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.
Is Bild going soft on Greece? After weeks spent hammering Athens over its debt-fuelled profligacy, the top-selling German tabloid has laid out the welcome mat for Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras for his first visit to Berlin.
“Willkommen in Deutschland, Herr Tsipras,” said Bild in a front page banner headline published hours before the radical leftist was due to meet chancellor Angela Merkel over dinner later on Monday. And just to make sure the visitor got the message, the paper filled the bottom half of its front page reproducing the headline in Greek. Read more
Two decades after the Dayton peace agreement that ended the 1992-95 Bosnian war, EU governments have finally approved an association agreement with Bosnia-Herzegovina that puts the troubled state on track for eventual membership of the 28-nation union.
This is unambiguously good news for everyone who takes the view that democracy, prosperity and ethnic harmony will only take lasting roots in former Yugoslavia once all the states that emerged from its collapse, as well as neighbouring Albania, are full EU members.
But the EU’s decision to approve Bosnia’s association accord, taken on March 16, must be seen against the backdrop of the Ukraine crisis. With Russian-western relations in their worst shape since the end of communism, the Kremlin has made clear over the past year that it intends to ramp up its influence in the Balkans. The EU initiative is a signal that European governments are pushing back. Read more
It seems as if good news is gushing out of Spain these days like water from a Seville fountain.
The economy is expanding at its fastest rate in seven years, leaving behind France, Germany and Italy. The government predicts Spain’s return to growth will create half a million jobs this year. A commercial airline (Ryanair) is going to fly in and out of Castellón airport, the unused, €150m facility near Valencia that was a symbol of wasteful expenditure in Spain’s pre-crisis years.
To cap everything, researchers say they have found, under a Madrid convent, some of the remains of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote and Spain’s most revered literary figure.
If only Greece could boast similar successes – a healing economy, a society recovering from the euro crisis, and the discovery of Homer’s skull under the patio of an Athens taverna.
Without wanting to turn a sprinkler on Spain’s parade, I think a few words of caution are in order. Read more
Brazil president’s troubles multiply
The popularity of Brazil’s president Dilma Roussef has plummeted only months after she was re-elected in the face of a floundering economy, mass street protests and a corruption scandal. Gideon Rachman discusses what went wrong with Jonathan Wheatley and Samantha Pearson.
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
The spectre of deflation is seldom something to fear, according to economists at the Bank for International Settlements who argue that evidence which shows how price falls persistently cause economic havoc is weak.
The risk of a vicious bout of falling prices is viewed as the biggest threat to the global economic recovery by many of the world’s top economic policy makers. Earlier this year, fears of years of weak price pressures led the European Central Bank to unleash a €1.1trn landmark quantitative easing package in the face of fierce resistance from the German economic and political establishment. Read more
Even some of his bitter enemies would now have to concede that Benjamin Netanyahu is a giant on the Israeli political scene. The results of Israel’s elections mean that the Likud leader is now likely to serve a record fourth term as prime minister, making him his country’s longest-serving prime minister ever. More than ever, “Bibi” is now confirmed as the international face of Israel. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
The story of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is turning into a diplomatic debacle for the US. By setting up and then losing a power struggle with China, Washington has sent an unintended signal about the drift of power and influence in the 21st century.
When Zlatan Ibrahimovic was caught on camera calling France a “shitty country” as he ranted against a match official after his team Paris Saint Germain lost against Bordeaux, Marine Le Pen saw it as a shot on open goal.
Speaking to French radio on Monday, the leader of the far-right National Front minced no words in saying that “those who consider that France is a shit country can leave it”. This was a clear reference to the Swedish-born footballer, who has landed a multimillion contract in France after playing, among others, for Juventus, Inter, AC Milan and Barcelona.
Ms Le Pen was not the only one attacking the PSG star. Patrick Kanner, France’s sports minister, called the remarks “insulting” and other Socialist party members have also been critical of the striker. Still, Ms Le Pen was the one who made the most of Ibrahimovic’s immigrant status – no surprise, perhaps, for a leader who wants France to leave the EU so that it is able to pull up the drawbridge against foreigners. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
The British are used to syrupy American tributes to the “special relationship” that binds the US and the UK together. But this week, the Brits heard rather different noises coming from Washington: growls of frustration at the direction of UK foreign and security policy. Read more
By John Thornhill in Cernobbio
Fresh from his appearance in the glossy pages of Paris Match as a model of militant chic, Yanis Varoufakis pitched up at the luxurious lakeside Villa D’Este this weekend to spread his gospel of radical reform to Italy’s capitalists. Read more
It has been 15 years since Jeb Bush has been in New Hampshire for a political campaign – and then it was for his brother.
As he makes his first swing through the “Granite State” for a series of events this weekend ahead of the expected announcement of his own candidacy for the presidency, Mr Bush had a message for voters in the crucial early primary state: I’m a grown-up. Read more
Israel’s knife edge general election
Isaac Herzog’s centre left Zionist Union has overtaken Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party in the polls, signalling that Israel’s electorate, which appeared to be veering ever more to the right in recent years with security concerns taking priority, are tilting to the left on the back of economic concerns.
By Jennifer Thompson
Singaporean executives were the highest paid in Asia last year, while the Hong Kong-China pay gap narrowed.
Base salaries for executives in 2014 were highest in Singapore, with an average base bay of $586,000 a year – compared to $445,000 a year in Hong Kong, according to a report on global pay by consultancy Towers Watson. Read more
Remarks by the president of Chechnya have sparked theories that Boris Nemtsov, the assassinated Russian opposition politician, fell victim to infighting in an opaque regime
Policy makers in some of the world’s largest economies have devalued their currencies in a bid to boost export-led recoveries, but there is evidence lower exchange rates do not always work
An unprecedented environmental protest movement in a remote part of Algeria has disrupted the country’s multibillion-dollar shale programme, and is making political waves across the region
Four years after a nuclear disaster, Fukushima’s farmers are struggling to sell their produce despite decontamination efforts as the region tries to stand on its own two feet (WSJ)
Win or lose in Tikrit, Isis can only be defeated in Iraq by the Sunnis, writes Hassan Hassan (The Guardian) Read more