France

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Manuel Valls, French prime minister, hit the nail on the head when giving his explanation for the resounding defeat suffered by his Socialist party in Sunday’s local elections.

“With their vote, the French have expressed their anger, their fatigue with life that is too difficult – unemployment, taxes and a high cost of living,” said Mr Valls (above). Read more

By Gideon Rachman
Europe is in a race against time. After six years of economic crisis, extremist political parties are well-entrenched across the continent. Set against that, the European economy is in better shape than for some years. The question is whether economic optimism can return quickly enough to prevent the bloc’s politics slithering over the edge.

In his Budget speech to parliament on Wednesday, the UK chancellor George Osborne indulged in the traditional needling of his opponents on the opposite bench. Whether it was a dig at Ed Miliband, Labour leader, for his two kitchens, or at the party’s recent electioneering in a “women-friendly” pink van, his jokes at the opposition’s expense met with the usual roars of raucous approval from his own benches.

But the second biggest target of his needling was rather more surprising – our friends across the Channel. Read more

  • Following Syriza’s election triumph in Greece, the coalition that will confront international creditors is an unholy alliance of two parties that couldn’t be further apart
  • The case of a former kebab restaurant owner accused of fraud said to be worth as much as $34bn has rocked Iran amid revelations of widespread corruption
  • Muslims account for more than half of France’s prison population and since the terror attacks in Paris there are calls to prevent jails from serving as recruitment centres for Islamists
  • A write-off of Greece’s debt would cause more problems in Europe than it would solve, strengthening radical parties and breaking down trust between members of the EU, argues Gideon Rachman
  • Saudi Arabia is expanding its regional power in the Middle East as others falter, but its ascendance is the result of the near-collapse of many nearby states (New York Times)

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It is a momentous day for the European Central Bank as it launches full-scale government bond buying. Mr Draghi started speaking at 13.30 GMT and the press conference usually lasts for an hour.

By Ralph Atkins and Lindsay Whipp

 

France has been through a traumatic period following a spate of terror attacks that killed 17 people, which led to a wave of demonstrations by millions of defiant citizens in response. In the latest edition of the FT World Weekly podcast, Gideon Rachman is joined by Hugh Carnegy, a former Paris bureau chief, and Michael Stothard, one of the FT correspondents who covered the aftermath of the attacks, to assess the wider impact of the events and discuss whether France can ward off the forces of polarisation.

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Within twenty years of the end of the second world war, the same European countries that had been sworn enemies during six years of bloody conflict committed themselves to a future of peace, prosperity and political and economic integration.

Some war crimes suspects slipped the net and avoided the Nuremberg trials, but their elusiveness did not interrupt or discredit the reconciliation process led by West Germany and France.

But two decades on from the wars that ripped apart the former Yugoslavia, it is impossible to make the case that reconciliation and integration are as advanced there as they were in western Europe by the mid-1960s.

The region’s societies, ethnicities and political leaderships remain bitterly at odds over how to assess the war crimes committed in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1991 and 1995.

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By Gideon Rachman
A couple of days before the terrorist attacks in Paris, a book arrived at my office. I placed What’s Wrong with France? by Laurent Cohen-Tanugi on the shelves, alongside a line of similar titles: France on the Brink, France in Denial, France in Freefall and France’s Suicide.

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  • Even before yesterday’s shooting, French authorities had warned of a big terrorist attack for months, their concern fuelled by large numbers of French recruits to Islamist groups in the Middle East
  • Having ended a long civil war and presided over an economic boom, Mahinda Rajapaksa expected to coast to a third term as president of Sri Lanka in today’s election. Instead, he faces a resurgent opposition
  • A new antibiotic that could take several decades for bacteria to develop resistance to is being developed through a public-private collaboration, amid repeated warnings about the dangers of growing resistance
  • Charlie Hebdo: its history, humor, and controversies, explained (Vox)
  • 23 Heartbreaking Cartoons From Artists Responding To The Charlie Hebdo Shooting (Buzzfeed)

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The central bankers, past and present, who met in Paris on Friday have collectively pumped tens of trillions of dollars into financial markets and are widely applauded for staving off a global financial meltdown.

But the crowd of star monetary policy makers at the Banque de France’s conference were clearly peeved that since 2008 they have, in their own words, become the only game in town.

Over the past two week, the Bank of Japan upped its bond purchases to a staggering 15 per cent of gross domestic product a year and the European Central Bank signalled a €1tn balance sheet expansion. Yet the policy makers who helped pass those measures, which included governor Haruhiko Kuroda and members of the ECB’s governing council, played down the impact these waves of cheap cash will have on the economy. Read more

Europe’s budget wrangles
Gideon Rachman is joined by Peter Spiegel, Brussels bureau chief, and Tony Barber, Europe editor, to discuss the threat that the European Commission will reject the budgets of some of Europe’s biggest nations, in particular France and Italy. Is such a move really possible and what would be the political and economic consequences?

Speaking on television earlier this year, Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, declared that his government’s budget would not be written to “satisfy Brussels”, adding – “We are a great nation . . . France is a sovereign country.”

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  • Against the odds, Nigeria’s overstretched health service and chaotic public authorities have so far contained the Ebola virus through co-ordination and lots of water
  • A simple chart that looks like a fish is giving Spain’s ruling Popular Party hope that next year’s elections – as well as the turmoil over Catalonia’s future – will go its way
  • A former rebel who recently came out of hiding is threatening to shake up Mozambique’s election on a platform of more equitable development for the gas-rich but desperately poor nation
  • A coterie of celebrated chefs wants to bring back the ortolan, a coveted and sumptuous bird eaten in a mouthful that was banned from France’s restaurant menus in 1999
  • Fear not, Our Dear Leader lives: after making no public appearances for more than a month, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un is back, but with a walking stick (and possibly a case of gout)

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