center of bratislava unidentified

if anyone recognises where this is in Bratislava let me know

soft toy travellers - a service now available in Prague is also coming to Bratislava

In prague they have the strangest ideas :) The text is from their website

Travel Agency for Teddy bears and cuddly toys.
Is your stuffed toy exceptional to you? Give him an extraordinary present - a trip to Prague - the beautiful heart of Europe. Except amazing experiences, he will bring back home many great photos and other presents.

Do you collect stuffed toys, dolls or other fun “non-living” friends and you believe they also deserve rest and vacation or an outstanding experience in an interesting country? Then this service is meant for you and for your favourite toy. Let your loyal friends enjoy an unusual experience.
We want to pamper your favourite toy.
Our care
We believe your stuffed toy or any other favourite is a precious companion in your life. We appreciate your trust and the trust of your friend, therefore, our goal is to provide care of the highest quality. We are going to take a good care of your “tourist” paying attention to its needs – from the moment of arrival in the Czech Republic to the moment of its return into your arms.
Toy traveling main picture

Constant Contact, how internal communication ruins companies

Let me make some things clear! In all companies there are some people that want to "touch base" (holding meetings) regularly. This is annoying and does not aid real work, they are only great for people that don't really have enough to do (after they delegated their entire job to others..) to bother and interrupt people that have an actual job in the organisation. Maybe its because they are lonely, maybe its because they want to have a feeling of participation when in reality they are a cost center out of control, maybe its because really they are a party person lost in a company and they want to turn the company into a party zone so they feel more at ease with it.

Whatever the reason the sure fire signs of such staff is immaculate grooming and sharp suits suggesting that they don't really work from home and are not short of time..

Pointless meetings and corporate jamborees are organised by HR & Marketing departments desperate to prove that they have some relevance to the organisation and therefore should not be made redundant.

Management can have alot of meetings with other management personnel or perhaps can get out of the office and secure some sales or deals. Having regular "touch bases" particularly enforcing these to people like engineers is incredibly wasteful and alot of face time is a sure fire way to misuse human resources particularly at a time when people are assessed on how much they get done by a certain deadline rather than have normal working hours. For some people in middle management to interrupt people from real work in order to have meetings is a crime that goes unreported.

My pet theory is the abolition of HR and big chunks of marketing altogether would lead to a permanent increase in productivity and GDP growth worldwide..

HR and management should focus on setting realistic strategic targets and then get out of the way.

People using words such as "engagement", activities, initiatives that others have to implement without being credited are corporate parasites, Look in HR, Marketing, and management itself as the main culprits. Public hanging of people wasting others' time with their initiatives that in reality are self-interested bandwagons will help keep your organisation efficient and focused.

about meetings read all about them on

The case against sudden austerity

A currency union with Germany was supposed to work like this. The peripheral euro countries would earn enough and produce enough useful goods that Germany would buy competitively as to create no significant trade deficit. 
In short Germany needs to accept a decline in its trade surplus with the PIGS, and the PIGS need to adopt german style fiscal management and a big reduction in their public sectors.
The reasons are explained below:
Current account deficitsLots of sturm und drang lately in the eurozone. Germany has decried the profligacy of its southern peers, especially Greece. Athens, meanwhile, feels resentful about what it perceives as Berlin’s bullying. Amid a rash of strikes in Greece, Spain and Portugal, emotions are running high. Yes, Greece and the other big-spending Club Med countries must tighten their belts. They also need to increase their competitiveness. But to insist, as Berlin has done, that austerity is the only way out for these countries is both unrealistic and untrue. Germany must play a role too.
Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, for example, run large current account deficits. Last year, these deficits summed to about €102bn, about half of which was due to trade within the eurozone. Germany, meanwhile, has a large current account surplus – last year it reached about €80bn – about half of which is also due to trade with its eurozone partners. For the past ten years, this relationship worked to everyone’s favour. Germany enjoyed export-led growth. Club Med countries provided much of the demand for those exports. But this symmetry is as true of the bust today as it was of the boom then.
Imagine, for a moment, that the Club Med countries somehow manage to deflate their way to recovery and shrink their budget deficits to Maastricht-prescribed levels. To do that would entail a massive reduction in spending equivalent to €120bn, or about 6 per cent of German output. One consequence of this contraction would be a huge slump in demand, including for imports.

Germany would not be able to substitute with increased exports to other countries. The economy, which is already stalled and only currently propped up by exports, would go into reverse. Berlin would then face some tough choices. One of them, as Lombard Street economist Brian Reading suggests, would be to sustain a substantial rise in its budget deficit to compensate for lost demand elsewhere. If only out of self interest, German opposition to a Greek bail-out plan is therefore likely to soften.

Guido Westerwelle in Bratislava - The German FM reaffirms the good climate in German/Slovak relations

Guido Westerwelle in Bratislava 

On the first visit to Slovakia since taking office arrived on Wednesday the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at the invitation of its Slovak counterparts M. Lajcak.

"The physical presence of the Minister G. Westerwelle in Bratislava and his meetings with the President and Prime Minister gives new dimension to our relationship," said Mr Lajcak after joint negotiations.  

Germany sees Slovakia as a reliable  strategic partner in political and economic areas.

"There are no geographical boundaries between us and Germany, they are our neighboring country, we welcome the active engagement in the Central Europe , and we expect that it will continue," said Minister M. Lajčák.

He and his German partner expressed satisfaction with the high quality of the mutual relations and strong trade contacts. Germany is one of the biggest investors in Slovakia as well as trading partner. „The satisfaction of the German investors in Slovakia is important for our government since more than 400 German companies employ around 70 000 of our citizens,“ Mr. Lajčák added.

In similar new today Volkswagen just announced an expansion of its huge site near Bratislava. The German automaker continues to work on its project focused on the production of new vehicles New Small Family (called UP!). Pursuant to its investment plan, the company will spend about €107m in order to increase its daily capacity by 600 cars to 1,800 per day.

The German Minister Mr. Westerwelle recalled the attitude of the current German government to place emphasis on good relations not only with the bigger members of the EU but also with the smaller ones. „All of us are inhabitants of the same European house that’s why it is important to treat each other with respect and on the same level,“ Mr. Westerwelle said.

He also appreciated the success story of Slovakia, which had managed to build its statehood and to transform political and economical system in a relatively short period of time. Both ministers have discussed the EU enlargement in Western Balkans too. At the end of their talks they signed joint declaration about an amendment to the treaty on cultural cooperation, which should strengthen the legal status of the German School in Bratislava.

No comment - Investment Banking bonuses

fraudsters in the eurozone = Greece | Απατεώνες στη ζώνη του ευρώ

 The german focus magazine is right to convey the outrage at the incredibly unprofessional manner greek finances have been managed for 30-40 years

It is time to have a complete policy overhaul in Greece and copy Scandinavian countries in their organisation and fairness.

In a way it is fair, because now countries like greece will not enjoy the fruits of the labour of responsibly managed economies like Germany (GDP debt ratio 67%) or Slovakia (GDP debt ratio 38% yes really!)

A good and hopeful article that caught my eye.

Narcissism and synomosiologia
By Alexis Papahelas
We are at a breaking point in our history. Our nature can lead us to two very different paths, a difficult but creative one, or another one that seems easy and is a long suicidal path to destruction.
It is obviously easier to amoliseis a narcissistic nationalist crown and appealing to the Greek conspiracy theories than to see in the problem and enforce tough solutions. It is certainly very reasonable and fair to the morally bankrupt political establishment to resort to such solutions.

We can't scare the Germans especially when they are the main likely saviour. We have already suffered enormous damage to our image internationally. Finally, no one now feels that greece is owed anything. We redeemed our brownie points for Pericles and the spread of democracy, the fight against nazism of 1940. We played all our cards. 

So there is the path that leads to introspection and an imaginary war with dark forces that envy and hunt us. The other way is to anger with what we hear and read about our country and ourselves to say 'Well, no man, we do not deserve this. We did muck it all up but we are a strong country with many advantages and a people that knows how to put things right in the end." That anger may transform into hard work and a new vision. It requires, however, a look in the mirror and an admission of our mistakes. 

We have touched rock-bottom. The choice is ours now, whether we resort to third-world thinking in the role of the victim or whether we seize our destiny in our hands to stop being the laughingstock internationally.

Swedish Ambassador on Slovakia

"The rapid transformation of Slovakia to a modern European society, within a remarkably short time, still makes a strong impression on me. The generally supported commitment to fundamental changes and the resilience of the Slovak people facilitated this challenging turnaround. Thrown into the mechanisms of fierce world market competition, at the same time accommodating a complete make-over of the society, Slovakia stood the test. Its full integration into EU structures, including last year’s adoption of the euro, displays that success.
On a somewhat lighter note, I think that features shared by countless Swedes and Slovaks, like the passion for outdoor life and ice hockey, tourism and popular music, will remain the most valuable inspiration for our continuous people-to-people contacts, arousing mutual curiosity and interest also in a broader sense."
Mikael Westerlind - Swedish Ambassador to Slovakia

IBM to transfer scores of jobs from its UK headquarters in Portsmouth to Slovakia

IBM Bratislava

IBM move work from Portsmouth HQ to Bratislava (IBM's Bratislava shiny and new building is shown in the picture, in central Bratislava)

IBM management seems to enthusiastically pursue a nearsourcing agenda it has in common with other large employers in the western world. Instead of focusing on innovation and improving service and quality or products and services or their marketing, to focus instead on identifying locations in europe that deliver no perceptible loss in quality but lower salaries than in overpriced UK locations.

The leaked email is black-and-white proof of an exodus of work from the firm's headquarters to cheaper sites in the EU, and has sparked fears of an informal drive to shed Portsmouth jobs.

The email reads: 'Starting now, until the beginning of quarter three (around July), we will be entering a period of transition where we will be transferring roles from the UK accounting centre in North Harbour to the Accounting Centre of Excellence in Bratislava.'

The letter is from Donna Wheeler, chief accountant of the team which deals with UK, Irish and Scandinavian accounts.

Note that these are white-collar jobs that were supposed to be the future for highly educated and renumaterated brits that would bestride the world closing deals and moving up the value chain to erm.. accountancy, law and other UK "strengths".

Ms Wheeler refused to comment when contacted by The (Portsmouth) News, and IBM's communications department refused to answer questions about the future of jobs on site.

One employee, speaking anonymously said: 'It's suggesting that the UK accounting centre is being moved to Bratislava wholesale, but in manageable chunks at a time and this was the first chunk.

'This isn't just the accounting department. If someone is paid a £50k package, and it can be done for £30 to 20k in Bratislava they'll move it.'

Sarah McCarthy-Fry, MP for Portsmouth North, said:'I always hesitate to get involved in commercial decisions. Without knowing the details of what protection they've got for existing staff, it's very difficult to comment.

The original article appeared in the Portsmouth news,

Vienna local tram company seeks to revive Bratislava tram service

old tram line
old tram line

Wiener Lokalbahnen seeks to revive Bratislava tram service

A subsidiary of Wiener Linien, Vienna's public transport provider, is proposing to revive the legendary tram service to Bratislava by 2013.

Detailed plans but no finalised concept yet
Wiener Lokalbahnen, which already runs a service from Vienna to Baden known as the "Badner Bahn", is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wiener Linien. Chairman of the board Harald Brock confirms that basic consideration has been given to the idea of resurrecting the tram service to Bratislava and that there is sufficient interest in the service. The old tram line is currently used by the S7 suburban railway from Vienna to Wolfsthal and ends there. The 7km section from Wolfsthal to Petržalka was removed after the war and would have to be relaid.

Costs put at 70 million euros
The costs are put at 70 million euros and financing has not yet been finalised. Brock hopes for contributions by the provinces of Vienna and Lower Austria and by Slovakian companies. He points out that a tram project would have the advantage that the bridge in Petržalka would not have to be modified, as it is already suitable for trams if not for the heavier Austrian Railway (ÖBB) trains.

Tram and train rails no problem
At present the line section to Wolfsthal can only be frequented by heay railway trains. Thus the revitalised trams would travel from Vienna to Bratislava on different types of track. According to Wiener Lokalbahnen it does not present any technical problems. The idea is to use light-rail trams similar to those on the route from Vienna to Baden in Lower Austria, which also travel partly on tram lines and partly on the railways.

Project will supplement ÖBB local service
The project will supplement rather than compete with the ÖBB local service because it would stop at smaller villages between the two capitals. ÖBB itself is currently developing high-speed sections to Slovakia. The Bratislava trams would travel at least every 15 minutes, says Brock, and the journey would take a little over an hour. There are several possible departure points in Vienna including the Badner Bahn terminus on Karlsplatz or possibly Simmering.

Badner Bahn
Badner Bahn

Positive response to date - Schicker: all routes to Bratislava are required
Reactions to date have been positive but reserved. Michael Zentner, spokesman for Wiener Linien, said that the decision was still under consideration but that financial support would be required at all events. Rudi Schicker, Vienna executive councillor for urban development, traffic and transport, is optimistic. He says that the plan has been on the table for some time and that there is a large demand for routes to Bratislava from the Vienna area. ÖBB describes the plan as "stimulating": the ÖBB plans for developing high-speed sections and a Bratislava tram route serving smaller villages would be complementary.

Growing demand
Wiener Lokalbahnen mentions the growing demand on the Vienna-Bratislava route as demonstrated by the Twin City Liner, which has been operating to high capacity for two years on the Danube. A second high-speed vessel is currently being built in the shipyard in Christansand, Norway, and will join its sister vessel in 2008. This growing demand also points to a possible business niche for a new tram service. It would complement rather than compete with the Twin City Liner and ÖBB.

old building
picture postcard

Bus: 1.50 euros from Hainburg to Bratislava
In the meantime there are plans to improve the bus link between Wolfsthal and Bratislava. The Austrian Post Office currently has a concession for services to Slovakia, and Euroline buses provide an hourly link between Vienna and Bratislava. "The problem is that they only stop in Wolfsthal if there are free seats," says Wolfsthal mayor Gerhard Schödinger. Passengers who don't book a seat in advance are frequently left behind. And even with a seat reservation the Euroline buses often fail to stop in Wolfsthal. The Bratislava public transport service is seeking to remedy the problem: it is applying for a licence and proposes to operate a service between Bratislava city centre and Hainburg for 1.50 euros. A solution could well be in the offing, and Postbus AG has also expressed an interest in a cooperation with Slovakian partners.

And finally...

 Hannibal vs the Queen by Karel Polt.
An advert of films. The designer has found a clever way to advertise two films on the same poster. Brilliant and funny!
Short break in the Central Europe.
Bratislava, Slovakia

What does the United Kingdom do and why it is the Greece that will really fail

Greece is teetering on the brink but it is very likely to be rescued by a reluctant neighbour (Germany).

The rescue may come by EIB loan, outright purchases of (cynically: "investments in") Greek bonds by larger Eurozone members, or some other mechanism involving front loading of EU structural funds.

The next domino in the banking world (the Lehman Brothers of sovereigns) is the UK rather than one of the PIIGS.  Who is coming tot he UK's rescue? (its not in the eurozone and its debts are totally unsustainable)  Pimco, Soros, Rogers and others are on record with colourful language about the UK gilt market though one must naturally dilute their rhetoric by their book positioning.

Apart from a now failed banking sector it does seem tough to establish what the UK actually does, makes, owns or controls that will provide the earnings to save it from a debt crisis.  
It is not self-sufficient in food or energy, and although manufacturing accounts for 80+% of exports, it also accounts for just than 24% of output compared to 30% in Germany. The FTSE 100 index is littered with multinationals in the resources sector, but a shrinking fraction of the resource is territorial.

Simplistically, what does the UK actually do from the viewpoint of a foreign debt investor with an itchy sell finger?  Is it bereft of value or does British modesty cause it to hide its light under a bushel?

  • I have come to the conclusion that the British economy is fuelled entirely by the housing sector; what one man buys he sells to another for a profit, and the government collects the stamp tax.
  • The whole world economy is built around bubbly speculation by the wealthy, with a mass of impoverished poor people doing the real work. But will this edifice ever collapse? 
  • The City of london co-ordinates the world economy. Whether you're a Texas gas firm building a power plant in India or Somali pirate who snagged a Saudi tanker, you're probably dealing with an intermediary in the City. This is why Heathrow is the most important airport in the world. The UK doesn't, make, it serves.
  • world's second biggest producer of video games,
  • second largest exporter of pharmaceuticals and weapons and television programmes, make the artificial joints for hip replacement, tons of other odd niche stuff especially medical.
  • The UK is a giant hedge fund - still borrowing from one group of foreigners and lending or investing the money elsewhere - an industry that even last year generated a 100 billion dollar services surplus.
  • It's scary how specialised the UK economy is though and how many sectors just don't exist.
  • post-secondary education, research, TV, really bad food, itchy sweaters.