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Lessons World Must Learn from Iceland Tackling its Financial Crisis

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Iceland Bank Protests
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People around the world are awakening, understanding their rights and realizing their powers, and so we are seeing a number of protests around the world against their government. The way people are heading to establish a more advanced level of democracy, our mainstream media still stays back, not so democratic. 
When there were protests in Middle East, all the news media were active in covering the events, but when we saw protests in Iceland, Greece and now in Turkey, the media did not show that activeness. Since it is the fight for an advance level of democracy which demands for even more rights to the citizen, other governments are scared that this could encourage their own citizen as well.

Today what Turkey is demanding is an example of advance democratic rights and participation in development. Now people are able to tell their government what they want in their city and what not. Eventually government should work for their citizen and make them happy, but in Turkey government wants to make a shopping mall at the place of the Gezi park against the will of its citizen. People who were protecting the park launched a strong protest. However, government did not understand the demands of the people and instead started using force, tear gas, and in fact they declared that  every protester will be treated by the police as a terrorist. Read More

What Iceland has done is so unorthodox for the management gurus around the world with textbook knowledge. It has gone against the belief of total capitalism, which is considered as the only successful way for an economy to burgeon by some. In 1991 when communist socialist economy fell down in Soviet Union, the capitalist world cherished. But today we are seeing that even capitalism is not the fool proof solution. Almost all the countries in Europe today are facing the similar problems: bankruptcy, austerity, etc. and the government should learn from what Iceland did.
In 2008 Iceland experienced third largest financial meltdown ever in the history. Iceland’s bank defaulted on $85billion. Icesave, an online savings bank operating in Iceland, the UK and Netherlands went bankrupt. The UK and Netherlands governments stepped in and bailed out their citizen who had their savings in the Icelandic bank. In total both the government spent nearly £3.5billion which they asked Iceland government to compensate. The ratio of debt to income surged to 240%. Soon the people in Iceland realized that the faith which they had put in their government resulted into nothing. Iceland Government came up with the plan that every citizen of Iceland will contribute to the payment of the debt to the UK and Netherlands. In a country of some 317,000 people, each person had to pay nearly 21000 euros monthly for the next fifteen years at the interest rate of 5.5%.
The people went out to the streets to protest. They dressed in orange and made a line in front of the police. Protesters made annoying sounds with kitchen utensils and stood really close to the guards protecting the parliament building and started at their eyes.
The protests resulted into the resigning of the government, bankers were jailed and banks were nationalized! Out of some 500 candidates 25 people were chosen without any political affiliation to remodel the constitution from the scratch replacing the old one which is said to be similar to the Dutch constitution. 1500 people were invited to participate in the assembly out of which 1200 were selected at random and 300 were representatives of companies, institutions etc. They belonged to all age groups from 18 to 88 spanning all six constituencies in Iceland. The new government decided that no one should stay in the parliament longer than eight years. 
Iceland’s new challenge was compensating Britain and Netherlands for the money which they had used to bail out their citizen having accounts in Icelandic bank. It followed a referendum two times in Iceland which rejected the repayment plan both the times. Dissatisfied UK and Netherlands government approached the European court suing Iceland. 
The success came to Iceland this year in January when European court cleared the Icelandic government closing the case in the favour of Iceland. The ruling halted the attempts made by the UK and Netherlands to get all their money back from Icelandic government. It was the victory for Icelandic people because they believed in any case, it was fundamentally unfair because the UK and Dutch governments had awarded compensation to their citizen far in excess of the levels required by European legislation.
As the new system in Iceland took over, the debt exceeding 110% of the home values was forgiven. The country eased the debt burden for over 25% of the population. The orthodox management experts were amused by what Iceland was doing, as it was going the unconventional way. It was actually helping its own people instead of banks like how other capitalist economies do. Critiques warned that Iceland is doing a big mistake, and their claims got solidified when in 2009 Iceland’s economy shrank by 6.7%. However as the time passed by and the government became stable, in 2010 its economy saw a rise in 2.9% and in 2011 it further experienced expansion by 2.4%.
Today Iceland is doing better than the rest of the European Union. It came out in the conclusion that helping your citizen and making them happy really works. Iceland doesn’t want to tie itself to Euro or join European Union now where governments cut to the people and give to the banks. In fact Iceland nationalized their banks. Iceland says if we were tied to Euro we would just have to succumb to the laws of Germany and France. Membership in the European Union imposes a lot of regulations, budgetary costs, and financial oversight that even the UK is considering the leaving option. 
In Summary Iceland took the following revolutionary steps
  1. Resignation of the government, imprisoning the responsible parties
  2. Nationalization of the banks.
  3. Referendum rejecting the repayment plan.
  4. Appointing common people to rewrite the constitution. 
Such a revolutionary change has changed the scenario in Iceland. The country’s economic situation was worse than Greece, but today its economy is stronger than any other European country which has seen financial crisis in the recent years. 
The country is now implementing Participatory Democracy in Reykjavik as a model city where people decide where the development funds should go. The capital city of Reykjavik has also launched a direct democracy platform, where any citizen can drop few suggestions in a community forum about the things they want to be done in the city. The city council choses top five suggestions and process them in a month before taking the next five. Iceland is considering this system to be implemented in parliament as well. 
Now the thing is what we can learn from Iceland tackling the financial bubble bursts. There is a lot to learn from Iceland for other countries in the world. Greece, which is undergoing a financial crisis and Turkey and Cyprus which are considering to join European Union must try something that should help their citizen first and then the banks or the demands of the EU. Turkish government, which is in a standstill due to #OccupyGezi protests, should understand that the people want the Gezi Park and it can’t force a museum or a shopping mall against the will of their own citizen. Instead of listening to the people the government is using tear gas against their own people which is banned in conventional warfare.
Similarly India, which is known for upholding human rights in the world the government treated the protesters who were doing yoga by caning and making them run away. Several massive protests in India against corruption and for bringing back the black money stashed in foreign countries failed and the government which now is facing multiple corruption charges is still enjoying its power as no one can shake their position even an inch. People must rise and governments must take lessons.

During all these events which happened in Iceland, international media’s role was negligible. Media should be more democratic, open and uncontrolled. Paid media showed us everything from Libya, but nothing from Iceland. Since what people did in Iceland can shake many corrupt governments around the world.

Control Your Money or Your Money Will Control You Change your attitude toward debt. Every time you use credit for a purchase think,”Debt is slavery; I am making myself a slave.– unknown

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Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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Europe

ETIAS, the new permit you will need to travel to Europe from the US starting 2021

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Last April the European Parliament and the European Council confirmed at the final agreement for the creation of the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), a registration system for all visitors from third countries that are now exempt from visa. In order to strengthen border security, the European Commission proposed the creation of this system which will enter into full operation in 2021.

The ETIAS authorisation is not a visa. Once operational, it will carry out pre-travel screening for security and migration risks of travellers benefiting from visa-free access to the Schengen area. When arriving at the EU borders, travellers from the United States of America will need to have both a valid travel document and an ETIAS authorisation.

What countries will require it?

The ETIAS will facilitate access to countries within the Schengen Area to travelers from third countries that do not currently require a visa in order to improve security and to prevent irregular immigration. Therefore, to know if you need to use ETIAS or not, you will first have to find out if the country you want to visit falls within the Schengen Area, and you will also need to know if your country was visa-exempt until now.

Schengen Area Countries

It is important to remember that not all 28 countries of the European Union (EU) are part of the Schengen Area and that not all Schengen countries are part of the European Union. Great Britain and Ireland, for example, are part of the EU (Great Britain is scheduled to leave after Brexit), but not the Schengen Area; while Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein are part of the Schengen Area, but not members of the EU.

Therefore, an ETIAS waiver will be required to visit the following countries: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Holland, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Sweden and Switzerland.

Countries’ citizens who will need to apply for ETIAS.

As stated above, ETIAS will be required to travelers from countries that do not require a visa. Currently, individuals from the following 57 countries do not require Schengen visas to visit countries in the European Union. However, with the arrival of ETIAS expected in 2021, passport holders of these countries will require an ETIAS waiver to travel to Europe for the purposes of tourism, business or transit for a short 90 days stay in any 180-day period.

How is it going to work?

Prior to traveling, those interested in acquiring an ETIAS waiver must fill out an online application providing with basic information (name, age, occupation, passport number, country of entry in Europe). In addition, they must answer a few questions on safety and health issues, among others. Approval often takes minutes once your ETIAS application is complete, and the maximum amount of time for approval is only four days.

What do I need to apply?

All you need to apply is a valid Passport, a credit or debit card to pay the fee and a completed ETIAS application. Since it’s a visa waiver, you won’t need any further paperwork. And, unlike visa applications, ETIAS doesn’t require an interview at any embassy or consulate.

How do I apply?

The ETIAS application form is already available online, although its use won’t enter into force until 2021. You can apply for your ETIAS until 5 days before your trip, but the sooner you start the process, the better. Once in the application form, you’ll be prompted to provide your passport details and asked to answer a list of security questions. It’s vital that your application be error-free and that the information is an exact match to your passport. Any discrepancies between your ETIAS application and your passport could cause a delay in processing and/or approval You’ll also need a credit or debit card to complete the process.

Once you’re finished, the form is submitted immediately and you will receive an email with the information of you of approval status. You should receive the email within minutes, although sometimes issues on approval status could take up to four days to be sorted out.

How much is it going to cost?

Each applicant over 18 years old will have to pay a 5€ travel authorization fee. The payment must be done online during the application process.

How long can I use it for and when does it expire?

The ETIAS can be used for stays up to 90 days in a period of 180 days. The travel purposes covered by ETIAS are tourism, short-term business such or conference and qualifying medical procedures. Your approved ETIAS will last for three years, but it might expire sooner if your passport does. You will have to re-apply for ETIAS when you get a new passport.

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Business

Dawn Ellmore Employment reviews the shock defeat for McDonald’s as it’s stripped of its ‘Big Mac’ EU trade mark

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For more than half a century McDonald’s has been a recognisable brand in just about every country you can think of. According to its website, the chain has restaurants in 101 countries. Its 36,000+ restaurants serve around 69 million fast food fans every single day.

With stats like this, and McDonald’s easily recognised by just about anybody, the recent EU trade mark ruling has surprised many. McDonald’s has just lost its EU trade mark for the Big Mac in what is dubbed a ‘David and Goliath’ battle with a small Irish chain.

How did McDonald’s lose its Big Mac EU trade mark?

When Supermac’s took on the might of McDonald’s in a trade mark battle, it was assumed by many that the smaller chain would lose. While Supermac’s may not be a household name in the UK, however, it’s much loved in Ireland.

Now the largest fast food chain in Ireland, Supermac’s began in 1978 and today has more than 110 franchises and restaurants all over the country. Founded by Pat and Una McDonagh, it was named after his nickname, ‘Supermac’ when he played Gaelic football. They also own Claddagh Irish Pubs & Restaurants through Supermac’s Ireland Ltd.

The EU trade mark battle

Supermac’s has been locked into an ongoing fight with McDonald’s since 2015, when it announced plans to expand into the EU and UK. McDonald’s initially objected to Supermac’s registering a number of trade marks for products and its name. They argued that the names McDonald’s and Supermac’s are too similar and would cause customer confusion. McDonald’s further argued that the Supermac’s brand name is visually too similar to their trade mark.

Supermac’s responded by pointing out that they had happily traded at the same time as McDonald’s in Ireland for more than 30 years with no signs of confusion on the part of customers.

Initially, McDonald’s won a part-victory when the European Union’s Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) decided that Supermac can continue to trade in its own name within the EU. However, it rejected the Irish company’s trade mark applications for various products and menu items, saying that consumers might “be confused as to whether Supermac’s is a new version of McDonald’s”, given that there are near-identical products sold by both restaurant chains.

Revoking McDonald’s EU trade marks

In January 2019, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) made a decision that allows victory to Supermac’s after all. By ruling that EU trade marks owned by McDonald’s are to be revoked, Supermac’s is clear to expand into the rest of the EU.

The landmark decision went into effect immediately, on the basis that the EUIPO rules that McDonald’s had failed to prove “genuine use” of its Big Mac trade mark as a restaurant or menu item.

Unsurprisingly delighted, Pat McDonagh says: “Never mind David versus Goliath, this unique landmark decision is akin to the Connacht team winning against the All Blacks. This is the end of the McBully. Just because McDonald’s has deep pockets and we are relatively small in context, doesn’t mean we weren’t going to fight our corner.”

How the fight played out

In April 2017, Supermac’s requested that the EUIPO cancel McDonald’s trade mark for ‘Big Mac’ and ‘Mc’. The chain also accused the US giant of “trade mark bullying” by registering and gaining protection for names, but not actually using them to stamp down any potential competition.

On its part, McDonald’s legal representatives provided signed affidavits from high level executives and showed examples of packaging and adverts to demonstrate it serves Big Macs right across the EU, and therefore deserves to retain the EU trade mark for that specific product.

However, the EUIPO deemed this “insufficient” in its judgement. As trade marks are registered at national level and at the EU, McDonald’s does not lose all of its protection for the Big Mac. They also have the right to appeal, which we suspect they are likely to do.

Supermac’s forges ahead

For Supermac’s, all eyes are on the future. Mr McDonagh says: “This now opens the door for the decision to be made by the European trade mark office to allow us to use our SuperMac as a burger across Europe.”

A representative from EIP, an intellectual property law firm, Carissa-Kendall Windless, says: “This decision is a significant one, partly because it serves as a warning to multinational companies that they can no longer simply file trade mark applications without a genuine intention to use it”.

It’s inevitable that McDonald’s will exercise its right to appeal, and it will be interesting to see how this David and Goliath battle goes on this year.

About Dawn Ellmore Employment

Dawn Ellmore Employment was incorporated in 1995 and is a market leader in intellectual property and legal recruitment.

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Economy

Fears of a 2019 European Economic Slowdown Loom

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Although the spotlight is on the trade war between the United States and China, one aspect that is currently ignored by the media is represented by signs of weakness in the European continent.

Germany slows down

After posting a -0.3% GDP contraction in the third quarter of 2018, the economic indicators released from Germany in 2019 cannot support a positive economic picture. The manufacturing sectors continue to show signs of weakening, with the Markit PMI Composite now at 51.6, down from 52.3.

Industrial Production had been contraction by 1.9% in November, and both imports and exports had been down by 1.6% and 0.4%, respectively. DAX trading had also suggested there is growing concerns among investors and the main German stock index peaked out in July 2018, being now down by 15%.

Germany relies mostly on exports, being the third exporter in the world, only surpassed by the United States and China. That is why the weakness we see in Germany is actually a symptom of what’s happening in other European countries as well.

Italy and France not too encouraging

The new populist government in Italy, formed by La Lega and The Five Star Movement faced a serious challenge to get the EU’s approval for the 2019 budget, as the already high debt-to-GDP ratio (currently at 131.8%) raises concerns on whether the country will be able to meet its debt obligations in the future.

There are also serious concerns about the banking sector, which despite mergers and acquisitions, and huge capital available from the ECB, were unable to solve their problems which emerged after the 2008 financial crisis. The future of Italy is very uncertain, and analysts predict that the new government will not be able to meet their economic promises, given that we are at the end of a business cycle.

Speaking of France, the problems are social at the present time. President Macron was unable to stop the “Yellow Vests” protests, despite promises to increase the minimum wage and the overall standard of living for the very poor. France’s debt-to-GDP ratio currently stands at 97%, but given the latest promises, there are concerns whether the country will manage to keep the budget deficit below 3% in 2019, as the European treaties demand.

Although there’s a single currency in Europe, in terms of fiscal policy things were very fragmented, which is why the economic recovery had been very slow and the reason why investors predict Europe will face the greatest challenges to solve its economic, political, and social problems.

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