Germany

(EPA)

Do last week’s German constitutional court ruling lambasting – but failing to overturn – the ECB’s crisis-fighting bond-buying programme and Matteo Renzi’s ousting of Italy’s prime minister Enrico Letta have anything in common?

In the view of many ECB critics, particularly in Berlin, the two are not only related, but one may have caused the other. Read more

  • Enrico Letta, the Italian prime minister, is fighting for survival and faces calls for a handover of power to “demolition man” Matteo Renzi
  • Jabhat al-Nusra is now one of the most effective and dangerous groups battling the Assad regime. The FT looks at how the al-Qaeda affiliated jihadis have won popular support despite their hardline stance
  • While countries in southern Europe are beset by youth unemployment, German companies are desperately trying to hold on to older workers
  • A Sudanese tycoon talks to the FT about doing business against a backdrop of sanctions and crises
  • Iran has become a hub for IVF treatment in the Middle East and would-be parents are trying to reconcile their treatment with Islamic law

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Tony Barber

German Constitutional Court (Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

We don’t like what the European Central Bank is doing – but if someone is going to drop a nuclear bomb on the eurozone, it won’t be us. This seems to be the main message in today’s judgment from Germany’s constitutional court on the ECB’s Outright Monetary Transactions programme.

The OMT is an initiative aimed at saving the eurozone with large-scale ECB purchases of the bonds of governments vulnerable on financial markets, in return for a commitment to deep-seated economic reforms. Germany’s Bundesbank and much of the German public have never warmed to the OMT – even though the programme has never actually been used and, some experts think, never will be.

So the German court’s judgment will come as a relief to Mario Draghi, the ECB president, and all those who hold that the OMT, unveiled in August and September 2012, is the single most important reason why Europe’s monetary union no longer appears in mortal danger. But mixed with this relief will be a feeling that the German court’s judgement is not entirely helpful – and that some of its arguments are not particularly well-founded. Read more

Gideon Rachman

(Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

“A spectre is haunting the world: 1914.” So writes Harold James, a professor of history at Princeton in the latest edition of “International Affairs”. Professor James is certainly right that newspapers and learned journals are currently full of articles comparing international politics today with the world of 1914. I have written a few articles on that theme myself. Now, perhaps inevitably, there is a backlash. Joseph Nye, a professor at Harvard, has just published a piece on the 1914 analogy for Project Syndicate that notes: “Among the lessons to be learned from the events of 1914 is to be wary of analysts wielding historical analogies, particularly if they have a whiff of inevitability.”

So does the 1914 analogy actually make sense? Read more

  • Forget the “Fragile Five”: the list of countries exposed as central banks tighten monetary policy is longer than the moniker suggests.
  • A German man, estranged from his father, may still face a €9,000 bill for the father’s care costs in a legal case that has sparked debate across a nation obsessed with its ageing population and how to pay for its welfare.
  • Businesses in Germany worry about the impact of introducing a minimum wage.
  • In Sudan, economic problems and fears for South Sudan are destabilising Omar al-Bashir’s rule.
  • Sébastien Valiela discusses how he managed to get the infamous photographs of François Hollande .
  • The New York Times documents how a young woman was lured to North Dakota from the west coast by a job in the oil industry, only to find a land dominated by men, lower pay than expected and a high cost of living.

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♦ The conflict in South Sudan has exposed the naivety of those self-appointed cheerleaders of southern independence abroad, who argued that all other issues were secondary to sovereignty, says the FT’s William Wallis.
♦ It’s time to think more about Sarajevo and less about Munich when it comes to international affairs, argues Gideon Rachman.
♦ The New York Times looks at how Palestinians find fun and escape while facing everyday life in the Israeli-controlled West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza.
♦ Germany is addressing the issue of integration and equality for its large Muslim population – state schools are offering classes on Islam in a bid to quell the radicalisation of Muslims and prejudice among non-Muslims. Read more

♦ Indian women are showing a new confidence and combativeness – a sign of India’s first genuinely popular feminist awakening.
♦ World Child Cancer helps bring birthday hopes to a young girl with cancer in Ghana – the FT’s Xan Rice tells her story and looks at how the work of the organisation.
♦ Count Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell explains how his mid-size family firm, which makes wooden pencils, stays globally competitive against threats from sophisticated Chinese competitors, the stagnant euro zone economy and shifts in technology.
♦ Independent news website Mada Masr looks back at the life of dissident Egyptian poet Ahmad Fouad Negm who died yesterday: ” He seemed to never stop loving life and hating dictators and making jokes through the darkest of conditions.” Read more

♦ The FT’s Jeevan Vasagar looks at how farmers are reaping the rewards from Germany’s renewable energy boom. The Government appears to be on a collision course with farmers and renewable energy provides as it seeks to rein in generous subsidies.
♦ Sarah Lyall in the New York Times explores how the fates of Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks are diverging. Brooks walked away from News International with a $17.6m severance package. Coulson has moved out of London and according to one source, “He has lost everything, basically.”
♦ Also in the New York Times, Ben Hubbard looks at the pioneering Saudi women who are entering the workplace in the conservative Middle Eastern state – a significant shift in a country where women are severely restricted in all public activities.
♦ Finally, African Arguments has an interview with John Githongo, the man who revealed corruption in Kenya’s Kibaki administration in the early 2000s. He describes the current “democratic recession” in Kenya and a wave of new repressive legislation being passed. Read more

By Luisa Frey

♦ Twenty-three years after German reunification, a report shows that east-west migration is fizzling out. As the socio-economic differences become smaller, investors are pumping capital into the ex-communist east, writes the FT’s Stefan Wagstyl.

♦ Slovenia – which cruised to the EU as the wealthiest of the 10 ex-communist members – is now struggling to avoid a eurozone bailout.

♦ In the US, inequality is moving to the front line of politics. The rich-poor gap has long been an issue, but in post-crisis times it seems more difficult to raise hopes of upward mobility.

♦ “Keeping China moving will keep its leaders busy,” comments the FT’s David Pilling. Xi Jinping – “the world’s most powerful leader” – has nine years left at the helm of an economy that could be the world’s biggest by 2020.

♦ In post-revolutionary times, Arab countries are dealing with the task of rewriting history and figuring out how to teach it. Egypt, Lybia and Tunisia are removing from school textbooks the praise they once heaped on former dictators, writes The Economist.

♦ A video report from the Wall Street Journal follows citizens whose lives were upended by the conflict across Syria’s northern border. “I always try to make my students forget what they saw in Syria”, says a teacher in a refugee camp in Turkey. Read more

Tony Barber

Judges of the German Constitutional Court (Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

In the beginning, the eurozone crisis was a banking sector, private debt and government bond market emergency. Then economic recession, unemployment and welfare expenditure cuts took hold, propelling the growth of anti-EU, anti-establishment and anti-immigrant political movements. Now the eurozone crisis is acquiring a third dimension: one in which national constitutional courts are moving to centre stage.

True, the judges sitting on Germany’s constitutional court have been going in this direction since 2009, when they issued a judgement on the EU’s Lisbon treaty. But before the eurozone crisis erupted in full force, such rulings were fairly uncontroversial. The judges could reasonably argue in 2009 that they were simply testing if the new EU fundamental treaty was compatible with the democratic principles of Germany’s 1949 constitution, known as the Basic Law.

Now that the eurozone crisis has pushed the German government and the European Central Bank into once unimaginable measures to rescue the 17-nation currency bloc, the constitutional court has parked itself on wholly different territory. The judges would indignantly contest this, but when the court opened hearings in June into the legality of the ECB’s actions to protect the eurozone, it looked from the outside very much as if the judges had appointed themselves the supreme law lords of European integration – to the exclusion of any other EU or national legal authority. Read more