Allies Hope for the Best from Trump, Must Plan for the Worst

Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States listen to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of NATO making a speech in Brussels, May 25
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States listen to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of NATO making a speech in Brussels, May 25 (NATO)

American allies are coping with Donald Trump’s disruptive presidency in similar ways, a collection of essays in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine reveals:

  • All feel they need to step up and defend the liberal world order as Trump is determined to put “America first”.
  • They worry that a new era of American isolationism could make the world poorer and less safe.
  • Leaders are doing their best to rein in Trump’s worst impulses and most of their voters understand the need for pragmatism, although they have little faith in this president. Read more

Question in Germany Is: Who Will Govern with Merkel Next?

German chancellor Angela Merkel listens during a meeting with other European conservative party leaders in Brussels, June 22
German chancellor Angela Merkel listens during a meeting with other European conservative party leaders in Brussels, June 22 (EPP)

Germany’s Christian Democrats are so far ahead in the opinion polls that the only question seems to be who will govern with them after the election?

Support for Angela Merkel’s party has been just short of 40 percent since May. The Social Democrats, who briefly polled neck and neck with the conservatives earlier in the year, are down to 25 percent.

The Greens, liberal Free Democrats, far-left Die Linke and far-right Alternative für Deutschland would split the remainder of the vote.

Unless the numbers change dramatically between now and September, Merkel would have three ways to stay in power:

  1. A continuation of her “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats;
  2. A center-right coalition with the Free Democrats; or
  3. A center-left coalition with the Greens.

A right-wing pact with the Alternative can be ruled out. Read more

Macron’s Liberalization Has Made Travel More Affordable in France

View of the Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, December 5, 2012
View of the Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, December 5, 2012 (Chris Chabot)

Emmanuel Macron’s liberalization of intercity public transport in France is paying off.

Until 2015, railroads had a monopoly on domestic ground routes of 100 kilometers or more. Macron — then economy minister, now president — wrote legislation that allowed busses to compete.

Bloomberg reports that 6.2 million passengers took a long-distance bus in 2016 and bookings are up another 25 percent this year.

That’s still a fraction of the more than 100 million annual high-speed train passengers, but competition from busses is forcing the state-owned railway to cut rates. Read more

Spain Promises Not to Hold Brexit Deal Hostage to Gibraltar

View of Gibraltar, April 6, 2016
View of Gibraltar, April 6, 2016 (Scott Wylie)

Spain will not hold the Brexit negotiations hostage to discussions about Gibraltar, the country’s foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, has told ABC newspaper:

I do not want to jeopardize an agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom by subjecting it to a need to alter Gibraltar’s status at the same time.

Dastis did say he hopes the Gibraltarians will consider sharing sovereignty with Spain, but his statement appears to be a climb down.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy earlier said he would not allow Gibraltar to remain in the European single market if Britain leaves.

A European Council negotiation document published by the Financial Times read that “no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom.”

This was interpreted in Britain as giving Spain a veto over the terms of its exit. Read more

Immigration Could Be Macron’s Achilles’ Heel

French president Emmanuel Macron attends a military remembrance ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in central Paris, May 15
French president Emmanuel Macron attends a military remembrance ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in central Paris, May 15 (Facebook)

Patrick Chamorel makes another fine point in his essay about Emmanuel Macron in The American Interest.

He points out that the French president has barely talked about crime, immigration, integration and terrorism:

His emphasis on the necessary liberalization of the economy disproportionately reflects the preoccupations of the most urban, educated and prosperous sections of the population.

In smaller cities and the countryside, people worry about other things. Read more

Macron Takes Inspiration from California and Scandinavia

Former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron
Former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron (Facebook)

Patrick Chamorel, who specializes in comparing American and European politics, argues in The American Interest that French president Emmanuel Macron’s economic vision is a mix of the Californian and Scandinavian models:

On the one hand, an embrace of start-up culture, a preference for entrepreneurship over rent-seeking, outsiders over insiders and individual mobility over jobs-for-life; on the other, he evinces a belief in the positive role government can play to protect the weak and equalize access to opportunities.

Macron wants to free companies from excessive social costs and bureaucratic constraints, but he has also pledged €50 billion in public investments. Read more

Berlusconi Comeback in Italy Looks Like a Long Shot

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi adjusts his tie during a conference in Malta, March 30
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi adjusts his tie during a conference in Malta, March 30 (EPP)

Silvio Berlusconi is eying a comeback in Italy — again.

The eighty-year old former media tycoon, who was prime minister four times between 1994 and 2011, still leads Forza Italia, the country’s largest conservative opposition party.

But it is only polling around 14 percent support. So many things need to happen to put Il Cavaliere back in power that it looks like a long shot:

  • The European Court of Human Rights needs to overturn Berlusconi’s ban from public office. Elections must be held before May 2018, but Berlusconi can’t run again until 2019 due to a conviction for tax fraud. He is appealing the verdict.
  • The ruling center-left Democratic Party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which are polling in first and second place, respectively, need to lose popularity.
  • So does the formerly separatist Northern League, which Matteo Salvini is transforming into a national right-wing populist force that is anti-euro and anti-immigration.
  • A new electoral law must have a high-enough threshold to prevent Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano’s center-right Popular Alternative from eating into Berlusconi’s margins — but not so high as to prevent the nationalist Brothers of Italy from winning seats. Berlusconi would need them for a majority. Read more