EU Budget Fight, California’s Housing Crisis and Trump’s Threats

President Jean-Claude Juncker and other members of the European Commission listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 14, 2016
President Jean-Claude Juncker and other members of the European Commission listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 14, 2016 (European Parliament)

Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands are unhappy about the European Commission’s proposal to eliminate rebates in the EU’s next seven-year budget.

The commission has proposed to cut solidarity spending by 7 percent and agricultural subsidies by 5 percent to make up for the loss of Britain’s contribution.

It also wants to eliminate “correction” mechanisms that benefit the wealthier member states.

The stakes are low. The rebates add up to €6 billion. The proposed budget — €1.25 trillion — altogether represents about 8 percent of the EU economy.

Expect a big fight nevertheless. For center-right leaders in Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands, who face competition from the nativist right, this is a perfect opportunity to bolster their Euroskeptic credentials. In the end, the commission will give in a little and everybody walks away happy. Read more

Macron Defends Rules-Based Pacific Order, Five Stars Call for New Elections

French president Emmanuel Macron and Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull shake hands in Sydney, May 2
French president Emmanuel Macron and Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull shake hands in Sydney, May 2 (Elysée)

During a visit to Sydney, French president Emmanuel Macron said he wanted to work with the largest democracies in the region — Australia, India, Japan and the United States — to “balance” Chinese power and protect “rule-based development” in Asia.

“It’s important… not to have any hegemony in the region,” he said.

Australia has eyed accommodation with China since Donald Trump withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership in 2017. But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, speaking alongside Macron, insisted his country is still committed to preserving a rules-based order.

France is a Pacific power. It has around one million citizens in the region. Read more

British Home Secretary Resigns, Italy’s Five Stars Make Overture

British home secretary Amber Rudd attends a conference at the Vatican, October 27, 2016
British home secretary Amber Rudd attends a conference at the Vatican, October 27, 2016 (UK in Holy See)

British home secretary Amber Rudd has resigned for misleading lawmakers about her migration policy.

She told Parliament there was no Home Office target for deportations, but then The Guardian revealed she had written to Prime Minister Theresa May about her aim to increase “enforced removals” by 10 percent.

Politico reports that Rudd’s departure — the fourth by a cabinet minister in six months — risks destabilizing May’s government at a time when it is negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union. Rudd was one of the leading pro-EU Conservatives and seen as a potential future party leader.

The scandal also shines a spotlight on May’s failure to develop a new immigration policy almost two years after the Brexit referendum in which it played such a major role. Read more

Germany Will Continue to Play Second-Tier Military Role

Two German Tornado jets prepare for takeoff at Schleswig Air Base, May 13, 2014
Two German Tornado jets prepare for takeoff at Schleswig Air Base, May 13, 2014 (Bundeswehr)

When President Donald Trump announced his intention to strike Syria in mid-April, Angela Merkel quickly excluded German participation in the attacks even though she publicly proclaimed support for her allies’ action.

Yet after the airstrikes were conducted by the United States, Britain and France, Germany’s defense minister, Ursula Von der Leyen, said the Bundeswehr could have been taken an active role after all.

Her statement seemed designed to stave off questions about Germany’s military readiness and willingness to support its allies.

Von der Leyen claimed the only reason Germany hadn’t joined the airstrikes was that it hadn’t been asked.

This is doubtful. Read more

Locating the “Real” Country, Putting Germany First and NATO Solidarity

A farm in the south of France, June 1, 2014
A farm in the south of France, June 1, 2014 (Harmish Khambhaita)

Andrew Sullivan is always worth reading, but, in the case of his latest column, I do think Noah Smith has a point and Sullivan falls into the trap of conflating Brexit and Donald Trump voters with “real England” and “real America”.

This is a mistake conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic make. The small towns and countryside aren’t the “real” country. They’re half the country. Or, in the case of Trumpists, a third of the country. Their views deserve to be taken seriously, but so do those of big-city liberals.

Or as Smith puts it:

What we should NOT do is elevate one segment of the populace to Special Real American status, simply because they fit a certain classic stereotype or because they are more intolerant and angry than the rest.

Related to this discussion is Nabila Ramdani’s argument in UnHerd for retiring the label “Gaullist” in France. (Charles de Gaulle is to French politics what Ronald Reagan is to American conservatism.)

De Gaulle’s base consisted of white, Roman Catholic conservatives who had a quasi-mystical faith in their rural nation. There was no place in Gaullism for the millions of immigrants from France’s former colonies, nor did it adapt to globalization and the spread of Anglo-Saxon culture.

Emmanuel Macron’s project is a belated attempt to reconcile these facets of modern France and it meets strong resistance in La France profonde. Read more

Spanish Left Pays Price for Choosing Purists Over Pragmatists

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy and Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez wave at photographers before a meeting in Madrid, December 23, 2015
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy and Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez wave at photographers before a meeting in Madrid, December 23, 2015 (PSOE)

Spain’s ruling People’s Party continues to fall in the polls. Its support is down from 33 percent in the last election to under 25 percent in most recent surveys. The reasons are corruption scandals and the ongoing Catalan independence crisis.

The liberal Citizens, who support — but are not a part of — Mariano Rajoy’s government, are up. Some polls even have them as the largest party of Spain. Their promise to clean up politics, and the hard line they have taken against the Catalan separatists, is resonating with center-right voters.

The left, El País points out, seems unable to exploit Rajoy’s unpopularity. Support for the mainstream Socialist Party is virtually unchanged at 20-22 percent. The far-left Podemos is down several points. Read more

Middle-Aged Men More Right-Wing, Iran Hawk Pompeo Sworn In

A far-right demonstration in Leipzig, Germany, September 22, 2017
A far-right demonstration in Leipzig, Germany, September 22, 2017 (De Havilland)

Lyman Stone writes in The American Interest that in both Germany and the United States (and I imagine in other Western democracies too, but I only know for sure about the Netherlands), men are more likely to vote for the far right than women. Middle-aged men in particular.

Stone volunteers various explanations:

  • Changes in the global economy have systematically disfavored historically male-dominated industries.
  • Men are more likely to take a protective or defensive view of nationhood.
  • Men are pulled toward more radical politics of many varieties and just happen to be ticked off at their former political home.

Stone also finds that support for Germany’s Alternative was lower in those parts of the former East Germany that were Prussian before communism and highest in Saxony, a state with a long history of radical politics.

“Radicalism, the appeal of revolutionary protest politics, is less about coherent policy platforms,” he argues, “and more about the appeal of mob, tribe and movement.” Read more