Who Is Catalonia’s New President and What Happens Next?

Quim Torra enters the parliament of Catalonia to be sworn in as the region's president, May 14
Quim Torra enters the parliament of Catalonia to be sworn in as the region’s president, May 14 (Miguel González de la Fuente)

Quim Torra has been elected president of Catalonia with 66 to 65 votes in the regional legislature.

Torra was supported by his own party, Together for Catalonia, and its ally, the Republican Left. Both seek Catalan independence.

The smallest separatist party, the Popular Unity Candidacy, abstained to make it possible for Torra to take office, but it considered his predecessor, Carles Puigdemont, the only legitimate candidate.

Puigdemont, who led Together for Catalonia to victory in December’s election, was removed from power by Spain in the wake of the October 1 independence referendum that had been ruled illegal by the Constitutional Court. 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

Time to Start Worrying: Populists May Form Government in Italy

Luigi Di Maio, the leader of Italy's Five Star Movement, answers questions from reporters in Rome, April 12
Luigi Di Maio, the leader of Italy’s Five Star Movement, answers questions from reporters in Rome, April 12 (Presidenza della Repubblica)

Italy’s Five Star Movement and (formerly Northern) League may form a government after all.

President Sergio Mattarella has given the two parties until Sunday to hash out a deal.

Time to start worrying. Read more

Catalans Find Fourth Candidate for Regional Presidency

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’s largest independence party, Together for Yes, has proposed its fourth candidate for the regional presidency after the Constitutional Court suspended a law to allow Carles Puigdemont to be sworn in from abroad.

Quim Torra, the former president of the pro-independence civil society organization Òmnium Cultural, is due to be inaugurated next week. 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

Europe Can Stand Up to American Threats on Iran

Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Donald Trump of the United States speak in Paris, July 14, 2017
Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Donald Trump of the United States speak in Paris, July 14, 2017 (DoD/Dominique Pineiro)

Leonid Bershidsky is optimistic the EU can stand up to American threats and continue doing business with Iran. He writes for Bloomberg that the stakes are higher than President Donald Trump seems to realize:

With its influence on SWIFT, the Brussels-based payment-facilitation system, and its trade power, the EU is capable of blunting US sanctions. If they prove ineffective, and Iranians merely rally around their government as Russians have done in the face of American restrictions, the US may be exposed as less of a fearsome global policeman than Trump would like it to be.

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