Wednesday, May 18, 2011

To keep the Irish Corporate Tax, or not to keep?

The Irish corporate taxation system is one important asset for the country. The country's economy is based on it and gives it an advantage, by making it very attractive for overseas multinationals.

Ireland is an English-speaking European Union member with an open economy, plus it has lower corporate tax rates and so it has managed to become from one of the poorest nations in Europe, to one of the richest.

But the country's taxation system often brings Ireland under fire, from some of its European partners that believe that it gives an unfair advantage to the country. They would prefer to create a harmonized taxation system across the EU. Many in USA also believe that it harms their country's economy, as it is mainly American companies that take advantage of the Irish corporate tax system.

If we want to be honest about it, low corporate taxes serve mainly the multinational corporations. Though it boosts the economy of Ireland by the exports of goods such as lap-tops, it creates few job positions and the companies contribute little to the Irish state. Most of the income earned is taken out of the Irish economy and shipped back to the multinational's country of origin.

A lot of the companies are so-called "ghost" companies that only register Ireland as their base, to avoid paying high taxes back home. The rent near empty buildings and they employ very little staff, if any. The reason why the Irish public is so protective of them, is because their Government and media are portraying the taxation system as an important national asset.

Of course Ireland's taxation system does offer an advantage to the country and contributes to its economy. But if they actually developed industries and stable economic factors, their country's economy would benefit more. Multinationals are concerned only about their profit. They may locate their bases in your country for a period of time, only to move them a few years later when they find a country that is more attractive to them.

Instead in relying on pocket money from the corporations and bow to their demands, wouldn't it better to be able to rely on exports or any other "real" economy type? The problem is that it is very difficult for a small country to achieve such thing, especially when it lacks the infrastructure and the funds to do so.

Also the Irish political elite serves the global capitalist elites. They gave away all rights of the Irish oil and gas resources, that could have given the country a more stable income, which could then be used as investment to diversify the Irish economy.

What should happen in Europe is further economic and political integration.The Germans and the French who are the main critics of Ireland, should not ask the Irish to abolish their corporate tax rate unless they change the way they do business too.

Ireland and all small countries are very susceptible to the economic or political influence of their big neighbors. So they must strive to make deals and business with multinationals to attract capita, in order to maintain their sovereignty.

When Ireland gained its independence from Britain, it was left in a very bad financial status. They went from boom to bust and they remained dependent to the British economy for decades to come. Even the "Irish" pound was pegged to the British, linking Ireland's economy to Britain's.

If we want to secure small nation's financial future and harmonize Europe's economy and taxation, then it is the richer countries that must make the sacrifice and reform their economies first. If they monopolize all industrial and financial development in the continent, then smaller states are forced to come up with a taxation system that will attract foreign multinationals.

Or even worse, they will have to become tax havens and invest in their banking sector. If we could establish a European Investment Bank or Fund, together with a EU body that would coordinate these investments, then we could divert cash where is needed to create new jobs and industries across Europe.

In that way all countries would benefit and they would have a secure source of investment, that would spread equally throughout the Union. When we are allowing small European nations to seek and strike deals with multinationals, we are actually forcing them to compromise some of their sovereignty for them. They will have to pass certain laws that will allow or attract the corporations to invest, in order to maintain their position as a favorite investment hub.

So these nations are not entirely sovereign anymore and in a European context it allows third parties or countries, to have access and be able to influence their laws and of course in extend many EU laws.So how can we have an independent or unanimous agreement on EU policy, when each state is trying to protect and promote their interests. But in Ireland's and many other smaller states' case, these are the interests of the multinationals.

When Ireland agrees with American corporate companies to establish branches in its soil for example, it is relying on America to keep finding Ireland a profitable and convenient place for them to invest. To do that the Americans will place some demands that Ireland must defend and promote, sometimes even against EU law and regulations. No surprise then why some countries like Britain always wish to block or opt out of EU regulations.

And it is not just Ireland that must find as solution to its economic problem, the lowering of its tax rates for multinational companies. Many countries across the EU are doing the same and even France itself has a peculiar taxation system that favors foreign investment. 

Wouldn't it better to set up European owned companies, either large or SMEs that will be funded by this new European Investment Fund, in many different European countries? Thus helping European businessmen, developers or inventors from all over the continent to keep creating jobs, promoting stability and equal opportunities for all European citizens.

What good is to point the finger to each other like France and Germany are doing to the Irish, if they do not give them any alternative. Ireland now more than ever needs to find and keep any resources it can to save their economy. If the scrap their lower tax rate, they will lose the investments from the multinationals and with no alternative solution from their European partners, their economy will be in deeper trouble.

If the rich European nations do not want to share with the Irish and include them in their industrial and economic development, then they will have to allow them to rely on foreign investment and so to keep their low corporate tax rates. 

The solution to this problem lies on a European level. No country should be pushed to change its taxation system if its partners are not willing to do the same or support each other. If Europeans want to harmonize the continent's tax rates, as it should happen at some stage, then they will have to compensate the Irish by creating jobs here and fill the gap. Otherwise they will forever have to sustain the Irish economy with subsidies and further bail outs.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Greece's relationship with Western Europe over the centuries!

Recently there is a great spite towards Greece from many European nations, because of the crisis break-out in the euro-zone, that threatens to spread to the rest of the block.

Let us trace back in this article the relation between Greece and the rest of Europe, from the Ancient Times to the modern and most recent ones. The reason? Partly to remind, expose, explain and understand the long relationship between them.

We will have to start from the Antiquity, when the Greeks colonized the south Italian peninsula, southern Galatia (France) and parts of Iberia (Spain) along with their colonies in the Balkans and the Black Sea. They established city states and colonies, trade ports and centers of culture that some exist even today.

With the rise of the empire of Alexander the Great, we see Greeks united for the first time under one ruler and expanding their sphere of influence and territories to the East. With the constant wars between the successors of Alexander though, the Hellenistic kingdoms had weaken and one by one fell under the occupation of a new super power, Rome!

Since then, Greece will never be a free and autonomous state until the liberation of the nation from the Ottoman Empire. During the Roman Empire, Greece will decline while Rome and other of its territories will flourish. With the Romans the Greek culture will spread in almost half of the European continent while Greek artifacts and treasures will be transported to Rome.

The Romans will not allow any further Greek cultural or political independence! Greece will also be the battleground for many wars between the aspiring Roman rulers and their civil wars they started, weakening even more Greece to the point of deprivation.

During the Roman Empire, but also during the Hellenistic years the Greek peninsula will receive attacks and raids from Celtic and other European tribes. Especially during the times of the Great Migrations in Europe and the collapse of the western Roman Empire, we have the appearance of many new tribes invading the lands of both Eastern and Western Roman Empires; the Goths, the Slavs, the Avars all looking for new fertile lands and riches to steal. Greece becomes a popular destination for their raids.

With the dominance of Christianity the Greek spirit suffers its biggest defeat and irreversible decline. In the beginning conversion to Christianity was voluntary but once the Christians became the majority they made sure that the "ethnic" Greeks as they called them were converted.

They attacked and destroyed many Pagan Greek temples, art and holy sites, notably the Parthenon. Later during the Byzantine Empire they would force immigration from Greece to Asia Minor and vice versa in order to weaken the Greek "ethnic" pagan spirit.

Despite all this Byzantium thrives and it is the most powerful and wealthy region of Europe for more than a millennium. Slavic tribes still pose a threat coming from Europe, but they are being converted to Christianity, coming in contact with the Greek Christian Orthodox heritage of the Byzantine Empire. For this purpose the Byzantine Emperors assign two Greek disciples from Thessaloniki, Cyril and Methodius, to convert the Slavs and stop them from being a threat to the Empire.

But the threat from Europe was not over. Greece continued to be raided by the European Vikings from the north and the Moors from the south! The biggest blow though came from fellow Christians. The Crusades may have started in order to regain the Holy Lands from the Arabs, but during the so called Forth Crusade they sacked Constantinople stealing artifacts, all the city's wealth, destroying its monuments, its library and transporting everything to the West.

They created Latin Kingdoms in the region and by dividing the Byzantine Empire not only they contributed in its decline, but also in its future surrender to the Ottomans. Inevitably, they pushed the Greeks to being for centuries under Islamic rule and to the further decline of their culture.

During the Ottoman occupation many Greek scholars will flee to Europe, participating in that way in the European Renaissance. The European powers will oppose any change in the European borders and any separatist or freedom movement.With politicians like Klemens Von Metternich and the Austrian Hungarian Empire, any chance of freedom for the Greeks or other Balkan nations under the Ottoman rule was impossible.

The Orthodox Church and the Patriarchate cooperated with the Ottomans and in fact it was them who preferred to fall under the Islamic rule, than to ask for help from their fellow Christian Europeans. Because since the events of the Crusades centuries earlier, they mistrusted the "Francs" or their Catholic cousins.

Meanwhile European archaeologists, collectors and "Indiana Joneses" of the time raided Greece to steal its artifacts, its last remaining wealth from the Ancient Times. They chopped and transported a lot of the monuments they found, from the Elgin Marbles of the Parthenon to the Dionysian statues that where named "Ta Eidola" (The Idols) from the city of Thessaloniki.

The statues are currently housed in the Louvre in Paris, France. Efforts are being made to return these to Thessaloniki. These statues have traditionally been the symbol of the city, since antiquity. Only after they were stolen by the French in 1864 did the White Tower rise to prominence as the symbol of the city.

They traded with the ancient Greek artifacts and treasures, making a fortune out of their activities. But at least their contact with Greece's art, culture, philosophy and heritage led to the Philhellenism movement in Europe. Also, in contributed to the change of the public opinion of the European populace and the support to the cause for Greek independence! The most famous among its supporters, was of course Lord Byron.

After the liberation of Greece from the Ottoman Empire though, the geopolitical interests of the big Powers of Europe in the region did not stop. Soon after the Balkan Wars the Greek territory expanded by gaining lands not only from the declining Ottoman Empire but from the colonial Powers of Europe too; The Ionian and the Dodecanese Islands belonged to Italy and Britain, with the Dodecanese uniting with the rest of Greece just in 1947!

During the wars with Turkey the European Powers originally favored Greece in its attempt and operations to regain some of the Asian Minor territories. Only to betray Greece with a shift of their interests that lead to the Greek Asia Minor Disaster, the destruction of Smyrne (today's Izmir) and the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey. While Smyrne burned and the Turks were killing civilians, the Western "allies" of Greece remained with their ships in the city's port...watching! They did not get involved to save the civilians.

Two World Wars followed soon after the bloody wars that Greece had to endure in order to regain its territories. In both wars Greece tried to remain neutral, only to be dragged in both by the Entente and the Alliance of France and Britain in the WW1 or Italy during the WW2.

In both cases Greece was not given the choice or the luxury to remain neutral, paying a huge price in lives both of civilian and military population, but also enduring an economic disaster and further deprivation. Raw materials and foodstuffs were requisitioned and the collaborationist government was forced to pay the cost of the occupation. That gave rise to inflation, further exacerbated by a "war loan" Greece was forced to grant to the German Reich which severely devalued the Drachma.

Requisitions, together with the Allied blockade of Greece, the ruined state of the country's infrastructure and the emergence of a powerful and well-connected black market, resulted in the Great Famine during the winter of 1941-42, when an estimated 300,000 people perished in greater Athens.

It is important to mention the very important role of Greece in the war, delaying the Nazis in Crete and giving time to the Russians to prepare, while the Soviet winter was creeping playing a decisive role in the outcome of the WW2! Germany never compensated Greece for the damages during the Nazi occupation.

As if all the above was not enough, Greece had to endure a bloody civil war right after WW2. The big Powers and winners of the war (Britain, USA and USSR) sat down in Crimea and divided Europe in half. Greece falls in the British pro-Western slice and any communist elements are expelled after the Civil War.

The British actively participated in the operations, fighting on the side of the National Army against the Communists. All this so Greece will remain in the sphere of influence of the West!

One would think that after all the exploitation, the raids, the theft, the wars, the invasions that Greece endured from the European nations, it would eventually find peace and recognition. Well no! The European powers established a kingdom in Greece with royal family coming from Denmark.

When they were ousted, the USA helped a military junta to be established in Greece during the early '70s, that led to the "Metapolitefsi" years and the restoration of Democracy. They established in this way a political elite that rules the country to this day, based on corruption and money coming from the West.

After a couple of decades of progress and prosperity, the EU and NATO membership and the adoption of the Euro we now see the European and American press categorizing Greece among the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland,Greece and Spain) nations. Even daring to demand its islands, the Parthenon and all its natural resources in order to repay the debt that Greece has accumulated over the years.

For a crisis that did not originate in Greece but in the USA and their irresponsible finances. For doing what the capitalist system that the Americans and the Europeans have established demands: excess debt and a consumerist attitude. All European western nations are heavily indebted, but Greece is the one to pay the price. Plus it is not allowed to exploit its natural resources on its own, or to develop heavy industry like its northern European "brothers".

According to all the above, who has given more to Europe than the Greek people and who has suffered more than them? Yet the European countries believe that the Greeks are lazy, thieving and corrupt. Well with a re-examination of history, we realize who is the thief and raider in Europe!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The easy option: Suspend the Schengen, bravo!

What a lovely act of unity, an inspirational example of Europe and its leaders acting in solidarity when dealing with difficult issues. What have we been witnessing for the past few weeks, when the crisis hit north Africans took to the boats to enter Europe, was the selfish and nationalist reaction of each E.U. state.

Trying to protect their own interests instead of seeing the problem as a European one, they took their time and lots of debate to find a solution to a common problem, only to come to a decision that protects national interests first.

It is well known that the southern and eastern E.U. states receive the bulk of illegal immigrants that want to reach the European labor market. But of course they are not necessarily the desired destination. Most immigrants that reach Malta, Greece, Italy and Spain desire to start a new life in the more developed northern or western states, Germany, France, Britain, the Benelux and the Scandinavian states.

The problem is not national one, rather a European one. One would think that the response should come with a united front. Bit in every occasion the problem was mainly dealt on a national level, with only some help coming from FRONTEX. Each country defended its own immigration policies and the countries that did not have external borders with non EU/ Schengen states, were not as willing to share the problem.

So recently Mr. Berlusconi and Mr. Sarkozy kick-started a new debate on suspending the Schengen Agreement, at least temporarily in response of the mass exodus of the Arabs from North Africa. It is not unheard to do so, and it will not be the first time that it happened. A Schengen state is permitted by articles 23 to 31 of the Schengen Borders Code, to reinstate border controls for a short period if deemed in the interest of national security, but has to follow a consultation procedure before such an action.

This occurred in Portugal during the 2004 European Football Championship and in France for the ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of D-Day. Spain temporarily reinstated border controls during the wedding of Crown Prince Felipe in 2004. It was used again by France, Finland, Germany, Austria and Malta at some stage on different occasions regarding security concerns during sport events, terror attacks in London or visits of important religious or political figures.

But here we do not have a problem that will last a few days or weeks. We do not know how long it will last, or how many people will attempt to enter Europe. We are not dealing with fans of a foot ball team, rather with desperate refugees that need to be treated humanly. Also we need to decide if, how many and in which countries will we allocate them. It is impossible for one single country to bare the weight of such humanitarian crisis, especially since it is a European problem.

Slowly many other states shared Berlusconi's and Sarkozy's views and in meetings they debated the temporary suspension of the Schengen Agreement. Instead of discussing the possibility of dealing with the issue in a united front, they preferred to reintroduce border controls in the internal borders of EU states.

Alternatively we could be coordinating all efforts at the borders of EU/Schengen and sharing the responsibilities and the decisions, but the Italians decided to grand visas to many Tunisians without the agreement of the French. The French stopped them at their borders with Italy, since most of them being French speakers, headed to France as soon as they got their visas.

That shows what a farce Europe's immigration policies are and the cracks in European unity. The Schengen Agreement is one of the symbols of a united Europe and E.U. one of the main rights of every EU citizen is the freedom of movement.

Rather than sending more patrols to the outer EU borders comprised and funded by all E.U. states, they preferred to act on the populist reactions and wishes of the public. Threat of more immigrants, quick close OUR borders! Our leaders decided to suspend one of our main E.U. citizen rights "temporarily", expecting that they will make a better decision later on, or that the crisis will simply pass.

We have had enough of seeing another of the European symbols, the euro, with a doubtful future. We experienced the divisions of the European public opinion, over the loans needed to stabilize the euro-zone and the sharpening of the gap between the rich and poor in Europe. Now we see Europe reinstalling its borders and not just in one state but potentially all of them.

This could definitely could lead to the redesigning of the Schengen Agreement and changing the way we travel for good. Is Europe imploding back to what it was before, turning to a more nationalist, conservative and protectionist continent?

Because if you have immigration problems, you simply deal with them not by redesigning the freedom of movement, but the immigration policies of Europe. Meanwhile, what will be the new changes on the terms we will be traveling from now on? Remember what happened after the terror attacks in the UK and the airport regulations that followed.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Europe's Day. 09/05/2011

It is this time of the year again. The time of the year that will leave many people indifferent, few celebrating or commemorating, but most people confused and wondering. It is the 9th of May, Europe’s Day.

Excuse me, does Europe have a special day in our calendar and what does it stand for?

Why should I be bothered at all and what does it mean for me? Is it something that only few bureaucrats in Brussels find an opportunity to pat themselves on the back, for their achievements?

Either want to admit it or not, many of us have had those questions in our minds. No matter where you stand politically, what your ideas about EU or a united Europe are, you have to realize the meaning and the concept behind such an idea.

What we are celebrating is not the creation of a super-state, an empire or the next superpower and many mistakenly believe. We are celebrating the creation of an organization that promotes co-operation , prosperity, development, peace and dialogue, in many fields like culture, finances, climate change, politics and social. It affects us all in our every day lives, directly.

We are celebrating the idea of a peaceful continent, working together for the development and progress of all in it, something that has never been previously achieved, thought of or inspired. In fact, Europe has incited the same aspirations in many other continents and parts of the world, since it’s success is an example for many other regions.

That is one reason why Europe should be proud and commemorate this day. The day that 50 years ago or so, European leaders sat down and put their differences aside and agreed to create an organization that would bring the continent together. Start a dialogue to solve the differences, not war. When the same leaders realized that much more could be achieved by working together, than against each other.

If that is not a reason for you to celebrate, well think of much of the stability, wealth, progress and opportunities for your personal development that you enjoy today in Europe. Many of these achievements make your life a bit easier, either on national or European level, would have never been possible without EU.

To be able to travel, study, do business, work or live in any EU country, without restrictions hassle or red tape procedures. Or to have your rights secured and recognized in all states, no matter your nationality, race, religion or sexual orientation. If that is not good enough for you, having access to different projects or funds that may help you set up a business, expand it or re-educate or train yourself and your staff so your business is more competitive.

Or simply have roads ,ports and stations built or upgraded in your community with funds from EU. The list could go on and on.

The possibilities and chances that EU membership offers to any of us is certainly a reason to celebrate, for without them our lives would be much different. It is hard to appreciate something good when it is there, but take away and you will be shocked of the difference that it makes in your life. The least we can do is to remind ourselves of what we have, by celebrating and commemorating the day.

It is also a great way in creating a feeling of “togetherness”, a feeling of belonging and sharing. A reason to be proud of your nation being one of the countries that belongs to this unique organization and it is considered to be democratic, developed, respecting the rights of it’s citizens, contributing to the development and stability of Europe.

It is an opportunity not to put aside our national identity as many fear, but to celebrate our second one that we all share, the European one. EU is not trying to scrap any national identities, otherwise why its motto is “United in Diversity” and the 23 official languages that are all recognized in EU.

The only excuse I would give to anyone that feels detached or unaffected from the celebration of this day, is the inability or indifference of our national governments to underline the importance of this day to all citizens.
To explain it’s meaning, inciting the interest and appreciation of the public. And that is also the root of many of the public’s misunderstandings or negative attitude towards EU. Because even if you are a skeptic about the project, there is no reason why you can not participate in the commemoration.

If it is not what you think it should be, the EU gives you so many chances to express you opinion and have a say on what Europe must become in the future. And we have to admit, how many national governments actually do that?

Proper “euro-skepticism” as they call it, is not rejection or opposition to anything related to EU and it’s works, but constructive criticism that can lead to progress and corrections. Any other attitude is not "skepticism", but simply narrow-mindedness, ungratefulness, and propaganda.

So next time that the 9th of May is the day, you do not have to sing the “Ode of Joy”, be dressed in blue from head to toe or wave the EU flag. Simply go to any happenings for the day near your area, meet and talk to people from all over Europe living there. Share your ideas, express your disappointment if you wish and discuss how the EU has failed you.

Or you can just exchange and discuss topics about your culture, country, what you love about the country you live or come from and about living in EU. Also how it has helped you and your country and what must still be done for EU to develop, or what vision do you have for it for the future. That is what the 9th of May should be all about and how you must celebrate it.

Happy Europe’s Day to all. Enjoy the day and the debate, be proud and have a vision for the future. You are part of Europe, so this is your day either you like how the current EU works or not.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden is Dead.Who's going to be the next Bogey-Man of the West?

This morning US President Mr. Barack Obama announced the death of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.
While the American population cheers, the stock Markets gain and everywhere the news bring a jubilee.

So what now, who is going to be the next "threat" that we are going to need protection from?

We used to fear the Soviets and for that so many weapons and defense mechanisms were built. A huge amount of money invested by the Western Allies and NATO, in the constant power struggle between the two super powers.

Even today, the Americans use "The Russian threat," or the threat by Iran to force the establishment of American missiles on European soil.

And that despite the former Russian President Mr. Gorbachev having his 80th birthday gala party in London, with many Americans, western celebrities and politicians being present. So I really do not see why we are still threatened by the Russians. As for the Iranians, could they really harm Europe?

A few months ago I was watching one of my childhood favorite movies, Rambo. To my amazement, in one of the many sequels of the movie, "Rambo" was fighting on the side of freedom fighters, the poor and brave Taliban against the Soviet oppression. That movie was filmed during the '80s.

A few decades later and it is the Taliban, the brave freedom fighters that are one of the worst enemies of USA and the West. It is well known that the Americans supported and financed the Taliban against the Soviets. And Osama was one of the people who took part in the operations, with the blessings of the Saudis.

Hollywood is a huge propaganda machine and it is there to remind the Americans, but also all their allies of America's military superiority, and our need to be protected by them. The movie industry has been used in all wars, including the two World Wars for propaganda.

The Nazis were propagating against the British, with movies that hailed the brave Irish against British oppression. And the British were doing the same, by using the Nazi victims as means to convince the British public to support their country's entry into the war.

Do we need our societies to have a bogey man to fear, in order to give our consent to the mass investment and waste of resources on weapon production for our defense mechanisms? While we could be investing them on health, education and eradication of poverty instead.

Why have a constant state of war and military actions, invasions of third countries that do not accept or agree with our western values and beliefs? Or the invasion of a country to exploit its resources, to open new markets so that we can export our capitalist ideologies and products to millions of people.

Our military industries are gaining hugely from all these operations. And the only way our governments can justify the wastage of so much money and resources on weaponry, is to have a "boogey-man," a constant threat that we need to be protected from. Then it was the Soviets. Now it is the Taliban and the Muslims.

Osama's family was living happily in the USA before 9/11. Yet they were allowed to escape after the terror attacks. And according to the media, Osama was "found" living in a 1 million $ villa in Pakistan. How can someone live in a huge villa in a country that is allegedly allied to the US, for so many years and albeit the billions used in operations to find him in a country next to Pakistan.

And despite all the alleged million dollar technology and intelligence weapons that USA claims that it possesses, they have missed a huge mansion near the capital of a neighboring nation of Afghanistan.

Will any new Islamist groups arise, making the Muslims the new Soviets, or will someone else take their place? How long until we realize that the real threat might just come from within. How many soldiers are we going to lose in wars that offer us nothing. Most of these conflicts just serve the elites of our countries, in their constant effort in finding new resources to exploit.

I much more fear the terror coming from the Markets and the Banks. In their constant effort to make profit, they rip nations apart, their economies and their people. Perhaps we should start fearing them more, than any of the so called "extremists."