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Timothy Garton Ash: ‘We Europeans became lazy and hubristic’ | Culture

If Tony Judt wrote, Postwar the outstanding handbook on European history after the Nazi era, it seems Timothy Garton Ash has picked up the baton. The London-born (1955) journalist and historian has published this year Homelands, a personal history of Europe (Taurus), a remarkable book that provides an understanding of the continent, especially the era that began after the fall of the Berlin Wall up to 2022. According to his play on words, if that was the postwar era, this has become the post-Wall period. In terms of what will come next, we have no crystal ball, but we do know one or two things.

Question. Your father fought in Normandy against the Germans and you tell the story of how you met the son of an enemy soldier, and how the next generation became allies. Do you think we Europeans always know how to put ourselves in the other’s shoes?

Answer. It should be what we Europeans are doing all the time, but I think we still have a way to go. What we have achieved is that we have millions of Europeans who feel, as I do, at home abroad. But if you look at the eurozone crisis, or even the war in Ukraine or the refugee crisis, that empathy does not go far enough.

Q. You define this era in your book, from 2008 to the war in Ukraine, as the ‘post-wall’ era.

A. This period begins with the fall of the Berlin Wall and ends with the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. And like a game of football, it is a game of two halves: we have the first half from 1989 to 2008, where we have unprecedented progress in the spread of freedom and democracy, with the extraordinary enlargement of the European Union to new free countries that did not previously exist on the map. And from 2008 on, we have the downward turn, the cascade of crises: with the eruption of the global financial crisis, Putin’s attack on Georgia, the eurozone crisis, the erosion of democracy in Hungary, the refugee crisis, Crimea, Brexit, Covid, Trump and so on until February 2022. And if you’re asking why? Half the answer is ‘hubris’. We simply became complacent, lazy, self-satisfied and hubristic. We believed that as things had gone well for us for years, that things would continue going that way. In other words, we confused history with a small ‘h’, history as it really happens, with History with a capital ‘H’ as a Hegelian process of inevitable progress towards freedom. But I don’t think we were so complacent or hubristic in the early 1990s.

Q. Is there any hope left?

A. In Madrid yesterday, on the gates of the Retiro Park I found a poster showing Stefan Zweig — and everyone refers to The World of Yesterday. When he was writing, Europe was at war, his own country was occupied, his people were being destroyed, everything was in ruins and he despaired and went on to commit suicide. The position from which I write is very different. Most of Europe is still relatively free, most of the EU still consists of democracies. And it’s now about mobilizing to defend the best Europe we’ve ever had rather than despairing about everything we have lost.

Q. To what extent does Putin threaten our way of life?

A. It’s not only because of the war in Ukraine. In a global opinion poll we have carried out at Oxford Research Projects we have found out that an alarming number of people outside Europe believe that the EU is likely to fall apart within the next twenty years. There is a strong correlation between those who believe the EU is going to fall apart (67% in China, for example) and those who believe that Russia is likely to win the war in Ukraine. In other words, the credibility of the EU as such is at stake in the war in Ukraine, much more than the fate of this country itself.

Q. Democracies are diminishing and so is Europe’s role in the world. Do you agree and why?

A. Europe still has extraordinary soft power. If you ask the question, other than in your own country, where would you like to live? People almost everywhere say in Europe or the U.S. Nobody wants to go and live in China or Russia. They like our way of life, our values. What we lack is hard power. So the challenge is to develop some hard power that matches our soft power. Now, in this new period because I think the post-wall period is over, we’re in a new period whose name we do not know, this is about how we meet the challenges from the outside: be it Russia, China, Turkey, Africa, climate change, migration, the prospect of Trump’s re-election. Much of Europe’s future no longer depends on what we’re doing inside our continent, which is the story of the last 50 years, but on what we’re doing in the rest of the world.

Q. What about leadership? You describe your meetings with leaders like Gorbachev, Kohl… Were they greater leaders or have we idealized them?

A. I don’t think you can read the history of Europe in the last fifty years and think that individuals don’t matter. Individuals really matter in history. The history of the Czech Republic would be very different today without Václav Havel. German unification would not have happened so peacefully and quickly without Mikhail Gorbachev, Helmut Kohl and George H. W. Bush. The lament that we no longer have leaders is often heard from former leaders, who tend to believe that things were rather better in their day. Mario Draghi has shown significant leadership. Kaja Kallas of Estonia has been an impressive leader for a very small country, right on the frontline with Russia. Ursula Von der Leyen has done a rather good job. So, I don’t think it’s all bad. What I would single out, a lack of strategic leadership from Europe’s central power, which is after all Germany. Emmanuel Macron has a strategic vision, but he doesn’t have the power to realize it. Germany has the power, but not the strategic vision.

Q. Are you referring to both Scholz and also Merkel?

A. I’m talking about the present, about Scholz. The paradox of Merkel is that, in a way, she is the personification of the best qualities of contemporary Germany: modest, responsible, reasonable, always seeking peaceful compromise, dialogue, always trying to be law-abiding … of so many good qualities. And yet there’s a series of big mistakes, such as the failure in the response to the eurozone crisis. If Merkel had said “whatever it takes” in 2010, rather than Draghi a couple of years later, whatever it took would have been much less; the same in 2014 before the annexation of Crimea. Merkel was responsible for the weakness of the European response, for allowing such a dependent German economy or for allowing Victor Orban to demolish democracy in Hungary, where Germany is in a uniquely powerful position. So, there are quite a lot of sins of omission in the 2010s and someone jokingly suggested that her memoirs should be titled: “My Apologies.”

Thimothy Garton Ash
Thimothy Garton Ash, during the interview.Samuel Sánchez

Q. Will we see Ukraine inside the European Union?

A. I do, it’s been a transformative moment for Ukraine’s place in history, it’s one of those once-in-a-century moments, where not only a country changes but the whole world’s perceptions of it. It will come into the EU in a very different way from other countries, step by step, incrementally, by sectors, it will not be a thing of that happens from one day to the next. It will be a new type of accession.

Q. Will there be a reversal of the Brexit? Will the UK return to Europe?

A. We’ve past peak Brexit, even the Rishi Sunak government is taking small steps to get closer to the EU. Actually, Cameron’s return is a sign of that, unthinkable a year or two ago. But it’s irrelevant. Unless something extraordinary happens, the next prime minister will be called Keir Starmer and he will then take more steps to get back closer to the EU. If the EU is doing well, the question will come back onto the agenda of British politics at the end of this decade or the beginning of the next. Maybe we will talk about returning to the customs union or the single market. It’s kind of up to you.

Q. Is there anything to be proud of in today’s England?

A. I’m a passionate English European, so I love my country and there’s still a lot to be proud of. It’s a beautiful country with an extraordinary culture and wonderful sense of humor. And British democracy has survived, it’s in a much better state than American democracy. The bad news is that as important as the negative economic consequences of Brexit has been the disastrous blow to Britain’s reputation, attractiveness with soft power and international influence. Now Britain is much less important even for the United States. And in continental Europe it has disappeared from the debate. There has been a disastrous loss of influence, which is very difficult to reverse. And the Conservatives compensate for this with the embarrassing rhetoric of Britain’s greatness. If you are great, you don’t need to say so. But democracy, as a whole, has survived. If you look at the challenges to democracy within the EU, also now in Spain, Britain is somewhere in the middle.

Q. Can Cameron save the Tories?

A. No, absolutely not. I’ll bet you a large bottle of good champagne that the Conservatives will lose the next election. It is a very weird choice that only proves Sunak’s desperation.

Q. Does the situation in Spain worry you?

A. How could it not be concerning, the fact that the situation is so polarized. For so many decades, Spain was one of the success stories, one of those European stories of democracy and freedom marching together. So obviously, it’s concerning. I very much hope that Spain comes out of it, not least because the Franco-German couple is not enough for the leadership that the EU needs. Draghi was the third of the leading trio. Maybe Donald Tusk can be that person, but he has huge problems at home, reversing his country’s populism. Spain is one of the two or three countries that, if they resolve their internal challenges, can play a great strategic role in European leadership.

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Assessing Property Size: What Square Footage Can You Get With The Average UK House Price In Your Area?

Assessing Property Size In The UK

In the United Kingdom, there is a prevailing tendency to gauge the size of residences based on the number of bedrooms rather than square footage. In fact, research indicates that three out of five individuals are unaware of the square footage of their property.

However, a comprehensive analysis conducted by Savills reveals significant variations in property sizes throughout the country. For instance, with the average property price standing at £340,837, this amount would typically afford a studio flat spanning 551 square feet in London, according to the prominent estate agency.

Conversely, in the North East region, the same sum would secure a spacious five-bedroom house measuring 1,955 square feet, nearly four times the size of a comparable property in London.

Best value: Heading to the North East of England is where buyers will get the most from their money

In Scotland, the median house price equates to a sizable investment capable of procuring a generous four-bedroom residence spanning 1,743 square feet. Conversely, in Wales, Yorkshire & The Humber, and the North West, this sum affords a slightly smaller four-bedroom dwelling of approximately 1,500 square feet, while in the East and West Midlands, it accommodates a 1,300 square foot home. In stark contrast, within the South West, £340,837 secures a modest 1,000 square foot property, and in the East, an even more confined 928 square feet.

London presents the most challenging market, where this budget offers the least purchasing power. Following closely, the South East allows for 825 square feet of space or a medium-sized two-bedroom dwelling. Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, emphasizes the profound disparity in purchasing potential across Britain, ranging from compact studio flats in London to spacious four or five-bedroom residences in parts of North East England.

While square footage serves as a critical metric, with a significant portion of Britons unfamiliar with their property’s dimensions, the number of bedrooms remains a traditional indicator of size. Personal preferences, such as a preference for larger kitchens, may influence property selection. For those prioritizing ample space, Easington, County Durham, offers a substantial 2,858 square foot, five-bedroom home, while Rhondda, Wales, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland, provide 2,625 and 2,551 square feet, respectively. Conversely, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, £340,837 secures a mere 547 square feet, equivalent to a one-bedroom flat.

The disparity continues in central London, where purchasing power diminishes considerably. In Kensington, the budget accommodates a mere 220 square feet, contrasting with the slightly more spacious 236 square feet in Westminster. Conversely, in Dagenham, the same investment translates to 770 square feet. Three properties currently listed on Rightmove exemplify the diversity within this price range across the UK market.

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

2. Lewisham: One-bed house, £345,000

This one-bedroom property in Lewisham, South London, is on the market for £345,000.

The semi-detached house is set over two floors, and has a private patio.

The property is located near to bus links and amenities, as well as Catford train station.

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

3. Edinburgh: Three-bed house, £350,000

This three-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh could be yours for £350,000.

The house, which has a two-car driveway, boasts a large kitchen diner, and is within easy reach of Newcriaghall train station.

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Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.

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