Eurozone

Simon Greaves

The price of salad is about to jump after prices for olive oil, lettuce and tomatoes have soared following a lengthy drought in Spain. Read more

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by Nassos Stylianou and John Burn-Murdoch

Between May 22 and 25, some 400 million people will be eligible to vote in the European Parliament elections. But how many of them will actually turn up at the ballot box?

Following 2009 treaty changes, the European Parliament will for the first time have a more direct role in electing the president of the European Commission , the EU’s executive arm, giving May’s election added significance.

Despite the increasing influence of the European Parliament, the percentage of those voting to elect its members has fallen in every election, from 62 per cent in 1979’s inaugural direct elections through to 43 per cent in 2009.

At the last European elections five years ago, less than half of those eligible voted in 18 of the 27 member states. In six countries, the turnout was below 30 per cent. In one country, Slovakia, less than one in five of those eligible voted.

Turnout in Germany, France and Italy – founding members of the common market – has eroded by more than 20 percentage points since then. In the UK, turnout was already low at 32.3 per cent in 1979 and levels have remained consistently below 40 per cent ever since.

However, several of the newer member states such as Estonia, Latvia and Bulgaria recorded a surge in turnout in 2009.

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Valentina Romei

Elena is a 26 year old Italian woman with a degree in child psychology who has been working in London as a nursery teacher for nearly a year. She moved to the UK after months spent looking in vain for a job in Tuscany, a region where the unemployment rate, at 7.9%, is well below the Italian average of 11.3%.

But Elena is not counted among more than 16,000 Italians that moved to the UK, according to official statistics updated for the FT by the Italian Ministry of Interior. These numbers are based on the registry of Italians living abroad (AIRE). Elena has a vague knowledge of this register but decided not to sign up for fear of losing important rights and services (including healthcare) in her home country. Read more

Croatia today becomes latest nation to enter the European Union. This itself is a remarkable achievement as less than 20 years ago, Croatia was a party to a fratricidal war that tried to break the former Yugoslavia into ethnically pure geographic regions and included the mass murder of civilians of other ethnic groups.

Although it is now long over, the EU’s newest member still faces considerable economic and demographic challenges to bring it in line with EU norms. Life expectancy at birth for men, for example, lags the rest of the EU by nearly four years and its GDP per capita is only 61 per cent of the EU average.

Moreover, it cannot count on a growing population to boost its economic output; its fertility rate at 1.4 per woman is not only below the level needed to keep population stable, it is lower than the EU average of 1.57 births per woman.

Croatia charts

Source: Thomson Reuters Datastream Read more

Valentina Romei

Following on from 10 charts (part 1), which included the first five challenges facing the next Italian government, here are the next five as we head towards Italy’s general election.

1) Corruption

Corruption is a plight for the country that together with bureaucracy prevents an efficient allocation of resources and discourages investment. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Italy 72nd out of 182 countries evaluated in 2012, three positions lower than the previous year. The perception of corruption of Italians is particularly high for the political system, which is one of the main reasons for the country’s political instability and poor governability.

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Italy goes to the polls on February 24 and 25, after Mario Monti, the country’s technocratic prime minister, announced his resignation in December. He is attempting to safeguard his legacy by standing as a campaigning politician, but Mr Monti faces strong competition.

This interactive graphic shows Italy’s economic standing and its regional disparities and what the newly elected government will have to grapple with once it comes to power.

Valentina Romei

The UK Department for Transport is under fire over the cancellation of a deal to award a rail franchise, because of “technical flaws” in the bidding process.

The incident brings the British railway system back into the headlines, where it has often been because of contested fare rises. Complaints about the railways may be something of a national sport, but according to a survey published last month by Eurobarometer, the European Commission body that analyses public opinion, people in the UK are more satisfied with their national and regional rail system than most of their European counterparts. Read more

Kate Allen

Angela Merkel has been making much of Germany’s predominant role in the EU’s trade relationship with China – the oft-touted ‘special relationship’. The EU overtook Japan as China’s main source of imports back in 2011, and Germany is the biggest contributor to that. But Europe’s elevated status is not due to its own export growth; rather, it is due to Japan’s continuing performance slide.

Chinese imports

Source: IMF/Haver Analytics

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Martin Stabe

The latest data from the FT/Economist Business Barometer, the quarterly global business sentiment survey, was published last week and the business-friendliness section again made for interesting reading.

France’s “business friendliness” has plummeted since the last barometer survey, which was conducted before before the election of François Hollande as president. For the first time, more of the business executives surveyed by the EIU rated the country’s ”unfriendly” than “friendly” to business. Read more

It’s EUROPE’S SCARIEST CHART (against some pretty stiff competition): Spanish youth unemployment above 50 per cent! One in two young Spaniards on the scrapheap! Packs of ravening wolves roaming the streets of Madrid!

Prepare to be terrified:

Actually, a bit misleading.

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Martin Stabe

With more than a year’s worth of of data from our exclusive business sentiment poll, the FT/Economist Global Business Barometer, now available, some interesting longitudinal patterns are becoming apparent for the first time.

Most notable among them is the steady erosion over the past year in executives’ perceptions of the “business friendliness” three of the world’s biggest developing economies, India, China and Brazil.

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Martin Stabe

What we’re reading today in the world of statistics, open data and data journalism:

We like a good political choropleth around here, and Sunday’s European election extravaganza did not disappoint in the psephological cartography department.

A good map of the Greek results can be found at igraphics.gr, Le Monde has the obligatory map of the French presidential election par département, and Michael Neutze’s site Wahlatlas covered the results in the German state of Schleswig-HolsteinRead more

Valentina Romei

Markets promptly react to flash releases of economic indicators and large sums of money are lost or made based on zero-point-something percentage points of GDP growth. But, in the excitement of new economic data, it is worth remembering how data is subject to frequent and quite substantial revisions.

Notoriously, in 2010 Japan’s most watched economic indicator was drastically revised downwards, slicing off a full 3.5 percentage points from the annualised growth rate first reported for the third quarter of 2009, prompting soul searching about the quality of Japanese economic data. But revisions occur across many countries and not only after the flash releases.

An OECD database of the various edition of the monthly publication of the Main Economic Indicators (MEI) shows how widespread the issue is. Read more