Italy Government Deal: What’s In It and What’s Next

The facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian parliament in Rome, October 23, 2010
The facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian parliament in Rome, October 23, 2010 (Stefano Maffei)

Italy’s populist Five Star Movement and (formerly Northern) League have finalized a coalition agreement.

Among their policies are:

  • Reducing personal and business taxes to two rates: 15 and 20 percent.
  • A €780 monthly basic income for poor families.
  • Repealing 2011 pension reforms that raised the retirement age and made the system financially sustainable.
  • Withdrawal of EU sanctions on Moscow.
  • Speeding up the deportation of around 500,000 immigrants.

The final version of the text does not call for a pathway for countries to leave the euro, nor does it call on the European Central Bank to cancel €250 billion in Italian debt. These proposals had been in leaked drafts.

However, the planned fiscal measures will almost certainly cause Italy to break the EU’s 3-percent deficit ceiling. Read more

EU Reluctant to Add Six Balkan States

EU and Balkan leaders pose for a group photo in Sofia, Bulgaria, May 17
EU and Balkan leaders pose for a group photo in Sofia, Bulgaria, May 17 (European Council)

EU leaders met with their counterparts from the six non-EU Balkan states today to discuss their possible accession to the bloc.

Central and Eastern European members are eager to include Albania and the former Yugoslav republics. Other countries are less sure:

  • Voters in France, Germany and the Netherlands are wary of EU expansion.
  • Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Spain and Slovakia have yet to recognize Kosovo’s independence from Serbia.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, who faces a separatist rebellion in Catalonia, even boycotted the summit. Read more

Who Is Catalonia’s New President and What Happens Next?

Quim Torra enters the parliament of Catalonia to be sworn in as the region's president, May 14
Quim Torra enters the parliament of Catalonia to be sworn in as the region’s president, May 14 (Miguel González de la Fuente)

Quim Torra has been elected president of Catalonia with 66 to 65 votes in the regional legislature.

Torra was supported by his own party, Together for Catalonia, and its ally, the Republican Left. Both seek Catalan independence.

The smallest separatist party, the Popular Unity Candidacy, abstained to make it possible for Torra to take office, but it considered his predecessor, Carles Puigdemont, the only legitimate candidate.

Puigdemont, who led Together for Catalonia to victory in December’s election, was removed from power by Spain in the wake of the October 1 independence referendum that had been ruled illegal by the Constitutional Court. Read more

Catalans Find Fourth Candidate for Regional Presidency

The palace of the Catalan regional government in Barcelona, Spain, September 26, 2012
The palace of the Catalan regional government in Barcelona, Spain, September 26, 2012 (Wikimedia Commons/Andriy Sadivskyy)

Catalonia’s largest independence party, Together for Yes, has proposed its fourth candidate for the regional presidency after the Constitutional Court suspended a law to allow Carles Puigdemont to be sworn in from abroad.

Quim Torra, the former president of the pro-independence civil society organization Òmnium Cultural, is due to be inaugurated next week. Read more

What You Need to Know About the Election in Mexico

Mexican presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador greets a voter in San Baltazar Chichicapam, March 20, 2016
Mexican presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador greets a voter in San Baltazar Chichicapam, March 20, 2016 (Wikimedia Commons)

Mexico’s general election on July 1 will involve roughly 3,400 new elected officials taking office and $2 billion in campaign finance. It has been dubbed the biggest election in Mexican history.

It is important not only in terms of scale, but in terms of its new rules. For the first time, the ban on reelection does not apply and independent candidates can run.

This heightened capacity for change coincides with an electorate moving from apathy toward anger. Last year, only 18 percent of Mexicans told pollsters they were satisfied with their democracy, down from 41 percent in 2016. Institutional confidence is at a nadir.

Concerns about violence and insecurity related to drug cartels and organized crime are now coupled with deep frustrations about corruption and impunity as well as lopsided relations with the United States. Read more

Everything You Need to Know About the Airstrikes in Syria

American defense secretary James Mattis delivers a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington DC, April 13
American defense secretary James Mattis delivers a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington DC, April 13 (DoD/Amber I. Smith)

Britain, France and the United States attacked three targets in Syria last night in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack by Bashar al-Assad:

  1. A scientific research center in the Damascus area.
  2. A chemical weapons storage site west of Homs, which Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford said was “the primary location of Syrian sarin … production equipment.”
  3. A chemical weapons equipment storage facility and command post close to the second target.

American defense secretary James Mattis called Friday’s attack a “one-time shot” and emphasized that the strikes weren’t aimed at Assad’s protector, Russia.

President Donald Trump, however, singled out Iran and Russia for their support of Assad.

“What kind of nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?” he asked. “We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.” Read more

Everything You Need to Know About the Russian Spy Poisoning

British prime minister Theresa May answers questions in the House of Commons in London, England, July 20, 2016
British prime minister Theresa May answers questions in the House of Commons in London, England, July 20, 2016 (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor)

Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned with a nerve agent in the United Kingdom two weeks ago. The British government blames Russia for the attack.

Here is everything you need to know about the attack and its consequences. Read more