1 Eurozone struggles for a response to Greece (Ian Traynor in The Guardian) Germany and France have scrambled to avoid a major split over Greece as the eurozone delivered a damning verdict on Alexis Tsipras’s landslide referendum victory and Angela Merkel demanded that the Greek prime minister put down new proposals to break the deadlock.
As concerns mount that Greek banks will run out of cash, and about the damage being inflicted on the country’s economy, hopes for a breakthrough faded. EU leaders voiced despair and descended into recrimination over how to respond to Sunday’s overwhelming rejection of eurozone austerity terms as the price for keeping Greece in the currency.
Tsipras, meanwhile, moved to insure himself against purported eurozone plots to topple him and force regime change by engineering a national consensus of the country’s five mainstream parties behind his negotiating strategy, focused on securing debt relief. Tsipras also sacrificed his controversial finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, in what was seen as a conciliatory signal towards Greece’s creditors.
In Paris, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President François Hollande tried to plot a common strategy after Greeks returned a resounding no to five years of eurozone-scripted austerity. The two leaders were trying to find a joint approach to the growing crisis. But Merkel said there was no current basis for negotiating with the Greek side and called on Tsipras to make the next move.
As eurozone leaders prepared for today’s emergency summit in Brussels, the heads of government were at odds. France, Italy and Spain are impatient for a deal while Germany, the European Commission and northern Europe seem content to let Greece stew and allow the euphoria following Sunday’s vote to give way to the sobering realities of bank closures, cash shortages and isolation.
2 UK June car sales at record high (BBC) UK new car sales in the year to June rose at the fastest rate on record, a motor industry survey has found. The Society of Motoring Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said there was a 7% rise in new car sales in the first six months of the year, taking the total to more than 1.3 million.
In June alone, there was a 12.9% surge in car sales compared with a year ago, amounting to 257,817 sales. About 15% of buyers chose a UK-manufactured vehicle, the SMMT said. That was the highest level in five years, it added. However, it said it expected slower growth in the next six months.
Low interest rates, attractive finance deals and the launch of new models continued to encourage consumers to buy new cars. SMMT also reported a strong surge in demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles in June. The Ford Fiesta remained the top-selling car last month, as it has all year, selling 12,543 units in June and 71,990 in the year to date.
3 Uber as the way forward (Johannesburg Times) Protests and legal action against Uber have increased exponentially as the online ride-sharing service – created in 2010 by two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs frustrated by existing taxi services – has expanded around the world. Uber is banned in several countries and faces lawsuits, even prosecution, in others.
In France last week existing taxi operators rioted in several cities in an effort to force the government to crack down on it. Following the riots, and the arrests of two Uber executives, the company has suspended its UberPOP ride-hailing service in France.
Similar protests took place in London in April, and in just about every city where the app-based service operates it faces threats or legal trouble. Protests by established taxi operators have also occurred in Cape Town, South Africa where Uber drivers are struggling to secure provincial vehicle operating permits timeously and have had their vehicles impounded.
In Johannesburg, protests against Uber turned violent as metered-taxi drivers harassed their Uber counterparts . Some passengers were even pulled out of Uber cars and manhandled. And yet, the reason Uber has expanded, in just five years, to about 300 cities worldwide and has a valuation of about $50-billion is because millions of passengers find it cheap, quick, efficient and convenient.
The world is changing and metered-taxi operators need to change too. Provided that the company is acting lawfully and that its operators have the requisite permits, it is incumbent on the police and local authorities to protect Uber’s drivers and its passengers.