Opinion writer in Amsterdam, formerly Barcelona and New York. Specializes in the politics of the Netherlands and Spain, including Catalonia. Founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel. Also writes for EUobserver, Never Was and World Politics Review.
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.
Sebastian Kurz was the future once. Conservative Christian democrats in Germany longed for a man like him to succeed the middle-of-the-road Angela Merkel. Time magazine declared him one of the ten most promising young world leaders.
Four years later, Kurz is the subject of a criminal investigation, for lying under oath. His People’s Party is down in the polls. Kurz projected an image of renewal, but he merely swapped one network of cronies for another (his own) without changing the way politics is done in Austria.
In my latest for Wynia’s Week, a Dutch opinion blog, I argue there is a better way. Both Austria’s Christian democrats and Bavaria’s were challenged by the nationalist right during the European migrant crisis. Both lurched to the right in a bid to outflank the competition. But whereas Bavaria’s Christian Social Union soon reversed itself, realizing that voters could smell their desperation and didn’t like it, Austria’s People’s Party is stuck with the high-on-flash, low-on-substance Kurz.
Environmentalists have for years hectored the EU for not doing enough to fight climate change (when it is doing more than the world’s other major economies).
Now that it has proposed to force other nations to copy its standards or lose access to the European market — as part of its ambition to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2050 — the bloc is again assailed by leftists, this time for being “neocolonialist”.
Did the British not read the fine print when they signed their Brexit deals?
Not only do they regret agreeing to a lay a customs border down the Irish Sea to avoid the need for passport checks and inspections of goods on the Ireland-Northern Ireland border; they also have second thoughts about their agreement with Spain for Gibraltar. Read more “Britain Walks Back Commitment to Gibraltar”
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.
The Netherlands has broken a century-old record: seventeen parties won seats in the election in March, the highest since 1918, but defections from the centrist Christian Democrats and far-right Forum for Democracy would make this parliament the most fragmented since the year women got the vote.
Pieter Omtzigt, who narrowly lost an internal election for the Christian Democratic leadership a year ago, has resigned from the party. He now sits as an independent.
Wybren van Haga, who left Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD (of which I am a member) in 2019 to join Thierry Baudet’s Forum for Democracy, has split again and formed a new right-wing party with Olaf Ephraim and Hans Smolders. The three were appalled when Baudet compared the COVID-19 lockdown to the wartime Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.
European judges have discovered they can compel politicians to take action against climate change.
France’s Council of State has given the government of Emmanuel Macron an April 2022 deadline (one month before the election) to ensure the country will meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990.
Germany’s Constitutional Court issued a similar ruling in April and gave the government an end-of-year deadline to update its policy.
A Dutch court has gone further, ordering Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, to reduce not just its own carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent but those of its customers and suppliers as well.
Another political crisis in Europe, another chance to beat on multiparty democracy.
It’s not like the two-party systems of America and Britain are crisis-free, yet journalists in those countries have a tendency to find complex causes for their own political problems while reducing continental Europe’s to “fragmentation”.
Today’s example: Bloomberg, which argues the “turmoil” in Sweden “reflects a shifting political landscape” and this is a “warning to other countries with key elections looming — like Germany and France — where fractured politics have also upended old alliances.” Read more “Political Fragmentation Isn’t the Problem”