Europe & EU September 2022-

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Europe home alone: Gaming out the future of transatlantic relations
(Atlantic Council) What impact have transatlantic tensions over the last few years had on Europe’s view of its relationship with the United States? What capabilities can Europe draw on if the Biden administration’s efforts to improve transatlantic cooperation turn out to be merely an “interregnum” in transatlantic relations?
To answer these questions, the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center partnered with Körber-Stiftung on the 2022 Körber Policy Game. Full Report (31 August 2022)

(Economist Adam Roberts newsletter) This week could be historic, on various scores. In Italy, after voting on Sunday, it may take a while before a new prime minister is officially named. Most likely, however, the largest party in a new three-party ruling coalition will turn out to be the Brothers of Italy (FdI). Then expect in turn its leader, Giorgia Meloni, to become prime minister.
If so, she will make history as Italy’s first female prime minister, but also remake it by leading a party into office that has its roots in neo-fascism. How much to worry about the return of the hard right to rule in Italy? As we noted in our most recent cover story, Ms Meloni is not alone in Europe. Look at Viktor Orban in Hungary, the rise of the Sweden Democrats, or the persistent strength of Marine Le Pen in France. A powerful shift in the European balance towards nationalists is under way and unwelcome.
Powerful, yes, but recall that Ms Meloni will be constrained. The president retains significant clout there. And the European Union retains influence. As Italy must cope with tough economic times, and requires support from its European allies, there will be both internal and external checks.

23 September
A Meloni election win could shift Europe’s balance of power
(Reuters) – The European Union’s powerhouses will have to tread carefully around Giorgia Meloni if the nationalist candidate’s coalition wins Italy’s election on Sunday, or risk pushing Rome towards Hungary and Poland, European officials said.
Italian far-right leader Meloni likely to win on Sunday
EU leaders worried of possibility of new alliance with Hungary
Macron, Scholz to discuss response, Rome advises caution
White House says don’t buy ‘sky is falling narrative’

Finland is considering barring most Russians from entering, amid heavy traffic into the country across its southeastern border with Russia, while the Czech Republic said it will not issue humanitarian visas to Russian citizens fleeing the mobilization orders. Kazakhstan, the former Soviet republic in Central Asia, has also seen an increased number of arrivals from Russia.

20 September
Russia in the Balkans After Ukraine: A Troubling Actor
Russia has proven that it knows how to be a master of distraction and how to take advantage of ethnic cleavages, bolster hardline nationalist politicians, and complicate the region’s lagging reform agendas.
(Carnegie) The Kremlin has demonstrated repeatedly that the Balkans are a conducive environment for punching back against the United States and the European Union (EU). The region’s ample ethnic, political, and social fractures, along with widespread disenchantment with the slow pace of Euro-Atlantic integration, create easy opportunities for Moscow to disrupt the post–Cold War European order.
Russia has several strategic goals in the region. It seeks to prevent the Western Balkan states of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and, most importantly, Serbia from joining the EU. It also wants to stymie the NATO aspirations of the remaining Balkan countries that have not gained membership in the alliance and to disrupt NATO activities in the region. By bolstering grassroots anti-Western sentiment and corrupt vested interests across the Balkans, Moscow makes the region’s governance shortcomings more acute and damages the domestic reforms that are a prerequisite for further integration into Euro-Atlantic economic, political, and security structures.

The economic basis of democracy in Europe
Structural economic change, inequality and the depoliticization of economic policymaking
(Chatham House) Understanding contemporary challenges to democracy in Europe requires looking beyond the rise of ‘populism’. Instead, it requires acknowledging a multiplicity of threats to democracy, in particular those arising from the structure of European economies and economic policymaking.
A sharp increase in economic inequality – ranging from income inequality to discrepancies in wealth and economic security – over the past decades has translated into political inequality. Furthermore, democratic systems have become less responsive to electorates through the ‘depoliticization’ of policymaking, in particular economic policy, as a result of its insulation from national-level democratic scrutiny. (8 September 2022)

18-19 September
As a divided Italy heads to the polls, a sharp right turn is likely
Julian Campisi, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto
(The Conversation) Italians will soon vote in national elections and the country will have its 70th government since the founding of the republic in 1946.
Recent polling on voting intentions point to a significant victory for the right-wing coalition with Giorgia Meloni’s party, Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), at the helm. These results could usher in the country’s first female prime minister, but questions remain about how far right she will govern, how long support will last and how she’ll respond to European and international pressures.
… Like her populist predecessors across Europe, Meloni has honed in on soaring cost of living, demographic crises, pandemic fatigue, migration and economic malaise with typical promises about returning power to the people from the elites, securing the border and reviving the economy by lowering taxes and regulations.
Italian politics has been in trouble for decades. Now it’s heading for a new low
Jamie Mackay
If Giorgia Meloni comes to power at the head of a far-right coalition, the economic and social outcomes could be terrible
(The Guardian) If Meloni’s coalition wins more than 44% of the vote, it could obtain two-thirds of the seats in both the chamber of deputies and the senate. Not only would this give the far right a supermajority for the first time in the history of the republic, it could, as a result, make changes to the constitution without the need for confirmation by public referendum. This is particularly concerning, given her party’s close relationship with the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán; indeed, human rights groups have long been warning that she is hoping to impose a similar authoritarian regime in Italy.

14-15 September
What’s next for European energy security? Our experts decipher the State of the European Union Address.
By Atlantic Council experts
As the European Union (EU) confronts Russia’s war in Ukraine and spiraling energy prices, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivered her State of the European Union Address on Wednesday in Strasbourg, France, with a focus on how the bloc needs to respond to the crisis. Our experts from the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center and Global Energy Center break down the highlights of the speech and leave their notes in the margins of the text.
Key takeaways from the speech:
Energy security took top billing. Von der Leyen made news with an announcement on price caps and new rules on the electricity market. The European Green Deal, the search for reliable energy partners, and the climate transition were major focuses in the speech.
EU sanctions aren’t going anywhere. Von der Leyen made clear that sanctions against Russia are here to stay, a message to European member states and the rest of the world as much as to Vladimir Putin.
Europe’s strategic decoupling is accelerating. The days of an assertive EU markets-first, free-trade approach are coming to an end. Von der Leyen doubled down on reducing Europe’s strategic economic dependencies on both Russia and China. Her announcement of the European Critical Raw Materials Act builds on previous efforts to become more self-reliant in microchips and batteries.
Will the EU grow? Von der Leyen endorsed the European Political Community, a nascent if vague proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to rewrite Europe’s engagement with its neighbors. Ukraine will get access to the internal market, von der Leyen said, but she only mentioned in passing EU enlargement for the Balkans, Moldova, and Georgia.
What was missing: a discussion of defense. With a recognition that war has again come to Europe, von der Leyen spent very little time on the future of Europe’s security and defense. Neither the EU’s Strategic Compass nor common security and defense policies made the cut for this year’s State of the European Union.
EU will propose windfall levies on energy firms, von der Leyen says
(Reuters) – The European Union will propose measures to cap revenues from low-cost electricity generators and force fossil fuel firms to share the profits they make from soaring energy prices, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.

14 September
Sweden’s centre-left PM Andersson concedes defeat in elections
Magdalena Andersson announced that she would resign after a close-fought election saw right-wing bloc winning a wafer-thin parliamentary majority.
Swedish centre-left Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has accepted defeat after the four-party right-wing opposition bloc got better of her Social Democrats, which has been in power since 2014.
Andersson, who became Sweden’s first female prime minister last year, announced on Wednesday that she would resign after an unprecedented right-wing and far-right bloc appeared on course to win the general election.
The election marked a watershed moment in Swedish politics with the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, shunned by all the major parties when they first entered parliament in 2010, on the threshold of gaining influence over government policy.
Andersson said she understood that many Swedes were worried a party with roots in the white-supremacist fringe was now the country’s second-biggest party.
Swedish PM concedes election defeat to bloc including far-right Sweden Democrats
The prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, called a press conference at which she accepted defeat, while pointing out that the Social Democrats remained Sweden’s largest party with more than 30% of the vote – and that the majority in parliament for the right bloc was very slim.
When postal votes and those of citizens living abroad were counted on Wednesday, a loose coalition of the SD and the three centre-right parties edged ahead to win a majority of three in the parliament of 349 seats.
There is no formal agreement between the SD and the Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberals about how they will govern together, although the centre-right parties have said they will not countenance ministerial positions for the far right.

9 September
Sweden’s neck-and-neck election race
With support growing for the right-wing Sweden Democrats, the Social Democrats’ strategy has shifted their focus away from their core voters
(IPS) The race in the upcoming Swedish election is close with a lot at stake in these turbulent times. The spring was dominated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Swedish reconsideration of NATO-membership. Election campaigns didn’t take off until the end of the summer. This Sunday, 11 September Swedish voters are choosing between two new and pretty loosely coupled political blocs that have both formed since the last election four years ago.
Legitimising the Sweden Democcrats
Here it is important to address a historical shift that has taken place since the last election. The unison and long political isolation of the Sweden Democrats has collapsed. In the election of 2018 all established parties still promised loudly not to cooperate with the far-right Sweden Democrats, a party with roots in the racist Swedish neo-nazi movement. Back then Kristersson even promised Auschwitz-survivor Hédi Fried to never ever cooperate with them – a promise he often is reminded of by his political opponents.
Your guide to Sweden’s fringe-driven general election
By Aaron Korewa and Eric Adamson
(New Atlanticist) The eyes of the world have been on Sweden during its bid for NATO membership. But as voters in the Nordic nation head to the polls for a September 11 general election, domestic issues will be their primary concern.
With gang-related violence spiking in recent years, security, justice, and the failure of immigration policy are top election issues. Crime and migration are closely linked in voters’ minds, with lax migration policies often blamed for rising violence in Swedish suburbs. Many political leaders campaign on harsher criminal sentencing and an expansion of police powers as solutions to reduce crime.

7 September
German chancellor rejects calls to reverse nuclear power plant closures
Olaf Scholz says country has enough energy to get through winter after Russia cut gas supplies
The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has rejected calls for his government to commit to a longer-term extension of the life of the country’s nuclear power plants and insisted that Europe’s largest economy would have enough energy to get through the winter.
Scholz shut down criticism from the opposition conservative alliance and at least one leading economist, who have described his coalition’s decision to keep two remaining reactors in emergency reserve rather than letting them produce electricity, as “madness” while the government refuses to reverse its long-term plan to close down the last remaining plants.

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