Trichet locked in eiro-ic struggle

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Trichet locked in eiro-ic struggle

After the breakdown of the stability pact underpinning the European single currency, its guardians are locked in another trial of strength they cannot afford to lose.

Jean-Claude Trichet, governor of the European Central Bank, at the weekend raised the flagrant abuse of the law by some new EU member states that do not use the approved spelling of euro in government documents.

In Hungarian, it is euró; in Slovene, evro; and in Latvian eiro. The Hungarian government has caved in and promised to drop the offending accent - although it must first get permission from the real power in the land, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Slovenia, meanwhile, will reconsider.

And the official guardian of the Latvian language, the Terminology Commission of the Latvian Academy of Arts and Sciences, has also agreed a change: not to euro but eira.

It is an early test for Jean-Claude Juncker, the Luxembourg prime minister made long-term president of the group of eurozone finance ministers at the weekend.

He may not want to be known as Mr Euro but surely he doesn't want to be Mr Eira?

Vote winner

Josep Borrell, the new president of the European parliament, this week chairs his first full session in Strasbourg and has apparently been preparing carefully for this baptism of fire.

Borrell, who was elected president in July even though he is a newcomer, has had a chance to view a video compilation of some of the assembly's greatest voting moments, no doubt to get a better sense of how to deal with rowdy MEPs or handle some of the more confusing parliamentary procedures, such as when to allow an MEP to interrupt with a point of order.

Whether the “best of” video will be available in the shops remains unclear.

But if it includes that classic moment last year when the voting system broke down and the assembly was forced to conduct a mock test election using the names of famous painters, Observer believes it could prove a hit.

Unclear Dangeard

How fast things move in the technology world.

Thomson, the French group that provides services for leading media groups, boasted recently in its literature that it was one of the first groups in France to separate the roles of chairman and chief executive, under legislation just four years old.

“This distinction, part of Thomson's innovative approach to corporate governance, contributes to transparency,” it puffed.

That was the published line in mid-June.

By the end of July, Thomson was announcing that its chairman, Frank Dangeard, would also take on the chief executive's responsibilities in a move that is likely to happen after the extraordinary meeting of shareholders tomorrow. Thomson executives have tried to put a brave face on the seeming shift away from the transparency and clear division of responsibility trumpeted in June.

Indeed, the explanation is familiar. It is innovative, Observer is told, as Thomson is the first company to rejoin the roles having split them.

Not that shareholders seem to care about such executive musical chairs: only one of 70 who met Dangeard on his recent travels asked about the change.

Monday protests

Before he took office in the summer, many Germans were asking whether Horst Köhler, their new president, would be brave enough to speak his mind about Germany's problems. This week they got an answer.

Köhler, whose role is largely ceremonial, told a news magazine that people across Germany will have to accept varied living standards, unless they want to burden the state will unacceptably high levels of subsidies.

He has sparked a full-blown slanging match. Economists have defended the president, while politicians in struggling eastern Germany - their eyes set on key regional elections this weekend - have complained that their constituents should not be left behind.

The president himself - who was probably just drawing on his experience as chief of the International Monetary Fund, whose members have drastically variable standards of living - has kept quiet since the storm blew up.

Perhaps he's preparing his next lesson in teaching Germans harsh economic realities. Reduced CzechIn the war on illegal parking, you are either with the US or against it. Washington has threatened to cut $81,000 (€66,000) in military aid to the Czech Republic to make up for Czech diplomats' unpaid parking tickets in New York and Washington.

The threat to a $10m annual budget comes despite Prague's staunch support of the war on terror, including helping to train Iraqi policemen.

While the Czechs protest that many of the fines were written off in a deal between the United Nations and New York, President George W. Bush is obviously in no mood to negotiate with fine dodgers. Observer demands to know euro-friendly Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry's position on the issue. Would he yield?

Each-way bet

How local can a multinational really be? Eléctricité de France is trying to find out. Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of EdF Energy, UK arm of the French company that owns London Electricity, is one of six big corporate names who have invited business leaders to an October 6 reception to boost London's bid for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Back home, EdF is one of 11 grandes entreprises promoting the rival charms of Paris. “The Olympic Games in France, that's the dream!” says François Roussely, EdF chief executive, on the Paris 2012 website. Where does EdF have the most juice?

observer@ft.com

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