No Party or Coalition Wins Majority in Italy

Italian party leaders Matteo Renzi and Silvio Berlusconi
Italian party leaders Matteo Renzi and Silvio Berlusconi (Palazzo Chigi/European Council)
  • Italians elected a new parliament on Sunday.
  • The populist Five Star Movement and Northern League made gains at the expense of mainstream parties. Read more

Rutte Urges EU Pragmatism, May’s Speech Heard Very Differently in Europe

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte shakes hands with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Kleve, near the Dutch-German border, May 23, 2013
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte shakes hands with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Kleve, near the Dutch-German border, May 23, 2013 (Bundesregierung)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte called for pragmatism in a speech in Berlin in Friday. The best way to take the wind out of the sails of Euroskeptic parties, he said, is to show results:

Lofty visions do not create jobs or security. Nor does shouting from the ends of the political spectrum. Only hard work […] produces results that benefit people in their daily lives.

The Merkelian rhetoric is a reality check for French president Emmanuel Macron, who has proposed far-reaching reforms in Europe.

With Britain, traditionally an ally, leaving the bloc, the Netherlands is becoming more vocal in resisting what it — and the German right — fear would amount to transfer union: the permanent subsidization of poorer member states by the wealthy.

There was a discrepancy in coverage. Dutch media emphasized the many positive things Rutte said about the EU. Foreign outlets focused on his “red lines”. The reason is that Rutte is considered more of a Euroskeptic at home than he is abroad. Read more

Left-Right Coalition Would Be Best Outcome for Italy

Italian Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi visits a police academy in Rome, November 9, 2016
Italian Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi visits a police academy in Rome, November 9, 2016 (Palazzo Chigi)

There are two realistic outcomes to Italy’s election on Sunday: a right-wing government that includes the xenophobic Brothers of Italy and Northern League or a German-style grand coalition between Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the Democrats.

The second would be better for Italy and for Europe. To make that outcome more likely, Italians should vote for the center-left. Read more

Trump Launches Trade War, Berlusconi Confirms Tajani Candidacy

American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6, 2017
American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6, 2017 (Bundesregierung)

Against the advice of literally all but two of his advisors, American president Donald Trump has announced tariffs on aluminum and steel of 10 and 25 percent, respectively.

The tariffs are not in effect yet, but, citing national-security concerns, the president does have the authority to impose them unilaterally.

The European Commission, which is responsible for EU trade policy, quickly condemned the “blatant intervention to protect US domestic industry” and said it would present countermeasures in a matter of days.

Remember when we were talking about a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership only a few years ago?

Politico has more on the challenge to Europe. Also read my story from July about Trump’s obsession with dying industries at the expense of retail and tech. Read more

EU Sets Red Lines for Brexit, Puigdemont to Lead Government-in-Waiting

British prime minister Theresa May attends an EU summit in Tallinn, Estonia, September 28, 2017
British prime minister Theresa May attends an EU summit in Tallinn, Estonia, September 28, 2017 (EU2017EE/Annika Haas)

The European Commission has set out its red lines for Brexit in a draft agreement:

  • Northern Ireland: Would remain in the EU customs union, creating the need for an economic border in the Irish Sea.
  • Free movement: Continued free movement of EU nationals during the post-Brexit transition period.
  • Trade deals: Also during the transition, Britain would not be allowed to initiate or sign trade deals that are prejudicial to EU interests.

None of these red lines are acceptable to hardline Brexiteers and the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, whose votes Theresa May needs for her majority in Westminster. Read more

Merkel Wins Party’s Support, Berlusconi a Warning to Americans

German chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a meeting with other European conservative party leaders in Meise, Belgium, December 19, 2013
German chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a meeting with other European conservative party leaders in Meise, Belgium, December 19, 2013 (EPP)

Delegates (not party members) of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have voted overwhelmingly in favor of continuing the “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats. The waiting is now for the latter, who conclude a membership vote on Sunday.

The same CDU congress has named Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the moderate prime minister of Saarland, as party secretary and Jens Spahn, a right-wing critic of Angela Merkel’s immigration policy, as candidate for health minister.

Jeremy Cliffe argues in The Economist that the two appointments hint at a healthy ideological debate in the party:

In recent years, Mrs Merkel’s electorally successful, highly tactical and ideologically indistinct brand of centrism has smothered the contrasts between [the CDU’s] different ideological tendencies: liberal, Christian social and conservative. Now, however, a new period of cut-and-thrust in the party seems to be emerging.

Read more

Macron Breaks Taboo, Spain Makes Gibraltar Demands

French president Emmanuel Macron greets Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, France, June 16, 2017
French president Emmanuel Macron greets Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, France, June 16, 2017 (La Moncloa)

Emmanuel Macron touched one third rail of French politics and didn’t die: labor reform. Now he is grabbing the other: agriculture.

French farmers rely heavily on EU agricultural subsidies and are generally less innovative (defenders would say more traditional) than their peers in Germany and the Netherlands, the two largest exporters of agricultural goods in Europe.

Macron has already opened the door to subsidy reform, arguing that, due to Brexit, cuts are inevitable.

At the same time, he has promised €5 billion in public investments to kickstart a “cultural revolution” in the sector.

That may not be enough to convince skeptical farmers while cutting EU subsidies will run into opposition from Italy, Poland and Spain. But it’s a start. Read more