How Poland Ended Up Defying EU Law

Warsaw Poland
Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, Poland at dusk, December 4, 2020 (Unsplash/Iwona Castiello d’Antonio)

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 party returned to power in 2015.

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

Breakthrough in Dutch Coalition Talks

Sigrid Kaag
Dutch trade minister Sigrid Kaag speaks at an event about EU-Japan trade, February 7, 2019 (Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken)

Six and a half months after they were elected, Dutch lawmakers have finally taken a step closer to forming a coalition government: the same as the last one.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD (of which I am a member), the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and Christian Union were ready to renew their vows after the election in March. The coalition as a whole had gained seats, although the CDA lost four. The center-right parties are aligned on agriculture and EU policy, health care and taxes.

Their fourth partner, the social-liberal D66, needed more time. Read more “Breakthrough in Dutch Coalition Talks”

The Return of European Social Democracy

Olaf Scholz
German Social Democratic Party leader Olaf Scholz attends a conference in Berlin, June 25 (PES)

Olaf Scholz has given German social democracy a new lease on life. For the first time in sixteen years, his Social Democratic Party (SPD) — Germany’s oldest — has defeated the center-right Union of Christian Democrats. Support for the SPD went up from 20.5 to 26 percent in the election on Sunday. Still below its pre-reunification heights, when it would routinely win up to 40 percent, but enough to make Scholz the most likely next chancellor.

His counterparts in Portugal and Spain have been equally successful. António Costa was reelected with 36 percent support in 2019. Pedro Sánchez won two elections that year. Both govern with the support of the far left. Four of the five Nordic countries are led by social democrats. The fifth, Norway, soon will be, after Labor won the election two weeks ago.

It wasn’t so long ago that commentators ruminated on the “death of European social democracy,” myself included. Now it’s back in swing in the north, south and center. What changed? Read more “The Return of European Social Democracy”

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 Christian Democrats 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”

Sixteen Years in Power: Merkel’s Successes and Failures

Angela Merkel
German chancellor Angela Merkel answers questions from reporters in Berlin, November 9, 2016 (Bundesregierung)

Angela Merkel is not seeking reelection on Sunday after ruling Germany for sixteen years. (She remains chancellor until a new government is formed.)

Here is an overview of the most important policies of her four governments — and her biggest failures. Read more “Sixteen Years in Power: Merkel’s Successes and Failures”

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
Reichstag 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”

Catalan-Spanish Talks Accomplish Little

Pedro Sánchez Christian Kern António Costa
Spanish, Austrian and Portuguese social democratic party leaders Pedro Sánchez, Christian Kern and António Costa attend a meeting in Lisbon, December 2, 2017 (PES)

The good news is that Catalan and Spanish politicians are talking again. Official dialogue between the regional and central governments was resumed this week after a year-and-a-half delay due to COVID-19.

But that’s the only good news. A meeting on Wednesday ended without agreement. A solution to the longrunning dispute between Spain and its wealthiest region is still out of reach. Read more “Catalan-Spanish Talks Accomplish Little”

Sánchez Walks Back Promises to Catalans

Pedro Sánchez
Prime Ministers António Costa of Portugal, Pedro Sánchez of Spain and Stefan Löfven of Sweden attend a meeting of European socialist party leaders in Brussels, October 15, 2020 (PES)

Spain’s ruling Socialist Party is walking back its promises to Catalans. It has delayed, for the second time, a reform of the sedition law under which Catalonia’s separatist leaders were imprisoned. And it has poured cold water on hopes that it might allow a Catalan referendum on independence.

Disappointing Catalans is not without risk. The Socialists need the support of Catalonia’s largest separatist party, the Republican Left, for their majority in Congress. Longer term, it makes Catalan secession more, not less, likely.

Catalans already know to expect little from the conservative People’s Party, which opposed Catalan home rule. If moderate Catalan nationalists become disillusioned in Spain’s other major party as well, some may decide their only recourse is to break away. Read more “Sánchez Walks Back Promises to Catalans”

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

Mark Rutte Angela Merkel
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and German chancellor Angela Merkel meet with other European leaders in Brussels, December 13, 2019 (European Council)

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”