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Europe: Learning Lessons from the Crisis

In its recent update of the World Economic Outlook, the IMF forecast GDP growth of 1 percent in 2010 for the euro area, while central and eastern Europe is expected to grow at 2 percent of GDP.

During the crisis, countries inside the eurozone benefited from the relative stability of the euro. Emerging market countries ranging from Latvia to Hungary and Romania had to seek emergency assistance from the European Union and the IMF. Today, with the worst of the crisis behind us, markets are taking a new, critical look at countries within the eurozone, with Greece, Spain, and Portugal currently in the headlines. Where this reappraisal will lead remains to be seen. New challenges are also arising for many emerging economies. While the exact nature of those challenges differs substantially from country to country, there are common themes.

In a recent series of blog posts, the Director of the IMF’s European Department, Marek Belka, himself a former finance and prime minister, offers his take on the lessons policymakers should learn from the crisis. Below is a short summary of each of his six postings.

For more: IMF Survey: Europe: Learning Lessons from the Crisis

Sarkozy admits France made 'serious errors' over Rwanda genocide

After almost 16 years of bitter recriminations over France’s role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Nicolas Sarkozy became the first French leader since the killings to visit the tiny Central African country.

The sight of a French leader laying a wreath at the main genocide memorial in the capital, Kigali, helps cement closer ties between the two countries after diplomatic relations were restored late last year.

The dominant foreign power in Rwanda prior to the genocide, France’s influence collapsed over accusations that leading French politicians at the time helped arm and train those responsible for the killings.

Just over three years ago, Rwanda broke off diplomatic relations after a French judge indicted nine top Rwandan officials for sparking the genocide by shooting down the plane of then-President Juvenal Habyarimana.

For more: Sarkozy admits France made 'serious errors' over Rwanda genocide - Yahoo! News

Dutch Political Uncertainty Boosts Far-Right Party - by Eric Westervelt

The Dutch coalition government collapsed last weekend over the country's commitment to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, setting the stage for early elections in June and putting politics in the Netherlands in turmoil.

Edwin Bakker, an analyst with the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, says outgoing Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende of the Christian Democrat Party may have set some kind of Dutch record in the past eight years. "We've never seen a prime minister with four Cabinets and four governments falling, some within a couple of months, some within a few years," Bakker said.

Balkenende will remain in office as head of a minority government until June 9 elections. His government broke apart when 12 Cabinet officers quit the coalition on Saturday after the left-leaning Labor Party refused a NATO request to keep Dutch troops in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan.

Note EU-Digest: The majority of Dutch public opinion is against the continuation of Dutch troops in  the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan. Left leaning political parties should capitalize on this fact and make sure the Dutch voter must realize that a return of Mr. Balkenende and a right wing coalition into power will mean more Dutch lives will be lost in Afghanistan.

For more: Dutch Political Uncertainty Boosts Far-Right Party : NPR

North-South Divide And Tackling Global Warning - by Helena Norberg-Hodge

As signs of climate instability increase, radical and rapid action is becoming ever more urgent. One of the biggest obstacles to global collaboration, however, has been the foot-dragging and obstructionism of the US government, much of it based on the fear of giving Southern economies a ‘competitive advantage’ if they are permitted to emit greenhouse gases at higher rates than the North. Yet even within the environmental movement there is no unanimity on this thorny question: should the countries of the South have the right to increase their emissions as they industrialize and ‘develop’?

At first blush, it makes sense that they should, based both on equity and the notion that rich countries have no right to make demands of the so-called poor countries: “We in the North have benefited from ‘development’, how can we deny the South the right to follow in our footsteps?”

This argument suffers from two key flaws. First, people in the South simply cannot replicate the development path taken by the North: not only has our ‘development’ already used up too much of the planet’s resources – including its ability to absorb CO2 emissions – but the South has no colonies to supply it with cheap resources and labor, no ‘Third World’ to exploit. Second, arguing for equity ignores the fact that development and globalization do not benefit the majority; they have instead been responsible for a dramatic increase in poverty, while primarily benefiting only a small wealthy elite.  This latter point underlies the dark reality behind the US government’s attitude to climate change. According to Walden Bello, senior analyst at Focus on the Global South:

For more: North-South Divide And Tackling Global Warning By Helena Norberg-Hodge

Olympics: Netherlands' Nicolien Sauerbreij splashes to women's parallel giant slalom victory

The No. 1 survivor on the snowboarding course Friday turned out to be Nicolien Sauerbreij of the Netherlands, who won the women's parallel giant slalom. She survived a minuscule first-run deficit to beat Ekaterina Ilyukhina of Russia.Nightmarish conditions, to be sure. There are two runs in each of the final rounds, and racers go head to head and switch sides for the second heat. Funny, but the person best equipped to handle deteriorating conditions Friday had been dealing with nightmares about Olympic podium failure. "It is so hard in this weather to concentrate on yourself," Sauerbreij said. "This week, I would sometimes dream of a bronze medal. And I had to say, 'No, no -- gold.' "

The lone U.S. entrant, Michelle Gorgone, made it into the afternoon session before losing to Ilyukhina. Gorgone, who was 22nd at the Olympics four years ago, finished 14th. "It's pretty gnarly in there," she said. "I felt I had a good time, and then I'd make a mistake. And then I'd have a good time again, and then I'd make another mistake."

For more: Netherlands' Nicolien Sauerbreij splashes to women's parallel giant slalom victory - Los Angeles Times

EU moves towards a bailout of Greece ? - by Stephen Castle

In a tense game of brinksmanship, the European Union is moving toward the first bailout in the history of its common currency, which is expected to involve loan guarantees from the German and French governments to encourage their banks to buy Greek debt.

Even as the negotiations continue, the bloc is insisting that Athens impose further, painful austerity measures, in part to overcome political opposition in Germany to providing aid to the spendthrift Greeks.

During a brief visit, due to start Monday, Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, will press for more spending cuts and tax increases in Greece as a precursor to an emerging package of financial support. With no structure in place for dealing with a threatened default within the 16-nation euro zone, officials are making up the rules as they go along. That means that politics — as much as economics — is determining the outcome of the worst crisis in the decade-long lifespan of the euro, creating a kind of phony war in which battles are being fought by leaks and behind-the-scenes briefings.

For more - Europe Union Moves Toward a Bailout of Greece -


Happiness rolls over us like a wave - by Pepe Escobar

North Korea, for the West, and especially the United States, is the absolute epitome of "the other''; the ultimate all-around, top-to-bottom, no-holds-barred antithesis to neo-liberalism and post-modern turbo-capitalism on show in the whole world.

Cuba embraces one with its tropical warmth; after all it is located in the "Western hemisphere", according to the US State Department's quirky terminology. And by listening to Spanish spoken with that beautiful musical accent, many a Westerner could almost feel at home. On the other hand, the predominant perception of North Korea is of the ultimate alien. Even South Koreans feel shocked when they eventually find out that North Koreans are normal people just like anybody else.

For more: Asia Times Online :: Korea News and Korean Business and Economy, Pyongyang News

Germany's frugality bemoaned for inhibiting euro zone growth - by Anthony Faiola

Greek extravagance touched off the biggest crisis in the 11-year history of the euro. But the world's most ambitious monetary union faces a less obvious problem that might be even harder to lick -- German frugality.

Adoption of the euro a decade ago ushered in an era of cheap credit, soaring salaries and big government in nations like Greece, Spain and Portugal. Their debt-fueled splurges are now coming home to roost, with Greece the first to come close to running out of cash to operate the government, raising fears of a default. Germany -- Europe's economic powerhouse -- is expected to take a leading role in a rescue effort to prevent a possible run on the euro and the outbreak of a new bout of turmoil in global bond, currency and stock markets.

Southern European profligacy is now the target of open distain in Germany, with many here ruing the day in 1999 that this nation of 82 million kissed goodbye to the once-mighty deutsche mark.

Note EU-Digest: It is certainly is not bemoaned by serious Europeans who want the best for Europe. It's not important what the US financial community thinks. They are the cause of problem and they still have not been regulated.

For more: Germany's frugality bemoaned for inhibiting euro zone growth -

Swiss thank Europe for solidarity in Libya row

Speaking before a group of 250 Socialist Party delegates gathered in the Swiss capital, Bern, Calmy-Rey said there was strength in unity and that EU-sceptics should be convinced that Switzerland is strong at Europe’s side.

The foreign minister reiterated that her goal is to free jailed Swiss businessman Max Göldi as soon as possible. After being forbidden from leaving Libya for more than 500 days, Göldi recently began serving a four-month prison term for visa violations.

International human rights groups say Göldi has become a political pawn in Switzerland’s ongoing row with Libya over the brief 2008 arrest in Geneva of leader Moammar Gaddafi’s youngest son, Hannibal. The row has escalated into a European issue with various visa restrictions hampering travel between most of Europe and Libya.

For complete report: Swiss foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey thanks Europe for solidarity in Libya row. - swissinfo


Is China holding the key to US economic survival?

One of the big worries Americans have about China's rising economic
power concerns its immense holdings of U.S. government debt. The fear
is that Chinese actions regarding these holdings could end up
destabilizing the U.S. economy, or that they could be used as a
political tool to influence American policy. If China, let's say, got
angry at Washington over its support for Taiwan or the Dalai Lama,
Beijing could retaliate by dumping U.S. Treasury bills. Or perhaps
China would sell Treasuries as part of a no-confidence vote on the
future of the U.S. economy. By selling American debt, China would
weaken the value of the dollar, damage investor sentiment towards the
U.S. economy and make it harder for Washington to finance its giant
budget deficits.

Eswar Prasad, a very smart economist at Cornell University and a senior
fellow at the Brookings Institution, submitted some very interesting
testimony to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on
Feb. 25 regarding the implications of China's U.S. debt holdings.

For more: Will China Dump U.S. Debt? - The Curious Capitalist -

Google Europe: A No Good, Very Bad Week - by Ian Paul

This has not been a good week so far for Google's European operations. The search giant has been hit with official complaints of anti-competitive behavior from three companies based in the European Union, and three Google employees have been convicted of violating Italian privacy laws.

Three companies have filed complaints with the European Commission, the EU's regulatory board, charging Google with anti-competitive behavior, according to a Google Blog post. Foundem, a price comparison site, is reportedly arguing that since it is a direct competitor to Google's own shopping services, the search giant ranks Foundem lower in its results. has similar complaints to Foundem, while Microsoft-owned Ciao has taken issue with Google's terms and conditions, Google says.

For the complete report from  Google Europe: A No Good, Very Bad Week - PCWorld

European Union pushes Greece to cut more

European Union officials are pressing Greece for additional austerity measures after an emergency inspection of its ailing finances amid global worries that Greece's problems might worsen a weak world economy.

A team of officials from the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund wrapped up a three-day visit Thursday. Athens faces a March 16 deadline from the EU to show signs of fiscal improvement or take further action to boost revenues and cut spending.

Greek shares led a big retreat in world markets Thursday as investors worried that credit-rating agencies may downgrade the country's government debt further.

For more: European Union pushes Greece to cut more -


US Economy: Rising jobless claims reflect weakening recovery - by Christopher S. Rugaber

Layoffs are no longer dropping as they were in the final months of last year, reinforcing fears that the jobs crisis will weigh down consumer spending and the economic rebound. Severe weather contributed to a rise in jobless claims last week. But other economic data add to evidence that the recovery remains weak and uneven.

An example is orders for big-ticket manufactured goods, excluding airplanes and other transportation equipment. Those orders dropped 0.6 percent in January, the government said Thursday.

Earlier in the week, new-home sales fell in January to their lowest pace on record. And consumer confidence plunged in February.

For more: Rising jobless claims reflect weakening recovery - BusinessWeek

European Economy facing uphill struggle in 2010

Europe's economy is fragile and headed for a year of weak growth, according to an economic forecast report published by the European Commission on Thursday (25 February).

The region's gross domestic product is set to rise a paltry 0.7 percent in 2010, in line with the commission's autumn forecast last year, with inflation set to rise by 1.4 percent.

For more: EUobserver / Europe's economy facing weak growth in 2010


Turkey in turmoil: Shoe is thrown at Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan while in Spain by Kurdish nationalist

First it was a shoe which barely missed George Bush in Iraq, this time it was a man who threw his shoe at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Seville, Spain, on Monday evening.

The 20-year-old protester shouted "Viva Kurdistan" as he made the attack, although he missed his target and his shoe hit Mr Erdogan's bodyguard. The attacker was taken into custody.

Note EU-Digest: In the past several days, Turkey’s long-simmering military/Islamist tension surfaced yet again. On Monday night, dozens of serving and retired officers were arrested, including some of the country's highest-ranking former generals and admirals. Speaking separately about the plot and the arrests, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (on a visit to Spain) and President Abdullah Gül took pains to wave off any claim of the ruling government's involvement in the arrests, putting the responsibility for the investigations and arrests back on criminal prosecutors.

The Turkish military clings to its role as protector of the modern Turkish state, established by the father of modern, secular Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, against domestic and international enemies, intervening to depose three elected governments and executing prime minister Adnan Menderes, the leader of Turkey's first opposition party, in 1961.

In addition, Turkey continues to be split between modern secularists and devout Muslims, who press for a religious texture to their state. The continuing effect of Turkey's long-term repression of its Kurdish population (derisively labeled "Mountain Turks" by the government); a deep, centuries-old suspicion of Greece; and the attendant conflict over Cyprus, and a continuing animosity between Turks and Armenians that reaches back (at least in the modern era) to Turkish pograms against its subject Armenian population during World War I are further problems.

For more: BBC News - Shoe thrown at Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Airbus A400M partners reach financing deal

European governments have struck an outline deal with Airbus parent EADS (EAD.PA) over a rescue package worth 3.5 billion euros ($4.76 billion) to save the A400M military transporter, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Under the deal, the group of purchasing nations -- which also include Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain -- have agreed to a roughly 10 percent increase in the price of each plane for a total boost of 2 billion euros.

A further 1.5 billion will be made available in such a way that EADS can set this sum, as well as the core aid of 2 billion, against A400M losses and thus reduce the amount of provisions it needs to take in 2009 results, the source said.

Formore: Airbus A400M partners reach financing deal -source | Reuters

France Air Traffic Control Goes on Strike

What's in the water in Europe? First Lufthansa pilots go on strike (briefly), then British Airways' cabin crew union voted to strike again, and now air traffic control workers in France have walked off the job.

The Associated Press reports that the strike is scheduled to last four days, and is a response to "plans to integrate European air traffic control, which workers fear will lead to losses of jobs and civil servant benefits." The unions involved are trying to "pressure President Nicolas Sarkozy's governing conservatives before next month's regional elections."

For more: France Air Traffic Control Goes on Strike

Anglo Saxon Conservatives on the attack against EU: "Europe's Crisis of Ideas" - by Bret Stephens

"In continental Europe the dominant mode of conservative politics is sometimes pro-business but rarely pro-market: During his 12-year presidency of France, Jacques Chirac railed against "Anglo-Saxon ultraliberalism," a phrase that became so ubiquitous as to almost obscure its crassly xenophobic appeal. There are think tanks, but they are almost invariably funded by political parties and hew to the party line. Not a single economics faculty in Europe is remotely competitive with a Chicago or a George Mason: Since 1990, only three of the 36 winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics were then affiliated with a European university.

Then there is the media. Last week, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who leads the country's market-friendly Free Democrats, took to the pages of Die Welt to lament that Germany's working poor make less than welfare recipients. "For too long," he wrote, "we have perfected in Germany the redistribution [of wealth], forgetting where prosperity comes from."

For his banal observations, Mr. Westerwelle was roundly accused of "[defaming] millions of welfare recipients" and urged to apologize to them. It takes a remarkably stultified intellectual climate for an op-ed to spark this kind of brouhaha: It is the empire of the Emperor's New Clothes, adapted to the 21st century welfare state."

Note EU-Digest: If the US financial system is so great why did they nearly destroyed the world-wide economic structure by their greed.Its time Europe bars organizations like Goldman Sachs from its shores, but so far they have not had the guts to do so.

For more Bret Stephens: Europe's Crisis of Ideas -


Dubai Murder: Israel plays for dumb while EU Condemns Use Of Fake Passports In Murder

Europe's governments have condemned the use of fake EU passports in an assassination plot - but have stopped short of naming Israel as the prime suspect. "It is very important that people know that we continue to take this issue very seriously indeed. There is very real concern across Europe."

Meanwhile the Israeli foreign ministry issued a statement insisting that there was no proof of Israeli involvement in the killing. Note EU-Digest:"who is he kidding?"



Skating Olympics: Tuitert from the Netherlands beats Shani Davis of US in the 1500m

Mark Tuitert edged American hot favourite Shani Davis in the men's 1,500m speed skating here on Saturday, claiming the Netherlands' second gold at the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games.

Tuitert also became the first Dutch speed skater to win the event since Ard Schenk in 1972 and he is the third Dutchman in history to be crowned Olympic champion in this event. "I worked so hard for this over the last eight years. And then it comes out in such a moment and with so much respect," Tuitert said.

For more: Tuitert grabs Netherlands' second gold

Dutch Pull-Out From War Expected After Government Collapse - by Nicholas Kulish

A day after his government collapsed, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said Sunday that he expected Dutch troops to come home from Afghanistan before the end of the year. A last-ditch effort by Mr. Balkenende to keep Dutch soldiers in the dangerous southern Afghan province of Oruzgan instead saw the Labor Party quit the government in the Netherlands early Saturday, immediately raising fears that the Western military coalition fighting the war was increasingly at risk.

Even as the allied offensive in the Taliban stronghold of Marja continued, it appeared almost certain that most of the 2,000 Dutch troops would be gone from Afghanistan by the end of the year. The question plaguing military planners was whether a Dutch departure would embolden the war’s critics in other allied countries, where debate over deployment is continuing, and hasten the withdrawal of their troops as well.

For more: Dutch Pull-Out From War Expected After Government Collapse -

Euro: what are the factors which are influencing its present descent? - by Turuhiko Mano

The euro's value is falling conspicuously. Compared with the highs in the last quarter of 2009, Europe's unified currency has dropped from around ¥135 to ¥122, and from about $1.52 to roughly $1.37, losing nearly 10 percent against the yen and the dollar. What is causing its fall and where will it go from here?

The first of the several causes behind the euro's decline is the political trouble in the euro-zone economies. The cost of guaranteeing loans against default has risen sharply in light of the rising risk being attached to Greece's snowballing sovereign debt. European Union leaders said Feb. 11 that they would support Greece's fiscal reconstruction efforts and pledged to "take determined and coordinated action, if needed, to safeguard financial stability in the euro area as a whole."

For more: How many factors are driving euro's descent? | The Japan Times Online

Dollar Focuses on Normal Rather Than Crisis

Currency investors will shift their focus to economic growth from crisis now the Federal Reserve has signaled that U.S. banks no longer require acute emergency support.

Until recently, any sign of strength in the economic recovery in the U.S. prompted investors to sell dollars and buy higher-yielding assets, safe in the knowledge that dollar interest rates would remain ultralow for a while.

Now that the Fed has made a tangible move away from crisis mode, investors will watch a broad array of figures—from inflation to productivity gains and jobless claims—to gauge the strength of the recovery and the speed at which excess capacity is used up.

For more: Forex View: Dollar Focuses on Normal Rather Than Crisis -


Lufthansa Halts 67% of Flights as Four-Day Pilot Strike Starts

Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Europe’s second-largest airline, scrapped 67 percent of its services today as pilots start a four-day strike over work assignments.

Lufthansa and regional divisions are dropping 1,200 flights of the 1,800 services scheduled daily during the strike, said Stefanie Stotz, a spokeswoman for the carrier in Frankfurt. The Vereinigung Cockpit labor union is staging the walkout through Feb. 25.

For more; Lufthansa Halts 67% of Flights as Four-Day Pilot Strike Starts

EU Economy: Europe's Attention Turns to Italy

The revelations about Greece's currency swap -- about which fuller details are expected in the coming days -- have raised questions about Italy.- First, there was some concern that Italy Central Bank Governor Draghi may have been involved with the swaps with Greece when he worked for the US investment house that has been linked to the transactions. The Bank of Italy has formally denied this. - Second, there is some concern that Italy may have used similar tactics to dress up its accounts. Reports indicate that Italy did in fact use derivatives to lower its deficit to meet the Maastricht requirements to join EMU. Swaps were apparently used to temporarily reduce the amount of interest paid and lower the 1997 deficit. The European Commission had reportedly reviewed and approved the transaction. Yesterday Finance Minister Tremonti hinted that the technical issues--like the existence of the Italian lira and budget figures kept in lira--prevented the swap from being identified as a way to mask the size of the deficit.

On a different front, the Italian Banking Association reports that Italian banks are awash with cash (deposits and new bond issuance) but, like banks elsewhere, they are not lending. Italy's banks have thus far avoided the need for extensive government support and do not appear to have the exposures to the weaker European credits as do German, French, British and Swiss banks.

For the complete report: Europe's Attention Turns to Italy -- Seeking Alpha

Dutch government falls over Afghanistan - could this be a trend that will see Europe regain its independence from the USA ?- by Christopher King

"The split in the Dutch parliament on withdrawal from Afghanistan is a sign that Europe is beginning to recognize who the real terrorists are. The true situation is so different from the media’s portrayal that the general public finds it difficult, perhaps impossible, to contemplate. I wonder how much Europe’s politicians understand. The situation is truly desperate – not for Afghanistan but for Europe.

The Israeli-American axis’s policy is 100 per cent lies and deception. Since the purpose of NATO is supposed to be the protection of Europe, it is remarkable that we never hear from its chief. I don’t mean Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary-general who our media always calls the “NATO head”. He is nothing of the sort. Rasmussen is the ex-prime minister of Denmark who has no power whatsoever. He is the mouthpiece for the real head of NATO.

The title of NATO’s real head is Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, currently Admiral James G. Stavridis, US Navy, of whom very few people have ever heard. The head of NATO is always an American. This is where the power in Europe lies – with an American admiral, not a Danish political hack."

For more: Dutch government falls over Afghanistan > Global > Redress Information & Analysis

US Economy: Claims about stimulus don't always match up with reality -

The U.S. economy lost 3.3 million jobs since last March, and unemployment hit a high of 10.1% in October before falling back to 9.7% in January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. The administration didn't say the stimulus would prevent all job losses. Still, chief White House economist Christina Romer had predicted when the stimulus passed that unemployment would be slightly higher than 8% during 2009. Romer acknowledged this month that the economy was in worse shape than she and other economists knew at the time.

For more: Claims about stimulus don't always match up with reality -

Germany Braces For Lufthansa Strike -

Germany is bracing for a four-day strike at flagship airline Lufthansa from Monday that threatens to disrupt travel to and from Europe's biggest economy.

Lufthansa's pilots plan to go on strike in a row over pay and job security, fearing the company could try to cut staff costs by shifting jobs to foreign subsidiaries such as Austrian Airlines or Lufthansa Italia, where wages are lower.

German economy minister Peter Ramsauer demanded both parties restart negotiations to avert a strike after talks were halted on Friday.

For the complete report : Germany Braces For Lufthansa Strike -


European shipbuilders to investigate Korean prices

Some European shipbuilders, it seems, still see their problems as including artificially low pricing by Korea.

In view of what it calls "cases of unrealistically low offer prices in the shipbuilding market" and complaints by several members, CESA (the Community of European Shipyard Associations) is to establish a cost investigation procedure to "assess realistic production costs for what seem to be irrationally low-priced contracts."

CESA says the investigation will involve experts from the field and take the concrete project specification as well as the specific conditions of the respective builder into account. Only contracts for which European yards have tendered will be taken into consideration. Should the results indicate that the reported contract price is substantial below the estimated cost, CESA will contact both customer and builder for comments.

For more European shipbuilders to investigate Korean prices

London Film Critics’ Circle Awards: A PROPHET Beats AVATAR, THE HURT LOCKER

Avatar may be the king of the box office, but it surely wasn’t king of anything at the London Film Critics’ Circle Awards held last night in, where else, London.

The London Critics’ best film of 2009? Jacques Audiard’s prison drama A Prophet, the first French-made production to win the Circle’s top award in its 30-year history. Starring European Film Award winner Tahar Rahim (above), A Prophet is set in a tough French prison where a newcomer must fend off the advances of the local Corsican mafia. A Prophet has received 13 nominations for the French Academy’s Césars and is expected to win the Best Film award.

For more: A PROPHET Beats AVATAR, THE HURT LOCKER: London Film Critics’ Awards

France sees Airbus military plane deal next week - by Jeamy Keaten

France can "reasonably expect" a deal next week between seven countries and European defense giant EADS to resolve a financial dispute over the A400M military transport plane, a Defense Ministry spokesman said Wednesday.

France hopes a deal that could lay the foundation for a new contract will emerge on the sidelines of a European Union defense ministers' meeting in Spain on Wednesday, spokesman Laurent Teisseire said. Spain, which is hosting the regularly scheduled EU defense ministers meeting in its current role as EU president, has final say whether a meeting of A400M customer states occurs in Majorca, Teisseire said.

Governments had made proposals to EADS on Monday, and EADS responded two days later, German officials said Wednesday. Teisseire said France believed the responses "go in a favorable direction." EADS and the seven governments that ordered the four-propeller Airbus plane have been haggling over who will pay for 5.2 billion in cost overruns and technical problems that have put the program almost four years behind schedule.

For the complete report: The Associated Press: France sees Airbus military plane deal next week

EU Trouble: US Banks Helped Hide Government Debt -by Alex Newman

American banks helped Greece and possibly other governments to run massive deficits and conceal them from European Union officials and the public, according to international news reports. Meanwhile, the consequences of the deception are echoing through world currency and debt markets while shaking the very foundations of the Eurozone. Under EU rules implemented with the Maastricht treaty, all Eurozone countries are supposed to maintain an annual budget deficit of less than three percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and an overall debt of less than 60 percent of GDP. Nonconforming nations can face fines and other action. But Greece has never been able to stick to the 60 percent rule, and has now been caught lying about its deficits. Last year the government ran a deficit of over 12 percent, an enormous figure by any standard.

In an effort to raise even more money and conceal the staggering levels of debt, Greece turned to American banks — Goldman Sachs in particular, according to an explosive story published by the German magazine Der Spiegel. The report, entitled "How Goldman Sachs Helped Greece to Mask its True Debt," alleges that the Greek government used obscure derivatives provided by U.S. banks to delay payment on obligations, borrow even more money and to keep the true figures off the official.

For more: EU Trouble: US Banks Helped Hide Government Debt


China sells $34.2bn of US treasury bonds - by Tania Branigan and Heather Stewart

China sold $34bn (£21.5bn) worth of US government bonds in December, raising fears that ­Beijing is using its financial ­muscle to signal that it has lost confidence in American economic policy.

US treasury figures for the period ending in December 2009 show that, following the sale, China is no longer the largest overseas holder of US treasury bonds. Beijing ended the year sitting on $755.4bn worth of US government debt, compared to Japan's $768.8bn. Since the sub-prime crisis that began on Main Street USA grew to engulf the global economy, China's leaders have repeatedly expressed concerns about US policy. December's $34bn sell-off made only a tiny dent in Beijing's total holdings of US assets, which amount to well over $1tn when stakes in American companies, as well as treasury bills, are taken into account.

But the news intensified concerns about China's appetite for bankrolling ever-widening American deficits. Premier Wen Jiabao told reporters last year: "We have made a huge amount of loans to the United States. Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I'm a little bit worried."

For more: China sells $34.2bn of US treasury bonds | Business |

For more: China sells $34.2bn of US treasury bonds | Business |

In spite of numbers, Dutch Muslims are political non-entity - by Brian van der Bol and Mark Hoogstad

The Islam Democrats (ID), represented by a single delegate in The Hague’s city council since 2006, wanted desperately to avoid a swift implosion, as has been the fate of some other young Dutch political parties in recent memory. They failed. The party fell prey to infighting and is now divided into two feuding camps. The party’s plans to participate in the upcoming municipal elections in Rotterdam, Utrecht, and other Dutch cities, have been put on hold.

For the complete report: - International - In spite of numbers, Dutch Muslims are political non-entity

Dalai Lama and Obama to meet tomorrow

The meeting comes amid tension in US-Sino relations, with disputes simmering over US arms sales to Taiwan, claims of Chinese cyber-spying and trade deals.

China, which views the Dalai Lama as a separatist, has warned the meeting will undermine relations.

The US, while moving carefully on the issue, dismissed the fears as needless.

For the complete report - BBC News - Dalai Lama lands in US ahead of talks with Barack Obama

Fake passports fuel questions about Israeli role in Hamas official's slaying - by Howard Schneider

Pressure mounted Wednesday for Israel to respond to speculation that its Mossad spy agency killed a Hamas operative in a Dubai hotel last month, with Britain's prime minister promising to investigate the use of forged British passports by the alleged assassins and analysts in Israel taking unusual aim at the country's vaunted undercover organization.

The British Foreign Office summoned the Israeli ambassador to a meeting over the matter Thursday, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown said a full inquiry will be mounted.

Israel has a record of using foreign passports to conceal the movements of its undercover operatives and has run into diplomatic trouble with Canada, New Zealand, Britain and others over the practice. The Mossad agents who tried to assassinate Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Jordan in 1997, for example, carried Canadian documents.

Fake passports fuel questions about Israeli role in Hamas official's slaying -

Dutch cabinet faces Afghanistan crisis

The Labour Party has definitely rejected NATO's request that the Netherlands stay in the Afghan province of Uruzgan for another year on a training mission. Labour leader and deputy prime minister Wouter Bos informed the other two government parties, the Christian Democrats and the Christian Union, of this during discussions about Afghanistan.

He said his party would honor its promise to the voters that the last Dutch troops would leave Afghanistan by the end of this year and he asked the cabinet officially to reject NATO's request this coming Friday.

Christian Democrat Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen and Christian Union Defence Minister Eimert van Middelkoop have both expressed willingness to extend the Dutch mission in Uruzgan.

For more: Dutch cabinet faces Afghanistan crisis | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Spain: Are international "murky manoeuvres" behind financial market pressure on Spain? Where are the EU regulations?

Spain's intelligence services are investigating the role of investors and media in debt market turbulence over the last few weeks, El Pais reported on Sunday. Citing unnamed sources, El Pais said the National Intelligence Centre (CNI) was looking into "speculative attacks" on Spain following the Greek debt crisis.

"The (CNI's) Economic Intelligence investigating whether investors' attacks and the aggressiveness of some Anglo-Saxon media are driven by market forces and challenges facing the Spanish economy, or whether there is something more behind this campaign," El Pais said.

Some French commentators are drawn to this scenario. It's the Anglo-Saxon banks and hedge funds who are behind the euro crisis, is their conclusion. Indeed, one French commentator was quoted as saying "those who played against Greece will pay dearly. The European Union states now view this as direct aggression against them." Even the head of the 16-nation Eurogroup, Jean-Claude Juncker, is drawn to the idea of the euro as victim. "We shouldn't accept to be the target of financial markets," he says. "I am concerned," he goes on, "at the irrational way of behaving of financial markets". In the UK, Labour MP and former Europe Minister Denis MacShane writes that "the Anglo-Saxon club of anti-Europeans is on the rampage".

The facts show that some if not all of these allegations are true - speculators have raised their bets against the euro. It is reported that the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which reflects hedge fund activity, has witnessed growing positions being taken on the euro falling further. Nicolas Veron of the Bruegel Institute says "the markets are testing the limits of the single currency policy framework".

What has also become evident among those who support the EU and the euro, is that the onslaught of the powerful international financial community on the EURO will get worse as long as EU fiscal policies are decided at the level of national governments and regulations are not in place. Only when these changes happen can one put an end to the scenarios like the one we saw in Greece, where the Government made a risky financial deal with US based Goldman Sachs whereby Goldman Sachs also assisted the Greek government to hide its actual budget deficit. According to the New York Times a variety of US banks have given similar "support" to other EU nations, including Italy.

All this is unacceptable and must become the number one priority on the EU commission "to do list". If action is further delayed, the EU electorate and the EU parliament should seriously start questioning the motives of their national governments and the EU commission for not calling a halt to the manipulations of the international financial community on the sovereignty of their nations and the EU.

EU-Digest "Spain: Are international "murky manoeuvres" behind financial market pressure on Spain? Where are the EU regulations?"


China: Goldman Sachs Says China Currency and Economy Trouble Brewing - by Mike Shedlock

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Economist Jim O’Neill said China may be poised to let its currency strengthen as much as 5 percent to slow the world’s fastest growing major economy. “I have a strong opinion that they’re close to moving the exchange rate,” O’Neill said in a telephone interview from London after China’s central bank told lenders on Feb. 12 to set aside larger reserves. “Something’s brewing. It could happen anytime.”

Chinese policy makers are seeking to restrain credit growth after their economy grew the fastest since 2007 in the fourth quarter. Banks extended 19 percent of this year’s 7.5 trillion yuan ($1.1 trillion) lending target in January as property prices climbed the most in 21 months.

O’Neill, who coined the term “BRICs” in 2001, anticipating the boom in the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, said China may allow the yuan to rise as much as 5 percent in a one-off revaluation and to then trade within a bigger band or against a larger basket of currencies. That would help counter international pressure, he said.

Record lending last year and a 4 trillion yuan stimulus package helped China lead the recovery from the deepest global recession since World War II. Investors’ concern about investment bubbles in China, and what action the government may take to prevent or deflate them, has mounted this year.

Goldman Sachs Says China Currency and Economy Trouble Brewing :: The Market Oracle :: Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting Free Website

Alternative fuels: Denmark Makes Stab for Biofuel Greatness by making them competitive with fosil fuels

In the last 24 hours, Danish giants Novozymes and Genencor have announced technological breakthroughs that radically cut the price of their enzymes.

Genencor got the ball moving yesterday at the 15th Annual National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, FL by announcing that its new enzyme is an advanced version of its Accellerase 1500 model. By using a whole broth formulation, the enzyme provides nutrients for fermentative organisms while lowering the chemical load created during fermentation. Genencor claims that this new enzyme results in higher yields at a three-fold lower dosing and works well with all feedstock and pretreatment combinations.

Not to be outdone, Novozymes today announced its first commercial enzyme for cellulosic ethanol produced from agricultural waste via its Cellic® CTec2 enzymes. Most significantly, the company's CTec enzyme, when combined with the HTec2 enzyme, has reduced current enzyme production costs for cellulosic ethanol producers by 80% over the last two years to $0.50/gal --- a long-term industry price target. At $0.50/gal, enzyme costs will represent approximately 25% of the total levelized cost structure for cellulosic ethanol production via bio-chemical processes. Yet, if total costs have now been brought down to $2.00/gal, cellulosic ethanol can now be said to be very close to cost parity with corn ethanol and gasoline at $75/bbl.

For more: Denmark Makes Stab for Biofuel Greatness : Greentech Media

Greek crisis could boost Turkish-Greek relations

he Greek economic meltdown can be turned to the advantage of both Turkey and Greece, observers have said, stressing the benefits of a possible solidarity visit to Greece by Turkish businessmen which might boost bilateral relations both politically and economically.

Speaking to Today’s Zaman, İbrahim Öztürk, a professor of economics at Marmara University, said the two neighboring countries border the same sea but cannot take advantage of this proximity for various reasons, but he predicted that the current financial crisis might be a chance to overcome the psychological obstacles to collaboration. “Turkish businessmen should pay a solidarity visit to Greece. It is not important whether we get a concrete result or not, but it will definitely provide noteworthy psychological gains, and this matters,” he said. Öztürk called on the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TİM), along with other business associations such as: the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB), the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON), the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (MÜSİAD) and the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD) to immediately organize such trips to Greece and get businessmen of both nations together to discuss possible ways to collaborate. Unexpected deals in economic cooperation could also be reached during such talks, but, in the first place, such meetings will make remarkable psychological contributions to the resolution of a number of issues existing between the two countries, he said.

For the complete report : Greek crisis could boost Turkish-Greek relations

Bulgarian lawmakers visit Turkish parliament

Members of the Foreign Relations and Defense Committee of the Bulgarian Parliament had a meeting with Nevzat Pakdil, deputy speaker of the Turkish Parliament, in Ankara.

"Our neighbor, Bulgaria is Turkey's door opening to Europe, and Turkey is Bulgaria's door opening to Asia," Pakdil said during the meeting.

For the complete report : BSANNA News - BSANNA NEWS

Putin says U.S. is no better than Greece in handling its debt and fiscal deficit - by Gleb Bryanski

Russian PM plays down Greece's economic woes, telling his visiting Greek counterpart the U.S. is no better than Greece in handling its debt and fiscal deficit.

On Tuesday European ministers told Greece it may need to take further steps to bring a swollen debt under control, with Germany saying Greece should imitate Ireland and Latvia, both of which are slashing spending and wages savagely. Both Greek and Russian officials denied financial aid was on the agenda during talks in Moscow, while President Dmitry Medvedev said he had told Papandreou to turn to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for help.

“This is not the end of the world. I believe that we will come out of this situation much stronger than we are today,” Mr. Papandreou told the news conference.

For the complete report: Putin calms Greece, says U.S. debt big too - The Globe and Mail

US Conservative view of Europe: America's European Dream - by Joel Kotkin

The evolving Greek fiscal tragedy represents more than an isolated case of a particularly poorly run government. It reflects a deeper and potentially irreversible malaise that threatens the entire European continent.

The issues at the heart of the Greek crisis--huge public debt, slow population growth, expansive welfare system and weakening economic fundamentals--extend to a wider range of European countries--most notably in weaker fringe nations like Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain (the so-called PIIGS). These problems also pervade many E.U. countries still outside the Eurozone in both the Baltics and the Balkans.

For more: America's European Dream -


Bernanke vs. China? - by Steve Rosenbush

Ben Bernanke suggests the nation is on track to end a major aspect of its economic rescue program. But in doing so, he opens up the prospect that China could have a greater impact on U.S. borrowing costs than the Fed itself.

The issue already has prompted the Chinese government to tell its agencies and banks to sell all but the most secure dollar-denominated assets. "The Chinese government has ordered its reserve managers to divest itself of riskier securities and hold only Treasuries and U.S. agency debt with an implicit or explicit government guarantee," Asia Times reported Tuesday.

For the complete report: Bernanke May Be On Collision Course With China - Business News -

The Goldman Sachs Internal Memo - by Farley Katz

After all that federal aid, a resurgent Goldman Sachs is on course to dole out bonuses that could rival the record paydays of the heady bull-market years. Goldman… announced that it had earmarked $11.4 billion last year to compensate its workers. At that rate, Goldman employees have, on average, earn roughly $770,000 each this year. The New Yorker commented on this and called it the Goldman Sachs Internal Memorandum NO 8121b. Click on the link below for the memorandum. Note EU-Digest: We are in 2010 now and so far not much has changed...

EU Seeks Info From Greece On Financial Deals With Wall St (Goldman Sachs)

Europe's statistics office is seeking information from the Greek government concerning reports Greece used complicated currency swaps overseen by Wall Street investment banks to hide its mounting debt levels, a European Commission spokesman said Monday. "Eurostat wasn't aware of this matter," said Amadeu Altafaj Tardio, spokesman for economic and monetary affairs.

"We need information about what kind of transactions took place, if they did, and what was the effect on the government accounts in Greece." The spokesman said currency swaps are a legitimate government management tool "if they are calculated from observed market rates."

The allegations emphasize the need for the statistics body to deepen its powers of scrutiny of government economic data, he said. Newspaper reports Monday said Greece arranged a deals with investment bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) that pushed repayment of its spiraling debts far into the future.

For the complete report: EU: Seeks Info From Greece On Financial Deals With Wall St -

EU- U.S. banks played a key role in postponing Greece's day of reckoning - Goldman Sachs Hid Greece's Debt -

Greece's overwhelming national debt has set off yet another global economic crisis—and just like the last one, American banks are at the center of the story. According to the New York Times, Goldman Sachs and other U.S. banks played a key role in postponing Greece's day of reckoning while it racked up more debt by using a variety of complicated financial tactics reminiscent of the mad science that sparked the subprime mortgage crisis. Just months before the current crisis, in November 2009, Goldman president Gary Cohn led a group of banks in offering Greece a way to refinance their health-care debt, but it was hardly the first of such efforts. In 2001, Goldman Sachs engineered multi-billion dollar loans for the government hidden behind currency trades to help it skirt the EU's deficit rules. “Politicians want to pass the ball forward, and if a banker can show them a way to pass a problem to the future, they will fall for it,” Gikas A. Hardouvelis, an economist who's studied Greece's accounting, told the Times.

For the complete report: Goldman Sachs Hid Greece's Debt - The Daily Beast


High-Speed Rail: Bulgaria will have high-speed railways in three years: minister

Bulgaria says construction works of a 290-km high-speed railway line will begin in the spring.  When the project is completed, trains will be able to run at a speed of 160 km/h between the southern cities of Plovdiv and Burgas. Within a month and a half the ministry is to be ready with the other EU-financed stretch – between Sofia and Plovdiv.

For the complete report: FOCUS Information Agency

Netherlands: Kramer takes the Gold for Holland in 3000 meters

Dutchman Sven Kramer took the gold, in an Olympic Record time of 6m 14.60s, which most experts would have correctly predicted.

But that's where every prediction would have stranded, since silver was taken by the unlikeliest of challengers, Seung-Hoon Lee of South Korea and bronze by Ivan Skobrev of Russia.

For more: Kramer Takes Gold, Lee Dreams In Speed Skating | Bleacher Report

Indian Ambassador says that Eurofighter dominates MMRCA race in India

According to India’s Ambassador Arif Shahid Khan, quoted by the Reuters news agency, Eurofighter Typhoon is leading the race to win the new fighter deal for the Indian Air Force ($10.4 billion contract for 126 aircraft). The Ambassador stressed the top position held by Eurofighter Typhoon during a meeting last Friday with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Rome.

Flight trials of the six aircraft competing for the tender are expected to be complete this April, then a decision will follow. Eurofighter Typhoon sit alongside Dassault’s Rafale, Saab’s Gripen, Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 and Russia’s MiG-35 in the competition. Ambassador Khan remarked that Germany’s President Horst Köhler will visit India in early February as will Silvio Berlusconi later this year. For India, the Eurofighter Typhoon offers a broad spectrum of operational advantages, such as excellent adaptability to severe weather conditions, high mission effectiveness and survivability in threat situations as well as considerable in country economic benefits.

For the complete report: defence.professionals |

‘Euro Is Sound’ as EU Backs Greece, ECB’s Draghi Says - by Steve Scherer and Sonia Sirletti

European Central Bank council member Mario Draghi said the euro remained “sound” after the European Union pledged to support Greece in a bid to ease investor concern that the country may default.

Draghi said that the euro countries’ pledge on Feb. 11 to take action to ensure financial stability if necessary was “important,” according to the text of a speech he delivered today in Naples to foreign-currency traders in Italy. He urged Greece to make “determined” budget cuts and said Europe’s central bank will monitor the country’s progress.

“If the Greek government adjusts its budget with determination, with careful monitoring by the European Commission and the ECB, the markets will subscribe new securities as old issues fall due,” Draghi said. “It is nevertheless important that the euro-area countries have expressed their intention, should it prove necessary, to take decisive and coordinated action to ensure financial stability.”European Central Bank council member Mario Draghi said the euro remained “sound” after the European Union pledged to support Greece in a bid to ease investor concern that the country may default.

Draghi said that the euro countries’ pledge on Feb. 11 to take action to ensure financial stability if necessary was “important,” according to the text of a speech he delivered today in Naples to foreign-currency traders in Italy. He urged Greece to make “determined” budget cuts and said Europe’s central bank will monitor the country’s progress.

“If the Greek government adjusts its budget with determination, with careful monitoring by the European Commission and the ECB, the markets will subscribe new securities as old issues fall due,” Draghi said. “It is nevertheless important that the euro-area countries have expressed their intention, should it prove necessary, to take decisive and coordinated action to ensure financial stability.”

For more: ‘Euro Is Sound’ as EU Backs Greece, ECB’s Draghi Says - BusinessWeek

Contemplating the Future of the European Union - by Liz Alderman

In 1870, the French novelist Victor Hugo had a vision. Planting an oak tree in his yard, he predicted that by the time it matured, a “United States of Europe” would have sprung up, strengthened by a common currency that would one day make the Continent a force to be reckoned with.

One hundred and forty years later, the dream, like Hugo’s tree, is alive — if a little twisted. Around Europe, 27 nations now fly the flag of the European Union next to their own. Sixteen have ditched the drachmas, marks and other bills that symbolized their sovereignty to embrace a single currency, the euro, lending new power to their economic and trade bloc.

When the dust settles, Europe will probably still be a union with separate national parliaments and fiscal policies, says Thomas Mayer, the chief economist of Deutsche Bank. But he says he foresees economic policies that will be more tightly coordinated between countries, with a mechanism to resolve crises like the one brought on by Greece today. If that happens, the number of stable countries adopting the euro would probably grow, cementing Europe’s economic might as the decades pass.

For more: Contemplating the Future of the European Union -

Wall St. Helped Greece to Mask Debt Fueling Europe’s Crisis

"Wall St. Helped Greece to Mask Debt Fueling Europe’s Crisis

Published: February 13, 2010

Wall Street tactics akin to the ones that fostered subprime mortgages in America have worsened the financial crisis shaking Greece and undermining the euro by enabling European governments to hide their mounting debts."


EU protects its citizens

What looked on Thursday like a setback for the war on terrorism -- to members of the Obama administration -- was cheered in Europe on
Friday as a victory for citizens' rights. The European Parliament moved Thursday to reject a George W. Bush-era agreement that allowed United States authorities to inspect European bank transfers.

Obama officials had lobbied hard to extend the agreement, and both the European Commission and leaders of member states had already approved the treaty; but the European Parliament signalled a new era of confidence and self-assertion by blocking it, arguing that it violated European privacy laws. The unambiguous vote -- 378 to 196 -- comes against a background of shifting power in the EU.

Since just after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the US has had access to some banking information stored in vast databases by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a Brussels-based consortium of banks that handles international wire transfers. This "terrorist finance tracking program," a US Treasury official told the Washington Post on Thursday, "has been instrumental in protecting the citizens of the United States and Europe and has played a key role in multiple terrorism investigations. Today's outcome is a setback ... and leaves all of our citizens less safe."
For more The World from Berlin: 'Good News at Last From Europe' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

EU Parliament: blocks US illegal powers to monitor EU bank transactions which infringe on European privacy laws

The European Parliament has blocked the continuation of a nine-year, once-secret (illegal) agreement that allows US authorities to monitor the financial transactions of EU citizens. The Parliament voted yesterday by an overwhelming majority to reject the deal, with 378 MEPs voting against the deal and only 196 voting in favour.

During its debate, MEPs expressed anger that the Parliament was only presented with the deal after the fact and was not consulted during the making of it.

"Parliament's right to consent should not be used as a retrospective tool", said UK MEP Timothy Kirkhope. "We are finally getting assurances from Council and Commission [on data protection issues] but we now need some time before proceeding further in our considerations." The MEPs urged the EU and US to come to a deal that offered better privacy protection and constituted a better deal for the EU. MEPs reiterated that any new agreement must comply with Lisbon Treaty requirements, and in particular the Charter of Fundamental Rights."

"Council has not been tough enough on data protection" said Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, who was the Parliament's rapporteur on the issue. She said that "the rules on data transfer and storage provided for in the interim agreement were not proportionate to the security supposedly provided," according to the statement.

German MEP Martin Schulz said in the Parliamentary debate that the deal was "a mistake and EU governments … thought they could get away with such a poor agreement, which is not in line with fundamental rights", he said. "How will data be retained, how will it be stored, can I have access to it, when it is going to be deleted? … This is a bad agreement that we simply cannot sign up to."

The European Commission, which brokered the rejected deal with the US, has told the Parliament that it will adopt a new set of draft guidelines in the coming weeks. Those guidelines "will address the European Parliament and Council's concerns [and ensure] the utmost respect for privacy and data protection," said the Parliament statement.

Note EU-Digest: This is good news for democracy in Europe and an indication that the EU Parliament is not a rubber stamp Parliament anymore. They are doing what they are supposed to do - protecting the citizens of the EU. It is also important for the US to realize they should do a better job at coordinating their own security resorces (as was proven during the recent airline terrorism event in Detroit involving a Delta aircraft coming from Amsterdam) before they infringe on other countries privacy rights.

For more: European Parliament blocks US powers to monitor EU bank transactions | Pinsent Masons LLP


Gong shee fa tsai : Chinese New Year - Valentine's Day in Hong Kong Is Stepping on Chinese New Year - by Jonathan Cheng

The Year of the Tiger: The Chinese New Year shifts each year according to the lunar cycle. Its overlap with Valentine's Day, which hasn't happened since 1953 and won't recur until 2048, is forcing time-honored Chinese and Western traditions to jockey for space with one another in Hong Kong, where both holidays are celebrated.

In mainland China, celebrating Valentine's Day is a more recent phenomenon, but 5% of respondents to a recent poll said they would ditch the lunar holiday to spend it with their lover, while another 5% admitted to being torn and confused.

Note EU-Digest: Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays . Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festivity in the Lunar Calendar. The origin of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. To all our Chinese readers we wish you - Gong shee fa tsai !

For more: Valentine's Day in Hong Kong Is Stepping on Chinese New Year -