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Sweden Finance Minister Anders Borg On The Recent EU Treaty; Interview with Jiri Schneider; Toy Store Shake-Up

Aired December 14, 2011 - 14:00:00   ET


RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, it didn't take long. The cracks are emerging in the EU agreement.

Tonight, tackling the web of abuse; Google joins the fight against modern slavery.

And trouble in Toyland. `Tis the season to be gender neutral.

I'm Richard Quest. I mean business.

Good evening.

It is less than a week since Europe's leaders, most of them anyway, came together and plastered over their difference in Brussels and agreed to move forward with an intergovernmental agreement to make the euro work more efficiently. But already the cracks they are appearing.

Join me at the super screen straight away. Let's not waste any time. You will see what I mean. The problem seems to be amongst some of the non euro countries that, the 17 plus nine, some of those nine which agreed to the deal and are now raising questions about the negotiating process. For instance, in Sweden it is warning that it won't sign up to the treaty on the same terms as Eurozone members. In a moment we'll be speaking to the finance minister in Sweden, Minister Anders Borg.

The Czech Republic has also raised some questions. Complaining the agreement is no more than a blank sheet of paper. And on this show we'll also hear the senior member of the government from the foreign ministry tell me for the time being they are keeping their options open.

Even some Euroland countries, like Ireland, are causing some cracks, where there is not real views that the Dail, the parliament there, because the opposition are calling for a referendum on the pact, however it falls down. The government says it would turn any vote into a question of whether to keep the euro or abandon it. So, already you see just even with Ireland alone, you see that the temperature is being raised. And we are seeing financial fallout.

Let's begin. The euro has weakened. It is now trading at 1.30 against the U.S. dollar. Just a fraction, just a fraction, but it is the lowest since January. And at this point in the process it should have been better. In Italy, borrowing levels, the yields, hit a new year high; 6.5, 6.47, on the five-year bonds. If we can trend now (ph), if it is five versus two, contrast the 6.47 with the 0.29 yield on the a German two-year note. It gives you and idea.

The markets: They were-they weren't devastated, but they were certainly hit, beaten up firmly. Paris down 3.3 percent, London down 2.25. The banking shares, Barclays in London was down 4.6 percent. Soc Gen in Paris down 8 percent. And obviously, if Eurozone is in trouble then the big companies feel the effect. So we saw carmakers in the German market, VW down 4.5 percent, BMW off 5 percent. The problem is Europe has pinned its hopes on last Friday's summit. Now as the cracks start to appear, as Jim Boulden reports, leaders have returned home from Brussels and discovered restless questioning public.


JIM BOULDEN, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's reality time back home. In Warsaw, protestors rally against Poland's tacit agreement to loose some sovereignty in order to join the fiscal compact, while Poland doesn't yet use the euro.

In London political bickering continues over Prime Minister David Cameron vetoing last Friday's proposed treaty for fiscal union.

ED MILIBAND, U.K. OPPOSITION LEADER: Isn't the sensible thing for him to do, to reenter the negotiations and try to get a better deal for Britain.

DAVID CAMERON, PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN: I make no apologies for standing up for Britain.

BOULDEN: So, no cracks in the British government's determination not to sign up. But difficulties are appearing elsewhere. Ireland for one may have to hold a referendum to agree any changes. Prime Minister Enda Kenny told parliament there is a lot of detail to be worked out.

ENDA KENNY, PRIME MINISTER OF IRELAND: It is, of now, a political agreement. Obviously, given the nature of what is involved here, there are some very detailed technical and legal considerations that will need to be carefully teased out or analyzed by experts before any legal text is adopted.

BOULDEN: Sweden's finance minister, Anders Borg, said Tuesday, since the country doesn't use the euro, it will not agree to all the Eurozone budget discipline rules. The Czech government says the proposed pact is still just a blank piece of paper. And that it won't just sign that blank paper.

JIRI SCHNEIDER, DEP. FOREIGN MINISTER, CZECH REPUBLIC: We would like to be present at the table as this is debated. But we are definitely not ready to sign up to it at this moment.

BOULDEN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Bundestag Wednesday, the path to a stability union has not finished, but there is no turning back. While the Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti told parliament, the agreement to bolster the zone's bailout fund fell short of what he wanted. And that not all leaders agreed with Germany's assessment that Europe has now done enough to calm markets.

The euro has dipped to its lowest level in 11 months. And Italian bond yields are on the rise again.

(On camera): EU leaders promise to sign off on the fiscal compact at their next summit, in March. But will the markets give them that time to fill in the details and fill in the cracks. Jim Boulden, CNN, London.


QUEST: As you heard, Sweden's finance minister says his country won't enter into this on the same terms as Eurozone members. The minister joins me now from Stockholm. Anders Borg is on the line.

Minister, you are not a Eurozone country, so it makes sense that you wouldn't have the same terms. But what different terms will you be seeking, do you imagine?

ANDERS BORG, FINANCE MINISTER, SWEDEN: Well, I mean, it should be underlined that we are upholding a stricter discipline on ourselves than the Euro countries now are implementing. But we think that the legal obligation, the sanctions, should be primarily directed towards the Euro countries. And for us it would not be acceptable it we would be forced to change the constitution to be able to join. So we would not accept the kind of constitutional change that are implied by the debt break.

But eventually we could see strong advantages for a country like Sweden to be a part of these kind of meetings.

QUEST: So, it is pretty fundamental, isn't it? The debt break, it is in the first clause of the architecture. Because it is the bit that differentiates from the old Maastricht, where nothing really happened and people could break the rules. So are you going to square this, if you are going to basically say, you are not going to have automatic sanctions?

BORG: Well, I mean, to start with I don't expect them to give us the same influence and the same voting rights as they have themselves, in the Euro group. So, it is very logical that as long as we have not had a referendum and has not been a member of the Eurozone, we should decide on these issues ourselves.

But, I mean, let me underline. We have 30 percent of GDP indebtedness. The Euro countries have 90 percent. So, we don't think we are getting away cheap here. We are ready to uphold this discipline. But it should be clear that as long as you are outside of the Eurozone these decisions should be taken nationally.

QUEST: Why did you, then-and I don't want to rehash Friday's misery and pain. But why did Sweden go along with this. And even start the process when you knew that there would be issues coming along in the negotiation that eventually might lead you to be on the outside like the U.K.?

BORG: What I mean, to us it is pretty clear that we need some stabilization of the Eurozone. And primarily that means that the Italians and the Spaniards need to do more on their fiscal side and we need to build this firewall. But if the Germans are insisting on strengthening the governance issue, it is pretty clear that has to be part of the plan. Otherwise they will not pay us for the firewall. And therefore, for us, this could be a step forward. And we would be ready to try to be able to participate. But it is still an open question or us.

QUEST: An open question, so I'm not going to push it. Obviously, you are like the Czech minister we heard earlier. Nothing ruled in, nothing ruled out. But what it does tell us is that any hope that this was going to be put to bed and that the euro crisis would abate for the new year, is simply wrong. That we can agree on, perhaps?

BORG: Well, I mean, I definitely could agree on that. But that basically has more to do with the fact that we were unable to set up the firewall. And, I mean, all of the countries that we have seen in these negative interest rates spirals. They have been able to deal with the situation themselves. And as long as we don't hear a very clear messages from Rome and Madrid, I think we will have this turmoil. It is the firewall and the fiscal measures that is a the core of this.

QUEST: Right. But the firewall is one issue. That is the EFSF. That is building of the-putting the fire in the contagion. That is an exceptionally complicated issue, Minister. And frankly, nobody yet knows how the EFS, the ESM, and that whole firewall is going to operate.

BORG: That is quite clear. But for us it is also clear that if they want us to pay money to the IMF, to be a part of this firewall, we would also have some clearer conditions on what terms we could participate in, in this stability cooperation.

QUEST: So, as we conclude here, what I see and hear from you in Stockholm tonight, is that a great deal of willingness to be involved. But whether it is the firewall, the IMF contribution, the negotiations towards a treaty for next March, on all of these issue, fundamentally countries like yourselves have serious questions still.

BORG: No, no, I agree. Sadly to say, I agree with you that we are quite far away from the situation where we are stabilizing the market and turning this into a positive spiral. There is a long way to go here. But to my mind, if we would see reasonable arguments from Paris and Berlin, it is quite likely that at least some eight or nine countries potentially could be able to join the 17 in the Eurozone. And that would obviously be an important step to avoid a division in Europe.

QUEST: Finally, how do you pay-not you, personally, obviously, with respect-but last week were cracks papered over that frankly are just going to roll forward in the new year?

BORG: Well, I mean, there are some fundamental differences here and I do think that we need to see further progress from particularly Spain and Italy. And not only on fiscal issues, but also structural issues. And until we see that I think the markets will be very reluctant to accept to buy the government bonds of these countries to any kind of reasonable deal. So, they need to do more before we can see this. And then the rest of us need to be able to contribute to the Firewall.

QUEST: Minister, as always, good to see you from Stockholm tonight. Thank you for joining us. And if we don't see you again before the new year, a peaceful holiday season and a happy new year to you, and your family.

The Minister Anders Borg, joining us there from Stockholm tonight.

It gives you a very good idea of the problems ahead. And later in this program you hear from another out country, the Czech Republic. Their minister joins me on the program.

Now, as we continue it is a time for giving. And Google is giving money away in unprecedented amounts. Why the donations could be a game changer in the fight for freedom.


QUEST: Google is making a major commitment to the cause of freedom by donating $11.5 million to anti-slavery projects. Its thought to be the largest corporate donation of its kind. One of the recipients, the International Justice Mission, says that this gift is a game changing investment. Those sort of phrases are not used lightly. Hala Gorani has been following the story from Washington.

Hala, is with me now.

A large sum of money, which has huge potential benefits?

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It has huge potential benefits. And $11.5 million, you can look at it two ways. It is either a lot of money. Or it's not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, because modern-day slavery affects up 30 million people around the globe.

Now these not-for-profit charitable organizations are saying that they are going to use the money, both of course, to increase the amount of work they do on the ground, but also to raise awareness. Because they say many people around the world think slavery is a problem of the past. And even people who are enslaved, Richard, may not be aware of their rights. Here is a look at some of the battles they'll be fighting.


GORANI (voice over): It is just one example of modern-day slavery. More than 500 men, women, and children forced to work for months in a brick kiln in southern India, enslaved to pay back a debt.

SAJU MATTHEW, INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE MISSION: The owner decides when the laborers will eat, when they sleep, whether they are free to leave, or not.

GORANI: Here, a government raid leads to freedom.

MIRO SORVINO, U.N. AMBASSADOR-AT-LARGE: There is an endless supply of poor people trying to better their lives. And they will accept almost any offer, however almost unbelievable that it could help them.

GORANI: In the fight for the most basic of human rights, CNN has brought you their stories.

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Investigators say this seven-year-old boy became the key to exposing the inner workings of a criminal gang that for years had been snapping children off the streets, crippling them purposefully and then forcing them to beg.

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (On camera): Aid groups say many of the Cambodians are put on fishing boats here in the Thai port of Samuprakan (ph). They join a vast armada of ghost ships crewed by slaves, which can be resupplied and stay at sea for years. Their only chance of escape is on the rare occasion the fishing trawlers approach land.

GORANI: Beyond these stories somewhere between 10 and 30 million more.

PROFESSOR P. RAMASAMY, LABOR EXPERT: Theoretically these things are not allowed, but then in actual reality these things are widespread.

GORANI: Today Google says it wants to join the fight.

GARY HAUGEN, IJM PRESIDENT & CEO: This is a completely ground- breaking investment. I think it is historic, actually.

GORANI: Ground breaking because the millions Google is donating could help free 10s of thousands of people. Especially if the groups who work to eradicate modern-day slavery cooperate and share resources and information.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello, National Human Trafficking Resource Center, how may I help you?

HAUGEN: Google has taken on a certain part of the puzzle, but it is a big puzzle. What are some of the other parts of that work that we might take on? So I think this is giving a good entry point now for other corporations to join the fight and find their way of making a difference against one of the ugliest but most preventable disasters taking place in the world today.

GORANI: And because awareness is vital in the fight, even a small investment can sometimes make a big difference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to do something. We need to stop, think, and speak, from Venezuela I'm taking a stand against slavery.


GORANI: All right. And you know, Richard, one of the other things that the man in charge of Slavery Footprint, it is a very new organization, there is an app for it, etc cetera, I mean it is tech and new and shiny and everything. And you can go online, and you can sort of input what you consume on any given day.

So, you use your mobile phone, you eat a certain type of food, you wear a T-shirt, maybe that you bought in a Western supermarket, or a department store. And it will tell you how many potentially enslaved people in the world contributed to making these items, that we consume mainly in Western countries. So it is about knowing what you buy, knowing who is making what you buy as well. And some of these projects are very interesting.

QUEST: Hala is in Washington for us tonight. Hala Gorani, good evening to you. Have a good evening. Thank you.

Now Google's donation will free an estimated 12,000 people from slavery. Altogether, the company is giving away $40 million this holiday season. Jacquelline Fuller is the director of charitable giving at Google. Jacquelline is with me now from the headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Good to have you, Jacquelline.

The story of how you came to decide that putting Google's money where its mouth is, basically, is an interesting one, isn't it? And without blowing our own trumpet, does involve ourselves here at CNN.

JACQUELLINE FULLER, DIRECTOR OF CHARITABLE GIVING: Absolutely. Well, we at Google are very fortunate to have a healthy and growing business. And we wanted to give back in a way that really addressed a fundamental human need. And there is nothing more fundamental than freedom.

So, I had some experience with the issue of slavery. I lived in India, working on AIDS, and I saw girls, some as young as the age of nine, who were sex slaves in brothels. So, I had been aware of the issue. And we started talking at Google about how we wanted to give back this year, what issue could we highlight? This is one that really resonated with Googlers all across the company.

And as I started to tell people about the situation, you know a lot of people's reaction is that they had no idea that slavery even exists. So I used some of the CNN Freedom Project's videos and info graphics to help point out some of what's happening.

QUEST: Let's look at one of the clips that you used to convince your colleagues to put their money where their mouth is. Have a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tamar (ph), are you going that side?

MALLIKA KAPUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): April 27, officials from the government of Tamanad (ph) State in southern India raided a private brick kiln. They had heard the laborers inside were trapped. What the officials found shocked them. More than 500 people living and working under a brutal oppressive system.

A few weeks later, the fields are empty, the mud huts vacant. A few personal belongings left behind, the only sign of what went on here.


QUEST: Jacquelline, many companies are acting now, a lot of stories on this over the course of our Freedom Project. Many companies talk a good talk and then they shy away because it is grubby, it's nasty, it's sleazy, and ultimately the PR can be bad about it. You have no such qualms?

FULLER: Well, you know, at Google we are a company of engineers. And we love technology, we love data, what we see in this issue is an area where fundamental human rights are being violated. Where there is up to 30 million people enslaved. But there are real solutions in place and solutions that can be scaled. And there is great data and evidence on these groups who are making a difference on the ground. So we wanted to back these heroes on the front lines. We wanted to help to make a difference. We wanted to create some new synergies, perhaps, by building some new coalitions of partners.

QUEST: As we look to the efficacy of these campaigns, Jacquelline, finally, how do you not become despondent and despair, because it is such a big issue? And I know this year we've looked at the Freedom Project, sometimes you realize you are just literally scratching the tip, aren't you?

FULLER: Well, I agree. It can be disheartening. And when you think about that this might be one of the largest gifts given this year that just points out the need. And part of the reason why Google wanted to focus on this, is that we can use not only our resources, but our reach to help draw attention to the good work that is going on. So that others, in the spirit of holiday giving might decide that they want to get involved as well.

But I'm actually very hopeful about what is happening. If people really look a layer back and see the work that these groups are doing on the ground, I think they will be very inspired.

QUEST: Jacquelline, we'll talk more about this next year. Many thanks, indeed.

It does prove the point though, that when a company with the resources of Google does get together with a company, with the resources that CNN has, and everybody, and you, indeed, also get involved. Then you get an idea of what can be done. Resources big, resources small, if you want to find out more on this issue, updates can be found on the CNN Freedom Project. It is on our website. A section that shows you how you can help,


QUEST: Imagine you have a job, it has no dress code, there are no colleagues and you don't do anything but sit very, very still for a large period of time. That is exactly what Rachel Welch does. She is a life model. Everyday, complete strangers turn her into a real work of art.

In some cases it might be a little too revealing for her. It is a picture perfect-


-"World at Work".


RACHEL WELCH, LIFE MODEL: I have been a life model for 15 years. I started modeling when I was traveling. And I had never been to a life class in my life, but I thought, how difficult can it be?


I don't think I could anticipate what it is like to actually stand in front of somebody naked, whom you don't know, and have them really look at you, and draw you. It is a very intense experience. And you do feel very vulnerable, and exposed. There is no other word for it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put in her head shape, fill the space.

WELCH: When I began life modeling I didn't feel-like many women, I didn't feel comfortable with my body image. Because, of course, we all bombarded with images of perfection, in the media, that is not real. And it is quite boring. It is not very interesting to see somebody who is just perfect. You know, there is not a blemish on them. It is not real. And what is the most interesting thing about people, and everybody will say this in art, is what makes them different, and it is what makes you unusual and unique.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That twist in her back, you have a line and a tone under here. There is a shadow under her arm.

WELCH: I think that one thing people don realize is that life modeling is quite demanding. I mean, you will be expected to hold a pose for the longest, would be, it would be about an hour. And I have fallen over. And I have-at one point I remember I was doing a seated pose, and I had one leg up, and I didn't realize all the blood had gone out of my leg completely. And then the teacher came over to me and said, OK, could you just stand up and come over here and we'll do the next pose. And I stood up just went straight (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


Sometimes a pose is not, you know, it is something like a classical lady holding up a sheet, type of pose. Sometimes it is crazy lady running around the room, type of pose, so they can get an idea of movement.

And what I find that is useful, if I've got some sort of problem that I'm trying to work out, in my life, because I've got the time to just sit there, or stand there, and focus on it. I don't know, there is something about the fact that it is a creative environment, creative environment that I'm in, it seems to allow me to get though things like that, that might have been worrying me or bothering me. And I'll find a solution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably one of the most successful ways of showing light is to actually create the dark around it.

WELCH: But I think the nudity, people find it very, very challenging. And it is quite intense. When you see a naked person, it's not necessarily that your reaction is going to be a sexual one or -- or whatever, but you're going to have a reaction. You can't not. And I think it made me the person that I am. It's given me so much confidence and it's offered me up to a whole, you know, education of art and -- and of meeting people and having much more confidence in -- in how I relate to people. I think, you know, it was something that if it -- if I didn't have it in my life, there would be a huge gap there. It could be -- it's just so important to me. And it's made me -- it's made me happy.


QUEST: And this is one of the pictures of the life model at work.

We'll have more QUEST MEANS BUSINESS when we put our clothes back on in a moment.

And Europe's inner core from the blocks outside its body. It's the euro, in a moment.


QUEST: Hello. I'm Richard Quest, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

More QUEST MEANS BUSINESS in a moment.

This is CNN, though, and on this network, it's the news that always comes first.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has defended the new E.U.'s fiscal compact. Mrs. Merkel told German lawmakers Europe can emerge from the debt crisis, but it could take years. She also says Britain is still an important EU partner, even though it has refused to join the new agreement.

A short time ago, President Barack Obama spoke to American troops who've returned from Iraq. He thanked them for their service and sacrifice. The U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq this month fulfills one of Mr. Obama's main campaign promises.

Belgian police say they don't know why a man went on a gun and grenade rampage in Liege. Police say Nordine Amrani killed five people on Tuesday and then killed himself on Tuesday. He was on parole for drugs and weapons charges. A Belgian security source says police wanted to interview Amrani about a suspected rape.

So the cracks are starting to appear between all the countries that came to a deal last week in Brussels. The Eurozone, the E-17 Plus Nine, Britain, the ins and the outs. And just like this coin, the European Union and the agreement has an inner and outer circle.

So you begin with those countries, the 17 members of the Eurozone, those who actually use the -- the euro as their currency. Even some of them, well, they all have to take the whole lot, hook, line and sinker. They are hooked together, whether they like it or not. But there will still be issues between some of them over things like intrusion into national economies.

But then, on the outside, you have the nine and 10 that are out. And here, you can -- we can divide them between those countries that are going along for the time being and, of course, Britain all its own on the outside.

And even here, some of the countries are deciding that maybe they don't really like what they see and some of the others may raise questions over what happens next.

One of those countries that has some serious questions is the Czech Republic.

A short while ago, the Czech Republic's first deputy foreign minister joined me here, talking about the fiscal compact, he said it's a goal, not a plan, and that for the moment, the Czech Republic is not sure whether it's in or out.


JIRI SCHNEIDER, DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER, CZECH REPUBLIC: The goal and aim is clear. And that's what The European Council was debating in the beginning.

But then, the problems started when they started to talk of how to achieve that. And that was the point of reversal. And -- and for us, I think the blank meaning is we don't know how that will be achieved. And this is quite important. And this is -- this is quite important for the national parliaments, as well.

QUEST: So -- so why did you sign up to it?

SCHNEIDER: We haven't signed anything. I mean...

QUEST: You indicated a -- you indicated that you would go along with it.

SCHNEIDER: We indicated that we will seriously consider that, because we are aware of the -- of the seriousness of the situation. Believe me, we are very much dependent, although we are not part of the Eurozone. But I mean a considerable part of our trade is through the Eurozone. So I think this is our vital interests.

That's why we are part of that, although we have some reservations or concerns.

QUEST: What -- what are the problem areas?

SCHNEIDER: If that would be within 27, I think there wouldn't be any problem to have a role for the European institutions like the European Commission, the European Court of Justice.

But since the decision was that this is no longer the 27, I think there is some problem in it. And, of course, we are concerned that all these measures might have an impact on the -- on the single markets. I think this is one of the huge achievements of the EU. And that's why we entered into the EU.

And so we are concerned what might be the impact of these -- of these measures by the Eurozone on the single markets.

QUEST: Well, there's only one country that's on the outside of those concerns, and that's the UK. The rest of you are all within the ambit of this agreement. So surely, I'm trying to get to, is there a particular policy area that the Czech Republic fears they will be potentially adversely affected by?

SCHNEIDER: Exactly. There is, to be more specific, this is tax harmonization or any step in that direction, because that is the -- I mean the differences in taxes allow countries to actually, to -- to -- to decrease the differences inside the European Union.

And we are basically still catching -- catching up. So that would be against our interests.

QUEST: Is this something that you feel, eventually, could lead the Czech Republic not to sign up to?

SCHNEIDER: Well, we would like to keep this contract open for us so that, in time, when we will be ripe, you know, and we will be ready to enter the Eurozone, we will be ready to sign up to that document.

So we would like to be present at the table when this is debated. But we are definitely not ready to sign up to it at this moment.

QUEST: So can you see a si -- a scenario where you are an out on this treaty?

SCHNEIDER: Yes. Of course. Yes. You have to admit there is a scenario. And -- and definitely, for the time being, we will be out. We will be out of that treaty.

QUEST: So you've moved from Friday, where you had indicated that you would be in. Now you're telling us, well, it's quite likely we'll be out.

SCHNEIDER: It depends. It depends how the drafting of the bill will develop, you know...

QUEST: But you're going to be part of the drafting.

SCHNEIDER: Yes. We want to be part of the drafting. And that's why my prime minister said, well, there's a blank sheet, you know. So we wait. We -- we need some drafts. And we would like to be part of the draffing -- drafting. And we will see.

QUEST: So -- so what the Czech Republic is saying is that the deal, as it stands, stinks and it's going to need changing in some fairly fundamental ways before you'll sign up to it?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I wouldn't use that word. You know that. It's -- it's rather empty, yes?

We still do not know and every government is trying to understand what has been agreed to.

QUEST: It's going to be a mess.

SCHNEIDER: Well, it's definitely going to be a mess, but we would like to -- to have some quick fixes because I mean the situation is serious and the -- we are concerned. And we don't want to be outside of this process.


QUEST: That's the deputy foreign minister or the first deputy foreign minister of the Czech Republic on the Eurozone.

There's plenty more to come. We take a very different direction. Forget euros and Eurozone. Santa Claus will soon be on his way with gifts for all the good boys and girls. Now the controversial question, which section of the store the toys is he shopping in?

One blogger talks to me about why it matters whether Santa is a boy or a girl or somewhere in the middle, in a moment.


QUEST: And there you have what we are going to be talking about now, London's famous toy store, Hamleys, is getting rid of its boys and girls section. And a feminist blogger is claiming victory.

Now the toys had originally been divided on separate floors according to gender, a blue for a blue floor sign for the boys, a pink floor sign for the girls.

The blogger, Laura Nelson, says that policy was sexist. She called it gender apartheid for children and that boys and girls departments lead to social conditioning.

Now the toy signs are posted and signposted by brand and type. Hamleys says it was a refit and that the new layout is easier for customers. Their Web site front still lists toys for -- top toys for boys and for girls.

So, the blogger, Laura Nelson, joins me now.

Why did you feel so strongly about something about boys' toys on the top floor or whatever floor and girls' toys down below?

LAURA NELSON, BLOGGER "DELILAH": Well, the point about the signs is that they were so in your face as soon as you walked into the toy shop. And then when you went up the escalator and went into the -- onto the different floors, there were very different toys on the girls' floor as opposed to the boys' toys.

QUEST: Right. But now that's common sense, isn't it, because girls do tend to like different toys than boys?

Or am I just being -- perpetuating your sexual stereotypes?

NELSON: Yes. Well, I think you might be. That's the point. The point is that we're all individuals and...

QUEST: So do...

NELSON: -- we all have our individual talents and interests. And boys and girls are the same.

QUEST: Right, but -- but would you -- are you -- are you looking for not just a change in signage, but are you looking for the toys to be mixed up so the tanks are next to the dolls and the houses are next to the soldier or whatever it might be?

NELSON: Absolutely. But this is the first step and we take one small step at a time. And I think this is fantastic because there is no mention of gender whatsoever now in the store.

QUEST: Some people immediately say she's right, you know, it does perpetuate gender discrimination. Other people say she's barking mad. She's absolutely got -- it's political correctness gone berserk.

Where do you stand?

NELSON: Well, I -- I've listened to what people have said. I -- I'm absolutely delighted that people are having a debate and we're talking about it now, because it's getting the issue out into the open.

QUEST: But isn't -- isn't it politically correct, what you're saying?

And some people would say that, actually, this misses the whole point completely. Once you start dealing with that, you stop dealing with actually how children are treated and you start to focus on whether it's boys and girls and tanks and dolls?

NELSON: Well, I think you have to look at the big picture here. And we're looking into it -- in context of a wider society. And we'd see a lot of inequalities for -- in terms of the roles that men and women take and their aspirations and their ambitions in society.

And it's trying to unpick the reasons for those and trying to dig down and -- and just go -- and -- and to determine what's actually causing those...


NELSON: -- inequalities.

QUEST: I suppose you have nothing wrong with calling it Christmas. You don't insist on calling it the holiday season or holiday gifts or something like that?

Or do you think we've gone too far in that, as well?

NELSON: Well, I think that's a completely different issue.

QUEST: It is. It is.

NELSON: We're talking about gender.

QUEST: But I mean -- it's not about gender.

All right, so -- so, look, I have got three sisters and grew up in a house with three sisters. My -- some of my producers and some of my directors who are parents were frothing at the mouth when they heard about this.

Have you been surprised at just how people have taken sides on it?

NELSON: No, I'm not, actually, because I've been blogging for a while now and so I'm very used to hearing both points of view. And I think that one of the reasons why there is so much strong opinion is because these stereotypes are so ingrained in our culture.

QUEST: Laura, I know you'll forgive me if I say you're an expert in what you do, I'm an expert in what I do. But we really do have a real expert with us tonight, somebody who is far more than expert on the issue of this whole question of the -- one of the foremost authorities...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, the bells. (INAUDIBLE) normal here.

QUEST: Joining us from Selfridges Christmas grotto -- there's a bell in case you suddenly get the urge. Let me show Santa and we'll talk with Santa, Santa here are some of the toys which, according to the retailers, are the best that are people -- some people want this one. This is Elmo, Let's Rock Elmo, from "Sesame Street," $50 for him. Two hundred dollars for Leap Pad Explorer tablet for kids. Two hundred dollars!


QUEST: That's inflation for you. And then we have $60 for the newest Nurf gun, Vortex Nitron, Moshi Monsters -- they never had those in my days. This is the one I think is pretty gross, Doggy Doo, feed a morsel to a little pup and then he makes a mess, you clean it up. Twenty-five dollars for that.

Good evening, Santa.


QUEST: Tell me, what are children asking for this year?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, one 4 -year-old asked for a credit card.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes. It -- it's true. Or a Rolex watch and there's lots of the dolls that are -- Barbie is still popular at the moment, and lots of iPads. They're -- they're quite popular.

QUEST: Right. Now, are boys and girls asking for the same things?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no. It's princess dresses, girls are asking for princess dresses. Actually, LEGO is very good for the brain, so girls and boys do ask for the LEGO.

QUEST: And what do you say, Santa, as an authority on the subject at this credit crunch time of the year, what do you say when somebody says, I want an iPad or I want (INAUDIBLE)...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ho, ho, ho, ho. Well, it's all about giving and it is a surprise. You know, it's -- let's have a good surprise. And you can't really say. We -- we'll see what we can do, but we can't promise. We'll see what we can do for you.

QUEST: So it's a bit like the Eurozone, it's all promise and not necessarily delivery at the end.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ho, ho, ho, ho, ho.

QUEST: Finally, Santa.


QUEST: As we look to -- to -- to this time of the year, do you think it still has -- when -- when the boys and girls still meet you...


QUEST: Do you -- does it still have the magic or have they worked out, do you think, what Christmas -- oh, there they are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There they are.

QUEST: What are you doing there?

I'll bet you can't do that again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a little bit of magic there in everything. And it's good to see children smiling and also to say that they're saying thank you, as well.

QUEST: Santa, I wish you all the best for your festivities.

You've got a busy night, haven't you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have, indeed.

QUEST: And with oil at $100 a barrel, well, you've got reindeer so you don't need to worry too much. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho.

QUEST: Oh, ho, ho, ho.

Laura, ah, there you are. I see.


QUEST: So we do have differences of gifts. We have differences of people looking for them. But I suppose when all is said and done, it's what you get on the morning of Christmas morning that's important.

Would you agree?

NELSON: Well, if all toys are open and available to both genders, then I'm happy with that.

QUEST: I think we can all agree on that.

All right, many thanks to you, Laura, for joining me.

Now, if you want to know whether snow is really falling, we'll be back with an update of the weather.

Santa has to leave us, though, with a proper bell and a proper ho, ho, ho.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas, everyone.


QUEST: Well, we have our very own snow, the QUEST MEANS BUSINESS snow.

But there is real snow elsewhere in the world. And, of course, we know from yesterday, dear old cheerful Guillermo...


QUEST: -- at the World -- yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

ARDUINO: You know what?

QUEST: You miserable...

ARDUINO: Listen...

QUEST: -- Scrooge.

ARDUINO: -- listen to me, listen to me, that snow...


ARDUINO: -- that you have behind you is going to become true on Thursday in London.



QUEST: I'll have a beat with you that there's no snow in London.

ARDUINO: On Thursday?

That is tomorrow?

QUEST: You're the -- you're the expert.

ARDUINO: OK. Let's go...

QUEST: You're the expert.

ARDUINO: -- let's define the -- the limits.

How far away from the newsroom outwards?

QUEST: All right. You define the limits. You're the expert.


QUEST: If you say there's snow, there's snow.

ARDUINO: OK. Let me start with the winds, though. And to show you that things are getting a little bit better. And on Tuesday, we had, in the U.K., winds in this location, 184 kilometers per hour, now 150. And then -- on Monday, right?

And then in Ireland, also going down. I mean France staying pretty much at the same level compared to yesterday.

What's going on in London right now?

It's 4 degrees, winds at 15 kilometers per hour from the southwest. So we're getting much better, too. And this is the forecast for us -- for Friday, not for Thursday. I was wrong.

Ah, you know what, coming back from my holiday, it changes my perspective.

Friday, snow probably in London. So I would say not in the newsroom - - around the newsroom proper, but some blocks away. Let's...


ARDUINO: Let's say that. OK. Snow in many places in the British Isles and Ireland. Look also at what's going on in Scandinavia there, a lot of snow. And Germany, Germany, you are getting a lot of snow, too, into Friday. And you see that -- well, Poland, too, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, the Italian Alps, the French Alps. So we're very happy about that for all those skiing, of course.

Strong storms to the south, so the change comes to Italy, as well, and the south as well.

Let's focus a little bit on the severe weather, especially here in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Northern France and Germany area. We are going to see winds. If you are flying there, if you are out of there or into those sections, you know what, again, patience, because we are going to see blowing snow. It's going to be cold. It's going to be windy. So you may be hit by delays.

I want you to know that also we're looking at what's going on in the Philippine Sea. There's a cyclone in the making here that is moving through Japan Palau right now. And promising to become a typhoon, moving into the southern and central parts of the Philippines. As you see, it's 27, already a tropical storm. Two days from now, becoming a typhoon.

These are mini islands and we have a lot of water there. So it's not enough to weaken the cyclone significantly. It will continue at full force all the way there.

Also, it's been raining in coastal parts of Vietnam. We have a low pressure center there. But, actually, it's nothing to worry about, but it's been bringing some rain. This is the perspective of the cyclone that I was talking about, a tropical storm right now, moving to the Philippines.

Also, we have in New Zealand, if you're watching from there, winds, storms. It's getting a little bit better in Southeast Australia, because the side -- the front was there. Now it's moving away. It's very soon summertime in Australia. So you know what, we are going to see warm conditions once again -- Richard.

QUEST: All right.

Many thanks.

ARDUINO: Thank you.

QUEST: Indeed, Guillermo.

A quick question, Guillermo.

What present do you want for Christmas?

I have no intention of buying it for you, but in 10 seconds, what would you like?


QUEST: Oh. Oh, well, that's -- I'm still not going to buy it for you.

All right, many thanks, Guillermo...


QUEST: -- is at the Weather -- the Weather Center.

He can buy his own one of those. You might get a packet of crisps.

When we come back in just a moment, A Profitable Moment which clearly just takes into account of what's happening at the bank on Christmas, in a moment.


QUEST: Tonight's Profitable Moment.

'Tis the season to be jolly. 'Tis the season to be giving gifts. Imagine we had all thought that come last Friday, we had been given a true present of euro stability, that the future would be rosy.

Well, now it seems we have been given a blank piece of paper. There would have been something close to financial Armageddon, no doubt, if they hadn't reached an agreement. But at this holiday time of the year, a deal was reached, but when we have to live with the consequences. And what we are seeing today is that it's not pleasant.

After the time to reflect, the bleary-eyed deal in Brussels maybe wasn't the solution we hoped it would be.

Instead, the panacea is creating panic. We have a two speed Europe we've spent so long trying to avoid. Tonight, Anders Borg, on this program, told me his reservations -- Sweden will not be on board, as the rest. And the Czechs, arguably, went even further, saying that the Brussels agreement is little more than a blank sheet of paper.

The cracks are well and truly forming and they are going to get worse. And it's only beginning at the holiday season.

And that's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for tonight.

I'm Richard Quest in London.

Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead, I hope it's profitable.

This is CNN.