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Train-Wreck Europe

With the elections to the farce/nuisance known as the European parliament over, what we have all known for some time is now obvious, that the EU experiment is in trouble. Dont expect change any time soon. Politicians are usually a pig-headed bunch. They will press ahead doing unpopular things until the tide of votes eventually sweeps enough of them away. The effect that attitude will have is to make matters even worse, as more and more extremists start screaming for change, or break-up.

What that means for the rest of us is that the political side of the EU is going to be fraught with fights for the next four or five years. The economic side is therefore going to continue to be a mess since it is predicated on political decisions rather than economic ones.

Of great concern at the moment is the build-up of US troops in the Baltic states. This is making the Russians increasingly jumpy. As I have been saying for years, NATO is the most destabilising institution in Europe. It should have been dismantled when the USSR disintegrated. It now acts as a threat, and Russia is bound to respond to threat.

The country has been attacked too many times in the last 200 years for the people not to feel threatened by the Western powers, and they feel seriously threatened right now.

In this respect it is interesting to note that Putin's popularity in Russia is very high, whereas the popularity rating of just about every president and prime minister in Western Europe is sagging somewhat.

We have one other thread to the EU mess, and that is France. Those who can be bothered to cast the mind back a decade or so may remember that there was talk of an inner and an outer EU circle, and the inner circle was going to be driven by the French-German love-in. That has come apart at the seams, with France spiralling into recession, and navel-watching. And since the EU elections we now see the xenophobia stakes rising on all fronts.

On top of all this we have the continent still mired in stagnation, with the euro unrealistically high, and bank instability across the eurozone, which is preventing economic expansion. Most nations are still in recession, or hobbling along at parity. Even Germany's latest figures show stagnation.

What all this presents us with is a picture of a continent that is in a serious mess. This is not the time to be investing in continental Europe. I have been saying for nearly a decade that you should keep your money out of Europe. Invest in the UK, or further afield, but not in continental Europe.

There might be a couple of exceptions to that. Norway has been doing well of late, but that is generally not seen as a place to buy houses.

The other exception is Albania. I haven't written much about the country since I last visited, which was back in 2005.

I dont want to raise the question of oil under the northern Greek islands, but that is most certainly a sore point for Greeks. It even became a heated topic of conversation on an otherwise pleasant cruise around the islands of Lake Nicaragua earlier this year. I dont know the full story, but that oil appears to be held hostage to something else. There is a long-drawn-out conspiracy theory at the bottom of this, and how much of it is true I dont know. What I do know is that there is a massive oil field in that part of the world, and the epicentre appears to be under the rugged, fissure-cracked mountains that form the backbone of Albania. It is a large enough field to be called an elephant. That's big.

Investment is going to start pouring into this country, probably as soon as later this year, or, at the latest, next year. This will mean boom time for the little country. It will mean a massive increase in the quality of the infrastructure. At present a motorway is being constructed along the north-south axis. Spurs will be taken off that, the ports will be developed, and the corridor between Tirana and Durres will boom. Hotels will spring up, and the place will suddenly burst onto the international map.

I think it would pay anyone of adventurous nature to visit, and concentrate on the area around Sarandra, which has a ferry across to the neighbouring Greek island of Corfu. It's a nice part of the world. I've long thought of buying there, and thought it would be the next in-place after the development of Montenegro. However, property matters have crawled to a halt almost everywhere in Europe, and that includes Montenegro. However, Albania is going to be the exception.

I'll try and do an article on the country in a later bulletin. I certainly enjoyed my time in the country, but found very real problems with the internet and money matters once you are outside the commercial zone between port and capital. I expect that to change rapidly once the funds start to pour in to develop the black gold under those forbidding mountains. Tourism will surely follow the infrastructure upgrade.

Since writing this article a couple of weeks ago, things in the eurozone have taken yet another turn for the worse. I'll update next week.


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