Wednesday, December 8, 2010

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

End to euro, yes to press, no to toll

Some commentators are daring to suggest that this Christmas might be the euro's last. Its future might be prolonged, however, if Portugal is hung out to dry along with Greece and Ireland. In that way the rot can be stopped before it reaches Spain. It certainly seems increasingly likely that Portugal will have to ask for a bailout from the other EU countries and the International Monetary Fund. If Spain were forced into such a position, this would be far more serious internationally, with consequences of global magnitude. Three very different scenarios are being talked about. A two-tiered euro might be formed, with France and Germany in the upper level. Otherwise, euro zone members might be forced into increased fiscal and political unity. A third scenario envisages Germany walking out and going back to the deutschmark. Those escudos tucked under the mattress might come in handy after all.


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The European Court of Human Rights has ordered the Portuguese Government to pay €83,999 to the newspaper Publico as compensation for violating the paper's right to freedom of expression. In 2001, Publico reported that the football club Sporting Lisbon owed €2.3 million to the taxman. Sporting Lisbon denied the claim and sued. The paper was acquitted of defamation. The decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal in Lisbon in 2006. The following year, the Supreme Court reversed the ruling and ordered the paper to pay compensation of €75,000. Publico then took the case to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Yesterday it pronounced in favour of the paper saying that its report had sufficient factual basis and publishing it was in the public interest. One is tempted to pass comment, but perhaps not.


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The committee organising the campaign against the introduction of tolls on the A22 trans-Algarve motorway is planning a “surprise protest” sometime before Christmas. A further demonstration is promised for January. The committee is also planning to present a petition with 14,000 signatures to parliament in Lisbon. Two demonstrations have been held so far. Some Portuguese reason that tolls have to be paid on motorways elsewhere in the country, so why not in the Algarve? Protestors argue that tolls would push traffic on to the EN125, which cannot be regarded as a viable alternative route. Tolls would be to the detriment of the all-important tourist industry and many already hard-hit local businesses. The government intends to impose tolls from next April. To register disapproval, go to http://viadoinfante2010.blogspot.com

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