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Senior Ukrainian officials insist they are still intent on closer integration with the European Union. So why do they make it so difficult for Europe to embrace it?
Friday’s announcement that jailed former premier Yulia Tymoshenko is now a formal suspect in ordering the 1996 contract killing of a Ukrainian lawmaker threatens further worsening of relations between Kiev and the west. Though prosecutors said last year they were investigating her involvement in the killing, which she categorically denies, the latest move is clearly an escalation.
That is a surprise — especially since the EU is currently debating whether to soften its stance on Ms Tymoshenko’s 2011 conviction on abuse of office charges, widely seen as politically motivated. Her imprisonment is the main reason why a far-reaching EU trade and political cooperation deal with Kiev — the biggest Brussels has ever negotiated with a third party — remains unsigned, though the text is agreed. Read more
The Davos conference centre (AFP).
The World Economic Forum’s 43rd annual shindig is kicking off in Davos this morning and to get you started ahead of our live blog, here’s some reading to accompany your morning coffee. You’ll find all the FT pieces on our WEF page. And here’s the WEF home page. Enjoy.
From our A-List blog of guest writers Howard Davies, who will be blogging for from the conference, in an amusing take on why the forum is like Scientology.
Peter Vanham guides us through what is being touted as one of the main themes at the bash - how to capitalise on the strength of emerging markets over developed ones – on our Beyondbrics blog.
On Alphaville, David Keohane, gives us the Davos D-List, and introduces the lovely Mdm D. Deville as the blog’s own special correspondent. Do follow her on @DavosDeville. Read more
It’s the first day of the World Economic Forum. We’ll keep you up to date. By Tom Burgis, Claire Jones and Ben Fenton in London with dispatches from FT correspondents in Davos. All times are GMT.
18.26 That’s it for the first day of Davos live.
Among the talking points were monetary policy, currency wars and that speech by David Cameron.
The British PM arrived in Switzerland today and is due to talk at 10.30am local time (9.30am UK time) tomorrow.
18.03 Unsurprisingly, the “resilient dynamism” (see 10.09) theme of this year’s Davos hasn’t gone down too well with the British press pack:
17.48 The IMF’s managing director Christine Lagarde took the stage after Mario Monti and she’s just taken a swipe at Cameron:
17.40 Gideon Rachman’s analysis of the Italian PM’s reaction to Cameron’s speech:
Gideon Rachman: His line that Europe does not need reluctant Europeans will be spun as anti-Cameron. But, in context, I think Monti was trying to be positive.
The Italian PM said Cameron was right that “prosperity and growth have to be priority number one” and that he was confident “Britain will vote to stay inside” in the event of a referendum. He also said it’s good that Cameron will ask the “fundamental” question of whether nations are in or out and that this will provoke Brits to make a proper analysis of costs and benefits.
Israeli politician Yair Lapid (Getty)
The cruellest but most revealing tweet about the Israeli election exit polls came from the American writer Jeffrey Goldberg: “I wonder if someone in the White House is right now researching the question, ‘who is Yair Lapid, and what exactly does he think?’”
Exit polls need to be treated with caution and Israel’s political system is particularly complex, but the early indications are that Lapid, a former television personality and leader of the self-described “centre-centre” Yesh Atid, has been the big winner of the elections.
The Obama administration had expected to be dealing with a Benjamin Netanyahu emboldened by a commanding electoral win and leading a coalition that was even more right-wing in its distaste for doing a deal with the Palestinians. According to the script, Nafatli Bennett of the pro-settler Jewish Home party, and not Lapid, was supposed to be the new star. Instead, the most likely outcome seems to be a more chastened Netanyahu looking to Lapid and the centre to help him form a new government. Read more
Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika (Getty)
As Algeria’s hostage crisis unfolded last week one man was conspicuously absent from the action: President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Mr Bouteflika wields enormous power and he has dominated the country’s politics since the late 1990s. He also has been at the centre of the diplomacy in the Sahel.
Yet when the going got tough, the 75-year-old president was nowhere to be seen or heard (although he did bother to send a note of encouragement to the national football team, which is competing in the Africa Cup of Nations). Instead he left it to his prime minister, Abdelmalek Sellal, to field the anxious calls of world leaders and to communicate – rather poorly – with the public. The British government, for example, tried to contact Mr Bouteflika but was told that he was not available. Read more
- Edward Luce thinks it was more directly political than in 2009, paraphrasing: “Together, we will pursue my objectives.”
- Gideon Rachman thinks Obama has made it clear that he wants his legacy to be domestic, but it may not work out that way.
- Ezra Klein says: “Obama’s first presidential campaign, and his first inaugural address, were about moving America past our old arguments. His second presidential campaign, and his second inaugural address, were about winning those arguments.“
- In his notes from the inauguration, David Remnick felt his speech was “infinitely better, more self-assured, more politically precise than his first” and… well, who doesn’t love Beyoncé?
In the rest of the world…
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits an east Jerusalem settlement in October 2012. (Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty Images)
Israelis go to the polls today in an election widely expected to return Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister for a third term – an historic achievement in the turbulent world of Israeli politics. A hardliner who has not hidden his backing for settlement building on occupied land — despite issuing qualified support for a Palestinian state in 2009 — Mr Netanyahu has successfully portrayed himself as a strong leader who can protect Israelis in a tough neighbourhood in the face of widespread international criticism.
That the already hawkish Mr Netanyahu was outflanked on the right by a charismatic new candidate, Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, has become the main theme of the election campaign. Mr Bennett makes no bones of his opposition to a two state solution with the Palestinians, and advocates the annexation of at least part of the occupied West Bank. His success in the campaign is part of a sharp shift to the right in Israeli politics.
In the FT:
- Naftali Bennett burst onto the political scene when he was elected leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party in November and he is emblematic of Israel’s rightward shift. He and his party campaigned hard in working class areas, underlining their support for Eretz Yisrael (Greater Israel, including occupied Palestinian land). His rise alarmed liberals and pushed Mr Netanyahu to the right on the campaign trail.
Welcome to our rolling coverage of Barack Obama’s inauguration for another four years as US president, complete with agenda-setting speech. By Johanna Kassel in New York and Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Washington with contributions from FT correspondents. All times are EST.
5.40 As we wrap things up for the night, a round up of the best the FT has to offer about President Obama’s second inauguration. Thanks for joining us
5.30 As the parade continues, running about 45 minutes behind schedule, the arrival of the president and first lady at the balls will be delayed. We’ll leave them to review the rest of the floats and bands as the sun sets on Washington.
A poster for Social Democrat Stephan Weil next to one of the CDU's David McAllister (AFP/GettyImages)
Voters handed a narrow victory to Germany’s centre-left opposition in Lower Saxony on Sunday. ‘But it’s only a regional election!’, you cry. Here’s why it matters:
1) The vote in Lower Saxony is considered a dry run for Germany’s general election in September this year.
The defeat of Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition in the swing state on Sunday – albeit by one seat – is a blow to the Chancellor. It emboldens her opponents, the centre-left alliance of the Social Democrats and Green party, who won power with 69 seats compared to the 68 seats of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union-led coalition. Merkel is still favourite to win in September – particularly because her personal ratings in the polls are excellent – but Lower Saxony suggests she has a battle ahead.
2) Merkel’s party, the CDU, lost power due to the downward drag of its coalition partner, the Free Democrat Party (FDP) – and the fear is that this effect could be replicated in the national elections.
Merkel’s own party still came top in Lower Saxony, with 36% of the vote, but in coalition politics, it’s all about team performance – and the chancellor’s chosen teammate let her down. The voting results slightly hide this: on first glance, the FDP did far better expected, winning 9.9%, compared to polling that showed them with just over 5% last week. Read more