Europe Once Again Proves the Doomsayers Wrong

View of Brussels, Belgium from the Mont des Arts, May 20, 2010
View of Brussels, Belgium from the Mont des Arts, May 20, 2010 (William Murphy)

Matthew Karnitschnig argues in Politico that the doomsayers keep getting Europe wrong.

As another annus horribilis draws to a close, he writes, “it’s difficult to deny that Europe has once again survived more or less intact.”

This matches an argument I made here two months ago: that the remarkable thing about the EU is not that it has problems, but it’s been able to muddle through despite its problems. Read more

AMLO and Trump: Useful Scapegoats or Unlikely Allies?

Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador gives a news conference, October 31
Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador gives a news conference, October 31 (Sitio Oficial de Andrés Manuel López Obrador)

Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), looks like the perfect adversary for Donald Trump. The American represents the financial elites and inequality AMLO has railed against his entire career whereas he himself embodies the hopes of Mexico’s poorest, many of whom have sought a better life in the United States — and who have been disparaged by Trump as criminals and rapists.

But the two leaders also share traits: a populist style, policy light on detail and nostalgia for a bygone era.

The two have avoided a confrontation on trade. Immigration and security provide more opportunities for compromise — but could just as easily cause the relationship to come unstuck. Read more

Bush’s Ambivalent Yugoslavia Policy Shaped Transatlantic Relations for Decade

American president George H.W. Bush, Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, French president François Mitterand and German chancellor Helmut Kohl attend the G7 summit in Munich, July 6, 1992
American president George H.W. Bush, Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, French president François Mitterand and German chancellor Helmut Kohl attend the G7 summit in Munich, July 6, 1992 (Institut François Mitterand)

Reflections on George H.W. Bush’s legacy have generally emphasized his commitment to the transatlantic alliance and its benign consequences for Europe’s post-Cold War transition. Lost in the narrative is the former president’s ambivalence toward the restive movements on the outer edges the Soviet empire.

The result was a full-blown civil conflict in Yugoslavia that undermined America’s confidence in its European allies and fueled a unilateralist streak that would animate a decade of American-led interventions. Read more

Fuel Tax Is Excuse for Reactionary France to Riot

French president Emmanuel Macron answers a question from a reporter in Helsinki, Finland, August 30
French president Emmanuel Macron answers a question from a reporter in Helsinki, Finland, August 30 (Office of the President of the Republic of Finland/Juhani Kandell)

Protests against a fuel tax increase in France have morphed into violent demonstrations against the presidency of Emmanuel Macron.

This weekend alone, 260 rioters were arrested in Paris, where cars were set ablaze and stores looted. A woman was killed in Marseille when a protester threw a tear gas canister through the window of her home.

The so-called Yellow Vests movement, named after the fluorescent safety vests French motorists are required to keep in their cars, started in opposition to higher taxes on diesel and gasoline. The increases are meant to help France meets its climate goals.

Diesel tax would rise 6.5 cents per liter, gasoline tax 2.9 cents. Leonid Bershidsky of Bloomberg calculates that the average motorist would end up paying €13 more per month. Hardly worth setting Paris on fire for.

The movement isn’t really about taxes then. It is that they have become a symbol for reactionaries who feel Macron has ignored them. Read more

Why Greek-Russian Relations Haven’t Improved

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras answers a question from a reporter in Moscow as Russian president Vladimir Putin looks on, April 8, 2015
Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras answers a question from a reporter in Moscow as Russian president Vladimir Putin looks on, April 8, 2015 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

When the far-left Syriza party took power in Greece in 2015, there were fears (including here) that it might trade the country’s Western alliance for an entente with Moscow.

The party had called for a “refoundation of Europe” away from Cold War divisions and its leader and the new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, suggested Greece could serve as a “bridge” between East and West.

Three years later, nothing has come of it. Read more

Harder Line Neither Helps Nor Hurts Spain’s People’s Party — For Now

European commissioner Jyrki Katainen listens to Spanish People's Party leader Pablo Casado during a congress of the European People's Party in Helsinki, Finland, November 8
European commissioner Jyrki Katainen listens to Spanish People’s Party leader Pablo Casado during a congress of the European People’s Party in Helsinki, Finland, November 8 (EPP)

Pablo Casado has pulled Spain’s conservative People’s Party to the right, taking a harder line on everything from abortion to Catalonia to Gibraltar to immigration.

So far, it has neither helped nor hurt his party in the polls. Read more

EFTA Is Not an Alternative to Theresa May’s Brexit Deal

Flag of Norway
Flag of Norway (Jorge Láscar)

The Sun reports that British cabinet secretaries Michael Gove and Amber Rudd — the former a leader of the 2016 campaign to leave the EU, the latter a “remainer” — intend to push for membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) with Labour’s support if and when Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal fails in Parliament.

This plan is unlikely to succeed, for two reasons:

  1. It confuses the withdrawal agreement with the political declaration on the future EU-UK relationship.
  2. Neither the EU nor the EFTA would accept it as a short-term solution. Read more