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, 2021 (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”

The Arguments For and Against Scottish Independence

Eilean Donan Castle Scotland
Eilean Donan Castle in the western Highlands of Scotland (Unsplash/Manu Bravo)

Scotland’s ruling National Party (SNP) has staked a second independence referendum on the outcome of Thursday’s election. If separatists defend their majority in the Scottish Parliament — in addition to the SNP, the Greens favor independence — they propose to hold another vote even over the objections of London.

Scots voted 55 to 45 percent against dissolving the United Kingdom in 2014. Nationalists argue Brexit has changed the calculation. 62 percent of Scots voted to remain in the EU in 2016. They were overruled by majorities in England and Wales. Polls found majorities in Scotland for leaving the UK and rejoining the EU through 2020 and early 2021. Unionists have recently closed the gap. But the SNP is still faraway in first place in election polls with up to 50 percent support.

There are many arguments for and against independence, and each one could be debated at length. I’ll summarize what I find to be the most persuasive ones. Read more “The Arguments For and Against Scottish Independence”

Why Germany’s Greens Are on the Rise

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German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with Green party leader Annalena Baerbock in parliament in Berlin, January 16, 2020 (DPA)

Germany’s Greens have for the first time in two years overtaken the ruling Christian Democrats in the polls. Two surveys in the last week gave them 28 percent support for the election in September against 21 to 27 percent for the center-right.

Those polls are still outliers, but the gap between the parties has been narrowing across surveys for months.

I suspect two factors are at play: leadership and a desire for change. I’ll take those in turn before laying out the different ways in which the Greens could take power. Read more “Why Germany’s Greens Are on the Rise”

Dutch Election: Takeaways and What Happens Next

Dutch parliament The Hague
Dutch lawmakers debate Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague, September 17, 2020 (Tweede Kamer)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is on track to win reelection with projections giving his liberal VVD (of which I am a member) 36 out of 150 seats in parliament, up three.

The outcome is likely to be a center-right government of three or four parties.

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 “Dutch Election: Takeaways and What Happens Next”

Dutch Election Guide

The Hague Netherlands
Mauritshuis and Dutch government buildings in The Hague, June 11, 2018 (Shutterstock/DigitalPearls)

Parliamentary elections are held in the Netherlands on Wednesday. I’ll be live-blogging the results and takeaways that day. In the meantime, this explainer will get you up to speed. Read more “Dutch Election Guide”

Catalan Election Guide

Barcelona Spain
View of Barcelona, Spain (Unsplash/Ferran Fusalba)

Catalans vote in regional elections on Sunday that are unlikely to produce a breakthrough in their region’s acrimonious relations with the rest of Spain.

I’ll be live-blogging the results on Sunday night. In the meantime, this explainer will get you up to speed. Read more “Catalan Election Guide”

What to Make of the EU-UK Trade Agreement

United Kingdom European Union flags
Flags of the United Kingdom and the European Union outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, January 29, 2016 (European Commission)

I haven’t read the 1,246 pages of the EU-UK trade agreement, so I’m going to rely on trusted sources to make sense of the accord.

First, a couple of notes on terminology.

This treaty, the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, governs the future cross-Channel relationship. It is due to go into effect on January 1, although it will still need to be ratified by the parliaments of the European Union and the United Kingdom as well as the European Council.

Last year’s withdrawal agreement regulated Britain’s exit from the EU. It provided for a one-year transition period, which expires on December 31, and included a protocol for Northern Ireland, which keeps the province in the European single market for goods and effectively (but not legally) in the EU customs union to avoid the need for a border with the Republic of Ireland.

Both treaties have been unhelpfully referred to as “the deal” in the English-speaking press, but only the withdrawal agreement was crucial. The trade agreement, while good to have, since Britain does most of its trade with the EU, was always optional. Read more “What to Make of the EU-UK Trade Agreement”

EU “Government Shutdown” Looms

Emmanuel Macron Pedro Sánchez Donald Tusk Angela Merkel
French president Emmanuel Macron, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez, European Council president Donald Tusk and German chancellor Angela Merkel speak on the sidelines of a European Council summit in Brussels, June 20, 2019 (Elysée/Soazig de la Moissonniere)

The EU could face its own version of a government shutdown in January if Hungary and Poland veto the bloc’s seven-year budget and coronavirus recovery fund, worth a combined €1.8 trillion, at this week’s European Council.

The far-right governments of the two countries oppose the introduction of a rule-of-law conditionality for EU subsidies. Hungarian and Polish voters, and other European countries, favor the proposal.

If leaders don’t find a solution this Thursday and Friday, the European Parliament would not have time to ratify the spending plans before the new year. The council isn’t due to meet again until March. Read more “EU “Government Shutdown” Looms”