Cyprus Votes Against EU Trade Deal with Canada

Nicos Anastasiades Ursula von der Leyen
Presidents Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus and Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission meet in Brussels, February 20 (European Commission/Etienne Ansotte)

First tiny Wallonia threatened to derail the EU’s free-trade agreement with Canada. Now Cyprus, with a population of 1.2 million, is putting at risk a treaty that covers nearly 500 million consumers and 28 percent of the world’s economy.

Cypriot lawmakers voted 37 to eighteen against the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which eliminates nearly all tariffs between Canada and the EU and includes mutual recognition of professional qualifications and product standards.

It’s one of those product standards the Cypriots are unhappy about. They argue CETA should close the Canadian market to foreign ripoffs of their national cheese, halloumi. Read more “Cyprus Votes Against EU Trade Deal with Canada”

Coronavirus and Corruption: Protests Against Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, February 18, 2016 (Bundesregierung/Marvin Ibo Güngör)

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu saw the largest protests against him in nearly a decade on Saturday, when some 10,000 rallied outside his residence in Jerusalem and outside his private home in the coastal town of Caesarea.

The protesters are upset about Netanyahu’s handling of the outbreak of coronavirus in Israel and his remaining in power despite standing trial for corruption.

Similar demonstrations took place in Tel Aviv last month. Read more “Coronavirus and Corruption: Protests Against Netanyahu”

De Jonge Narrowly Wins Leadership of Dutch Christian Democrats

Hugo de Jonge
Dutch health minister Hugo de Jonge attends a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Brussels, June 20, 2019 (EPP)

Health Minister Hugo de Jonge has won an unexpectedly close election for the leadership of the Netherlands’ ruling Christian Democratic party.

De Jonge, a centrist who was backed by the party establishment, won 50.7 percent support against 49.3 for backbencher Pieter Omtzigt, a difference of 258 votes.

The Christian Democrats are the second-largest party in Mark Rutte’s government with nineteen out of 150 seats in parliament. Recent surveys give them 9 to 11 percent support, not enough to become the largest party but enough to play a role in the formation of the next government.

The Christian Democrats have been in all but three of the last fifteen Dutch governments. Read more “De Jonge Narrowly Wins Leadership of Dutch Christian Democrats”

Dutch Backbencher Mounts Strong Challenge to Presumptive Party Leader

Pieter Omtzigt
Dutch Christian Democratic lawmaker Pieter Omtzigt speaks in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, January 27, 2017 (Council of Europe/Cathérine Monfils)

Dutch health minister Hugo de Jonge faces unexpected competition from parliamentary backbencher Pieter Omtzigt in his bid for the leadership of the ruling Christian Democratic party.

Omtzigt won nearly 40 percent support from the party’s 40,000 members in a first voting round against 49 percent for De Jonge.

Monica Keijzer, the undersecretary for economic affairs and climate policy, and the only woman in the race, was eliminated after winning 11 percent.

A second voting round concludes on Wednesday. Read more “Dutch Backbencher Mounts Strong Challenge to Presumptive Party Leader”

Republicans Could Lose Presidency, Senate: Polls

United States Capitol
View of the United States Capitol in Washington DC in the early morning, January 15, 2017 (DoD/William Lockwood)

Republicans in the United States could suffer a crushing defeat in November.

FiveThirtyEight reports that Joe Biden’s lead over President Donald Trump has been unusually large and stable: 9-10 percent since mid-June.

Polls in the swing states Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — all of which Trump won in 2016 — also put Biden ahead.

Henry Olsen writes in The Washington Post that Republicans are at risk of losing their majority in the Senate. Polls put Democratic challengers ahead in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Montana and North Carolina. In Georgia, Democrat Jon Ossoff is neck and neck with Republican incumbent David Perdue. Republicans currently have 53 seats in the upper chamber against 47 for Democrats.

Republicans are unlikely to do better in the House of Representatives. Democrats have held an 11-point lead in generic polls this year so far, 3 points above their lead in 2018, when they took control of the lower chamber from Republicans.

National Republican defeats could reverberate at the state level. Republicans gained 680 state legislative seats in 2010. Democrats picked up 309 seats in 2018. Another Democratic landslide could hand them control of a number of key legislative chambers, writes Olsen — including Texas! Read more “Republicans Could Lose Presidency, Senate: Polls”

Dutch Caribbean Resist Terms of Coronavirus Aid

Silveria Jacobs Eugene Rhuggenaath
Prime Ministers Silveria Jacobs of Sint Maarten and Eugene Rhuggenaath of Curaçao answer questions from reporters in The Hague, July 10 (ANP)

The prime ministers of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten have turned down conditions to qualify for as much as €1 billion in coronavirus aid from the European Netherlands. A cabinet meeting in The Hague on Friday, which the leaders of the three islands attended, failed to produce a compromise.

The Dutch have proposed appointing a three-person panel to oversee reforms to which the aid is tied. The Caribbean islands consider this an infringement of their autonomy.

Eugene Rhuggenaath, the prime minister of Curaçao, went so far as to accuse The Hague of having “an agenda for the takeover and control” of the islands, echoing the rhetoric of pro-independence parties that supported violent protests against spending cuts two weeks ago, which prompted the Dutch to deploy troops to support the local police. Read more “Dutch Caribbean Resist Terms of Coronavirus Aid”

Dutch Deploy Troops After Riots on Curaçao

Dutch frigate Van Amstel
The Dutch frigate HNLMS Van Amstel sails under the Queen Juliana Bridge in Willemstad, Curaçao (Ministerie van Defensie)

The Netherlands is deploying troops on Curaçao, one of the kingdom’s islands in the Caribbean, following several days of rioting and unrest.

The decision was taken with local police, who announced that, as a result of the deployment, a two-day curfew could be lifted on Friday. Read more “Dutch Deploy Troops After Riots on Curaçao”

Dutch Parties Try to Emerge from Rutte’s Shadow

Mark Rutte
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte answers questions in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 5, 2016 (European Parliament)

Parliamentary elections aren’t due in the Netherlands until March 2021, but now that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic appears to be behind the country, parties are starting to jockey for advantage.

Inside the ruling coalition, the three smaller parties are struggling to emerge from Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s shadow, whose liberal VVD is up from 33 to a projected 42-46 out of 150 seats. Rutte is drawing support from both the center-right and the far right.

Left-wing parties can barely get one in three voters between them. The far right has yet to top 20 percent support. The more interesting developments are in the center, where two parties could nominate female candidates for prime minister. Read more “Dutch Parties Try to Emerge from Rutte’s Shadow”

Support for Quarantine Weakens in Spain

Pedro Sánchez
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez addresses Congress in Madrid, July 17, 2018 (La Moncloa)

Support for maintaining the coronavirus quarantine is weakening in Spain. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has partly lifted a two-month lockdown, allowing small stores to reopen and restaurants to serve takeaway, but the opposition is calling for a quicker return to normalcy.

Deaths from coronavirus disease have stabilized at under 200 per day. The infection rate is also slowing.

But Spain still has more known cases of COVID-19 than any country except the United States.

The government fears that without strict controls, the virus could rebound in the next six to eight weeks. Read more “Support for Quarantine Weakens in Spain”