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EU celebrates 20 years of euro – but THREE countries might not necessarily be grateful | City & Business | Finance






Euro news: The European Union is marking 20 years since the introduction of the euro (Image: GETTY)

The euro was first launched on January 1, 1999 by the European Central Bank and is used daily by an estimated 340 million Europeans. Still popular today, recent surveys suggest three-quarters of people in the eurozone remain in favour of the euro, which has around €1.2trillion banknotes in circulation, surpassing the US dollar. But the common currency has not been without its criticism over the last two decades, with the euro battling through a global financial crash in 2008 and subsequently, the European debt crisis. In 2011 the crisis peaked, when five of the bloc’s countries – Italy, Greece, Spain, Ireland and Portugal – failed to generate enough growth, risking an economic default.

In October of that year, the then-head of the Bank of England Sir Mervyn King referred to it as “the most serious financial crisis at least since the 1930s, if not ever”.

Questions have often been raised about if the euro is indeed a failure or success.

It has mainly been southern European nations falling under the spotlight when measuring the longevity and triumph of the single currency, with Italy, Spain and Greece all having their ups and downs with the euro.

Perhaps the most high-profile nation to have almost crashed out of the eurozone is Greece.

When the euro was first launched it was often referred to as the ‘euro experiment’

Phil Hoey, editor of

Athens has been pulled from the brink of financial disaster with three bailouts over the last decade by the troika of the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The trio loaned Greece a total of £259billion (€289billion) in three successive rescue programmes in 2010, 2012 and 2015.

In what was the biggest bailout in global financial history, Athens only last summer finished completing the emergency loan programme.

In Spain, an economic recession began in 2008 with the burst of the housing bubble at the same time as the global financial crash.

Spain was in or near recession from 2009 to end of 2013 after the economy plunged into a downward spiral in the nation’s worst economic crisis in 50 years.

The recovery since has outpaced the rest of Europe, driven by stronger exports and rising domestic demand.

In terms of Italy, the crisis-hit nation has spent much of 2018 at loggerheads with European Union (EU) finance chiefs over its controversial budget.

The crisis-hit nation passed the 2019 budget just before a year-end deadline, averting a major showdown with Brussels after being accused of breaching spending commitments.

Italy prime minister Giuseppe Conte with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker

Italy prime minister Giuseppe Conte with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker (Image: REUTERS)

Italy re-drafted the budget and cut the deficit next year to 2.04 percent of gross domestic product after Brussels rejected its original target of 2.4 percent.

As the euro reaches its 20-year mark, Phil Hoey, editor of financial website, explained how these trio of nations could find themselves better off decoupled from the economic powerhouses within the eurozone.

Speaking to, Mr Hoey detailed how the difference in sizes of economy make it hard to initiate adjustments to economic policies within the bloc.

He said: “When the euro was first launched it was often referred to as the ‘euro experiment’, a term that implied that it might not work, and even if it did work it wasn’t likely to be perfect. And it is fair to say that the euro is far from perfect.

“Firstly, it is not just a ‘single currency’ – it is also a single interest rate.

“That means the euro requires countries to hand over control of two key aspects of their monetary policy: the power to set their own interest rates, and the power to influence their exchange rates.

“This type of shared monetary policy might not be such a big deal if every country in the eurozone had a similar economy requiring similar tweaks and adjustments, but they don’t. Far from it, in fact.

“For example, exports account for a much smaller percentage of GDP in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy than they do in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg or Germany, while productivity rates are skewed in the same sort of way.

Greece prime minister Alexis Tsipras

Greece news: Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras (Image: GETTY)

“In theory that means Eurozone countries like Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain might do better in the long run if their monetary policy was decoupled from that of the Eurozone’s economic powerhouses.”

But Mr Hoey maintained that the eurozone is unlikely to see any exits in the immediate future as the political upheaval would prove “deeply painful” for the nation leaving the single currency.

He said: “In the short term a ‘Grexit’, ‘Spexit’ or ‘Itexit’ could prove deeply painful for the country leaving the euro.

“It would mean the creation of a brand new, completely unproven currency that investors and even the country’s own citizens would be very wary of.

“In fact, it could be decades before a country is able to enjoy the benefits of their newfound economic independence.

“Given the fallout the process is likely to bring, then, the weakest eurozone countries might actually be inclined to move in the opposite direction in years to come – embracing ever-closer economic and fiscal union, instead of economic independence.”

Statistics from the European Central Bank (ECB) show Italy and Spain are the only two nations from the original group of 11 eurozone members which have seen their economies shrink since the currency was created.

Shaun Richards, an independent economist, echoed sentiments of scepticism for the euro and detailed how Greece and Italy in particular are now worse off compared to before they joined the single currency.

He told “The euro is now 20 years old and here is a factor that often gets ignored which is that in overall terms it is pretty much where it began.

“The trade weighted exchange rate is at 98.7 as opposed to the 100 at its start.

“This has been great for the exporters and manufacturers of Germany but much less so for the weaker economies of the euro area.

“For example Greece did well for a while but then fell into a great depression from which it will not recover for many years.

“Also if we look at Italy we see an economy where economic output per person is now lower than it was back in 1999.

“It was not supposed to be like this as the euro was supposed to provide economic convergence and reform.”

Spain prime minister Pedro Sánchez

Spain news: Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez (Image: GETTY)

James Hickman, CCO of FairFX said it is too most likely too late for countries to turn their backs on the euro now. 

He said: “In hindsight I’m sure some countries regret the adoption of the euro, but I believe it’s a case of being too late to turn back now.

“The current 19 member countries using the euro are probably better off remaining with the euro, as changing currencies now could have huge economic repercussions including rocketing interest rates and currency devaluation.

“In the early years, countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece might have been better coming out of the euro.

“Having their own currency could have allowed these countries to better reflect their own economic circumstances.”

Speaking of Italy, Spain and Greece, he explained one of the biggest challenges would have been struggling with an artificially strong currency.

Mr Hickman said: “Being part of the eurozone has been a challenge as economically these countries have had to struggle with an artificially strong currency, making it difficult for these countries to grow exports.

Typically when a country isn’t doing well economically, the currency of that country reflects it by weakening, making it cheaper for other countries to buy their goods.

However, this hasn’t been the case and Greece in particular has suffered and had to receive numerous bailouts.”

But it is not all doom and gloom for the single currency.

Economists argue that the problems within less economical prosperous European nations have been magnified, but not caused by, the euro.

Speaking to Euronews, economist Duncan Weldon argued growth in the eurozone has been positive over the last few years and claimed the currency is “out of the danger zone” for the short term after a “very, very tough five or six years”.

He said: “Since 2015, there has been a real recovery in European growth, growth for the last couple of years has been decent.

“In the short term, the euro is out of the danger zone.

“The important thing to remember is that even in countries that have had really tough economic times — Greece, Italy, etc — public support for the euro remains very strong.”


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Future of Ottawa: Coffee with Francis Bueckert





Francis Bueckert: When it comes to the current landscape of coffee-roasting companies and independent cafes in Ottawa, I think we are at a really interesting moment in time. There are more local roasters that are doing artisanal small-batch production—with more attention to the quality and origin of the beans.

With larger corporations such as Starbucks closing locations, it has opened a bit of space for local players to grow. We have been lucky to work with many folks in the coffee-roasting community, and we have found that there is a willingness to collaborate among different coffee roasters. For example, when Cloudforest started back in 2014, we were roasting our coffee at Happy Goat and it was the expertise of their head roaster Hans that helped me learn how to roast. Other companies such as Brown Bag Coffee have also lent a hand when we needed extra roasting capacity. There are others, such as Lulo, Mighty Valley Coffee, Bluebarn, The Artery, and Little Victories that are also part of the growing local coffee community. It’s small roasters like these who have shown me what a coffee community can look like, and that we can help to elevate each other, rather than being locked in competition.

If you care to make a prediction… What’s happening to the local café industry in 2021?

We believe that there is hope and that 2021 can be a big pivot year for small roasters and cafes.

This year will not be ideal from a business point of view. However, it could create a shift in people’s attitude toward where they get their coffee. We are holding out hope that people will support the roasters and cafes that are local to help them economically survive what is in all reality a very difficult time.

It all depends on where consumers decide to go this year. People are starting to recognize that supporting large corporations at this moment will be at the cost of the local roasters and cafes. There is the growing realization that a future where there is only Amazon, Walmart, and Starbucks would be pretty bleak. So we have an opportunity this year to support the kind of local businesses that we want to see thrive.

In your wildest dreams, what will the landscape for local coffee roasters and cafés look like in your lifetime?

In my wildest dreams, all of the coffee roasters and cafés would be locally owned and independent. They would all be focused on direct trade and artisanal coffee. Each different coffee roaster and café would know exactly where their coffee came from. Ideally, each company would be a partnership between the farmers who grow the beans and the people here selling them. There would be a focus on how to cooperate and collaborate with the farmers in the countries of origin to share the benefits around. We would all work together and share orders of cups, lids, and other packaging so that we could get better bulk pricing. In this way, we would make our local coffee community so efficient that the large corporate coffee companies wouldn’t even be able to compete.

We would also like to see people use coffee as a way to create social good. For example, we started Cloudforest as a way of helping support farmers in Ecuador who were taking a stand against large mining companies. This remote community stood up to protect their environment, so that they could have clean drinking water and soil for the next generation. They started an organic coffee cooperative to help show that there are other models of development, and we are doing our part year after year to help support their vision. They have a vision of development that does not include mass deforestation and contamination, and organic coffee is a key (among others) to show that another way forward is possible.

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Special events in the Ottawa Valley dominate annual OVTA tourism awards





The Ottawa Valley Tourist Association hopes that its annual tourism awards will provide a little sunshine during what is a dark time for local tourism operators because of the pandemic.

The Ottawa Valley Tourism Awards are presented annually by the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association (OVTA) to individuals, businesses, and events that recognize the importance of working together for the growth of the local tourism industry, as well as offering exceptional visitor experiences.

“After a year that saw a lot of businesses in the hospitality and tourism industry being challenged like never before, the annual Ottawa Valley Tourism Awards represent a bit of light on the horizon” said Chris Hinsperger, co-owner of the Bonnechere Caves.

The Ottawa Valley Tourist Association’s (OVTA) Awards Committee co-chairpersons, Meghan James and Chris Hinsperger, said they were very pleased with the recent nominations received, especially in the Special Events category. Submissions were received for The Farm to Fork Dinner Series at the Whitewater Inn; Light up the Valley; The Eganville Curling Clubs’ Rock the Rings; The Ontario Festival of Small Halls ; The Bonnechere Caves On-line Underground Concert Series; The Opeongo Nordic Ski Clubs’ Ski Loppet; The Tour de Bonnechere — Ghost de Tour 2020; and The Bonnechere Caves Rock ‘n Roll Parking Lot Picnic.

“During a time when communities were challenged, it is nice to see that people still made an effort to get together and celebrate, albeit under certain conditions. It just shows the creativity and resiliency of our tourism Community here in the valley” said Meghan James, director of sales at the Pembroke Best Western.

There are three Award categories: The Marilyn Alexander Tourism Champion Award, The Business of Distinction and The Special Event of the Year.

Hinsperger, is excited about this year’s awards.

“During this pandemic the hospitality and tourism industry was the first to be hit, was the hardest hit and will be the last of our industries to fully recover. As Valley entrepreneurs we owe it to ourselves, to our businesses and to our communities to be an active part of that recovery. Our livelihood and economic recovery depends on our efforts. And we will get back to welcoming people from all over the world to share a little bit of the place we are privileged to call home. This awards process leaves myself and others fully optimistic about our positive outcomes.”

Award winners will be announced at the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association’s virtual annual general meeting on Monday, May 31.

The OVTA is the destination marketing organization for the Upper Ottawa Valley and proudly represents more than 200 tourism businesses, comprised of attractions and outfitters, accommodation, food, beverage and retail establishments, artists and galleries, municipalities, as well as media and industry suppliers. The OVTA is supported by the County of Renfrew, Renfrew County municipalities and the City of Pembroke.

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Future of Ottawa: Farming with Jeremy Colbeck





Jeremy Colbeck: Well first, let’s talk about what we mean by farming. Although farms, and farming as an occupation, are in decline across Canada, they are still a major part of our rural landscape. That’s even more true for a strange city like Ottawa which includes a LOT of rural areas and whose urban boundary takes, what, three hours to cross? About 40 per cent of the rural land in Ottawa is farmland. Most of that farming is corn and soybean cash-crop, as well as some dairy and livestock farming. That’s mostly conventional farming (the kind that is profitable but not exactly where you take your kids on a Saturday).

There are also a lot of agri-tourism businesses in Ottawa, which give you that oh-so-good Saturday spot for family donkey-petting and apple-picking. And it’s totally understandable from a business perspective, but sometimes surprising to find out, that even though they grow some of the Christmas trees they sell, they might also be reselling some that come from much larger farms far away. The farmland around Ottawa is also inflated in price because of its proximity to the city, where it is in demand by would-be hobby farmers—folks who want to do some farming on their property in their spare time but make their money (to subsidize their small-scale farming habit) elsewhere. Unfortunately, many of these properties will have large mansions built on them, which will then make them completely unaffordable for the average farmer

There’s also a segment of small-to-medium-sized Ottawa farms that grow “premium” (artisanal, unique, extra-fresh, ecologically- or organically-grown etc…) products that they sell directly to local eaters via farmers’ markets or other direct marketing channels, including on-farm stores and farm stands. That’s where BeetBox fits in.

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