Merkel’s populist challenge
Angela Merkel is facing a new challenge to her leadership after the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany dealt her party a stinging blow in a regional election on Sunday. What threat does the success of the populist party pose for German stability and for Merkel’s chance of remaining as chancellor? Gideon Rachman puts the question to Stefan Wagstyl, the FT’s Berlin bureau chief and Fred Studemann, comment editor.
By Gideon Rachman
In the referendum campaign on Britain’s membership of the EU, each side has one trump card that they will play repeatedly until voting day on June 23. The Remain camp will talk about the economy. The Leavers will talk about immigration. Read more
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
By Gideon Rachman
In theory, David Cameron and Radoslaw Sikorski should get on marvellously. Both the British prime minister and the Polish foreign secretary studied at Oxford and were members of the elite Bullingdon club, which specialises in dressing up, drinking, vomiting and vandalism. Both men have matured into robust conservatives. But last week we witnessed an unedifying dispute between the two politicians, sparked by Mr Cameron’s suggestion that Britain should not be paying child benefit to children living in Poland, even if their parents are working in Britain. In response, Mr Sikorski accused the British of stigmatising Polish immigrants and tweeted (in Polish) a suggestion that Poles in Britain should return home.
An elderly woman walks through a wintry Spanish city, sadly bemoaning her country’s fate. “All the studies show we always come last in the rankings,” she exclaims, shuffling past a placard highlighting Spain’s poor performance in international education tests.
She bumps into old friends, all of whom tell her of their plans to leave the country and “become foreigners”. At a nearby market, stalls advertise the benefits of becoming German, Scandinavian or British. She meets a tousle-haired man clutching his German certificate: “I want to know what it feels like when everyone owes you money – not the other way around.” Read more
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
♦ Serbia plans to borrow billions from the United Arab Emirates – the country’s deputy prime minister warned that it could face bankruptcy without urgent steps to cut public sector wages.
♦ The Washington Post breaks down the effect of the US government shut down on individual departments.
♦ Ezra Klein at the Washington Post argues that “the American political system is being torn apart by deep structural changes that don’t look likely to reverse themselves anytime soon” and a “deal to reopen the government won’t fix what ails American politics.”
♦ Slate reports on how the Egyptian army is stepping up its efforts to shut down the illicit trade tunnels between Sinai and Gaza. Its campaign in north Sinai is affecting both civilians and militants.
♦ Bashar al-Assad’s regime is waging a PR campaign, spreading stories of rebels engaging in “sex jihad” and massacring Christians, according to Der Spiegel.
♦ British artist Banksy’s latest work, which focuses on Syria, has Syria-watchers bemused, the New York Times reports.
♦ The latest book from Paul Collier, co-director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University, examines the impact of migration and the benefits of it to migrants, host communities and those left behind. Read more
I am pleased that my column on Britain and Europe today has attracted lots of hits and comments. But, inevitably, when you try to deal with such a complex subject in 900 words (give or take), there is a lot you have to leave out. And there was one vital part of the subject that I didn’t deal with – and that is the impact of immigration on the British debate on Europe. Read more
♦ The FT argues today that Apple’s decision to borrow money in order to fund a dividend, despite being one of America’s most liquid companies, indicates a need for reform to the US tax system.
♦ Despite impressive economic growth, improvements in living standards in Malaysia have lagged behind those of its neighbours, building pressure for change ahead of Sunday’s election.
♦ North African governments are trying to stem the flow of young Islamic militants, heading to Syria to fight the regime.
♦ President François Hollande is struggling to please everyone and, in fact, anyone – leading to concerns that France might become the next European problem child. After a draft paper by the president’s party described Angela Merkel as “selfish”, Mr Hollande has had to reassure her that he still believes in a Franco-German relationship.
♦ William Finnegan discusses his article on Mark Lyttle, a US citizen from North Carolina who was deported to Mexico despite ample evidence that he was an American, and the soaring number of deportations.
♦ Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has told the FBI that he and his brother considered suicide attacks on July 4, but instead decided to strike on Patriots’ day.
♦ Politics and vetting processes mean that Barack Obama has yet to fill some long-empty posts in his cabinet.
♦ Evangelical Christians in California have struck up a debate over whether yoga is a religion or not – where is the line between the body and the soul?
♦ SAYA, a Jerusalem-based design studio, is trying to provide a architectural resolutions to territorial disputes: “you can’t stop terror with just a fence. We need to imagine structures that can build hope instead of fear and resentment.”
♦ When Alex Christodoulou tried to quit his job for life in the Greek public sector, he found the process harder (and more labyrinthine) than he ever thought it could be, especially when the government had committed to taking thousands of workers off the public payroll. “They wanted to rehire him so that they could fire him and include him in the number of public servants being laid off to appease Greece’s international creditors”.
♦ In a review of The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future, Richard Lloyd Parry argues against the idea that North Korea is a “zombie nation”, but wonders if the idea that the country is in a state of “political undeath” doesn’t perhaps suit some other states. Read more
By Richard McGregor in Washington
It is remarkable that Barack Obama, only months after a convincing re-election, seems to keep falling back on his self-professed powerlessness when pressed about his second-term agenda.
Be it on closing down Guantanamo Bay, ending the across-the-board budget cuts (known as sequestration), restricting firearms sales or bringing Obamacare into life, Mr Obama talks more about what he can’t get done than the other way round.
The president suffered the indignity at a Tuesday press conference of being asked if his second-term administration still had any “juice” left, joking in response that maybe he should “just pack up and go home”. Read more
♦ The collapse of Rana Plaza this week and the fire at Tazreen Fashions last year have raised questions about the Bangladeshi government’s ability to regulate its garment industry, and the intimate ties between this industry and the country’s political elite.
♦ President Obama is pushing to overhaul the US immigration system, giving some of the 11m unauthorised residents legal rights and the economy a much needed boost.
♦ A growing sense among Guantánamo prisoners that they will never go home, has led to a revolt: a hunger strike is now in its third month with more than half the inmates participating. Read more
Coming up We’re pulling together some of the best reads on the “Iron Lady”. Read more
Here are our tips from the world new desk today:
These were the pieces that got our tongues wagging today: