globalEDGE Blog - By Tag: european-union

Due to a stagnant "eurozone" economy between April and June, the United Kingdom is bracing itself for a period of economic decline, as well as contemplating the steps necessary for avoiding another lengthy recession. The slight decline of the reliable German economy, which has diminished by 0.2% in GDP growth this year, has signaled that harder times are most likely in the eurozone's future and have already affected the U.K.'s manufacturing industry and exports to mainland Europe. Five of the UK's top six major export partners reside within the eurozone (Germany, the Netherlands, France, Ireland, and Belgium), and this has prompted the nation's economists and political leaders to call for new economic policies to protect Great Britain's market interests.

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Tensions across Europe are escalating as a potential energy crisis is looming in the near future. In June of this year, Russia cut off all gas supplies to Ukraine, citing Ukraine's failure to payback debt. Ukraine has since been receiving gas from Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. Hungary, however, suspended the flow of natural gas to Ukraine last Friday, intensifying the energy crisis in Ukraine.  Ukraine is dependent on natural gas to heat homes and to power industry during the rapidly approaching winter months.

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Scotland has voted “no” to independence from the United Kingdom. The voting finished with a final count of 55.3% to 44.7% in favor of remaining a part of the United Kingdom and continuing the 307-year-old union. David Cameron, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, is now a little more comfortable in his position after helping lead the charge to keep the union together. He claims that the Scottish Referendum has settled the independence debate for a generation.

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As harvest time approaches across Europe, many farmers are worried about how much revenue they will make this fall because of trade restrictions with Russia. These trade restrictions, a result of the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine, have had a large impact on European growers, who ship an estimated 5.2 billion euros worth of produce to Russian markets. With Russia’s embargo on European goods, farmers across the European Union are scrambling to find new markets to sell their goods, or risk large price reductions as a result of smaller demand.

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Spain's economic depression has changed many aspects of the country, one of them arguably including the abdication of its king, but recent reports have shown that the demographics of Spain's workforce have experienced a dramatic shift. Due to the lack of economic opportunities for Spain's youth, the cost of living, and high unemployment rate, many Spaniards have left the country. Spain experienced it's first population decline since 1971 in 2012, with statistics now stating that over 310,000 citizens have left the country since the end of 2012. In spite of this, five million foreigners have entered the country's workforce, mostly from Russia, China, and other Asian countries in search of bargains for valuable factory properties, water sources, and natural resources.

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Recognizing Albania’s recent governmental reforms, the European Union officially named Albania a candidate for membership, the first step for the country to join the EU. The move came after Britain and France agreed to drop their opposition to Albania’s candidacy, citing new leadership in Albania that has promised to reform the country. Led by Prime Minister Edi Rama, the government has begun to fight against corruption and crime which has ravaged the country for many years. Police forces have started efforts to retake control in areas dominated by drug cartels, and the government has pushed for reform in the country’s economic structure.

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An important economic issue that is affecting several countries is the rising number of shadow businesses: businesses unregistered with their country's government. These businesses exchange goods and services, both legal and illegal, without paying taxes to their government. Typical examples of these include small taxicab services, roadside food stalls, and drug dealing. These businesses are causing concern because of their increasing prevalence in developing countries, which many worry is crippling economic growth and development. Other countries with smaller numbers shadow businesses are looking for ways to try and incorporate the operations of these businesses into their national economies. Here is a closer look.

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This past week here in Spain, news outlets were dominated by the announcement of the abdication of King Juan Carlos, who has ruled the country since 1975. While the king's rule has been generally supported by the Spanish public, due to his implementation of a democratic system following the oppression of the fascist Franco regime, Spain's support of the king has dwindled rapidly in pace with the country's economic deterioration over the past 6 years. Although the king proclaimed that the succession of the throne by his son Felipe would bring new energy towards facing Spain's economic issues, new political parties, including "Podemos" that won 1.2 million votes in Sunday's elections, believe that the economic and political system created by Juan Carlos' government needs significant changes to meet the economic needs of the Spanish people.

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This past weekend, European Union nations experienced eventful elections for the Europe Parliament that will cause a stir on future economic reforms. This election term saw a very aggressive battle between two opposing forces – pro-European Union parties supporting strong central powers, and anti-European Union parties (also known as Eurosceptics), who are nationalists that want to decrease central powers of the union. The elections were forecasted to see anti-European forces make major gains and double their seats in parliament as a result of increasing unrest caused by unfavorable union wide measures.

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While the globalEDGE team is comprised of students and professionals with various academic backgrounds, one common theme amongst us is our passion for international business and to experience first hand the effects of an increasing economically, politically, and socially globalized world outside of the classroom. In my case, I have been given an incredible opportunity to work this summer with a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Poleas Global in Barcelona, Spain, which works to promote the coordination and multiplication of successful international relationships between the different sectors of the business world and projects aimed at social development and/or environmental conservation. Alongside working in a dynamic international business-focused environment here in Barcelona, I will also be reading news articles from local sources, such as La Vanguardia and El País to provide some news articles from a different perspective.

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International economists are all asking the same question: Is the Eurozone's financial crisis over? For a region of the world that has borne some of the worst repercussions of the Great Recession, it could potentially be said now that the biggest brunt of the crisis is over, and the countries of the Eurozone are now on their (uneasy) way to recovery. However, this is not a confident prediction. Several factors, such as worryingly low inflation and high unemployment, are still present in these economies, showing that more problems may still be nigh. At this point it may be dangerous to assume the Eurozone has seen the last of its economic woes. Here is a closer look.

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This past week in Luxembourg, the European Court of Justice struck down legal opposition by the British government in order to move forward in creating a new tax law in the European Union. Commonly known as the "Tobin Tax," named after American economist James Tobin who first proposed the idea in the 1980s, the law would tax the financial sector of the EU in order to cover some of the costs placed on taxpayers in the outcome of the recent financial and debt crises. The European Commission first announced the proposition of the new law in 2011, during which it stated that the financial tax law would require institutions in participating member states to pay a tax of at least a tenth of 1 percent of the value of transactions with other institutions. Since then, debate among EU member states regarding the effectiveness and possible consequences of implementing the tax has ensued.

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Technology companies all over the world have engaged in lawsuits against each other over various controversies since the beginning of the industry. Major corporations that produce smartphones, such as Nokia, Microsoft, Samsung, and Apple, have often engaged in 'smartphone patent wars', which are lawsuits over patent and design disputes. Often, these companies have sued each other in several countries at a time in order to protect their creative patents and keep up their presence in the global market. A typical case of this happened only two years ago when, on January 2012, Motorola sued Apple in a German court over allegations of Apple infringing on Motorola's technology patents. The results of this particular case and some others, however, spell a different story for the future of smartphone patent wars.

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Following six long years of recession, which reduced Greece's economy by a quarter of its size and rose unemployment to 28%, Greece is finally expected to stabilize and begin its economic comeback in 2014. A poll of 35 economists and strategists suggested an expected growth rate of 0.3% for the Greek economy, while analysts at the International Monetary Fund and European Union proposed a slightly more optimistic 0.6% rate.

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On Thursday, Greece held its first bond sale since 2010, raising $4.2 billion as investors flocked to secure bonds from the hard hit country. Greece, which stopped issuing bonds in 2010 amid their country’s economic crisis, has hailed this bond sale as a sign that the country is recovering and heading in the right direction. Investors seemed to agree with this outlook, as their high demand reduced the return rates on the bonds to 4.95%, lower than the Greek government had first anticipated. The optimism around the bond sale has encouraged some that Greece is finally beginning to emerge from the financial crisis, although it must be remembered that this is only a small step in the recovery.

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As Russia prepares to make Crimea part of Russia, other countries have watched from afar and have developed plans to impose economic sanctions on Russia. Government officials from the United States have already signed an order enabling economic sanctions against sectors of the Russian economy. Leaders from the European Union are also considering their options as they meet in Brussels to discuss economic sanctions against Russia. With economic sanctions on Russia looming, the impact on Russia and the global economy remains to be seen.

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This September, the ballot to vote on Scottish Independence will be held. Scotland’s North Sea possesses a great amount of oil revenue for the United Kingdom, which poses a threat to the United Kingdom if Scotland were to become independent.  What does this mean economically and politically for the country of Scotland, the United Kingdom, and the European Union? A lot of uncertainty. The rarity of the creation of a new state in Western Europe poses a lot of questions that economists do not know the answer to.

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The political and economic future of Ukraine remains uncertain despite a rapidly changing political situation. This uncertainty will undoubtedly affect economic conditions for those in Ukraine but also other countries supporting Ukraine. Officials from both the United States and the European Union have stated that they are willing to provide financial assistance to Ukraine. How will the future of Ukraine be shaped by this financial assistance and growing international relationship?

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According to the first ever corruption report by the European Commission, the European Union (EU) is losing over 120 billion euros a year because of widespread corruption in many member nations. The report stated that the corruption regulations and controls in many countries are not adequate enough to effectively fight the fraud occurring across the EU. The loose regulations and inspection has allowed for much of the corruption to occur in local governments and communities in all member countries, showing that the Commission believes that corruption is a problem across the EU.

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The French unemployment rate has hit a record high, currently standing at about 11.1% for 2013. In December alone, about 10,200 people listed themselves as jobless.  This 0.3% is only a fraction of the 3.3 million who registered as out of work for the entire year, a figure that has never been higher. Additionally, increases in unemployment have been observed across all sectors and also take part-time workers into account. The 5.7% rise in unemployment is unfortunate news for French President Francois Hollande who had previously promised that joblessness would fall by the end of 2013.

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As the Eurozone Crisis has progressed and European Union countries have continued to struggle to devalue their currencies, with the goal of making exports less expensive for importing markets, many countries are now adopting "Americanized" labor policies of dismantling workplace protections to reduce labor costs. In Portugal, the 1.9 million workers that were protected by collective bargaining agreements have now diminished to merely 300,000, while Spain has agreed to ease restrictions on collective layoffs and unfair dismissal. The motive for these actions, as encouraged by the German government, European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund, is to restore competitiveness, increase employment, and recover solvency.

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Recently, Standard & Poor downgraded Netherlands' sovereign debt from a coveted AAA rating to a AA+ rating. The downgrade came as S&P sees a weak growth outlook, even though the Netherlands is seen as part of Europe’s healthy economic core. Also, S&P raised its outlook on Spain from negative to stable, showing that some of the struggling southern European countries may be recovering. As many southern countries continue to improve economically, some of the northern countries are suffering from poor growth prospects.

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Ukraine’s economic future is contingent on a key decision that will be made by government leaders in the next couple of weeks.  In short, the country’s leaders must decide whether or not to accept a free-trade and political-association agreement with the European Union.  If Ukraine passes on this agreement, it is likely that the country will become a part of the Russian-led Customs Union, which also includes Belarus and Kazakhstan.  This decision will undoubtedly shape Ukraine’s economic environment going forward, especially related to trade.

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While many members of the European Union struggle to recover from the global financial crisis of 2008 and the European debt crisis, the Baltic countries are making a strong comeback. The Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have recently experienced real GDP growth well above the euro area average. While other countries like Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal continue to struggle in midst of European debt crisis, the Baltic countries are leading way to recovery. Lithuania and Latvia are predicted to remain the best performers in Europe, with GDP growth surging over 3 percent for both countries. Looking at the recovery path of the Baltic States, many business lessons can be learned from these countries.

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Over the last 30 years, Russia has been the only gas supplier to the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. As the gas price and demand has dramatically increased in the Baltic States, the European Union (EU) is has made plans to subsidize a regional liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal in the Baltic States. These plans are designed to decrease the Baltic countries' energy dependence on Russia and to meet the continually increasing gas demand. However, two issues aroused along with the project: where to build the LNG terminal and how to ease the relationship with Russia.

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Recently, the European Commission traveled throughout the Baltic Countries, which include Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, to promote the European Union’s plan for Rail Baltica. This project plans to connect the three capitals of the Baltic countries with a high speed train and cut the travel time to about four hours. Despite the promotion by the EU, there are still many headwinds that this project faces.

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Today begins our blog series featuring the Baltic states. The Baltic states consist of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. With the Kunda culture of the region dating back to almost 8,000 BC, the region has a rich history and distinct culture. Beginning in the twelfth century the region was bounded together by Hanseatic League that included almost the entire Baltic region and northern Germany. The goal was for the cities to band together for mercantile purposes. This included a legal structure of its own that governed the cities as well as armies to protect the interests of the members.

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Within the European Union (EU), Poland stands as the union's coal-producing giant. Although the country suffered declining production rates during the global financial crisis, Poland's coal-mining sector has shown signs of recovery. More than 88 percent of Poland's electrical needs come from coal, and the mines at Belchatow are more than eight-and-a-half miles long, two miles wide, and have been measured to be the largest carbon emitter in Europe. Poland's coal industry produces 77 million tons of coal per year, making it the world's 10th largest coal producer. Due to the importance of Poland's coal mining industry, the Polish government has been increasingly active in blocking aggressive regulations by the EU to limit climate change.

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The country with over twenty-five percent of its population unemployed has finally climbed out of recession with third quarter growth up 0.1 percent. With an economy that is driven mainly by the tourism sector, automobile industry, and the energy industry, Spain has managed to slow down its rate of poverty and unemployment enough to stop the recession.  The bailed out banking sector is still far from cured and the giant amount of debt will still hold them back in the years to come, but the government has taken steps in the right direction in gaining control of these areas of the economy.

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The United Kingdom’s membership in the European Union could be coming to a crossroads within the next few years, as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg admitted Tuesday he no longer is fighting to keep the referendum off the ballot. Clegg is a fierce opponent of leaving the EU, relating it to “economic suicide,” but said on Tuesday that he now plans on showing the importance and benefits membership brings to the British economy, in hopes that he can convince voters to stay in.

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File under: European Union, Economy

Last Tuesday, September 17 European finance officials agreed on a change to the region’s budget policies that would ease the austerity measures currently in place.  Austerity can be defined as measures taken by a government to reduce its expenditures and budget deficits.  Unprecedented austerity policies were put in place beginning in 2009 to ease the overwhelming budget deficits that came as a result of governments spending huge sums of money to stimulate their struggling economies.  This change comes in response to criticism that the required budget cuts are making matters even worse in countries whose economies and labor markets are already crippled.

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On July 1, 2013 Croatia was all festivities, celebrating their induction as the 28th member of the European Union (EU). Joining the EU will provide Croatia with more legal stability, a larger market for their goods, and a projected $18 billion earmark between 2014 and 2020. While this ensures great things for the Croatian economy, we cannot forget about the implications, good or bad, on the relationship between Croatia and the other Balkan Countries.

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In his recent article, Michael Burda, a Professor of Economics at Humboldt University Berlin, suggests the European Central Bank (ECB) should be redesigned with regional rather than national central banks. The column proposes that instead of each country having a national bank, boarders should be drawn to create regional banks. The United States, which has 12 regional banks, is a country that uses this central bank system.

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Following the call for safer labor conditions in an era of globalization, 17 major retail firms from North America have unveiled a plan to improve factory safety standards throughout Bangladesh. Bangladesh, which is the world's second-largest retail exporting nation and sends about 85% of its goods to the European Union and United States, has notoriously suffered from hazardous working conditions in its factories. Labor groups have estimated that it would take $3 billion USD to raise the safety standards of the country's factories to an acceptable level, which prompted firms from the U.S. and Canada to form the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. The Alliance's goals include donating over $42 million USD over the five years of the plan, and for inspections to be carried out in the estimated 500 factories that the North American retailers use in Bangladesh.

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While the unemployment rate of Spain and Greece roaring extremely high these days and economies in the European Union rest down in the trough, good news has finally arrived from the Office of National Statistics. Recent statistics showed that the United Kingdom's economy grew 0.3% during the first quarter of 2013, which relieves the fear of the British economy falling into a triple-dip recession. Is this a sign that United Kingdom is getting itself out of the European Financial Crisis?

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A few months ago, Zheng wrote a blog post about a possible Trans-Atlantic trade agreement. Recently, talks have been heating up between the United States and the European Union with negotiations on a trade deal likely to begin by the end of June. The free trade agreement, if passed, would remove tariffs and reduce other barriers to trade, spurring economic growth, exports and job creation for both parties. Given the stagnant state of the global economy, there is much excitement over a potential deal and optimism is high that an accord will be reached.

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The Easter holiday has passed, and as always, with its passing comes a lot of chocolate. The holidays are a great time for candy products to increase sales by offering limited edition holiday goodies. Most candy companies incorporate Easter into their products around this time of year, with the most prevalent being the bunny. What if a company could take the idea of the chocolate bunny and restrict other companies from selling it to increase their sales? For over twelve years, Swiss premium chocolate maker Lindt & Spruengli has been trying to trademark these gold-wrapped chocolate bunnies with many court cases involving different European Union members.

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The European Union gave a €10 billion rescue to Cyprus, a small island country in the European Union. It is the fourth of seventeen Eurozone states to receive a bailout by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. In order to gain more time to convince parliament to back a new tax on deposits, Cyprus said that they would not open up their banks until Thursday the 21st of March.  This controversial tax is on bank deposits and in order for it to come into effect they must have the support of parliament.  Investors reacted poorly to the news as shares fell, and there was a run on cash machines over the past couple days.  

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While "made in China" products become wide-spread in the U.S and China-U.S trade continues to grow, the trade between the European Union (EU) and the U.S is actually the driving force behind world trade figures. Indeed, the EU-U.S trade is the largest trade in the world and comprises one-third of all trade, determining the shape of the global economy. Now, the debt crisis in Europe and the desire for American growth are pushing both sides to consider knocking down the barriers to trade. A trans-Atlantic trade talk is underway.

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The lackluster global economy is now going on its fifth year and new information suggests that it is still a series of ebbs and flows. Economists’ predictions about the United States’ fourth quarter growth was off by over a percent and the U.S. experienced a contraction of the economy for the first time in a few years. The unemployment rate ticked up .1% to 7.9%, not the kind of news a recovering economy wants.

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While the majority of European countries are experiencing the “nightmare” debt crisis, Germany is actually in an optimistic mood and is pleasant about its extraordinary trade surplus. Although Germany was hit hard initially by the global financial crisis, its exports helped the country's economy recover the by dropping unemployment to 3 million in 2012, the lowest level seen in 20 years. Its fast economy rebound left the rest of the European world in envy, and therefore triggered an argument on its role in the European Union (EU).

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Iceland’s application to join the European Union is being threatened by new quotas involving Iceland’s largest industry, the fishing industry. The new fish that is booming the industry in Iceland is the mackerel, and Ireland, Norway, and other European members are debating over how much mackerel Iceland should be able to fish. Scientists believe that mackerel are migrating to Icelandic waters in greater numbers, and since fishing accounts for forty percent of Iceland’s exports, the mackerel are now a vital part of Iceland’s economy. These fish led to the rebound from the crisis Iceland was going through, and if the stock allowed is increased, they will be able to lift the economy further.

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As a current college student, I always find myself interested in the huge investment that many students are making in college. This is especially more interesting to me as many nations are experiencing rising unemployment rates and many college students are returning home to live with mom and dad according to a Pew study. Further, the Federal Reserve of the United States just released new data on the debt levels that college students and graduates have accumulated. While this is a problem that is mostly unique to the United States, the European Union and many Asian countries currently subsidize higher education. Therefore all countries should pay attention to this as the subsidies may run out in the near future.

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The European Union is pushing back the implementation of the global banking reforms, which were supposed to take place on January 1st. It has been delayed at least six months, with talks that it may get pushed back even further. Basel III is the name of the reform plan, and it is a global response to the financial crisis from 2007-2009. Basel III is a critical step to protect large institutions against future financial shocks. Until the European Union can agree on the plan, the delay holds a risk of throwing off the recovery process. However, if the regulations in Basel III are too harsh, it could risk cutting economic growth and an increase in unemployment.

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Economic turmoil in Europe has many concerned for the future of the Eurozone and the stability of its individual members. In need of some reform, European Union leaders congregated to enact a single banking supervisor for the union. The leaders agreed that the European Central Bank will be considered supervisor-in-chief, and this bank has intervention power over all 6,000 Eurozone banks. The plan is to have the banking union functional by the first of January so the Eurozone’s rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism, can begin with a bang at the start of the New Year. The Stability Mechanism is essentially a firewall system for the EU, and it focuses on dealing solely with bailout applications, leaving transfer and monitoring to other European stabilizing facilities. The initial concerns of the banking union and the European Central Bank will be to rescue failing Spanish banks, and then deal with the pending Greek debt crisis. But of course, European leaders are facing opposition in regard to the new banking union decision.

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In the midst of the European Debt Crisis that has has toppled governments and pushed a number of countries into a second recession, Ireland has drafted a new plan to save their housing market and keep families in their homes. With house prices on the emerald isle being 50 percent below their peak value, more than half of Irish mortgages worth less than the outstanding debt, and about 39% of homes in default, the Irish government has been forced to take steps that many economists would deem as far too risky to enact. The government is expected to sign a law that would encourage banks to substantially lower the amount that borrowers owe on their mortgages, which could prevent mass-scale foreclosures, and also a blueprint for other nations seeking to resolve their housing dilemmas.

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One of the most public dramas that has played out in the downturn of the economy has been the manufacturing sector's struggles. Data released earlier this week shows reason for cautious optimism in the United States. For nearly the first time in four months, manufacturing grew within the United States. While the U.S. welcomes even the smallest improvement, other regions did not fare as well. Both China and the Eurozone continue to see the manufacturing sector of their economy contract.

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File under: Greece, Spain, European Union

European stocks have been struggling as Spain does not seem close to requesting a bailout soon. Spain’s debt and interest carrying costs are increasing at a rate much faster than the GDP, and it seems as though this trend will not slow down. Greece is in the same situation. Greece has incurred a lot of debt and is struggling to pay it back. Due to this, the country is in the process of securing a bailout. Both countries’ unemployment rates have risen above twenty percent, and the Eurozone in general has a combined unemployment rate of 11.4%. Talks that France is going to be next have many people worried and these worries can only lead to more problems.

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Quite frankly, one involved in business would have to be living in a cave in the middle of nowhere to not be aware of Europe’s debt problems of late. There are numerous theories for how to solve this problem ranging from European Fiscal Unions and bail-out funds to thousands of different austerity measures and the fabled Grexit. Sadly, none of these theoretically viable plans have come to fruition. However, Greece has an idea that is rather unusual but could possibly solve their own debt problems (by far the worse in the EU): unpaid World War II reparations.

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File under: Currency, European Union

Alternative currencies have been around throughout history, mostly in times of economic crisis or during times of war. The situation throughout the Euro Zone is no different at the current moment. Countries including Spain, Greece and Portugal all have alternative currencies in some form, floating around in their economy. More people are turning to these alternative currencies because they are used locally and allow people to trade services for goods or services for services. The currency is calculated in terms of hours, allowing someone who, say, taught piano lessons, to buy a haircut with the hours she accrued teaching the piano lessons.

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When the words German businesses are spoken, the images that tend to come to mind are usually those of large corporations like BMW or Siemens. Surprisingly to most, the true engine of the German economy that has kept the country away from the European debt crisis is actually the Mittelstand, or the nation's vast amount of small and middle-size companies. Accounting for more than 60 percent of Germany's workforce, the Mittelstand focuses more on sustainability than growth, has not seen any effect on sales during the current debt crisis, and is reported by the Institute for Mittelstand Research to actually be cutting their debt. When compared to the debt-stricken economies of Greece, Italy, Spain, and a debt-threatened France, Germans argue that the structure of the Mittelstand, which focuses more on sustainability than growth, has proven to be a vital aspect of the country's economic prosperity.

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Although government bonds issued by the United States, Germany, and Japan are still the main safe havens for investors, trends now show that the slowing economic growth in America and China, combined with the European debt crisis, have pushed investors to search the globe for safer markets. Countries that were once considered on the frontier of the investing world, like Norway, Finland, Sweden, Canada, and Australia, have been experiencing a rush of money from American investors looking to move abroad.  Common market characteristics in these countries include having little of the risk, or outsized returns, that were once attractive prior to the current global financial crisis.

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In France, those that have grown accustomed to downloading free, illegal music and videos from the internet have found themselves facing stricter government warnings and fines. Since the inception of the 2009 HADOPI law, which promotes the distribution and protection of creative works on the internet, French officials have noticed a sharp decline in illegal file-sharing. The three-warning system, which by the end of 2011 had sent out 822,00 warning e-mails, 68,000 second warnings, and 165 cases where offenders have been fined around $2,000 (USD), has had an immense impact on the music and film industries in France. Following the implementation of the law, French music industry revenues have been stabilizing, digital sales markets are growing, and iTunes sales have risen more strongly than in any other European country, most notably by bringing an extra €13.8 million a year worth of iTunes music sales into the economy.

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The European Union has been one of the most devoted players in the attempts to combat global climate change and reduce carbon emissions. The long-term energy plans proposed by the European Union depend largely on high technology projects designed to capture carbon dioxide emissions and store them underground. This would help abate global warming while also allowing industries to continue to burn large amounts of fossil fuels. However, weak support for the experimental carbon capturing technology has held the European Union back from reaching its energy goals.

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While most economies in the European Union are slowing down, Estonia is going in the complete opposite direction. Estonia currently has the fastest economic growth rate in the European Union with a solid eight percent growth rate in the first quarter of 2011. Joining the European Union in 2004, Estonia has come a long way to establish itself as a prominent economic force in Europe. The country experienced some hindrances along the way but has overcome these obstacles while continuing to grow economically. There are many reasons and key business factors that account for this positive growth rate in Estonia.

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The Euro has popped up many times in the news recently. Because of the debt crisis in Europe, many countries were left unable to fulfill the convergence criteria to have the Euro as a currency, leading to many problems throughout Europe. It wasn’t just the current crisis that brought about these issues; they have been rooted in the Euro ever since it was created. So what exactly are a few of these issues and how can they be solved?

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Currently in Hungary, the car industry accounts for a quarter of their industrial output. Germany’s Audi has just announced an over $1 billion expansion plan which will strengthen an economy that is struggling for growth. Hungary has become a center of production for export to the rest of the EU, just like the neighbouring Czech Republic. This isn’t just a big deal because of the amount of money being put into the project, but it also shows that these plants can become increasingly important over time as they do more than just simple assembly work.

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Since the Euro was introduced by the European Central Bank in 1999, Germany has gained competitiveness against not only other developed countries around the globe, but also against all other members of the Eurozone. In this time, they have also managed to transform a slight budget deficit into a strong surplus. A lot of people are starting to wonder what caused this rapid transformation?

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File under: European Union

The European nations spent years trying to unify the countries in the continent and now after the financial crisis we can't be quite sure about how strong that unity is.

There have been many talks about the future of the European Union, but the option that the nations have settled on is not one that many expected. First, the EU will be split into two groups - 17 and 10. The big 17 will include all of the nations currently using the euro with France and Germany having the most significant say. The 17 have more power due to the use of the same currency and they will be the ones making the decisions. The reason for this move to a tighter central economic management is to prevent future defaults by members in debt.

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A recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau highlights the U.S. Trade deficit for 2010. This report is very straight-forward and shows the change in the trade balance throughout the years. As most everybody knows, the U.S. has been running a large trade deficit (i.e. they have been importing more then they export) for several years now. The report gives us a good starting point to understand where the deficit is coming from and some of the reasons behind it.

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Traditionally free trade agreements and their kin are the principle agents of more competitive, efficient, and economically viable countries. However, people often look at the overall effect of FTA’s in their questioning for whether or not FTA’s should be implemented. The smaller country is usually considered the major benefactor after an FTA is implemented, but what happens when the opposite happens? There is an obvious, glaring example that is often overlooked, I myself just stumbled upon it a few days ago. Looking at Europe currently, you have the PIIGS, the countries that seem to be on the fast track to nowhere, and the rest of the Union. The idea behind the Union was that the economies could build on each other and raise the smaller less developed countries to the same standard as the U.K., France and Germany. Did this actually happen though?

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I have been following the currency markets quite heavily in the past few weeks trying to gage the effects of the much discussed QE2 that the U.S. Federal Reserve implemented. Personally, I was expecting that to lead to more inflation in the U.S. dollar and depreciate its value relative to other currencies, including the Euro. Imagine my surprise when I found that I was correct in inflation being expected by the market (due to high treasury yields) but that the Euro was actually the one depreciating versus the dollar! How could this be?

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Global water usage has exploded in recent years. This has been led by emerging markets demanding increasing amounts of clean water for consumption, and the agriculture industry needing more water to produce the food required to meet their new demand. These two increases in demand combined with the shrinking supply of clean water have led many to predict a water shortage sometime in the future. To fight this problem there are two options: decrease demand or increase supply. The globalEDGE October Newsletter addresses the option of increasing supply while this post will discuss efforts to decrease demand.

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The issue of euro-area governments exceeding standards for allowable debt has led to calls for tighter regulations and sanctions against nations that do not exhibit fiscal responsibility. While it is difficult for a large and diverse organization such as the European Central Bank to reach a consensus on any major policy, recent scares have opened the discussion of proposed regulatory changes.

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Very recently, all 27 member nations of the European Union (EU) approved the entry of Estonia into the eurozone, meaning that Estonia would adopt the euro as its primary form of currency. At first glance, it seems that tying itself to a widely-used, strongly-supported currency would be a no-brainer for Estonia. However, with Europe’s recent economic woes, the situation becomes a bit more complicated.

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Yesterday the Euro hit a four-year low against the dollar. The euro fell to $1.2237 in early trading on Monday and actually fell slightly below $1.22 today. Investors fear that the austerity measures being put in place in many of the eurozone countries will hinder growth. Low growth would also mean low interest rates, so holding the currency would bring about poor returns. A lot of these measures stem from Europe's debt problems, and specifically Greece's recent troubles. This is very ironic because of the fact that their troubles may actually stem from the euro.

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In the early 1990s India was a closed market and it has gone a long way since then to become an important player in the international trade scene. The country is one of the fastest growing economies in the world with a growth rate of 8-10%. This rate in combination with the large market in India makes it a desirable trade partner for many other countries. The European Union, for example, is looking to establish a Free Trade Agreement with India - negotiations started in 2007 and the agreement is expected to be finalized by the end of this year according to EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht.

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Recently, the European Union signed the largest aid deal ever with Mauritius (93 million Euros, to be exact). The aim of the package is to serve as a means to social and economic reform for the island nation. The timing of the deal couldn’t have been better. Only three days earlier, Mauritius’s Minister of Education and Human Resources expressed his nation’s desire to expand and modernize its textile industry. What implications might these events have on current and potential investors, and the textile industry as a whole?

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File under: European Union

On January 1, 1999, a new currency was launched in Europe – the Euro. Only 11 countries used it then and it was an experiment in a way. The Euro was supposed to create a safe zone for trading and lower borrowing costs for those who used it. Many were skeptical of the outcome. They had even more of a reason to be skeptical as the euro plunged in value almost momentarily. However, it recovered.

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File under: Slovakia, European Union

The global economy may not be showing signs of improvement; however Slovakia is hoping to see some stability of its economy in 2009. Five years after it joined the European Union, the country is accepting the Euro as its official currency. Slovakia has had to cope with volatile currency for years and now many companies see the change from the Slovak Koruna to the Euro as a positive change that will lead to more stability.

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File under: Bulgaria, European Union

Organized crime has been an issue for many years in Bulgaria. However, ever since the country became a part of the European Union, there has been a lot more pressure on the politicians to root out the organized crime. Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev’s party was accused of taking $170,000 from people being accused of being a part of a criminal network. The European Union has been investigating this group and because of their suspicions has decided to cut off $670 million to Bulgaria which will hurt the country since it is the poorest nation in the bloc.

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