Why Now Is the Time for Greek Debt Relief

The Acropolis of Athens, Greece, April 19, 2009
The Acropolis of Athens, Greece, April 19, 2009 (John, Melanie Kotsopoulos)

The conventional wisdom is that Greek debt relief can’t happen before the German election. Angela Merkel wouldn’t want to risk the ire of her conservative voters.

But things could be more difficult after the election. There is a good chance Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the liberal Free Democrats will win enough seats to form a center-right government. The latter, while smaller, are more adamant in their views on the Greek debt crisis. They would find it hard to justify debt forgiveness to their voters.

That’s not the only reason why the time is right. Donald Trump and the rise of illiberal democracy around the world is another. Europe must circle the wagons to provide a counterweight to this dangerous development. Read more

Once the Party of Stability, Conservatives Now Provoke Unrest

British prime minister Theresa May and American president Donald Trump speak in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, January 27
British prime minister Theresa May and American president Donald Trump speak in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, January 27 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Jay Allen)

Kate Maltby argues in The Guardian that Britain’s Conservative Party has lost its way.

For centuries, Conservatives warned against the dangers of too much change too quickly, she points out. They argued revolutions leave children starving and adults bleeding. That stability leads to prosperity. That inequality is a price worth paying for economic growth.

Don’t rock the boat, don’t scare the banks and the middle classes get their quiet life.

Remember the “long-term economic plan”? It was only two years ago that David Cameron couldn’t stop talking about.

Then his party brought Brexit on the United Kingdom. Read more

Hammond Urges Brexit Hardliners to Stop Plotting

Philip Hammond, then Britain's foreign secretary, meets with Finnish officials in Helsinki, January 8, 2015
Philip Hammond, then Britain’s foreign secretary, meets with Finnish officials in Helsinki, January 8, 2015 (Finnish Government/Laura Kotila)

Philip Hammond, the number two in Britain’s ruling Conservative Party, has urged ministers who disagree with his views on Brexit to stop leaking against him.

“It would be helpful if my colleagues — all of us — focused on the job in hand,” he told the BBC on Sunday.

Earlier in the day, The Sunday Times had cited as many as five ministers in a story that showed Hammond in a bad light.

The chancellor, who is responsible for economic and fiscal policy, reportedly called public-sector workers “overpaid” during a cabinet meeting. He clarified to the BBC he was referring to civil servants’ generous taxpayer-funded pensions. Read more

One Year After Referendum, Brexit Questions Remain Unanswered

The Houses of Parliament in London, England, February 19, 2013
The Houses of Parliament in London, England, February 19, 2013 (Martin Robson)

A year has passed since Britain voted to leave the European Union and huge questions remain unanswered.

Jon Worth lists a few at his blog:

  • What’s going to happen to Britain’s £700 billion trade with the EU?
  • How many planes will be allowed to fly across the Channel once Britain exits Europe’s open-skies regime?
  • How long is it going to take to assess and renegotiate 759 international treaties Britain is currently part of as a member of the EU?
  • What will happen to the European Health Insurance Card and the 27 million Brits who have one?

The deadline for a Brexit deal is March 2019, but some of these questions need to be answered sooner. Businesses want to make plans. Airlines, health insurers, hospitals, logistics companies and merchants can’t wait and hope for the best. Read more

Europe Rises to the Challenge Posed by Trump

Paolo Gentiloni, Mariano Rajoy, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Mark Rutte, the leaders of Italy, Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands, deliver a joint news conference in Berlin, June 29
Paolo Gentiloni, Mariano Rajoy, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Mark Rutte, the leaders of Italy, Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands, deliver a joint news conference in Berlin, June 29 (La Moncloa)

I argued here last month that Donald Trump was inadvertently breathing new life into the EU — whose demise he has publicly wished for — by driving France and Germany closer together.

Now Politico reports that Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel have agreed to:

  • Jointly develop a new generation of fighter jets;
  • Push ahead, together with Italy and Spain, to procure a European alternative to American drones (a “Eurodrone”);
  • Cooperate on military space surveillance; and
  • Beam data to the EU’s European External Action Service for use in missions around the world.

At a joint news conference, Merkel also left the door open to creating a eurozone finance minister and harmonizing French and German tax rates.

“It’s complicated, but it could boost the internal market,” she said. Read more

Poland’s Ruling Nationalist Party Steps Up Assault on Judiciary

Prime Minister Beata Szydło of Poland listens to a reporter's question in Warsaw, June 28
Prime Minister Beata Szydło of Poland listens to a reporter’s question in Warsaw, June 28 (KPRM)

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party pushed through more changes to the court system on Wednesday:

  • One bill takes power to appoint members to the National Judicial Council, which is responsible for appointing lower-level judges, away from the judiciary itself and gives it to parliament, where Law and Justice has a majority.
  • The same law removes fifteen of the 25 judges currently serving on the National Judicial Council.
  • A second bill gives the justice minister the power to unilaterally replace court presidents. Read more

Denmark’s Left Must Find Balance Between Nativists and Progressives

Danish Social Democratic Party leader Mette Frederiksen, June 28, 2016
Danish Social Democratic Party leader Mette Frederiksen, June 28, 2016 (Facebook)

Denmark’s Social Democrats are eying cooperation with the nationalist People’s Party which they have shunned for years.

Under Mette Frederiksen, who took over the party leadership after its 2015 election defeat, the center-left has supported such far-right policies as a ban on prayer rooms in schools and universities.

The two parties, who are both in opposition to a liberal minority government, have also made common cause against raising the pension age.

Frederiksen argues she is defending the Danish welfare state from the challenges of globalization.

Her strategy is not too dissimilar from her Swedish counterpart’s. Stefan Löfven, the ruling Social Democratic Party leader in Stockholm, has taken a hard line on border control, crime and defense in a bid to stem working-class defections to the far right. Read more