EU

Duncan Robinson

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Angela Merkel said that she would “rewind time”, if she could, and deal with Germany’s influx of refugees differently, marking the first time that the German chancellor had confessed to mishandling the crisis. Read more

Jim Brunsden

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After a gentle ride down the Danube, the choppier political waters of home.

Having pondered the future of Europe with fellow leaders at Friday’s summit in Bratislava, Angela Merkel is this morning digesting the latest warning given to her by the German electorate, after Berlin went to the polls.

The election marks another breakthrough for the anti-immigrant and eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland party, which will enter the capital’s state parliament for the first time, having finished in fifth place with 14.2 per cent of the vote. As for Merkel’s CDU, it held on to second place but saw its vote share fall to 17.6 per cent - its poorest result ever in Berlin.

The outcome should not be overstated; the AfD stands no chance of actually enjoying power in a coalition. It is, though, the latest in a pattern of striking AfD successes – just two weeks ago the party spectacularly leapfrogged Ms Merkel’s CDU to claim second place in her home region of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Markus Söder, a senior member of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s christian democrats, described the vote as “the second massive wake-up call in a fortnight.” 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

Jim Brunsden

What links the US, China, Canada and Japan? No, it isn’t their membership of the G20, it’s their inclusion in an EU document that is in no way, shape, or form a draft of the EU’s new tax havens blacklist.

On Wednesday, the Commission published a “scoreboard” looking at aspects of non-EU countries’ tax systems. It makes for interesting reading:

The idea is that the information can help governments whittle down which countries might be included in a blacklist of “non-cooperative jurisdictions” that the EU is planning to draw up next year. Read more

Duncan Robinson

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If Brexit is viewed as a divorce, then Britain has only just moved into the spare bedroom. But the other 27 members of the EU have to start moving on now. Read more

Duncan Robinson

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When Jean-Claude Juncker gave his state of the union speech this time last year, he confessed: “Our European Union is not in a good state.” Read more

Duncan Robinson

Those squealing tyres you can hear are coming from the Berlaymont. Days after launching their proposed “fair use” policy on roaming, the European Commission has pulled the guidelines.

An initial draft was published on 5.9.2016. The Commission services have, on the instruction of President Juncker, withdrawn the draft and are working on a new version.

 Read more

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Francois Hollande’s rentrée speech yesterday was first and foremost a feel-good exercise. For an hour, the French socialist president, whom nearly 90 per cent of the French do not want to see running for a second term next year, was surrounded by true friends – zero risk of betrayal à la Emmanuel Macron. Read more

Duncan Robinson

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Brussels is pressing on with a plan to bulk up the EU’s military capability. The FT’s European diplomatic correspondent Arthur Beesley broke the story. Read more

Duncan Robinson

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The “cultural counter-revolution” has started, at least according to Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski. The two conservative ideologues from Europe’s east made a long-anticipated joint appearance on Tuesday night and showed political love can still blossom on this crisis-ridden continent. Our correspondents on the scene in Krynica-Zdroj in southern Poland saw the duo “exchange gushing compliments”, before denouncing the workings of Brussels, uncontrolled migration and the “smell” of “international capital”. Here are some extracts from Henry Foy and Neil Buckley’s report. Read more

Jim Brunsden

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In one part of Brussels, Vera Jourova, the European commissioner for justice, was launching a campaign to make sure that national regulators pursued Volkswagen over the “dieselgate” scandal. 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

Duncan Robinson

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It is the least welcome fiscal boost in history. By demanding that Apple hands over €13bn to Ireland, Brussels has metaphorically bundled the Irish government into an alley, while forcibly shoving €50 notes into its pocket. Read more

Duncan Robinson

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Apple faces paying back billions in back-taxes when Brussels rules that a sweetheart tax deal with Ireland amounted to illegal state aid later today.

Everything about this decision is big. Apple is the world’s largest company. The back-taxes due will run into ten figures. The legal methods are relatively untested. And the political stakes are huge.

The Apple case cuts to the heart of the power struggle between Brussels and Washington over who sets the standards – whether on tax, privacy, or finance – for global business. Read more

Duncan Robinson

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Welcome back! For a few happy weeks, officials were able to put Europe’s multiple crises to the back of their minds. No longer.

Those returning to their desks in Brussels, Berlin, Paris and beyond are confronted with a Hydra of misery: the refugee crisis rolls on, growth is still stagnant, and security concerns are mounting following a string of terror attacks.

A potentially huge referendum in Italy awaits as does another chance for Austria to vote in a far-right president. The fallout from Turkey’s failed coup creates instability at the EU’s border and – if the EU-Turkey refugee deal falls apart – further trouble in its core.

On top of all this, Britain has to decide how to extricate itself from the EU. Welcome back, indeed. Read more

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.

 Read more

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?

 Read more

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