Some institutions are so intransigent, so inflexible and so bloody-minded that their inability to change, even when faced with immense pressure, elicits a grudging respect.
So it is with the European Union. As things stand, the EU is facing enormous challenges: the UK is leaving and will, over time, deprive the project of vital funds. In eastern Europe, governments are in open rebellion against the authority of Brussels and in the south, the spectre of youth unemployment scars a generation. In the words of Italy’s President Mattarella, speaking yesterday, “the European project has lost its ability to meet the expectations of large portions of the population... many citizens have ceased to believe Europe can really solve their problems.” He should know, faced as he is with the prospect of presiding over the EU’s first populist, anti-EU government.
What is the EU’s response to this rumble of discontent? Well, along with the usual calls for “more Europe” and further integration from the project’s primary cheerleaders, the European Commission marked Europe Day (which, if you missed it, was earlier this week) by unveiling a consultation on the future of Europe.
If you think this could be a much-needed exercise in asking themselves tough questions about the limits of their ambition, think again. The survey asks citizens such penetrating questions as “which of the following would best describe the ideal future for the EU?” and offers a choice including “a real government for the entire EU” and “a reduction in food waste”. We’re also asked whether “increased welfare benefits” or “jobs for everyone” should be deemed a priority.
The consultation reveals an arrogance that would be breathtaking were it not so predictable. Meanwhile, it’s left to the Italian President to raise the alarm about the challenges and vulnerabilities facing the EU.
Tesla's earnings call spat
How we laughed when Tesla’s colourful chief Elon Musk dismissed an analyst’s “boring, boneheaded” question on last week’s earnings call. RBC analyst Joseph Spak had the temerity to question Tesla’s strategy, especially the company’s impressive (or alarming) rate of cash burn. Musk’s response didn’t exactly reassure the market: “These questions are so dry – they’re killing me.” Tesla’s stock tumbled in the aftermath of the call. Musk issued a ‘sorry-not-sorry’ statement on Twitter, but the analyst hasn’t given up on getting an answer. Spak has published an open letter to Musk, insisting that while he still sees Tesla as “a compelling long-term opportunity” he will “continue to hold Tesla... accountable for implementing a strategic vision that aligns with an ability to execute at scale.” In other words, “I still want to know if you can do what say you can do.” Spak also proposed a live interview, but as yet Musk hasn’t accepted.
Where will John Cleese go?
Good news from Westminster this week as MPs rejected the latest move to tighten press regulation. Labour MPs had been pushing for new rules that would have seen publishers exposed to punitive legal costs if they refused to sign up to a state-backed regulator. Ahead of the vote, former funny man John Cleese vowed to leave Britain if the proposals were defeated. It’s not clear whether MPs took this into consideration ahead of voting down the motion, but the only question now is: where are you moving to, John?
One of the best PRs is on the market
As someone on the receiving end of a lot of attention from financial PRs, I know that the sector is a mixed bag. Efforts to spin on behalf of clients range from obfuscation to outright lying. But the sector has its good’uns, one of whom is now apparently on the market. Quite why veteran player Steffan Williams left Porta Communications is unclear, but I’m sure there are plenty of firms who would snap him up. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if he launched his own outfit.