Some recent items of interest

October 19, 2015


According to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, the risk of poverty or social exclusion affected 1 in 4 persons in the EU in 2014

In 2014, 122 million people, or 24.4% of the population, in the European Union (EU) were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. This means that they were in at least one of the following three conditions: at-risk-of-poverty after social transfers (income poverty), severely materially deprived or living in households with very low work intensity. The largest decrease in the at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion rate was in Poland, highest increase was in Greece.

The percentage of Greece’s population at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2014 reached a record high of 36 percent, marking the highest increase in the entire EU since 2008, data released by the EU’s statistical arm on Friday showed.

Annual Eurostat data on poverty and social exclusion showed that last year, 3.88 million people in Greece – or 36 percent of the country’s population – were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared with 35.7 percent in 2013 and 28.1 percent in 2008.


Yanis Varoufakis on ‘Democratising the Eurozone’. A thorough demolition job of a deeply flawed system.


Bernard-Henri Lévy on ‘Russia’s European Game in Syria’

This much is clear in Syria: There is no good solution.
There has not been a good solution since that black Wednesday in August 2013, when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s war machine, by using chemical weapons, crossed the “red line” that US President Barack Obama had warned would trigger an American military response. The moderate opposition still stood, and the Islamic State had not yet emerged from the shadows. Yet, in a shocking last-minute about-face, Obama declined to intervene.

Why the US failed to impose a no fly zone in Syria after the first chemical attack is beyond me. The US Syrian strategy is a massive and shocking failure.


Bloomberg reports on “Saudi Arabia’s Oil War With Russia”

As President Vladimir Putin tries to restore Russia as a major player in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is starting to attack on Russia’s traditional stomping ground by supplying lower-priced crude oil to Poland.

At a recent investment forum, Igor Sechin, chief executive of Rosneft, Russia’s biggest oil company, complained about the Saudis’ entry into the Polish market. “They’re dumping actively,” he said.

In the Asian markets, Russia became a serious competitor to the Saudis. In May, Russian crude supplies to China even temporarily surpassed those of Saudi Arabia. Now that the Saudis are involved in a ruthless price war for market share — not just with U.S. shale oil producers but with all suppliers who are not members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting countries — they are moving into Russia’s traditional market.

This could turn into a more active shoving match between the world’s two biggest oil exporters, which already are at odds over the Syrian conflict. So far, OPEC and the International Energy Agency predict modest demand expansion next year, but if the Chinese economy continues performing worse than expected, that market may become too small for the Russians and the Saudis. Both economies are oil-dependent and retaining market share is a matter of survival.


Daniel Gros on ‘The End of German Hegemony’

Without anyone quite noticing, Europe’s internal balance of power has been shifting. Germany’s dominant position, which has seemed absolute since the 2008 financial crisis, is gradually weakening – with far-reaching implications for the European Union.

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