The ART Of Business

My Views From Europe: Part 1

I am currently on a three-week swing across 10 countries in Europe.

I am meeting with high-level business, education, and political leaders, as well as many folks on the street.

Given all that is going on here, I thought it might be interesting to share with you some "on the ground" reporting, as the crisis here reaches its apex.

What happens in Europe in the coming months will very well influence the business climate in China, it's biggest trading partner.

For American companies, the imminent break-up of the Eurozone will provide new opportunities to reassert their leadership across a wide variety of industries

So here goes, one man's view- starting from the Black Sea region:

Turkey is growing, but probably too fast for its own good, at least economically. Everyone- even the taxi drivers- are talking about the rise in real estate values and how much they are making on their houses. We've seen this movie before...

With the American presence in Iraq and the greater Middle East being reduced, it seems Turkey is seeking to fill the void. Whispers of a modern version of Ottoman influence are growing louder.

The Turkish Airlines Club at Istanbul Airport is one of the most interesting places I've been in a while. It is huge and the diversity of people from around the globe is impressive. Here at least, iPhones seem to out number both Blackberrys and Androids 3:1.

As exciting as Turkey is, Moldova, Europe's poorest country is the opposite. Still, the free wi-fi at Chisinau Airport is the best I've ever seen.

And the wine, too. I'd put Moldovan wine up against the top brands anywhere. The wine of choice for the British Royal Family has been, for generations, Moldovan.

Russian influence is very evident. All the signs in the country are in both Russian and Romanian. Russian troops still occupy Transnistria.

Migration and corruption remain the country's biggest challenges.

The population is mostly older folks and children. The people in their 20's and 30's are few. They say Moldova's biggest export is people, especially the college-educated.

Moldavans are some of the best IT workers in the world. Their software engineers, developers- and hackers- are renowned.

Organized crime is very influential here. Odessa, one of the great trading centers on the planet, makes contraband easy to attain.

Black market cigarettes and knock-off Hermes purses seem highest in demand.

Europe's boom-to-bust is quite evident in Romania. In Oradea, near the Hungarian border, two new $60 million shopping malls that were built for a population of less than 200,000 never opened. Weeds are everywhere, growing through the concrete parking lots that sit empty.

Romanians are praying for the Euro to collapse, as most of their personal loans are in Euros and very expensive; while their currency, the lei, continues to fall.

The Romanian government went down last month due to anger over harsh austerity measures. This was a precursor to the devastating elections in Greece, France, and Germany.

The message is becoming clear: voters are tired of government cut backs and won't support anyone who thinks it's a good idea. Politics are trumping economics.

More next week from Hungary, England, and Spain.

Thanks for reading!

TAGS: Supply Chain
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