European Parliament

Martin Schulz has made a career of presenting himself as the ultimate European.

But when it comes to the crunch, the German president of the European Parliament is not afraid of clothing himself in the national flag in his campaign to become European Commission president. Read more

Martin Schulz and Jean-Claude Juncker, the two leading candidates in the European Parliamentary election, did their best to put some life into their latest pre-election television debate.

Speaking in German, on German television, the centre-left and the centre-right runners for the president of the European Commission, argued over what they could – even their ages. Read more

  • With India in the middle of elections, David Pilling argues that the Congress party – which looks set for a drubbing – has done itself out of a job by actually making progress in its mission to eradicate poverty: Indians “have graduated from what Rajiv Kumar of the Centre for Policy Research calls the ‘petitioning’ class to the ‘aspirational’ one.”
  • A Chinese regulatory loophole means that the internet sector enjoys the most foreign equity investment of any part of the Chinese economy, though foreigners do not own a single share. Regulators have turned a blind eye but there is a risk it could all go wrong, writes the FT’s Charles Clover (riffing off the proposed IPO for Alibaba).
  • Want to know who to watch for in the European elections? Explore our interactive feature on the European Parliament – we profile 25 people to watch, from old guard to budding stars, power brokers and iconoclasts, federalist core and political fringe.
  • Sweden’s central bank sounded the alarm on the household debt burden: the average indebted Swede owes 296 per cent of their annual income, while the average mortgage holder owes 370 per cent.
  • The Tea Party is facing a struggle in Georgia, the state which has anchored its movement in the past five years. The Washington Post reports on how some of the Tea Partiers risk being squeezed out in a crowded field by some of the movement’s most reviled Republicans.

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  • Seoul’s response to the ferry catastrophe has added to growing accusations of authoritarianism.
  • As the European elections approach, Alex Barker looks at the European Parliament’s growing power.
  • Edward Luce argues that, with the US always struggling between a push for freedom and a Calvinistic urge to meddle, the pendulum is now swinging back towards intrusion.
  • A defence pact between Washington and Manila will help the US put more muscle behind its pivot to Asia.
  • Simon Kuper argues that inequality is the new apartheid: your life path is largely determined before birth.
  • As the tourism industry in the Sinai has slumped, bedouins are turning to illegal opium production.
  • The US has dispatched its first advanced weapons to Syria since the conflict began, raising hopes among rebels that the Obama administration will lessen its resistance to military aid.
  • Russia could create a weak, neutral Ukraine almost instantly. But will it?
  • Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been discussing the blunders that have fed Putin’s myth that “fascists” have taken power in Ukraine.

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Tony Barber

Geert Wilders (Michel Porro/Getty Images)

Beneath his populist rhetoric neither Geert Wilders, nor most supporters of his far-right Freedom Party, nor the vast majority of Dutch voters seriously entertain the notion that the Netherlands will leave the European Union. But in election campaigns it is the rhetoric that counts.

The election in question is the May 22-25 vote, in the Netherlands and the European Union’s other 27 member-states, for the European Parliament. Like other anti-EU, anti-euro, anti-establishment parties in countries such as France and the UK, the Dutch Freedom Party is riding the tide of popular disenchantment with mainstream politics and EU institutions.

Wilders is after the protest vote, and he will get it – just like Marine Le Pen’s National Front and the UK Independence Party of Nigel Farage. All three movements have an excellent chance of topping the polls or at least upsetting the political apple cart in their respective countries. Read more

Tony Barber

Nigel Farage at the European parliament (Getty)

In the crystal balls of the European Union’s political and bureaucratic establishments looms a mortifying vision: voters in next year’s European parliament elections punish mainstream parties and vote en masse for their populist, radical right and anti-EU nemeses.

The humiliation of such a result would be compounded if, as has happened in every ballot for the EU assembly since direct elections began 34 years ago, turnout were to sink to a record low. Between 1979 and 2009 turnout fell from 62 to 43 per cent, a trend cited by the EU’s critics to reinforce the argument that the bloc’s shortcomings are not just economic but democratic in nature.

Eurosceptic, anti-establishment and ultra-right parties certainly have their tails up at the moment. To varying degrees, voters in many of the EU’s 27 countries are fed up with economic recession, mass unemployment, the erosion of the welfare state, political corruption and perceived high levels of immigration. A Gallup poll conducted last month in six member-states – Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and the UK – showed that absolute or relative majorities in every country agreed that the EU was “going in the wrong direction”.  Read more

Alan Beattie

A new lease of life in an old idea? The EU and the US are talking about some kind of bilateral trade agreement – as, to be fair, they have been for about the past 20 years. This time, so the optimistic argument goes, it is helped along by the fact that almost no-one can be bothered to pretend that the Doha round is alive any more, thus neutralising the criticism that the two biggest trading powers are stitching up deals between themselves and undermining the multilateral system.

The problem with the deal, though, as USTR Ron Kirk recently hinted, is that the Europeans want to go for a comprehensive deal covering as many sectors as possible. US business groups privately have similar worries about the overoptimistic views of their European counterparts. Read more