Dutch Senate Could Torpedo EU Trade Deal with Canada

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 be a serious blow to the bloc’s ambitions to uphold the global trade regime in lieu of American leadership.

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

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”

Kramp-Karrenbauer Quits, Throwing Race to Succeed Merkel Wide Open

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer
Prime Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer of Saarland attends a session of the Bundesrat in Berlin, Germany, July 10, 2015 (Bundesrat/Henning Schacht)

Angela Merkel’s heir apparent, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, has unexpectedly quit, throwing the race to succeed the German chancellor wide open.

Kramp-Karrenbauer is stepping down as leader of the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a position she has held since 2018. She will remain as defense minister.

Merkel elevated Kramp-Karrenbauer from the prime ministership of Saarland, on the border with France, to national politics in order to prepare her for a run in 2021. Although Kramp-Karrenbauer is socially more conservative than Merkel (she opposed marriage equality), she was seen as likely to defend the chancellor’s centrist legacy.

Merkel has said she will not serve a fifth term. Read more “Kramp-Karrenbauer Quits, Throwing Race to Succeed Merkel Wide Open”

Judicial Reforms Create Parallel Legal System in Poland

Mateusz Morawiecki
Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki gives a speech at the Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw, April 11, 2019 (KPRM/Adam Guz)

Poland’s ruling conservative party’s obsession with bending the legal system to its will is creating what the Financial Times calls a parallel legal system: one set of judges are loyal to Małgorzata Gersdorf’s still-independent Supreme Court while another obey the government-friendly Constitutional Tribunal. Read more “Judicial Reforms Create Parallel Legal System in Poland”

Outrage over Right-Wing Alliance in Thuringia Is Overblown

Thuringia Germany state parliament
The state parliament of Thuringia, Germany debates legislation in Erfurt, June 12, 2019 (Thüringer Landtag)

Politicians in Berlin are up in arms about an alliance between the mainstream right and far-right Alternative for Germany in the central state of Thuringia.

Lars Klingbeil, secretary general of the ruling Social Democrats, spoke of a “low point in Germany’s postwar history.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel called the election of a liberal state premier with far-right support “unforgivable”.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the head of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and presumptive successor, said it was a “bad day for Thuringia and a bad day for Germany.”

Hitler comparisons are rife, coming even from party leaders in Brussels.

This is all a little over the top. Read more “Outrage over Right-Wing Alliance in Thuringia Is Overblown”

In Minsk, Pompeo Is All Talk

Mike Pompeo Alexander Lukashenko
American secretary of state Mike Pompeo meets with President Alexander Lukashenko and other Belarusian officials in Minsk, February 1 (State Department/Ron Przysucha)

Tensions between Belarus and Russia prompted American secretary of state Mike Pompeo to pay Alexander Lukashenko a visit this weekend. He told the Belarusian leader that the United States could fulfill all of his country’s oil needs if he wants to become “independent” from Russia.

This shouldn’t be taken seriously. Besides the hypocrisy — how “independent” would Belarus be if it traded its dependence on Russia for a dependence on the United States? — it would be logistically and financially almost impossible for America to meet the complete oil needs of Russia’s closest ally.

Pompeo’s remarks do suggest America is willing to help Belarus from being absorbed by Russia. But how much can it really do? Read more “In Minsk, Pompeo Is All Talk”

No, Project Fear Wasn’t Wrong

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)

Brexit is due at midnight. Cue the inevitable glee from Brexiteers when the sky doesn’t fall. “Project Fear”, they will claim, was wrong all along.

No thanks to them. The very mandarins who warned against the consequences of leaving the EU have been working for the last three years to prevent their own predictions from coming true. Read more “No, Project Fear Wasn’t Wrong”

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)
  • Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy and Keir Starmer have won enough nominations from Labour Party affiliates to qualify for the third and final voting round in the contest to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.
  • Emily Thornberry is still short.
  • Jeff Phillips has withdrawn, saying she is not the candidate to unite Labour, and endorsed Nandy.
  • Len McCluskey, the Unite union boss who backs Long-Bailey, has responded to suggestions that centrist lawmakers might quit if the Corbyn loyalist prevails: “Good riddance.” Read more “Labour Leadership Election News”

Who Is Russia’s New Prime Minister?

Mikhail Mishustin
Mikhail Mishustin, then director of Russia’s Federal Tax Service, meets with President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, November 20, 2018 (Kremlin)

Mikhail Mishustin was largely unknown both in- and outside Russia until two weeks ago. The head of the Federal Tax Service since 2010, he was unexpectedly promoted to prime minister, replacing Vladimir Putin’s longtime deputy, Dmitri Medvedev.

Yet it was probably because, not in spite of, this political inexperience that Mishustin was chosen. Read more “Who Is Russia’s New Prime Minister?”

Catalan Ruling Parties Fall Out

Quim Torra
Quim Torra enters the parliament of Catalonia to be sworn in as the region’s president, May 14, 2018 (Miguel González de la Fuente)

Catalan president Quim Torra’s suspension as a parliamentarian has divided the Spanish region’s ruling separatist parties.

In a session of the regional parliament on Monday, Speaker Roger Torrent of the Republican Left warned Torra, who leads the center-right Together for Catalonia, that his vote would not be counted in accordance with a ruling by the Spanish electoral commission. The entire Together for Catalonia delegation then abstained from all parliamentary business in protest.

The electoral commission has ordered Torra to resign as lawmaker for violating regulations on political neutrality. The Catalan leader refused to remove a banner from the regional government palace in Barcelona during the last election that called for the release of nine separatists who are in prison for leading a failed independence push in 2017. Among them is Republican Left leader Oriol Junqueras.

Torra argued only the Catalan parliament could remove him. Its presidium has now sided with the electoral commission, although it believes Torra can continue to serve as president. Torra is appealing the electoral commission’s decision to the Supreme Court in Madrid. It is unlikely to rule in his favor. Read more “Catalan Ruling Parties Fall Out”