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ECONOMY

De Tijd - Belgium | 19/12/2014

Belgium's confused energy policy continues

The Belgian government has extended the operating life of two nuclear plants by ten years. The plants were originally to be shut down in 2015. This is just a stop-gap solution, the business paper De Tijd warns: "The decision can be defended on the grounds that it guarantees the country's energy needs in the short term. But on the other hand it only perpetuates the confused energy policy of the past decade. Once again, uncertainty reigns over the planned nuclear phase-out. This scares away investors and prevents money from being put into other forms of power generation. Because it's not easy to compete with the cheap electricity produced by nuclear power plants. ... It's the government's task to clarify the situation quickly so that investors take the risk of investing in the Belgian energy market and offer a solution for the uncertain power supply." (19/12/2014)

Finanz und Wirtschaft - Switzerland | 18/12/2014

Swiss National Bank follows ECB's lead

Switzerland's National Bank (SNB) announced on Thursday that it is introducing negative interest rates in a bid to prevent the Swiss franc from rising further in value. This step shows how dependent the central bank in Bern is on the euro, the business weekly Finanz und Wirtschaft comments: "The law guarantees the institutional autonomy [of the SNB]. But in its monetary policy it doesn't act freely and is forced to react to events abroad. It has been doing this for years, often following the lead of the European Central Bank, which in June introduced negative interest rates on the central bank deposits of commercial banks and is now preparing bond purchases to further weaken the euro. The SNB let itself be forced into a radical monetary course with the cap on the franc's value against the euro. Given the current situation in Switzerland with its overheated real estate market this is less than optimal. But its hands are tied." (18/12/2014)

Hospodářské noviny - Czech Republic | 18/12/2014

Europe needs a stable Russia in the long term

The financial turmoil in Russia shouldn't be a source of satisfaction for anyone and demands countermeasures also from Europe, the liberal business daily Hospodářské noviny admonishes: "The combination of anti-Russian sanctions and dropping oil prices is a cocktail the effects of which no intervention by the Central Bank of Russia can ameliorate - even if its foreign currency reserves are among the largest in the world. The non-state-owned banks that have no access to the international credit market may soon run into problems. Russia already experienced a combination of currency and banking crisis back in 1998, and only got through it thanks to the rising oil price. This is a scenario that won't be repeated now. Russia can survive the collapse of the rouble and the displeasure of the global financial markets for now. But to ensure long-term stability it needs a gesture. And that gesture must come from the EU. It is in the EU's own interests to make it." (18/12/2014)

Dnevnik - Bulgaria | 18/12/2014

Foolish Putin fell into the trap

The international community has lured Putin into a trap from which there is no escape, political commentator Evgenii Dainov writes on the news portal Dnevnik commenting on the rouble crisis: "The West has done a good job bringing this off: the drop in the price of oil - a key Russian export - comes at a time when Russia needs to spend money it doesn't have. Just as with the collapse of the USSR, the trap has been laid in such a way that Russia has no alternative but to spend more money - until it goes broke. That said, 30 percent of this can be put down to the West's cleverness and 70 percent to Putin's foolishness. ... 15 independent states emerged after the bankruptcy of the USSR. Now the collapse of the Russian economy will inevitably lead to a collapse of power structures. For the individual 'federal subjects' this will be a real chance to declare their independence from Russia." (18/12/2014)

i - Portugal | 16/12/2014

TAP strike endangers airline's future

Employees of the Portuguese airline TAP have announced a strike for the last days of December in protest against government plans to privatise 66 percent of the state-owned company's stock. Such a strike threatens jobs more than anything else, the left-liberal daily i warns: "For a company that only recently was suffering from chronic losses to inconvenience more than 120,000 customers at one of the most lucrative times of the year is to severely damage it own interests. To support a strike aimed at preventing privatisation (at a time when Brussels has banned Portugal from injecting more money into the company) is to condemn the company to closure in the long term. The trade unionists are committing professional suicide. They prefer to lose their jobs than to look for private stakeholders who will inject the necessary small change (500 million euros) into the airline." (16/12/2014)

Népszabadság - Hungary | 17/12/2014

Hungary needn't hold Sundays sacred

Citing the bible, which prohibits work on Sundays, the right-wing conservative ruling party Fidesz on Tuesday passed a law stipulating that businesses that occupy premises larger than 200 square metres and the branches of retail chains must stay closed on Sundays. The left-liberal daily Népszsbadság criticises this justification: "Citing the bible may testify to a noble stance but there's a slight problem. We would like to point to the prohibition in the Old Testament, which refers to the Sabbath (Saturday) and has nothing to do with Sunday. Furthermore banning free trade on Sundays runs contrary to national tradition in Hungary. The Hungarians have traded on Sundays for centuries. ... And another thing: the work-free Sunday doesn't extend either to Hungary's casinos or to the factories of German carmakers [Audi, Mercedes and Opel]." (17/12/2014)

The Irish Times - Ireland | 16/12/2014

Irish must learn truth behind bank crisis

The Irish parliamentary committee investigating the collapse of the national banking system in November 2010 starts work today, Wednesday. Taxpayers have a right to know why they had to bail out the banks to the tune of 64 billion euros, the liberal daily The Irish Times writes: "In particular, we need to know what happened in the bank boardrooms as lending policies loosened and why the Central Bank and Financial Regulator were so ineffective. We also need to know why it took so long to discover the depth of the hole in bank balance sheets and how this influenced the key decisions that government ministers made. There are important lessons here for the future. And given how much this has cost us all, we have a right to know the story as fully as possible." (16/12/2014)

La Croix - France | 15/12/2014

Uber raises doubts about high taxi fares

The French government reaffirmed on Monday that online rideshare services like Uber will be banned in France once the new passenger transport legislation comes into effect on 1 January 2015. With this move Paris is reacting to the latest taxi driver strike. But they too need to demonstrate the value of their services, the Catholic daily La Croix admonishes: "The company wanted to set up shop in France because it saw a chance to get a slice of the passenger transport profits through intelligent use of new communication technologies. ... But to establish a presence on a difficult market, the Californian firm tried to get around the regulation that hinders access to the market. However this regulation isn't just there to protect suppliers already active on the market. It's also a guarantee of service quality. And it remains to be seen if the quality corresponds to the level of the prices paid by today's consumers." (15/12/2014)

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy | 16/12/2014

Financial markets fear deflation

The stock markets continued their downwards spiral on Monday. The investors' scepticism should be taken seriously, especially in Europe where despite low oil prices and the ECB's planned bond-buying programme deflation still has the upper hand, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore warns: "The long-term forecast for inflation rates has been lowered from 1.87 to 1.67 percent. So from the point of view of the financial markets neither the ECB's money 'bazooka' nor the positive impact of falling oil prices are enough to boost private household consumption and raise the inflation rate in the medium term. The financial markets can make mistakes. But their assessment is not without its logic: until private households receive a little security (also in terms of taxes) demand will have a hard time recovering. Because the insecurity will make people save instead of spending. This is why the investors are willing to speculate with the ECB's bazooka but they won't bet a cent on demand and inflation." (16/12/2014)

Kapital - Bulgaria | 12/12/2014

Uber the better alternative to taxis in Sofia

The online rideshare service Uber started operating in the Bulgarian capital Sofia last week. This won't make the passenger experience cheaper but it will make it cleaner and more pleasant than in most taxis, the weekly Kapital hopes: "In regulating taxi services the state is supposed to guarantee that passengers travel in a taxi that is in good condition technically and fulfils certain hygiene standards, and that the driver has the necessary driving experience and a proper certificate of good conduct. ... In practice however this doesn't always work. Uber guarantees the same without state intervention by carefully selecting its drivers, vouching for them with the brand and enabling passengers to review the service received. If for example an Uber driver smokes or makes phone calls during the journey, other Uber users will learn about it and won't book him again." (12/12/2014)


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