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12/31/06

IHT: Russia-Belarus gas deal averts disruptions in Europe - by Steven Lee Myers

For the complete report in the International Herald Tribune click on this link

Russia-Belarus gas deal averts disruptions in Europe - by Steven Lee Myers

As a New Year's deadline arrived, Russia's natural gas monopoly, Gazprom, struck a deal early Monday to supply gas to Belarus for the next five years, averting a price dispute that threatened to disrupt supplies to Europe, the company said in a statement. The agreement, reached as the Russian capital celebrated the New Year with rolling displays of fireworks, more than doubled the price that Belarus will pay for natural gas this year and raised it significantly in the years to come.

For Belarus, a close ally of Russia, the price of gas would rise to $100 per thousand cubic meters in 2007, from $46 now, and increase steadily to the level paid by European countries by 2011, the company said.

EU-DIGEST: A HAPPY HEALTHY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR TO ALL OUR READERS


EU-DIGEST

FROM ALL OF US AT EU-DIGEST COME GOOD WISHES FOR A HAPPY, HEALTHY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR. WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT IN THE PAST YEAR AND LOOK FORWARD TO KEEPING YOU INFORMED ON MATTERS RELATED TO EUROPE IN 2007.

WSTM.COM: A 67-year-old woman gives birth to twins in Spain

For the full report from WSTM.COM click on this link

A 67-year-old woman gives birth to twins in Spain

MADRID, Spain Hospital officials in Barcelona, Spain, say a 67-year-old woman has given birth to twins. Mother and boys are reportedly doing well, though the newborns are in incubators.

They were delivered by Caesarean section Friday. Officials say the woman had previously undergone in vitro fertilization outside of Spain.

Naharnet Newsdesk - France Reaffirms Support for Saniora's 'Elected' Government

For the complete report in the Naharnet Newsdesk click on this link

France Reaffirms Support for Saniora's 'Elected' Government

France on Sunday reaffirmed its support for the "elected" government of Premier Fouad Saniora, stressing that Lebanon's stability is an "important contribution to world stability."
The remark was made by visiting French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie after separate talks with her Lebanese counterpart Elias al-Murr and Saniora. "Stability in Lebanon is stability for the region (Middle East), but it also is an important contribution to world stability … France will maintain its serious efforts to help Lebanon and its government," she announced.

Alliot-Marie said her visit to Lebanon had "two goals: First to express France's support for Premier Saniora and the elected Lebanese government which enjoys the full legitimacy to safeguard Lebanon's sovereignty."

M&C: German chancellor calls for greater European cohesion - "Succeeding Together"


For the complete report from M&C click on this link

German chancellor calls for greater European cohesion - "Succeeding Together"

Berlin - Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday urged Europe to show greater unity as Germany prepares to take over the rotating presidency of the European Union. 'Europe can only succeed together,' Merkel said in her traditional New Year's message to Germany.

'Only a united Europe can meet the challenges posed by globalization, ... violence, terrorism and war. A divided Europe is condemned to failure.'

Germany has chosen 'Succeeding together' as the mottor for its six-month presidency of the EU, taking over from Finland Monday, when the bloc grows to 27 nations with the entry of Romania and Bulgaria.

Buffalo News - Vatican criticize hanging of Saddam


For the complete report in the Buffalo News click on this link

Vatican criticize hanging of Saddam

The death penalty is anathema across Europe, and opposition to the execution of Saddam Hussein was nearly unanimous among its leaders Saturday. But many were torn between those strongly held beliefs and revulsion for the former Iraqi dictator's record of atrocities. Some of the strongest criticism came from the Vatican. The Catholic Church teaches that all human life must be respected from conception until its natural end. The execution "is tragic news . . . that risks feeding the spirit of revenge and sowing new violence," said Pope Benedict XVI's spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi.

"Even though this is a person guilty of grave crimes," Lombardi told Vatican Radio, the execution "is a motive for sadness. The killing of a guilty party is not the way to build justice nor to reconcile society."

The Hindu News: Forged documents for jobs in UK being sold in Eastern Europe

For the full report from the The Hindu News click on this linkForged documents for jobs in UK being sold in Eastern Europe

Counterfeit work documents and qualifications are being traded on the black market in eastern Europe for as little as 470 pounds to help Bulgarians and Romanians get jobs in the UK. An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph found fake certificates and paperwork were readily available for a range of jobs, including nurses, engineers and HGV drivers.

For just 470 pounds, Bulgarians in the country's capital Sofia can buy bogus degree and language qualification certificates needed to set them on the road to a work permit and a nursing job with the National Health Service in Britain.

The EU at 27


The The Boston Globe:

"The EU at 27

Much global attention is focused on whether Turkey will become a member of the European Union in the future. By comparison, relatively little attention has been given to the fact that tomorrow the EU will expand yet again, as Romania and Bulgaria join the bloc. By how much did the EU’s territory grow in size with the addition of these two new members?

A. 9 percent B. 12 percent C. 14 percent D. 31 percent

A. 9 percent is correct.
With its two new members, the European Union stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea. Its territory before this latest expansion was 1,535,286 square miles . With Romania and Bulgaria adding 134,522 square miles , the EU's territory has expanded by about 9 percent. If Turkey joins, the EU's land area would expand by 18 percent."

12/30/06

FXSWtreet.com: Euro Rallies on Rate Outlook

For the complete report in fxstreet.com click on this link

Euro Rallies on Rate Outlook

The euro rallies across the board with rising bets on a rate increase by ECB in the first quarter of next year. The euro tested 1.32 versus the dollar, and rose to a record high at 165.71 against the yen.

The European Central Bank policy board member Yves Mersch said the current interest rates are still low. It is widely expected that the ECB will lift interest rates from 3.5% to 3.75% in the first quarter of 2007. Compared with a possible rate cut by the Fed and a unknown chance of rate increase by the Bank of Japan, the clear ECB rate hike outlook gives the euro a good support in the light trading before year end.

Happy New European Union Maybe Not

Sunday Herald

"Happy new European Union? Maybe not
By Trevor Royle, Diplomatic Editor

IT'S THAT time of year again. As a new year beckons, so do the diplomatic swings and roundabouts rumble into action. Kofi Annan gives way to Ban Ki-moon in the UN hotseat, Germany takes over the presidency of the European Union, Slovenia embraces the euro as its currency and, most contentiously of all, the EU gains two new member states. Tomorrow, 30 million Bulgarians and Romanians will swell the population of the EU to 492.8 million, as the club extends its membership from 25 to 27 nations and the inexorable move eastwards continues."

People's Daily Online -- China-EU shoe war continues as EU made shoes destroyed by China's market watchdog

For the full report in the People's Daily Online click on this link

EU shoe war continues as EU made shoes destroyed by China's market watchdog

About 200 pairs of shoes imported from the European Union have been burned in Hangzhou, eastern China province of Zhejiang, after the local market watchdog said they had failed quality checks. The amount of shoes destroyed made up nearly 70 percent of the shoe imports inspected by the Zhejiang Industrial and Commercial Administration in the third quarter. However, no figures detailing the total number of EU shoes imported to China were released.

Zhejiang, a major shoe production base in China, saw its EU exports plummet to a record low for the year of 180 million pairs in October, down 66.4 percent over the same period of last year. The anti-dumping duty of 16.5 percent imposed by the EU on China in October 7 will be in place for two years.

Blog World Expo - In Las Vegas November 8-9

To get more info on the Blog World Expo click on this linkBlog World Expo - In Las Vegas November 8-9

The conference will be broken down into tracks designed to address specific needs and feature scores of well renowned blogging and new media experts. Topics will include blogging basics, monetizing your blog, podcasting, corporate opportunities in the blogosphere, building readership, RSS, Search Engine Optimization, blogging in the political arena, and other topics vital to serious bloggers who want to solidify their own space, and build their brand in the blogosphere. BlogWorld will also host an opening industry reception where bloggers from all over the world can network with their peers, industry gurus, and suppliers. On the evening of November 8th we will celebrate the industry leaders by hosting the 2007 Weblog Awards, and Industry Innovation Awards, bringing out the brightest stars in new media, and the industry's bleeding edge technology.

LewRockwell.com: The Economic Lessons of Bethlehem-by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

For the complete report in LewRockwell.com click on this link

The Economic Lessons of Bethlehem- by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

In the Gospel narratives, the role of private enterprise, and the evil of government power, only begin there. Jesus used commercial examples in his parables (e.g., laborers in the vineyard, the parable of the talents) and made it clear that he had come to save even such reviled sinners as tax collectors.

And just as His birth was facilitated by the owner of an "inn," the same Greek word "kataluma" is employed to describe the location of the Last Supper before Jesus was crucified by the government. Thus, private enterprise was there from birth, through life, and to death, providing a refuge of safety and productivity, just as it has in ours.

EarthTimes.com/UPI: Sex and the City: Amsterdam wants to close 33 brothels

Amsterdam Red Light District Fountain
For the complete report in the EarthTimes.com click on this link

Sex and the City: Amsterdam wants to close 33 brothels

Netherlands brothel owners are fighting the Amsterdam city council in court after a decision to close one-third of the sex businesses in the city.

The city council is demanding the closure of 33 of the city's brothels, claiming many of them are fronts for criminal activity. The prostitutes' union, which represents 20,000 sex workers in the city, claims that closing brothels will force women into illegal activity and a life on the street. Prostitution has been legal in the Netherlands for five years.

BusinessWeek.com: Russia's Gazprom warns Belarus of cutoff - by STEVE GUTTERMAN

For the complete report in Businessweek.com click on this link

Russia's Gazprom warns Belarus of cutoff - by STEVE GUTTERMAN

Russia's natural gas monopoly warned neighboring Belarus on Saturday that it had little over 24 hours to give in to a price hike and avert a New Year's Day supply cutoff, but there was no sign of a resolution in the bitter dispute that could affect European deliveries.

A Belarusian official said the ex-Soviet republic was hoping for a new agreement by Sunday, when the existing contract expires, but a spokesman for the state-controlled Russian company OAO Gazprom said the tone of talks was not promising and reiterated the threat to halt supplies at 10 a.m. on Jan. 1. "Little more than a day remains, and there is no more time to delay," Sergei Kupriyanov said.

KRT Wire: Cava trumps Champagne when budget enters the sparkling-wine equation


For the complete report in the KRT Wire click on this link

Cava trumps Champagne when budget enters the sparkling-wine equation

Known simply as cava, Catalan for "cellar," these Spanish bubblies are made according to the traditional methods used most famously in France's Champagne region - but the resulting wines often cost a fraction of the French price, often less than $20 a bottle.

Most cava comes from the Penedes region of Catalonia in northeastern Spain. The predominant white wine grapes used are macabeo (viura), parellada and xarel-lo, according to "The New Wine Lover's Companion." Chardonnay also is permitted. Some cava producers make rose versions by using garnacha (grenache), monastrell (mourvedre) and pinot noir, the wine dictionary reports.

Spain is the largest producer of sparkling wine in the world, according to Wines of Spain, a division of the Trade Commission of Spain in New York. The United States is Spain's third-biggest customer for cava. Germany is first, followed by the United Kingdom.

HuliQ.com: Anatolia Emerging as Economic Power in Turkey


For the complete report in HULIQ.com click on this link

Anatolia Emerging as Economic Power in Turkey

As the future of Turkey's efforts to join the European Union hangs in the balance, one part of the country in particular is anxiously focused on the relationship between Ankara and Brussels. As Turkey has developed, the region of Anatolia has become an economic powerhouse, doing extensive amounts of business with Western Europe and -- company executives say -- ready to do more.

The latest opinion polls bear that out. In November, a respected Istanbul think-tank published research showing that while a greater number of Turks now identify themselves primarily as Muslim, the number wanting to see an Islamic government is going down. And in Istanbul, where western brand names are now commonplace in the city's stylish neighborhoods, big business is telling the Turkish government to keep the country on its secular track, and continue negotiating membership in the European Union.

Guler Sabanci heads one of the country's largest conglomerates and is arguably the most powerful businesswoman in Turkey today. "We always [say] that Turkey is a bridge, and it is true, Turkey is a bridge," she says. "It's a bridge for energy sources. Turkey is a bridge for cultural sources, for a lot of things. So these are the reasons that I think, when once we look at them together, I think both Europe needs Turkey and I also think Turkey needs Europe."

IHT: A French author's singular take on America's pluralistic cultural life - by Alan Riding

For the complete report in the International Herald Tribune click on this link

A French author's singular take on America's pluralistic cultural life - by Alan Riding

Martel, 39, a former French cultural attaché in Boston, has set out to change this. In "Culture in America," a 622-page tome weighty with information, he challenges the conventional view in Paris that (French) culture financed and organized by the government is entirely good and that (American) culture shaped by market forces is necessarily bad.

"My first idea was to compare France and the United States," he recalled, "but when I arrived in America, I realized things were much more complicated. The United States is a continent, and you can't compare a continent with a small country or a decentralized country with one that is highly centralized."

As a result, this book deals only with creativity and arts financing in the United States. But perhaps surprisingly, given the mixture of fear and disdain that American culture stirs among many French intellectuals, his approach is not polemical. He neither defends nor attacks the United States; he simply describes the American way of culture.

The Australian: Bush tops bin Laden, Saddam as villain of the year


For the complete report in The Australian click on this link

Bush tops bin Laden, Saddam as villain of the year

WASHINGTON: It has been many months since George W. Bush topped the polls, but the US President has outflanked both Osama bin Laden and former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to seize the dubious honour of the ultimate villain of 2006. If it's any consolation for the beleaguered President, he also managed to take out the AP/AOL News Poll's 2006 hero of the year, albeit by a much smaller margin.

Asked to name the candidate that first came to mind for "biggest villain of the year", Bush won by a landslide, with 25per cent, followed by bin Laden, the al-Qa'ida leader, in second place with 8 per cent. Rounding out the top five villains were Saddam, who is awaiting execution, with 6 per cent; Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 5 per cent, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, 2 per cent -- from the three countries Bush once designated as the "Axis of Evil."

The Weekly Standard: Holland's Post-Secular Future - by Joshua Livestro

For the complete report in the Weekly Standard click on this link

Holland's Post-Secular Future - by Joshua Livestro

When the "corporate prayer" movement first started in 1996, few people in Holland took any notice. Why should they have done so? After all, Holland's manifest destiny was to become a fully secularized country, in which prayer was considered at best an irrational but harmless pastime. That was then. Cue forward to 2006, when prayer in the workplace is fast becoming a universally accepted phenomenon. More than 100 companies participate. Government ministries, universities, multinational companies like Philips, KLM, and ABN AMRO--all allow groups of employees to organize regular prayer meetings at their premises. Trade unions have even started lobbying the government for recognition of workers' right to prayer in the workplace.

The idea that secularization is the irreversible wave of the future is still the conventional wisdom in intellectual circles here. They would be bemused, to say the least, at a Dutch relapse into religiosity. But as the authors of a recently published study called De Toekomst van God (The Future of God) point out, organized prayer in the workplace is just one among several pieces of evidence suggesting that Holland is on the threshold of a new era--one we might call the age of "post-secularization." In their book, Adjiedj Bakas, a professional trend-watcher, and Minne Buwalda, a journalist, argue that Holland is experiencing a fundamental shift in religious orientation: "Throughout Western Europe, and also in Holland, liberal Protestantism is in its death throes. It will be replaced by a new orthodoxy."

TheStar.com - Secular Europe's fundamental test - by Sandro Contenta

For the complete report in TheStar.com click on this link

Secular Europe's fundamental test - by Sandro Contenta

Only in Europe could the production of a Mozart opera cause so much hand-wringing. When the renowned German Opera in Berlin cancelled Idomeneo in September amid security fears that its content might offend Muslims, the move triggered weeks of continental convulsions.

The self-censorship came at a sensitive time. Muslims were outraged at Pope Benedict XVI for linking Islam with violence during a speech in Germany. And earlier in the year, Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad had caused riots in some Muslim countries.

12/29/06

Economist: Ever closer union - Happy Birthday to EU


For the complete report in the Economist.com click on this link

Ever closer union - Happy Birthday to EU

There are several reasons for Europe’s recovering self-confidence. For years European economies had been lagging dismally behind America (to say nothing of Asia), but in 2006 the large continental economies had one of their best years for a decade, briefly outstripping America in terms of growth. Since politics often reacts to economic change with a lag, 2006’s improvement in economic growth will have its impact in 2007, though the recovery may be ebbing by then.

The coming year also marks a particular point in a political cycle so regular that it almost seems to amount to a natural law. Every four or five years, European countries take a large stride towards further integration by signing a new treaty: the Maastricht treaty in 1992, the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, the Treaty of Nice in 2001. And in 2005 they were supposed to ratify a European constitution, laying the ground for yet more integration—until the calm rhythm was rudely shattered by French and Dutch voters. But the political impetus to sign something every four or five years has only been interrupted, not immobilised, by this setback.

In 2007 the European Union marks the 50th anniversary of another treaty—the Treaty of Rome, its founding charter. Government leaders have already agreed to celebrate it ceremoniously, restating their commitment to “ever closer union” and the basic ideals of European unity.

The Guardian: 2007: there may be trouble ahead for the US


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2007: there may be trouble ahead for the US

In an effort to prevent domestic social upheaval and to appease the Bush administration, which has asked it to spend more money domestically, China embarks on a large-scale program to improve its environment and social services. This, along with rising world oil and commodity prices, leaves China with less money to lend to the United States. The resulting drop in the value of the dollar causes Opec nations to stop transacting in dollars. It also prompts Warren Buffet, most global corporations, and several giant hedge funds to put more money into euros and yen, causing the dollar to drop further and faster.

With everything Americans purchase from abroad suddenly costing much more, and the nation still needing foreign money to support its budget deficit and personal spending, US interest rates rise considerably. Millions of American homeowners are unable to pay their mortgages, resulting in a wave of bank foreclosures. Housing and auto sales plummet and unemployment rises. Median wages drop, but America's global rich, who have hedged their savings in foreign currencies, are richer than ever. This fans the flames of economic populism and nationalism. In June, Congress refuses to renew Bush's fast-track authority to make trade deals.

Cayman Islands - Cay Compass News: Saddam bids countrymen farewell via the Internet

For the complete report in the Cayman Islands - Cay Compass News Online click on this link

Saddam bids countrymen farewell via the internet

In a farewell letter to the Iraqi people, Saddam Hussein urged his countrymen not to hate the people of the nations that toppled his regime nearly four years ago and said he was offering "my soul to God as a sacrifice."

"I call on you not to hate because hate does not leave space for a person to be fair and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking," said the letter, which was written in Arabic and translated by the AP.An official from Prime Minister Nouri al–Maliki’s Dawa Party, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said that "the government wants Saddam executed as soon as possible."

M&C: Berlin prepares for a New Year's Eve Brandenburg Gate bash - by Clive Freeman

Berlin prepares for a New Year's Eve Brandenburg Gate bash - EuropeBerlin prepares for a New Year's Eve Brandenburg Gate bash - by Clive Freeman

Berlin - More than one million New Year's Eve revellers are expected to throng a main boulevard when Berlin provides a loud and cracking start to 2007 with a spectacular midnight firework display. The party will be held on the Strasse des 17 Juni, an avenue from the Brandenburg Gate to the Victory Column in the Tiergarten area.

With a rush of tourists anticipated for the celebrations, Berlin's Investment Bank predicts a splurge of spending in the city with 1,300 temporary jobs being created for the turn-of-the-year festivities.

MezunUSA.com: Turkey - 13 Acquitted in Attack on U.S. Troops

For the complete report in MezunUSA.com click on this linkTurkey - 13 Acquitted in Attack on U.S. Troops

Thirteen villagers were acquitted Wednesday of attacking U.S. troops with stones and eggs after an errant U.S. Tomahawk missile fell near their village three years ago. The Turkish court ruled the villagers' actions did not constitute a crime. Defense lawyer Seyhmus Ulek said the incident was "a democratic reaction against American soldiers."

Some 75 villagers from the southeastern town of Sanliurfa hurled eggs and stones at a group of about a dozen U.S. soldiers going to retrieve pieces of Navy-fired missile, which was intended for Iraq but crashed into an empty Turkish field.

RTE Business - Concern Gazprom dispute could affect EU

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Concern Gazprom dispute could affect EU

The European Commission has urged Russia and Belarus to end their gas price dispute, on concern that consumers across Europe could be affected. Russia's state-owned Gazprom has threatened to cut off gas to Belarus on 1 January unless a 134% price rise is accepted. Russian gas passes through Belarus through a pipeline on its way to Europe, and a shutdown could put supplies at risk.

Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs today called for a solution that would safeguard EU supplies. 'I call on the two parties to reach as soon as possible a satisfactory agreement that does not put in question gas transits to the EU,' he said.

Al-Ahram Weekly: Inching towards implosion - by Khaled Amayreh

For the complete report in Al-Ahram Weekly click on this link

Inching towards implosion - by Khaled Amayreh

It is doubtless that 2006 will be viewed by historians as one of the most tumultuous years in the annals of Palestinian history.

On 19 December, Egyptian mediators, after making exhaustive efforts, were able to secure an end to fighting between the two groups. At time of writing, the ceasefire, though fragile, was holding. Fears are, however, that unless the two sides, Fatah and Hamas, reach a political accord sooner rather than later the violence and bloodshed could spill over into a wider internal war.

BusinessWeek.com: The Chinese Discover Central Europe - by David Rocks , Katerina Zachovalova and Nicichola Saminather

For the complete report in Businessweek.com click on this link

The Chinese Discover Central Europe - by David Rocks , Katerina Zachovalova and Nicichola Saminather

The attraction is simple: Central Europe provides a back door to the European Union. Since the EU expanded into the former Soviet bloc countries in 2004 (Bulgaria and Romania are scheduled to join on Jan. 1, 2007), the region has offered a manufacturing base where wages are still a fraction of those in Western Europe. Governments in the new member states are eager to attract investment, often offering rich incentives to manufacturers that will create jobs. Foxconn and Changhong, for instance, have been granted 10-year tax holidays in the Czech Republic. And producing in the EU lets companies avoid the 14% tariff Brussels slaps on televisions made in China. "To enter the European market, we have to be here," says Wang Wensheng, general manager of Changhong's Czech subsidiary.

That's not to say it's cheaper to operate in Central Europe than in China. Far from it. Labor rates in the Czech Republic are roughly $500 per month for a 40-hour week. That compares with about $100 to $150 monthly in China for much longer hours. And while productivity in Czech plants is roughly equal to that in Chinese factories, absenteeism hits 15% some days. Those issues, plus surging currencies and growing labor costs, have prompted some companies to look at Ukraine and Russia. "Our presence in the Czech Republic won't shrink," Chang says. "But if we need to expand much more, we'll go farther into Eastern Europe."

Inside Line: Suzuki Plans Growth Further Growth in Europe

For the complete report in Inside Line click on this link

Suzuki Plans Growth Further Growth in Europe

Suzuki sold just over 233,000 cars and SUVs in Europe between January and November 2006, making it number four among Japanese automakers in Europe.

The company intends to nearly double that volume by 2011, according to published reports. For 2008, Suzuki will introduce a production version of the Splash concept that was unveiled at the 2006 Paris auto show.

12/28/06

Analysis: Europe's 2006

United Press International - Intl. Intelligence

"Analysis: Europe's 2006
By STEFAN NICOLA
UPI Correspondent

BERLIN, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Europe in 2006 has become increasingly engaged in security conflicts in the Middle East, a trend that looks to continue next year in light of ever-sinking U.S. standing in the region because of failure to stabilize Iraq.

Before the Middle East could take hold of London, Paris and Berlin, however, energy security was the topic of the moment in the first weeks of 2006, when a gas price row between Ukraine and Russia sent European politicians into near-hysteria."

The European Movement: What europe has ever done for us? - An animation showing the benefits of the European Union

Click on this link to see the animation prepared by the European Movement

What europe has ever done for us? - An animation showing the benefits of the European Union.

NewsRoom Finland: EU president Finland says Maskiot settlement illegal

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Finland says Maskiot settlement illegal

Finland, the country holding the rotating presidency until the end of the year, said in a statement Wednesday that the Israeli defence ministry's authorisation to build the new Maskiot settlement in the West Bank ran "contrary to the commitment undertaken by Israel in the roadmap ."Such unilateral actions are also illegal under international law and threaten to render the two-state solution physically impossible to implement," the presidency statement added.

"The timing of the announcement is particularly unfortunate as the authorisation comes shortly after the long-sought meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas." Also the US department of state urged Israel to honour the obligations of the roadmap, which calls for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and to avoid unilateral action.

IHT: France's unemployment rate down 0.1 percent in November to 8.7 percent

For the complete report in the International Herald Tribune click on this link

France's unemployment rate down 0.1 percent in November to 8.7 percent

PARIS: France's jobless rate was down 0.1 percent in November to 8.7 percent, the lowest level in five years, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Ministry. The ministry said there were 2.11 million jobseekers on the books at the end of November, down 17,400 compared to a month earlier. In October, the unemployment rate held stable at 8.8 percent, interrupting a steady downward trend.

Still, France's unemployment rate remains stubbornly above the euro-zone average that stood at 7.7 percent in October, a 5 1/2-year low.

Spiegel Online: Germany Prepares to Take Helm of EU and G8 - by Ralf Beste and Hans-Jürgen Schlamp

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Germany Prepares to Take Helm of EU and G8- by Ralf Beste and Hans-Jürgen Schlamp

2007 will be a big year for Germany: As president of the European Union, Chancellor Angela Merkel will have to reenergize a flagging European project. And as chair of the G8, she will have to resolve some of the most burning issues facing the world's industrialized nations. Is the chancellor up to the job?

Nevertheless, Merkel already commands the respect of her male colleagues. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, has referred to her as "the visionary of Europe." The new United Nations general secretary, Ban Ki Moon, hopes that Merkel's "double role" will be a great source of help for both of them. And the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, a close ally of the German chancellor among Europe's conservatives, talks about his "faith in Germany's ability to lead Europe."

Market Watch - Foreign companies in race for Turkish insurer

For the complete report in MarketWatch please click on this link

Foreign companies in race for Turkish insurer

Foreign companies in race for Turkish insurer

AMSTERDAM (MarketWatch) -- At least four foreign companies are interested in buying Turkish insurer Garanti Sigorta AS, Turkish newspaper Referans reports on its Web site, without citing sources. The report said that Dutch ING Groep NV (ING), American International Group Inc. (AIG), Aviva PLC of the U.K. (AV.LN) and French mutual insurance company Groupama SA (GAN.YY) were interested in making a bid. Garanti Sigorta is owned by Turkish private lender Garanti Bankasi AS (GARAN.IS), which said in early October that it had hired Watson Wyatt Ltd. for assessing strategic options for the insurance subsidiary.

EITB: Nuclear energy debate back in Europe

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Nuclear energy debate back in Europe

Europe has no gas or oil reserves and its energy supply depends completely on other non-European countries. And it happens that those non-European countries are very unstable.

The European Commission is open to recommending the use of nuclear energy in Europe. A report by the European Commission to be published after the Chirstmas holiday analyses Europe's energy dependence and puts forwards some solutions.

The diagnosis is real. Europe has no gas or oil reserves and its energy supply depends completely on other non-European countries. And it happens that those non-European countries are very unstable. Oil comes from the Middle East and gas comes from Russia.

12/27/06

ThsIsLondon:Terror alert over executive jets flying into Britain

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Terror alert over executive jets flying into Britain

The Government's terrorism watchdog is to call for tighter checks on executive jets arriving in Britain amid concern that foreign militants could use them to enter the country.

In a report to ministers, Lord Carlile of Berriew will raise fears about a loophole in flight notification rules that means the UK authorities are only told about the last place an aircraft took off from and not its original point of departure.

This means that an aircraft that takes off from the Middle East, Pakistan or other potential danger spot and touches down briefly in Paris is listed only as coming from France.

Times of India: Britain gets an immigrant per minute

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Britain gets an immigrant per minute

Migrants are flocking to Britain at the rate of one every minute, says a new study. The largest group of foreign migrants this year happened to be people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, who accounted for two-thirds of the country’s net immigration, it added. The statistics comes barely a week before Romania and Bulgaria are due to join the European Union on January 1 - giving 30 million more people the right to enter and work in Britain.

The analysis of official immigration statistics by the MigrationWatch think-tank found that the net outflow of British citizens leaving to live abroad rose to 107,000 last year - equivalent to one Briton quitting the country every five minutes, or almost 300 per day.

Daily FX: 2006 Marked Significant Divergence between the EU and US

For the complete report from the Daily FX click on this link

2006 was marked by significant divergence between the Eurozone and United States in both economic growth and interest rate direction. While US GDP growth dropped markedly from a high of 5.6% in Q1 of 2006 to 2.0% in Q3, Eurozone economic performance headed in the opposite direction rising steadily from 2.2% at the start of the year to reach 2.7% by Q3.

In fact, Euro-zone growth exceeded US GDP growth on a quarterly basis for the first time in four years. The story was similar with respect to monetary policy. After 18 consecutive rate hikes, the Fed finally paused in August keeping US short term rates on hold for the past 6 months. The ECB on the other hand has remained resolutely hawkish, raising rates consistently throughout the year from 2.25% to 3.50%. The net effect of these divergent monetary policies was the compression in interest rate differentials between the euro and dollar from a 225 basis point spread at the start of the year to 175 basis points by the end of 2006.

Can European growth and interest rate policies continued to decouple from US in 2007? The latest data suggests that could indeed be the case. Despite the significant appreciation in the currency, the European export sector has shown remarkable resiliency as the region’s Trade Balance registered a better than expected surplus of 2.4 Billion euro in October.

The US Conservative Heritage Foundation: Is the E.U. America’s Friend or Foe? - by John Blundell

For the complete report from the Conservative US Herritage Foundation click on this link

Is the E.U. America’s Friend or Foe? - by John Blundell for the Conservative US Heritage Foundation

The European Union now stretches from the Latvi­an–Russian border in the east to Galway Bay on the west coast of Ireland, and from the Arctic wastes of Fin­land and Sweden in the north to Cyprus in the south. The E.U. has a popula­tion of 454 million. This means that the E.U. now has a population more than 50 percent larger than that of the United States. And with Romania and Bulgaria joining on January 1, 2007, another 30 million will take that to 484 million.

It was taken for granted by the USA that the emerging Euro­pean Union would share America's core values. The reality is quite different. As this hugely ambitious but flawed project has taken shape, pol­icy differences between Europe and the U.S. have both multiplied and deepened. Recent differences between the E.U. and the U.S. include those over Iraq, Palestine, Iran, ballistic missile defense, the international criminal court, genetically modified crops, the Kyoto accords, farm support, China, Tai­wan, Cuba, the death penalty, as well as a whole raft of trade issues. Indeed, while it is possible to name individual European political leaders who genuine­ly like and admire America, it is difficult to think of a single major issue on which the U.S. and the E.U. hold identical views.

The Telegraph: For Bush the year went from bad to worse - by Alex Spillius

For the complete report in The Telegraph click on this link

For Bush the year went from bad to worse - by Alex Spillius

If you are the sort of person who likes the good news before the bad, here it is: we didn't all die of bird flu this year. A pandemic was supposed to strike mankind. The H5N1 virus jumped from birds to humans across the world in alarming but small numbers. In January it reached Turkey, which is almost Europe, and probably will be in another 10 years if the EU has its way.

That is about it for good news – particularly for President George W Bush and Tony Blair, the most difficult year of their partnership. Enemies of Washington and London gained in confidence: Iraqi insurgents, the Taliban, Iran's theocratic regime, Hizbollah – all prospered as smoke drifted across the vision of a more democratic Middle East. At the start of the year, Iraq was not a failure, from a Washington perspective. By the end Mr Bush had to admit America was not winning the war in Iraq .

NDTV.com: Saddam's death sentence upheld as EU calls on Iraq not to carry out decission

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Saddam's death sentence upheld as EU calls on Iraq not to carry out decission

Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein could be hanged to death within a month. On Tuesday the Iraq appeals court upheld his death sentence. Saddam was sentenced to death in November for his role in the execution of 148 Shiites in the town of Dujail in 1982. Under Iraqi law a death sentence, once confirmed at appeal, should be carried out within a month.

The US-led Coalition Provisional Authority ruled out an international tribunal or a mixed court under UN auspices and hails the decision. Meanwhile, the Indian government said the former President’s life should be spared, and the EU has called on Iraq not to carry out the death sentence.

BBC NEWS: French - led Planet hunter readies for launch

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A mission that will scour space for Earth-like planets is scheduled for launch on Wednesday. Corot will be the first spacecraft capable of detecting planets outside of the Solar System that are just a few times larger than the Earth. The French-led multinational mission will also help uncover the secrets of stellar interiors. Corot will be launched at 1443 GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on the Soyuz-2-1b vehicle.

It will be taken into a polar orbit 827km (514 miles) above the Earth where it will survey star fields for approximately 2.5 years. The mission is led by the French space agency, Cnes, which is working with six international partners: European Space Agency (Esa), Austria, Spain, Germany, Belgium and Brazil.

"It will be the first space mission that will be searching for planets around other stars that are of a similar nature to Earth. "We should be able to detect them down to about twice the size of Earth."

TimesOnline.com: Putin wins the hearths and minds of Europe - by Tony Halpin

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Putin wins the hearths and minds of Europe - by Tony Halpin

Vladimir Putin is entitled to take immense satisfaction from 2006. The year opened with Russia cast as the great gas ogre, embroiled in a bruising “cold war” over supplies to Ukraine that also threatened to dim the lights from Poznan to Paris.

As 2006 closes, the state monopoly Gazprom has become the energy giant that ate Europe, extending the Kremlin’s influence from the corridors of power to the kitchens of consumers. Add in his success in forcing Shell to hand control to Gazprom of Sakhalin-2, the world’s largest private oil and gas project, and Mr Putin can reflect on a year well spent.

Europe may be forced into uncomfortable compromises with the Kremlin on democratic reform and human rights by too close an embrace of the Russian bear over energy. Russia argues that what’s good for Gazprom will be good for Europe by ensuring stability of supplies in an unpredictable world.

Nervousness over the future in gas-rich Turkmenistan after the death last week of “Turkmenbashi”, the eccentric dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, illustrates how dependent Europe now is on far-away places to keep the lights burning at home. The gamble across the continent is that Russian gas will prove the safest bet for Europe’s energy security, and not a political weapon with which to extract concessions.

12/26/06

World Politics Watch: Corridors of Power: Turkey's EU Candidacy, Nuclear Recycling and More - by Rolland Flamini

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Corridors of Power: Turkey's EU Candidacy, Nuclear Recycling and More - by Rolland Flamini

European Union uncertainty about whether Turkey will ultimately make the cut and join the union continues. One senior European diplomat in Washington said outright Friday that, in his opinion, it will not happen. He said the Turks are beginning to come to the same conclusion, although "they tell us to keep saying that their application for membership is under consideration." Following last week's EU summit, a document called "Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2006-2007" was circulated among member governments listing areas where Turkey and other aspiring countries, including Croatia and Albania, need to improve before membership can be considered. For Turkey, the document says -- among other things -- that "the impunity of perpetrators of torture remains a problem," "anti-corruption policies are weak," "a significant number of persons have been prosecuted for expressing non-violent opinions," and "the independence of the judiciary needs to be further established."

The document also says that the adoption of a law intended to improve the situation of religious minorities in Turkey "has been postponed several times." Certainly not trivial matters!

eumc.europa.eu: Muslims in the European Union: Discrimination and Islamophobia

EUMC Website

"Muslims in the European Union: Discrimination and Islamophobia

The report 'Muslims in the European Union: Discrimination and Islamophobia', published presents available data on discrimination affecting Muslims in employment, education and housing. Manifestations of Islamophobia range from verbal threats through to physical attacks on people and property. The report stresses that the extent and nature of discrimination and Islamophobic incidents against European Muslims remain under-documented and under-reported. The EUMC report recommends therefore that Member States improve the reporting of incidents and implement measures to counter discrimination and racism more effectively. The report also includes initiatives and proposals for policy action by EU Member State governments and the European institutions to combat Islamophobia and to foster integration.

Download the full report in PDF format "

EU-DIGEST POLL SERIES - NEW POLL : ARE YOU IN FAVOR OF FURTHER EU EXPANSION WITHOUT A CONSTITUTION

EU-DIGEST POLL SERIES

new poll - ARE YOU IN FAVOR OF FURTHER EU EXPANSION WITHOUT A CONSTITUTION

In this weeks EU-Digest mini-poll series we like your opinion on the further expansion of the EU without a constitution.

The result of last weeks poll, where we asked the question: "Are Europeans dominated by market oriented US culture" - 64% said yes and 34 % said no. You can make a difference because your opinion counts.

Angusreid: Views on Enlargement Differ in European Union


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Views on Enlargement Differ in European Union

Views on Enlargement Differ in European Union

Adults in Poland, Slovenia and Greece are clearly in favour of allowing more countries to become members of the European Union (EU), according to the Eurobarometer conducted by TNS Opinion & Social. At least 71 per cent of respondents in the three countries support the further enlargement of the continental group. Slovakia is next on the list with 69 per cent, followed by Lithuania and Romania with 68 per cent, Bulgaria with 67 per cent, and Cyprus and Malta with 66 per cent. The lowest support for EU enlargement was registered in Britain with 36 per cent, France with 34 per cent, Luxembourg with 32 per cent, Austria with 31 per cent, and Germany with 30 per cent. In September, the EU announced that Romania and Bulgaria would become members of the continental group in 2007, but urged both countries to closely monitor issues such as food safety, EU subsidies and justice. In October 2005, Croatia and Turkey began accession talks.

Earlier this month, European Commission president Jose Durao Barroso discussed Croatia’s bid, saying, "I cannot at this stage commit myself or the commission to a specific date. The key for the speed of the (EU accession) process is in the hands of Croatia."

Greek News - Stefanos Tamvakis New President of SAE

Stefanos Tamvakis
For the complete rport in Greek News click on this link

Stefanos Tamvakis New President of SAE

Stefanos Tamvakis, from Alexandria, was elected as the new president of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), during the sessions of its 6th World Convention, in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Saturday. Tamvakis in the second round of the elections for a new SAE president, garnered 238 votes (55.74 per cent), against 189 votes (44.26 per cent) for Christos Tomaras, from Chicago.

Olga Sarantopoulou, from Vienna, was elected Secretary and Costas Dimitriou, from Cologne, Treasurer. Philip Christopher, from New York, was elected Vice President, representing the overseas Cypriot organizations POMAK and PSEKA. More than five hundred delegates of Hellenes abroad gathered in Thessaloniki for the 6th World Conference, that was concluded yesterday.

Addressing the opening session of the conference on Friday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said Greeks living abroad will be able to vote in the general elections to take place in Greece after the next general elections due by March 2008, and voting will be based on the European Parliament election model.

MiamiHerald.com: Spain sends cancer doctor and medicine to aid Castro

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Spain sends cancer doctor and medicine to aid Castro

Health officials in Spain have been secretly sending medicine to Havana for Fidel Castro since June, a government official said Monday, confirming that a Spanish cancer specialist is in Havana consulting on whether Castro should undergo more surgery.

Madrid Public Health Commissioner Manuel Lamela declined to elaborate on either the medication or the Cuban leader's health condition during a Christmas Day visit with the staff and patients at the Baby Jesus Hospital in Madrid.

A Madrid-based news website called Hechos de Hoy, or Today's Events, said it did some reporting on the surgeon's mission and found that Cuban officials called for help after some sort of unspecified medical crisis involving Castro on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

Note EU-Digest: Spain is to be commended for providing help to the ailing Castro - it chose not to consider political differences when it concerns critical medical or humanitarian needs by political opponents.

The Brunei Times: Georgia to purchase gas from Turkey: minister confirms


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Georgia to purchase gas from Turkey: minister confirms

GEORGIA has agreed to buy 800 million cubic metres of gas from Turkey in a deal that covers its 2007 gas needs, Georgia's energy minister said.

The gas will come from Turkey's share of supplies from the Shakh Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan, Energy Minister Nika Gilauri told reporters.

Georgia, which buys most of its gas from Russian gas monopoly Gazprom , has been searching for alternative supplies. This after bitter rows with Moscow this year over issues including spying charges in September.After threatening to cut off supplies to Georgia, Gazprom said on Friday it would sell 1.1 bcm of gas to the ex-Soviet state and doubled prices to EURO 179 per 1,000 cubic metres.

MiamiHerald.com: U.S. slowdown drags global growth, but Asia, Europe thrive - by Malcolm Foster


For the complete report in the Charlotte.com/MiamiHerald.com click on this link - by Malcolm Foster

A slowdown in the U.S. economy will likely drag on global growth next year, economists predict, but Asia and Europe are expected to remain fairly resilient amid signs of healthy consumer demand.

Even as a cooling U.S. housing market weakens Americans' appetites for foreign-made electronics, clothing and other exports, the swelling ranks of middle-class consumers in China, India and the rest of emerging Asia are seen as picking up the slack, experts say. Europe's growth may also slow some, but the outlook there is also relatively positive due to renewed consumption and falling unemployment.

''While the world's other major economies will be affected by slower U.S. growth, their own domestic demand should continue to drive global growth,'' Swiss investment bank UBS said in its year-end outlook for the global economy.

IHT: Ségolène Royal shakes up France's politics - by Elaine Sciolino


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Ségolène Royal shakes up France's politics - by Elaine Sciolino

The shop floor of the Suchard factory on the city's edge is normally a place for gritty work and salty talk, not female empowerment. But here, even the middle-aged men seem eager to make a woman their next president. The woman in question is Ségolène Royal, the 53-year-old nominee of the Socialist Party who is turning French political history on its head by turning her gender into an asset.

To allay voters' concerns about a tepid economy, high unemployment and pervasive globalization, Royal has portrayed herself as the mother protector of the nation. The strategy is more feminine than feminist. Royal seems forever caring, prettified and smiling, as she assures anxious audiences that the country's generous social safety net will hold and that everything will be all right.

Scotsman.com- Gazprom has gas in Europe to cushion cuts

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Gazprom has gas in Europe to cushion cuts

Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom has accumulated extra gas reserves in German storage areas to guard against possible cuts to Belarus and reduced gas transit to Europe, an industry source said on Tuesday.

Gazprom warned Belarus on Monday it would have to pay higher prices for gas from 2007 and cede control over its pipelines to the Russian firm or face reduced supplies from the New Year.

TimesOnline.com: Grown men in ties sit and quarrel as the women and children are dying


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Grown men in ties sit and quarrel as the women and children are dying - by Ben Macintyre

Atrocities in Darfur have forced more than two million people from their homes, but the Red Cross maintains that the hidden holocaust can be halted with foreign aid and the determination of refugees

Last weekend the situation in Darfur lurched closer to chaos amid reports that gunmen on horseback had attacked a truck carrying aid and transporting refugees in western Darfur, killing about 30 civilians.

There are about 2 million displaced people in camps in Darfur with very limited access to food, water and sanitation

12/25/06

WTOP: Take Cheer: Christmas the "retail orgy" has Been Out of Control for Centuries - by Matt Crenson

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Take Cheer: Christmas the "retail orgy" has Been Out of Control for Centuries - by Matt Crenson

Once upon a time the holiday season was a quiet time spent with family and friends - simpler, less commercial, more spiritual, nothing like today's frenzied orgy of soulless consumption.

n his book "The Battle for Christmas," Nissenbaum puts that myth to rest by tracing the history of the holiday from colonial New England to the turn of the 20th century.

In the northern Europe of the late middle ages, gangs of young men would engage in "wassailing," a cross between Christmas caroling and home invasion. The gangs would visit wealthy homes, often in disguise, and sing songs that threatened violence if they were not invited in for food and drink.

Christmas and America's consumer culture have fed off one another ever since, said Russell Belk, a professor of business at the University of Utah. His research has shown that the more materialistic people are about Christmas, the less satisfaction they derive from the holiday. There's no doubt Americans are materialistic about Christmas. Almost half of all Americans crammed stores on the day after Thanksgiving this year, the traditional beginning of the holiday shopping season. By the time the Christmas shopping season is over, the country will have spent in the neighborhood of $150 billion, most of it on gifts. That's an average of $500 for every man, woman and child.A holiday that began in ancient times as a debauched escape from everyday chores has become exactly the opposite - a frenzied season full of expectations, obligations and stress.

Merry Christmas.

Turkish Daily News: Four global giants competing for Turkish insurance firm Garanti Sigorta - by ALP SÜER

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Four global giants competing for Turkish insurance firm Garanti Sigorta - by ALP SÜER

Global insurance giants are competing for Garanti Bank insurance subsidiary Garanti Sigorta, among them ING, Groupama, Aviva and AIG. Sales of shares in Garanti Sigorta are expected to take place in the first half of 2007. In addition, the Lebanese Hariri Family, who bought MNG Bank after purchasing Türk Telekom, is reported to be interested in Garanti Sigorta.

Garanti Bank, which owns 100 percent of the shares of Garanti Sigorta, declared at the beginning of October that they have authorized consulting firm Watson Wyatt Ltd. to search for a possible partner in the insurance sector for Garanti Sigorta as well as explore opportunities for cooperation, sales and other strategic opportunities.

The Financial Express: Germany faces diplomatic minefield as EU president

For the complete report click in the Financial Express click on this link

The German government has been working overtime to play down expectations for its looming EU presidency and it is not difficult to understand why.

In addition to a host of thorny international issues Germany will be confronted with when it takes the EU chair from Finland on Jan. 1, Berlin faces the monumental task of shaking Europe out of the torpor that set in last year when French and Dutch voters rejected a new EU constitution. Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed to revive that treaty — a huge challenge in a bloc where scepticism about the European project is on the rise half a century after it was launched in response to the devastation of World War Two.

Playfulls.com: Kosovo Independence "most Dangerous" Issue In Europe: Serbian PM - World News - Playfuls.com - Business & World

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Kosovo Independence "most Dangerous" Issue In Europe: Serbian PM - World News - Playfuls.com - Business & World

The prospect of Kosovan independence and the breakup of Serbia is the "most dangerous and most destructive" idea in Europe today, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said Monday. Such a development would have "unforeseeable" consequences for international stability, Kostunica said in comments carried by Serbian news agency Beta. Any future resolution of the status of Kosovo must be based on the foundation that Serbia's borders remain unchanged, Kostunica said. The international community must be mindful of the United Nations charter and prevent division of the territory of a democratic state, he added.

12/24/06

ShanghaiDaily.com: Flower Port a gardener's paradise - by Douglas Williams

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Flower Port a gardener's paradise - by Douglas Williams

Emerging in the Nanhui istrict between Pudong International Airport and the new Yangshan Deep-Water Port is a floral oasis and an explosion of color called the Shanghai Flower Port.

The man with the plan for this horticultural extravaganza is a Dutchman by the name of Co Bushman who has been visiting China since 1997 to lend his considerable growing ability to this enormous project.

"I've been coming to China as part of a joint Sino-Dutch project to assist bulb and flower producers here while also assisting Dutch producers looking to do business in China. It's been a win-win situation for both parties," says Bushman who comes from a rich tradition of flower producers and sellers. Both his father and grandfather were in the business and, as a war baby, he was even weaned on a soup made from tulips.

KLTV 7 -Tunnel Possible Holiday-Season Terrorist Target

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Tunnel Possible Holiday-Season Terrorist Target

A British newspaper is reporting that Islamic militants may be planning an attack this holiday season on the Channel Tunnel between England and France. The report in The Observer cites French and U-S security sources. It says France's foreign intelligence service warned the government after receiving a tip from the C-I-A.

The plot is described as being directed from Pakistan and involving Western European militants, possibly Britons of Pakistani descent.

The tunnel runs under the English Channel and is used by (m) millions of rail passengers every year.

DW: Best Christmas Gift for Germany: More Children?

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Best Christmas Gift for Germany: More Children?

Germany's family affairs minister has said she's confident a new government-funded parents' support program will result in Germans having more children and help reverse the steep decline in the nation's birth rate. The new parental benefit package, which goes into effect with the new year, is aimed at making it easier especially for middle-income, professional women to have children. Many well-educated women find it difficult in Germany to balance work and family, and many are choosing to climb the career ladder instead of changing diapers.

Speaking to the dpa news agency, Family Affairs Minister Ursula von der Leyen, said Germany has one of the world's longest and sharpest decline in the birth rate. The fall in the number of children born could have serious consequences for the nation's health and pension systems as well as its economy. Analysts predict that Germany's current population of 82 million could drop to 50 million by 2050.

San Francisco Chronicle: Europe emboldens its Muslim women / Female immigrants find more freedom - Manfred Wolf

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San Francisco Chronicle: Europe emboldens its Muslim women / Female immigrants find more freedom - Manfred Wolf

A worldwide but underreported phenomenon is that when given the chance, women are more enterprising, more flexible and more adaptable than men in assimilating to new ways and rising in an environment that often remains alien to men. In the developing world, it's often women who support the family by running a small business or otherwise providing a stable income. Certainly, they're the ones grasping new opportunities.

A similar pattern is at work among immigrants in developed countries. Take the case of Muslim women in Western Europe. An essay on Moroccan women in the Netherlands makes the point that they're less likely to want to return to their homelands than Moroccan men. It's not hard to understand -- by returning, they have more to lose. One of the untold stories of the immigration turmoil in Western Europe is that such women, despite their lesser position in the family -- maybe because of it -- do better in Europe than Muslim men. Compared with their powerlessness and isolation back home, they have freedoms and opportunities undreamt of before.

TheStar.com - Italy cracks down on slender offenders

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Italy cracks down on slender offenders

ROME–A month after the death of an anorexic model in Brazil, Italy's government and fashion industry has adopted a voluntary code aimed at promoting a more "generous" look for women. Under Friday's pact, Italy's highly competitive fashion industry agreed not to hire models younger than 16. The industry also promised to add larger sizes to their collections and require models to submit medical proof they do not suffer from eating disorderss. "There's a boundary between a thin girl and a sick one that is often trespassed," Youth Policy and Sports Minister Giovanna Melandri told a news conference in Rome.

The code, signed by the president of the Italian Fashion Chamber, called on the industry to encourage women to embrace "a healthy, sunny, generous, Mediterranean model of beauty." It will apply to stylists, model agencies, makeup artists and other fashion professionals.

theday.com:The Church Rises Again In Europe -= by Brian Murphy

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The Church Rises Again In Europe -= by Brian Murphy

In 1905 France passed a landmark law declaring a clean break between church and state. Riots erupted and a papal encyclical denounced the act as a “most pernicious error.” Such extreme passions cooled long ago, but the core questions remain as strong as ever. Debates over religion, politics and civic life — and how much they should overlap and interact — are demanding more attention across Europe than at any time in recent decades. It's no longer just about whether to untangle or preserve the old relationships between secular and spiritual— often only symbolic these days, but still an important stream of revenue for churches.

New fronts are emerging: Traditionalist groups seeking a closer embrace of Europe's Christian heritage, and others predicting that efforts to better integrate Muslim communities will also require new models for religion's role in public life. “Religion — for good and bad — is reasserting itself as a force in Europe,” said Gerhard Robbers, a professor of political and religious studies at Germany's University of Trier.

12/23/06

IRNA: Ex-German chancellor warns of growing rift between US and Europe

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Ex-German chancellor warns of growing rift between US and Europe

"France and Germany's `no' to the Iraq war made clear what conservative America thinks of an independent Europe: nothing," Schroeder said. He added that there are US politicians who prefer to see a Europe which is at odds with one another. The politician stressed that the orientation of values between young Americans and Europeans are "increasingly diverging."

On the US fiasco in Iraq, Schroeder made clear that America "can win a war by itself but not the peace.To win the peace, you need partners, not only in the trans-Atlantic alliance but also partners in the region." Schroeder also highlighted Russia's crucial global role in establishing peace, specificially in the volatile Mideast region.

Times Argus:ITALY - Pope warns of threats to Christmas celebration from secular trends - by Daniel Petroff

For the complete report from the Times Argus click on this linkPope warns of threats to Christmas celebration from secular trends - by Daniel Petroff

Pope Benedict XVI urged Christians on Wednesday to defend the spirit of Christmas against secular trends during his last general audience before the holiday.

He wished the several thousand pilgrims and tourists gathered in a Vatican auditorium decorated with Christmas trees a "Happy Christmas" in seven languages and told them that "false prophets continue to offer cheap salvation which ends up in deep delusions."It is the duty of Christians to spread through a witness of life the truth of Christmas, which Christ brings to every man and woman of good will."

Fars News Agency :Turkey not Authorized to Re-export Iran's Natural Gas

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Turkey not Authorized to Re-export Iran's Natural Gas

In accordance with its 25-year-long gas contract with Iran, Turkey is not at all authorized to re-export Iran's natural gas to any other country, Oil Minister Seyed Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh said here on Saturday. The Iranian minister denied recent reports alleging that Turkey's pressure on Iran and its lobbies with Tel Aviv are all aimed at securing Zionist regime's energy supplies through re-exporting Iran's natural gas to Israel, and stressed that the contract bans any re-export of Iran's natural gas supplies to Turkey.

Regarding replacement of dollar with euro in oil transactions, he said, "We were instructed to replace dollar with euro last year, but since the world oil market transactions take place in dollars, we sell oil in dollars but receive its equivalent in euros.

IranMania - Iran replaces dollar with euro in foreign deals

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Iran replaces dollar with euro in foreign deals

The Iranian government prepared ground for replacement of dollar with euro and other foreign exchanges, Secretariat of the government's information dissemination council said, IRNA reported. The Economy Council, during its session chaired by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on December 2, approved a ratification to transform dollar-denominated forex activities into euros. Based on the ratification, the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) is obliged to change foreign exchanges in all previous and future approvals of the Economy Council from dollar into euro or other forex while equalizing the rate of dollar with demanded forex.

The ratification was ordered to all ministries, the CBI and the Management and Planning Organization.Use of monetary base "rial/euro" was among characteristics of budget bill for the next Iranian calendar year.

Daily FX: 2006 Marked Significant Divergence between the EU and US

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2006 Marked Significant Divergence between the EU and US

2006 was marked by significant divergence between the Eurozone and United States in both economic growth and interest rate direction. While US GDP growth dropped markedly from a high of 5.6% in Q1 of 2006 to 2.0% in Q3, Eurozone economic performance headed in the opposite direction rising steadily from 2.2% at the start of the year to reach 2.7% by Q3. In fact, Euro-zone growth exceeded US GDP growth on a quarterly basis for the first time in four years. The story was similar with respect to monetary policy. After 18 consecutive rate hikes, the Fed finally paused in August keeping US short term rates on hold for the past 6 months. The ECB on the other hand has remained resolutely hawkish, raising rates consistently throughout the year from 2.25% to 3.50%. The net effect of these divergent monetary policies was the compression in interest rate differentials between the euro and dollar from a 225 basis point spread at the start of the year to 175 basis points by the end of 2006.

Can European growth and interest rate policies continued to decouple from US in 2007? The latest data suggests that could indeed be the case. Despite the significant appreciation in the currency, the European export sector has shown remarkable resiliency as the region’s Trade Balance registered a better than expected surplus of 2.4 Billion euro in October.

Trade Arabia: Dubal exports to Europe to rise 15pc

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Dubal exports to Europe to rise 15pc

Dubal will supply 15 per cent more aluminium to Europe in 2007 than it did this year to meet increasing demand, particularly from the construction industry, a senior official said. Dubai Aluminium Co Ltd (Dubal) exports of aluminium to Europe will reach 213,000 tonnes next year, said Khalid Essa Abdullah Buhumaid, Dubal's general manager corporate relations and international affairs. By the end of 2006, Dubal's exports to Europe will reach 185,000 tonnes.

12/22/06

Falls Church News-Press - President Bush's Armageddon - by Nicholas F. Benton

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President Bush's Armageddon - by Nicholas F. Benton

"The US presidency is a perfect place for a madman to be. He sounds smart. He sounds sincere. He looks you in the eye, and by golly, he must be right because, well, look at where he is! People think that nut cases are confined to drooling derelicts hugging inner city gutters or middle management types at their firm. The weird thing about our free market society is that, at least sometimes, the crazier one is, the higher one can go.

In the case of George Bush, the topography of the inner workings of his grey matter is revealed in the turn-key phrase, “the conflict between competing ideologies,” that he employed repeatedly yesterday. In short, this is what makes him tick. The president remains gridlocked, mentally, by this notion that there is a cosmic struggle out there that transcends normal, pragmatic considerations and will not end until….well, that’s a good one to put to the president.

The phrase, “A conflict between competing ideologies,” is subtly but profoundly different than “a conflict between different cultures,” “perceived self-interests,” or, most correctly “economic differences.” Each of the latter three can be overcome by discourse, negotiations and peaceful policy shifts. But to claim that there is the evil infidel out there who can be vanquished only by a final and complete conflagration that drives them forever from the face of the earth is an end-game scenario that spins off any measure of reality into the realm of pure fantasy."

Forbes.com: Euro Bank Chief Defends Single Currency - by Chris Noon

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Euro Bank Chief Defends Single Currency - by Chris Noon

European leaders have been falling over themselves to speak up over the Continent's single monetary policy.

In one camp there are the inflation worrywarts, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Barroso has said that Trichet's decision to raise the key interest rate for the Eurozone--the group of European Union member states that has adopted the euro--is necessary to control inflation.

Trichet spoke up Wednesday, saying the euro was being unjustly used as a scapegoat for economic problems in Europe."Over the last eight years, the period in which the single monetary policy has been in place, employment has risen by 9.2 percentage points and the unemployment rate has declined by 1.9 percentage points," he said. "Let me also stress that if I compare the eight years after the euro was set up with the eight years before the euro, we created 11.73 million jobs after the euro and only 2.65 million jobs before the euro," he added.

European Business Guide: Rail freight services opened up to competition on 1 January 2007

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Rail freight services opened up to competition on 1 January 2007

As of 1 January 2007 all rail freight services will be opened up to competition. This new stage in the process of revitalising the rail industry in which the Community has been engaged for several years should mark a turning point for rail freight, the market share of which has been declining since 1970 in most Member States and needs to be increased.

At present, in the Member States which have followed the Community timetable, only international freight services, which represent approximately half of the total market for the transport of goods by rail in Europe, are liberalised

Thanks to this new stage in the process, the Community hopes that rail freight will attract new investors and new customers by offering a quality service adapted to the needs of the market and that, overall, the railways will steadily increase their market shares in a lasting way.

IOL: France - Villepin held for questioning - by Thierry Leveque

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France-Villepin held for questioning - by Thierry Leveque

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin was questioned for 17 hours until early on Friday by magistrates investigating an apparent smear campaign in 2004 against conservative presidential frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy.

Villepin was heard as a witness, not a suspect, in the so-called Clearstream affair that revolves around faked bank accounts and hushed-up government probes.

IHT: Foreign minister says Turkey remains committed to EU membership bid


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Foreign minister says Turkey remains committed to EU membership bid

Turkey's foreign minister insisted Friday that Turkey would not abandon its struggle for European Union membership, despite an EU decision to partially freeze entry talks. EU leaders earlier this month decided to halt negotiations in eight out of 35 policy areas because of Turkey's refusal to open ports and airports to EU member Cyprus, whose government Ankara does not recognize.

"For the EU, to act in a way that is against the core and the spirit of ties (with Turkey) by hiding behind various excuses such as the Cyprus issue, is unacceptable," Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said in an address to a leading Turkish business group. "But we are not going to sulk ... and say: 'we're not with you anymore,' " Gul said. "We are not a point the where we would endanger Turkey's future. ... There is no question of us abandoning the struggle."

People's Daily Online -- Turkey starts cross-strait rail tunnel excavations in Istanbul

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Turkey starts cross-strait rail tunnel excavations in Istanbul

Turkey on Thursday started rail tunnel excavations of the Marmaray Project, which will connect Europe and Asia beneath the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, the semi- official Anatolia news agency reported.

In a speech at a ceremony held in Istanbul to start digging tunnels, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the project launched in 2004 will surely facilitate transportation in the city. "We have been realizing Marmaray (Project), a 100-year dream for Istanbul, today," said Erdogan.

PressRelease Rodamco: Rodamco Europe sells Batavia Stad

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Rodamco Europe sells Batavia Stad

Rodamco Europe N.V., the largest publicly listed property investment and management Company in the retail sector in Europe, announces the divestment of Batavia Stad, the ‘Outlet Shopping Center' in Lelystad in the Netherlands, to Bakkenist & Emmens for an amount of approximately €38 million. This is slightly below latest book value. The divestment took place at a net initial yield of 5.6%. The sale of Batavia Stad includes 68 retail units with a GLA of approximately 14,700 m2 and adjacent parking space. The transaction is effective per 20 December 2006. The sale is in line with Rodamco Europe's policy of divesting non-core investments and increases Rodamco Europe's focus on high quality retail, primarily dominant shopping centers in key European cities. Batavia Stad outlet center is a specific form of retail which needs a unique management approach and tenants network.

COMPANY PROFILE RODAMCO EUROPE N.V. Rodamco Europe with headquarters in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, is both investor and manager of its dominant shopping centers in its home regions The Netherlands & Belgium, the Nordic countries, France, Spain and Central Europe. Top quality shops and shopping centers form 94% of Rodamco Europe's €10.0 billion property assets. This makes Rodamco Europe the largest listed property investment and management company in the retail sector in Europe.

12/21/06

Chicago Times/Bloomberg: Airbus scores major order for delayed A380


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Chicago Times/Bloomberg: Airbus scores major order for delayed A380

Airbus SAS has won a $2.7 billion order for nine A380s from Singapore Airlines Ltd., the first firm commitment to the plane since the European company said in June that it was beset by production delays because of wiring problems.

Australian airline Qantas ordered eight more A380 super jumbo planes from Airbus, taking its total order for the 550 seat plane to 20, Airbus said on Thursday. It follows a decision by Singapore Airlines on Wednesday to order nine additional A380s. Qantas also ordered an extra four Airbus A330-200 jets.

Expatica - Health tourism booming in Belgium - by Martin Banks

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Health tourism booming in Belgium - by Martin Banks

Just like in Poland health insurance is booming in Belgium. a growing number of tourists from around Europe who are flocking to Belgium for treatment. It is not just NHS waiting lists that are forcing British patients across the North Sea. The high cost of private care in the UK also means that treatment in Belgium can be a real bargain, even with travel costs added on.

Of all the treatments available for foreigners through Belgium's 'surgery supermarket', cosmetic and cardio thoracic surgery are two of the hottest items on the shelves and attract increasing numbers of customers from all over Europe. Prices in these areas are the cheapest in the EU and the standard of hospitals and operations is second to none.

EarthTimes.org: PMI Europe Insures Multi-Billion Euro Hypovereinsbank Credit Portfolio

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PMI Europe Insures Multi-Billion Euro Hypovereinsbank Credit Portfolio

Mortgage insurer PMI Mortgage Insurance Company Limited (PMI Europe), asubsidiary of The PMI Group, Inc. (NYSE: PMI) today announces theunderwriting of a first loss tranche from the securitisation of home loansfinanced by Hypovereinsbank to the value of 20.4 million euros. The portfolioof securitised mortgage credits encompasses a total of around 2.9 billioneuros.

The "Provide A 2006-1" transaction, which is a private placement, enablesHypovereinsbank to shift the credit risk of the underlying loans from its ownbooks to those of PMI Europe and other investors. By assuming the first lossposition, PMI Europe has underwritten the most subordinated tranche thatserves as equity capital for the other tranches. As a leading global providerof credit enhancement, PMI has extensive experience in this field and PMIEurope is one of Europe's top insurers in first loss positions forsecuritisations of residential mortgage loans.

Playfulls.com: French Now Back EU Constitution "in Principle"

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French Now Back EU Constitution "in Principle"

Some 18 months after massively rejecting the EU constitution in a nationwide referendum, two-thirds of the French now say that they are in favour of the charter in principle, according to a Eurobarometer survey made public on Wednesday in Paris. In May 2005, more than 55 per cent of French voters rejected the draft EU constitution, provoking a crisis within the Union that has yet to be resolved.

However, the same survey found that 48 per cent of respondents did not trust European institutions, against only 40 per cent who said they did.

Businessweek: Norway's National Oil Champion

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Norway's National Oil Champion

Norway slaloms back and forth between treating its oil industry as a branch of state and as private market-listed companies. On Dec. 18, it made another big turn when Statoil (STO), the government-controlled but publicly listed oil company, announced that it would buy the oil and gas assets of the smaller Norsk Hydro (NHY) for about $30 billion. The deal represents an effort to create a major-league oil and gas national champion that is capable of competing against ExxonMobil (XOM) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) in the international arena. The new company would have production of about 1.9 million barrels per day of oil equivalent, or about half that of Exxon or BP (BP).

The Norwegians get high marks in offshore technology and say that the combined company would be the largest global offshore operator. It would have 6.3 billion barrels of proven reserves.

IHT: Netherlands will drop fees on copyrights

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The Dutch government said Wednesday that it would exempt digital music players and hard-disk video recorders from copyright taxes, saying the levy, which compensates artists for unauthorized copying, forced many consumers to pay it twice.

The decision comes a week after the largest consumer electronics and computer makers in Europe threatened to sue the Netherlands and three other European countries after the European Commission dropped plans to compel them to cut the copyright fees. (Reuters)

EURSOC: France On Terror Alert

Champs Elysee
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The head of France's interior ministry terror unit says that three terrorist attacks have been scuppered by his department in the past 18 months. Targets are reported to have included the Paris Metro underground network and Orly, one of Paris' two major airports. Christophe Chaboud told the International Herald Tribune that the plots - first uncovered in September 2005 - are thought to be linked to next Spring's presidential election. Security around prominent campaigners, including interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Party contender Ségolène Royal has been stepped up following the threats.

Senior security forces sources believe jihadi terrorists with experience of fighting western forces in Iraq have been involved in the plots. They follow an Algerian terror group which considers Paris its major target joining forces with international al-Qaeda elements who have declared war on "Crusaders" whether American, British or French. France's banning of the Islamic headscarf in schools is thought to have added to anti-French feeling among Islamists (a senior Iranian cleric also issued a fatwa against France when the ban came into law).

12/20/06

MNSBC.com: Europe's expensive — but come anyway

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Europe's expensive — but come anyway

ROME - Caroline Hart chose a church convent for her stay in Rome this week instead of a hotel. She’s also walking more and eating less. But it’s not a spiritual asceticism — it’s a monetary one.

Like thousands of traveling Americans, Hart is looking at ways to soften the blow from the plunging dollar, but like so many others also had no intention of canceling her Christmas holiday plans — after all, they say, it’s Europe.

German teenagers quiz leading MEPs on EU

European Parliament - News

"German teenagers quiz leading MEPs on EU
Institutions

Approximately 115 teenagers from schools in Berlin had a lot of questions when they met leading MEPs in the Bundestag Tuesday for a question and answer session. What's happening with Turkey? Has enlargement negatively affected the European Union's inner strength? Is Europe an alternative to the US? Why is education not the first priority in the budget? These were among the questions (and many firm statements!) just days before the start of Germany's Presidency of the EU.

Every MEP had to respect a tough 1 minute 30 second time limit for answers and an 'EU-fanfare interrupted' any breaches of this time limit. "

EurActive: EU 'a bully' over Croatia

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EU 'a bully' over Croatia

In Croatia, the UN and the European Union have lost respect not just because of their decisions, but also because of their inconsistency. To her huge credit, Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte - like Louise Arbour before her - refuses to strike deals to allow some suspects to stay free while others are arrested. In fact, Arbour’s template announced several years ago remains the watchword. How can we fight the jihad when Carla Del Ponte and the EU are allowing it to continue? The Serbian Communist Yugoslav Army (JNA), killed at least 15,000 Croatians and forcibly displaced, ('cleansed') some 220,000 Croats from about one-third of Croatian territory. More than 15,000 Croats were murdered in areas occupied by rebel Serbs, and more than 4,000 are still missing.

Croatians should indeed be proud of their liberation from such a hell. Slovenia and the EU are the bullies, blocking the opening of talks on a new chapter of EU legislation with Croatia due to a fishing dispute.

ekathimerini.com: Greek debt more than three times GDP

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Greek debt more than three times GDP

Greece’s total debt is more than three times its gross national product, according to figures supplied by Deputy Finance Minister Petros Doukas in Parliament yesterday. The total comes to –694 billion, of which –226 billion is accounted for by the central government, –76 billion by households, –92 billion by firms and more than –300 billion euros by social insurance organizations. Municipal authorities and enterprises are also debt-creating machines, as they often borrow more than they can bear. “In 2007, we (the government) shall pay out 88 billion and shall receive 53 billion... The difference (35 billion) will be covered by borrowing,” Doukas said. Of the –88 billion of state spending, public sector salaries and pensions will absorb –20.7 billion, debt repayments –24.3 billion, interest payments –9.8 billion, public investment –8.8 billion, welfare benefits and other transfers –3 billion and payments to the EU –2.4 billion. Doukas said military procurement orders totaled –17 billion in the 1997-2003 period. It is those programs we are paying off today, he added.

globeandmail.com: Tired U.S. consumer seen triggering Canadian '07 slowdown - by Shirley Won

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Tired U.S. consumer seen triggering Canadian '07 slowdown - by Shirley Won

An economic slowdown expected in Canada next year will be triggered by a softening in U.S. demand rather than a decline in domestic spending, according to a Toronto-Dominion Bank report released yesterday. "The problem won't be with the consumer in Canada, but rather with the consumer in America," Don Drummond, the bank's chief economist, said in its quarterly economic forecast. The Canadian economy should expand at an average annualized rate of 2.1 per cent in each quarter over the first nine months of next year, underperforming its potential pace of 2.8 per cent, the report indicates.

In contrast, the U.S. economy is expected to lose more steam, and fall short of its potential pace of 3.3 per cent by a full percentage point.

Warsaw Business Journal Online - Poland to become largest provider of LCD's in Europe

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Within several years Poland will become the leading producer of LCD TVs in Europe, however, experts are warning that the duty on LCD monitors is the only reason why Asian companies are building LCD factories here. "Without the duty it would be more profitable for Asian companies to produce TVs in Asia and import them to Europe," said an anonymous expert from the electronic sector. The EU has adopted a draft regulation which prolongs the duty for another two years. "We were clear about it. We want to leave the regulation without any amendments," said Mieczyslaw Nogaj, director of the Trade Policy Department at the Ministry of Economy. "We received the support from several countries." However, experts still warn that this is not the end since the International Technology Agreement signed within the framework of WTO by the USA, the EU, Japan and Korea states that all those countries will make efforts to lift duty on ICT products.

Poland wants to intensively lobby in Brussels and Geneva to protect the domestic electronic market.

12/19/06

Independent Online: France hopes to set world speed record of 342mph with new TGV - by John Lichfield

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France hopes to set world speed record of 342mph with new TGV - by John Lichfield

The French railways will attempt to raise the world speed record for a conventional train to at least 342mph in the new year - smashing their own 16-year-old record. Tests with a new generation high-speed train, or train à grande vitesse (TGV), will attempt to push the speed record for steel wheels on steel rails to at least 550kph (342 mph) and possibly 570kph (354mph).

The tests will try out a new line to the east, from Paris to Metz, which is due to open to the public at a maximum speed of 320kph (200mph) in June. The record attempt will also make a strong statement that France is ready to take on competition from Japan and Germany in the multibillion-pound market for high-speed trains.