Lessons in the "Europe" Category

Mobile phone banking revolution in Central Europe

In the Central European country of Slovakia, a mobile phone banking revolution is taking place. Thousands of people are now regularly making payments using their mobile phone. It’s all down to new technology that several Slovakian banks have introduced.

The system being used in Slovakia is called Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. This offers users a user-friendly solution to the mobile payment hang-up, but it requires coordination between banks and mobile operators, as well as infrastructure in shops. Slovakia is considered the European leader in adopting innovative solutions.

Category: Economic / Banks / Business

Ukraine - What next?

Today, let’s talk about the Ukrainian crisis. To briefly recap events: In November 2013, President of Ukraine Victor Yanukovych rejected an EU pending association agreement, choosing instead to pursue a Russian loan bailout and have closer ties with Russia. This led to many protests in Kiev in Independence Square. These protests became known as ‘Euromaidan’ by the young pro-European Union Ukrainians.

Category: Ukraine / History / Eastern Europe

Edward Snowden on German TV

Recently the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden was interviewed by German TV channel ARD. In it he said the NSA is involved in industrial espionage. He added that the NSA takes intelligence regardless of its value to national security.

Snowden cited German engineering firm Siemens as one target. Snowden also revealed he no longer had possession of any documents or information on NSA activities. He has though turned everything over to select journalists.

Category: Technology / Edward Snowden / NSA

Red double-decker buses to be considered in Bratislava!

SMS message – ‘I’ve just been for a free ride on a brand new red double-decker bus in Bratislava’. It’s true I did! The red bus was, to say the least, an unusual sight as it travelled around the historic old town of Bratislava in Slovakia.

Why is it in the city? The new Slovak built and designed red double-decker bus is on loan to the city to see if its citizens would like to have them in the future. Why not?

Category: Transport / Double-decker Buses / Bratislava

Czech alcohol poisoning scandal

Central Europe has been rocked recently by an alcohol poisoning scandal. The government of the Czech Republic was forced to ban the sale of hard liquor with more than 20% alcohol following the death of 17 people who drank bootleg spirits containing poisonous methanol. Hard spirits across the Czech Republic were cleared from shelves. Exports of hard liquor were also halted. Sales of Czech spirits were also banned in nearby Slovakia after some of its citizens were affected by the poisoning.

Category: Czech Republic / Alcohol poisoning / Economic

Duchess of Cambridge topless photos published in French magazine: Palace to sue

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge recently were saddened by the “grotesque and unjustifiable invasion of privacy” by a French magazine which published topless photos of Kate. The French magazine ‘Closer’ printed the pictures of the Duchess, taken during their private holiday in France.

The Royals immediately decided to take legal action over the case. The editor of ‘Closer’ hit back saying the couple were “visible from the street” and the images are “not in the least bit shocking”. Prince William has always been absolutely determined to protect the privacy of his wife.

Category: Royal Family / Duchess of Cambridge / Photos

Should France preserve Hitler’s Atlantic Wall?

Sections of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall in France are being restored by enthusiasts. But should it be preserved? Should the Nazi fortification be fully embraced as part of the country’s image?

The so-called Atlantic Wall – Hitler’s defensive system against an expected Allied attack – stretched all the way from the Spanish border to Scandinavia. It was in France where the most extensive building took place. In fact 1,287km (800 miles) of French coast have substantial and evocative vestiges of war-time Europe. However, in France up till now there has been no effort to preserve this extraordinary historical landmark.

The French, have it seems, been quite happy to see the German defences rust away and crumble over time. But now it appears a new mood has emerged. Recently, several local associations dedicated to safeguarding portions of the Wall have been set up in France. Times have moved on, memories of the war have lapsed, and a new generation no longer feels pain or guilt, but curiosity.

Category: History / France / Hitler’s Atlantic Wall

Sarkozy suggests Roma ‘should be sent to Luxembourg’

French President Nicholas Sarkozy sparked a bitter European Union row by suggesting that the European Commissioner who compared his Roma policy to Nazi deportations should offer to host expelled gypsies in her native country of Luxembourg. The French President’s policy’ on expelling the Roma from their illegal encampments in France has created tension in the EU. It has ruffled feathers between heads of State, EU governments, the EU Commissioner and his deputy, who made the accusation against the French Presidents policy with that of the Nazi deportations.

Viviane Reding, a Luxembourger and the EU’s Justice Commissioner had on Tuesday (14th September) threatened legal action and described Mr Sarkozy’s treatment of Roma as a disgrace that reminded her of Second World War ‘round ups’ of gypsies and Jews. Brno Sido, a French senator said his country’s leader would personally raise the “scandalous criticism at the EU summit on Thursday”. He added that he was only applying European Regulations, French laws, and France was irreproachable in the matter but that if the Luxembourgers want to take them he had no problem.”

Category: Europe / European Union / Roma

I spy with my little eye…

If you like cold war thrillers that involve cloak and dagger type operations then the chances are you’ll think of the Orson Wells classic The Third Man. We can add Ian Fleming’s most famous spy James Bond, 007. In real life the Austrian capital recently saw one of the biggest spy swap operations in recent years take place at its international airport between Russia and the USA. But why Vienna?

Well, according to the BBC it has a long history as a stomping ground for secret services all over the world as the centre of spy swap operations. Vienna is the capital of a neutral country in the heart of Europe.

In fact, Austria has been a spy hub for more than a century. Indeed, even 20 years after the end of the Cold War agents and informants still feel at ease in this romantic city. With the disintegration of the Austro Hungarian Empire and the political turmoil that followed this led to more and more secret services setting up shop in Vienna.

Category: Austria / Vienna / US-Russian Spy Rings

Eurovea Galleria opens in Bratislava

A brand new state-of-the-art multi-functional shopping mall opened in Bratislava recently. The new Eurovea Galleria opened its doors to the public for the first time during the last weekend in March. Located in a prime location on the Danube riverfront Eurovea has already become a major draw.

In fact, many would say it is the new centre of entertainment, leisure and high street shopping in the Slovak capital. With more than 150 shops the three-level complex, which has a glass domed roof, is cleverly designed. Over the opening weekend shoppers were treated to many introductory offers.

Shops include many top brand names for one to nose around. These include British stores like Next, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer. The latter having real British food, which in central Europe is a godsend for any expat’s living there! Other famous brand names include Tommy Hilfiger, Peek & Cloppenburg, New Yorker, Penny Black and H&M.