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FirstFT: Ukraine urges EU leaders not to be ‘negative’ on accession

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Ukraine’s deputy prime minister has urged European allies to avoid “negative messaging” about its prospects of joining the EU and said she sees “no major obstacles” stopping formal accession talks from starting as early as this year.

Olha Stefanishyna claimed Kyiv was delivering “very fast” on its political reforms, but some countries did not want to be “pushed to take any decisions”, while others linked the process to the state of play on EU enlargement in the west Balkans, where accession has been stalled for a decade.

While EU leaders have refrained from public comments critical of Ukraine’s membership ambitions, some capitals have privately chastised both Ukrainian officials for expecting the process to be completed in rapid time and the bloc’s leadership for encouraging those hopes.

Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, has said he envisages a two-year timetable for the country to join the EU, but diplomats warn talk of such an accelerated process will raise false hope among the Ukrainian public.

EU leaders acknowledged Kyiv’s “considerable efforts” on reforms in a statement after their summit on Friday but did not provide a collective judgment on how much progress Ukraine had made.

1. US shoots down fourth aerial object The US military shot down a high-altitude object over Lake Huron yesterday, in the fourth operation of its kind this month over the skies of North America. While US officials have described the first object as a Chinese spy balloon, they have not publicly identified the origin of the three other objects.

2. Olaf Scholz’s party loses Berlin election The conservative Christian Democratic Union has won elections in Berlin in a blow for German chancellor Olaf Scholz and his party, the left-of-centre Social Democrats who have governed the city in shifting coalitions for the last 22 years. It is the party’s worst performance in the German capital since the second world war.

3. Goldman CEO says he should have cut jobs earlier David Solomon told a private gathering of around 400 Goldman Sachs partners in Miami this week that he had erred by not cutting jobs earlier last year. “Every bone in my body believed we should be much more aggressive,” Solomon said, acknowledging that had he taken action earlier, cuts would have been less drastic than the 3,200 jobs axed last month.

4. Israel on brink of ‘constitutional collapse’, president warns In a primetime address yesterday night, Isaac Herzog appealed to the new hardline government to delay a contested judicial overhaul, warning that mounting political polarisation had left the country “on the brink of constitutional and social collapse”.

5. Zambia rejects China’s call to involve World Bank Zambian finance minister Situmbeko Musokotwane has rejected a call by China, its biggest creditor, to have the World Bank and other multilateral lenders join a restructuring of the country’s $13bn in external debt, three years after defaulting on it. He warned that delays to the relief were holding back economic recovery in Africa’s second-biggest copper producer.

The day ahead

Economic data The European Commission publishes its winter interim economic forecast, and Switzerland releases its January consumer price index.

UAE summit The three-day World Government Summit begins in Dubai. Speakers include the presidents of Estonia, Senegal and Uruguay.

Germany Citizens of Dresden will hold a candlelit vigil to commemorate victims of the extensive aerial bombing of the city during the second world war. Concerns have been raised that far-right groups will hold protests.

UK strikes More than 100 workers at the British Museum begin a week of industrial action, while Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency workers in Swansea stage a five-day walkout.

Nato chief speaks Jens Stoltenberg addresses the press ahead of a two-day meeting of Nato defence ministers in Brussels this week. Nato allies have been under pressure from Kyiv to provide jets to Ukraine.

Corporate results Rothschild & Co reports 2022 results after the family announced plans to delist from the Paris stock exchange. Arista Networks, Cadence Design Systems, Denny’s, Lend-Lease, Michelin, SolarEdge Technologies and Zee Entertainment Enterprises also report.

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What else we’re reading

What is Andy Jassy’s vision for Amazon? Since he took over in 2021, Amazon has lost $1tn in market value. Ecommerce revenue fell last year for the first time in the group’s 28-year history, with job cuts that will affect 18,000 people — the largest of any big tech company. Does Andy Jassy just have unlucky timing, or do the issues at the ecommerce giant run deeper?

How English football became the real Super League The European Super League may have failed, but after an onslaught of spending on new players by Premier League clubs, many in the game are now wondering if it has become a de facto super league, where superior financial muscle is leaving the rest of European football behind.

Premium readers can sign up to our Scoreboard newsletter for more on the business of sport.

Opinion: Six reasons why Credit Suisse still looks horrible It has been a year since Axel Lehmann took over as chair of accident-prone Credit Suisse and about half that since Ulrich Körner became chief executive. But they have yet to stem the problems at Switzerland’s second-biggest bank, writes Patrick Jenkins, and six numbers from the group’s annual results show why.

What is the role of cultural understanding? Over Lunch with the FT, Taiwanese-American scholar of Chinese literature Jing Tsu shares why the west and China misunderstand each other — and how culture can bring them closer together. “China has been a diligent understudy of the west for more than two centuries now,” she says. “And it always strikes me that the west does not know China nearly as well.”

Quake stokes Turkish tensions over Syrian refugees For Turkey’s nearly 4mn Syrian refugees who fled civil war in their homeland, the devastating earthquake raised fears that their hopes for a safe place to call home had been dashed once again. The quake struck at a time of worsening public hostility towards Syrians in Turkey, exacerbated by a cost of living crisis and a general election that will further politicise their plight.

  • Related: Turkish prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for scores of developers as the death toll from last week’s earthquake tops 33,000.

Take a break from the news

TikTok and YouTube have become star-makers for a handful of people who have turned their homes into content farms. Meet the influencers amassing thousands of followers and using their platform to fund ambitious projects.

Chelsea Stonier
Chelsea Stonier is documenting her second Victorian home renovation on @thehousethatblackbuilt: ‘The vast majority of this house renovation is paid for by Instagram’

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