Spain’s Prime Minister May Be Forced to Call Early Elections

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy makes a speech in parliament in Madrid, October 11, 2017
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy makes a speech in parliament in Madrid, October 11, 2017 (La Moncloa)

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s time appears to be running out. The three largest opposition parties have called for early elections after prominent members of his People’s Party were found guilty of corruption.

Rajoy leads a minority conservative government. He has been relying on the support of the liberal Citizens to pass legislation. Read more

EU Policy Recommendations for Biggest Member States

European flags outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, July 22, 2016
European flags outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, July 22, 2016 (European Commission)

The European Commission has released its annual policy recommendations for the 28 member states.

Here are the highlights for the biggest economies on the continent. Read more

Spain Rejects Catalan Cabinet Picks, Maintains Direct Rule

Prime Ministers Binali Yıldırım of Turkey and Mariano Rajoy of Spain deliver a news conference in Madrid, April 24
Prime Ministers Binali Yıldırım of Turkey and Mariano Rajoy of Spain deliver a news conference in Madrid, April 24 (La Moncloa)

Spain has rejected four of the ministers nominated by the newly inaugurated Catalan president, Quim Torra, postponing the restoration of autonomy in the region.

Spanish authorities have described the cabinet picks as a “provocation”. The reason is that two of them are in jail, awaiting trial for their role in the October 1 referendum, while the other two have fled to Belgium.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has called for a “viable” Catalan government.

El País reports that Rajoy’s refusal to restore home rule has created the novel situation “in which Torra is the head of the Catalan government, yet each regional department will continue to answer to the national minister currently in charge of each area.” Read more

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

Italian Pact Would Deprive Macron of Ally for EU Reform

Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni is received by French president Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace in Paris, September 27, 2017
Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni is received by French president Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace in Paris, September 27, 2017 (Elysée)

For the first time in its postwar history, Italy could soon be ruled by anti-EU parties. The populist Five Star Movement and (formerly Northern) League are on the verge of forming a coalition government.

Such a pact would deprive French president Emmanuel Macron of a key ally for EU reform. 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

EU Defies Trump on Iran Deal and Trade

German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Emmanuel and British prime minister Macron Theresa May talk on the sidelines of an EU summit in Sofia, Bulgaria, May 17
German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Emmanuel and British prime minister Macron Theresa May talk on the sidelines of an EU summit in Sofia, Bulgaria, May 17 (Bundesregierung)

EU leaders have closed ranks against the unilateralism of American president Donald Trump, announcing on the eve of a summit in Bulgaria that:

  • They will stay in the Iran nuclear deal so long as Iran abides by its terms. That means European companies will — for now — be able to continue doing business with Iran.
  • They are willing to start trade negotiations provided the United States exempt the EU from aluminum and steel tariffs.

Both decisions set Europe on a collision course with its ally. Read more