ANN CAHILL: Brussels Briefing - A weekly round-up of the most interesting news from Europe

Get a taste of some of the interesting and quirky happenings in Europe from our Europe correspondent, Ann Cahill.

Fears Ireland is wasting the upturn

EU economics experts still worry Ireland is wasting the economic upturn and fear the Government is putting a return to power ahead of the national interest.

The latest figures show that the country’s debt as a proportion of its GDP is falling faster than anywhere else in the EU.

It fell from 112.4% in the third quarter of 2015 to 99.4% — bringing us under 100% for the first time since the crash — the total debt now stands at €204.2bn.

This should be good news, but then the experts look at house prices rising the third fastest in the EU — and worry.

Ireland is always an outlier, defying predictions, not behaving like any of the other EU economies.

And while Ireland points to the highest growth in the EU, others think it is a natural

rebound after a crash.

App to predict market crashes

Brussels Briefing - A weekly round-up of the most interesting news from Europe

Nature can hold the answer to the most complex of problems, including stock market crashes, a joint research project between NUI Galway and Bangalore in India has proven.

Using research on forecasting natural disasters, they produced 16 indicators they believed should warn that a crash was highly likely.

They tested it against every major crash in American market history and found nine of their indicators would have given fair warning.

They have now developed a web-app to show basic market trends around the globe. Those involved are Dr Srinivasa Raghavendra, lecturer at the JE Cairnes School of Business and Economics, Galway; Prof Vishwesha Guttal, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; Nikunj Goel, physics doctoral student at Yale University, and Quentin Hoarau, masters student from Ecole Normale Supérieure of Cachan, France.

Be on guard for funny money

Brussels Briefing - A weekly round-up of the most interesting news from Europe

You still need to look, feel and tilt your €20 and €50 notes to make sure they are not forged, warns the European Central Bank.

They took 445,000 counterfeits off the market in the second half of last year, this was 2% fewer than in the first six months.

But, they say, the number is in fact very low when you consider there are more than 18bn in circulation.

Commission confident over Apple deal

Brussels Briefing - A weekly round-up of the most interesting news from Europe

The mood around the outcome of the European Commission’s investigation into the tax deal between Ireland and Apple has changed perceptibly over recent weeks.

Danish Competition Commissioner, Margarita Vestager, and her team are looking a lot more confident, even to the point of holding off their decision until after the general election.

The publically unannounced ‘private’ meeting between Ms Vestager and Apple chief executive Tim Cook suggests that the world’s biggest IT company is taking matters into its own hands and dealing directly with the Commission.

Some suspect it’s to see what kind of sum Ms Vestager would find acceptable for Apple to do a Google-style payout to the Irish exchequer — wonder if such a windfall would be kept

secret until after the election also.

Tracking data of fishing vessels

Brussels Briefing - A weekly round-up of the most interesting news from Europe

The EU’s joint research council has come up with a new tool which will show precisely how much fishing is taking place around member states’ coasts, by charting where boats are clustered.

It has produced maps showing all the details for 2014-15 thanks to tracking data of fishing vessels using the worldwide automatic identification system to identify and locate vessels.

The tool uses around 150m positions from EU fishing vessels longer than 15 metres.

They say it is not sufficient to control illegal fishing but will help with management strategies to boost ‘blue growth’.

Entrepreneurship call from Kelly

Brussels Briefing - A weekly round-up of the most interesting news from Europe

Former teacher and MEP for Ireland South, Seán Kelly, has been promoting a parliament report calling for more emphasis on education, SMEs, and entrepreneurship in schools.

He says entrepreneurship should be added to all school curriculums so students can learn practical business skills, and be inspired to start their own companies, with the help of

local mentors.

He points out that the percentage of unemployed young people below the age of 25 in Ireland fell to 19.4% in November — the first time it dipped below 20% since 2009, and down a third from a high of 31% in 2012.

EC bailout role under spotlight

While the focus of Ireland’s bailout has been on how the country has used the money to pay its creditors, tomorrow promises a different perspective when the European Court of Auditors reviews how the European Commission did.

Ireland and seven other countries needed help and this study by the auditors looks at Ireland, Hungary, Latvia, Romania and Portugal, but focusing on how the commission managed the financial assistance programmes.

In Ireland’s case, the commission borrowed €22.5bn on the markets using the EU budget to guarantee the repayment in case Ireland failed to do so.

The auditors have also examined the commission’s co-operation with the ECB and the IMF — the other troika members.

That should be fun, especially if they consider why the Irish loved the IMF so much.

MEPs to investigate emissions scandal

Brussels Briefing - A weekly round-up of the most interesting news from Europe

A European Parliament committee of 45 MEPs begin investigating ‘dieselgate’ next month into who knew Volkswagen and other car makers were cheating on their emissions.

Dublin MEP Nessa Childers pointed out that hundreds of thousands of people die and suffer ill health because of car emissions, especially from diesel.

Ms Childers also asked whether the farce of emissions tests that allowed manufacturersto rig their cars before testing was a testament to the car manufacturing lobby or lack of seriousness with which environmental regulation is implemented by member states.

Just why member states agreed to let the companies test in conditions that were so far removed from the reality of driving on public roads is not on the agenda however.


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