“Strategic Autonomy” Divides Europe’s Top Liberals

Angela Merkel Ursula von der Leyen Emmanuel Macron Mark Rutte
German chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and French president Emmanuel Macron watch Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte walk into a European Council meeting in Brussels, July 18 (European Council)

Emmanuel Macron and Mark Rutte belong to the same European liberal family, but they take different views on the future of the liberal world order.

The French president believes Europe should become less reliant on the United States and foreign trade. He argues for “strategic autonomy” in everything from the digital economy to defense to environmental policy.

The Dutch prime minister has doubts, rooted in decades of Dutch Atlanticism and centuries of international trade.

Both have allies.

Macron has the support of German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, a former German defense minister.

Rutte is backed by smaller countries in Central and Northern Europe as well others in the European Commission. The Financial Times reports that plenty suspect “strategic autonomy” is a fancy way to dress up French protectionism; are wary of formally endorsing the principle if it means undermining NATO and open trade; and are skeptical of the push for reshoring of industry and supply chains.

They have reason to be. Read more ““Strategic Autonomy” Divides Europe’s Top Liberals”

How to Restore American Democracy After Trump

United States Capitol
The United States Capitol in Washington DC (Shutterstock/Brandon Bourdages)

Donald Trump’s presidency has exposed and exacerbated fundamental weaknesses in American democracy. He must be voted out in November, but that won’t be enough.

If Democrats gain power, they must make five reforms to restore fairness, restore balance between the three branches of government and reverse the polarization that has made it impossible for the two parties to compromise on everything from climate change to gun laws to health care to immigration:

  1. Abolish the Electoral College.
  2. Add states.
  3. Put Congress first.
  4. Make it easier to remove the president.
  5. Abolish the two parties. Read more “How to Restore American Democracy After Trump”

Spain’s Judicialization of Catalan Separatism Has Failed

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)

Successive Spanish governments have treated Catalan separatism as a legal, rather than a political, problem. This has done nothing to weaken support for independence. It has radicalized Catalans.

The dismissal of Catalan president Quim Torra is the latest episode in a decade-long legal drama. Spain’s Supreme Court removed him from office on Monday for hanging a “partisan” banner from the balcony of his government’s medieval palace in the center of Barcelona during the 2019 election.

The banner didn’t express support for a political party, but rather called for the release of the nine separatists who were imprisoned for leading a failed breakaway from Spain in 2017.

Torra’s removal triggers early elections, which polls predict the separatists will win.

He is the second Catalan president in three years to be unseated by the Spanish judiciary. His predecessor, Carles Puigdemont, was ousted after leading the 2017 independence bid. He fled to Belgium to escape prosecution. Read more “Spain’s Judicialization of Catalan Separatism Has Failed”

How Trump Will Try to Steal the Election

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump enters a limousine at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, September 17 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

America could be heading into its worst political crisis since the Civil War.

If, as the polls predict, Joe Biden wins more votes in November but Donald Trump refuses to leave, there is no template for how to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power.

Asked on Wednesday if he would commit to one, the president said, “We’re going to have to see what happens.”

You know that I have been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster. … Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer frankly. There’ll be a continuation.

He also explained why he’s in a rush to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court:

I think this will end up in the Supreme Court. And I think it’s very important that we have nine justices.

Ginsburg, a liberal justice appointed by Bill Clinton, died a week ago. The Court now has five conservative and three liberal members.

In 2016, Trump told supporters he would only accept the outcome if he won.

When he did win, Trump claimed — without evidence — that three million people had voted illegally for Hillary Clinton, the very margin by which she won the popular vote. Trump prevailed in the Electoral College.

If Trump loses this year and refuses to concede, that alone could throw the period between the election on November 3 and the inauguration on January 20 into chaos.

But there’s more Trump and his party could do to stay in power. Read more “How Trump Will Try to Steal the Election”

How Germany Turned Its Refugee Crisis into Success

Muslim family
A Muslim family walks in a park in Germany, February 10, 2014 (Metropolico)

Migration is back on the European agenda after a fire in the Mória refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos left some 13,000 without shelter.

EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson has called for “mandatory solidarity” from member states, but not all countries are willing to accept asylum seekers. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia resist proposals to distribute migrants proportionately across the EU.

With xenophobia hampering an effective migration policy, it’s worth taking a look at the country that has admitted the most refugees: Germany. Its “we will manage” attitude could be an example to its neighbors. Read more “How Germany Turned Its Refugee Crisis into Success”

Italian Regional Elections: Results and Takeaways

Palazzo Balbi Venice Italy
View of the Palazzo Balbi, the residence of the regional president of Veneto, in Venice, Italy, April 1, 2013 (Wikimedia Commons/Wolfgang Moroder)

Italians elected new regional councils and governors in the Aosta Valley, Apulia, Campania, Liguria, Marche, Tuscany and Veneto on Sunday and Monday.

They also voted in a referendum to reduce the number of lawmakers in the Chamber of Deputies from 630 to 400 and in the Senate from 315 to 200.

The right has gained control of one more region — Marche — but the center-left Democrats held their own in the regions they governed.

The populist Five Star Movement, which shares power with the Democrats nationally, underperformed everywhere. Read more “Italian Regional Elections: Results and Takeaways”

Stakes in Supreme Court Nominations Are Too High

United States Supreme Court
Mourners gather outside the United States Supreme Court in Washington DC after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, September 19 (Ted Eytan)

The death of one Supreme Court justice shouldn’t plunge the whole country into crisis. The fact that Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s has is more proof that America’s top court is too powerful.

In no other democracy does the highest court feature so prominently in the public imagination.

Here in Catalonia, Spain’s Supreme Court is controversial for consistently ruling against Catalan interests, but I doubt many Catalans know the names of individual Supreme Court justices. Certainly the average Dutch person or Italian doesn’t.

Even in Poland, where the ruling far-right party has created a parallel legal system to sideline a Supreme Court it considers to be dominated by liberals, the fate of individual justices doesn’t provoke such strong emotions as in the United States.

American justices have been aware of the danger. Antonin Scalia, a conservative, cautioned a year before his death in 2016 that America could find itself governed by a “black-robed supremacy” unless its rediscovered its tradition of “self-rule”. Read more “Stakes in Supreme Court Nominations Are Too High”

Everything You Need to Know About the Italian Elections

Arcevia Italy
View from Arcevia, a town in the central Italian region of Marche, December 24, 2013 (Giorgio Rodano)

Seven of Italy’s twenty regions hold elections on Sunday and Monday. Four are currently governed by the center-left, two by the right. Polls suggest that balance could flip.

The seventh, the Aosta Valley, is governed by local parties representing its French-speaking minority.

Italians will also elect over 1,100 mayors, two senators and decide in a referendum whether or not to cut the number of lawmakers.

Here is everything you need to know.

Italian law forbids the publication of polls in the two weeks prior to the vote, so all the numbers cited here are at least two weeks old. Read more “Everything You Need to Know About the Italian Elections”

Trump Deserves Praise for Ending the Palestinian Veto

Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani Benjamin Netanyahu Donald Trump
Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, join Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and American president Donald Trump at the White House in Washington DC, September 15 (White House/Tia Dufour)

I haven’t been Donald Trump’s greatest fan, but for once he deserves praise: for facilitating the normalization of ties between Israel and two of its Arab neighbors.

In a treaty signed at the White House on Tuesday, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates entered into diplomatic relations with the Jewish state for the first time.

Only Egypt and Jordan had so far. Other Arab states do not accept Israeli passports and do not exchange embassies with Tel Aviv.

We don’t know how involved Trump was in the negotiations, and the agreements fall short of what he calls a “peace deal”. The countries weren’t at war.

But it’s a significant step and a welcome departure from previous presidents, who allowed the Palestinians a veto over Arab-Israeli relations. Read more “Trump Deserves Praise for Ending the Palestinian Veto”

Conservatives Should Look to Bavaria

Colomanskirche Schwangau Germany
Colomanskirche in Bavaria, Germany, May 26, 2019 (Zsolt Czillinger)

Caroline de Gruyter writes in EUobserver that Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU) — which allies with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union nationally — has moved back to the center after it tried, and failed, to outflank the far right.

Conservatives in France, Spain and the United States should take note. Read more “Conservatives Should Look to Bavaria”