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

Study Turns Conventional Wisdoms About American Politics on Its Head

Businessman Donald Trump gives a speech in Fountain Hills, Arizona, March 19, 2016
Businessman Donald Trump gives a speech in Fountain Hills, Arizona, March 19, 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

A study (PDF) by Vanderbilt University’s Larry M. Bartels, based on three years of opinion polling, turns some of the conventional wisdoms about current American politics on its head. Read more

Dutch Caribbean Caught Up in ConocoPhillips-Venezuela Oil Dispute

View of Willemstad, Curaçao, November 21, 2012
View of Willemstad, Curaçao, November 21, 2012 (David Kirsch)

The Dutch Caribbean have been caught up in a legal dispute between the American oil company ConocoPhillips and the government of Venezuela.

A judge has allowed Conoco to seize Venezuelan-owned and -operated refineries on the islands in order to collect $2 billion in compensation awarded by the International Chamber of Commerce for the 2007 nationalization of Conoco assets in the socialist-run country.

The seizure poses a “potential crisis” to the economy of Curaçao, Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath has told Reuters. The Isla refinery, which processes 335,000 barrels of oil per day, accounts for a tenth of the island’s economy. Read more

Poland Launches Legal Challenge to Nord Stream 2

The skyline of Warsaw, Poland, March 13, 2007
The skyline of Warsaw, Poland, March 13, 2007 (Guido Heitkoetter)

Poland’s antitrust watchdog has begun legal proceedings against Gazprom and the five European companies that are its partners in Nord Stream 2. The regulator alleges that completion of the Baltic Sea pipeline would inhibit competition.

EurActiv reports that the companies — Anglo-Dutch Shell, Austria’s OMV, Switzerland’s Engie and Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall — face fines of up to 10 percent of their annual turnover. Read more

Trump Further Isolates America by Withdrawing from Iran Deal

American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017
American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017 (ANG/Annie Edwards)

President Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States from the nuclear agreement his predecessor, Barack Obama, negotiated with Iran in 2015.

All the other parties — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia — want to keep the deal in place. Trump’s only allies on the issue are the Arab Gulf states and Israel, which consider Iran a regional threat. Read more

Catalan Parties Fall Out Over Puigdemont’s Reinstatement

Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, the leaders of the Catalan ruling party, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1, 2017
Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, the leaders of the Catalan ruling party, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1, 2017 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Rubén Moreno)

Catalonia’s second-largest independence party, the Republican Left, has rejected the bid of its ally, Together for Catalonia, to reinstate Carles Puigdemont as regional president.

The parties, with support from the far-left Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), recently changed the law to make it possible for Puigdemont to be sworn in from abroad. But the Republican Left now calls for a candidate who is not in legal trouble. Read more

Trump Divides West on Iran

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)

President Donald Trump is expected to announce today that he will pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, despite pleas from allies to remain in it.

The 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers lifted economic sanctions on the country in return for strict controls on its nuclear program. Read more