Less than a week into his new job, Greece’s finance minister is already performing the kolotoumbes, or policy somersaults, anticipated by several Athens commentators.
Yanis Varoufakis, an eloquent economics professor, has removed a key plank of the leftwing Syriza party’s pre-election platform: its longstanding demand that creditors should write off at least one-third of Greece’s huge public debt, which last year amounted to 175 per cent of national output.
Visiting London on Monday, the second stop of a tour of European capitals, Mr Varoufakis told the Financial Times that Athens would restructure its entire public debt by swapping bailout loans for new growth-linked bonds and issuing what he called “perpetual” bonds to replace Greek bonds owned by the European central bank.
The U-turn on the debt issue was so abrupt that some observers wondered whether Mr Varoufakis went off-message as he tried to reassure Greece’s eurozone partners and City investors that the Syriza-led government was serious about meeting its obligations to the EU and International Monetary Fund. Read more
Australia Day is typically when prime ministers attract positive headlines by doling out honours to people promoting good causes. But Tony Abbott, the gaffe-prone holder of the office, provoked a storm of controversy on Monday by awarding the country’s highest honour – knight of the order of Australia – to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
“I don’t get the priority the government had in nominating him,” said Bill Shorten, Labor leader. “It’s a time warp where we’re giving knighthoods to English royalty.” Read more
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
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands in front of 16 soldiers in historic garb at the presidential palace in Ankara (Getty)
The average foreign dignitary visiting Ankara might not expect to encounter an honour guard of 16 men resembling extras from a sword and sandals epic and lining the staircase of a gargantuan presidential palace.
So when Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, was confonted this week by the spectacle of the 16 soldiers in historic Turkic garb, even some Turkish officials confessed they initially thought the resulting images were the work of photoshop.
It was one of the more surreal sights to emerge from Turkey in recent times and has led to much hilarity on social media. But there was a point and purpose to the unusual costumes and their appearance may contain clues to Turkey’s direction of travel under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Mr Abbas’s host and the country’s paramount leader. Read more
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.
It is five years since a massive earthquake tore through Haiti, leaving tens if not hundreds of thousands dead and sparking a huge aid effort from overseas governments and charities to feed, shelter and treat afflicted Haitians.
A total of $13bn, more than 10 per cent of the global annual government aid budget, was pledged over several years — about $10bn from governments, and the rest from private donors.
Looking back, what was the effect of all this assistance? Did it provide short-term relief? Did it put the Caribbean nation on the path to higher living standards, better governance and greater resilience to natural disasters? Or could the aid effort have been much more effective?
The verdict at this juncture is: don’t know. Read more
A top adviser at the European Court of Justice has said that the European Central Bank’s crisis-fighting Outright Monetary Transactions programme falls within policy makers’ mandate.
Q: That’s pretty much a green light for quantitative easing next week isn’t it?
Most euro area governments and investors are breathing a sigh of relief after Wednesday’s preliminary judgment from the EU’s highest court in favour of the European Central Bank’s sovereign bond-buying programme – the 2012 initiative that helped to bring the euro crisis under control.
But governments and investors, in and outside Europe, should keep in mind that the danger of a bitter, protracted struggle over EU constitutional law will now go up. This would pit Germany against other power centres in the EU. Read more
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.
After watching their fortunes nosedive over the past year on the back of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and adventures in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s oligarchs caught a break on Friday night: a free meal on Vladimir Putin. Read more
In our Reporting Back series, we ask FT foreign correspondents to tell us about a recent trip. Katrina Manson, the FT’s east Africa correspondent, tells us about her visit to Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
A year after civil war ignited in South Sudan, peace talks are continuing, with little prospect of a lasting deal. I went to Juba to mark the December anniversary of the start of the war and to find how the capital of the world’s newest country is coping, and also to see the work of the International Rescue Committee, the FT’s partner for this year’s seasonal appeal.
What impression did you take away about the situation on the ground?
Billboards across Juba honour those who gave their lives for South Sudan’s freedom – the country seceded from the Khartoum regime to the north in 2011 after decades of fighting. “Your freedom is the price of our blood,” says one. Others evoke unity: “We are many tribes, but one nation; We need each other to build a strong and united country.”
But they look like sorry prophecies. The civil war sparked by a political and military fallout last December quickly set ethnic groups against one another in five of the country’s 10 states. Residents of the ethnically mixed capital now live in an atmosphere of mistrust. Read more