EU chief says bloc is ‘bouncing back’ after crisis-hit decade

‘The wind is back in Europe’s sails,’ said CommissionPresident Jean-Claude Juncker. (Reuters)
Updated 14 September 2017
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EU chief says bloc is ‘bouncing back’ after crisis-hit decade

BRUSSELS: The EU is in a healthier economic state than it has been for more than a decade and is ready to move on from Brexit, the bloc’s top official said on Wednesday.
Addressing lawmakers at the European Parliament, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU is “bouncing back” after a tough decade that has seen much of the 28-country bloc mired in an economic crisis and Britain vote to leave.
“The wind is back in Europe’s sails,” he said in an upbeat hour-long annual “State of the European Union” address in Strasbourg, France.
Juncker, whose Commission proposes EU legislation and polices the bloc’s laws, said the EU is into its fifth year of economic recovery, with unemployment at a nine-year low.
“Let us make the most of the momentum, catch the wind in our sails,” he said. “Europe can deliver for its citizens where and when it matters.”
Since the global financial crisis first bared its teeth a decade ago, the EU project has been dealt a series of blows, most notably with Britain’s decision last year to leave. It has also had to contend with economic difficulties afflicting the countries — currently 19 — that use the euro as their currency. However, the euro zone crisis appears to have abated somewhat and Greece is set to end its bailout era next summer.
With Britain due to leave the EU in March 2019, Juncker vowed that the bloc would take on no new members in the short-term, and he dealt a blow to Turkey’s hopes of joining Europe’s rich club anytime soon.
“Turkey has been moving away from the European Union in leaps and bounds,” he said, criticizing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government for arresting journalists and branding EU leaders “fascists and Nazis.”
Ankara’s attitude, Juncker said, “rules out EU membership for Turkey in the foreseeable future.”
As the EU comes to terms with losing one of its biggest member states, Juncker called for the bloc’s leaders to meet in Romania the day after Britain leaves on March 29, 2019 to chart the way forward as 27 member states.
Juncker vowed that the EU “will move forward once Britain leaves,” saying that “Brexit is not everything. It’s not the future of Europe.”
To cheering British lawmakers celebrating the country’s departure, Juncker said: “I think you will regret it quite soon.”
With the EU under fire for policies perceived to be blocking migrants in dangerous and sordid detention centers in Libya, Juncker said, “Europe has got a collective responsibility” to help improve conditions there.
He told lawmakers that the EU must work closely with the UN’s refugee agency to ensure that this “scandalous situation” does not continue.


Uber taps into Japan with first taxi-hailing pilot

Updated 22 May 2018
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Uber taps into Japan with first taxi-hailing pilot

TOKYO: Uber announced Tuesday it would start its first taxi-hailing pilot program in Japan this summer, as it bids to break into a tough market in the world’s third largest economy.
The US firm has found it difficult to penetrate the Japanese market, where risk averse passengers prefer to stick to their high quality traditional taxi service.
Hailing a taxi rarely takes more than a few seconds in major Japanese cities and there has been a relatively sluggish uptake of services like Uber, where consumers order an unlicensed car via a smartphone app.
But Uber said in a statement Tuesday it would launch a pilot program this summer to hook up tourists and residents in the western Awaji island with available taxi drivers.
Uber said it aimed to provide local residents and tourists with “reliable and safe transportation” on the small island, which is home to just over 150,000 people.
“I’m very excited that Uber’s technology will contribute to further enhancing the transit environment of Awaji Island,” Brooks Entwistle, Uber’s Chief Business Officer, said in the statement, adding it will be “the first initiative of its kind in Japan.”
Uber is far from alone in targeting the Japanese taxi market, with Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing and Japanese telecom firm SoftBank announcing a deal in early February to develop a taxi app in Japan.
SoftBank has heavily invested in the taxi market and recently took a 15 percent stake in Uber.
And Sony has said it is planning a joint venture to offer artificial intelligence technology to six taxi operators, which currently own a total of 10,000 vehicles in Tokyo.
The technology would use AI to predict demand for taxis and allow companies to more efficiently mobilize their resources.
Carmaker Toyota has also announced an investment of ¥7.5 billion in the JapanTaxi app, which says it is the biggest taxi-hailing app in Japan.