Europe & EU 2018

Written by  //  December 11, 2018  //  Europe & EU  //  1 Comment

The EU countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic,
Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania,
Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain,
Sweden and the UK.
After the 2016 Brexit vote
Official website of the European Union
Politico EU

Paris riots set to continue as French leader fails to appease protesters
(CBS News) President Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to quell violent rioting across France by offering economic concessions to his countrymen — expected to cost the country $11 billion — appears to have been insufficient. Leaders of the “Yellow Vest” protest movement indicated Tuesday that Macron’s offers were not enough, as hundreds of students staged a “Black Tuesday” of protests over Macron’s education policies and voiced solidarity with the Yellow Vests. … The Yellow Shirt movement gained new support on Tuesday from another group of French citizens angry over changes brought in by Macron’s government: students. There has been a fierce reaction from high school and university-aged students to new standardized testing policies, a lack of college enrolment places available to graduates, and new requirements for graduates to secure those places.
The Economist: Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, made his first public comments yesterday since violence engulfed parts of central Paris on December 1st, as part of the countrywide gilets jaunes movement. In an address to the nation Mr Macron promised a costly package of fiscal measures to boost pay packets and pensions. Whether this defuses the first real crisis of his presidency depends as much on the broader public reaction as on the protesters themselves
Macron offers sweeteners to calm Yellow Jackets protests
(Politico EU) ‘Sometimes I may have given you the impression that I had other priorities,’ says French president.
In a televised address on Monday evening that lasted just under 15 minutes, Macron apologized for not having “reacted quickly enough” to what he called a “malaise” in French society
He then unveiled his government would not subject overtime hours to tax from 2019, cancel his proposed tax hike on pensions under €2,000 a month, and grant a pay hike to workers earning minimum wage. The French presidency later told French media this pay hike would be achieved through an increase of a specific public allowance, which Macron had vowed to boost during his presidential campaign.
Macron concessions to cost between 8-10 billion euros – minister
Macron announced earlier on Monday wage rises for the poorest workers and tax cuts for pensioners in further concessions meant to defuse weeks of often violent protests that have challenged his authority.

7 December
France in lock-down mode ahead of new ‘Yellow Jacket’ protests
The government is warning of ‘radical’ protesters who want to topple the president.
(Politico EU) This time, authorities are ready to face them down in what looks set to be a defining showdown between police and a grassroots movement that has no clear leader or political affiliation. In an exceptional peacetime deployment of security forces, President Emmanuel Macron’s government is mobilizing nearly 90,000 police and gendarmes across the country, as well as heavy armored vehicles in the capital.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has already announced the rollback of the planned fuel-tax hike — a measure that protesters say is too little, too late.
Indeed, as the Yellow Jackets movement gained momentum, its backers have expanded their list of demands. A 42-point document now demands everything from France’s withdrawal from the European Union and NATO to the abolition of homelessness to bringing down the retirement age to 60.

3-4 December
France’s Fuel-Tax Protests Expose the Limits of Macron’s Mandate
France’s prime minister announced major concessions on Tuesday, but the “yellow vest” protesters don’t plan to quit anytime soon.
(The Atlantic) Macron’s majority in the National Assembly is solid. The French system grants the president enormous executive power. There are no midterm elections, so the next time he’ll be tested at the polls is in national elections in 2022. Still, with every yellow-vest protest, the chances grow that at some point Macron will have to adjust his agenda and his cabinet. On Tuesday, Stanislas Guerini, the spokesman for the République en Marche party, said that the government would stay the course. “Our ambition is to transform the country, and that hasn’t changed,” he said.
That may well be. But France has always been resistant to change, and the French street is not to be underestimated. This protest movement may yet force the government to transform, too.
Macron talks tough after Yellow Jackets riot in Paris
Those responsible for violence ‘will be identified and held accountable for their actions before the courts,’ president says.
(Politico Eu) Riot police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse thousands of demonstrators from the amorphous movement against gasoline price hikes, named for the fluorescent yellow jackets worn by protesters. The protests, which erupted across France three weeks ago, caught Macron off guard and have triggered violent clashes with police and widespread disruption.

Bloomberg Politics: The world seems to be closing in on Emmanuel Macron.
– Gregory Viscusi

The French president returned from the Group of 20 summit in Argentina to find the “Yellow Vest” anti-tax protest movement is as popular as ever, despite its increasingly violent fringe.
In Brussels, finance ministers are due today to approve measures to strengthen the euro zone that are far weaker than the deep integration he’d preached. And later this week, Germany’s ruling CDU party will choose a new leader who almost certainly will be less keen on tightening up the European Union than Angela Merkel.
Saturday’s violence shocked France, and polls show that about four-fifths of the public think Macron should back down on the gasoline taxes – aimed at curbing carbon emissions – that spurred the protests. Even members of his party are urging him at least to delay them.
At home, it’s difficult to see how he can push through the next set of planned reforms involving sure-to-be unpopular pension and unemployment insurance cuts. In Europe, the sweeping ambitions he laid out last year have butted up against Germany turning inward and Italy electing a euro-skeptic government.
Macron is trying lead a globalist push against the rise of the nationalists – just as the world is heading in a different direction.

21 November
Steve Bannon’s far-right Europe operation undermined by election laws
Exclusive: ambitious plan to campaign in EU elections would fall foul of laws in nine of 13 targeted states
(The Guardian) The former chief strategist to Donald Trump has spent months trying to recruit European parties to his Brussels-based group, the Movement, which he promised would operate as kind of a political consultancy for like-minded parties campaigning in the bloc-wide vote in May 2019.
But the Guardian has established that Bannon would be barred or prevented from doing any meaningful work in nine of the 13 countries in which he is seeking to campaign, according to national electoral bodies and relevant ministries. Confronted with the findings, Bannon acknowledged he was taking legal advice on the matter.

9-11 November
In remembering WWI, world warned of resurging ‘old demons’
(PBS) PARIS — World leaders with the power to make war but a duty to preserve peace solemnly marked the end of World War I’s slaughter 100 years ago at commemorations Sunday that drove home the message “never again” but also exposed the globe’s new political fault lines.
As Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin and dozens of other heads of state and government listened in silence, French President Emmanuel Macron used the occasion, as its host, to sound a powerful and sobering warning about the fragility of peace and the dangers of nationalism and of nations that put themselves first, above the collective good.
Le discours d’Emmanuel Macron à l’Arc de Triomphe
Verbatim du discours tenu par le président français dimanche pour le centenaire de l’Armistice de 1918 devant plus de 70 chefs d’Etat et de gouvernement.

Leaders of France and Germany in poignant show of unity 100 years after WW1
By John Lloyd, co-founder of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford
(Reuters) One hundred years after the guns of World War One fell silent, the leaders of France and Germany held hands and rested their heads against one another in a poignant ceremony to mark the signing of the Armistice peace agreement. President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel inspected troops from a joint Franco-German Brigade before unveiling a plaque paying tribute to the reconciliation and renewed friendship between the foes of two world wars.

Commentary: A U.S. midterm message that resonates across the Atlantic
(Reuters) There’s more to the observation than an urban-rural split, though it may be the most important. There’s the north-south divide, deep among Americans, but not confined to them. Britain too has long had one, between, in its case, northern areas often still suffering the effects of de-industrialization and mine closures, and a wealthy south-east, London embedded within it. So does Italy, with a wealthy, relatively dynamic north and a poor, sluggish, mafia-infested south. Both impact heavily on political choices. These divides depend, not on geography, but on where the wealth has concentrated – usually, over centuries.
Educational attainment, everywhere in the world, runs with the grain of the country-city split. … Europe’s city-country and educational splits all impact on elections, but, as in the United States, the issues of immigration, of identity and of relative deprivation now overlay, often exacerbate, the older divides. The common element in all of these issues, in all Western countries, is a revolt, greater or lesser in extent, against rapid change, against liberal elites and against a loss of identity – white, in the main, but also of settled communities of past waves of immigrants. Populists, right to signal these concerns, are wrong to claim that answers are simple. But arguments of complexity are, in an impatient time, suspect. Divisions, not only in the United States, presently deepen.

3 November
Angela Merkel is on her way out – and so is her vision for the EU
Her throne will likely sit empty because Macron is the only leader with any desire to take it.
(The Spectator) Whatever anyone’s views on the enterprise, there was one question always begging to be asked of the European Union: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ At an early stage it wasn’t clear to everyone. Then the purpose and direction of travel seemed agreed — under the stewardship of Angela Merkel. She was there to settle disputes, authorise bailouts, offer German help to struggling nations and protect the project as it led to ever-closer union. Whatever else can be said of it, with Merkel at the helm at least the EU appeared to have direction. Not anymore.
This week — after another political drubbing for the CDU in Hesse — the German Chancellor announced that she would not seek re-election as head of the party she has led for 18 years. She also announced she would be stepping down as Chancellor at the next election, in 2021, a position she has held since 2005. During that time in office she has worked with four French presidents, four British prime ministers, and seven people who tried to run Italy. Her demise is proving a drawn-out affair — but we can see, in parallel, the demise of her vision of Europe. A clear, federalist vision which once seemed inevitable and now sorely lacks a leader.
Today there is simply no one on the scene capable of acting as the queen or emperor of that project, as Merkel has done for the past decade. That is due, in no small part, to the decisions she took and the hardness and hubris with which she acted when she held the most powerful position in Europe. The Merkel project had created a EU that had unachievable ambitions, seeking to govern countries with long histories of independence, and was fundamentally un-European in that it sought to impose uniformity upon the most gloriously diverse set of countries on earth.
Philippe Legrain: Auf Wiedersehen, and Good Riddance
(Project Syndicate) She has been dubbed the Queen of Europe and, since US President Donald Trump’s election, the leader of the free world. As the European Union has lurched from crisis to crisis over the past decade, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s steady hand has helped hold the bloc together. According to the conventional wisdom, when she hands over the chancellorship after Germany’s next federal election in 2021 – and perhaps much sooner if her grand coalition collapses – she will be sorely missed.
However, this will hardly be the case. Merkel’s 13 years in office have involved domestic drift and European decay. She has complacently coasted along, failing to address Germany’s mounting economic and security challenges, and allowing Europe’s many crises to fester. Her lethargic managerialism would be tolerable for a small country in quiet times; it is catastrophic for Europe’s dominant power in an era of upheaval.
Unlike many European countries, Germany has enjoyed solid economic growth over the past decade. But Merkel can scarcely take credit for that. Her four governments have enacted no significant growth-enhancing reforms. And in their obsession with running a budget surplus, they have failed to invest in the country’s crumbling infrastructure and education system.

1 October
A Warning From Europe: The Worst Is Yet to Come
Polarization. Conspiracy theories. Attacks on the free press. An obsession with loyalty. Recent events in the United States follow a pattern Europeans know all too well.
(The Atlantic Magazine October 2018) …  the illiberal one-party state, now found all over the world—think of China, Venezuela, Zimbabwe—was first developed by Lenin, in Russia, starting in 1917. …  It is the model that many of the world’s budding autocrats use today.
Unlike Marxism, the Leninist one-party state is not a philosophy. It is a mechanism for holding power. It works because it clearly defines who gets to be the elite—the political elite, the cultural elite, the financial elite. In monarchies such as pre-revolutionary France and Russia, the right to rule was granted to the aristocracy, which defined itself by rigid codes of breeding and etiquette. In modern Western democracies, the right to rule is granted, at least in theory, by different forms of competition: campaigning and voting, meritocratic tests that determine access to higher education and the civil service, free markets. Old-fashioned social hierarchies are usually part of the mix, but in modern Britain, America, Germany, France, and until recently Poland, we have assumed that competition is the most just and efficient way to distribute power. The best-run businesses should make the most money. The most appealing and competent politicians should rule. The contests between them should take place on an even playing field, to ensure a fair outcome.

17 September
Austria: EU summit focus on Brexit, migration, cool tension
“We have to do everything to avoid a hard Brexit,” Kurz said. On immigration, he added, European external borders must be secured and frontline countries like Greece and Italy “need our support.”
Macron added to the list, saying the EU can advance on the migration issue “by respecting our values,” an apparent reference to Hungary, rebuked last week for hard-line policies, including on migration.
The summit starts Wednesday in the Austrian city of Salzburg.

10 September
The Economist: The vote in Sweden yesterday was supposed to be a rebuke of the government’s generosity towards refugees, booting out the ruling Social Democrats and boosting the populist Sweden Democrats. None of these things happened. A high turnout, partly driven by fears of just such a result, may have helped. The populists did less well than expected, and the mainstream parties better than feared
See Comment of 10 September below
Deutsche Welle: Sweden’s general election results in stalemate as far-right support surges
Sweden’s center-right and center-left blocs have fallen short of a majority. The far-right Sweden Democrats have seen a boost in support amid concerns over immigration in the Scandinavian country.
Sweden faces weeks in political limbo after far right makes gains
Sweden faces weeks of a stalemate after its traditional center-left and center-right blocs tied with neither holding a majority. The far-right made gains on a hardline anti-immigration platform.

7 August
Steve Bannon’s European Adventure
By Ian Buruma
The reputed mastermind of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has launched a full-scale effort to unite Europe’s right-wing forces and bring down the European Union. But, as with European fascism in the 1920s and 1930s, the various strands of right-wing populism in Europe today show little ideological coherence.
(Project Syndicate) After being cast out of the White House and Breitbart News, Stephen K. Bannon, often referred to as the mastermind of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, has vowed to remake Europe. His organization, called “The Movement” and based in Brussels, aims to unite Europe’s right-wing populists and take down the European Union in its current form.
Bannon sees this effort as part of a “war” between populism and “the party of Davos,” between the white, Christian, patriotic “real people” (in the words of his British supporter, Nigel Farage) and the cosmopolitan globalist elites. In the media, at least, Bannon is taken seriously.
It would seem to be a tall order for this permanently disheveled American media blowhard and promoter of cranky ideas about to change the history of Europe. Despite meeting such right-wing luminaries as Hungary’s strongman Viktor Orbán, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, and Boris Johnson, the clownish former British foreign secretary, all of whom wish him well, Bannon has almost no experience in European politics

6 August
EU vows to thwart Trump’s sanctions on Iran
As measures come into effect, Europe says it has the law on its side.
(Politico EU) Senior European officials on Monday castigated U.S. President Donald Trump’s renewed sanctions on Tehran as “illegal” and in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution, and they vowed to intensify efforts to thwart the U.S. measures and preserve the Iran nuclear accord.
The effort to preserve the nuclear deal, led by the EU and by the three European architects of the accord — France, Germany and the U.K. — puts the United States in direct conflict with its largest and most powerful NATO allies. It represents the sharpest break between Washington and its European partners on foreign policy since Trump took office and began calling into question decades of diplomatic norms.
At a news conference, senior European Commission officials bluntly accused the Trump administration of violating international law, and said their blocking statute would allow EU companies that continue doing business in Iran to recover any damages, including legal costs, from entities — including U.S. banks and businesses — acting to enforce the U.S. sanctions.
“The EU is a market economy, we protect freedom of enterprise,” a senior Commission official said. “The purpose of the blocking statute is not to oblige any company to invest but actually it is to make sure their business decisions remain free and not imposed upon by legislation, which we consider unlawful.”

31 July
The Ugly Side of Poland’s Booming Economy
The ruling Law and Justice party is trafficking in a xenophobic, nationalist narrative.
By Rodney Jefferson and Wojciech Moskwa
(Bloomberg) The Polish conundrum—prosperity and prejudice—is much more than just a history lesson gone awry. The Warsaw government has increased its sway over the courts, fearing an independent judiciary could block its sweeping reforms. The overhaul of the justice system reached the Supreme Court in July with new laws forcing as many as 27 of the 73 judges into retirement unless they get a waiver from President Andrzej Duda and making it easier to replace the tribunal’s chief justice. The legislation sparked protests by pro-democracy groups in Polish cities. Even Mick Jagger warned Poland not to go back to the dark days as he addressed the crowd at a Rolling Stones concert in Warsaw in July. The key instigator in recasting the nature of Poland is the governing Law and Justice party. It shot to power in 2015 promising to champion Poles left behind by the Western-leaning “elites” who, according to the party’s nationalist and xenophobic narrative, ran the country for their own benefit.

25-30 July

Simon Johnson: Europe’s Trade Victory in Washington
US President Donald Trump holds himself out as a brilliant negotiator, and his supporters regard his trade policy as a perfect example of his success. But in his recent trade talks with the Europeans, Trump was clearly out of his depth.
(Project Syndicate) Restarting the TTIP negotiation is a big win for Juncker, in line with long-standing European objectives. It would also make it much harder for Trump to impose tariffs on European car imports – and German car companies’ stock prices rose sharply on the news. It is also remarkable that Juncker managed to get Trump to emphasize working with the World Trade Organization to resolve issues regarding . Cecilia Malmström, the EU trade commissioner, has been stressing exactly this approach.
What did Trump get from the Europeans, other than a return to a trade negotiation straight out of the Obama era? Trump claimed, at the press conference and subsequently, that he won a pledge from Juncker to buy more natural gas and “a lot of soybeans.” Some media coverage even suggested that the Europeans had made concessions. But that interpretation does not fit the facts.
Don’t Believe the Hype About Trump’s Trade Deal with the European Union
In reality, the Europeans gave up little except their prior refusal to negotiate under threat.
(The New Yorker) In a prescient briefing published last week, The Economist noted that E.U. officials wanted to persuade the Trump Administration to pursue grievances against China through the World Trade Organization (W.T.O.)
(The Atlantic) A Tale of Tariffs: U.S. President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pledged to resolve their escalating trade war and to refrain from imposing new tariffs while they negotiate. The truce between the U.S. and Europe could make Trump’s tariffs against China more effective—yet it doesn’t necessarily avert the long-term costs of the European trade dispute.
Trump and EU agree to work toward ‘zero tariffs’
President Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday announced that they have reached a deal to begin resolving a dispute over tariffs and avoid a trade war.
“We agreed today first of all to work together towards zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers and zero subsides for the non-auto industrial goods,” Trump announced in a joint statement with Juncker in the Rose Garden.
(Quartz) Did Donald Trump accidentally suggest that the US join the European Union? … last night, Trump tweeted a new idea—that both sides should make peace and drop all tariffs, barriers and subsidies instead. What Trump’s proposing already exists of course, inside the European Union. The creation of the “single market” treats European Union nations as “one territory without any internal borders or other regulatory obstacles to the free movement of goods and service”
Updated 25 July
‘It’s not going to be a great meeting’: Trump to welcome Juncker
Commission chief wants to convince US president to back down on proposed auto tariffs.
(Politico eu) President Donald Trump is not known for backing down, but the Europeans are coming to Washington anyway to see if they can convince him to rein in his trade policies.
Less than two weeks after calling the European Union a “foe,” Trump will meet with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the White House on Wednesday. The sit-down comes as the 28-country bloc is fuming about the administration’s decision to slap hefty tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, and is hoping to dissuade the president from imposing new tariffs on imported cars.
Juncker has been one of Europe’s most vocal critics of Trump’s trade policies. In March, he called the president’s aluminum and steel tariffs “stupid.” Warning that Europe would retaliate with tariffs on U.S. products, he added, “We can also do stupid.”
Former officials expect Wednesday’s White House meeting to be tense. …
In the EU’s view, bilateral trade between the United States and the EU is largely in balance, despite Trump’s complaints about the U.S. goods trade deficit with the EU, which totaled $151 billion last year. However, the U.S. had about a $55 billion trade surplus in services trade with the EU, and American firms doing business in Europe earned about $95 billion more in net income than European firms operating in the United States, the senior EU official said.

13 July
Donald Tusk: Trump has an aversion to the EU and NATO
European Council chief says he’ll enter race to be Polish president if Jarosław Kaczyński does.
By Michał Broniatowski
(Politico eu) European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday criticized Donald Trump’s behavior during his European trip, and his willingness to engage with authoritarian leaders.
Interviewed in his office in Brussels, Tusk spoke for more than half an hour on the Polish news channel TVN 24, and had harsh words for the judicial reforms brought in by the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS).
Tusk spent a sizeable part of the interview talking about Polish politics and his rivals in PiS.
“Simply speaking, the authority which fully subordinates courts, prosecutors and police as well as the independent media … will very quickly transform democracy into kleptocracy or, speaking more clearly, into a reign of thieves,” he said in reference to the government’s changes to the judicial system.
The European Commission took the unprecedented step of triggering Article 7 — the so-called nuclear option — against Poland in December, following countless warnings, requests for dialogue and demands for clarifications about changes that it says risk undermining judicial independence in the country.

11 July
Commentary: Europe’s fears about Trump-Putin summit
Gregory Feifer
(Reuters) Some European diplomats I spoke with in Washington ahead of the summit fear Trump will do more than just denigrate NATO, going so far as to threaten a U.S. withdrawal from the military alliance before engaging in a lovefest with Putin that will enable the Russian leader to further exploit Washington’s differences with Europe. More significant than issues such as a looming trade war and Trump’s desire to have Moscow re-admitted to the G8 (reduced to the G7 after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea), uncertainty about where the Trump administration is ultimately heading is shaking a continent swept up in an anti-immigrant, right-wing populist tide.

10 July
An inconvenient truth: Addressing democratic backsliding within NATO
By Jonathan Katz and Torrey Taussig
(Brookings) What can NATO do to counter democratic backsliding within its ranks? After a troubling G-7 meeting in Canada, the upcoming NATO summit in Brussels may be a hair twisting exercise in alliance management. Muted cohesion, however, is not enough to address the anti-democratic trends tearing apart the fabric of Europe and NATO. Strong actions and words are needed to counter this democratic crisis.
First, in fighting for the relevance of NATO’s Article V promise of collective defense, we should not forget about NATO’s other founding articles, including Article II: states’ promise to strengthen free institutions within their borders. We should also recall the central governance requirements that states needed to meet in order to join the alliance, including rules around civilian control of the military, legislative monitoring, and transparency of arms procurements—all democratic foundations that make the alliance stronger.
NATO currently has no options to suspend, expel, or penalize a NATO member, for example Hungary, for violating a core tenet of the alliance’s democratic values. There is not even a proper venue at NATO—for example the North Atlantic Council (NAC), NATO’s main decisionmaking body—to raise matters that some consider a direct threat to the alliance’s core principles. The NAC already has over a dozen committees, but none deal directly with democratic backsliding and human rights violations in the alliance.

3 July
Merkel migration deal’s domino effect
Austria and Italy threaten border controls if Berlin goes ahead with chancellor’s plan.
Angela Merkel struck a deal on migration that saved her own skin but threw the EU into disarray.
(Politico Eu) Within hours of the German chancellor announcing that she and her harshest domestic critic on migration — Interior Minister Horst Seehofer — had reached a compromise to end a standoff that threatened to bring down the government, her neighbors were up in arms.
Austria and Italy said they plan to reintroduce border controls if Berlin goes ahead with plans to establish so-called transit zones along Germany’s southern border to allow for accelerated deportations of refugees not entitled to seek asylum in the country.
If they do so, it would put the survival of the EU’s cherished Schengen area of border-free travel at risk.Schengen under threat as Austria hits back at Merkel’s migrant deal
Poland Purges Supreme Court, and Protesters Take to Streets
(NYT) Poland’s government carried out a sweeping purge of the Supreme Court on Tuesday night, eroding the judiciary’s independence, escalating a confrontation with the European Union over the rule of law and further dividing this nation. Tens of thousands took to the streets in protest.
Poland was once a beacon for countries struggling to escape the yoke of the Soviet Union and embrace Western democracy. But it is now in league with neighboring nations, like Hungary, whose leaders have turned to authoritarian means to tighten their grip on power, presenting a grave challenge to a European Union already grappling with nationalist, populist and anti-immigrant movements.
In his zeal to create what he calls a Fourth Republic, free of any vestige of Communist rule and vest the state with ever greater power, the party’s leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has also set the nation on a collision course with the European Union. The bloc views the changes as a threat to the rule of law and the Western values at the heart of the treaty binding the union of nations.
But the European Union’s failure to curb Hungary’s drift toward authoritarianism has emboldened other leaders in the region, where right-wing nationalism and populism are on the rise. Right-wing governments have taken power recently in Austria and Italy, while Chancellor Angela Merkel, a guardian of liberal Western values, just agreed to build camps on Germany’s borders to process migrants.

2 July
Chris Patten: The Real Threats to the EU
The European Union must address a slew of challenges – from immigration to eurozone reform – that risk causing systemic problems lethal to the bloc. Given this, sensible leaders can be forgiven for politely sending the UK on its way, and focusing their attention on threats to the EU’s long-term cohesion and fundamental values.
(Project Syndicate) It seems that EU leaders have accepted that we British have taken leave of our senses, and there is not much they can do about it. They certainly are not going to undermine their own successful, law-based economic model to do us a favor. Brexit will hurt us a lot more than it will hurt the EU.
What could hurt the EU – indeed, threaten its very fabric – is a slew of other challenges, beginning with US President Donald Trump’s threats to the health and even survival of the transatlantic alliance, a key pillar of the post-World War II global order.
… The EU has always prided itself on being a community of values that protects minorities and has welcomed the poor and downtrodden. The EU is, after all, composed of minorities, and it has known its share of poverty and hardship.
… Good sense and experience should tell us that selfish sloganeering, violating the rule of law, and dismissing international commitments is not a recipe for good policy. Macron is right to argue that Viktor Orbán’s Hungary and Jarosław Kaczynski’s Poland should no longer be allowed to pick the pockets of their richer European partners, while trampling over EU values.
The EU must confront the challenges ahead with cohesive, collaborative policies that combine effectiveness with basic human decency. On migration, for example, it must work as one to strengthen its own borders, while helping, through development assistance and security cooperation, the countries from which people are fleeing. With more stability and open markets, they will be able to export their products, rather than their citizens.

21 June
Kemal Derviş: Toward a More Democratic Europe?
The rise of extreme populism in Europe is coming at the expense of traditional center-right and center-left parties and putting the European Union at risk. But the populist threat could induce a restructuring of European politics that ultimately bolsters the EU’s legitimacy.
(Project Syndicate) Next year’s European Parliament election is likely to reveal more about the potential for such political restructuring. The European Parliament has never generated the same level of interest as other European institutions, such as the Commission, the Council, or even the Court of Justice. European parliamentary debates rarely make it far outside Brussels or Strasbourg, and voter turnout to fill the body’s seats has typically been low. Such facts have long been cited as evidence that the EU suffers from a democratic deficit, with citizens inadequately engaged with European-level governance.
But as a series of crises have hit the EU – affecting most acutely Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Italy – these dynamics have been changing. Gone are the days when Europeans quietly accepted the EU, despite some complaints. Now, the EU is at the center of domestic political debates, which increasingly include existential questions about the survival of the eurozone and the entire European project.
Europe Strikes Back Against Trump Tariffs as Global Trade War Escalates
The European Union fought back on Friday against the Trump administration’s tariffs, slapping penalties on an array of American products that target the president’s political base, like bourbon, motorcycles and orange juice.
The European counterattack on $3.2 billion of goods, a response to the administration’s measures on steel and aluminum imports, adds another front to a trade war that has engulfed allies and adversaries around the world. China and Mexico have already retaliated with their own tariffs, and Canada, Japan and Turkey are readying similar offensives.

15 June
Trump Says He Sees The European Union As A ‘Foe’ Of U.S.
(NPR) When asked about who he sees as the U.S.’s biggest foe, he said that the U.S. has “a lot of foes.”
The first one he named was the EU, traditionally a close ally to the U.S. “I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade.”

8 June
Commentary: In U.S. and EU, illiberalism in full bloom
(Reuters) This is one week in the politics of the EU. It does not sum up the Union: most states continue to be run by centrist parties with broadly liberal approaches to both political and social issues, and none have followed the United Kingdom to head for the exit. But the forward march of liberalism, and of the Union, has been halted; the strength of the Merkel government reduced; and the wind behind the conservative nationalists much strengthened by the newly-installed Italian populist government. Democratic politics, long criticised for clustering round the center, with little difference between left and right, now has what the critics craved: a fight for principles, strategies and the allegiance of the electorates.

1 June
Italy gets populist government
(Politico Eu) Once installed in Rome, the new government is likely to take a Euroskeptic stance and clash with Brussels on the EU budget, immigration and European sanctions against Russia, where it favors a more conciliatory stance.
The prospect of a populist and Euroskeptic government in Italy, the third-largest economy in the eurozone, has already rattled markets and worried its EU partners.

31 May
Trump’s New Blow to Europe
Washington’s decision to impose metal tariffs on its European allies caps a year defined by U.S.-EU divergence
(The Atlantic) The first of these divergences came almost exactly a year ago, when Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate accord … The second major division came months later when Trump announced that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. … [ putting] the U.S. squarely at odds with its European partners, who rebuked the move and widely declined invitations to attend the embassy’s opening earlier this month (of the bloc’s 28 member states, just four sent their ambassadors).
In what has arguably been the greatest break in the the transatlantic alliance under the Trump administration, Washington announced earlier this month that the U.S. would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. … the EU went to great lengths to try and convince Trump not to abandon the deal. Though unsuccessful, the EU reaffirmed it would fight to preserve the deal, even if it means doing so without Washington. It adopted a similar posture with regard to the Paris accord and Jerusalem.
… Despite their deep historical ties and their continued close cooperation on issues such as counterterrorism and security, the U.S. and the EU now find themselves on divergent paths—with one side careening towards “America First,” while the other continues toward “multilateralism.”

27 May
Italy’s president scotches populist governing alliance
A ‘technocratic’ premier may try to govern but early elections are likelier outcome.
(Politico Eu) Italy’s messy post-election drama on Sunday night took another stunning turn.
The country’s president rejected a proposed populist 5Star-League alliance that included a Euroskeptic as economy minister and looked poised to appoint a “technocratic” government as early as Monday.
The collapse of the proposed coalition leaves Italy on an uncertain path in the days ahead, veering between the possibility of early elections or a technocratic government of longer duration. It also threatens a constitutional crisis, as the leaders of the 5Stars Movement and the League condemned the president and one even called for his impeachment. And it’s sure to further rattle already nervous international financial markets.
Mattarella has summoned former International Monetary Fund official Carlo Cottarelli to appear at the presidential palace on Monday morning, suggesting that he is leaning toward appointing a technocratic government.
Italy’s parliament must sign off on any new government, and that’s going to be a tough bar to clear. Even though the two main opposition parties — Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the center-left Democratic Party — have already said they would support a government sponsored by Mattarella, they alone don’t have enough votes.

13 April
Europe and its populists
(Lowy Institute) The overwhelming victory of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party in Hungary’s 8 April elections is yet another sign that nationalist and populist parties are alive and kicking in Europe.
Orbán’s policies will also underline the very significant differences of opinion that exist between those member states governed by nationalist/populist parties, such as Fidesz, which do not support further European integration, and those governments, Germany and France in particular, who argue the lesson from Brexit is that Europe needs to integrate more actively and aggressively.
Coupled with this are major concerns in Brussels, Berlin, and Paris about steps Orbán might take to clamp down even further on democratic rights, especially limits on media freedom, the independence of the judiciary, and NGOs.
Nationalist/populist parties are now represented in parliaments across Europe, including in the majors. In some countries, such as Poland and Hungary, they form government; in others, such as Austria, they are part of a governing coalition; and in others they tolerate minority governments. In all European countries nationalist/populist parties are reshaping the political environment and forcing traditional parties to confront the issues they raise, and to look for new coalitions.
EU states with the highest populist share of votes include Hungary, Greece, Poland, Italy, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Bulgaria.

24 March
United we fall: a European army is a really bad idea
Who would be in charge? What would they be fighting for – and in what language? This is an idea doomed to failure, says an Iraq war veteran
Colonel Tim Collins
(The Spectator) Any European army would fall under the unelected career politicians of the EU whose ability to make a decision has to be seriously questioned. While it could, in theory, exist, it would achieve little more than that mere fact of existence because of the indecision and complexity within the EU itself
The European Corps, or Eurocorps, has existed since 1993 with five European nation contributors, but with the Franco-German Brigade at its heart. It has deployed in Bosnia and Kosovo and to Afghanistan in 2004 and 2006. Haven’t heard of it? Neither has the enemy.

11 March
Astonishing! While we were all focused on DJT.
A very EU coup: Martin Selmayr’s astonishing power grab
How a bureaucrat seized power in nine minutes
(The Spectator) The coup began at 9.39 a.m. on 21 February, when 1,000 journalists were sent an email summoning them to a 10.30 a.m. audience with Jean-Claude Juncker. Selmayr is now accountable to no one. Indeed, he has lost no time further consolidating his power. He has moved his office close to the President’s. I understand he will continue to chair meetings in the President’s office and even plans to put the hitherto independent European legal service under his command. So all he needs now is a new president as docile as Juncker has been and he’ll have achieved his aim: before his 50th birthday, and without ever having stood for elected office Selmayr will become the alpha and omega of the European Commission.”

7 March
Italy’s howl of nihilism
The old system has been swept away in a blind flight toward an uncertain future.
Politics can create strange bedfellows, but nobody knows who will sleep with the winners of Italy’s election: Matteo Salvini, the nationalist leader of the far-right League, and Luigi Di Maio, the moderate face of the furious 5Star Movement. No parliamentary majority is in sight. The populists won; they crushed Italy’s last traditional party — former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party — and swept away old, smiling Silvio Berlusconi. But they didn’t win enough seats to rule.
Revolution at the polls: How Italy made Steve Bannon’s “ultimate dream” come true Anti-establishmentarianism, isolationism, xenophobia and populism won the country’s general elections on March 4.

5-6 March
(The Atlantic) At least one thing seems clear after Italy’s elections on Sunday: The country’s relationship to the European Union is going to change. The majority of votes went to parties that are skeptical of both Italy’s long-standing EU ties and its political establishment. But the results have raised big questions about where the populist winners will take the country in the wake of the center-left establishment’s collapse.
Italy election: Populist surge prompts political deadlock
(BBC) Italy is on course for a hung parliament after voters backed right-wing and populist parties, projections based on partial results suggest.
The Eurosceptic, anti-establishment Five Star Movement has won the lion’s share of the vote.
But ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition, which includes the far-right League, looks set to win the most seats in the lower house of parliament.
Forming a government may now take weeks of negotiation and coalition-building.
Alternatively, fresh elections could be held in a bid to produce a more decisive result – though there is no guarantee that would happen.

4 March
Germany gets new government
Social Democrats clear path by backing new grand coalition.
(Politico Eu) The decision ends nearly half a year of uncertainty over Germany’s political leadership. The limbo hobbled Merkel’s caretaker government, forcing delays on a number of pressing fronts, in particular the debate over EU reform.
A rejection of the coalition by the SPD would have thrown German politics into disarray, leaving a minority government or a new election as the only remaining options. …
Merkel was also forced to accept a number of changes in the wake of September’s election. Her new team of ministers, announced last week, includes Jens Spahn, her loudest critic within the party. She also promoted a potential successor, naming Saarland premier Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to become the CDU’s general secretary, a key leadership position.
For a weakened Merkel, a fourth term as chancellor offers a final chance to secure her legacy. Many believe she will try to do so on the European front, where France’s Emanuel Macron has been clamoring for deep structural reforms to the EU.

3 March
Who killed European social democracy?
Collapse of center left risks destabilizing Continent’s politics.
(Politico Eu) Social democracy, the most influential force in European politics for decades, is dying. And the result could be political fragmentation, instability and paralysis.
In recent months, social democratic parties have been swept from power in the Czech Republic, Austria, France and the Netherlands, adding to a long string of losses since 2010.
Many blame the financial and economic crises that began in 2008 and caught governments flat-footed. But while resistance to austerity fueled social democracy’s decline, the roots of its misfortunes stretch back much further.
“The weakening of the political left has been long in the making,” argued Jan Rovny, a political scientist at Sciences Po in Paris. “It has been largely caused by deep structural and technological change that has altered the face of European societies, changed the economic patterns of the Continent and given a renewed vigor to politics of identity.”

30 January
How (the European) Trump won a second term
(Politico Eu) Miloš Zeman appealed to Czech skepticism of EU and opposition to migration.
He’s a septuagenarian who dislikes Muslims, the media and migrants and loves Vladimir Putin. He’s detested by urban dwellers and liberal elites who see him as a national embarrassment and a menace to values they hold dear.
And he’s just won his second term as president. …Zeman’s reelection also means the Czech Republic’s running battle with the EU regarding such issues as migration and sanctions against Russia will continue, with the possibility raised during the campaign of a referendum being held on EU membership. However, to mount such a vote would mean going through a complex and difficult legal process

One Comment on "Europe & EU 2018"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson September 10, 2018 at 6:41 pm · Reply

    From an astute observer in Finland:
    First of all I am not a specialist on Swedish politics. I follow mainly their foreign- and defence matters.
    In analysing the results I somewhat disagree with the professional commentators and pundits.
    The Sweden Democrats will not be in the next government, but whoever forms it is dependent on their support. This will be a bitter chalice to those who had hurried to declare that they will “never co-operate with the Sweden Democrats”. Now they have to. The Swedes pride themselves for being the most tolerant people on Earth. Until now it has meant that they tolerate everybody who agrees with them. Now they have to tolerate the intolerable Sweden Democrats.
    Both the Social Democrats and Moderate Right have to adjust their stand regarding uncontrolled migration.
    It is also worth noticing, that of the migrants who had got their Swedish citizenship many voted for the Sweden Democrats.
    There will be no major change in Sweden’s foreign- or defence policies whoever forms the government. On local level, in Counties and Provinces there might be some changes. It is useful to remember, that in Sweden as in Finland, the civil servants stay and after almost 100 years in power the Social Democrats have a tight grip on the bureaucracy.
    Sweden did not move to the right. This was an alarm regarding uncontrolled migration and influx of strange cultures.
    Everything depends now on who the Sweden Democrats will support, so in a way they are the winners, but so are also the Social Democrats who managed to loose so little. The Green Party was the biggest looser percentage-wise.
    There will be some unabashed wheeling and dealing for a month or so. After that a consensus is reached. The Swedes always reach it. The same phlegmatic, uninteresting, petty politicking will continue and Folk Hemmet will continue drowsing in its happy, self-righteous and dull existence.
    The effects of this election are minuscule in the world, EU, Finland and even in Sweden herself.

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