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
For the past 15 years, there has been little good to say about Italy’s economic performance, and even less about the quality of Italian political life.
Yet one Italian institution emerges with its reputation unscathed – and even strengthened – from this long spell of incompetence, corruption and decline.
I am speaking of the presidency. Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, who served as head of state from 1999-2006, and Giorgio Napolitano, his successor and the current president, have exemplified everything that is dignified, decent and honourable about their country. Their behaviour in office has put the squabbling and self-serving political classes to shame – and it has preserved respect for Italy among its allies and partners abroad. 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?
A spike in the cost of government borrowing is raising the spectre of Venezuela defaulting on its more than $80bn of sovereign debt
Italy’s anti-euro, anti-immigrant Northern League party is seizing on the Scottish referendum to relaunch calls for secession of the north of Italy
A meeting between the leaders of China and India next week underscores the slow thaw in the countries’ relations as their economic links strengthen
Isis is recruiting in Istanbul‘s impoverished suburbs, often through religious study groups, to boost its ranks of fighters and populate its self-declared caliphate. Read more
After all the UK press has written about him over the past few weeks, it is good to see Jean-Claude Juncker still has a sense of humour.
The former Luxembourg prime minister has largely kept his head down since he emerged as the front-runner for the European Commission presidency – and came under fire from UK prime minister David Cameron and the pro-Conservative battalions of the British media.
On Tuesday Mr Juncker broke cover to deliver a speech at a Berlin security conference – he had, he said, accepted the invitation before becoming embroiled in the latest battle of Brussels.
Explaining that he was between jobs – having handed over the reins in Luxembourg in December and yet to be installed in a new post – he added with a smile: “I am a transgender person, in the political sense.” Read more
Just when it seemed that European politics could get no harder for Angela Merkel, a new complication has emerged in the tangled world of the EU.
The German chancellor is already involved in a head-splitting row over the probable appointment of Jean Claude Juncker as the next European Commission president. This week while Ms Merkel was in Brazil watching Germany’s opening victory of the World Cup, the first big split emerged in her ruling coalition.
Sigmar Gabriel, her deputy, pounced on Ms Merkel’s absence to challenge her eurozone economic policy, in an intervention that has the potential to sour relations long after the original dispute is forgotten. Read more
Now that most of the results have come in from the European parliament elections, let’s take a family photograph of Europe’s presidents, chancellors and prime ministers. Who have the broadest smiles on their faces, and who are sobbing into their handkerchiefs?
Among the European Union’s six biggest states – France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK – the happiest leader must surely be Matteo Renzi, Italy’s premier. He won, and won big. Mr Renzi (above) demolished the notion that Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment Five-Star Movement is on an unstoppable roll. He also inflicted an emphatic defeat on Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party.
Even though it was not a national election, the youthful Mr Renzi can now claim to have a mandate of sorts for the political, economic and social reforms that he knows are necessary to modernise Italy. This is not to say that he will succeed – the power of entrenched anti-reform interests in Italy is formidable. But maybe he has a better chance than he did 48 hours ago. Read more
Can Renzi break Italian deadlock?
In Italy, the government of Enrico Letta has fallen and the country is set to have its youngest Prime Minister ever. Matteo Renzi promises to be a radical reformer. In this week’s podcast Guy Dinmore, Rachel Sanderson and Ferdinando Giugliano join Gideon Rachman to discuss whether Mr Renzi can break the political and economic deadlock that seems to be paralysing the country and what the stakes are for Europe
(OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Whenever any centre-left leader comes to power in Europe, there are always questions over who he or she will be compared to. Take François Hollande: only days after his election to the Elysée, commentators were already wondering whether he might be France’s Gerhard Schröder. The hope was that he could reform France’s labour market from the left, just as the former chancellor did in Germany in the early 2000s.
Matteo Renzi, who is set to become Italy’s youngest ever prime minister, is bound to draw such comparisons. When Time magazine chose to feature the then 34-year old mayor of Florence on its front page in February 2009, the US weekly asked whether he might be Italy’s Barack Obama. In an interview to the Italian daily Il Foglio, Mr Renzi compared himself to Tony Blair, saying he wanted to transform the Italian left just as Britain’s three-times prime minister did with the Labour party. The media-savvy Mr Blair certainly remembered Mr Renzi’s aspirations when he called on Europe’s leaders to “get fully behind” Italy’s new leader. Read more
Five lesser-known facts about the man likely to become Italy’s youngest ever prime minister:
- He was once a boy scout. According to his online biography, he continued his scout duties while director of his family firm.
- Some compared him with Barack Obama when he chose to run a grassroots primary campaign with the tagline “Adesso!” – “Now!” While Obama wrote books called The Audacity of Hope and Dreams from My Father, Renzi has written a book called Fuori! (Out!) about the dreams, ideas and hopes for a new generation. It tells the reader what he has learnt from football and scout camps.
- He has also written a book call Tra De Gaspari e gli U2 — Between De Gaspari and U2 — on young people and the symbols of politics.
Do last week’s German constitutional court ruling lambasting – but failing to overturn – the ECB’s crisis-fighting bond-buying programme and Matteo Renzi’s ousting of Italy’s prime minister Enrico Letta have anything in common?
In the view of many ECB critics, particularly in Berlin, the two are not only related, but one may have caused the other. Read more
According to the old saying, if you knew how a sausage was made, you’d never eat one. It is no easier on the stomach to watch the political intrigues that lie behind the formation of Italian governments.
A new government is on its way in Rome because Matteo Renzi, leader of the centre-left Democratic party, has decided to pull the plug on Enrico Letta’s premiership. It is difficult to see who other than the youthful, super-ambitious Renzi will replace Letta.
For Italy’s eurozone partners, this is a fateful moment. If Renzi, as prime minister, fails to deliver the reforms that European policy makers know are essential to keeping Italy in the eurozone, the likelihood that some other Italian politician will do so are exceedingly small.
But Renzi’s very public political assassination of Letta, his party comrade, was a kind of theatrical “stab in the front” that may one day return to haunt him. For if these are the methods he deems suitable to clear his path to national office, it is reasonable to assume that they will sooner or later be used against him. Read more
Matteo Renzi (Getty)
Outside Italy there is an understandable enthusiasm for the constitutional and electoral reform proposals of Matteo Renzi, leader of the centre-left Democratic party. Italy unblocked – at last! Inside the nation itself, there is more caution and scepticism. This reflects the experience of Italians, who have travelled such roads in the past without being rewarded with better government and a better class of political leaders.
Renzi, 39, and Silvio Berlusconi, 77, leader of the revived conservative Forza Italia party, struck a deal this month which is beguiling in its simplicity. Read more
At the end of every year, I attempt a first draft of history by listing what seem to me to be the five most significant events of the past twelve months. Some of my picks for 2013 also featured in 2012. I hope this is not because of intellectual laziness, but simply because the war in Syria, and the turmoil in Egypt remain defining events of our era. I probably should also once again include the tensions between China and Japan – but they are still simmering and have not yet boiled over. So I’ll give the Senkaku-Diaoyu islands a rest this year.
So let me start the list for 2013 with a genuinely new event that has global significance: Read more
(OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images)
An optimist would draw much inspiration from Matteo Renzi’s convincing victory in Sunday’s primary elections for the leadership of Italy’s ruling centre-left Democratic party (PD). Doesn’t the success of the 38-year-old Florence mayor prove that a new generation of vigorous, reform-minded politicians is, at long last, replacing the squabbling, incompetent and sometimes corrupt oldsters who have presided over the nation’s decline over the past 20 years? Read more
(FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
As the FT’s former man in Rome, I find it poignant to see Silvio Berlusconi battling this week to hold together the political movement he launched 20 years ago. The billionaire Milanese entrepreneur did not seriously contemplate a political career until 1993, when he realised it would be the most effective way to protect his business interests. In fact, one of his closest associates once confided – perhaps only half-jokingly – that, if Berlusconi had not formed Forza Italia, the boss and his loyalists would have ended up either in prison or hanging lifeless à la Roberto Calvi under a London bridge.
In its various incarnations Forza Italia is sometimes depicted as one of the most formidable vote-gathering and coalition-building political machines of modern Europe. Read more
By Catherine Contiguglia
It seemed an era of Italian politics came to an end with the announcement that Italy’s supreme court had upheld a four-year sentence against Silvio Berlusconi for tax fraud.
Though the 76-year-old centre-right politician will not be going to jail due to his age, he could be placed under house arrest for a year, will not be able to hold public office for as long as five years, will not be able to run for elected office for six years and could be voted out of his current position as a senator.
Emerging from the ashes has been a major part of Berlusconi’s public career and, since the ruling, Berlusconi has assured his supporters he still has more plans up his sleeve. However, many believe this most recent ruling could be the definitive end of Berlusconi in politics. Read more