Germany Approves Russian Pipeline, Five Stars Call for Deal with League

Germany approves the completion of Nord Stream 2. Five Star lawmakers support a deal with the right.

German regulators have approved the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would help Russia bypass Ukraine and its other former satellite states in Eastern Europe.

Germany and the Netherlands, the two main beneficiaries of the pipeline, are virtually isolated in Europe in their support for it.

Nord Stream 2 would double the capacity of the existing Baltic Sea pipeline, but it makes no economic sense. Russia uses perhaps 60 percent of its existing pipeline capacity. The only reason for adding a connection is that Russia wants to be able to blackmail Ukraine without interrupting its gas supply to the rest of Europe.

Regulators in Denmark, Finland and Sweden still need to sign off on the project.

Five Star lawmakers call for deal with League

Two lawmakers from Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement have told Reuters their leaders should try to form a government with the (Northern) League, the largest party on the right.

The Five Stars and League have a majority between them and share Euroskeptic and pro-Russian views. However, the parties place themselves at opposite ends of the political spectrum.

The Five Stars have never governed before, yet, being the largest party, claim the prime ministership. The League so far insists any deal must include Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, which is toxic to the Five Stars.

Netherlands taking Britain’s place

The European Council on Foreign Relations’ Caroline de Gruyter argues that Britain’s exit is forcing liberal-minded nations in the EU to invest more in coalition-building.

In the past, if The Hague or Copenhagen wanted to block or push a particular issue in Brussels, they would often sound out London first.

Now they need to find other allies.

The Economist goes further, predicting that the Netherlands will take Britain’s place in the EU:

Brexit requires the Dutch to recalibrate their four-century diplomatic balancing act between France, Germany and Britain. That means two things. First, an unabashed commitment to Europe. The Dutch want the EU to forge a strong trading relationship with Britain, but will not break ranks to help bring it about. Second, a willingness to form ad hoc coalitions on specific issues.

Scots release former Catalan minister on bail

Deposed Catalan minister Clara Ponsatí was released on bail after turning herself in to Scottish police on Wednesday.

The former education minister, who was removed from power together with Carles Puigdemont and other members of the Catalan regional government after the independence referendum in October, had recently moved back to Scotland to resume teaching at the University of St Andrews.

Scotland’s ruling National Party sympathizes with the Catalan independence cause, but its hands are tied. Spain has requested Ponsatí’s extradition and there are probably no grounds for denying it.