Sunday 18 February 2018

The Punt: Google chief Eric Schmidt heads for Brussels

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman at Google Inc
Eric Schmidt, executive chairman at Google Inc

The head of Google will meet the European Union's competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, next week, as the technology giant tries to end a four-year probe into its search engine business. Google chairman Eric Schmidt will fly to Brussels to meet EU chiefs after previous efforts to settle the case stalled, newswires reported yesterday.

Google employs 5,000 in Dublin, and is a global leader in the digital economy, but its success appears to have ruffled more than a few feathers in Brussels.

Last year it was forced to begin effectively censoring some search results under new so-called "right to be forgotten" rules. There have even been calls by some EU lawmakers to break up Google - a particularly onorous suggestion given how easy it is for any web user to simply switch to an alternative search engine.

Google isn't standing idly by. The company is tooling-up - Brussels style - advertising on its website for a public affairs manager to "engage directly with politicians and policy-makers" and three executives to deal with the European Commission, EU governments and European Parliament.


O'Leary's not kidding around

The Punt wonders what Michael O'Leary's wife Anita thought of his latest pronouncements on life and all that.

The frying pan could have been in her hand when he got home to his Gigginstown estate outside Mullingar on Monday evening.

During a press conference to announce Ryanair's sponsorship (paid for personally by O'Leary) of Easter Sunday racing at Fairyhouse, the airline chief waxed lyrical about the vagaries of the equine industry, and how much he enjoys the sport.

He's been a major sponsor of horse racing in the UK and Ireland over the past number of years, stuffing hundreds of thousands of euro from his own pocket into prize money and Ryanair branding at high profile events.

"When I look back on my life, I'm sure the days I will remember - I'm supposed to say they're the days when my children were born - but in actual fact they'll be the days at Cheltenham, Punchestown and Fairyhouse."

O'Leary, who has four children, had a great year at the Chelthenham festival in 2014 but was coy on prospects for next month.

Unsurprisingly, O'Leary - who has a fortune north of €800m - said he's not in the nags for the money.

"We don't do it for the money," he said. "I'm getting a lot out of it, a lot of enjoyment out of it and some fantastic memories. It's an industry that's worthy of support."

Just watch out for frying pans.


Germany's pot shots at Greece

Not content with achieving something of a volte-face from their Hellenic colleagues in Brussels, it seems the Germans love to stir it up for the Greeks.

The Punt is a keen supporter of our food retailers, and has a soft spot for the German discounters too.

And our purchase of a large tub of Greek-style yoghurt, with Santorini-style whitewashed houses on the front, brought a surprise - it's made in Germany, brimful of goodness with "EU milk".

And tasty it is too.

We can't anticipate messrs Tspiras and Varoufakis observing Germany improving on Greek (yoghurt) culture and taking it lying down.

What next? A food war? Soon we could be Munchen on moussaka or savouring sauerkraut from Salonika.

But Deutschland has form when it comes to cuisine assimilation, with another of the PIIG countries - Italy - maintaining a policy of omerta over cheap and cheerful pizzas from the north.

That said, Dr Oetker might be best advised to steer clear of the less salubrious suburbs of Naples.

At the time of writing, Berlin has no plans to replicate Irish stew or coddle, due to lack of demand.

But the Greeks might just have the last laugh, taking aim at the pride of Germany, its motor car industry.

And The Punt is waiting with bated breath for a Syriza-styled runaround.

Still, we can't see much call for Greek cars that have a tendency to veer sharply to the left and perform last-minute u-turns.

Irish Independent

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