European Commission

By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ A European Commission probe into competition and price fixing in the oil market is raising questions about how much power one man’s price reporting window can have on the market, and whether greater EC regulation might worsen the problem by discouraging the availability of oil prices altogether.
♦ The Chinese decision to ban milk imports from New Zealand due to fears that some batches could contain botulism has stoked fears of wider import bans on all foreign milk going into China.
♦ Cash-for-freedom deals in the US were originally designed to funnel in badly needed cash to law enforcement budgets from white collar crimes and drug cartels, but are giving rise to corruption and violations of civil liberties.
♦ Romance is being nationalised in South Korea, where the government is taking the lead in campaigns to introduce young singles at government-sponsored parties. Corporations are also increasingly encouraging relationships in the workplace as fears mount about the shortage of workers in an aging society.
♦ In countries where the government or market fails to meet citizens’ needs, the connectivity of social media and mobile technologies is allowing individuals to build their own representative platforms to meet them.  Read more

♦ In Qatar, the emir, voluntarily resigned in favour of his 33-year-old son, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, as he spoke of the need for younger blood in government. This move is a sign that some monarchies are still more open to change than those in neighbouring countries like Saudi Arabia that have “hardened arteries.” Qataris debate whether Sheikh Tamim will follow in his father’s footsteps or take a more conservative, religious, or nationalistic stance, the FT reports.
♦ In Syria, the government and the rebels fight for control of the oil fields, and one gas and electricity plant is representative of the strife. Foreign Policy reports that Obama’s current strategy in Syria is contradictory, taking separate military and diplomatic courses that clash.
♦ If Edward Snowden were Chinese, Americans would respect him as a “brave dissident.”
♦ The European Commission raided the London offices of oil companies – BP, Shell and Norway’s Statoil – as well as Platts, the price reporting agency, for colluding to manipulate prices of oil on the international markets, the BBC reports.
♦ The US Supreme Court amended parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – a measure that required mostly southern states to obtain Washington’s approval to change election practices because of discrimination against black voters – but some legislators now see it as an intrusion on state’s rights and no longer relevant – the Wall Street Journal and New York Times report. The Times sees this amendment as a usurpation of Congress and denial that discrimination still exists in the South on the part of the Supreme Court. For the New Yorker, it is all apart of the Republican’s systematic undermining of Democratic influence.
♦ In Foreign Affairs, the military historian Rick Atkinson gives a colourful depiction of London on the eve of D-Day. Read more

♦The US National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading internet companies. Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story for the Guardian, has been focused on government surveillance for years and the article is expected to attract an investigation from the justice department.
♦ Turkey is having its 1969, writes Ben Judah, and now it needs its Charles de Gaulle.
♦ Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s absence in Turkey this week has highlighted the difference in style between him and Abdullah Gul, the president.
♦ Ollie Rehn, the European Commission’s economic chief, has lashed out at the IMF’s criticism of the first Greek bailout, accusing the fund of revisionist history.
♦ What are the choices for Syrian citizens now? They are all grim and make the Geneva talks more urgent than ever, says Charles Glass.
♦ The humanities division at Harvard University is attracting fewer undergraduates amid concerns about the degree’s value in a rapidly changing job market. Read more

Gideon Rachman

One of this morning’s reports from the EU summit is headlined – “David Cameron fails to cut EU bureaucrats pay and perks“. With the EU budget talks collapsing on Friday afternoon, it appears to be true, at least for now. And it’s a great shame. I know that sentiment will deeply irritate my friends in the EU bureaucracy – some of whom have been emailing me to point out that spending on administration is a mere €6bn a year, which is less than 6% of total EU spending. Even so, there is plenty of waste in the EU budget that could be easily sliced away.

What is true is that one element of Cameron’s approach – which is to suggest a 10% cut in the budget for pay – is potentially too crude. Not all EU operatives are overpaid. Some of the lawyers, for example, have relatively modest salaries by private-sector standards. Rather than an across-the-board cut in pay it would be much more productive to start eliminating entire agencies, functions and perks. This would cut the payroll and the budget, while preserving the bits of the EU that actually do something useful. Here are some candidates for the chop. Read more

Esther Bintliff

José Manuel Barroso (R), who is set to unveil plans for a "banking union" on September 12, shown here in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in June.

In times of crisis, a fast-forward button can be pressed on decisions that would usually take years of discussion and planning. So it is with the creation of a European ‘banking union’, which analysts at the Bruegel thinktank describe as an endeavour “in some respects no less ambitious and complex than the creation of monetary union itself”. The aim is to brace eurozone banks against future shocks by bringing them under a common regulatory and supervisory structure, introducing common deposit insurance and a shared system for crisis resolution. In June, José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, told the FT he’d like to enact a banking union as soon as 2013. But is that really feasible? And what hurdles stand in the way?  Read more

Dr Jan Fidrmuc, Department of Economics and Finance and Centre for Economic Development and Institutions, Brunel University

Anti-austerity protestors take to the streets in central Athens earlier this year. Getty Images

Anti-austerity protestors take to the streets in central Athens earlier this year. Getty Images

Following the rejection of EU imposed austerity measures by the overwhelming majority of Greek voters, eurozone finance ministers have once again come to Brussels to try and save the single currency in what is being described as a ‘crucial 48 hours’.

Two thirds of the Greek electorate voted for parties opposed to the austerity measures required by the European Commission, ECB and IMF as a precondition of a further bailout; despite the outgoing government pledging to adhere to these measures.

Without compromise either by the Greeks accepting austerity measures or the EU offering concessions on the proposed package, another election is inevitable. In this case the bailout package will be suspended, Greece will default on its debt and an exit from the eurozone may follow. None of this will offer much respite for the struggling Greek economy.

In the past the EU offered concessions to voters having rejected EU treaties, however this time there is little political will, and not only in Germany, to offer sweeteners to the Greeks to help them swallow the bitter pill of fiscal adjustment.

Why then are the Greeks fighting against the support from the EU? And should the rest of the EU let them resist or should they be offered a sweeter deal after all?

 Read more

Tom Burgis

David Cameron arrives for the EU summit. Photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP

Welcome back to our live coverage of the eurozone crisis. By Tom Burgis and Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura on the  newsdesk in London, with contributions from FT correspondents around the world. All times are GMT.

A summit  in Brussels ended in deep division, with the UK refusing to back a new treaty for all 27 EU members and leaving the eurozone countries plus at least six others to forge ahead with a pact of their own to enshrine strict new rules on deficits and debt. It was meant to be the summit that would decisively chart a course out of the eurozone’s debt crisis. 

19.03 That’s the end of our live coverage today. We’ll leave you with a quick summary of the day’s developments. See FT.com for more news and analysis through the evening.

  • The European Union’s 27 leaders, minus David Cameron, struck a deal in the early hours to draw up a treaty by March that would bind them to strict new rules on debt and deficits, with automatic sanctions for countries that break them
  • The UK courted isolation as it refused to sign up to a treaty for all 27 members after David Cameron’s early-hours pitch for safeguards to protect UK financial services met a chilly reception from his counterparts
  • Markets were volatile before a tentative rally lifted equities in Europe and the US. The euro strengthened against the dollar but yields on Italian and Spanish bonds climbed once again
  • The IMF welcomed the European deal, which included €200bn for the fund to ensure it has enough cash to deal with any more fallout from the eurozone crisis, with Christine Lagarde, its head, saying she was “hopeful that others will also do their part”

 Read more

Tom Burgis

A tram passes the euro sign sculpture in front of the European Central Bank ( ECB) in Frankfurt, Germany. Photographer: Hannelore Foerster/Bloomberg

Welcome to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis. All times are GMT. By Tom Burgis, James Crabtree and John Aglionby on the news desk in London, with contributions from FT correspondents around the world.

The turmoil in the eurozone has taken a troubling turn in recent days, with anxiety spreading from Europe’s periphery to its “core” countries. Even as Italy’s Mario Monti readies his economic agenda to be presented today, investors are looking at France, the Netherlands and Austria with increasing unease and wondering whether the ECB might yet ride to the rescue. Over in Greece, today is the anniversary of 1973′s mass student protests – with demonstrators once more planning to take to the streets. And the bond markets are showing ever more strain, with today’s Spanish bond auction souring sentiment still further. Read more

Welcome back to the FT’s live coverage of the eurozone crisis and the global fallout. By Tom Burgis and David Crouch in London with contributions from correspondents around the world. All times are GMT.

Italian bond yields are back up over 7 per cent, and French and Spanish bonds are also under pressure. Stock markets are down across Europe. Meanwhile, Mario Monti – Italy’s prime minister designate – is battling to create a new government capable of dragging Italy out of the eye of the storm.

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17.59 We are wrapping up our rolling coverage – thank you for reading. But before we go, here is a quick reminder of today’s latest FT news and insights on the eurozone crisis:

  • Italian prime minister designate Mario Monti will see president Georgio Napolitano on Wednesday morning to present his new government, after he received the backing of outgoing premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Lilverty party
  • Following anaemic data on European economies today, more than three quarters of fund managers predicted Europe will slide into recession next year
  • Italy’s 10-year bond yield once again soared above the 7 per cent mark and French yields hit a record spread over German Bunds, causing global markets to wobble
  • US Treasury yields were close to unchanged as better-than-expected retail sales data offset safe-haven buying due to rising eurozone yields
  • The Austrian coalition government, faced with rising yields on government debt and a possible downgrade, decided to accelerate the pace of spending cuts
  • German frustration over Britain’s approach to the eurozone crisis was laid bare after a close ally of Angela Merkel accused the UK of selfishly pursuing its own interests just days before a meeting in Berlin between the German chancellor and UK prime minister David Cameron

 Read more