By Gideon Rachman
Neither man would appreciate the comparison, but Alexis Tsipras and David Cameron are in remarkably similar situations.

Will Italy’s regional poll results weaken Renzi’s reforms?
The government of Matteo Renzi has done badly in regional elections. Gideon Rachman and guests discuss whether his reformist project is now in trouble and what that would mean for the rest of Europe.

Keep an eye on Transnistria, the pro-Russian breakaway state in Moldova. On Monday, Dmitri Trenin, one of Russia’s best-known foreign policy analysts and a man with good Kremlin antennae, tweeted: “Growing concern in Moscow that Ukraine and Moldova will seek to squeeze Transnistria hard, provoking conflict with Russia.” On Tuesday, a columnist in the pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper warned that Russia “seriously faces the prospect of a repeat of the [2008] situation” – when it went to war with Georgia – “this time around Transnistria”.

What sparked the tensions was a May 21 vote in Ukraine’s parliament to suspend military co-operation with Russia. That included a 1995 agreement giving Russia military transit rights across Ukraine to reach Transnistria, which borders Ukraine’s Odessa region. Read more

Welcome to our live coverage of the European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s press conference.

While we are not expecting quite the same excitement as six weeks ago when a protester jumped out from the journalists’ seating area yelling “end the dictatorship”, the eurozone economy is looking perkier, so many investors will be listening out for whether Mr Draghi strays into dovish or hawkish territory with his comments. The ECB kept its benchmark interest rate on hold at 0.05 per cent.

There will also be the inevitable focus on Greece, as bailout talks with creditors reach knife edge. Cash-strapped Athens is threatening to delay making a €305m loan repayment to the International Monetary Fund if there is no deal in the next few days.

By Ralph Atkins and Lindsay Whipp

 

The strange thing about Sepp Blatter’s resignation speech is how utterly uninformative it was. The only reason that the Fifa president gave for his resignation was that “I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football”. That much, however, must have been apparent to Blatter for some years – every time he picked up a newspaper or was booed in a football stadium.

So why did he go on Tuesday? My guess is that the crucial piece of information was that he himself is now under investigation by the US Department of Justice. Depending on the progress of the investigation, that could place him under threat of arrest every time he left Switzerland. And that would be an impossible position for the head of the world football governing body, whose job entails constant travel. Read more

Ali al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister (centre), Bob Dudley the chief executive of BP (right), and Rex Tillerson, the ceo of ExxonMobil (left), are speaking at Opec’s international seminar about the oil market, ahead of Opec’s twice-yearly meeting on Friday in Vienna.

It is one of the few times in the year when senior representatives of the oil producers’ cartel share a podium with the heads of some of the world’s largest oil companies.

By Guy Chazan, Chris Adams and Lindsay Whipp

 

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko (L) with Mikheil Saakashvili (C) in Odessa

Unlike Russia’s leaders, who loathe him, and unlike some of his western friends, who once treated him as if he were Georgia’s greatest hero since King Davit the Builder (1089-1125), I don’t hold strong views for or against Mikheil Saakashvili.

If pressed, I would say that, during his 2004-13 spell as president of Georgia, he displayed an impressive, but slightly frantic reformist energy in pursuing what he believed to be his country’s pro-western destiny. His modernising fervour combined indomitable self-confidence and business school English with an unpredictability and a capacity for misjudgment that at times bordered on recklessness.

I interviewed Saakashvili in Brussels in October 2008, two months after a short war in which Russia in effect partitioned Georgia by invading it and recognising the independence of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He was more subdued than usual, possibly because it had dawned on him that in the build-up to that conflict he had fallen into a well-laid Russian trap.

Now, in the strangest of career twists, Saakashvili has been appointed governor of Ukraine’s southern region of Odessa by President Petro Poroshenko. The Ukrainian president has speeded up this move by granting Saakashvili instant Ukrainian citizenship. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
It is half-time in the match between the US justice system and Fifa. In the first half, the Americans took a shock early lead, with the unexpected arrest of several of Fifa’s leading players. But world football’s governing body struck back with a defiant equaliser — re-electing its discredited president, Sepp Blatter.

Christine Lagarde made headlines on Friday saying in a German press interview that Grexit was “a potential.”

Coming from the head of the International Monetary Fund, her words rightly caused a stir – even if they were little more than a statement of the obvious. Those charged with maintaining financial stability are not supposed to rock the boat, even if the water is already coming over the gunwales. Read more

There are drawbacks to being a satirist from a deeply authoritarian state. Exile is a frequent consequence. But it has its advantages.

“I’m really blessed as an Iranian comedian,” Kambiz Hosseini told the audience of democrats, dissidents and defectors who gathered this week in Norway for the annual Oslo Freedom Forum (or “Davos for dissidents”). “There’s no shortage of material for me.” Read more

Narendra Modi’s first year in office

Narendra Modi’s election a year ago was accompanied by hopes for economic regeneration but anxiety about his Hindu nationalist agenda. Gideon Rachman discusses the Indian prime minister’s first year in office with Victor Mallet and James Lamont.

It is 10,000 miles from Ireland to Australia but it didn’t take long for Ireland’s yes vote in favour of gay marriage to resonate in Canberra.

Within days of the referendum passing, the opposition Green and Labor parties have renewed a push for marriage equality by tabling legislation in parliament.

“Our current law excludes some individuals – and to me, that is unacceptable,” said Bill Shorten, Labor leader.

 Read more

FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio arrives to give a press conference on 27 May, 2015.  © Getty

Charges of corruption have swirled around Fifa for many years. Now with the arrest of senior officials at football’s world governing body and the investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, those allegations may finally be converted into a genuine and full exposure of corruption at the top of world football.

Three key issues will now come into focus. First, the future of Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, who is standing for re-election for yet another term in office this Friday. Second, the future of Fifa itself, which looks increasingly like a completely rotten organisation. Third, the future of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar. On Wednesday morning, Fifa reaffirmed that these World Cups would go ahead as planned. But the corruption investigations may make that impossible. A decision to re-award the two World Cups would have political implications that go well beyond football. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
David Cameron’s acknowledgement that he was not greeted with a “wall of love” at last week’s EU summit demonstrated a flair for languid British understatement. In reality, the prime minister’s long-anticipated demand for a renegotiation of Britain’s membership of the EU has been met with a mixture of anger and incomprehension.

A view of the ancient city of Palmyra Getty

By Sam al-Refaie

Palmyra: the pearl of the desert. Every Syrian citizen has mixed feelings about this city. It is a symbol of the Syrians’ historic strength and of their queen, Zenobia, who rebelled against the Roman Empire. But it is also the city that held the dreadful prison in which the Assads, father and son, detained all of those suspected of having political opinions that didn’t suit their regime. Read more

Ireland's Dustin the Turkey at the 2008 contest

Russian Babushki have invited Europeans to a “Party for Everyone”, four Swedes found their “Waterloo”, British airline attendants camped it up when “Flying the Flag”, and a girl band from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia pressed Financial Times readers’ buttons with a percentage breakdown of their amorousness (“I Love You 100%”). Read more

Over the weekend, my colleague Richard McGregor, reported on the growing clamour in Washington to push back against China’s “island factory” in the South China sea. He pointed to the possibility of a “limited but risky challenge to Chinese actions by the US military”. That challenge now appears to be underway. Read more

Narendra Modi’s first year in office
Narendra Modi’s election a year ago was accompanied by hopes for economic regeneration but anxiety about his Hindu nationalist agenda. Gideon Rachman discusses the Indian prime minister’s first year in office with Victor Mallet and James Lamont.

By Gideon Rachman
As Europe’s military capacity has shrunk, so the Nato alliance has grown more dependent on the US. But Urban argues US military power is also on the slide.  Read more

If you think that getting fast-track authority from Congress to negotiate trade agreements is hard, just wait for the deal that it is designed to pass.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the US, Japan and 10 other economies in Asia and Latin America has run into a barrage of criticism. Some of it is probably justified; some of it is not. The problem is that we don’t really know.

The governments involved, and particularly the US administration, have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the negotiating texts secret. Even senators and congressmen are only allowed to look at them in a secure location without taking away notes.

 Read more