Social Democrats in Iberia and Scandinavia Try Opposite Strategies

Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal greets his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sánchez, in Lisbon, July 2
Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal greets his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Sánchez, in Lisbon, July 2 (Governo da República Portuguesa/Clara Azevedo)

What is the future of European social democracy? Your answer to that question may depend on where you live.

If you’re in the Mediterranean, it’s cooperation with the far left. Social democrats in Portugal and Spain have come to power under deals with far-left parties. In both cases, unwieldy coalitions were greeted with skepticism, but now Prime Ministers António Costa and Pedro Sánchez are riding high in the polls.

In Greece, Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza party has even supplanted the center-left altogether.

In Scandinavia, by contrast, social democrats are trying to win back working-class voters by taking a harder line on borders, crime and defense.

Both strategies appear to be working. Read more

New York Times Leaves Out Nuances in Portugal Story

Portuguese Socialist Party leader António Costa answers questions from reporters in Brussels, October 15, 2015
Portuguese Socialist Party leader António Costa answers questions from reporters in Brussels, October 15, 2015 (PES)

A puff piece about Portugal’s left-wing government in The New York Times leaves out an important part of the story: the right-wing government which preceded it.

It were the liberals and conservatives who implemented the austerity measures that paved the way for the country’s economic revival.

The New York Times talks about a “humiliating” bailout that supposedly “deepened” Portugal’s misery until, in 2015, it elected the socialist António Costa, who reversed wage and pension cuts, igniting a “virtuous cycle” that put the economy back on a path to growth. Read more

American Right Loses Its Mind, Catalans Escalate Legal Fight

Radio and television host Sean Hannity speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Radio and television host Sean Hannity speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

Mocking a survivor of the Parkland, Florida school shooting for failing to get into several colleges. Calling Robert Mueller the head of a crime family. Comparing the FBI to the Gestapo. Leading with a story about sex-crazed pandas on the day President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is served a search warrant by the FBI.

Fox News is losing its mind.

The reasons are obvious:

  • Republicans are expected to lose badly in November’s midterm elections.
  • Robert Mueller is closing in on the president, with a report on his attempts to obstruct justice expected as early as next month.
  • James Comey, whom Trump fired from the FBI when he refused to protect the president from the Russia investigation, has a book out on Tuesday. Politico has its main takeaways.

It’s easy to dismiss Fox’s antics, but remember: there are millions of Americans who watch — and only watch — this channel, including the president. They don’t know any better. Read more

European Social Democrats Warm to Coalitions with Far Left

The sun sets on the Saint Nicholas' Church and town hall of Berlin, Germany, January 26, 2010
The sun sets on the Saint Nicholas’ Church and town hall of Berlin, Germany, January 26, 2010 (Mika Meskanen)

The formation of an all-left city government in Berlin that includes the once-communist Die Linke follows a pattern: center-left parties across Europe are increasingly willing to team up with their rivals on the far left.

Germany’s Social Democrats shunned Die Linke for decades. The two parties disagree on EU and industrial policy, NATO membership, relations with Russia and welfare.

The alliance in Berlin is only the second time in German history the two have shared power. Read more

Portugal, Spain Once Again Escape Fines for Deficits

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy greets German chancellor Angela Merkel in Brussels with a kiss, June 28
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy greets German chancellor Angela Merkel in Brussels with a kiss, June 28 (European Council)

Portugal and Spain won more time on Tuesday to bring their deficits in line with European fiscal rules as other European countries once again balked at imposing fines.

The European Commission reported last month that the two had failed to take “effective action” to bring their shortfalls under the bloc’s 3-percent deficit ceiling. But it passed the buck to the member states when it came to recommending penalties.

The commission has the power to impose financial punishments worth up to .2 percent of national economic output, which would be €300 million for Portugal and €2 billion for Spain. But it has never used that power.

Member states had until the end of Monday to raise objections to clemency. None did. As a result, Portugal and Spain have once again got away with breaking the rules. Read more

No More Excuses: Time to Fine Portugal and Spain

Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal attends a meeting with other European socialist leaders in Brussels, June 28
Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal attends a meeting with other European socialist leaders in Brussels, June 28 (PES)

It looks like Portugal and Spain might finally be sanctioned for breaking the eurozone’s budget rules.

The European Commission said on Tuesday the two had failed to take “effective action” to bring their shortfalls under the 3-percent treaty ceiling. But it stopped short of recommending fines, leaving that decision to the finance ministers.

They should take action. As Pierre Moscovici, the European commissioner in charge of economic policy, said, the fiscal rules “have to be respected.” Read more

Commission Lets South Off with Warnings Again

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker greets Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy in Madrid, October 21, 2015
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker greets Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy in Madrid, October 21, 2015 (European Commission)

The European Commission has let profligate member states in the south off with a warning again. Rather than fine Italy, Portugal and Spain, the executive gave all thee more time to bring their deficits in line with the bloc’s fiscal rules.

The countries have for years failed to bring their shortfalls under the European Union’s 3-percent ceiling. Yet the commission has always found an excuse not to penalize them.

This time it’s the elections in Spain. The country is due to elect a new parliament in June after talks to form a government in the wake of the last elections failed. Read more