By Gideon Rachman
Europe is in a race against time. After six years of economic crisis, extremist political parties are well-entrenched across the continent. Set against that, the European economy is in better shape than for some years. The question is whether economic optimism can return quickly enough to prevent the bloc’s politics slithering over the edge.
When Zlatan Ibrahimovic was caught on camera calling France a “shitty country” as he ranted against a match official after his team Paris Saint Germain lost against Bordeaux, Marine Le Pen saw it as a shot on open goal.
Speaking to French radio on Monday, the leader of the far-right National Front minced no words in saying that “those who consider that France is a shit country can leave it”. This was a clear reference to the Swedish-born footballer, who has landed a multimillion contract in France after playing, among others, for Juventus, Inter, AC Milan and Barcelona.
Ms Le Pen was not the only one attacking the PSG star. Patrick Kanner, France’s sports minister, called the remarks “insulting” and other Socialist party members have also been critical of the striker. Still, Ms Le Pen was the one who made the most of Ibrahimovic’s immigrant status – no surprise, perhaps, for a leader who wants France to leave the EU so that it is able to pull up the drawbridge against foreigners. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
A couple of days before the terrorist attacks in Paris, a book arrived at my office. I placed What’s Wrong with France? by Laurent Cohen-Tanugi on the shelves, alongside a line of similar titles: France on the Brink, France in Denial, France in Freefall and France’s Suicide.
By Gideon Rachman
In 1990 Kenichi Ohmae, a management consultant, published a book called The Borderless World, whose title captured the spirit of globalisation. Over the next almost 25 years developments in business, finance, technology and politics seemed to confirm the inexorable decline of borders and the nation states they protected.
François Hollande has had to get used to dismal opinion polls, but the latest one is about as bad as it gets for France’s struggling Socialist president.
A survey by OpinionWay for Le Figaro published on Tuesday evening shows Mr Hollande would be easily knocked out of the presidential race by Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, if a re-run of the May 2012 election were held today.
Then, Mr Hollande beat both incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and Ms Le Pen in the first round of the election and went on to oust his centre-right rival from the Elysée Palace in the decisive second round. Two years later, after an often chaotic presidency marked by big tax increases, rising unemployment and faltering growth, Mr Hollande would muster a mere 19 per cent of first round votes, according to the poll. Read more
France’s increasingly assertive extreme right has provoked new outrage with the publication on Wednesday of a magazine cover comparing Christiane Taubira, the (black) justice minister, to a monkey.
The country’s mainstream parties, otherwise at each others’ throats in the current fraught political climate, united to condemn Minute, which splashed a picture of Ms Taubira alongside the caption: “Clever as a monkey, Taubira gets her banana back.”
(In French slang, banana means a smile.)
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault demanded legal action against the magazine, a call quickly followed by the opening of a preliminary inquiry by the Paris courts, while Manuel Valls, interior minister in the socialist government, said he was investigating the possibility of blocking its distribution. Jean-Francois Copé, leader of the centre right UMP party, backed the government’s stance. Read more
♦ The US federal government is shut down and within days of default on Treasury debt but it is still just possible the whole farrago could turn into good news for the US economy, says Robin Harding.
♦ Iran’s stock market soars but this is partly down to a lack of investment opportunities in other sectors of the stagnant economy.
♦ For those following the negotiations in the US, the New Yorker has compiled a Conservatives’ guide to rhetoric.
♦ A decisive victory by the National Front in Brignoles, France, on Sunday night has set alarm bells ringing in Paris that the far-right party led by Marine Le Pen will repeat the feat more widely in municipal elections.
♦ The New York Times takes a journey through the heartlands of Russia – the Russia being left behind.
♦ For the last edition of the International Herald Tribune, Thomas Fuller looks back at his years reporting in Asia – the lands of charm and cruelty. Read more
Marine Le Pen. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
The first round of France’s parliamentary polls on Sunday provided another good election night for the Le Pen family.
Not only did Marine Le Pen, leader of the far right National Front, win an impressive 42 per cent of the vote to take a clear lead in the race to capture the Henin-Beaumont constituency in the north of the country: down south in the Vaucluse department, her niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen also took the lead in her seat, outscoring Jean-Michel Ferrand, the incumbent centre-right UMP deputy, and the socialist candidate, with 35 per cent of the vote. Read more
Welcome to our rolling coverage of the day’s developments in the eurozone.
Today the live blog comes from Paris, as France digests a surge of far right support in the presidential election, but we’ll also be updating you on news from around Europe. All times Paris time.
By Tom Burgis in Paris and Esther Bintliff in London with contributions from FT correspondents around the world.
17.27 That’s about it for our live coverage from Paris today. A quick round-up of the day’s developments.
We leave you with news of a rare moment of accountability in said crisis:
Geir Haarde, the former prime minister of Iceland, has been found guilty of one count of negligence in the run-up to the country’s 2008 banking crash but will receive no punishment. The FT’s Michael Stothard reports from Stockholm:
Geir Haarde, the former prime minister of Iceland, has been found guilty of one count of negligence in the run-up to the country’s 2008 banking crash but will receive no punishment.
A special court of impeachment designed to deal with criminal charges against Icelandic government ministers found Mr Haarde guilty of failing to hold dedicated cabinet meetings ahead of the crisis.
But the court cleared him of three more significant charges that could have carried a sentence of up to two years in jail.
The full story is here. À la prochaine… Read more
France's Socialist Party candidate François Hollande greets supporters after a campaign speech in Bordeaux. Getty Images
For a man who stands on the brink of the French presidency, François Hollande is remarkably low-key, as I discovered tonight at his last campaign rally before the first round of voting on Sunday.
Over the weekend President Sarkozy staged a big campaign rally in the Place de la Concorde and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left candidate, spoke in Marseilles before a crowd estimated at around 100,000. By contrast, tonight Hollande spoke at a suburban park in Bordeaux, before a crowd of just a few thousand. His reception was warm, but there was no sense of fervour. And yet the opinion polls suggest that Hollande will win the decisive second round on May 6th – beating Sarkozy by a wide margin. Read more