Europe & EU January 2024-

Written by  //  April 16, 2024  //  Europe & EU  //  No comments

EU Elections 2024

European Parliament election 2024
Thu, Jun 6–Sun, Jun 9, 2024

This time, the far-right threat is real
The next European Parliament looks more pro-Russian and less green than the current one. Could a far-right EU really happen?
(Politico Eu) In 2024, the right-wing surge in the polls seems bigger and bolder, with one predicting the nationalist right and far right could pick up nearly a quarter of seats in the European Parliament in June.
Even if the center right — currently tipped to come first in the election — refuses to form a governing coalition with ever more powerful firebrand fringe parties, there’s still a significant chance the far right will, for the first time, be able to influence Europe’s policy agenda. That will enable it to threaten the EU’s sacred values on rule of law and human rights, and block or even overturn major green and climate laws.
“We’re going to see a really significant shift to the right,” said Simon Hix, a professor of comparative politics at the European University Institute, referring to the June elections when 400 million people across the European Union are eligible to vote to send 720 representatives to Brussels.
Hix forecast the far-right Identity & Democracy (ID) grouping in the European Parliament, the sixth largest of seven, will gain 40 seats in June, meaning the group could have 98 lawmakers, vaulting into the third place currently occupied by the Liberals. It’s already home to the German extreme-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the French far-right National Rally (RN) party.
Europe: elections to watch in 2024
(Economist Intelligence Unit EIU) Europe will see nine parliamentary elections in 2024, of which four are likely to result in a notable change in government and/or policy direction. We expect political fragmentation to remain a key trend in Europe next year. Governments are finding it increasingly difficult to command stable working majorities, and those countries governed by coalitions are likely to have to rely on large multiparty agreements. Policymaking will remain constrained by the challenges of minority government (France), instability and in-fighting (Germany and Austria), a recent coalition collapse (the Netherlands) or a reliance on small hardline parties (Spain).
Rising disaffection with the political establishment increases the likelihood that mainstream parties will co-opt some of the more radical policies espoused by the far right and far left (particularly on immigration) into their policy platforms. The far right is also likely to make gains, particularly in Austria, where we expect it to enter government after the September 2024 election, potentially as the largest party. Portugal will hold a snap poll in March after the government collapsed this month, and as things stand the right-wing bloc, supported by the far-right Chega (Enough), has the best chance of forming the next government. Polls also indicate that far-right parties will make substantial gains in the European Parliament elections in June 2024. This is likely to influence the EU’s policy stance on issues such as immigration, climate change and EU enlargement.
The most significant election in Europe in 2024 will be in the UK, where anti-incumbency sentiment is strong, and we expect voters to return a Labour Party government. The government could theoretically delay an election until January 2025, but by far the most likely date is in the fourth quarter of 2024. The Conservative Party has been in office for almost 14 years, but the opposition Labour Party is leading in polls of voting intentions by a huge margin (more than 20 percentage points). Even if this lead shrinks over the course of 2024 as the economy stabilises and inflation edges down, we still expect Labour to secure a working majority.

16-18 April
Croatia: Ruling conservatives win elections without majority
(Deutsche Welle (DW)) As expected, Croatia’s governing center-right HDZ party won the most votes in the election, securing 60 seats out of 151, but it will not be able to govern alone, heralding difficult coalition talks ahead. …
A center-left coalition led by the Social Democrats (SDP) came in second with 42 seats, a result which SDP leader Pedja Grbin admitted wasn’t what the party had been hoping for but which “showed that … people want a change.”
He insisted that “it’s not over” and that “days, weeks and perhaps months of talks are ahead of us and they will result in the change that will make Croatia a better place.”
Croatia heads to the polls in contentious election
(GZERO media) The governing center-right Croatian Democratic Union party, or HDZ, which has held power almost continuously since Croatia’s independence in 1991, is facing a stiff challenge from a center-left coalition led by the Social Democrat Party.
The SDP is helmed by Croatian President Zoran Milanovic, an outspoken populist who has ignored court orders to step down during the campaign and has accused the HDZ of corruption. HDZ leader and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, a bitter rival, has warned that Milanovic wants to drag Croatia into “the Russian world.”
The HDZ’s platform is largely pro-EU and pro-NATO, and it supports backing Ukraine in its fight against Russia.
Milanovic, on the other hand, has opposed providing training and weapons to Ukraine as a “deeply immoral” path to prolonging the conflict.

8 April
An espionage scandal rocks Austria, laying bare alleged Russian spying operations across Europe
(AP) — Austria faces its biggest espionage scandal in decades as the arrest of a former intelligence officer brings to light evidence of extensive Russian infiltration, lax official oversight and behavior worthy of a spy novel.

7 April
Conservative opposition leads Prime Minister Tusk’s party in Poland’s local races, exit poll says
(AP) — An exit poll released after Poland’s local and regional elections Sunday showed Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s pro-EU party trailing the conservative opposition party that governed Poland for eight years until December. But the socially liberal mayor of Warsaw, a Tusk ally, easily won another term in the capital.
Sunday’s elections were the first electoral test for Tusk’s coalition government nearly four months since it took power. Poles voted for mayors, local councilors and representatives to the nation’s 16 regional assemblies.
The exit polls have a small margin of error and final results are not expected until Monday. But they indicated that Law and Justice, the conservative party that governed Poland from 2015-2023, remains a political force to be reckoned with in the nation of 38 million people.

Heather Cox Richardson April 4, 2024
Seventy-five years ago today, on April 4, 1949, representatives from twelve countries in Europe and North America—Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States—signed the North Atlantic Treaty, creating the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO. This defensive security alliance has been a key institution for world stability since World War II.
… For many decades, the stability of NATO made it seem secure. When he was in office, though, former president Trump told aides he didn’t care about NATO, and he has vowed to take the U.S. out of the organization in a second term.
Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, is also pressuring NATO. According to the Institute for the Study of War, on March 31, Russian prosecutor general Igor Krasnov said that Russia would continue to assert what it says is its right to enforce Russian laws “on officials of NATO and post-Soviet states for their actions taken within the territory of their own countries where Russian courts have no jurisdiction.” This effort contradicts international law, but the ISW assesses that the Kremlin is trying to deny the sovereignty of those states and that its attempts to enforce Russian laws on their territory “are part of Russian efforts to set informational conditions justifying possible Russian escalations against NATO states in the future.”
Today, President Joe Biden celebrated the success of NATO’s seventy-five years of history and noted that it is up to the current generation of Americans to protect the pact and to build on it. “We must remember that the sacred commitment we make to our Allies—to defend every inch of NATO territory—makes us safer too, and gives the United States a bulwark of security unrivaled by any other nation in the world. And like our predecessors, we must ask ourselves what can we do—what must we do—to create a more peaceful future.”
A year of living less dangerously? Finland’s first 12 months in NATO
Finland’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been to move away from policy of self-reliance and embrace the alliance.
Russia’s neighbours urge Nato allies to bring back military service
(BBC) …following President Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, conscription is being rebooted and expanded across Europe, with those living on Russia’s doorstep urging their Nato allies further afield, including the UK, to follow suit.
This week Norway announced it was increasing the number of conscripted soldiers after Denmark said last month it intends to extend conscription to women and increase the duration of service.
Latvia and Sweden recently restarted military service and Lithuania brought it back after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

European Council, 21-22 March 2024
Over the course of a two-day summit, EU leaders will discuss continued support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s war of aggression, security and defence, the unfolding situation in the Middle East, enlargement, external relations, migration, agriculture and the European Semester.
Euro Summit, 22 March 2024

12 March
EU clears path for 5 bln euro Ukraine military aid boost
(Reuters) – European Union countries are close to a deal on a military aid fund for Ukraine that would pave the way for an injection of 5 billion euros ($5.46 billion), diplomats said on Tuesday.
The EU’s member countries have been engaged in months of wrangling over a fund called the European Peace Facility, with France and Germany at the centre of much of the debate.
The fund operates as a giant cashback scheme, giving EU members refunds for sending munitions to other countries.
EU leaders plan to demand ‘sustainable cease-fire’ in Gaza
EU diplomats expect difficult discussion next week on Middle East.
The current text of the conclusions, dated March 11, reiterates the European Council’s condemnation of Hamas “for its brutal and indiscriminate terrorist attacks,” recognizes Israel’s right to defend itself “in line with international law and international humanitarian law” and calls for the “immediate release of all hostages without any precondition.”
But leaders are also set to express their concern over “the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza” and “the imminent risk of famine,” adding that “full, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access” into the coastal enclave is “essential.”

10 March
Portugal votes in a general election where mainstream moderates are trying to keep populists at bay</strong>
(AP) — Portugal is holding a general election Sunday against a backdrop of corruption scandals and economic hardship that have eroded faith in moderate mainstream parties and could push a significant number of the country’s 10.8 million voters into the arms of a radical right populist party.
A slew of recent corruption scandals has tarnished the two parties that have alternated in power for decades — the center-left Socialist Party and the center-right Social Democratic Party, which is running with two small allies in a coalition it calls Democratic Alliance. Those traditional parties are still expected to collect most of the votes.
Public frustration with politics-as-usual had already been percolating before the outcries over graft. Low wages and a high cost of living — worsened last year by surges in inflation and interest rates — coupled with a housing crisis and failings in public health care contributed to the disgruntlement.

29 February
Algeria is in the spotlight as leaders of gas producing countries convene for summit
Algeria will flex its muscle as a critical supplier for European countries seeking to lessen dependence on Russian gas as it welcomes leaders from other energy rich nations to a summit in Algiers this week
(AP) For three days, Algeria will host leaders from 13 other nations in its capital of Algiers, including Russia, Iran, Qatar and Venezuela as the natural gas industry confronts waning demand for oil and gas and new competition from renewable energy sources. Officials have indicated the summit will provide a venue to showcase Algeria’s growing role as a secure and reliable energy supplier.
As European countries have tried to wean themselves off Russian energy, Algeria has emerged as the continent’s second largest pipeline supplier of gas, after Norway. It is the top supplier of gas to Spain and also Italy, whose Premier Giorgia Meloni visited last year. Algeria’s state-owned energy company Sonatrach recently signed a deal to sell natural gas to Germany’s VNG.

26 February
It’s official: Sweden to join NATO
Hungary finally lets Sweden into the military alliance, dealing a blow to Russia.
(Politico Eu) Sweden cleared the final hurdle to become the military alliance’s 32nd member after Hungary — the last holdout among the countries — held a parliamentary vote to approve the move
In recent years, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed Sweden away from its decades of military non-alignment and towards the world’s biggest military alliance. Sweden’s accession comes amid increasing uncertainty over NATO’s future, as the Republican frontrunner in the U.S. presidential race, Donald Trump, threatens to abandon security guarantees for at least part of Europe.
Does Sweden joining make the Baltic Sea a ‘NATO lake’?
(AFP) – Sweden’s accession to NATO adds a final puzzle piece to the alliance around the shores of the strategically important Baltic Sea — but Russia still poses a threat above and below water.
After Finland joined last year, Sweden’s membership — which cleared the final hurdle Monday with Hungary’s vote on ratification — means all the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea, except Russia, will be part of the US-led military alliance.
That has led some to label the sea a “NATO lake”, with the Western allies now appearing well-placed to strangle Russia’s room for manoeuvre in the crucial shipping route if a war with Moscow ever breaks out.
13 July 2023
Sorry Russia, the Baltic Sea is NATO’s lake now
Expanding the Western military alliance creates big problems for Moscow.

Macron doesn’t rule out sending Western troops to Ukraine
European leaders agreed to boost ammunition purchases from third-country suppliers.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that sending Western troops to Ukraine should not be ruled out, as European leaders concluded a summit on supporting Kyiv.
“There is no consensus today to send ground troops officially but … nothing is ruled out,” Macron said at a press conference in Paris, where the meeting had just wrapped up. “We will do whatever it takes to ensure that Russia cannot win this war.”
“The defeat of Russia is indispensable to the security and stability of Europe,” the French president added.>

25 February
Lukashenko to run for president in 2025, Belarus blasts US over poll criticism
(Reuters) – Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko said he would run for president again in 2025, Belarusian state news agency BelTA reported on Sunday.
Lukashenko made his comments after voting in parliamentary and local council elections, denounced by the United States as a sham. The ex-Soviet state’s top election official dismissed the criticism and told Washington to look after its own affairs.

24 February
With U.S. aid in doubt, Europe struggles to rearm Ukraine
European defense manufacturers are racing to produce artillery and other weapons Kyiv needs. But they may come too late.
(WaPo) The race to stave off disaster in Ukraine’s war against Russia is unfolding in the battle-scarred fields and forests of Eastern Europe and, in a small way, a quiet wooded area of southwest Finland.
There, on the floor of an artillery factory, a mechanical arm lifts a mass of molten metal from the flames of a forging press. The red-hot steel cylinder will be cooled and packed with explosives before reaching its destination: bolstering NATO stockpiles or, perhaps, being fired down the barrel of a Ukrainian howitzer.
The scramble here reflects an effort intensifying across the continent, as European nations seek to accelerate the production of weapons needed to sustain Ukraine’s battle against Kremlin forces and to harden their own defenses against what the continent’s leaders now see as a heightened Russian threat.
In Washington, the outlook for President Biden’s $61 billion aid package looks bleak, as Republicans continue to stall aid from the United States, Ukraine’s largest single military backer to date. Meanwhile, Kyiv is running short on key items, like artillery shells and air defense missiles, that it needs to hold Russian forces at bay.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking to Western leaders in Germany last week, made an urgent appeal for fresh weapons and ammunition, a growing scarcity of which U.S. and Ukrainian officials cited as the chief factor in Kyiv’s decision to cede the city of Avdiivka to Russian forces, a major battlefield setback.

20 February
The Trump Effect Takes Europe
Mark Leonard, Director of the European Council on Foreign Relations
(Project Syndicate) If disaster can be averted in this year’s US presidential election, a second-term Biden administration will be able to count on a much better partner in Europe, owing to the mobilizing effect of Donald Trump’s candidacy. European leaders are finally realizing that they urgently need to get their act together.
As the war in Ukraine nears the end of its second year with no end in sight, Trump’s candidacy is focusing European minds about what victory and defeat might entail. Everyone’s ideal outcome is for Ukraine to recover all its territory. Watching the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, take the stage in Munich hours after learning of her husband’s death, it was impossible not to recoil at the thought of giving Vladimir Putin even one square inch of Ukraine. But as the war of attrition grinds on, it makes less and less sense to consider the matter only in territorial terms. After all, an even bigger threat to Ukraine than territorial losses would be a Trump peace plan that both cedes territory and demilitarizes the country, thus leaving it condemned to a perilous state of neutrality.

14 February
Guiding the EU’s quest for economic competitiveness
Europe must seize the single market’s potential, champion competition, fuel collaboration with robust funding, ignite innovation and fortify its governance.
(Politico Eu) As the European Union heads toward its June election and the subsequent start of a new political cycle, the debate surrounding Continental economic policy will increasingly focus on one theme: competitiveness.
And two important milestones will shape the evolution of this debate: Former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s report on the future of the single market and former European Central Bank President and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s report on the future of European competitiveness. With their complementary approaches, these two reports will be a blueprint for the EU’s future economic policy-making, potentially even forming the next European Commission’s economic policy agenda.

8-11 February
Finland’s new president sees no limit to NATO ties, Ukraine support
(Reuters) – Alexander Stubb declared himself winner of Finland’s presidential election on Sunday after a campaign built on promises to make the most of his country’s new membership of NATO and back Ukraine in its war with shared neighbour Russia.
Stubb takes Finnish presidency in close race
In his new job, the centre-right former prime minister and investment banker will head up foreign and security policy, represent Finland in NATO meetings and act as Commander-in-Chief of the military.
Moscow’s belligerent behavior prompted Finland to join NATO in April 2023. Helsinki also signed a defense cooperation agreement with the US in December. That treaty gives the US access to Finnish military bases, an airfield, and locations to store equipment, including ammunition.
In response, Russia has threatened Finland with retaliation and is beefing up its military presence along the countries’ shared 830-mile border. Stubb therefore promises to be a key player not just for Finland’s security, but for that of NATO as a whole.

Finland extends Russia border closure until April 14 saying Moscow hasn’t stopped sending migrants
(AP) — Finland’s government said Thursday that it would extend the closure of its long border with Russia for another two months until April 14, because it sees no signs that Moscow was stopping its “hybrid operation” of funneling migrants toward the frontier with the Nordic nation.

7 February
‘Now we are not safe’: Sweden’s Kurds fear Nato deal has sold them out
Sweden’s sizeable Kurdish population sees signs of rising repression after Turkey demanded action as price of Nato admission
(The Guardian) When Recep Tayyip Erdoğan finally signed off on Sweden’s accession to Nato late last month, there were sighs of relief from Stockholm to Washington DC. The Turkish president’s decision to approve the military alliance’s latest member – 20 months after it had asked to join – marked the closure of a fraught diplomatic chapter and now leaves Hungary’s Viktor Orbán the only figure standing between Sweden and Nato.

6 February
Geert Wilders left stranded as Dutch coalition talks collapse
Shock exit by kingmaker Pieter Omtzigt torpedoes the negotiations, leaving far-right leader in a stew.
Negotiations to form the next Dutch government collapsed Tuesday night after Pieter Omtzigt, who leads the New Social Contract (NSC) party, quit the talks.

1 February
EU to expend $54 billion aid package to Ukraine, overcoming veto threat
(CNN) The leaders of the 27 European Union countries sealed a deal on Thursday to provide Ukraine with a new $54 billion support package for its war-ravaged economy after Hungary backed down from its threats to veto the move. European Council President Charles Michel announced the agreement that was reached in the first hour of a summit in Brussels. So, what was the hold up? Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán raised staunch objections to the financial aid package in December and blocked its adoption, and he had threatened to do the same in recent days. The populist leader’s government has been in a dispute with the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, over Hungary’s alleged democratic backsliding and had some of its own funding withheld as a result.

23-27 January
Stubb and Haavisto continue to second round in Finland’s presidential race
(Reuters) – Centre-right candidate Alexander Stubb of Finland’s National Coalition Party narrowly won the first round of the country’s presidential election on Sunday and will face liberal Green Party member Pekka Haavisto in a run-off, official data showed.
With all votes counted, Stubb came first with 27.2% support, followed by Haavisto on 25.8%, and nationalist Jussi Halla-aho third with 19.0% support. A run-off between the top two will be held on Feb. 11.
What you need to know about the 2024 Finnish presidential election
(Reuters) – Finland holds a presidential election on Jan. 28 in a new era marked by the country joining the Western military alliance NATO last April in response to neighbouring Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Support for front-runners Alexander Stubb of the centre-right National Coalition Party and liberal Green Party member Pekka Haavisto has eased ahead of Sunday’s poll, while their nationalist Finns Party rival Jussi Halla-aho has gained, a Verian survey showed on Monday.
Alexander Stubb quit politics. Now he’s favorite for Finnish president

24 January
Why is Orbán blocking Sweden’s entry to Nato – and what happens next?
After Turkey’s parliament ratified Sweden’s membership of the military alliance, attention turns to Hungary, the final hurdle
Orbán reaffirms backing for Swedish Nato bid as allies’ patience runs low
(The Guardian) Sweden is closer than ever to becoming a Nato member – but its accession to the western military alliance, which has faced delays for more than a year, is still not a done deal.
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago prompted Sweden and Finland to shift long-held security policies, and the two countries applied to join Nato in May 2022.
At the time, Nato accession for both was expected to be a quick process, given their advanced militaries, high level of interoperability with alliance forces and status as EU members.
Nevertheless, they faced obstacles to accession. Finland joined the alliance in April 2023, but Sweden’s accession has yet to be completed.

19 January
The Two Faces of the Euro
Yanis Varoufakis
(Project Syndicate) Of all European politicians who never led their countries, Jacques Delors and Wolfgang Schäuble had the greatest impact on Europe. Between them, the two men, who passed away within a day of each other in December, shaped today’s European Union, warts and all.
Back when the euro was still on the drawing board, neither Delors nor Schäuble could have imagined, or would condone, Europe’s inane response to the euro’s inevitable crisis. The combination of massive austerity and monetary largesse that preserved the eurozone in its original format, which both Delors and Schäuble correctly deemed unviable, is the reason why Europe is now politically fragmented and in secular decline. History, once more, proved a cruel master of noteworthy Europeans who refused to see that Europe’s interests are in direct opposition to the interests of its ruling classes.
27 December-2 January
The visionary legacy of Jacques Delors
Anyone who wants to be the former leader’s heir must strive to not just complete his unfinished project but relaunch it with the same personal commitment, rigor and creativity.
Jacques Delors, Passionate Architect of European Unity, Dies at 98
As the executive of the European Union for a decade, he oversaw its increasing economic integration and led the drive for a single currency, the euro.
27 December 2023
Ex-Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble dies at 81
German CDU mainstay Wolfgang Schäuble has died aged 81 surrounded by his family. Schäuble was Angela Merkel’s finance minister during the eurozone debt crisis and once looked like a future chancellor.

14 January
Denmark’s King Frederik X takes throne after Margrethe abdicates
Tens of thousands on streets of Danish capital to see monarch hand over to eldest son
At 3pm exactly, the doors to the Christiansborg balcony opened and the new king came out waving, as he was met with huge cheers from the thousands standing outside and an explosion of silver confetti. The crowd, some dressed in crowns, others drinking champagne, waved red and white flags.
He was joined by the prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, who thanked the outgoing queen and praised the new king before leading a chorus of cheers, raising her arm as she did so. “Long live King Frederik the 10th,” she said.
Then it was the turn of the new king, who paid tribute to his mother, his wife and his family before being joined by the new Queen Mary, dressed in white, followed by their four children: Christian, 18, who is heir to the throne, Princess Isabelle, 16, and twins Princess Josephine and Prince Vincent, 13. Australian-born Mary is the first commoner to become queen in Denmark.
The Royal Wedding of Prince Frederik and Mary Donaldson 2004
King Frederik X Crowned King of Denmark: Ceremony Highlights

9 January
What Charles Michel’s decision to run for EU election means for him and Europe
European Council chief says he will contest June’s vote, which could pave the way for Viktor Orbán to host leaders’ meetings.
The president of the European Council — which brings together the leaders of EU member countries — announced he will run as a candidate in the European parliamentary election in June. If he’s elected, he would take up his seat in July, well before his term is scheduled to end in November.
Why is that a problem? Because without a permanent Council chief, Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán, whose country takes over the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU in July, would lead the meetings instead. That’s a nightmare scenario for Brussels if the increasingly isolated Euroskeptic leader, who has attempted to thwart much of Brussels’ support to Ukraine amid its war with Russia, is handed such an opportunity.

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