (20/11/2015)

Világgazdaság - Hungary | 19/11/2015

Gas price hike would be defeat for Orbán

The EU Commission is pressuring Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's government to repeal the cuts in utilities rates passed two years ago in an election campaign manoeuvre. Orbán will suffer a major setback if the government is forced to go back on the cuts, which the EU says distort competition, writes the liberal business daily Világgazdaság: "The government should already start thinking about a way to correct the policy of lowering utilities rates which it used as its main weapon in the 2014 parliamentary elections. … It would be a disgraceful political defeat for the Orbán government if just two years after enacting one of the key measures of its unorthodox economic policy it was forced to quietly bury it. … The roughly 25 percent cut in electricity and gas rates was not just a violation of the economic reality in Hungary, it also ran contrary to the market mechanism." (19/11/2015)

Jornal de Negócios - Portugal | 17/11/2015

Paris gives lame excuse for excessive deficit

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has announced that his country won't be able to meet the EU's Stability and Growth Pact criteria owing to increased security expenditures as a result of the terrorist attacks. For the liberal business daily Jornal de Negócios this is just a lame excuse: "This is a strange way of justifying one's own incompetence. … When unforeseen costs are incurred you just have to cut spending in other areas. Which areas? Well, those areas that are less of a priority than national security. Justifying not adhering to the agreed budget reduction targets by putting forward such excuses paves the way for an arbitrary approach to excessive deficits: according to this argument, wouldn't the refugee crisis also provide Athens and Rome with good reason not to meet their budget reduction targets? If France sets a new trend here we'll soon have 19 countries in the Eurozone demanding such exemptions." (17/11/2015)

Der Standard - Austria | 18/11/2015

Tsiparas gets second chance for reforms

Now that Greece's international creditors have concluded that Athens has shown sufficient willingness to introduce reforms the first instalment of the bailout agreed in the summer will be paid out to the Greek government. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has been given a second chance to rebuild his country, writes the centre-left daily Der Standard: "Tsipras has also been lucky regarding the state of the Greek economy: the weeks during which the country's banks were closed did far less damage than had been feared. The expected collapse doesn't appear to be materialising. If the prime minister now manages to push through real structural reforms against all the opposition the chances of the creditors waiving debt will increase. After the fiasco of his first term of office Tsipras has now been given a second chance. He must make the most of it." (18/11/2015)

Wirtschaftsblatt - Austria | 17/11/2015

Counterterrorism a new start for arms industry

The fight of the states of the West against irregular armies like the IS terrorist militia will transform security policy and the arms industry, the liberal business paper Wirtschaftsblatt: "All that counts here is information so that targeted operations can be carried out within and outside the EU. This new form of asymmetrical warfare must therefore lead us to rethink security policy and by extension the states' military budgets. This means the importance of regular armies and the industries that back them will dwindle - while intelligence services will become ever more important. … Freed of all the political debates about data protection, sooner or later those branches of industry that produce electronic surveillance will become the rising stars of a new kind of armaments industry." (17/11/2015)

To Vima Online - Greece | 17/11/2015

Athens creates security for itself and Europe

Athens has announced that on Tuesday morning it reached an agreement with its international creditors on financial reforms that will pave the way for additional billions in loans for the country. In the aftermath of the Paris attacks stability is also a top priority for Greece, writes the liberal online portal To Vima, praising the deal: "As part of Europe and compelled to protect its borders, Greece won't be left unscathed by the current climate of fear and uncertainty - not just because of the huge wave of refugees but also because of its own problems. Each of us, but above all the government, now has the duty to minimise the risks. … The top priority is to restore trust and political and economic stability. … In a world and in a Europe that has once again been plunged into a state of uncertainty we don't have the right to add yet more uncertainty to the mix." (17/11/2015)

The Irish Independent - Ireland | 15/11/2015

Brexit won't harm British-Irish relations

Ireland's Taoiseach Enda Kenny warned last week that a Brexit would deal a severe blow to Ireland's economy. Such worries are unfounded, the conservative daily The Irish Independent counters: "Even the years of deepest hatred were never enough to prevent the back and forth of commerce and people between us, to offset the compelling logic of mutually beneficial UK-Irish trade. As if Britain and Ireland aren't going to agree a trade deal if the UK leaves the EU - not least at a time when relations are warmer than they've been, perhaps, for centuries. As if Britain and Ireland - our history, geography and psyches entwined - need the eurocrats' permission to do business. The very idea is preposterous." (15/11/2015)

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