Independence Sentiment Aroused in French Catalonia

View of Perpignan, formerly the capital of Languedoc-Roussilon, France, April 1, 2016
View of Perpignan, formerly the capital of Languedoc-Roussilon, France, April 1, 2016 (Jean-Pierre Dalbéra)

Catalonia’s independence referendum has aroused separatist sentiment north of the border, where a Catalan-speaking minority has long been content to live under French rule.

Northern Catalonia, or Roussillon, has been French since 1659.

Despite the presence of a small but vocal group of Catalan nationalists and a political party, the Unitat Catalana (UC), most of the region’s inhabitants have no desire to break away.

But recent events — not just those in Spain — have given French Catalans reason to question the status quo. Read more

Polls Vindicate Puigdemont’s Decision to Form Separatist List

Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, the leaders of the Catalan ruling party, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1
Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, the leaders of the Catalan ruling party, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Rubén Moreno)

Carles Puigdemont appears to have made the right decision forming a new political entity, called Together for Catalonia, as opposed to leading his center-right European Democratic Party (PDeCAT) into next month’s election.

Two recent polls, one published in El Periódico, the other in ABC newspaper, give the deposed president’s list almost 17 percent support.

That puts it neck and neck with the liberal Ciudadanos and mainstream Socialist Party — both of which oppose Catalan independence — for second place.

Together for Catalonia uses PDeCAT’s infrastructure but has drawn candidates from civil society. Read more

Italy’s Small Left Rejects Pact, Making Defeat More Likely

Pier Luigi Bersani speaks at a Democratic Party event in Bologna, Italy, February 24, 2012
Pier Luigi Bersani speaks at a Democratic Party event in Bologna, Italy, February 24, 2012 (Partito Democratico Emilia Romagna/Vincenzo Menichella)

Italy’s smaller left-wing party has ruled out a pact with Matteo Renzi’s Democrats, making a populist or right-wing victory more likely in the upcoming election.

Pier Luigi Bersani, a former Democratic Party leader who now belongs to the dissident Democrats and Progressives, has rejected Renzi’s overtures as “theatrics”. Read more

Don’t Panic: Merkel Still Has Options

German chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in Paris, France, January 11, 2015
German chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in Paris, France, January 11, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

It’s only been twelve hours since the first round of coalition talks in Germany collapsed and some are already calling it the “worst political crisis” in the nation’s postwar history.

Let’s not panic yet. Read more

German Coalition Talks Collapse as Free Democrats Walk Out

German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a news conference in Berlin, March 24, 2015
German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a news conference in Berlin, March 24, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

Germany’s liberal Free Democrats have left talks to form a coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Greens, citing an absence of trust.

Christian Lindner, the liberal party leader, tweeted, “It is better not to govern than to govern in the wrong way.” Read more

Brexit’s Broken Promises

The British flag flies over the Houses of Parliament in London, England
The British flag flies over the Houses of Parliament in London, England (Unsplash/Matt Milton)

The New Statesman reports that none of Brexit’s promises have come true:

  • Brexiteers said leaving the EU would unleash growth. Instead, growth has stalled and higher inflation has depressed real wages.
  • David Davis, now Brexit secretary, said Britain would be able to create “a free-trade area massively larger than the EU.” So far, no country has expressed an interest in doing a separate trade deal with the United Kingdom.
  • Liam Fox predicted that trade talks with the EU would be “one of the easiest in human history.” But the EU insists on properly negotiating Britain’s exit before even starting trade negotiations.
  • Rather than give Britain an extra £350 million to spend on health care each week, the Office for Budget Responsibility projects that the country will lose the equivalent of £300 million per week because of Brexit.

Little wonder that supporters of leaving the EU have continually lowered expectations. The promise of Brexit has been downgraded from a Singapore on the Thames to not “as apocalyptic as some people like to pretend”.

Progress in German Coalition Talks, But Four Sticking Points

European Council president Donald Tusk listens to German chancellor Angela Merkel speak during a meeting of conservative party leaders in Brussels, July 12, 2015
European Council president Donald Tusk listens to German chancellor Angela Merkel speak during a meeting of conservative party leaders in Brussels, July 12, 2015 (EPP)

The parties negotiating to form a coalition government in Germany are nearing a self-imposed deadline to conclude preliminary talks.

German media report there are four sticking points:

  1. Coal power: The Greens initially demanded closing Germany’s twenty most polluting coal plants. When the other parties balked, they suggested shuttering 10 gigawatts worth of coal-generating capacity. The others have offered 5 gigawatts.
  2. Europe: The liberal Free Democrats oppose a eurozone budget and permanent bailout mechanism. The Christian Democrats and Greens are more supportive.
  3. Family reunifications: The Christian Democrats are dead set against a Green party proposal to allow refugees to bring their relatives to live with them in Germany.
  4. Immigration cap: In a concession to the right-wing Christian Social Union, Angela Merkel has agreed to a “soft” ceiling of 200,000 immigrants per year. The Greens reject this. Read more