Europe

With Scotland to vote on its independence from the UK on September 18, the outcome is no longer looking so certain.

  • The pro-independence side is enjoying a late surge in what heralds a long fortnight for the pro-union camp, writes the FT’s John McDermott
  • In an ironic twist to the campaign, ‘No’ activists are using patriotism against the nationalists in a “bloody fight about emotions”
  • The BBC has been accused of timidly letting SNP leader Alec Salmond “off the hook” in the independence debate
  • Who is right about the future oil riches held by the North Sea, a bitter bone of contention in the independence debate?

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By Gideon Rachman
The people who prepare President Barack Obama’s national security briefing must be wondering what to put at the top of the pile. Should it be the Russian assault on Ukraine, or the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (known as Isis) in Iraq and Syria? And what items should go just below that?

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By Henry Foy in Warsaw

Pride and relief mixed on the streets of Warsaw the morning after Polish prime minister Donald Tusk’s election to the top of Europe’s political hierarchy, after seven years leading a country that is unsure of whether he would have remained in charge.

Mr Tusk’s selection as the new President of the European Council late on Saturday gives Poland the most important global political position in its history and confirms its rise to the continent’s top table.

But with his domestic ratings in the doldrums approaching a general election that his party will likely struggle to win, most are happy to wish him well on his way.

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By Christian Oliver and Richard Milne

Europe’s leaders are preparing for a trade war with Russia by mapping out the battlefields on which they see the highest risk of casualties.

In data released on Friday, the European Commission identified the agricultural exporters most vulnerable to Moscow’s trade embargo on EU produce. Spanish peaches, Dutch cheeses and Polish apples find themselves squarely on the front line.

Polish fruit exports to Russia were valued at €340m last year and win the dubious honour of being the most exposed crops. The Poles have launched an impassioned public campaign to try to switch to more domestic consumption with their “Eat an apple to spite Putin” slogan.

The Netherlands (with dairy exports to Russia of €257m in 2013) and Finland (€253m) are at most risk on the milk and cheese front. Spain and Greece are vulnerable in relation to citrus, with stoned fruit such as peaches and nectarines also being described by farmers as being at crisis point in terms of storage overload and no market to go to. Read more

Tony Barber

The consensus, such as it is, on the eurozone crisis was neatly summed up on Monday by Hugo Dixon, author and editor at large of Reuters News: “The euro crisis is sleeping, not dead.”

What about the crisis in Greece? Over the past four to five years Europe, supported by the International Monetary Fund, has invested more time, effort and money in Greece than in any other struggling eurozone state. The aim is to reform a country so inefficiently governed, so riddled with corruption and so burdened with debt that it seemed, for certain spells in 2011 and 2012, to pose a threat to the eurozone’s survival.

So it seems reasonable to ask: if this time, effort and money have not changed Greece for the better, what has it all been for? Read more

Crisis over the MH17 atrocity
Russia and the west have been increasingly at odds following the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine, an atrocity that has been widely blamed on pro-Russian separatists. What are Vladimir Putin’s options, and what diplomatic accommodation be can be found to make the situation less volatile? Katherine Hille, Moscow bureau chief, and Neil Buckley, east Europe editor, join Gideon Rachman.

Tony Barber

Here are three reasons why some of Italy’s EU partners don’t want Federica Mogherini, the Italian foreign minister, to become the 28-nation bloc’s next foreign policy supremo.

Only one is to do with her. The second is about the distribution of big EU jobs among nations. The third, most important reason is about Italy and why its foreign policy may not suit the EU as a whole. Read more

Gideon Rachman

By an accident of timing, William Hague’s departure from the Foreign Office has come on the same day as the confirmation, by the European Parliament, that Jean-Claude Juncker will be the next president of the European Commission. One of Mr Hague’s last, losing, battles was to prevent Mr Juncker from getting the Commission job. His successor at the Foreign Office, Philip Hammond, will inherit the crucial task of trying to manage Britain’s relationship with the EU. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
Germany has a habit of winning the World Cup at symbolic moments. Victory in 1954 – captured in the film, The Miracle of Bern – allowed Germans a moment of pride and redemption after defeat and disgrace in 1945. A second victory in 1974 went to a West Germany whose “economic miracle” had, by then, allowed it to regain its status as one of the world’s most advanced nations. Victory in 1990, just months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, caught the joy and potential of a soon-to-be united Germany.

What would an Erdogan presidency mean for Turkey?
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced he will run in the country’s first every directly elected presidential contest next month. Ben Hall is joined by Istanbul correspondent Daniel Dombey and FT columnist David Gardner to discuss how is the turmoil across the border in Syria and Iraq is changing the political dynamics ahead of the election, and whether an Erdogan victory would mean breaking the grip of Turkey’s old elite, or just another step towards authoritarian rule.