Don’t Call Them Illiberal Democrats

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán and Russian president Vladimir Putin answer questions from reporters in Moscow, February 17, 2016
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán and Russian president Vladimir Putin answer questions from reporters in Moscow, February 17, 2016 (Facebook/Viktor Orbán)

Michael Meyer-Resende of Democracy Reporting International argues for Carnegie Europe that applying the term “illiberal democracy” or “majoritarianism” to the politics of Hungary and Poland is a misnomer. The ruling parties there are not undermining democracy — by taking control of the (state) media, stacking the courts and rewriting election laws — for the sake of the majority, but rather to maintain their own power. Read more

Italy Joins Trump in Resisting Canadian Trade

Prime Ministers Giuseppe Conte of Italy and Justin Trudeau of Canada meet at the G7 summit in Charlevoix, June 8
Prime Ministers Giuseppe Conte of Italy and Justin Trudeau of Canada meet at the G7 summit in Charlevoix, June 8 (Flickr/Justin Trudeau)

Italy has learned from Donald Trump that Canada is now the enemy of the West.

In an interview with the newspaper La Stampa, the country’s new agriculture minister, Gian Marco Centinaio of the far-right League, said he would ask parliament not to ratify the trade agreement the EU negotiated with Canada in 2016.

Without ratification by all 28 member states, the treaty cannot go into effect for the entire European Union. Read more

Bavarian Right Manufactures Immigration Crisis

Bavarian prime minister Horst Seehofer speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, September 28, 2015
Bavarian prime minister Horst Seehofer speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, September 28, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

Germany’s ruling conservative parties are at odds over immigration. Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU) wants to turn refugees away at the border if they have already applied for asylum in another EU country. Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) argues this goes too far.

Here is everything you need to know about the row. Read more

Trump’s Praise for Dictators Is Rooted in His Own Insecurity

American president Donald Trump is seen in Washington DC, January 20, 2017
American president Donald Trump is seen in Washington DC, January 20, 2017 (DoD/Marianique Santos)

Donald Trump’s flattering comments about Kim Jong-un are shocking but not surprising. They are wholly in line with the American’s authoritarian personality.

In an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier, who reminded Trump of the appalling human-rights abuses in North Korea, the president praised the young tyrant as a “tough guy”.

When you take over a country, tough country, with tough people, and you take it over from your father, I don’t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have — if you can do that at 27 years old… I mean, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that. So he is a very smart guy. He is a great negotiator.

Read more

Dutch Hear Pro-EU Speech from Rutte, Others Hear Ambivalence

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, June 13
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, June 13 (European Parliament/Genevieve Engel)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte’s speech in the European Parliament on Wednesday was reported widely differently in the press.

Whereas Dutch media led with the mildly Euroskeptic Rutte’s defense of European integration, reporters from other countries prioritized his opposition to higher EU spending. Read more

Germany’s Social Democrats Understand They Need to Pick Side

German Social Democratic Party leader Andrea Nahles makes a speech, September 24, 2014
German Social Democratic Party leader Andrea Nahles makes a speech, September 24, 2014 (SPD/Andreas Amann)

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) recognize they should have picked a side.

In a damning analysis of the party’s dismal 2017 election performance — support fell to a postwar low of 20.5 percent — outside experts argue that the campaign lacked “substantive profile”.

The SPD has failed for years to find answers to fundamental questions and to position itself clearly and unequivocally. Whether on the issue of refugees, globalization, internal security or the diesel scandal: the party leadership always tries to please everyone.

The trouble with trying to please everyone, as I’ve argued before, is that you likely end up pleasing no one. Read more

Italy Has Become Two Countries

View from the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy
View from the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy (Unsplash/Patrick Schneider)

In my latest story for the Diplomatic Courier, I argue that Italy’s economic north-south divide has become political.

The far-right League, which Matteo Salvini has transformed into Italy’s version of the National Front, is the biggest party in the north, where incomes are 10-14 percent above the European average. The anti-establishment Five Star Movement is the biggest party in the south, including on the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, where incomes are barely above the level in Greece.

These two parties now rule Italy in a coalition government. Read more