EU

Jim Brunsden

By Arthur Beesley in London

Europe is transfixed these days by Brexit, terrorism, migrants and the populist advance. But the riddle of Greece remains.

A damning new report by the IMF’s in-house inspectorate finds fault on several grounds with the fund’s approach to the country. This is backwards-looking exercise, which takes stock of bailouts for Greece, Ireland and Portugal. Yet there are clear implications for the next phase of the long battle to restore fiscal stability in Athens.

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Jim Brunsden

The scourge of the City of London, the Frenchman who sought to regulate the British financial services industry piece by piece, the Brussels commissioner who had the former Bank of England governor banging on his desk has returned.

The European Commission’s announcement yesterday that Michel Barnier is to lead its Brexit negotiation team was, in a town notorious for leaks, a genuine surprise. In Britain, his return has been received coolly by the government, and has widely been seen as a provocation. Remember also that Barnier has form with David Davis, Britain’s Brexit minister; the FT here looks at their first run-in as Europe ministers in the mid-1990s.

But who really is Michael Barnier? And what clues can be drawn from his past in Brussels to guide us about how he will approach this job?

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Jim Brunsden

After the horror comes the soul searching. And, with unseemly speed, so too comes the politics.

The revelations that the Syria refugee who blew himself up on Sunday night at a Bavarian music festival had pledged his allegiance to Isis has brutally revived nagging doubts in Germany about Angela Merkel’s refugee policy – specifically her decision in 2015 to welcome more than a million asylum seekers.

 

Germany is reeling. The suicide bombing was one of four attacks in the last eight days, three of which involved Afghan and Syria refugees as perpetrators. FAZ, in an editorial, asks simply how the country can“prevent the madness.” Read more

Matteo Renzi is politically cornered. Troubled banks – or more precisely Monte dei Paschi di Siena - have left the Italian premier facing a problem with no good answers.

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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.

Erdogan’s rule

 

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

Duncan Robinson

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The flow of people into Greece may have stopped, but elsewhere Europe’s migrant crisis continues unabated.

Tens of thousands of people are still making the dangerous crossing from north Africa to Italy every month – and more are dying than ever before.

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Manuel Valls’ dark prediction after attacks in Paris in November, that more lives would be lost as France grapples to contain the most severe terror threat since the Algerian independence war, materialised in Nice on Bastille Day.

But being right about innocent people dying is not a winning political strategy for any government.

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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

Duncan Robinson

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“The horror, the horror has, once again, hit France,” said French president Francois Hollande after another tragic and heartbreaking day for France and Europe. Read more

Duncan Robinson

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Theresa May has picked the team to take Britain out of the EU.

Staunch Brexiter David Davis will oversee negotiations as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, which provides the apt acronym “SSEE U!”

Mr Davis is an optimist, to put it lightly. The former Europe minister (two decades ago) revealed a rather punchy Brexit plan in the aftermath of the vote: first, sign trade deals with anyone and everyone outside the EU, including the US and China, creating the world’s largest trade bloc. The bulk of this can be done in two years, he says. Read more

Duncan Robinson

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By Arthur Beesley

US treasury secretary Jack Lew visits Brussels today for talks withMargrethe Vestager, competition commissioner.

The meeting comes amid transatlantic tension over the European Commission’s long state-aid inquiry into Apple’s tax arrangements in Ireland.

Ms Vestager’s investigations continue. She had informal discussions on Tuesday with Irish finance minister Michael Noonan on the margins of a regular EU meeting in Brussels. Read more

Duncan Robinson

Theresa May will be the next prime minister of Britain – and become the chief architect of its departure from the EU.

The soon-to-be former home secretary will be a familiar face to many of those sitting across the negotiating table in Brussels. Read more

Jim Brunsden

As Brexit Britain weighs the option of a free-trade agreement to access to the EU single market, it would do well to consider the sobering example of a similar deal betweenEurope and Canada. It is relatively uncontentious, yet floundering in choppy political waters.

Known as CETA, talks on a deal concluded almost two years ago, and opposition to it has been growing ever since. Intertwined in the public consciousness with a much bigger trade pact that’s in the works with the US, the deal has become a prime target for green groups, trade unions and left wing parties, which see it as a free-market attack on regulation. Read more

Jim Brunsden

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One of the major legacies of the euro area debt crisis has been tougher oversight of how well, or badly, countries respect EU fiscal rulesRead more

Duncan Robinson

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The British establishment is set to receive another beating today when the long-awaited Chilcot Report into the Iraq war is released.In it, the failings that led up to the war in Iraq – and with it the deaths of 179 British soldiers and an uncountable number of Iraqis – will be laid bare.

Tony Blair, Britain’s last Europhile leader, broke with Berlin and Paris, sided with the US and ended up on the wrong side of history. Until last month, the Iraq war loomed over Britain as the biggest foreign policy failure in a generation. Now, thanks to Brexit, at least it has competition.

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Duncan Robinson

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“Don’t like it? Then don’t do it” has become a mantra for EU governments in recent months when it comes to rules of which they are not fond.

The latest leader to ascribe to the philosophy is French prime minister Manuel Valls, who is unhappy with the unreformed law on posted workers.

Countries such as France argue that it allows social dumping, with international companies able to depress wages by bringing in expat workers on the cheap, and want the directive changed. Read more

Duncan Robinson

Like a couple in a strained marriage, the EU’s 27* national leaders will in September head to Bratislava for a day by the Danube to get away from it all and try to remember why they are still together.

“Sometimes member states need to have intensive discussions among themselves,” said Robert Fico, the Slovakian prime minister who will play host/marriage counsellor. The reason for the city break? “Brussels tends to have a rather negative connotation these days,” says Mr Fico. 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

What if ‘Brexit’ – an outcome dreaded in Paris and European capitals – was a gift in disguise? The thought crystallised in François Hollande’s mind on Saturday, when he sat with Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front party, at the Elysée Palace. The French president hosted the full spectrum of French politicians to assess Britain’s Brexit vote. All eyes though were on Ms Le Pen, who had been sporting a victorious smile since the UK result.

The far-right leader quickly reiterated her wish to hold an EU referendum herself. “What would be the question?” the president asked her, according to a person who attended the meeting. In or out, she replied. “Out of the EU or the eurozone?” Of the EU, she confirmed – of the eurozone, the Schengen passport free zone, and all the rest. Ms Le Pen’s position has changed – in the 2012 presidential race she focused on scrapping the single currency. Like kindred spirits on the right of Dutch and Danish politics, she has been emboldened by the UK referendum, and become more radical.

For Mr Hollande, who despite record levels of unpopularity is contemplating reelection, it makes sense. Ms Le Pen’s core battle is immigration and she can blame the EU for a refugee influx. By putting the EU at the heart of the campaign, she also seeks to revive the eclectic 2005 coalition that voted down the EU constitution.

But it is a risky strategy. Read more

EU leaders resume their meeting this morning with one conspicuous absentee. David Cameron is locked out of deliberations – the first time in more than 40 years that a UK prime minister has been excluded. Better get used to it.

Last night saw one of the more awkward dinners in recent diplomatic history, as Mr Cameron tried to explain the meaning of Brexit to his sombre European counterparts. Read more