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By Arthur Beesley
It’s not a precedent any president would want to set. François Hollande is the first French head of state since the second world war not to stand for re-election. Laid low by dreadful popularity ratings, the socialist Hollande had little chance of prevailing next year against centre-right candidate François Fillon or Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front. Read more
Not even the clocks in Turkey can ignore the whims of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This weekend Turkey’s imperious president decided to make it summertime all year. The decision to abandon daylight saving time moves Ankara an hour further from Europe, and into a timezone with Khartoum, Moscow and Riyadh. If only that were the end of it.
Mr Erdogan issued decrees to oust 10,158 public officials; expelled 1,267 academics from their posts; took charge of appointing university rectors; permitted prosecutors to record client-lawyer conversations; allowed judges to deny access to lawyers for up to three months; and shut down 15 (mainly Kurdish) media outlets. And that was just this weekend.
Don’t forget the more than 100,000 accused, sacked or detained in relation to the botched coup in July, or the internet blackout across swathes of majority Kurdish areas in the southeast, or the detention and arrest of the elected mayors of Diyarbakir.
Then there is matter of the death penalty. Since the attempted coup – a watershed moment for modern Turkey that FAZ calls the beginning of its second republic – Mr Erdogan’s rhetoric has swung from hot to lukewarm on whether to reinstate capital punishment, which was dropped in 2004 as part of Turkey’s EU membership bid. This weekend it turned red hot. Sporting a pair of black aviator sunglasses, Mr Erdogan bellowed these words on Saturday to a crowd chanting: “Execution! Execution!”
“Our government will take this proposal [on capital punishment] to parliament. I am sure parliament will approve it, and when it comes back to me, I will ratify it…Soon, soon, don’t worry. It’s happening soon, God willing. The West says this, the West says that. Excuse me, but what counts is not what the West says. What counts is what my people say.”
What should Europe do? Read more
Without much fanfare – without even a press conference – Margrethe Vestager on Wednesday slipped out one of the most important decisions of her time as competition commissioner. Known for her flinty approach to the likes of Apple and Google, Ms Vestager showed a different side: restraint. And this was no ordinary antitrust case. It was Gazprom. Read more
As Europe’s 28 heads of state or government gather again in Brussels this afternoon, it is worth recalling that special energy that European summits bring. This format is virtually unique in international affairs – even at G20 meetings “minders” are allowed in the room. It can make them wonderfully unpredictable and very human, especially (like today) when no big concrete decision needs to be taken. Here are three political live-rails to watch: Read more
It’s summit week. The full roster of 28 EU leaders will gather in Brussels on Thursday for a two-day meeting. Compared to what we have grown accustomed to in recent years, it lacks the urgency of a hot-crisis. Migration numbers are a fraction of this time last year, and the crunch of Brexit and Greek debt are for another day. What we do have though is a big introduction (this is Theresa May’s debut summit) and some potentially significant debates: Read more
There was a touch of nervous twitching (Nicolas Sarkozy), a few polite sideswipes at the frontrunner (Alain Juppé), some jibes over integrity (deflected by Sarkozy and Juppé), a fair amount of policy consensus (almost unanimity on ditching the wealth tax and flouting EU deficit limits), and certainly a surplus dry preparation (technical talk came easy to most). But there was probably no breakthrough winner.
The seven hopefuls vying for France’s centre-right presidential nomination met for their first TV debate on Thursday night. Perhaps because nobody can doubt the importance of the contest – from it is likely to emerge France’s next president – the discipline held, as did probably the political order of things. Former prime minister Mr Juppé remains the man to beat and Mr Sarkozy can barely contain his irritation. There were mini-flashes of passion and raw politics. But the two-hour showdown became at times an arid, earnest affair. Probably a small mercy given what we endure in the White House race. Read more
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There was a meeting last week that should make Brexiters sit up and take note. Captains of European business – the “European Roundtable of Industrialists” – held their annual evening pow-wow with Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande and Jean-Claude Juncker. This year the venue was the chancellery in Berlin. After enjoying white wine on the balcony and a Berlin sunset, the assorted executives (all male) moved to the dining room and a discussion of Europe’s economic future. Read more
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Sunday was probably a defining moment for Brexit. Far from procrastinating or playing for time, Theresa May appeared to make a big strategy call. From the hubbub of the Conservative party conference has emerged clarity on when she will start Article 50 exit talks (by March 2017) and what her goals will be. Read more
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Chaos. That’s the word to watch at today’s summit of European leaders in Bratislava. It is just one rhetorical flourish in the draft post-summit media statement, a promise that Europe will avoid the migration “chaos” of last year. But the dispute over it offers a glimpse into the dynamics of that summit room, and Angela Merkel’s considerable but waning clout in this EU club. Read more
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It is Angela Merkel’s home state. There aren’t even many refugees there (23,000 in 2015 to be precise). But on Sunday rural Mecklenburg-Vorpommern earned a small footnote in post-war history, becoming the first state where the CDU has ever been outflanked by a party of the right. Just three years old, the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany upstart is steadily gaining electoral ground. It may be far from seizing power, even at local level. But the warning to Ms Merkel is clear. The AfD vote patterns in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern reflect a classic protest vote. It secured 20.8 per cent and drew support from all parties – from far left, to centre to far right. Most importantly, it mobilised abstainers and helped boost turnout. There was only one subject to rally around: disenchantment with Germany’s refugee policy. That seems unlikely to diminish as we head towards federal elections in 2017. Read more
The offices have cleared, the traffic is calm, the sun is (supposed) to be out. Brussels is tranquil. But it belies a precarious week for the poor souls still left in town. There are still some delicate issues to deal with.
Italian banks are top of the list. Stress tests results will be released on Friday and a fix for the troubled Monte dei Paschi di Siena is still to be found. Matteo Renzi will be more fidgety than ever.
Germany and France are grappling with the aftermath of attacks – Germany faced an apparent suicide bombing last night, its fourth violent incident in a week – which are as unnerving as they are different. Read more
No relent in European news overnight. One state of emergency was declared in Turkey – suspending rights and giving president Recep Tayyip Erdogan near unlimited power – while another was prolonged in France, where the government is facing a harder time asserting its authority. Britain’s Theresa May met Angela Merkel for the first time, easing Brexit pressure on the UK a touch and prompting a journalistic scramble to find more similarities between the two leaders (a love of hill walking has been uncovered). Italy is racing to find creative answers to its banking woes and Matteo Renzi’s political quandary – while Italy’s populists call for taxpayer bailouts. And another Italian, Mario Draghi, will be forced to wrestle with his policy demons in public as the European Central Bank holds its monthly meeting. Oh, and happy Belgian national day.
Three months of emergency powers The move was announced following back to back national security council and cabinet meetings. Erdogan said: “As the president and commander in chief elected by the people of this country, I will take forward the struggle to cleanse our armed forces of this virus…The aim of this action is to quickly and effectively eliminate the threat to democracy in our country, the rule of law, and the rights and freedom of our citizens.”
What does it enable? Not since the martial law of the early 1980s has Turkey been subject to such unchecked central power. The FT’s Mehul Srivastava explains that it allows Mr Erdogan’s cabinet to issue decrees that take immediate effect and are not subject to review by the constitutional court (two judges on that court are among the 2,750 removed in the purge against suspected supporters of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric who Mr Erdogan blames for instigating the coup). Read more
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There is something numbing about watching the events buffeting Europe this month. A bloody botched coup in Turkey, shocking barbarism in Nice and of course the small matter of Brexit. These are times of extraordinary upheaval, and we are still only beginning to grasp the long term implications. Read more
Where to begin? First order treachery, the double Brutus, a “cuckoo nest plot” – this is a political assassination that will go into Conservative party lore alongside the defenestration of Margaret Thatcher. On a cold summer morning, Boris Johnson’s career was laid waste in a matter of hours by his campaign director and confidante Michael Gove, the Brexit-whisperer who convinced him to turn on Brussels. Politics in a democracy does not get more savage than this.
Was this betrayal plotted over months, days, hours? What role did the chancellor George Osborne play? Was Mr Johnson making his own overtures to step aside for Theresa May, the home secretary? The Westminster lobby have done a wonderful job of reconstructing the high-intrigue and low-skulduggery of Johnson’s undoing. Read more
Wondering why there is such a fuss over Article 50, the so-called EU exit clause? We’ve annotated the Article 50 text to explain the issues in full. (If you’re using Next FT and can’t see the embedded document, please follow this link.) You can read more about the Brexit divorce talks here and here.
Europe is awakening to a momentous morning. Britain has voted to leave the EU. Sixty years of European statecraft has gone into reverse. Britain’s government is in turmoil. Markets have plunged. Sterling has suffered its biggest fall in 30 years. The uncertainty over what comes next is palpable.
Britain’s vote will transform not just Britain and its place in the world, but spill over into global markets, Europe’s economy, and the balance of power on the bloc. The coming hours will be of historic importance, framing what will be a protracted and difficult divorce. The potential consequences of this vote are hard to overstate. This is the biggest challenge for the continent since the end of the Cold War.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT — BEST OF THE FT
A Brexit vote that changes everything. The referendum gamble that left Mr Cameron’s career in tatters. Our guide to the world’s most complex divorce. The fallout for Europe and the world. The bumpy road for the British economy. The bitter campaign that divided Britain. The FT live blog. What happens next. How currency markets called this wrong. Brexiters find their fizz. Europe’s populists cheer.
THE MARKET RESPONSE Read more
Some sovereignty obsessed people with little practical economic sense are preparing to make a decision with the potential to seriously spook European markets. And no, we don’t mean the Brexit referendum.
In a few hours Germany’s highest court will rule on the legality of the European Central Bank’s most contentious weapon in fighting the financial crisis. At 10am local time, Mario Draghi’s ‘whatever it takes’ scheme will meet the ‘whatever we say’ of the Karlsruhe.
This is the finale of a long legal saga that has dogged the ECB’s Outright Monetary Transactions programme for most of its 4-year existence. Mr Draghi’s promise to, if necessary, buy unlimited eurozone bonds has never been used, but its effects were palpable. Mr Draghi challenged the speculators to bet against him, and they blinked.
The FT’s ECB watcher Clare Jones does a fine job of explaining the issues and the ping-pong between the Karlsruhe and the European Court of Justice that preceded this decision. The bottom line is that the Karlsruhe has already voiced reservations about the design of OMT – and may today take a stricter line than the ECJ. At worst it could legally hobble the scheme.
The timing is extraordinarily. On an economic level, markets are already fretting over the referendum. The ECB and the Bank of England are preparing to flood the market with liquidity and take some edge off a negative reaction. But if investors seriously turn against the eurozone periphery – as officials in Brussels and Frankfurt fear – OMT could be crucial. Its credibility matters.
On a political level, too, this is an unusually sensitive moment. What are the implications of a national court thumbing its nose at the ECJ on such an important EU policy decision? For decades the Karlsruhe has coexisted with Europe’s highest court in an uneasy legal truce, with each one claiming supremacy and the final say on law but never testing the premise to the point of destruction.
If the Karlsruhe imposes its will – and takes back control, as the Brexiters would say – what will British eurosceptics think? It could certainly inspire some interesting lawmaking in Westminster, even if there is a Remain vote on Thursday.
BREXIT MARKET RALLY
The polls are looking better for Remain. It is still close, but the apparent swing was enough for sterling made its biggest one-day gains in eight years. Read more
Europe’s four most powerful men are in peril, fighting for their political lives in some choppy and unusual electoral waters. Whether this week in the case of Britain’s David Cameron or Spain’s Mariano Rajoy, or in the coming months with regard to Matteo Renzi and Francois Hollande, each one is nearing a career-defining reckoning with voters. The four cover opposite ends of the mainstream political spectrum, but share a common fear: being undone by primal anti-establishment forces. Such is the lot of Europe’s political princes.
David Cameron’s verdict There is a touch more optimism in Downing Street on the EU referendum. After a tumultuous week, poll momentum has swung back to Remain (as well as defections). Mr Cameron also delivered a solid TV performance on Sunday night, channelling his inner Winston according to the FT’s Henry Mance. Note the emphasis on this referendum being a no-turning-back decision on the EU – but not on Mr Cameron. His approval ratings have plummeted but he insists this vote is not a verdict on him. It appears he may try, against the odds, to hold on to power after a Brexit win. Given what it would do to his legacy, what does he have to lose?
Matteo Renzi’s star falls Once the golden-child of this political quartet, the restless Italian Socialist is facing a ballot-box revolt. The Five Star movement routed Mr Renzi in Rome’s municipal elections last night, making Virginia Raggi the eternal city’s first female mayor. In a big upset Turin was lost as well to a 31-year old Five Star insurgent, Chiara Appendino. Mr Renzi’s Democratic party did manage to draw the line there, hanging on to Milan and Bolgna, where it was facing a more traditional run-off with centre-right opponents. All eyes are now on the October referendum on constitutional reform that Mr Renzi said he would win or quit. His enemies are circling.