POLITICS & POLICY
In Catalonia the political atmosphere is heating up as the date set for the independence referendum approaches. Over the past week new tensions heightened between political parties. The Socialist Party (PSOE) opened a row with the radical Podemos party. The latter has been accused of fostering independence movements across the region. Likewise, the leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, rounded on the Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, and claimed that the institutional crisis will not cease unless the Popular Party leaves the Moncloa.
Meanwhile, national authorities took control of regional police offices in Catalunya. Madrid is poised to do all it can to halt the vote on October 1. Public institutions, such as schools, are being monitored. Yet, according to media reports, Sunday is set to become a day of upheaval in the region. Movements and associations linked to independence movement talk overtly about a “State repression”.
The Major of Barcelona, Ada Colau, who more than once backed the referendum over the past few weeks, called for the European Commission to mediate between Madrid and the regional Government led by Carles Puigdemont.
As of now, it is unclear whether the vote will take place and what kind of repercussions the referendum could have on the Spanish political landscape. Some weeks ago, national judicial authorities banned the vote as illegal.
In Germany, coalition talks kicked-off this week between the ruling Christian and Democratic Union party (CDU), the Liberal party (FDP) and the Greens. In numerical terms, the so called “Jamaican coalition” is the only alternative to a Grand coalition between the CDU and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). But on the election night the leader of the SPD, Martin Schulz, said that a centre-left centre-right alliance is off the table.
On Wednesday, German and international media revealed that former Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, agreed to leave his office and become President of Bundestag. The move is understood to ease off talks between the CDU and the FDP as the latter party overtly claimed the Financial Office during the electoral campaign.
Schäuble’s departure is expected to have repercussions also on the ongoing talks within the Eurogroup over the third Greek bailout process. Christian Lindner, the leader of the FDP, is a staunch critic of interstate solidarity at the EU level.
Meanwhile, Frauke Petry, the former leader of the right-wing populist party, Alternative for Germany, left the party. Petry accused the new leadership of planning an “anarchic political strategy” aimed at destabilising the country. The move came as a bolt out of the blue. Petry, who is one out of three AFD candidates who have been elected directly by German voters, recalled that the original goal of the party was to create a concrete right-wing alternative to the ruling CDU.
Petry is now understood to work for the establishment of a new party. Yet, on Wednesday, she said that Germany needs the Bavarian Christian and Social Union (CSU) – a historical regional ally of Merkel’s CDU – to step up to the federal level and conduct its own national political strategy. Petry’s words sparked speculations about her entering the CSU.
In the UK, the Labour party held its annual conference in the coastal city of Brighton. Party leader Jeremy Corbyn took the stage on Wednesday delivering a long awaited political speech. Corbyn rounded on Theresa May and claimed that the Labour party is ready to take up the Government.
Besides touching upon social policies – Corbyn overtly pledged for large scale nationalisations across the country -, the speech dealt as well with Brexit. The opposition leader said that EU citizens will be most welcome in the UK under a future Labour Government. More specifically, Corbyn said that it is wrong to blame migrants for the falling living conditions of British citizens across the country. Over the past week, many other party members said that the party points at keeping the UK, at least, within the EU Custom Union.
Leftist media prized Corbyn intervention, depicting it as a historical shift for the Labour party. On the other hand, centrist outlets dismissed many of Corbyn’s pledges as unrealistic.
On Thursday, the Prime Minister, Theresa May answered indirectly to Corbyn’s , delivering a key speech at the Bank of England. May shifted away from her earlier “communitarian” positions outlined at a party conference in 2016, and declared the Conservative support of free markets and opposition to protectionism.
May underlined that an increase of taxation and Government borrowing – which are key ingredients of Labour’s manifesto – would only damage the creation of jobs across the country. Moreover, May praised the financial sector of the UK as one of the most distinctive trademarks of Great Britain across the world.
Meanwhile, Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council visited Theresa May at the beginning of this week. Although holding “cautiously optimistic” feelings, Tusk said that progress on key points in the negotiation are “insufficient, yet”.
“We have to be brutally honest – people who have no right to stay in the EU must be returned”.
Source: EurActiv, 27.09.2017
The number of EU national health workers who have quit the NHS since the Brexit vote.
Source: The Guardian, 21.09.2017
Photo Credits CC: Toshiko Sakurai
Also published on Medium.