How Poland Ended Up Defying EU Law

Constitutional Tribunal Warsaw Poland
Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw, Poland, November 3, 2012 (Lukas Plewnia)

Poland has escalated its rule-of-law dispute with the rest of the European Union by arguing its own laws supersede the EU’s, and indeed some EU laws are incompatible with the Polish Constitution.

The decision of the Constitutional Tribunal caps six years of legal battle that began when Poland’s nationalist Law and Justice returned to power in 2015.

Here’s a timeline of events and a look at what could happen next. Read more “How Poland Ended Up Defying EU Law”

German Election: Takeaways and Next Steps

German parliament Berlin
Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, July 5, 2021 (Unsplash/Kristijan Arsov)

Germans returned at least six parties to parliament on Sunday (counting the “Union” of the Christian democratic parties as one). The fate of The Left still hangs in the balance. Projections give the former communists exactly the 5 percent support they need to meet the electoral threshold.

The most likely outcome is a three-party government including the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and Greens. The question is whether the Social Democrats (SPD) or Union will lead it.

If you haven’t been reading our live election blog, this explainer will get you up to speed on the results, takeaways and next steps. Read more “German Election: Takeaways and Next Steps”

Europe’s High Energy Prices, Explained

Eemshaven Netherlands power plant
Power plant in the Eemshaven of the Netherlands, April 17, 2020 (Unsplash/Untitled Photo)

Electricity prices are hitting records across Europe. In Portugal and Spain, wholesale energy prices have tripled from half a year ago to €178 per megawatt-hour. Italy is not far behind at €176. Dutch households without a fixed-price contract could end up paying €500 more this year. In the UK, prices peaked at €247 per megawatt-hour earlier this week.

The main culprit is the high price of natural gas, up 440 percent from a year ago. But Europe is facing something of a perfect storm involving accidents, depleted reserves and a higher carbon price.

Here are all the reasons prices are up — and what governments are doing about it. Read more “Europe’s High Energy Prices, Explained”

German Election Guide

German parliament Berlin
The Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany (Unsplash/Fionn Große)

Germans elect a new Bundestag on Sunday, which will elect Angela Merkel’s successor. It is the first time in postwar German history that a sitting chancellor isn’t seeking reelection.

If the polls are right, Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats will lose power to the center-left Social Democrats for the first time since 2005.

Here is everything you need to know. Read more “German Election Guide”

Why It’s Taking So Long to Form a Government in the Netherlands

Mark Rutte
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte welcomes Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko at his residence in The Hague, November 26, 2015 (Press Service of the President of Ukraine/Mykola Lazarenko)

Five months after parliamentary elections, parties haven’t even begun substantive coalition talks in the Netherlands, already making this the third-longest government formation in postwar Dutch history.

Mark Rutte remains in office as caretaker prime minister, but his government can’t make major decisions on such issues as climate policy, reform of child benefits, labor law and taxes.

Those issues are one reason it’s taking so long: whatever choices the next government makes could reverberate for years. Read more “Why It’s Taking So Long to Form a Government in the Netherlands”

What’s at Stake in the German Election

German parliament Berlin
Facade of the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany (Unsplash/Fionn Große)

Germans elect a new Bundestag on September 26. Outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel is not seeking reelection after serving four terms. Her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is polling in first place, but the left-wing Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens are not far behind.

Three more parties (counting the union of Merkel’s CDU and Bavaria’s Christian Social Union as one) are expected to win seats: the center-right Free Democrats (FDP), the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the far-left Die Linke.

The outgoing “grand coalition” of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats may not defend its majority. More importantly, neither wants to form another two-party government after sharing power for twelve of the last sixteen years.

All other parties rule out pacts with the AfD. The Greens, who are projected to be the biggest winners of the election, would be needed in all possible coalitions:

  • Union + Greens + FDP: Failed in 2017, when the liberals balked. Could be a modernizing, pro-EU government that seeks technological solutions to the climate crisis.
  • Union + SPD + Greens: Less attractive to the Christian Democrats on labor and tax policy, but the Union and SPD see eye to eye on protecting industries and jobs.
  • SPD + Greens + FDP: Makes less sense for the FDP, who would face opposition from the center- and far right.
  • SPD + Greens + Linke: Politically risky for SPD and Greens, who want to appear moderate, and difficult policy-wise on defense and foreign relations.

Here’s where the four mainstream parties stand on ten of the issues at stake in this election. Read more “What’s at Stake in the German Election”

America’s $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill, Explained

San Francisco California
The sun sets over the San Francisco Bay, California, September 29, 2015 (Thomas Hawk)

The United States Senate is expected to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure bill this week with funding for everything from broadband Internet to road safety.

The bill, which is believed to have the support of enough Republicans to overcome a forty-senator filibuster, falls short of the $2 trillion President Joe Biden had proposed to spend on (green) infrastructure over four years.

The compromise bill has $550 billion in new spending. The rest consists of existing infrastructure funds which are either being diverted or renewed.

Unlike Biden’s $2 trillion proposal, which would have been funded by corporate tax increases, the compromise version draws money from various sources, including around $200 billion left over from COVID-19 relief programs. Read more “America’s $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill, Explained”

What’s in France’s New Climate Law

France train
High-speed train in France (Adobe Stock/Chlorophylle)

French lawmakers adopted a far-reaching climate law this week that puts the country on track to meet its Paris commitment of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

That is short of the 55-percent cut the European Commission has proposed in its “Green Deal”, which has yet to be approved by member states.

The French measures do align with the EU’s new Common Agricultural Policy, which sets aside 20 to 25 percent of funding for “eco-schemes”, which can range from organic farms to forests and wetlands being retained for carbon sequestration.

Some of the policies flow from the citizen consultations President Emmanuel Macron held across France in the wake of the 2018 Yellow Vests protests, which were sparked by a rise in gasoline tax.

Here is an overview. Read more “What’s in France’s New Climate Law”

The EU’s Farm Deal, Explained

Nantes France cow
A cow in Nantes, France (Unsplash/Mathieu Odin)

Nobody is happy with the EU’s new farms policy. Greens argue ambitions for biodiversity and sustainability are too low. Agricultural groups complain they are too high, and farmers will receive lower subsidies to boot.

Which suggests the compromise — the outcome of two years of negotiations — may not be unreasonable.

Here are the most important things to know. Read more “The EU’s Farm Deal, Explained”

French Regional Elections Guide

Marseille France
Skyline of Marseille, France, June 13 (Région Sud Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur)

All eighteen regions of France — thirteen in Europe and five overseas, counting Mayotte — hold assembly elections this Sunday and next. The assemblies in turn elect regional presidents, whose powers are more limited than those of American and German state governors.

More than 4,000 council seats across 96 departments — the administrative level between regions and municipalities — are also contested.

These are the last major elections in France before the presidential and National Assembly elections in April of next year. They are less a test of President Emmanuel Macron’s reelection prospects than a preview of whether he will be challenged by the center-right or far right.

Here is everything you need to know. Read more “French Regional Elections Guide”