Spain and Morocco Sign Joint Declaration

Spain and Morocco have recently signed a Joint Declaration and other agreements focused on judicial cooperation, tourism promotion, water resource management and care for women, children and pensioners.

At the 11th Spain-Morocco High-Level Meeting at Moncloa Palace, the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the Prime Minister of Morocco, Abdelilah Benkiran reviewed the partnership that exists already between the two countries.

As Mariano Rajoy said, “Morocco is our main client outside of Europe, behind only the United States, and Spain is Morocco’s leading trade partner. In 2014, trade exchanges between the two countries hit almost 10 billion euros and more than 17,000 Spanish companies targeted the Moroccan market for their exports.”

Read the full story here.

Car Design Takes the High Road

With an extensive background in marketing in the motorsports and automotive industry, Dany Bahar of Ares Performance comes with an impressive CV for offering customers the opportunity to design their own cars.

Bahar launched Ares Performance last year.  Following his key executive roles at Ferrari and Lotus, Bahar set up his own firm in Italy specializing in the design of “bodykits, interior upgrades and power improvements.” Is anyone else doing this?  Well, it could just be the case that Bahar is one step ahead of the computer giant Mac.  In a recent article in Extreme Tech, Bill Howard suggested “the time is ripe for Think Different vehicles.”  He said, “Great things may come when the automaker, not just the design, is a fresh sheet of paper.”

But even with Howard’s idea, car design seems to still just be relegated to design technology in the dashboard, giving the driver “adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection and lane departure warning,” etc.  Bahar, on the other hand, is offering something much more holistic. He feels that if one is spending over a million dollars on a top car like a Bugatti, they might not want to see another 400 just the same as it on the road.  He believes:  “Having something you cannot buy anywhere else is what fascinates clients. This was the main reason we launched Ares… to take, for example, a Bugatti and give it a makeover, a real makeover. We don’t touch what Bugatti is famous for: the engine, gearbox, fantastic aerodynamics. We give it a new look that is whatever the client wants so it’s a Bugatti but covered with a different skin.”

Today, Ares is providing clients with “unlimited personalization, tailored to perfection,” via its philosophy, ‘beyond performance, beyond design, beyond expectation.’

Small Business in the UK Want to Remain with the EU

A survey of 1000 small businesses in the UK has shown that they want to remain in the EU. They put this wish above taxes and highly skilled workforce desires. Their EU membership is a key concern of theirs with the new government.

Bibby Financial Services is an independent finance specialist that conducted the report. As their UK chief executive David Postings said, “The new Government must address the economic challenges ahead and create a stable environment for small businesses to flourish. The businesses we speak with tell us that this should encompass a reduction in the business tax rates and clarity on the tax regime over the next five years.”

David Cameron has pledged to hold an EU referendum on UK membership by the end of 2017.

EU Officials come to the Ukraine

Top officials from the EU recently met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to speed economic and political reforms. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker arrived in Kiev from Luxembourg and joined Mr Poroshenko and European Council President Donald Tusk to talk at the presidential offices. In addition to their talks, Kiev will be the location for the National Reform conference taking place today.

The bloc has, as of now, agreed to $3.7 billion in balance of payments for their assistance for the Ukraine. The EU has said it could eventually make up to €11 billion available through various loans and grants in coming years.

The EU is also expected to announce stepped-up assistance for efforts to clean up the area around the Chernobyl nuclear site. However, it is not expected that Mr. Juncker and Mr. Tusk will meet Mr. Poroshenko’s demands for an EU peacekeeping presence in eastern Ukraine. They are also not expected to accept the idea of granting Ukranians visa free access to the bloc.

Help European IPOs Says the IPO Task Force

Financial trade groups have started to lobby the European Commission to implement changes that helped to bring about the US biotech IPO boom. What the European IPO Task Force specifically wants is for politicians to slash the regulatory and administrative cost that is involved in going public by as much as 50%. This would help more small companies to stay afloat.

They have identified cost as one of the main reasons that companies haven’t been going public. Together, EuropeanIssuers, the European Private Equity and Venture Capital Association and the Federation of European Securities Exchanges (FESE) have figured out that up to 10% of an IPO that raises less than $55 million is taken up by fees. And that this keeps the little guys from going public.

They argue that current legislation is designed around the top 10% of companies. They want a 50% reduction in fees and they want small companies spared from certain requirements. As Philippe de Backer, a Belgian Member of the European Parliament, said “Although Europe continues to build and grow businesses with the potential to be world class the failure of the IPO market to facilitate their access to capital hampers their growth and ultimately their potential to create jobs.”

E-Book Tax Raises Price and Hackles

The EU has recently ruled that e-books sold in Europe constitute an electronically supplied service and are subject to higher taxes (VAT) than physical books. This could raise the price of e-books in some countries.

This change will primarily impact France and Luxembourg. Ironically, these are the two countries that created the need for the ruling when they petitioned the EU’s Court of Justice to be allowed to sell e-books at the VAT rate of regular books. With the new ruling, the VAT rate in France will increase from 5.5% to 20%. In Luxembourg, the rate will go from 3.5% to 17%. Counties such as the UK and Germany, which already sell e-books at the higher tax rate, won’t have any affect.

France and Luxembourg both say that they will fight against the new tax. As French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin said, “We will continue to push for what is called technological neutrality, meaning the same taxation for books, irrespective if they are on paper or electronic.”

EU Accusing Luxembourg & Amazon

The EU has accused both Luxembourg and Amazon of finding a band-aid fix to avoid tax. Competition Commissioner Joaquin Alumina sent a 23 page letter to the Luxembourg foreign ministry. It is they said, “The commission’s preliminary view is that the tax ruling of 5 November 2003 by Luxembourg in favour of Amazon constitutes state aid”.

The EU said: “The commission is  of the opinion that through the contested tax ruling the Luxembourgish authorities confer an advantage on Amazon.” Amazon denied receiving any special tax treatment from Luxembourg.

They are also probing deals that took place between Apple and Ireland and Starbucks and the Netherlands.

Beyler Eyubov Sweetens up Life in London

It’s not every that peoples’ dreams come to fruition, but it is worthwhile putting a spotlight on those that do. Certainly, in order to succeed, people need to have a business plan, capital, assistance and a dream. Beyler Eyyubov, who came to London from the Middle East, had the dream of opening a sweets shop like the ones that his father and grandfather owned. He had capital saved from his hard work helping his father in their family sweet shop back at home, and he found a small but respectable location in London.

Setting up with a modest plan and a tight budget, he wanted to introduce Londoners to the sweets of his home country, while also offering some British specialties to keep them coming. Today, he offers a mix that allows him to feel that he has brought some of his homeland to London, while also pleasing those British traditionalists who want their scones and other British delicacies.

A few of his most popular items include gavurga, paklava and shakarbura. Gavurga is a wheat dish fried with raisins and nuts. It is traditionally made during the Novruz holiday, but Beyler Eyubov serves it all year round. Paklava is a diamond-shaped thinly layered pastry that is filled with nuts and sugar. Eyubov says that this is a favorite of his customers. Shakarbura is a pie of thin dough that is filled with nuts and sugar.

Anyone with a sweet tooth in London should check out Beyler Eyubov’s delicacies and appreciate the hard work that has gone into making his place a success.

The Consequences if Greece Leaves

As Greece contemplates the idea of leaving the EU, it’s certainly worthwhile to read analyses about the consequences that these actions would have. One article points out that, should it come to Greece leaving the EU, “A Greek default on its around 240 billion euros in rescue loans would send another shock wave to the (euro) are.” This analysis comes from Guy Verhofstadt, president of the liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament.

The full article is worth a read, and the situation is certainly worth watching very closely.

EU Food Laws Changing…for the Better?

The EU law on food information for consumers (FIC) is changing which means that manufacturers can no longer hide ingredients under generic titles. And palm oil is one of those wildly used ingredients that will now come to light.

Until now, palm oil has been listed as vegetable oil but many products are starting to list the actual ingredients in anticipation of the legislation that is coming.

Many organizations, including the Association of Chocolate, Biscuit and Confectionery Industries of Europe, initially fought against FIC. As the secretary general, Sabine Nafziger, for the Association said, “At first people were nervous but now they are really happy to do it because it creates a level playing field. It is good that this debate is now out there.”

As Andrea Martinez-Inchausti, BRC’s assistant director for food policy said, “There seems to be a very strong move by consumers to claim their right to know what is in their food, and that labels are as clear as possible. [But] whether that translates into a change in consumer behaviour I think is still to be seen. For example, people asserted their right to have country of origin information and that [also] hasn’t seen any change in customer purchasing behaviour.”