At school we used to be taught in history lessons that Portugal was England’s oldest ally (“Please, sir, Treaty of Windsor, 1386!”). Oh dear, oh dear. How ever will the Anglo-Portuguese alliance survive the wickedly humorous indictment of popular English culture just published by João Magueijo, a Portuguese-born professor of theoretical physics at Imperial College, London?
The professor has lived for more than 20 years in England and clearly likes something about the place, for he seems in no hurry to leave. But when he describes his travels around the British Isles, he writes with the appalled fascination of an entomologist confronted with an unwholesome species of beetle.
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.
Portugal’s painful austerity programme runs into trouble
Pedro Passos Coelho, Portugal’s prime minister, is one of Europe’s staunchest backers of austerity. But his government’s painful two-year programme of structural adjustment has yet to deliver the results promised. And late last week, the country’s constitutional court issued a ruling that could fatally undermine his efforts to get the economy back on track.
Here are the pieces that caught our eyes today on the world desk:
Mario Monti arrives to unveil his new government at the Quirinale Palace in Rome. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images
Welcome back to the FT’s rolling coverage of the eurozone crisis. By Esther Bintliff and John Aglionby on the world news desk, with contributions from correspondents around the world. All times GMT.
Europe’s two new technocratic prime ministers consolidated their respective grips on power today. Lucas Papademos in Greece won a confidence vote in parliament, while Mario Monti, his Italian counterpart, announced his new cabinet and was sworn in as prime minister.
19.03: We’re going to wrap up the live blog for tonight, but you can read lots more on FT.com. Here’s a quick update on today’s events:
- In Greece, prime minister Lucas Papademos won an overwhelming vote of confidence in his new interim government – 255 votes in favour, 38 against
- Charles Dallara, managing director of the Institute for International Finance, is about to meet with Mr Papademos (see our 12.15 update). The IIF has been negotiating with Greece on behalf of investors holding Greek sovereign debt
- In Italy, Mario Monti unveiled his new technocrat cabinet (see our 12.52 update, and this article) and said he would serve as both prime minister and finance minister. ”We finally have a competent government, not one of dwarves and ballerinas,” declared Antonio di Pietro, former anti-graft magistrate and head of the Italy of Values party.
- Italy’s statistics agency spooked the market by announcing that it wouldn’t be releasing preliminary Q3 GDP data
- The number of jobless in the UK reached 2.62m, a 15-year high, while the number of young unemployed topped one million for the first time since these records began in 1992
- In its November Inflation report the Bank of England revised downwards its growth and inflation forecasts, and prompted economists to predict that quantitative easing would be ramped up sooner than expected
- Mervyn King, the Bank of England governor, said he had “great sympathy” with the ECB in “not going around and buying all sorts of assets”
- Angela Merkel said Germany was prepared to “give up a little bit of national sovereignty” in the name of strengthening the wider eurozone area (see 13.44 update)
- Portugal passed its latest troika exam - or rather, the European Union and International Monetary Fund approved the disbursal of the next €8bn tranche of the country’s €78bn financial rescue package after concluding a second quarterly review of the the government’s progress with the bail-out programme (16.04 update)
- Italy’s 10-year government bond yield spent the day fluctuating around 7 per cent – and finally settling at that level, reports Dave Shellock on our markets team. Reported buying by the European Central Bank of both Italian and Spanish debt offered only limited support