POLITICS & POLICY
On Monday, the German electoral campaign entered its final week. As the polls show no substantial change in the attitude of the German public opinion, incumbent chancellor Angela Merkel seems set to obtain her fourth mandate at the helm of the Federal Republic.
Nevertheless, over the weekend a slight drop in support for the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) cast some doubts over the exact composition of the next coalition Government, as the CDU will most likely not be able to obtain an absolute majority in the Bundestag. Moreover, even an alliance between the CDU and the Liberal party (FDP) – one of the most likely scenarios according to political analysts – could fall short of a majority. At that point, the most likely outcome would be a so called “Jamaican” coalition (so called because of the colours of the parties composing the alliance), composed of the CDU, the FDP and the Greens. Yet, the rank and file of the latter party showed strong signs of resistance, and rebuked the chance to support a new Government led by Angela Merkel.
On the other hand, former General Secretary of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and current Foreign Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that the only solution to a political stalemate would be a coalition between the SPD, the Greens and the Liberal party. However, the FDP is running on a platform at odds with the social policies endorsed by the SPD.
All parties so far have ruled out any negotiation talks with the far-right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD). But the populist party could become the third force in Parliament, according to recent polls. Katja Kipping, a leader of the leftist Die Linke called for all those who want to prevent a far-right party from leading the Parliamentary opposition to support her party.
As October 1 is approaching the political atmosphere in Catalonia is heating up. On Monday Pablo Iglesias, the leader of the leftist force Podemos, moved out of a political limbo that saw him on the fence, unable to decide whether to defend the Catalan referendum vote. Iglesias called for all political parties but the ruling Popular Party and the centrist party Ciudadanos to establish a temporary assembly aimed at writing down a new referendum bill. The assembly should be composed of representatives of local municipalities, and members of the European, national and regional parliaments. It’s the first time that the leftist leader explicitly endorses an independence vote.
Over the weekend even the leader of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), Pedro Sanchez, called for political forces to enter a phase of constructive dialogue, but ruled out any possibility of holding an independence referendum. However, the Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, assured that institutions in Brussels fully back the Spanish Constitutional order. On Wednesday, former Minister, Javier Solana, said it would be useless to expect EU institutions to intervene or mediate between Madrid and Barcelona.
Meanwhile, the national government officially registered a law that technically invalidates the Catalan referendum. On Wednesday, the President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, asked Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to explain why he is fostering a “state of exception” in the region. Besides, some 200 scholars from Spanish universities signed a manifesto against the independence referendum.
Over the weekend, EU Finance Ministers gathered in Tallinn, Lithuania, to discuss new reform proposals for the EU. According to media reports, the Ecofin Council rebuffed bold suggestions outlined by the EC President last week, on the occasion of his annual State of the European Union Speech. Among many pledges, Juncker called for an early enlargement of the Eurozone to some Eastern countries.
In the aftermath of his speech, Juncker received more than one criticism from political leaders across Europe. The French Economy Minister, Bruno Le Maire, said that the priority for the Eurozone should be strengthening its current outlook before thinking of any enlargement. Similar comments came in from Germany. Besides, over the past few days, Le Maire visited Angela Merkel in Berlin to discuss the reform processes undertaken by the French Government at home.
Yet, Finance Ministers are understood to have discussed the possibility of establishing a common taxation scheme to fight the tax avoidance strategies of US tech-industry giants, such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon. Although sharing a common objective, the Ministers could not settle on a final agreement. Any decision on fiscal issues requires a unanimity vote in the Council.
In other news, Brexit is making the headlines in the UK. On Friday 22 UK Prime Minister Theresa May is set to speak in front of an international audience in Florence, Italy. It is understood that May will hold a highly evocative speech in one of Europe’s cultural capitals to outline Downing Street’s next moves in the negotiations with the EU.
The President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, said that it is up to the UK to make concrete proposals to move beyond the current deadlock in negotiations between the EU and London. Moreover, Tajani said that May should admit how much the UK needs Europe on the occasion of her speech in Florence this week.
Meanwhile, UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson is eyeing the leadership of the Conservative party. Over the weekend, Johnson attacked his Prime Minister arguing that he would be ready to defend a hard Brexit option in the event of a softening over the issue by the current Tory Government. Johnson outlined his vision in a long op-ed for the right-wing newspaper The Telegraph. Yet, May rebuffed Johnson’s claims from Canada, on the occasion of a State visit to North American state.
The refugee crisis continues to be one of the main concerns of politicians and institutions across Europe. The Interior Ministry of Germany released fresh figures showing how asylum seekers are appealing in masses against the rejection of their first asylum requests by German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.
Meanwhile, Ekathimerini reports that the number of refugees that reach the Greek islands is on the rise again. The rise in arrivals is likely to be a consequence of recent policy measures enacted by the Italian Government to prevent smugglers from bringing new migrants to the country. Some also point fingers at Ankara, as the new influx might signal an attempt by the Turkish government to pressure the European Union to move on with accession talks.
“In our day and age, industrial policy is about empowering our industries to continue delivering sustainable growth and jobs for our regions and citizens”.
Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)
Source: EurActiv, 18.09.2017
The expected French public deficit in 2017, according to new official statistics.
Source: Le Monde, 19.09.2017
The numbers of jobs in the financial sector that could be affected by Brexit.
Source: Reuters, 28.09.2017
Photo Credits CC: m.p.3.
Also published on Medium.