Nikolay Kolev, better known as ‘Bosiya’ (Barefoot), was arrested in Sofia on Tuesday after he threw a single tomato at the wall of Bulgaria’s parliament, in protest against corruption. Now a ‘tomato rally’ is planned for Saturday afternoon outside parliament. Read more
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on June 4, 2012 (PEDRO NUNES/AFP/GettyImages)
After spending an hour today with Boyko Borisov, Bulgaria’s prime minister, I am more convinced than ever that a political career in the Balkans is not for the faint-hearted.
Borisov is a barrel-chested former police chief and bodyguard who holds a black belt in karate. The grip of his handshake is strong enough to convey the confidence of undisputed power and to make you realise that, if it were just a little tighter, you would experience measurable pain. Read more
In Berlin last week an impressive selection of elder statesmen from Germany and other European Union countries rolled up for a two-day conference labelled “Europa nach der Krise”. It was by no means the first event, since the eruption of potentially devastating turmoil in the eurozone in 2010, that preferred to ask what Europe might look like “after the crisis” rather than focus on what needs to be done to get out of the crisis in the first place.
To their credit, some of the conference participants, such as former UK premier Tony Blair and former EU commissioner Peter Sutherland, made this very point, saying in effect to their audiences: “You’re nuts if you think Europe is already out of the woods.”
Nevertheless I was left with the distinct impression that, by and large, politicians and experts from eurozone countries thought the worst was over and the crisis was essentially under control, whereas their counterparts from non-eurozone countries thought nothing of the sort. Why should this be? Are eurozone representatives guilty of wishful thinking? Are non-eurozone representatives so ill-disposed towards the euro that they want the crisis either never to end or to end in disaster? Read more
Silvio Berlusconi attends the presentation of the book "The big cheat" by Renato Brunetta (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/GettyImages)
Following a Berlusconi trial is like going to the theatre — it is your civic right to enjoy a spectacle even though you know perfectly well the act bears no relation to reality.
Very little about Silvio Berlusconi, or about the Italian legal system, is quite what it seems. The four-year prison term to which the former prime minister was sentenced on Friday for tax fraud is a good example. There is next to no chance that he will go to jail. The likelihood that he will ever be definitively convicted of this particular offence is not much higher.
Contrary to what he and his devotees might think, the reason is not that he is a paragon of virtue. Nor is it that the Italian courts always uncover the truth in the end. It is rather that the three-tier judicial system operates so slowly that, even if a defendant is eventually found guilty in the highest appeals court, the case has been going on for so long that a statute of limitations kicks in. Read more
The UK, Belgium, Spain and other countries that contain restive national minorities and regions are not about to disappear in a puff of smoke, argues Tony Barber in a post for The World blog. Read more
Roberto Formigoni, who this month resigned as the governor of Lombardy after the arrest of his deputy, with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi (R) in 2010 (TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
The wave of corruption scandals that is engulfing Italy prompts me to ask if we are witnessing a “1992 moment” – that is to say, the start of an unstoppable process that will sweep away much of the political establishment.
The question has two answers. The first is that the Italian upheaval of 20 years ago, though it destroyed the old political party system, promised more fundamental change than it ultimately delivered. So do not raise your expectations too high today.
Some optimistic political commentators thought it safe in the 1990s to suggest that Italy’s corrupt post-1945 First Republic, dominated by the Christian Democrats and their allies, was giving way to a cleaner, more responsible Second Republic. But these hopes turned out to be misplaced.
Secretive networks of influence and self-indulgence at the expense of taxpayers continued, and continue, to shape the activities of the political classes. The mafia, rampant in the 1980s and early 1990s, shrank to some extent into the shadows, but it has never loosened its connections to politics, business and state administration. Read more
Greece is usually labelled the eurozone’s most reform-resistant economy, but perhaps that’s because Cyprus slips under most people’s radars, writes Tony Barber. Read more
If Greek citizens aren’t angry enough at the condescending and ignorant manner in which northern Europeans discuss their plight, I invite them to inspect the opinions of Jürgen Ligi, Estonia’s finance minister.
An interview with Mr Ligi appeared on Monday on the extremely handy European affairs blog that is published by the London School of Economics.
In answer to the question “Do you think that austerity measures in countries like Greece have gone far enough?”, here’s what the Estonian minister said:
“I honestly haven’t seen any austerity in Greece. It’s a rich country with a high level of consumption, and the present situation in Greece is far better than what we experienced in Estonia in the early 1990s. They are spending a lot – much more than they earn – so it can’t be called austerity.”
Let’s think about that.
Greece is projected next year to endure its sixth consecutive year of deep recession. By then, economic output will be 25 per cent below the peak of the boom years that marked Greece’s initial experience of eurozone membership. Read more
Add Poland to the list of European Union countries turned off by the incoherent, self-isolating policies of Britain’s Conservative-led government towards Europe.
First there was Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel restricts her visits to the UK these days to the barest minimum. She has been lukewarm about David Cameron, the UK prime minister, ever since he pulled the Conservative party out of the pan-European centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), of which her Christian Democrats are a leading light.
Next came France. President François Hollande hasn’t forgotten how Cameron refused to meet him when he visited London on an election campaign trip earlier this year. Hollande is not inclined to do Cameron any favours on crucial issues such as the protection of British interests in a more deeply integrated Europe. Read more
Will the Spanish government request a European bailout? Will Catalonia secede from Spain? These are burning questions, but on Tuesday morning a different political topic is on the minds of many madrileños.
Esperanza Aguirre, the head of the Madrid regional government and one of the most influential figures in the Partido Popular, Spain’s ruling centre-right party, abruptly resigned from her post on Monday. She said she was withdrawing from the front line of politics “for personal reasons”. Read more