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Deep European Recession Forecast For 2020

Deep European Recession Forecast For 2020

In its Summer Forecast published today, the European Commission downgraded its own projection from earlier in the year, making for an even grimmer outlook for the EU economy in 2020. The -7.4 percent contraction originally expected has been reassessed to -8.3 percent.

Infographic: Deep European Recession Forecast for 2020 | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

In the EC press release, the following context was given:

“The EU economy will experience a deep recession this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, despite the swift and comprehensive policy response at both EU and national levels. Because the lifting of lockdown measures is proceeding at a more gradual pace than assumed in our Spring Forecast, the impact on economic activity in 2020 will be more significant than anticipated.”

And don’t expect the European banks to help, as Daniel Lacalle recently notesbanks may face a tsunami of problems as three factors collide: rise in non-performing loans, deflationary pressures from a prolonged crisis and central bank keeping negative rates that destroy banking profitability. We estimate a rise in net debt to EBITDA of the largest corporations of the Stoxx 600 soaring to 3x from the current 1.8x. This means that banks may face a wall of delinquencies and weakening solvency and liquidity in the vast majority of their assets (loans) just as deflationary pressures hit the economy, growth weakens and the central bank implements even more aggressive but futile liquidity measures and damaging rate cuts.

This combination of three problems at the same time may generate a risk of a financial crisis created by using the balance sheet of banks massively to address the bailout of every possible sector. It may undo the entire improvement in the balance sheet of the financial entities achieved slowly and painfully in the past decade and destroy it in a few months.

Weakening the balance sheet of banks and hiding larger risk at lower rates in their balance sheets may be an extremely dangerous policy in the long run. 

Europe must prepare for life after oil

Europe must prepare for life after oil

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing us to leave the fossil fuel era behind. Europe needs to begin preparing for what comes next.

Oil prices have crashed. The most visible cause has been the measures taken to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, which have triggered record lows in global oil demand. 

Yet the crisis also exposes structural vulnerabilities in our fossil fuel-dependent economic system, which requires us to rapidly transition to an alternative energy system if we are to avert economic collapse.

The most important scientific concept to assess and understand these vulnerabilities is ‘Energy Return on Investment’ (EROI) – the foundation of the emerging discipline of biophysical economics. EROI is designed to measure how much energy is needed to extract energy from a particular resource. What’s left is known as surplus ‘net energy’, used to support goods and services in the economy outside the energy system. The higher the ratio, the more surplus energy is left for the economy. That surplus is running increasingly thin. 

In the early 20th century, the EROI of fossil fuels was sometimes as high as 100:1: a single unit of energy would be enough to extract a hundred times that amount. But since then, the EROI of fossil fuels has gone down dramatically[1], as we are extracting fossil fuels from places that are increasingly difficult to reach. Between 1960 and 1980, the world average value EROI for fossil fuels declined[2] by more than half, from about 35:1 to 15:1. It’s still declining[3]:  latest estimates put the value at between 6:1 and 3:1.

The decline of fossil fuels’ EROI has acted as a background ‘brake’ on the rate of economic growth for the world’s advanced industrial economies, which has been slowing down[4] since the 1970s.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

EU Economy Traveling Along Same Worn Dead-end Road

EU Economy Traveling Along Same Worn Dead-end Road

With so many countries across the world facing difficulties, many people have yet to notice the Euro-Zone has become a place where hope goes to die. The last round of elections in the Euro-Zone should bring little comfort to those supporting a stronger Europe. Huge gains were made by forces seeking more power for the populist agenda. In short, it is a boost for the rights of individual nations to have more say in how they are governed.  Two of the most pressing issues are that insolvent Italy struggles with a stagnate economy and Spain is coming apart politically with Catalan separatists defying Spain’s Prime Minister. 

To avoid the union coming apart at the seams and a miserable future, the European Commission recently unveiled an unprecedented €750BN CoVid-19 recovery plan. It consists of €500 billion in grants to member states, and €250 billion would be available in loans. This means they are asking for the power to borrow. This is geared to tackle the worst recession in European history and shore up Italy. It would mean transforming the EU’s central finances to allow for it to raise unprecedented sums on the capital markets and hand out the bulk of the proceeds as grants to hard-pressed member states.

The Euro-Zone was already in deep trouble before CoVid-19 hit, the weakness that started in 2017 never ended. In the fourth quarter even Germany narrowly escaped recession. This could be blamed on the Brexit or Trade War but it goes beyond that, they abandoned all structural reforms in 2014 when the ECB started its quantitative easing program (QE) and expanded the balance sheet to record-levels. In 2019, almost 22% of the Euro Zone GDP gross added value came from Travel & Leisure, a sector that will unlikely come back anytime soon. Add this to weak exports and a banking sector that is totally decimated and everything points downward.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“A Legal Nightmare”: In Latest European “Freakshow”, EU Threatens To Sue Germany Over QE Ruling

“A Legal Nightmare”: In Latest European “Freakshow”, EU Threatens To Sue Germany Over QE Ruling

In the latest European farce, the European Commission threatened to sue Germany after the country’s top court questioned the legality of the ECB’s bond-buying program, Bloomberg reported over the weekend. In what Nordea’s Andrewas Steno Larsen dubbed the “ongoing freakshow in the Euroarea”, the EC president – a German no less – Ursula von der Leyen said that “The final word in EU law is always spoken in Luxembourg. Nowhere else.”

In other words, following last week’s shocking decision by Germany’s constitutional court which found that some aspects of the ECB’s QE are not constitutional and gave the ECB a 3 month ultimatum in which to demonstrate that QE was a proportional response, “we are gearing up for a remarkable legal stand-off between EU and Germany” writes Larsen, who adds that “the German head of the EU Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, is now openly battling her mother country’s constitution as she hinted that Brussels is considering taking legal steps that could result in Germany being sued in Europe’s highest court over the ruling from its constitutional court on ECB bond buying in a letter to the German Press Agency. Never underestimate the arrogance of EUR-crats!”

And here is the German European who is tasked with leading the onslaught on the German constitution.

German head of the EU Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen.

And just to make sure the Germans are really pissed off, the ECB has tasked its staff to study if they should consider buying junk corporate bonds according to Reuters, “as if the ECB hasn’t manipulated credit prices enough already” as Nordea helpfully adds, noting that “ultimately, we think the EUR-ship will be glued together again – but markets are rightfully pricing in a risk of an ugly political showdown for the time being (wider spreads, relatively low EUR/USD etc).”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Covid-19 Shatters the Facade of European Union

Covid-19 Shatters the Facade of European Union 

The new coronavirus and its accompanying disease Covid-19 has stopped the globe in its tracks. Governments, markets and news cycles have become dominated by the pandemic. Europe is now the epicenter for the disease, with reportedly more fatal cases of infection than China where the virus first erupted in December.

Several European Union countries have declared themselves states of emergencies, including Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain and Italy. The 27-member bloc has sealed off external borders. Some states, such as Poland, have begun closing borders with other EU members. Brussels, the administrative center of the EU, is alarmed because the much-vaunted single market and its core principles of free movement of goods and people is at risk of collapsing.

The European entity which proclaims solidarity and supranational status is reverting to a collection of nation states, each desperately fighting for their own survival amid the Covid-19 pandemic. EU leaders have been criticized for showing lack of central leadership and solidarity. When Italy first reported a surge in infections a few weeks ago, the rest of Europe was slow to respond with the necessary prompt assistance. Now Italy is such a grip of the disease – with thousands dead – that in some parts of the country normal funeral services reportedly cannot even cope with the number of deceased.

In blistering remarks this week, the Serbian President Alexander Vucic  lamented that there was “no European solidarity”. Serbia is a prospective member of the EU along with several other Balkan states, but Vucic said his country has received little in the way of aid from the EU in face of the coronavirus threat. Indeed, by contrast, the Serb leader extolled the generosity of China which has sent large shipments of equipment to combat the disease. Beijing has also dispatched aid cargoes and medical teams to Italy and other EU members to help them cope with their outbreaks.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Death Of Free Speech: Zuckerberg Asks Governments For Instructions On “What Discourse Should Be Allowed”

The Death Of Free Speech: Zuckerberg Asks Governments For Instructions On “What Discourse Should Be Allowed”

I have written for years on the effort of European countries to expand their crackdown on free speech globally through restrictions on social media and Internet speech. It appears that Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has relented in what may prove the death knell for free speech in the West. Zuckerberg seems to relent in asking governments for regulations stipulating what speech will be permitted on Facebook and other platforms. It is the ultimate victory of FranceGermany, and England in their continuing attack on free expression though hate speech laws and speech regulation.

Zuckerberg told an assembly of Western leaders Saturday at the Munich Security Conference that “There should be more guidance and regulation from the states on basically — take political advertising as an example — what discourse should be allowed?” He did add: “Or, on the balance of free expression and some things that people call harmful expression, where do you draw the line?” The problem is that his comments were received as accepting that government will now dictate the range of free speech. What is missing is the bright line rule long maintained by the free speech community.

As tragically demonstrated in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, speech regulations inevitably expand with time. The desire to silence one’s critics becomes insatiable for both governments and individuals.

Zuckerberg is facing great pressure, including from Democratic leaders in the United States, to regulate political speech and he seems to be moving away from the bright-line position against such regulation as a principle. Instead, he is accepting the fluid concept of “balanced” regulations that has always preceded expanding speech codes and criminalization:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

There’s No Stopping The World’s Most Politically Charged Pipeline

There’s No Stopping The World’s Most Politically Charged Pipeline

Putin

This week, Denmark granted Gazprom approval for its Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, a project that is set to bring 55 billion cubic meters of Russian gas into Europe annually. It is one of the most controversial pipeline projects in the world and is now moving ahead despite strong opposition from multiple EU members and the United States.

The geopolitical tensions surrounding the development of Nord Stream 2 are unprecedented. To begin with, Russia has very poor relations with the Baltic states and Poland, nations who will almost always fight against anything they see as empowering Russia geopolitically. Then there is Ukraine, a nation that is strongly against the pipeline due to its fear of losing the transit fees that it currently charges Russia for exporting gas to Europe. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the United States sees this pipeline as a direct threat to its soft power in Europe as well as a threat to its growing LNG exports.

But for all the politics and attention that this pipeline is attracting, the simple truth of the matter is that Europe, and more specifically Germany, needs this natural gas. Germany plans to shut down all its nuclear reactors by 2022. Many have questioned the wisdom—and some even the sanity—of that decision, but it remains government policy. The generation capacity the is being lost in that sector will need to be replaced, in the short term at least, by natural gas.

Despite its green reputation, Germany is a country that generates a surprisingly large portion of its total energy from coal. Its total installed coal-fired capacity is close to its solar capacity, at 44.9 GW, versus 47.9 GW for solar. At today’s growth rates, it’s current solar and wind capacity will not be enough to replace the retired nuclear plants.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Europe is Losing 1,000 Farms Per Day & Climate Change Regulations May lead to Starvation

Europe is Losing 1,000 Farms Per Day & Climate Change Regulations May lead to Starvation 

The new EU Agriculture Commissioner has publicly stated that Europe loses 1,000 farms per day. He acknowledged that the EU is losing 400,000 farms per year. However, crop and livestock production in Europe is projected to decline and maybe completely abandoned Europe’s southern and Mediterranean regions due to the increased negative impacts of climate change, according to a European Environment Agency (EEA).

The study says that adapting to climate change must be made a top priority for the European Union’s agriculture sector if it is to improve resilience to extreme events like droughts, heatwaves, and floods. But the obsession with Climate Change in Europe which is destroying its economy and now its ability to even grow food many are concerned will lead to starvation once again as was the case in Ireland because of the British Corn Laws which prohibited the importation of grain from America.

The nonsense of Climate Change seems to be poised to accomplish what it is designed to do – reduce the population. The question that needs to be answered is: Whose grandchildren are we trying to prevent from being born? Those who do not believe in Climate Change created by Humans? Certainly not the promoters or politicians. So it must be the rest of us they want to starve.

It certainly appears that perhaps this is the backdrop as to why we may see a rise in agricultural prices into 2025 and our computer is showing this should be a cost-push inflationary wave.

Wood, the fuel of preindustrial societies, is half of EU renewable energy

Wood, the fuel of preindustrial societies, is half of EU renewable energy

Source: Ben Adler. Aug 25, 2014. Europe is burning our forests for “renewable” energy. 
Wait, what? grist.org

Preface: By far the largest so-called renewable fuel used in Europe is wood. In its various forms, from sticks to pellets to sawdust, wood (or to use its fashionable name, biomass) accounts for about half of Europe’s renewable-energy consumption.

Although Finland is the most heavily forested country in Europe, with 75% of their land covered in woods, they may not have enough biomass to replace coal when all coal plants are shut down by 2029.  Much of their land has no roads or navigable waterways, so imports would be cheaper than using their own forests (Karagiannopoulos 2019).

Vaclav Smil, in his 2013 book “Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization” states: “Straw continues to be burned even in some affluent countries, most notably in Denmark where about 1.4 Mt of wheat straw (nearly a quarter of the total harvest) is used for house heating or even in centralized district heating and electricity generation.”

There are three articles about wood below. Some other wood energy reports:

2016:  Forests in southern states are disappearing to supply Europe with energy. In the past 60 years, the southern U.S. lost 33 million acres of forests even though biomass is not carbon neutral. Salon

2016: Japan is now turning to burning wood to generate electric power because of fewer nuclear power plants after Fukushima

***

1. The Economist. April 6, 2013. Wood: The fuel of the future. Environmental lunacy in Europe.

Which source of renewable energy is most important to the European Union? Solar power, perhaps? (Europe has three-quarters of the world’s total installed capacity of solar photovoltaic energy.) Or wind? (Germany trebled its wind-power capacity in the past decade.) The answer is neither.

By far the largest so-called renewable fuel used in Europe is wood.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Assange, Varoufakis, Brexit

Assange, Varoufakis, Brexit

Max Ernst The Angel of the home or the Triumph of Surrealism 1937

A friend of mine here in Athens, Greece, named Wayne Hall, who’s of Australian descent but moved here at about the time Napoleon headed for St. Petersburg, and works as a translator and language teacher, sent me a mail a few days ago that I thought was interesting.

In particular, Wayne referred to a video I didn’t know existed, of Julian Assange hosting a get-together in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on the night of the Brexit referendum, June 23, 2016, that includes a video (sound) link to Yanis Varoufakis who was in Rome at the time.

Julian was receiving visitors and broadcasting! How times have deteriorated, it’s heart-rendering, and it’s so painfully good to see him here in better days…. That video is below. The sound quality of Varoufakis speaking is really bad, and I don’t have the equipment here to work on that, but Wayne was kind enough to transcribe it. See also below.

What I found especially intriguing is the difference in view between the two: Varoufakis wanted (wants) the UK to stay in the EU, in order to reform it from within. And he thinks (thought) that his cross-European party, DiEM 25, can play a role in that. Even though it has no seats in the EU parliament, not then, and not now.

Assange, on the other hand, was pretty much pro-Brexit. He was quite clear about this (a few hours before the referendum results were in):

[..] if there is a Leave or even if the vote is very close, which it surely is, it is something that calls into question the political legitimacy of the European Union in the way it has been conducted so far. And really it’s quite incredible that it came to this. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Britain Furious Iran Tanker Broke ‘Promise’ Not To Sell Its Oil To Syria

Britain Furious Iran Tanker Broke ‘Promise’ Not To Sell Its Oil To Syria

Britain has slammed Iran for what it says is a breach in assurances regarding the previously detained Grace 1/Adrian Darya 1 tanker. Specifically a condition of the vessel’s release from UK/Gibraltar captivity last month was that it would not offload its 2.1 million barrels of Iranian oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. 

But the UK can do little beyond merely issuing a formal complaint to the United Nations, which it plans to do next month, according to Reuters. London was also reported to have summoned Iran’s ambassador on Tuesday to condemn the moveImage via EPA-EFE

“Iran has shown complete disregard for its own assurances over Adrian Darya 1,” foreign minister Dominic Raab said in a statement. “This sale of oil to (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s) brutal regime is part of a pattern of behavior by the Government of Iran designed to disrupt regional security.”

The diplomatic row comes days after over the weekend Iran’s foreign ministry confirmed the tanker had unloaded its valuable cargo, estimated at $130 million in crude, “on the Mediterranean coast,” according to state media. Just prior the Iranian tanker was observed within a few nautical miles of Syria’s coast via satellite images. 

“Iran’s actions represent an unacceptable violation of international norms,” the UK statement said.

However, we should point out it’s also not within “international norms” – indeed it’s unprecedented – for Royal Marines to raid a foreign vessel in international waters at the bidding of Washington, which is precisely what happen when the tanker was detained in the first place. 

Currently, Tehran is rumored to be preparing the release the British-flagged Stena Impero, captured in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19 in retaliation for Britain’s prior capture of the Grace 1 off Gibraltar on July 4.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

EU Bank Bosses Warn Of “Grave Consequences” If ECB Keeps Cutting Rates

EU Bank Bosses Warn Of “Grave Consequences” If ECB Keeps Cutting Rates

The ECB’s imposition of negative interest rates have created an “absurd situation” in which banks don’t want to hold deposits, rages UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti, arguing that this policy is hurting social systems and savings rates.

Ermotti is not alone. As European bank bosses cast their eyes at their share prices, they are fighting back, some have said – biting the hand that feeds, in their attack on ECB policies, warning of severe consequences to asset prices and the broader economy.

Source: Bloomberg

As Bloomberg reports, Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing warned that more monetary easing by the ECB, as widely expected next week, will have “grave side effects” for a region that has already lived with negative interest rates for half a decade.

“In the long run, negative rates ruin the financial system,” Sewing said at the event, organized by the Handelsblatt newspaper.

Another cut “may make refinancing cheaper for states, but has grave side effects.”

While incoming ECB head Christine Lagarde has claimed that the benefits of deeply negative rates outweigh the costs (stating just this week that “a highly accommodative policy is warranted for a prolonged period of time;” few economists believe another cut at this level would actually help the economy. According to Sewing, all it would achieve is to further divide society by lifting asset prices while punishing Europe’s savers who are already paying 160 billion euros ($176 billion) a year because of negative interest rates.

“What’s really worrisome: central banks have hardly any tools left to effectively mitigate a real economic crisis,” Sewing said.

“They have already cranked open the money tap – most of all the European Central Bank.”

Who can blame Sewing, as the EU yield curve has collapsed, so has his share price…

Source: Bloomberg

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

In Major Threat To Dollar’s Reserve Status, Russia Offers To Join European SWIFT-Bypass

In Major Threat To Dollar’s Reserve Status, Russia Offers To Join European SWIFT-Bypass

Three weeks after a meeting between the countries who singed the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was ditched by US, French, British and German officials said the trade mechanism which was proposed last summer – designed to circumvent both SWIFT as well as US sanctions banning trade with Iran – called Instex, is now operational.

And while we await for the White House to threaten Europe with even greater tariffs unless it ends this special purpose vehicle – it already did once back in May when it warned that anyone associated with the SPV could be barred from the U.S. financial system if it goes into effect – a response from the US is now assured, because in the biggest attack on the dollar as a reserve currency to date, on Thursday, Russia signaled its willingness to join the controversial payments channel, and has called on Brussels to expand the new mechanism to cover oil exports, the FT reported.

Moscow’s involvement in the Instex channel would mark a significant step forward in attempts by the EU and Russia to rescue a 2015 Iran nuclear deal that has been unravelling since the Trump administration abandoned it last year.

“Russia is interested in close co-ordination with the European Union on Instex,” the Russian foreign ministry told the Financial Times. “The more countries and continents involved, the more effective will the mechanism be as a whole.”

… and the more isolated the US will be as a currency union meant to evade SWIFT and bypass the dollar’s reserve currency status will soon include virtually all relevant and important countries. Only China would be left outstanding; after the rest of the world’s would promptly join.

On Thursday, the Kremlin confirmed the foreign ministry’s take:

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Iran To UK: We’ll Continue Oil Exports “Under Any Conditions” As Detained Tanker Crew Released

Iran To UK: We’ll Continue Oil Exports “Under Any Conditions” As Detained Tanker Crew Released

As the “tanker wars” continue Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned his British counterpart Jeremy Hunt in a telephone call on Saturday that Iran plans to continue its oil exports “under any conditions”.

Zarif also repeated Iranian demands for the UK to release the Grace 1 oil tanker, seized over a week ago after it was boarded by Royal Marines off Gibraltar. It had been carrying 2 million barrels of Iranian oil and was alleged to have been bound for Syria, in violation of EU sanctions; however, Tehran has accused the UK of fundamentally doing the United States’ bidding. 

In a public statement posted to Twitter, Hunt informed Zarif that the UK would release the tanker if it received guarantees it would not go to Syria

Iran tanker file photo, via Middle East Monitor

On Saturday the four-member crew of the detained tanker had been released, which could serve to ease tensions, according to the WSJ.

They were being interviewed and questioned as to the nature of the voyage, and whether they intended to violate EU sanctions on Syria — which it appears they were given the ship had gone all the way around the south of Africa from the gulf instead of the usual route of the Suez canal, something which had raised suspicions. 

Meanwhile France’s foreign minister said over the weekend that Iran’s decisions to breach caps on uranium enrichment was “a bad reaction to … (a) bad decision,” according to Reuters, and said the region is stumbling dangerously into war. 

“The situation is serious. The rise of tensions could lead to accidents,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters.

Iran has recently issued a 60-day window for France and other EU nations to salvage the deal, saying it will blow through another uranium enrichment ceiling by early September is nothing is done to both rescue the deal and ease US-led sanctions.

Meet the New European Union, Same as the Old One

Meet the New European Union, Same as the Old One

The European Union chose new leadership this week. It was, for once, a fraught affair. 

No rubber stamps were anywhere to be seen. 

In the end all four of the new European Union leadership were not the frontrunners as put forth by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her choice for EU Commission President was rejected.

So too was Mario Draghi’s replacement at the top of the European Central Bank, Bundesbanke President Jens Weidmann. 

French President Emmanuel Macron was the clear winner this weekend.

The choices for these positions are all designed to both maintain the path of European integration but also weaken the hold Germany has on European Union power politics.

And this thorough rebuke to Merkel immediately threw the euro into defensive mode. But, don’t kid yourself. Weidmann was never an acceptable choice as ECB President. More on this later.

The new Commission President, replacing the odious Jean-Claude Juncker, is German Defense Minister Ursula Von der Leyen. She’s a thorough Europhile and Russophobe. Since she’s a Social Democrat, to me it looks like ALDE’s Guy Verhofstadt flexed his expanded presence in the room. He helped ensure no populist upstarts would control EU foreign policy.

It will will continue being virulently anti-Russian, if not more so than in the past.

Von der Leyen is a perfect example of leadership chosen by committee (and The Davos Crowd behind them) to be nothing more than a puppet of the globalist/neo-liberal forces which control the direction of the EU. 

Merkel’s a lame-duck trying to get what she wants from Russia while maintaining a brave face to the United States. Putting Von der Leyen in charge ensures any good relations between here and Vladimir Putin should be heavily discounted going forward.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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