The first official German election results are in and Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats enjoyed a huge swing in the polls, but remain five seats short of achieving the first absolute majority since 1957.

That fires the starting gun for coalition talks, raising some interesting questions, especially after the chancellor’s existing coalition partner, the liberal Free Democratic Party, has crashed from its best-ever election result in 2009 to parliamentary annihilation, failing to reach the five per cent threshold. Read more

Peer Steinbrück, the Social Democratic Party challenger hoping to unseat Angela Merkel, German chancellor, had everything to fight for. A live 90-minute TV debate broadcast on four of the biggest TV stations to an audience estimated at 15m just three weeks before election day. The “duel” has been the most keenly anticipated election event in the campaign to date.

So did the man who served as Ms Merkel’s finance minister in a previous coalition government from 2005-2009 land any real punches? Read more

(Getty Images)

The mark of a truly skilled politician is to make any possible source of weakness or fallibility look exogenous. Angela Merkel can do it with her eyes closed.

Faced with hard questions about what her government knew and when about US surveillance operations that may have harvested the private data of millions of Germans, the chancellor walked into her last press conference before the parliamentary summer break and managed to sound solicitous about getting to the bottom of the issue – which, of course, had nothing to do with her.

No matter that the opposition Social Democratic party are doing their best to turn widespread public concern about mass surveillance into questions about Ms Merkel’s leadership ahead of the September 22 general election. No matter the accusations that Germany’s own spooks were actively colluding with the US National Security Agency. And no matter that, thus far, the US appears to have done next to nothing to soothe German nerves.

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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

Add Poland to the list of European Union countries turned off by the incoherent, self-isolating policies of Britain’s Conservative-led government towards Europe.

First there was Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel restricts her visits to the UK these days to the barest minimum. She has been lukewarm about David Cameron, the UK prime minister, ever since he pulled the Conservative party out of the pan-European centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), of which her Christian Democrats are a leading light.

Next came France. President François Hollande hasn’t forgotten how Cameron refused to meet him when he visited London on an election campaign trip earlier this year. Hollande is not inclined to do Cameron any favours on crucial issues such as the protection of British interests in a more deeply integrated Europe. Read more

Welcome to our rolling coverage of the eurozone crisis. German judges have ruled in favour of the eurozone’s rescue plans – albeit with conditions, Dutch voters are going to the polls and Brussels publishes plans for eurozone-wide banking supervision. By Tom Burgis, John Aglionby and Ruona Agbroko on the London  newsdesk with contributions by FT correspondents around the world. All times are BST.

16.51 That’s a wrap for our live coverage of a big day in the eurozone. The message of the past week seems to be: all hail the ECB. See for more news and analysis through the evening. We leave you with a last summary of the market mood from Ralph Atkins, the FT’s capital markets editor.

Markets have reacted positively to today’s news but it had largely been priced-in – the party took place last week. Spanish 10 year bond yields which have fallen by some 200 basis points since late July dropped a further six points. Spanish two year bonds were down 10 basis points. Shares rose initially, but the FTSE Eurofirst 300 index is closing more or less unchanged at 1108.0.

16.26 In Frankfurt, FT bureau chief and eurozone economics guru Michael Steen has been assessing the impact for the ECB of moving into the murky world of banking regulation.

By taking on oversight of eurozone bank supervision, the ECB can at best hope to prevent situations arising in which a bank needs to be bailed out and its depositors repaid. But, as people inside the ECB have themselves acknowledged, supervision is very far removed from the intellectual world of setting interest rates.

“When you deal with banks, you deal with politics. Automatically,” one senior ECB official said. “It’s very dangerous.”

The full piece is coming soon to Read more

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

While it must be tempting for Cameron to score cheap points off the French government and to lecture the Germans, it is also distinctly ill-advised, argues Gideon Rachman Read more

Angela Merkel’s speech to parliament in Berlin today marks a distinct shift in tone, argues Gideon Rachman. Read more

Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy, speaking in parliament today [our emphasis]:

“The next European Council on June 28 and 29 must launch a clear and decisive message on the irrevocability of the euro and the single market.”

But this is what Angela Merkel had to say last week, according to

“I don’t think that there is a single summit at which the big design will appear,” she said on ARD.

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Which way forward? Photo: Getty

Welcome to our first eurozone live blog of 2012. By John Aglionby, Tom Burgis and Esther Bintliff on the news desk in London with contributions from correspondents around the world. All times are GMT.

It may be a new year but it’s the same old eurozone crisis. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a bilateral summit in Berlin this morningRead more

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 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”

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

Europe’s leaders gathered in Brussels for another crunch summit. Expectations are running high for a new grand bargain to restore sanity to the eurozone’s finances and chart a course out of the debt crisis. Also today:

  • The European Central Bank cut interest rates by a quarter point to 1 per cent, as expected, and announced that it would accept more forms of collateral and offer longer-term loans to try to protect the banking system
  • Mario Draghi, ECB president, poured cold water on hopes the central bank was poised to take more aggressive action
  • The European banking authority unveiled its updated stress tests of 70 banks, which tripled the capital shortfall for the German banking sector and pushed up the Europe-wide deficit from €106bn in October to €115bn now

20:15: We’re winding up the liveblog for tonight, but you can follow the rest of the action at and we’ll be back again on Friday morning. Thanks for reading and for all the comments. Bon courage!

19.54: BREAKING – Peter Spiegel, the FT’s Brussels bureau chief, has this scoop from the summit:

EU leaders have begun their late-starting summit, and they were given a 6-page draft of their conclusions at the start. According to people who have seen it, some of the most interesting new language is on the eurozone bail-out funds.

The current version says the existing €440bn fund, the EFSF, will continue running for another 2 years financing its current programmes – which would not be transferred to the new fund, the €500bn ESM.

That would free up the ESM’s resources, giving the eurozone significantly more firepower, with the two funds running in parallel.

The conclusions say the ESM would have its maximum €500bn lending capacity, regardless of how much the EFSF is committed to.

That could mean as much as €200bn in new “bazooka” weaponry.

embed1  Read more

Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel prior to their meeting at the Elysee Palace on Monday. Photo: Remy de la Mauvinere/AP

Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel before their meeting at the Elysee palace on Monday. Photo: Remy de la Mauvinere/AP

Welcome back to our live coverage of the eurozone crisis. By Esther Bintliff on the world news desk in London, with contributions from FT correspondents around the world.

This post should update automatically every few minutes, but it may take longer on mobile devices. All times are GMT.


19.40: So, after a relatively quiet morning, this afternoon and evening have proved to be a bit of a rollercoaster.

  • First, Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel surprised everyone by announcing they had reached “comprehensive agreement” on a new set of fiscal rules ahead of the EU summit later this week. Of course we knew they were going to meet, but to be honest, we hadn’t expected them to say very much in public at this stage. So stock markets rallied, bond yields fell and suddenly it looked like a resolution to the eurozone crisis might be in sight…
  • Then, just when you thought it might be safe etc etcthis story broke. In brief: Standard and Poor’s has warned Germany and the five other triple A members of the eurozone that they risk having their top-notch ratings downgraded as a result of deepening economic and political turmoil in the single currency bloc. The US ratings agency is poised to announce later on Monday that it is putting Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, and Luxembourg on “creditwatch negative”, meaning there is a one-in-two chance of a downgrade within 90 days.

Understandably, investors took fright, and stock markets pared many of the gains made earlier in the day. There will be more news on this story tonight – see for all the latest. In the meantime thanks for reading, and for all the comments. Read more

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

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Silvio Berlusconi – shutting one's eyes won't make the problems go away. Image AFP/Getty

Welcome back to the FT’s coverage of the eurozone crisis. Curated by John Aglionby, Tom Burgis and David Crouch on the news desk in London, with contributions from correspondents around the world. All times are GMT.

Greece really is expected to get a new prime minister today – 48 hours later than expected. Italy, well who knows what’s going to happen there as bond yields surge and the EU’s economic inspectors arrive … And policymakers and financiers are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of the crisis on global liquidity levels.

18.53 That’s it for our live coverage today. We leave you with a round-up of where we stand at the end of another turbulent day in Europe – and some cold hard numbers (and letters) for your bedtime reading.

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Welcome back to the FT’s live coverage of the eurozone crisis. By Tom Burgis and John Aglionby on the news desk in London, with contributions from correspondents around the world. All times are GMT.

One issue dominates the agenda for today and tomorrow’s summit of the Group of 20 leading economies: the fate of the eurozone amid the turmoil in Greece.

This post should update automatically every few minutes, although it may take longer on mobile devices.

19.30: And what will tomorrow bring? Who knows. It’s day two of the G20 summit, the confidence vote in the Greek parliament and the US non-farm payrolls (monthly unemployment data) are announced.

Thanks for all your comments and tweets today – especially the song suggestions! For further updates from the late-night meetings in Cannes follow Read more

Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis. In the early hours of the morning, eurozone leaders emerged from their summit in Brussels with a deal designed to stem the sovereign debt crisis. The markets seem pleased but big questions on the details remain. We’ll bring you reactions, news and commentary as we get it throughout the day.

All times are London time. By Tom Burgis on the news desk in London, with contributions from FT correspondents around the world.

18.34: It’s time to wrap up the live blog for today. But keep reading through the evening for:

18.13: Der Spiegel has a nice tale about whether or not Angela Merkel did in fact apologise to Silvio Berlusconi for appearing to smirk when asked publicly if she still had faith in his leadership.

18.07: Chatham House has just published a paper arguing that international debt bailout systems are ill-equipped to handle any further instability.

“As the problems in the eurozone deepen and threaten to spread globally, action is required to strengthen financial safety nets beyond what was agreed by EU Heads of State on 27 October 2011.”

Read the full report by Stephen Pickford, former managing director at the UK Treasury and former executive director at the IMF.

18.00: An evening update of the day’s developments:

  • At the end of trading in Europe, the FTSE Eurofirst 300 finished 3.69 per cent higher for the day at 1,020. US stocks rose too, with GDP numbers that matched expectations adding to a positive reception for the EU’s moves
  • Despite the ebullience in equities markets, concerns remained over soveriegn debt in the eurozone. Italian government bond yields first sank to 5.7 per cent, before rebounding to 5.9 per cent, near their euro-era highs
  • Questions remain over the details of the eurozone deal, notably over the terms of the new bonds that will replace existing Greek debt as part of the agreed 50 per cent “haircut” (see 13.17), how banks will go about raising new capital and where the cash to fund the various eurozone plans will come from
  • European officials are keen to involve China and other Bric nations in a fund to buy eurozone debt, though here too there are no firm plans yet

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Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis as we head into the evening. Europe’s leaders have gathered in Brussels to try to deliver a solution to the sovereign debt crisis. It has been a nervy day in the markets and national capitals – all of which you can read about on our live coverage from earlier on. Tonight we should discover whether Europe’s leaders can overcome their differences and chart a course towards recovery or whether they will once again fail to reach a deal. We’ll bring you news and commentary as we get it.

All times are London time. By Tom Burgis on the news desk in London, with contributions from FT correspondents around the world.

22.38: We’re going to wrap up our live coverage from London now. But fear not, the FT reporters at the summit will not rest until we have an outcome from the evening’s second summit, of all 17 eurozone leaders. See for all the latest news.

It seems only right to give the final word on today’s developments to Justin Timberlake, whose new film, In Time, has the strap line: “Tomorrow is a luxury you can’t afford.” Over the coming hours we’ll discover whether European leaders – and the markets – share that sentiment.

22.35: A quick recap on what we know so far

  • The 27 EU leaders agreed a statement as per a leaked draft, fleshing out some headline details of how the bank recapitalisation will work
  • Silvio Berlusconi’s letter to his fellow eurozone leaders included a commitment to raise the Italian retirement age to 67
  • Nicolas Sarkozy will call his Chinese counterpart tomorrow in what seems to be part of efforts to win Chinese investment for a fund to buy eurozone debt
  • US markets dealt with all of this pretty calmly, finishing the day in the black

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