Transatlantic Challenges Ahead

German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17
German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17 (Bundesregierung)

Carnegie Europe’s Erik Brattberg sees challenges ahead for the transatlantic relationship:

  • Afghanistan: Donald Trump’s administration is preparing for a troop surge in the country (despite the president’s own doubts). European support is lukewarm at best. Germany, where the pacifist Green party is probably going to be part of the next coalition government, could prove especially problematic.
  • Iran: Trump is determined to blow up the 2015 nuclear deal. Europe — together with China and Russia — wants to keep it in place.
  • North Korea: Europe plays little role in this crisis, but public opinion blames Trump for escalating it. Leaders will be hard-pressed to back him up, even if North Korea is in the wrong. Read more

European Fears of “Jamaica” Coalition Are Overblown

German chancellor Angela Merkel joins a cabinet meeting in Berlin, September 13
German chancellor Angela Merkel joins a cabinet meeting in Berlin, September 13 (Bundesregierung)

A three-party “Jamaica” coalition in Germany may not be so bad for Europe as observers fear, writes Guntram Wolff of the Bruegel think tank in the Financial Times.

He recognizes that the liberal Free Democrats are more Euroskeptic than Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Greens. They have opposed Greek debt relief, are wary of a common eurozone budget and argue for strict enforcement the bloc’s fiscal rules.

But that also applies to Wolfgang Schäuble, the outgoing finance minister. His likely Free Democratic successor could hardly be more hawkish.

A Jamaica coalition (named for the colors of the three parties, which match the Caribbean nation’s flag) would be open to some of the other EU reform proposals French president Emmanuel Macron made this week, from enhancing defense cooperation to creating a single European asylum policy. Read more

Catalonia Unlikely to Declare Independence After Referendum

The palace of the Catalan regional government in Barcelona, Spain, September 26, 2012
The palace of the Catalan regional government in Barcelona, Spain, September 26, 2012 (Wikimedia Commons/Andriy Sadivskyy)

Catalonia is unlikely to declare its independence from Spain even if a majority votes to break away on Sunday.

The law that made the referendum possible — and which has been suspended by Spain’s Constitutional Court — calls for a declaration of independence within two days of a “yes” vote.

But Carles Puigdemont, the regional president and separatist leader, has told French television he wants to open up a transitional period of talks after the plebiscite. Read more

German Election Shows Stabilizing Effect of Multiparty Democracy

Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a speech in the German parliament in Berlin, October 15, 2015
Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a speech in the German parliament in Berlin, October 15, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

The headline-grapping news from Germany this weekend was the return of the far right, which won back seats in the national parliament for the first time since 1961.

But the bigger — and more reassuring — story of the election was the fragmentation of the German political landscape.

The Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, once faraway the two largest parties, won only 56 percent of the seats combined. A record seven parties (counting the Bavarian Christian Social Union separately) crossed the 5-percent election threshold. Four parties will probably be needed to form a coalition government — another first in postwar German history.

This might look like instability at first, but it actually underscores the resilience of multiparty democracy. Read more

Evaluating Macron’s Proposals for EU Reform

French president Emmanuel Macron gives a news conference in Brussels, June 23
French president Emmanuel Macron gives a news conference in Brussels, June 23 (Facebook)

French president Emmanuel Macron made various proposals for European Union reform in a speech at the Sorbonne university in Paris today. They can be divided into three categories: difficult, doable and low-hanging fruit. Read more

Emmanuel Macron Suffered Two Setbacks This Weekend

French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel deliver a news conference in Berlin, May 15
French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel deliver a news conference in Berlin, May 15 (Bundesregierung)

French president Emmanuel Macron suffered two setbacks this weekend:

  1. His centrist party, La République En Marche!, won only 29 seats in the Senate. 170 out of 348 seats were contested. The center-right Republicans remain the largest party in the upper chamber, followed by the mainstream Socialists.
  2. The outcome of the German election means the liberal Free Democrats are almost certain to be part of Angela Merkel’s next coalition government and they are skeptical of Macron’s proposals for deeper EU integration. Read more

Germany’s Social Democrats Should Have Picked Side

German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz makes a speech in Bavaria, March 1
German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz makes a speech in Bavaria, March 1 (Bayern SPD/Joerg Koch)

Germany’s Social Democrats are going the way of the Dutch Labor Party.

Both parties tried to appeal to their working- and middle-class constituents in elections this year and both lost precisely because of this indecision.

Campaigning on liberal immigration laws, social justice and international engagement alienates blue-collar voters.

Campaigning on border controls and deemphasizing identity politics turns away college graduates.

Do both at the same time and you end up with with no supporters at all. Read more