The Netherlands

Tony Barber

Geert Wilders (Michel Porro/Getty Images)

Beneath his populist rhetoric neither Geert Wilders, nor most supporters of his far-right Freedom Party, nor the vast majority of Dutch voters seriously entertain the notion that the Netherlands will leave the European Union. But in election campaigns it is the rhetoric that counts.

The election in question is the May 22-25 vote, in the Netherlands and the European Union’s other 27 member-states, for the European Parliament. Like other anti-EU, anti-euro, anti-establishment parties in countries such as France and the UK, the Dutch Freedom Party is riding the tide of popular disenchantment with mainstream politics and EU institutions.

Wilders is after the protest vote, and he will get it – just like Marine Le Pen’s National Front and the UK Independence Party of Nigel Farage. All three movements have an excellent chance of topping the polls or at least upsetting the political apple cart in their respective countries. 

Gideon Rachman

Guy Verhofstadt (Nicolas Maeterlinck/AFP/Getty)

The three main candidates to be the next head of the European Commission are now clear: Martin Schulz will be the left’s candidate; Guy Verhofstadt will be the standard-bearer for the liberals; and Jean-Claude Juncker will be the candidate of the centre-right, having apparently secured the all-important backing of Angela Merkel. (The German chancellor’s office has declined to confirm officially that Merkel is backing Juncker – but press reports, including in the FT, seem pretty certain.)

The most striking thing about this list is how very traditional it is. The EU has just been through a wrenching crisis that has raised questions about its very survival. And it is also now a club of 28 countries. But the three main candidates for Commission president are all traditional European federalists – drawn from the six founding member states. 

Mark Rutte. Photo Reuters

By Matthew Steinglass in Amsterdam

Wednesday’s Dutch election overturned myriad assumptions, as voters turned en masse towards the two large centrist parties that have backed eurozone rescue measures and abandoned the fringe anti-European parties that had been expected to win big.

Rather than punishing Liberal prime minister Mark Rutte for signing up to bailout packages for Greece and Spain and to the European emergency fund, right-wing voters re-elected him with 27 per cent of the vote, by far the party’s largest share ever. 

Tom Burgis

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 ft.com 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 ft.com/europe