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UK’s parliament has overwhelmingly agreed to let the government begin the country’s exit from the EU as it voted for the Brexit bill.

The bill was approved by 494 votes to 122, and now moves to the House of Lords.

Shadow business secretary Clive Lewis was one of 52 Labour lawmakers to defy party orders to back the bill and he resigned from the front bench.

PM Theresa May wants to trigger formal Brexit talks by the end of March.

The prime minister will do this by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, but requires Parliament’s permission before doing so.

Photo Getty Image

Clive Lewis, who earlier said he was undecided on whether to support the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, announced his resignation as parliament began voting for the final time.

He said he “cannot, in all good conscience, vote for something I believe will ultimately harm the city I have the honor to represent, love and call home”.

Leader Jeremy Corbyn said he understood the difficulties the vote presented some of his members of parliament but said they had been ordered to back the Article 50 because the party would not “block Brexit”.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who missed last week’s initial vote on the bill, backed it this time.

The Labour rebellion was five lawmakers up on last week’s vote, while former Chancellor Ken Clarke was again the only Conservative to vote against the two-clause bill.

During the voting, SNP lawmakers were reprimanded by deputy speaker Lindsay Hoyle after they started singing Ode to Joy, the EU anthem.

Pro-Moscow candidate Igor Dodon has won the second round of Moldova’s presidential election.

With almost all the ballots counted, Igor Dodon, who wants to restore close ties with Russia, had 52.37% of the vote, while pro-European candidate Maia Sandu, polled 47.63%.

The national vote marks the first direct presidential election in Moldova since 1996.

Since 1996, Moldova’s president has been chosen by parliament.

Image source Publika.md

Image source Publika.md

The election was seen as a battle between those supporting closer ties with Russia and those wanting integration with the EU.

Speaking shortly after the closure of polling stations on November 13, Igor Dodon called on Maia Sandu to preserve public order and abstain from protests.

Igor Dodon, 41, was a deputy prime minister in the Party of Communists government before 2009. He blames widespread corruption in Moldova on the pro-EU parties that have ruled the country since then.

Both candidates criticized the vote as badly organized, highlighting the shortage of ballot papers for overseas voters.

The final voter turnout was 53.3%.

Moldova, a former Soviet republic with has close historical ties with Moscow, declared independence after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The country also has a breakaway region supported by Russia, Trans-Dniester.

Moldova has moved to forge closer ties with the EU in recent years, a course championed by Maia Sandu.


Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte launched a fierce attack on the European Union after it condemned his brutal crackdown on crime.

Rodrigo Duterte said the EU parliament was acting out of guilt after it called on him to halt “the current wave of extrajudicial executions and killings”.

The president said “hypocritical” former colonial powers like France and Britain were trying to atone for their own sins.

Since Rodrigo Duterte took office at the end of June about 3,000 people have been killed.

They have been killed either by police or vigilantes, after Rodrigo Duterte effectively sanctioned the murder of criminals and drugs dealers.

The killings have been widely condemned internationally.Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte

The European Parliament said it was concerned about the “extraordinarily high numbers killed during police operations… in the context of an intensified anti-crime and anti-drug campaign”, and asked Rodrigo Duterte to launch an “immediate” investigation.

Rodrigo Duterte, 71, hit back angrily, saying the European Parliament’s colonial-era ancestors killed “thousands” of Arabs and other peoples.

“They’re taking the high ground to assuage their feelings of guilt. But who did I kill?

“Assuming it to be true – 1,700, who are they? Criminals. You call that genocide,” he told officials in Davao.

“Now the EU has the gall to condemn me.”

The president also swore repeatedly during the outburst, and raised his middle finger in a gesture of defiance.

Rodrigo Duterte said on September 18 he needed to extend his crime war for another six months because the drug problem was worse than he expected, adding on September 20 that he would shield police and soldiers from prosecution.

The European Union has explained the way Britain can kick start formal negotiations to exit the union following June 23 referendum.

The EU says Britain can trigger Article 50, which sets a two-year deadline for a deal, by making a formal declaration either in a letter or a speech.

British PM David Cameron has said he will step down by October to allow his successor to conduct the talks.

However, EU foreign ministers have urged Britain to start the process soon.

Since June 23 referendum there has been intense speculation about when, and how, the UK might begin formal negotiations.

A spokesman for the European Council, which defines the EU’s political direction and priorities, reiterated on Saturday that triggering Article 50 was a formal act which must be “done by the British government to the European Council”.

“It has to be done in an unequivocal manner with the explicit intent to trigger Article 50,” he said.

Photo Getty Image

Photo Getty Image

“It could either be a letter to the president of the European Council or an official statement at a meeting of the European Council duly noted in the official records of the meeting.”

On June 25, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU had “no need to be particularly nasty in any way” in the negotiations with Britain.

Angela Merkel said that deterring other countries from leaving the EU should not be a priority in the talks.

She added that she was not in favor of pushing for a speedy withdrawal.

“It shouldn’t take forever, that’s right, but I would not fight for a short timeframe,” Angela Merkel said.

She was speaking after several EU foreign ministers, including Germany’s, had urged Britain to quickly implement its exit.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: “This process should get under way as soon as possible so that we are not left in limbo but rather can concentrate on the future of Europe.”

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said the continent could not accept a political vacuum, saying “this will not be business as usual”.

The first summit of EU leaders with no British representation will be held on June 29, a day after David Cameron holds talks with members.

Global stock markets and the pound fell heavily on the news of Brexit, while credit rating agency Moody’s cut the UK’s outlook to “negative”.

Brexit steps:

  1. UK votes Leave.
  2. Within 2 years from referendum the UK notifies the EU invoking Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, then the remaining 27 EU states meet to discuss withdrawal.
  3. Negotiations will begin between the UK and the EU ending with a draft deal put to the European Council. At the end of two years negotiations can be extended further but only if all 27 countries agree. The draft deal needs approval from at least 20 countries with 65% population. Then the deal should be ratified by the European Parliament.
  4. If no agreement to extended negotiations then the EU treaties cease to apply to the UK
  5. The UK leaves the European Union. UK parliament must repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and replace with new agreement.
  6. If the UK wants back in, it has to apply like any other country.

Polls have opened in the UK for a historic referendum on whether the country should remain a member of the European Union or leave.

An estimated 46,499,537 people are entitled to take part in the vote.

Polling stations opened at 07:00 BST and will close at 22:00 BST.Brexit referendum 2016

It is only the third nationwide referendum in UK history and comes after a four-month battle for votes between the Leave and Remain campaigns.

The referendum ballot paper asks the following question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

Whichever side gets more than half of all votes cast is considered to have won.

After the referendum polls close, sealed ballot boxes will be collected and transported to the count venue for each of the 382 local counting areas.

These represent all 380 local government areas in England, Scotland and Wales, plus one each for Northern Ireland and Gibraltar.

Individual areas’ results will then be declared throughout the night, along with results from 11 regional counts.

Depending on how close the poll is, the result may become clear before the final national result is officially declared by the Chief Counting Officer, who will be based at Manchester Town Hall.

The Electoral Commission estimates a final result “around breakfast time” on June 24.

Roaming charges across the European Union are being capped starting with April 30, 2016.

Thanks to the new roaming rules, the cost of making and receiving calls when abroad in the EU is now substantially cheaper than in 2007, when the EU first started to tackle excessive roaming charges.

From June 2017, roaming charges in the EU will be abolished completely.

Those making calls, downloading data or texting would save millions of euros in charges following the latest changes.EU data roaming charges

Consumers pay roaming charges whenever they connect to an operator based abroad. The charges are in addition to the cost of the call itself, and for short calls they can make up a large proportion of the overall fee.

The biggest reductions will be for people downloading data – such as emails, pictures or social media – where the roaming charge will be cut by about 75%.

Charges for outgoing phone calls will be cut by a similar amount. The charge for texting will be reduced by about 66%.

From April 30, 2016, onwards, the roaming fee equal to domestic price + €0.05 may not exceed €0.19 for voice and €0.20 for data. The roaming fee equal to domestic price + €0.02 may not exceed €0.06 for SMS.

These price caps are the maximum permissible prices. Operators are free to offer cheaper rates, so be on the lookout for better deals.

Member States’ national telecoms regulators must ensure that mobile phone operators comply with the new rules on data roaming and the lower prices of voice calls. Consumers can contact the national regulator in the Member State where their mobile operator is based if they have any problems or questions about the new limits.


VW sales and market share in the EU dipped in October 2015, suggesting that the emissions scandal might have had an impact.

Volkswagen Group’s total EU sales were 0.5% down from October 2014, while market share slipped to 24.9% from 25.37%.

The data from the Association of European Carmakers (ACEA) also showed a slowdown in EU growth as a whole.

Just more than 1.1 million cars were sold in the EU last month, up 2.9% on last year but 9.8% down on September.VW EU sales fall

Analysts suggested that buyers may been put off purchases while they await the outcome of investigations into the VW scandal, in which it was discovered that Europe’s largest automaker was falsifying emissions tests.

VW’s mass market brands suffered falls in sales last month, with Seat sales down 11.4%, Skoda’s down 2.6%, and the carmaker’s own-brand vehicles down 0.2%.

However, premium brands Audi and Porsche recorded healthy growth in the EU, with sales last month rising 4.1% and 13.9% respectively.

For the first 10 months of the year, EU new registrations were up by 8.2% to 11.523 million vehicles.

The eurozone inflation returned to zero in October 2015 from (-0.1%) in the previous month.

According to Eurostat estimates, price growth in food, alcohol and tobacco increased slightly, while energy prices were still considerably lower than last year.

The EU statistics agency also estimated the unemployment rate in the 19 countries that use the euro was 10.8% in September, down from 10.9% in August.

The rate for the 28 EU members was 9.3%, down from 9.4% the month before.

The eurozone rate is the lowest since January 2012 while the rate for the whole EU is the lowest since September 2009.Eurozone inflation rate October 2015

Greece had the highest rate at 21.6%. The country is expected to be higher but has yet to report September figures, while Germany had the lowest at 4.5%.

The inflation figures are an early, flash estimate from Eurostat and so are not broken down by member state.

It does give broad indications of which groups of products have gone up or down.

Food, alcohol and tobacco prices were estimated to be rising 1.5% in October, compared with 1.4% in September.

Energy prices were falling an annual 8.7%, compared with 8.9% a month earlier.

Services prices were up 1.3% compared with 1.2% the month before.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi suggested this month that he might be prepared to extend the bank’s program of quantitative easing given the low levels of eurozone inflation.

The European Union reached an agreement on June 30 that will end data roaming charges for people travelling within its 28 member countries as of June 2017.

The ban will be preceded by a 14-month interim period, in which companies can still add surcharges – but at a reduced rate.

A deal, reached on June 30, also sets out rules requiring telecom operators to treat most internet traffic equally.

However, the net neutrality rules will allow blocking for some reasons, such as to counter cyber-attacks.

From April 2016, telecoms operators will be able to add a surcharge of no more than:

  • €0.05 extra per minute for calls
  • €0.02 extra per SMS sent
  • €0.05 extra per megabyte of data used

The cap would make roaming within the EU 75% cheaper during the interim period, the European Commission said.EU data roaming charges

The agreement is the culmination of years of campaigning to cut roaming charges and to define the EU nations’ approach to regulating internet traffic – particularly in light of the US adoption of net-neutrality rules.

It largely follows proposals put forward in March 2015, which analysts said were a weaker version of what European regulators had originally promised.

It will enshrine the principle of net neutrality, which stops internet service providers (ISPs) favoring some internet traffic, in European law for the first time.

However, as mooted in March, there will be exceptions to those rules.

ISPs will be able to favor services that require high-quality internet connections, such as internet TVs, as long as they do not impinge on the overall quality of internet traffic.

The commission said they would also be able to throttle traffic if it was in the public interest to do so.

The agreement will be presented to the EU’s member states between July and December 2015 for formal adoption.

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) – the fourth largest grouping of lawmakers in the European Parliament – has previously criticized regulators for trying to water down plans to end data roaming.

But it welcomed today’s announcement.

The president of the ALDE group, Guy Verhofstadt, said the “great roaming rip-off” was to be brought to an end.

The ALDE group blamed the delay in successfully negotiating the deal on member states, which have been accused of seeking to protect their national operators in the past.

Ukraine is to receive a €1.8 billion ($2 billion) loan from the European Union.

The move is described as a landmark deal for a non-EU member.

The agreement was signed at an EU summit in Riga, Latvia, with the leaders of six post-Soviet nations.

The EU loan aims to help cash-strapped Ukraine implement economic reforms, as fighting with pro-Russian rebels in the east has taken a heavy toll.

Ukraine is under pressure from the EU and other international lenders to curb corruption and liberalize the economy.

The EU also pledged €200 million in grants to Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, which have signed association agreements with the 28-nation bloc.

The other “Eastern Partnership” countries are Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus.Riga EU Summit 2015

Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are pushing for full integration with the EU, while Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus prefer limited co-operation with the bloc.

In addition, Armenia and Belarus are members of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, seen by some analysts as a rival project to the EU.

The Riga summit declaration criticized Russia for its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula last year.

“The acts against Ukraine and the events in Georgia since 2014 have shown that the fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders cannot be taken for granted in the 21st Century on the European continent,” it said.

“The EU remains committed in its support to the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of all its partners.”

The declaration recognized “the sovereign right of each partner freely to choose the level of ambition and the goals to which it aspires” in ties with the EU.

At a news conference, European Council President Donald Tusk said he wanted to be as “ambitious as possible” in granting Georgia and Ukraine a visa-free regime, provided key conditions were met. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said “enormous progress” had been made on the issue.

Georgia and Ukraine countries had hoped for a positive decision on the visa issue at the Riga summit, but it will not happen until next year at the earliest.

Last year, Moldova was granted visa-free travel to the EU.

Ukraine’s crisis erupted in November 2013, when the previous Ukrainian government backed away from closer ties with the EU. The mass protests sparked by that move toppled President Viktor Yanukovych and led to the conflict in the east.

Ukraine’s economy continued its contraction in Q1 2015, and Kiev faces huge debt repayments to its international creditors.


To understand the difference between the European vs US Forex trading markets it is essential that you first understand the difference between the currency.  The euro and the US dollar (USD) are the two most common form of money in the world.  These are the two currencies that are found in the reserves in many places around the globe.  They are the two currencies that are part of the global economy.

The Impact

The Euro – The European Union has 28 countries and 18 of these use the euro as their form of currency.  This form of money was not in circulation until 1999 but has quickly been gaining in popularity and is expected to become the most used money in the world.  Even though other countries still have their own currency, the euro is accepted in most places around the globe.

One thing that affects the euro that does not affect other types of currency is that since it is accepted in many countries, it can be affected by many different countries.  This means that government decisions in more than one place can change the market value of the euro.  This is very complicated and an issue that is going to need to be addressed as the euro continues to grow in popularity.

European vs US Forex Trading Markets

European vs US Forex Trading Markets

The USD – The USD remains the main form of money around the globe.  It is accepted in more places than any other currency.  There are currently 8 other countries that use the USD as their main currency.  You must understand that the reason that the USD is used as the main currency in these countries is that their own money was no longer perceived as having any type of backing.  Therefore their own money became worthless on the global market making it essential for them to find a currency that was going to allow them to trade with other countries.

Around the world, the USD remains the main currency that is found in reserves.  Since the financial crisis of 2008 it has made a steady but slow decline in popularity.  Many times when dealing with international business the USD is the preferred form of currency.  The reason that it is so accepted is that it is known for being a stable currency.

Since the US has the largest economy it would be only natural that other powerhouse countries would adapt to using the USD for their transactions.  This happens frequently in business including offshore Forex trading with Netotrade.

The Choice

The main choice of determining whether a business transaction is down with the USD or the euro really breaks down to the overall stability.  While the euro has not proven to be unstable by any means it also has not had the years of stability that the USD has.  This means that in most cases the USD has such a large head start on the economy of the world that some doubt that the euro will ever be able to surpass it.  Others believe that with faltering economic conditions that the USD is in threat of becoming meaningless in the coming years and that the euro will rise to be the number one currency in the world.

CNN shares up to date and current information about currencies.  You can learn more about the value of the euro or the USD there.  This is a great place to check before entering into any Forex relationships with either form of currency.  You can learn which is going to be best for you.

The EU has agreed to open negotiations with Cuba aimed at restoring full bilateral relations with the Communist-run island.

The talks, which could begin as soon as next month, will try to increase trade and investment, and include a dialogue on human rights, officials said.

Since 1996, the EU has restricted its ties with Cuba to encourage multi-party democracy and progress on human rights.

The bloc is Cuba’s second-biggest trading partner after Venezuela.

It represents a major source of investment, and hundreds of thousands of European tourists visit the island every year.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton stressed that human rights remained “at the core” of its dealings with Cuba.

“These negotiations will help consolidate our engagement with Cuba,” Catherine Ashton said.

Since 1996, the EU has restricted its ties with Cuba to encourage multi-party democracy and progress on human rights

Since 1996, the EU has restricted its ties with Cuba to encourage multi-party democracy and progress on human rights

“I hope Cuba will take up this offer.”

The announcement comes with Cuba engaged in an economic and social reform process launched by President Raul Castro.

The EU ambassador to Havana, Herman Portocarero, said the aim was to support and accompany “change on the island” while also promoting human rights.

A legal bilateral relationship would bring “more opportunities”, he added.

The move indicates the most important diplomatic shift since the EU lifted sanctions against Cuba in 2008.

It follows the visit by Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans to Cuba in January. During his trip, Frans Timmermans called on the EU to change its policy toward the island.

He said the best way to promote change was through dialogue, not isolation.

In 1996, the EU agreed on a set of rules governing its relations with Cuba, called the Common Position.

It states that the EU’s objective is “to encourage a process of transition to a pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as sustainable recovery and improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people”.

Despite the policy, more than half of EU member states have bilateral agreements with Cuba.

Cuba has rejected the Common Position, arguing that it constitutes an interference in its internal affairs.

The Swiss vote to bring back strict immigration quotas for Europeans draws criticism from France, Germany and Brussels.

France and Germany have voiced concern about Switzerland’s vote to bring back strict quotas for immigration from EU countries.

Final results showed 50.3% voted in favor. The vote invalidates the Swiss-EU agreement on freedom of movement.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the vote would cause “a host of difficulties for Switzerland”.

France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said: “It will hurt Switzerland to be inward-looking.”

The initiative to hold the referendum was spearheaded by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), amid increasing debate across Europe about migration and the impact of free movement of people.

The Swiss vote to bring back strict immigration quotas for Europeans draws criticism from France, Germany and Brussels

The Swiss vote to bring back strict immigration quotas for Europeans draws criticism from France, Germany and Brussels

Fiercely independent Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but has adopted large sections of EU policy.

The European Commission said it regretted the outcome of the vote and would examine its implications.

Freedom of movement is a key pillar of the EU single market – a market which accounts for more than half of Swiss exports.

The vote has shown up traditional divisions, with French-speaking areas against the quotas, German-speaking regions divided, and the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino firmly in favor.

In addition, cities with higher than average numbers of foreigners – Basel, Geneva and Zurich – voted against the quota proposal, while rural areas mostly voted for it.

Switzerland’s economy is booming at the moment, and unemployment is low, but many Swiss worry about immigration.

Last year 80,000 new immigrants arrived in Switzerland, and foreigners now make up 23% of the population. It is the continent’s second highest foreign population after Luxembourg.

In a statement, the European Commission said the Swiss vote “goes against the principle of free movement of persons between the EU and Switzerland”.

“The EU will examine the implications of this initiative on EU-Swiss relations as a whole,” the European Commission added.

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According to the European Commission, the extent of corruption in Europe is “breathtaking” and it costs the EU economy about 120 billion euros annually.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem is now presenting a full report on the issue.

Writing in Sweden’s Goeteborgs-Posten daily, Cecilia Malmstroem said corruption was eroding trust in democracy and draining resources from the legal economy.

For the report the Commission studied corruption in all 28 EU member states.

“The extent of the problem in Europe is breathtaking, although Sweden is among the countries with the least problems,” Cecilia Malmstroem wrote.

The level of corruption across the EU was eroding trust in democracy and draining resources from the legal economy

The level of corruption across the EU was eroding trust in democracy and draining resources from the legal economy

The Commission says it is the first time it has produced such a report. It also makes recommendations on how to tackle corruption.

National governments, rather than EU institutions, are chiefly responsible for fighting corruption in the EU.

The EU has an anti-fraud agency, OLAF, which focuses on fraud and corruption affecting the EU budget, but it has limited resources. In 2011 its budget was just 23.5 million euros.

Cecilia Malmstroem said that in some countries public procurement procedures were vulnerable to fraud, while in others party financing was the main problem, or municipal bodies were badly affected. And in some countries patients have to pay bribes in order to get adequate medical care, she wrote.

The EU study includes two major opinion polls, which indicated that three-quarters of EU citizens consider corruption to be widespread in their country.

Four out of 10 of the businesses surveyed described corruption as an obstacle to doing business in Europe.

In Sweden, 18% of people surveyed said they knew someone who had received a bribe, compared with a European average of 12%, Cecilia Malmstroem said.

Despite that finding, she said Sweden “is undoubtedly one of the countries with the least problems with corruption, and other EU countries should learn from Sweden’s solutions for dealing with the problem”, pointing to the role of laws on transparency and openness.

Organized crime groups have sophisticated networks across Europe and the EU police agency Europol says there are at least 3,000 of them.

Malta has responded to EU pressure over its controversial new passport scheme for non-EU nationals, announcing that applicants will now be required to spend at least a year in the country in order to qualify.

The new condition was announced by Malta in a joint statement with the European Commission.

Applicants will still have to invest at least 1.15 million euros ($1.57 million) in Malta to get a passport.

MEPs have condemned the Maltese scheme, saying it cheapens EU citizenship.

Earlier Malta had not set any residency requirement for rich foreigners wishing to get Maltese passports.

The new stipulation says “no certificate of naturalization will be issued unless the applicant provides proof that he/she has resided in Malta for a period of at least 12 months immediately preceding the day of issuing of the certificate of naturalization”.

Malta has changed its controversial new passport scheme for non-EU nationals

Malta has changed its controversial new passport scheme for non-EU nationals

It followed talks between EU Commission officials and the Maltese government. EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has said applicants should have “a genuine link to the country” – not just the ability to pay.

Malta, like most of the EU’s 28 countries, is in the Schengen zone, where citizens can mostly travel without passport checks. The EU single market has made it much easier for citizens to settle in another member state.

Owning an EU member state’s passport entitles the holder to EU citizenship, with all the rights guaranteed under EU law.

Malta’s scheme, called the Individual Investor Programme (IIP), was initially to be limited to 1,800 people – not including their close relatives, who could also buy passports, for a lower fee.

Malta is now considering raising that cap, so that more passports could be issued.

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The Bundesbank has raised its forecasts for Germany’s economic growth from 0.3% to 0.5% for 2013 and from 1.5% to 1.7% for 2014.

“The German economy is in good shape: the unemployment rate is low, employment is rising, and wage growth is returning to normal,” said Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann.

Germany’s central bank makes forecasts twice a year – the last set was in June.

The Bundesbank has raised its forecasts for Germany’s economic growth

The Bundesbank has raised its forecasts for Germany’s economic growth

Jens Weidmann added that low interest rates had been encouraging house building and private consumption in Germany, although trade had been weakening.

The European Central Bank (ECB) cut its key interest rate from 0.5% to 0.25% a month ago, and kept it at that level at Thursday’s meeting.

ECB president Mario Draghi said the eurozone’s economy remained “subdued”.

The Bundesbank did not make a forecast for 2015 in June, but is now predicting growth of 2.0% for that year.

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The European Commission has fined eight banks a total of 1.7 billion euros for forming illegal cartels to rig interest rates.

The cartels operated in markets for financial derivatives, which are products used to manage the risk of interest rate movements.

Two of the eight, Barclays and UBS, were excused their financial penalties for revealing the cartels’ existence.

The European Commission it was shocking that competing banks were in collusion.

UBS and Barclays stood to pay the largest fines of 2.5 billion euros and 690 million euros, but avoided paying anything because they assisted the investigation.

A number of banks were engaged in the rigging of interest rate products intended to reflect the cost of interbank lending in euros, while another group fixed prices for products based on the Japanese yen.

The rates are used to set the price of trillions of dollars of products, including mortgages.

The European Commission has fined eight banks a total of 1.7 billion euros for forming illegal cartels to rig interest rates

The European Commission has fined eight banks a total of 1.7 billion euros for forming illegal cartels to rig interest rates

Some were involved in both markets and more than one cartel, including RBS, which was fined a total of 391 million euros.

Aside from RBS, Barclays and UBS, the other organizations involved were Deutsche Bank, which received the biggest fine of 725.36 million euros, Societe Generale, JP Morgan, Citibank and the brokers RP Martin.

Banks that have not yet settled fines but are being investigated are HSBC and Credit Agricole, as well as JPMorgan, which accepted a fine for rigging in one market but not another.

The fine, the first for interest-rate rigging from the EU, is also a record for its regulators.

Other global authorities have fined financial institutions including UBS, RBS, Barclays, Rabobank and ICAP for manipulating rates.

A handful of individuals are facing criminal charges.

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The European Commission has warned Italy and Spain that their draft budgets for 2014 may not comply with new eurozone debt and deficit rules.

The European Union’s executive arm also said French and Dutch plans only just passed muster.

Non-complying countries may have to revise their tax and spending plans before re-submitting them to national parliaments.

It is the first time the Commission has done this.

The European Commission has warned Italy and Spain that their draft budgets for 2014 may not comply with new eurozone debt and deficit rules

The European Commission has warned Italy and Spain that their draft budgets for 2014 may not comply with new eurozone debt and deficit rules

Under EU rules, eurozone member states are obliged to cut deficits until they achieve a balanced budget or go into surplus.

They also have to reduce public debt levels.

The European Commission does give countries some flexibility if their deficit is below the EU ceiling of 3% of gross domestic product (GDP) and their debt levels are falling.

But when Italy, the eurozone’s third largest economy, asked for such leniency over its 2014 budget plans, the Commission refused because its public debt is still rising.

France, which has slipped back into recession, has taken steps to cut its deficit to below the 3% threshold, but its structural reform plans were only making “limited progress”, the Commission said.

Other countries at risk of breaking EU rules included Finland, Luxembourg and Malta.

Negotiators in Brussels have clinched a deal on the 2014 EU budget after a night of hard talks, cutting spending by about 6% compared to 2013.

Spending will total 135.5 billion euros (181.3 billion), or 0.5bn less than the Commission sought and 0.9bn short of the European Parliament’s target.

However, the budget is 0.5 billion euros bigger than what austerity-conscious government leaders were demanding.

It reflects stricter new terms agreed by EU leaders in February.

About two-thirds of the budget will go on subsidies for farmers and on development projects in the EU’s poorer regions, as in previous years. But the spending on such projects – called the “cohesion” budget – is being cut by about 7 billion euros.

Negotiators in Brussels have clinched a deal on the 2014 EU budget after a night of hard talks

Negotiators in Brussels have clinched a deal on the 2014 EU budget after a night of hard talks

Four governments voted against the compromise deal – the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden, German ARD television reported. They wanted the EU to make deeper cuts.

The deal was reached after 16 hours of negotiation, and still requires final approval from the parliament and EU ministers next week.

There remains some opposition to the deal in the European Parliament, however.

The deal, once signed off, should pave the way for the European Parliament to adopt the EU’s long-term trillion-euro budget for 2014-2020.

At the same time, the negotiators in Brussels agreed to allocate an extra 3.9 billion euros to pay outstanding bills for 2013 incurred in cohesion projects.

An additional 400.5 million euros will also be spent from the EU “solidarity” fund to help areas of Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and Romania which were hit by flooding this year.

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The EU has agreed to resume membership talks with Turkey.

The European affairs ministers meeting in Luxembourg said the talks would restart on November 5th, after being stalled for three years.

The EU had first agreed to re-launch negotiations in June, but postponed the talks after members criticized Turkey’s crackdown on anti-government protests.

Turkey first applied for full membership of what was then the European Economic Community in 1987.

The ministers of the 28 EU members based their latest decision on a recommendation by the European Commission.

In its 2013 progress report on Turkey published last week, the Commission had criticized as excessive the use of force by Turkish police in dealing with widespread demonstrations.

The EU has agreed to resume membership talks with Turkey

The EU has agreed to resume membership talks with Turkey

But it recognized that Turkey had introduced judicial reforms. It also praised the announcement last month by PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan of a series of political reforms, including increased rights for Kurds.

Linas Linkevicius, the foreign minister of Lithuania, which currently holds the EU presidency, congratulated Turkey on the resumption of the negotiating process, which he said was overdue.

“Time to catch up!” he tweeted on Lithuania’s official EU presidency site.

Turkey has been an associate member of the European Union (then the European Economic Community) since 1963.

Turkey met the last condition for accession talks in 2005, but negotiations have stalled over a range of issues, including concern over freedom of speech and democracy, treatment of religious minorities, judicial reform, and ongoing tensions with Cyprus, an EU member.

During that time Ankara has watched other countries overtake Turkey in the queue for membership.

Croatia became a full member of the EU in July, while Serbia achieved official candidate status earlier this year.

Italy has decided to hold a state funeral for the hundreds of migrants who died after their boat capsized close to the island of Lampedusa last Thursday.

PM Enrico Letta made the announcement during a visit to the island with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Jose Manuel Barroso pledged 30 million euros ($40 million) of EU funds to help refugees in Italy.

At least 274 people, mostly from Eritrea and Somalia, died in the wreck.

Of more than 500 people on board, only 155 have survived. Divers are recovering bodies.

It is one of Italy’s worst disasters involving a boat carrying Europe-bound migrants from Africa.

Lampedusa is a key destination for such boats and many residents have long complained that the authorities in Italy and the European Union are not doing enough to deal with the thousands of migrants who come ashore each year.

Jose Manuel Barroso and Enrico Letta visited the temporary mortuary holding the coffins of the victims and met survivors and those who had helped in the rescue.

The two men were heckled on their arrival in Lampedusa, with shouts of “disgrace” and “killers”.

Italy will hold a state funeral for the migrants who died after their boat capsized close to the island of Lampedusa

Italy will hold a state funeral for the migrants who died after their boat capsized close to the island of Lampedusa

Speaking at a joint news conference, Jose Manuel Barroso said he would never forget the sight of hundreds of coffins.

“It’s something, I think, one cannot forget: coffins of babies, coffins of a mother and a child that was born at that moment,” he said.

“This is something that profoundly shocked me.”

Jose Manuel Barroso said he also met survivors who had retained hope, and it was now the duty of the EU “to give reason for that hope”.

He said 30 million euros would help Italy to settle its refugees, and listed a range of measures the EU must undertake including focusing their efforts on the people smugglers and the countries where most of the migrants are coming from.

Jose Manuel Barroso also said the EU parliament would be voting on a plan to launch Mediterranean-wide search and rescue patrols to intercept migrant boats.

The European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmstroem, said on Tuesday she had asked the EU’s Frontex border agency to draw up a “concrete proposal” for an operation that would allow better tracking, identification and rescue of migrant boats.

Frontex currently helps Italy to intercept migrant boats, but the two EU operations in the southern Mediterranean have limited resources – a total of four ships, two helicopters and two planes.

PM Enrico Letta said a great human drama was unfolding on Lampedusa and pledged to put the issue of migration at the centre of the EU agenda.

The two were met upon their arrival in Lampedusa by a small group of activists and local residents who shouted “shame”, “disgrace” and “killers” at the airport gates.

“They should be ashamed of themselves. They should solve this humanitarian problem,” one protester was quoted by Agence France-Presse news agency as saying.

The 66ft boat that sank last Thursday with more than 500 migrants on board had set off from Libya and was close to Lampedusa when, according to survivors, the engine failed.

In order to attract attention from passing boats, a small fire was lit which caused the passengers to panic and move towards one side of the boat which led to the capsizing, the survivors said.

Divers said they found dozens of bodies entwined together in the hull of the boat which lies about 155ft below the surface of the sea.

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The European Union’s plans to cut transaction fees on debit and credit cards have been published – but there is disagreement over the potential impact.

The European Commission estimates that the EU payment market is worth 130 billion euros but is “fragmented and expensive”.

It wants to cap “interchange fees” to a maximum of 0.3% of a transaction.

The fees involved are paid by shops and businesses to banks, every time a consumer uses his or her card.

Retailers say customers could ultimately benefit from lower prices in the shops as a result of the proposals, which could take years to implement.

But banks argue that consumers will instead end up paying higher charges to use debit and credit cards.

Shops and businesses pay different interchange rates to the banks, depending on the size of the retailer, and whether the customer has used a debit card or a credit card.

On average, debit card transactions cost the retailer 0.2% of the bill.

The EU’s plans to cut transaction fees on debit and credit cards have been published

The EU’s plans to cut transaction fees on debit and credit cards have been published

Credit card transactions typically cost much more, at around 0.9%.

Under the plans, debit card interchange fees would be capped at 0.2%, and credit card fees at 0.3%.

In other words, many debit card fees would not be affected by the changes, but charges for credit cards would, on average, be reduced by two-thirds.

In the first instance, these caps would only be applied to cross-border transactions.

But the caps could later be applied within each of the member states.

“The proposed changes to interchange fees will remove an important barrier between national payment markets and finally put an end to the unjustified high level of these fees,” said EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier.

European Commission competition chief Joaquin Almunia said: “The interchange fees paid by retailers end up on consumers’ bills. Not only are consumers generally unaware of this, they are even encouraged through reward systems to use the cards that provide their banks with the highest revenues.”

The banks argue that the present fees accurately reflect the costs of processing the transactions involved.

If the plans are approved, they warn that consumers will end up paying more for the cards themselves.

The proposals are part of a series of measures aimed at tightening up the payments market across the EU.

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Starting with 1st of July 2013 Croatia has become the 28th member of the European Union, with crowds joining celebrations in the capital Zagreb.

Fireworks lit the sky as membership became effective at midnight on Sunday, with President Ivo Josipovic describing the event as historic.

It comes almost two decades after Croatia’s brutal war of independence.

But correspondents say enthusiasm for the EU in the country has been dampened by the eurozone crisis, and Croatia’s own economic problems.

Celebrations took place in the central square of Zagreb, with fireworks and music including Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the European anthem.

“Welcome to the European Union!” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in Croatian to the cheering crowd.

President Ivo Josipovic said it was “a great and joyful day for our homeland”.

“This the day when we open a new chapter in the thick book of our history,” he added.

Starting with 1st of July 2013 Croatia has become the 28th member of the European Union

Starting with 1st of July 2013 Croatia has become the 28th member of the European Union

Earlier he told a meeting of EU and regional leaders: “The accession of Croatia to the European Union is confirmation that each one of us belongs to the European democratic and cultural set of values.”

Croatian officials then unveiled EU signs and removed customs posts at the borders with Slovenia, the first former Yugoslav republic to have joined the bloc, and with Hungary.

Croatia is the first new EU member since Romania and Bulgaria joined in 2007. It is 10 years since it applied.

Croatia’s split from Yugoslavia triggered a 1991-1995 war to secure its independence.

But with one in five unemployed and Croatia’s national debt officially classed as junk, some Croatians feel joining an economic bloc with its own serious troubles will do little to improve their prospects.

“Just look what’s happening in Greece and Spain! Is this where we’re headed?” asked pensioner Pavao Brkanovic in a market in the capital.

“You need illusions to be joyful, but the illusions have long gone,” he told Reuters news agency.

Concerns about Croatian corruption and organized crime remain among some EU leaders, and Croatia will not yet join the single currency nor the visa-free Schengen zone.

But advocates of EU membership say despite this, their case remains a persuasive one.

Two-thirds of Croatians voted in favor of accession last year.

“It’s important for us primarily for the long term guarantees of political stability and then everything else – the single market too,” said Croatia’s First Deputy Prime Minister, Vesna Pusic.

The EU itself has given Croatia a clean bill of health – and praised reforms which improve the rule of law and tackle corruption.

It hopes the other countries of the former Yugoslavia will be encouraged to join – and secure long-term peace for an historically turbulent region.

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Microsoft has been fined 561 million euros ($731 million) for failing to promote a range of web browsers, rather than just Internet Explorer program, to users in the European Union.

It introduced a Browser Choice Screen pop-up in March 2010 as part of a settlement following an earlier EU competition investigation.

But Microsoft dropped the feature in a Windows 7 update in February 2011.

Microsoft said the omission had been the result of a “technical error”.

But competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia said the action was unprecedented, adding he wanted to deter any company from the “temptation” of reneging on such a promise.

In theory the watchdog could have fined the firm 10% of its global annual revenue, which would have totaled $7.4 billion based on its 2012 report.

“We take full responsibility for the technical error that caused this problem and have apologized for it,” a spokesman for Microsoft said following the announcement.

“We provided the Commission with a complete and candid assessment of the situation, and we have taken steps to strengthen our software development and other processes to help avoid this mistake – or anything similar – in the future.”

One lawyer said the ruling was also intended to send out a message to others.

“The European Commission is sending a firm signal in this first case of its type that it will not tolerate failure by a company to comply with the commitments it gave to settle an antitrust infringement procedure,” said Tony Woodgate from Simmons & Simmons.

“These <<commitments decisions>> are currently the European Commission’s favored mechanism to close abuse of dominance proceedings, saving enforcement resource and allowing for a speedy resolution.”

Microsoft has been fined 561 million euros for failing to promote a range of web browsers, rather than just Internet Explorer program, to users in the EU

Microsoft has been fined 561 million euros for failing to promote a range of web browsers, rather than just Internet Explorer program, to users in the EU

The case dates back to 2007 when Opera – a Norwegian web-browser maker – complained Microsoft was stifling competition on PCs by bundling Internet Explorer with its operating system.

Microsoft initially argued that the move benefited users, but after the European Commission issued a preliminary report suggesting the firm had abused its position, the company agreed to offer a choice of browser until at least 2014 to avoid risking a fine.

However, this option was missing from its Windows 7 Service Pack 1 released in 2011 and it continued to be absent for 14 months.

During that time, Microsoft reported it was still complying with the agreement.

After the EU was alerted to the problem, it contacted Microsoft, which subsequently issued an apology suggesting its engineers had accidentally missed the issue.

It also acted to restore the facility. But the move was not enough to prevent an eight-month follow-up investigation by the commission into what punishment was needed.

At a press conference in Brussels, Joaquin Almunia said Microsoft’s lack of compliance represented a “serious breach” and was the first time a firm had failed to meet such a commitment.

He explained that he preferred negotiated settlements, rather than extended legal battles, when tackling competition complaints in the fast moving IT sector.

But he added that Microsoft’s willingness to co-operate with the EU’s subsequent investigation had acted as a mitigating factor when determining the level of the fine.

“I hope this will make companies think twice before they ever thinking of breaching their international obligations,” said the commissioner.

Microsoft’s chief executive Steve Ballmer and the former head of its Windows division Steven Sinofsky have already had their most recent bonuses docked, in part because of the browser affair.

UK’s PM David Cameron has said the British people must “have their say” on Europe as he pledged an in/out referendum if the Conservatives win the election.

David Cameron said he wanted to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU, before asking people to vote.

The British people would face a “very simple choice” either to accept the result of the talks, or to leave the EU altogether, he said.

Labour’s Ed Miliband said PM was “weak” and being driven by “party interest”.

In a long-awaited speech, David Cameron pledged to hold a referendum during the early part of the next parliament – by the end of 2017 at the latest – if the Conservatives win the next general election.

He said it would be a decision on the UK’s “destiny” and, if he secured a new relationship he was happy with, he would campaign “heart and soul” to stay within the EU.

“It is time for the British people to have their say,” the prime minister said.

“It is time to settle this European question in British politics. I say to the British people: this will be your decision.”

The Conservative leader has been under pressure from many of his MPs to give a binding commitment to a vote on Europe.

PM David Cameron has said the British people must have their say on Europe as he pledged an in-out referendum if the Conservatives win the election

PM David Cameron has said the British people must have their say on Europe as he pledged an in-out referendum if the Conservatives win the election

David Cameron said “disillusionment” with the EU was “at an all time high” and “simply asking the British people to carry on accepting a European settlement over which they have had little choice” was likely to accelerate calls for the UK to leave.

“That is why I am in favor of a referendum,” he said.

“I believe in confronting this issue – shaping it, leading the debate. Not simply hoping a difficult situation will go away.”

Setting out the conditions for a future poll, David Cameron said: “The next Conservative manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next parliament.

“And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in-or-out choice to stay in the EU on these new terms; or come out altogether. It will be an in/out referendum.”

David Cameron said holding an in/out referendum now would be a “false choice” because Europe was set to change following the eurozone crisis and it would be “wrong to ask people whether to stay or go before we have had a chance to put the relationship right”.

The prime minister said he “understood the appeal” of Britain going it alone and said he was sure the UK would survive outside the EU. But, he said, the UK must think “very carefully” about the implications of withdrawal for its prosperity and role on the international stage.

“If we left the European Union, it would be a one-way ticket, not a return,” he added.

David Cameron rejected suggestions that a new relationship was “impossible to achieve”, adding that he would prefer all other EU countries to agree a new treaty but would be prepared to seek negotiations on a unilateral basis.

Several Conservative MPs – who want a looser relationship with the EU focused around trade and who were briefed about the speech – have said they are “satisfied” with the thrust of its contents.

But some europhile Conservatives, including Lord Heseltine, have warned that committing to a referendum at some point in the future on the outcome of an uncertain negotiating process was an “unnecessary gamble”.

The Lib Dems say pursuing a wholesale renegotiation of the UK’s membership will cause uncertainty and deter foreign investment while Labour claim David Cameron’s approach is being driven by party calculations rather than the national interest.

Labour said the referendum pledge defined David Cameron “as a weak prime minister, being driven by his party, not by the national economic interest”.

“We understand the need for change but I don’t honestly believe the best way to get change in a club of 27 is to stand at the exit door demanding change or threatening to leave,” shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said.

The speech had been scheduled for last Friday in the Netherlands, but was postponed because of the Algerian hostage crisis.

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