European tributes to Jacques Delors, “builder” of Europe

Paris (AFP) – On Wednesday, European Union and a number of national leaders hailed Jacques Delors as a “builder” of Europe. The former President of the European Commission had died at the age of 98.

He was “a visionary who made our Europe stronger” and whose “work (…) has shaped entire generations of Europeans,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on X. “His life’s work is a united, dynamic and prosperous European Union,” she added.

For US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Jacques Delors “transformed Europe through tireless service to the idea of a Europe whole and free.” Blinken stressed that he continued to believe “in this vision and the strength of our transatlantic bond.”

Jacques Delors has “gone down in history as one of the builders of our Europe,” said European Council President Charles Michel, describing Delors as “a great Frenchman and a great European.” (28 December)

The head of the IW cites the abrupt end to state subsidies for electric cars as the most recent example of a lack of predictability for companies. Photo: Hendrik Schmidt/dpa

German economy pessimistic about coming year

Cologne (dpa) – The mood in the German economy is gloomy: many major sectors are pessimistic about the coming year. “It is rare that we see such weak momentum two years in a row. A year with a poor outlook is followed by another weak year,” Michael Hüther, head of the German Economic Institute (IW), told dpa. The weakness of the global economy, interest rate hikes and uncertainties regarding the federal budget are depressing the outlook for 2024. This is also likely to have consequences for the labour market. Last year, the energy crisis had weighed on sentiment.

According to the IW’s annual survey, 23 out of 47 business associations responding expect a decline in production or business at their member companies in the coming year. Fifteen industry associations expect economic activity to remain the same, while only nine anticipate a higher level of production. A year earlier, 30 associations had expected a decline and 13 had anticipated an increase.

No more reliable framework conditions

In the November/December survey, 22 associations stated that they expected investment to fall. “The last time the mood on this point was worse was in 2009, the year of the financial crisis,” explained Hüther. In his view, the main problem is the lack of predictability for companies. As the most recent example, the IW boss cited the abrupt end to the state subsidies for electric cars. “We are no longer a reliable location in terms of conditions, and there is no prospect that reliable framework conditions will develop to tackle the important transformation tasks in the context of climate and demographic change by the end of the decade,” said Hüther.

In the eyes of Hüther, one important reason for this is the so-called debt brake, “the design of which no longer fits the times. We urgently need a reform, because even another government will not be able to cope with the current concept.”

According to the employer-oriented institute, the unemployment rate could rise slightly to 6 per cent on average in the coming year. “The stability on the German labour market that has been apparent for a long time will no longer be seen in the year 2024,” said Hüther. “We will no longer see a further increase in employment, partly due to the increasing shortage of skilled labour, which is limiting the supply of labour.” According to the survey, only 5 associations expect employment to increase in the coming year, while 23 industry representatives anticipate a decline, including banks, savings banks and the construction industry. 19 associations expect stable figures.

Real estate sector expects business results to decline significantly

The real estate sector, among others, expects business results to decline significantly in the coming year. High construction costs and increased interest rates for construction loans are dampening demand, and real estate prices have fallen. The construction industry and building trade expect business to be slightly weaker than this year.

Important export-oriented industrial sectors, such as mechanical engineering, are suffering from the weakness of the global economy. The industry association VDMA recently lowered its forecast for 2024. The textile and fashion industry is more pessimistic as well, having felt the effects of the consumers’ reluctance to spend this year as a result of high inflation, among other things.

The few optimists who expect business to improve somewhat in 2024 include the automotive industry, research-based pharmaceutical companies, the skilled trades and tourism, which is benefiting from the return of people’s desire to travel following the coronavirus pandemic. (27 December)

People watch as a boat crosses the Suez Canal into the Red Sea in Ismailia, Egypt, Friday 22 December. EFE/MOHAMED HOSSAM

Spain advocates creating specific Red Sea mission; not acting with Atalanta mission

Madrid (EFE) – Instead of acting with the Atalanta anti-piracy mission, as the European Union (EU) has decided, Spain advocates creating a specific mission in the Red Sea with “its own scope, means and objectives” to protect commercial shipping from attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

In a press release, the Spanish Ministry of Defence denied that Spain had vetoed the operation in the Red Sea, as some media had reported. Instead, the release assures that the country “is, and will always be, a serious and reliable ally committed to the EU, NATO and the United Nations” and that its commitment to peace “is total and absolute.”

However, it argues that “in order to achieve the maximum effectiveness to which we should aspire in the Red Sea, it is essential to create a new and specific mission, with its own scope, means and objectives, agreed by the corresponding EU bodies,” a measure to which “Spain is in no way opposed.” (26 December)

This is a compilation of the European coverage of enr news agencies. It is published Tuesdays and Fridays. The content is an editorial selection based on news by the respective agency.