Europe

Ferdinando Giugliano

About twelve months ago, as I was travelling across the Northeast of Italy during the electoral campaign, I went hunting for evidence of mounting euroscepticism across voters. Overall, my search was rather unsuccessful. Italy’s long love-story with the euro and the EU more generally was certainly under strain, but its end did not look in sight. By and large, the people I spoke to continued to consider Brussels a source of economic stability and peace.

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Martin Wolf

In his address to the World Economic Forum, the prime minister was his
fluent self. But there was also an obvious tension between his embrace of
a globalised and open UK and his determination to curb immigration.

This led to a very pointed question from a Swedish MEP on precisely this
contradiction. Mr Cameron defended himself by pointing to the case for
curbing access of immigrants from the EU to welfare benefits and the need
to recognise the challenges created by the huge income gaps between some of
the new members and the old members. Read more

When President Francois Hollande steps up to the podium in the splendid Elysee Palace at 16.30 Paris time, 15.30 GMT on Tuesday for the third formal press conference of his 20-month old presidency, the first question on everyone’s lips is likely to be about the revelations of his apparent affair with a film actress.

How he deals with this embarrassing issue –Valerie Trierweiler, his partner and France’s first lady, remains in hospital recovering from the shock – will inevitably overshadow an event originally intended to concentrate on the economy.

But the financial markets, business leaders and France’s European partners will nonetheless be watching most closely what Mr Hollande has to say about his New Year resolution to inject some much-needed vitality into the French recovery, which is lagging behind those of the country’s biggest neighbours. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

What defines the west? American and European politicians like to talk about values and institutions. But for billions of people around the world, the crucial point is simpler and easier to grasp. The west is the part of the world where even ordinary people live comfortably. That is the dream that makes illegal immigrants risk their lives, trying to get into Europe or the US.

By Luisa Frey
♦ Spaniards may have less faith in European institutions than before, but no eurosceptic parties have risen in the country, writes the FT’s Tobias Buck.
The higher the fire burns in Middle East, the more the US seems intent on turning away, says FT columnist Philip Stephens.
♦ As part of a soviet-inspired urban plan, superblocks are being built in China. The gated compounds in suburbia have residential towers and houses inside them, but force the new urban middle-class to drive back to the city for services.
Rising anti-semitism is bringing fear to Europe. A third of European Jews are considering emigration because they do not feel safe in their home country, according to The New York Times.
♦ Local newspapers called Wednesday’s breakthrough in peace talks aimed at ending Colombias’s half-century-old guerrilla war “historic”. But many Colombians are sceptical, reports the Global Post
Tens of thousands of middle-class Syrians are trying to get to Europe’s wealthy northern states: “Whether they wind up in Nordic comfort or desperate straits on the fringes of Southern Europe is often a matter of luck”. Read more

♦ Gideon Rachman writes about how “the big danger to the European single currency is that the political consensus that underpins the euro could come unstuck” and next year’s European parliament elections could be a breakthrough moment for the “European Tea Party”.
♦ Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief has said that he plans to scale back cooperation with the US to arm and train Syrian rebels in protest against Washington’s policy in the region, raising tensions after Riyadh’s decision to renounce a seat on the UN Security Council.
♦ Norman John Gillies, the last surviving St Kildan, died at the end of September: the Economist looks back at the man’s life and his memories of life on an island 110 miles off the Scottish coast.
♦ Vigilante groups are fighting back against Boko Haram in Nigeria.
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By Gideon Rachman

America’s debt-ceiling crisis achieved something quite remarkable. It made the EU look well governed by comparison. Both the EU and the US systems are weighed down with checks and balances that make it hard to get things done. But Europe currently has one thing going for it that America lacks. All the most important decision makers in Brussels are committed to making the system work. There are no Tea Party types who regard compromise as a betrayal.

Michael Steen

(Getty)

The first official German election results are in and Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats enjoyed a huge swing in the polls, but remain five seats short of achieving the first absolute majority since 1957.

That fires the starting gun for coalition talks, raising some interesting questions, especially after the chancellor’s existing coalition partner, the liberal Free Democratic Party, has crashed from its best-ever election result in 2009 to parliamentary annihilation, failing to reach the five per cent threshold. Read more

By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ “If Germany’s economic model is the future of Europe, we should all be quite troubled,” writes Adam Posen, as growth built on exports and low wages is stifling productivity and depriving Germany’s workers of what they have earned.
♦ People must get over their initial annoyance with how the US administration has handled intervention in Syria and look to history to see the consequences of inaction in other stricken cities, says Philip Zelikow.
♦ The Assads are keeping up appearances as their country becomes further embroiled in civil conflict, looking jovial in public and unfazed by the increasing threat of an attack from the West.
♦ Rather than boxing Barack Obama in, the Syria crisis has offered multiple opportunities for increasing presidential power, as a negative congressional vote will do little to restrain use of military force, while an approval could bestow new powers on future presidents.
♦ There are a lot of parallels between Obama’s current drive for military action in Syria and Eisenhower’s experience in the lead up to Vietnam, laid out by Jeffrey Frank in a comparison of the rhetoric and policy stances of both presidents. Read more

Gideon Rachman

There was something poignant about Alexei Navalny‘s speculation that he might get a suspended sentence on trumped-up charges of theft and embezzlement. The Kremlin does not do subtlety and it does not do mercy. Mr Navalny, who coined the phrase “party of crooks and thieves” to describe Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, knows that better than most. And, in the event, the sentence announced today was five years in prison. More than enough to take Mr Navalny out of politics, and to send a clear message to anybody who dares to try to challenge Vladimir Putin. Read more