The ART Of Business

My Views From Europe: Part 2

The trek across Europe continues. This week took me through Romania, Hungary, and now here at London City Airport, where I write this. Spain awaits.

Starting in the east and working west has provided a degree of insight to the profound challenges the continent is facing. The current problems in Greece and elsewhere have been around far longer in other places, but they received little attention.

Last week in Romania, the country officially fell back into recession. It didn't take an economist to tell the guy on the streets of Bucharest that the economy is seriously weakening.

Romania has struggled to regroup after its bubble popped in 2009. It has had three governments in the past two months. Romanians are sour and rooting for the Euro to collapse. Their currency- the Lei- is at the same level as when the country entered the EU in 2007.

Hungary went bust earlier in the year. Inflation has taken over as its currency- the Florint- plummets versus the Euro. Even it's national airline- Malev- is gone, a victim of the crisis.

Still, the people I spoke with in both countries feel fortunate that they are in better shape than Greece, Spain, or Portugal, who are completely hand tied to the Euro. At least the Romanians and Hungarians have their own currency to manipulate...

On a side note, when asked this week what he would recommend to a young person who can't find a job, the Prime Minister of Portugal responded, "Go to Angola, they need workers there".

I've been to Angola several times. If that is the best solution for the youth unemployment problem in a full-fledged member of the EU and Eurozone, the problems here are deeper than anyone is admitting- or knows.

London is booming. Construction cranes are everywhere. It looks like Shanghai in the big growth years. The Olympics this summer have everyone jacked up.

Nevertheless, the financial district, where I spent the last two days, has lost tens of thousands of jobs that will never come back. Even the British investment bankers are spooked. Many now admit they drove us into this mess. They also wonder out loud if the global financial system is strong enough to withstand a shock that a mass exodus from the Euro could precipitate.

But they still want to point the finger first at America. In fact, I've found one of the common themes the past two weeks is to blame the Americans and their friends in Germany for all of the problems in Europe.

This is no surprise, as we are often loathe to blame ourselves for the problems in our lives.

Still, the notion of a growing Europe that is unified, functional, and a world leader is hard to grasp today.

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