Iran nuclear deal: historic breakthrough or mistake?
Years of painstaking negotiations between Iran and the world powers have finally led to a deal. Was it the biggest international diplomatic breakthrough in decades or a historic mistake? Roula Khalaf, FT foreign editor, and Najmeh Bozorgmehr, Tehran correspondent, debate the pros and cons.
Alexis Tsipras and Vladimir Putin at a meeting in the Kremlin in April
We learned on Monday that Yuri Milner, the billionaire Russian entrepreneur, is to spend $100m of his own money over the next 10 years to fund a project searching for alien civilisations beyond our solar system.
According to my calculations, that is $100m more than the Russian government has offered in financial aid to Greece since the radical leftist Syriza party, often presumed to be close to Moscow, came to power in January.
During Syriza’s chaotic six months in office, the notion has cropped up time and again that Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister and party leader, would like to play a ‘Russian card’ to ward off pressure from Greece’s eurozone creditors.
There is something to this, but the picture is more subtly textured than first impressions might suggest. Let’s look below the surface and find out what’s going on. Read more
When German chancellor Angela Merkel took time off from the Greece crisis this week, she must have thought she was on safe ground visiting a school in the port of Rostock.
But an encounter with a 13-year-old Palestinian refugee girl turned the trip into a PR debacle. The chancellor’s apparent inability to sympathise with the teenager triggered a storm of social media criticism about her behaviour – and German immigration policy.
A lot of it was very unfair. Yet the episode highlights a weakness in Ms Merkel’s engagement with her public: while she is very good in judging the mood of Germans as a whole, she can be uncomfortable in individual confrontations. Read more
The European Central Bank, as expected, kept interest rates unchanged. Attention now turns to ECB President Mario Draghi’s press conference at 2.30pm CET, where the main topic is set to be what the eurozone central bank intends to do regarding its emergency liquidity assistance to Greece, which currently stands at €89bn.
Who loses most from the Greek rescue deal?
On Monday Athens was given a long list of economic reforms it needed to implement in return for another EU bailout. Was it a humiliation for the Greeks or a capitulation by the Germans? Gideon Rachman and Wolfgang Munchau discuss who was the biggest loser.
The day after Vienna won’t look different. More blood will be spilled in the Middle East; more pain will be inflicted. In Iran beleaguered hardliners who never wanted the nuclear agreement may plot new mischief in the region; in Israel, the Gulf states and Congress, opponents of the deal will continue to protest. Some of Iran’s neighbours may resolve to pursue their own nuclear ambitions.
The details of the accord reached in Vienna after weeks of tortuous negotiations will be ripped apart according to political attitudes – those who favour Iran’s rehabilitation will highlight Iran’s concessions; those against it will play up American compromises. A glass half full to some, half empty to others. Read more
It is not just the Greeks who are lamenting a humiliating defeat in Brussels.
The Spanish government, too, has suffered a stinging setback. The headlines on Tuesday morning told the story: “Spain left without influence in the EU,” declared El Mundo. The El País daily, meanwhile, bemoaned the “diplomatic incompetence” that produced this latest Spanish “failure”.
Despite furious lobbying from Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, and despite the support of Germany, Madrid failed to get what it so badly wanted: the appointment of Luis de Guindos as the next president of the eurogroup. “De Guindos loses and plunges Spain into political irrelevance,” remarked el diario, the Spanish news website. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
Europe woke up on Monday to a lot of headlines about the humiliation of Greece, the triumph of an all-powerful Germany and the subversion of democracy in Europe.
Eurozone leaders have reached an €86bn deal on a Greek bailout after all-night talks in Brussels. The timetable is for the Greek parliament to pass a slew of legislation by Wednesday, the deal will then be put to some eurozone parliaments – notably Germany’s Bundestag – and then negotiations will begin with creditor institutions over the exact size of the bailout .
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addresses the European Parliament (Reuters)
Two thoughts come to mind when one looks at the last-minute reform proposals which Greece’s radical leftist-led government has sent to its creditors as a way of saving the nation’s eurozone membership.
1) Why should the creditors, financial markets or anyone else have faith that the Syriza-dominated government will actually implement any of these reforms?
After all, even Greek governments that were more politically mainstream, more pro-EU and, in theory, more business-friendly found it impossible to execute comprehensive reform programmes between May 2010, the month of Greece’s first bail-out, and last January, when Syriza came to power.
But much of the Syriza leadership is wedded to Marxist or quasi-Marxist dogmas that run completely counter to the spirit governing the reforms to which the government, all of a sudden, is promising to put its signature.
In other words, there seem few reasons to believe that Alexis Tsipras, prime minister, and his colleagues would want to carry out these reforms, even if the party and the Greek state possessed the capacity to carry them out – which they don’t.
2) The latest proposals appear to be deafeningly silent on some important matters raised with Greece by the creditors since January. In the letter sent by Euclid Tsakalotos, Greece’s new finance minister, to Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch head of the eurogroup, I see no mention at all of labour market reform or privatisation of state assets. Read more
Late on Thursday night Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras submitted a new plan for his country’s economic overhaul to bailout monitors. The clock is now ticking. Will it be accepted, or, come Sunday, will Greece topple into bankruptcy?
Europe’s moment of decision on Greece
Is this week finally the one when Greece defaults on its debts and crashes out of the euro? Gideon Rachman is joined by Henry Foy and Ferdinando Giugliano to discuss an apparent hardening of opinion among Europe’s politicians towards Greek appeals for debt relief.
With the clock ticking towards Sunday and an emergency summit of all 28 EU members, Greece has only days to reach an agreement with its creditors or face bankruptcy.
All eyes on Wednesday were on Alexis Tsipras as he addressed the European Parliament and submitted a fresh bail-out application, even as European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said preparations were in place for humanitarian aid for Greece in the event of “Grexit”.
Angela Merkel, German chancellor, had insisted that Athens come up with a full range of reforms that could cover a multi-year rescue programme.
After the overwhelming No vote, the focus today is back on Greece’s negotiations with Brussels, culminating in Alexis Tsipras’s government being given a final chance by eurozone leaders to present new reform proposals this evening.
The meetings will also mark the introduction of new Greek finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos, an Oxford-educated Marxist, who replaced Yanis Varoufakis after he was asked to step down in a conciliatory move by Mr Tsipras.
Elsewhere, eyes will be focused on Greek banks, which remain closed for the next two days. The ECB may also have to ask eurozone leaders to guarantee Greek government debt for use as collateral to maintain its liquidity lifeline.
By Gideon Rachman
Greece’s No vote was greeted with euphoria in Athens’s Syntagma Square: the fountains were bathed in red light, the flags waved, the crowds sang patriotic songs. Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister, had said the vote was about national pride and his message had struck home. One young woman, a freelance journalist, confided: “I actually voted Yes. But part of me is glad Greece said No. We are a small country, but we have a big history. This is about our dignity.”
After delivering a decisive No vote in Sunday’s referendum, in which voters backed Athens’ call to reject a compromise with international creditors, Greece is facing the prospect of even greater turmoil as it tries to tries to prevent the collapse of a financial system that is rapidly running out of cash.
Prime minister Alexis Tsipiras has said he is ready to resume talks immediately, while politicians and officials in the rest of the eurozone are holding a series of meetings to decide what to do next.
Key developments so far:
● Greek PM Tsipras will present fresh bailout proposals at the EU summit on Tuesday
● Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis quits and is replaced by Euclid Tsakalotos, previously the coordinator of negotiations with Greece’s lenders
● Markets remain relatively unruffled after No vote
● ECB governing council increases the haircut on the collateral posted by Greek banks in exchange for emergency liquidity
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama (Getty)
His hair is receding, his beard is splashed with grey, and he speaks English with the grammatical precision of an independent-minded Balkan intellectual who grew up in the communist era – which is exactly what he is. But Edi Rama, Albania’s prime minister, is also so tall and muscular that, as a young man, he played for the national basketball team. Before he gave up art for politics in the post-communist era, his paintings were exhibited in Berlin, New York and beyond.
As he explained over dinner in Tirana on Thursday night, he is also old enough – he turns 51 on Saturday – to have searing memories of the cruel, isolated madhouse that was Albanian communism under Enver Hoxha, the dictator who ruled from the end of the second world war until his death in 1985. This is why Rama passionately wants Albania’s future to be in the EU, and why he foresees danger ahead if his and other Balkan countries are denied this prospect. Read more