Economy

Baltic winds of change as Europe steps up response to Putin’s fossil fuel ‘blackmail’ – The Irish Times

Image of the week: Baltic breeze

Irish people might complain about the weather being “Baltic” whenever it feels bitterly cold out, but on the shores of the actual Baltic Sea, a strong Baltic wind has never been more welcome. Here, appearing to take part in the region’s equivalent of game show Fifteen to One, stands EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen with the leaders of Lithuania, Finland (it’s not all nightclubs in Sanna Marin’s diary), Denmark, Estonia, Latvia and Poland. They’re at the Baltic Sea Energy Security Summit in Kongens Lyngby, outside Copenhagen, where the EU commission president declared Russia’s attempt “to blackmail us with fossil fuels” was failing because it was merely accelerating the transition to a green economy powered by home-grown clean fuels. Or, as her speech writer put it, “a wind of change is blowing across Europe”. Still, it could have blown a little sooner, perhaps.

In numbers: Undeclared pools

20,000

Hidden swimming pools discovered in France using analysis of aerial photographs by artificial intelligence software developed by Google and French consulting firm Capgemini.

€10 million

The pools, which had been undeclared for tax purposes, have now generated a windfall of this amount for French tax authorities.

€200

An average-sized French swimming pool of 30sq m is taxed at this much a year, according to Le Parisien. The bad news for owners of fabulous properties trying to skimp on tax is that the software is now expected to be used to find undeclared home extensions, patios and gazebos.

Getting to know: Peiter Zatko

Twitter whistleblower Peiter Zatko, an ex-head of security for the social media company, says he didn’t come forward to make various allegations about its security procedures to help Elon Musk in his legal battle against Twitter. His lawyer says Zatko’s revelations, reported by CNN and the Washington Post last week, have “nothing to do” with Musk’s countersuit against Twitter, which is suing Musk for trying to abandon his bid to buy the company. Nevertheless, Zatko, once a youthful, long-haired hacker who was hired by Twitter after a major hacking incident in 2020 but was fired this January for “poor performance and leadership”, will now be obliged to appear at a deposition in the case, with Musk seizing upon his account of security mismanagement at the company. This includes a claim that Twitter had no interest in finding out how many bots were on the platform – a subject Musk was publicly pondering even before his bid. As for Twitter, it has rejected the statement made by its former employee, better known to many as Mudge.

The list: Liz Truss’s economic policy

Once best known outside Britain for her thoughts on pork markets (much repeated on Have I Got News For You), Liz Truss is now set to become the next UK prime minister. So what has reaction been like to the economic policies she has outlined to sway Conservative party members to vote for her? Hint: not great.

1. Crash potential: Truss could “completely crash the public finances” if she presses ahead with “quite worrying” plans to cut VAT, says Institute for Fiscal Studies director Paul Johnson.

2. Heightened risk: Investors are starting to see UK assets as riskier than before because of Truss’s indications that she plans to cut taxes and raise spending, says former Bank of England deputy governor Charlie Bean.

3. Deep irresponsibility: Speaking of the Bank of England, Truss has been branded “deeply irresponsible” by Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves for threatening to review its mandate.

4. Alternative reality vibes: Truss’s economic plan is “ruinous nonsense with no reference to reality” was the headline on an excoriating assessment by Observer columnist Will Hutton.

5. Bold vision: Liz Truss has a “bold vision” for the UK and its economy, according to, er, Liz Truss.

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