I just flew back from Europe, and boy, are my arms tired - from shlepping my luggage from place to place. It was a three-week, seven-country tour of Europe where I freely mixed business and pleasure. (If you like your work, it's always a pleasure.)Seven countries, seven currencies. That's not so easy to do in Europe these days. But even in the areas where you can use a common currency, it's a bit more difficult to break out a debit card from an out-of-country bank, or to make a payment across borders.
Indeed, the "topic du jour" at Sibos in Copenhagen was SEPA, the Single Euro Payments Area. SEPA is the directive that would require banks within the Eurozone to price payments among EU countries the same as payments within a single EU country. The strategic and operational implications are profound, and BS&T will be exploring the topic in upcoming issues.
Incidentally, this reminds me of the time I went to a fancy French restaurant and asked the waiter, "What's the soup du jour?" He replied, "It's the soup of the day."
From Copenhagen I embarked upon a tour of Sweden, followed by a cruise to Helsinki and a train ride to St. Petersburg, where I spent three nights. Then it was back to Helsinki and a hop over to Tallinn for a flight to Geneva, where I spoke at the 4th International Conference on Standardization and Innovation in Information Technology (SIIT). The final stop was London for some meetings.
Throughout all of my travels, I was able to stay informed about the gloomy humanitarian crises in Louisiana and the Gulf states, as did just about everyone I met, whether Danes, Swedes, Finns, Russians, Estonians, Lithuanians, the Swiss, the Brits, or the French. I was frequently chastised for the deplorable state of emergency preparedness in the U.S., as well as other perceived diplomatic and political failings of our government. This became a predictable reaction whenever I revealed my nationality, to the point where I figured I'd make more friends by saying that I was an Israeli.
Regarding our national response to Katrina, there wasn't much I could say other than, "We'll do better next time."
However, "this time" isn't over yet. The New York Times just ran a bankruptcy story that points out, as I did in my Sept. 7th editorial, that Katrina victims will have numerous bureaucratic hurdles stemming from the new bankruptcy law that will impede their massive struggle to rebuild what they have lost.
Predictably, the victors of the epic battle to get the bankruptcy bill passed are not ready to concede any of their hard-won ground. But considering the public mood, that stance may prove to be short-sighted. The tree that does not bend in the wind breaks, and the winds are definitely picking up.