So farewell, then, Joschka Fischer, after seven dramatic years on the world stage as German foreign minister.

In a baton-passing ceremony at the foreign ministry’s sumptuous chandeliered “world hall”, a long way from his street revolutionary past, Fischer handed control of foreign policy -–and the 6,500 staff that carry it out – to Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Fischer, 57, a Green party leader who has no place in the new right-left coalition of Germany’s two biggest parties, said he had “enjoyed every moment” of his time.

Not that he mentioned every moment, skipping over the visa inquiry this year that found he had made mistakes in relaxing the rules.

The former street-fighter did admit, however, that over the years he had conflicts with a good number of his staff because of his forthright style. He apologised and noted that “only some” of the conflicts had been premeditated. The job had been “incredibly demanding” he said, but “I’m still sad to go”.

And what are Fischer’s plans? He remains a member of parliament, and there are whispers that he wouldn’t mind being called on by Kofi Annan, United Nations secretary-general, to be a special envoy to somewhere.

Until then, it is time to put his feet up in his apartment in Berlin’s trendy eastern quarter with his new 29-year-old wife (his fifth, if anyone is counting).

Gas leak

José Manuel Barroso, the beleaguered president of the European Commission, is even getting a hard time from his political allies these days. The latest stick to hit him with is Gas Natural’s €22.5bn hostile bid for Endesa, building a Spanish energy champion.

Spanish Popular party politicians – big fans of the former Portuguese PM when they were in power in Madrid – have turned on Barroso for allowing the controversial takeover to slip away from the grasp of the Commission’s competition authority.

Those with fevered imaginations accuse Barroso of striking a deal with José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Spain’s Socialist prime minister. In exchange for non-interference from Brussels, Zapatero is alleged to have dropped Spanish demands for big handouts in the next EU budget round.

This after the PM sent his personal jet to Brussels to pick up Barroso for a quiet tête-à-tête on a Sunday afternoon in Madrid.

The pair have denied this. Zapatero dismissed the idea in colourful Spanish. Barroso was more diplomatic but asked his Spanish colleagues to stop “exporting their domestic squabbles to European institutions”. Observer thought that was what they were there for.


Like all start-up businesses Eos, the new all business-class airline launched last month on the lucrative route between London and New York, has to try just that bit harder to please its early customers.

Some must have thought Christmas had come early, however, when on top of the promotional return fare of £2,500 (down from the planned £3,500 full fare), they found that Eos was actually only taking £250 to fly them to the Big Apple in luxury superior to anything British Airways has to offer.

David Spurlock, Eos’s Californian founder and a former BA director of strategy, has brought them down to earth with a bump, however.

He has just written to some of his high-flying travellers to inform them that a decimal point was misplaced while billing. “As a result we only billed 10 per cent of the total amount of your ticket.”

Eos will submit the correct amount on the next credit card bill but is offering a £500 discount off the next Eos flight taken to soften the blow.

“As if starting a new airline wasn’t hard enough, Eos has been billing only 10 per cent of the fares,” said one uneasy debut Eos traveller on Wednesday. “But I’m sure they’re very professional at flying the planes . . . Right?”

Stormin’ Jorma

Jorma Ollila, who will next summer swap his position as chief executive of Finnish phone maker Nokia for a chairmanship at Shell, appears to have a plan B, should things not pan out at the oil major.

Finland’s best-known business leader expanded into a new area this week, as TV anchorman. Ollila, who is also chairman of a Finnish business forum, hosted a televised debate of the candidates for the presidency.

Already Finland’s most recognisable leader internationally, Ollila could always go for the top political job after a spell in the Hague. According to the memoirs of Sauli Niinisto, the presidential candidate of the Conservatives, the party offered the Nokia boss the chance to run for president in the 2000 elections.

Although he turned the offer down, something tells Observer there may yet be others.

Coke dynasty

Coca-Cola is turning back the clock in an attempt to rediscover its glory years. Javier Goizueta, son of Coke’s legendary chief executive Roberto Goizueta, has been appointed head of a team developing “new business models” for the soft-drinks giant.

Javier joined Coke in 2001 from Procter & Gamble, four years after his father’s death had plunged the company into an era of management upheaval and sluggish growth.

His promotion gives him a more prominent role in the company’s efforts to revive its fortunes. Shareholders must hope that Javier has a better feel for “new business models” than his father, whose success was based on keeping the core business strong.

The boldest innovation of the Goizueta era – replacing the traditional cola recipe with a sweeter formula called New Coke in 1985 – ended in embarrassing failure, when public outcry forced the return of the original.

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