Orbán Abolishes Democracy in Hungary

Viktor Orbán Benjamin Netanyahu
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán speaks with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, in Brasília, Brazil, January 2, 2019 (Facebook/Viktor Orbán)

I try to avoid Nazi-era comparisons, since they’re seldom appropriate, but Viktor Orbán isn’t making it easy. The only thing that could make his power grab in Hungary more like the Enabling Act of 1933 is if, like the Reichstag fire, COVID-19 really had been manufactured (in a Chinese lab funded by George Soros, if we are to believe Russia’s disinformation).

Using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse, Orbán has dissolved parliament and postponed all elections — indefinitely.

The Constitutional Court technically still functions, but it is packed with Orbán loyalists and provides no real oversight. For all intents and purposes, Orbán now rules alone. Read more “Orbán Abolishes Democracy in Hungary”

Democracy Must Be Resistant to the Coronavirus

Washington DC
The skyline of Washington DC at dawn (Shutterstock/Orhan Cam)

In a crisis, calls to do something, quickly, can be hard to resist. Politicians must still try.

On both sides of the Atlantic, governments are planning some of the largest peacetime interventions in the private economy to cope with the outbreak of coronavirus disease.

  • Familiar battle lines have been drawn in Europe, where conservative northern countries, led by Germany and the Netherlands, hesitate to free up EU funds for the crisis.
  • The roles are reversed in America, where once fiscally prudent Republicans are trying to rush through a stimulus twice the size of Barack Obama’s, and Democrats, who traditionally support a larger role for government, are stepping on the brakes.

The stallers are not unreasonable. We can take a few days to debate how to spend trillions of euros and dollars. Read more “Democracy Must Be Resistant to the Coronavirus”

Lockdown in Barcelona

Barcelona Spain
The Sagrada Família seen through two of the smokestacks of Les Tres Xemeneies in Barcelona, Spain, March 10 (Luke Strange)

I haven’t blogged much recently. What little news there is other than the coronavirus outbreak seems rather less important. Since I’m by no means an expert on pandemics, I don’t have a lot to write.

I can tell you what’s happening here in Barcelona. Read more “Lockdown in Barcelona”

Why Kosovo Is Lifting, But Will Likely Reinstate, Tariffs on Serbia

Edi Rama Albin Kurti
Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania receives his Kosovar counterpart, Albin Kurti, in Tirana, February 11 (Kancelarija Premijera)

Kosovo’s new prime minister, Albin Kurti, is partially lifting his predecessor’s 100 percent import tariff on Serbian goods. He has offered to lift the tariff completely if Serbia suspends its derecognition campaign. If it fails to reciprocate, the tariffs will be restored in June.

Since reciprocation would imply Serbian recognition of Kosovo’s independence, it seems inevitable the trade sanctions will be back soon. Read more “Why Kosovo Is Lifting, But Will Likely Reinstate, Tariffs on Serbia”

Three Middle-Aged Catholic Men Vie to Succeed Merkel

Armin Laschet
Armin Laschet, the minister president of North Rhine-Westphalia, gives a speech in the Bundesrat in Berlin, Germany, December 14, 2018 (Bundesrat/Sascha Radke)

Three middle-aged Catholic men from North-Rhine Westphalia are running to succeed Angela Merkel, postwar Germany’s first female and Eastern-born chancellor and the ruling Christian Democratic Union’s (CDU) first Lutheran leader.

The CDU, which has governed Germany for fifty of the last seventy years, is holding a leadership election in April, triggered by the resignation of Merkel’s handpicked successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, a former premier of Saarland, failed to match Merkel’s authority in the party. She stepped down after the CDU in Thuringia defied her instructions and made common cause with the far right. Read more “Three Middle-Aged Catholic Men Vie to Succeed Merkel”

Macron’s Idealistic Russia Pragmatism

Vladimir Putin Emmanuel Macron
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Emmanuel Macron of France meet outside the Palace of Versailles, May 29, 2017 (Elysée)

The 2020 Munich Security Conference saw French president Emmanuel Macron reaffirm his eagerness to turn Russia into a security partner, suggesting that “we have to restart a strategic dialogue.”

But Russia hasn’t been a part of Europe for a while and doesn’t belong in a conversation about European autonomy. The only thing that ties it to Europe is geography. Read more “Macron’s Idealistic Russia Pragmatism”

Dutch Senate Could Torpedo EU-Canada Trade Deal

Mark Rutte
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, June 13, 2018 (European Parliament/Genevieve Engel)

Dutch parliamentarians narrowly approved an EU trade agreement with Canada on Tuesday, but ratification of the treaty faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s ruling parties do not have a majority.

If the pact isn’t supported by the Netherlands — one of the EU’s most liberal and free-trading nations — it would call the bloc’s ambition to uphold the global trade regime in lieu of American leadership into doubt.

Since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, the EU has completed free-trade agreements with Japan and South America. The first went into effect in 2019, the second has yet to be ratified. Read more “Dutch Senate Could Torpedo EU-Canada Trade Deal”

Labour Leadership Election News

Keir Starmer Jeremy Corbyn Rebecca Long-Bailey
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn chairs a meeting in London flanked by Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey, April 3, 2019 (PA/Stefan Rousseau)
  • Lisa Nandy has won the endorsement of the Jewish Labour Movement, one of the party’s largest affiliated socialist societies.
  • Keir Starmer has been endorsed by most affiliated groups and trade unions, most recently the TSSA transport union.
  • Rebecca Long-Bailey, the most left-wing candidate who is seen as outgoing leader Jeremy Corbyn’s ideological successor, has also qualified for the third and final voting round by members.
  • Emily Thornberry fell short. Read more “Labour Leadership Election News”