a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

Breathtaking four minutes and thirty-two seconds: Paul Bunyard

Posted on the November 30th, 2011


Click on screenshot above to watch video

“Chasing the Light,” by Paul Bunyard
“Montage of clips taken during 2010 & 2011 whilst on my projects all shot on DSLR Canon 7D & Canon 60D”

 

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Romano Prodi calls out Germany

Posted on the November 30th, 2011

It is a brilliant stroke by Romano Prodi in an interview yesterday with Spiegel Online International when he parries a challenge from the interviewer by asking bluntly “Is Germany better off with the euro or without it?”

The interviewer has just referred to German PM Angela Merkel’s stated opposition to eurobonds, and to Germans’ fear that it is primarily Germany that will carry the financial burden for the bonds. Excerpt:

SPIEGEL: …By now, Chancellor Angela Merkel appears to be completely isolated, with all partners exerting huge pressure on her. Will that be effective?

Prodi: That is the way politics works. But let’s be rational. Is Germany better off with the euro or without it?

SPIEGEL: With the euro.

In a later section of the interview, the subject of a “two-speed” Europe comes up. Here also, Prodi offers an interesting perspective. And he goes on to talk about a major criticism that he says he hears increasingly voiced about Europe’s power globally.

You can read the full Q&A here, which also includes some discussion of the current and past state of things in Italy.

I do wish Prodi hadn’t retired from Italian politics (and I’m not the only one).

 

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Who wants to leave the Euro?

Posted on the November 11th, 2011

Surely I’m not the only one to take notice that the bulk of the doomsday talk these days about the imminent fall of the euro is coming either from outside Europe or from eurosceptics.

An underlying assumption of this dire talk, perhaps, may be the idea that eurozone citizens are so discontented that they are demanding return to national currencies. But where is there evidence of this?  Even most Greeks, supposedly mad as hell at EU leadership, reportedly want to stay with the euro (see here, for example).

And, although it’s admittedly an anecdotal report, I can say I’ve not heard or seen either a peep or a scribble of any such San Pietro! let’s return to the lira talk here in Italy either. That is, except for the usual disgruntled voices of the northern far right who, more or less, want to exit everything including the southern half of their own country.

And then this just now in the UK Guardian‘s live blog on the eurozone crisis:

1.47pm: Almost four out of five Germans believe the 17-nation single currency will survive, according to poll for ZDF television. Some 78% of people asked said the euro would survive despite its problems while 56% felt chancellor Angela Merkel was doing a good job of managing the crisis. That’s an improvement on a similar poll in October which had her approval rating at 45%.

How much of a role does the European public play in the rise or fall of the euro? I have no idea really, given the murky fog that constitutes most financial reporting, and the politicians’ backroom political jockeying. But if eurozone voters’ support is needed to drive the currency into collapse, seems to me that’s a non-starter.

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Beware of Greeks cradling democracy

Posted on the November 3rd, 2011

This morning while reading a couple of analyses about the great Greek referendum brouhaha, the shade of John Lennon floated past murmuring “Democracy is what happens while politicians are busy making other plans.”

Might that be the case if the Greeks are allowed to vote on the EU’s latest proposal to rescue/doom them into penury for years to come? Wouldn’t that be nice (shades of the Beach Boys just now floated by). Messy? Maybe yes, but maybe not.

The two informative commentaries mentioned above are “Time to resign Mr Papandreou” by Greek economics professor Yanis Varoufakis (here), and “Papandreou shows no regret as he faces a grilling from Sarkozy and Merkel” by the Guardian‘s Helena Smith (here). They offer differing perspectives on the Greek PM. Varoufakis scorns his government leader’s latest referendum maneuver as political ploy only. Smith, in contrast, casts Papandreou more admirably, as in this quote from an unidentified “adviser”:

He is not afraid to upset others if he firmly believes it is in the interests of his country. And as a committed socialist George really does believe in the value of participatory democracy.

Well, notwithstanding that Varoufakis makes powerful argument to the contrary, we can hope that Smith’s featured adviser may prove to be auspicious. That whether mere political operator or democracy’s champion, Papandreou will by hook or crook give the people a voice. That would be true democratic process, wouldn’t it?

Imagine.

 

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