The Next Dutch Government, Explained

Mark Rutte
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte arrives at NATO headquarters in Brussels, June 14 (NATO)

Nine months after parliamentary elections, parties in the Netherlands are finally ready to form a government.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD (of which I am a member) has completed negotiations with the left-liberal D66, the Christian democratic CDA and the Christian Union (CU). The same four parties formed his last government.

At 271 days, this was the longest government formation in postwar Dutch history.

Why did it take so long? And what’s next? I’ll explain. Read more “The Next Dutch Government, Explained”

How to Keep an Empire for a Thousand Years

The Holy Roman Empire: A Thousand Years of Europe's History

Keeping a thousand years of European history readable is no small feat, but Peter H. Wilson manages it.

The Holy Roman Empire touches on everything from high politics to peasant life. Wilson’s central insight: the empire’s perceived weaknesses were its strengths.

The Holy Roman Empire changed composition through the centuries. Its internal organization was in a constant state of flux. Emperors had to negotiate to come to power and compromise to stay in power. Autonomy given to one city or prince did not necessarily apply to another. For a long time, such agreements were not even written down. The empire refused to lay down one law, one language, one religion. It ended up a patchwork of overlapping competencies and jurisdictions that kept bureaucrats, lawyers and politicians busy for centuries. Read more “How to Keep an Empire for a Thousand Years”

Don’t Fall for Putin’s Propaganda About Ukraine

Vladimir Putin
Russian president Vladimir Putin listens during a meeting in Voronezh, August 5, 2014 (Kremlin)

With Russia possibly on the verge of escalating the Donbas War, it’s worth repudiating Vladimir Putin’s justifications for invading Ukraine.

This summer, Putin explained at length why he believes Russia and Ukraine are inseparable. His is a selective version of history that is illuminating insofar as it reveals Russian attitudes toward Belarusians, Ukrainians and other Slavic peoples in Eastern Europe; it’s not an excuse for denying Ukrainians their right to self-determination. Read more “Don’t Fall for Putin’s Propaganda About Ukraine”

Spain Tries to Attract More Expats

Barcelona Spain
Skyline of Barcelona, Spain (Unsplash/Anastasiia Tarasova)

Maybe I left Spain too soon. The country is trying to lure (back) expats by cutting red tape and taxes.

Early in the pandemic, expats and tourists stayed away when Spain imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe. For weeks, we weren’t allowed to leave our homes except to do groceries and walk the dog.

But as restrictions were relaxed, and teleworking became the norm Europe-wide, sunny Spain suddenly looked more attractive to knowledge workers in Northern Europe. Tens of thousands made the trek south.

Pedro Sánchez wants them to stay. Read more “Spain Tries to Attract More Expats”

Two Visions of France

Paris France
Skyline of Paris, France, May 27, 2020 (Unsplash/Nicolas Jehly)

Two videos, two visions of France.

The first kicks off Éric Zemmour’s presidential campaign. (Version with English subtitles here.) It’s a France where gangs of dark-skinned men rob elderly women and liberal elites call true patriots racists and xenophobes.

The second comes from the Elysée Palace and celebrates the “pantheonization” of American-born singer and French Resistance fighter Josephine Baker. It appeals to the best of France: brave, cultured, multiethnic, republican. It’s a vision Emmanuel Macron will want to make his own. Read more “Two Visions of France”

French Republicans Do Macron A Favor

Emmanuel Macron Angela Merkel
French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel enter the Elysée Palace in Paris, November 12, 2019 (Elysée)

French Republicans have thrown away their two best chances of denying Emmanuel Macron a second term.

Party members eliminated Michel Barnier and Xavier Bertrand from the center-right’s presidential primary on Thursday, giving the men 24 and 22 percent support, respectively.

The more right-wing Éric Ciotti and Valérie Pécresse qualified for the runoff on Saturday with 25 percent support each.

Neither polls well against the president. Read more “French Republicans Do Macron A Favor”

France’s Republican Presidential Primary, Explained

Sebastian Kurz Laurent Wauquiez Michel Barnier
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz meets with French Republican party leaders Laurent Wauquiez and Michel Barnier in Salzburg, September 19, 2018 (EPP)

French Republicans choose their presidential candidate this week, who will challenge Emmanuel Macron in the spring.

Like all French elections, the primary is held in two rounds. Five candidates have qualified.

Here’s what you need to know. Read more “France’s Republican Presidential Primary, Explained”

What’s in Germany’s “Traffic Light” Coalition Agreement

Olaf Scholz
German finance minister Olaf Scholz attends a debate in parliament in Berlin, July 8, 2018 (Bundestag/Inga Kjer)

Germany’s Social Democrats, Greens and liberal Free Democrats are ready to govern. Two months after the federal election almost to the day, they unveiled a 177-page coalition agreement that lays out their program for the next four years.

Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Olaf Scholz, who would succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor, described the deal as the “biggest industrial modernization of Germany in more than 100 years.” It calls for major investments in decarbonization and digitalization.

Free Democratic Party (FDP) leader Christian Lindner would succeed Scholz at the Finance Ministry, despite his party being the smallest in the “traffic light” coalition (named after the parties’ colors).

The Greens get climate and foreign policy, and the right to nominate Germany’s next EU commissioner. (Unless the conservative Ursula von der Leyen is reelected as commission president.)

Here are the highlights. Read more “What’s in Germany’s “Traffic Light” Coalition Agreement”

Commission Sides with Rutte over Macron on Industrial Policy

Emmanuel Macron Mark Rutte
French president Emmanuel Macron speaks with Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte during a European Council summit in Brussels, June 24, 2018 (Elysée/Philippe Servent)

The European Commission has sided with the Netherlands and smaller nations against a Franco-German proposal for industrial policy.

The decision is a victory for Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, who has formed a loose alliance of likeminded Central and Northern European member states to prevent a lurch to protectionism in a Europe without the UK. Read more “Commission Sides with Rutte over Macron on Industrial Policy”

Biden Did Not End Trump’s Trade War with Europe

Kamala Harris Joe Biden
Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden of the United States deliver a news conference outside the White House in Washington DC, May 13 (White House/Adam Schultz)

During last year’s presidential election, Joe Biden promised to end America’s “artificial trade war” with Europe. His predecessor, Donald Trump, had imposed $7.5 billion worth of tariffs on European aluminum and steel.

Biden has relaxed the tariffs, but not abolished them. The EU has completely pulled down its retaliatory tariffs on bourbon whisky and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

If anyone deserves credit for ending the trade war, it’s the EU. Read more “Biden Did Not End Trump’s Trade War with Europe”