POLITICS & POLICY
Yesterday the newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron visited the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in Berlin, with the aim of starting preliminary talks on the definition of a roadmap for the reform of the European Union. The Italian daily La Repubblica reports that, at this point, both governments do not rule out major EU treaty changes in order to solve the Union’s long lasting governance problems. Nevertheless, over the past week, many German politicians and economists expressed critical views on Macron’s reform plans. Markus Söber, a leading MP of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) criticized the French President, remarking that Germany “will not pay for the debts of any other country in the EU”.
Macron’s election impacted on eastern Europe as well. During the French electoral campaign, the leader of En Marche! rounded on those countries of the EU that use “social dumping” to foster their competitiveness. Macron also evoked, more than once, the prospects of a multi-speed EU. Referring to the latter scenario, Poland’s deputy Foreign Minister, Konrad Szymanski said that “long lasting division among EU member states would put in danger the very essence of the European Single Market”. Likewise, Polish finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki warned that it is unfair to blast Poland for its capacity to attract foreign investments on the one hand, and welcome the country as an export market for bigger economies, on the other one.
Right before leaving for Berlin, Emmanuel Macron appointed Édouard Philippe as Prime Minister. Philippe, who is mayor of Le Havre and an MP for the conservative Republican party, had often expressed scepticism about Macron’s electoral pledges during the electoral campaign. Nevertheless, he took up the responsibility of building a wide Parliamentary majority aimed at backing the President’s reform plans.
On Sunday, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, won the regional elections in Nordrhein-Westfalen at the expenses of the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD). The SPD’s electoral loss triggered the resignation of the regional party leader, Hannelore Kraft. This defeat is the third in a row for Martin Schulz’s party, after similar results in Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein earlier this year. Nevertheless, the victory in Nordrhein-Westfalen is particularly important for the CDU as the region is considered a traditional electoral base of the Social Democratic party. Speaking right after the release of the results, Schulz said: “It is a difficult day, also for me personally”. He added that the party looks forward to the General election campaign of next September to reverse the trend of the past few months. According to most political commentators, the loss in Nordrhein-Westfalen dramatically reduces the chances of a Social Democratic victory in Autumn.
Meanwhile, in Austria, the 30-year-old leader of the Conservative party (ÖVP), Sebastian Kurz announced his intention to break the governing alliance with the Social Democratic Party. As a consequence, it is likely that snap elections will take place in the country in the second half of 2017. Kurz currently participates in the Cabinet as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and was elected party leader of the ÖVP on May 14. Recent opinion polls place the young Conservative leader head to head with the incumbent Social Democratic Prime Minister, Christian Kern.
On Monday, three leading MPs of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE)–Susana Díaz, Pedro Sánchez and Patxi López–faced each other in a public debate as part of the upcoming primary elections of the party. According to polls, Diaz (the current President of Andalusia) and former Secretary Pedro Sanchez are head to head in the final race, with the former supporting a more centrist agenda. The primaries will culminate a period of internal crisis and political fighting among party notables. One of the bones of contentions is represented by the positioning of the PSOE vis-à-vis new left-wing parties, most notably Podemos.
Finally, Brexit continues to make the headlines in the UK. On Saturday, British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson stated that his country might walk away from Brexit negotiations at any time without paying the so-called “divorce bill”. Meanwhile, EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier visited the Republic of Ireland, where e restated that the interests of the EU coincide with those of the Irish population.
“[Germany’s government] should use its exceeding financial resources to foster the country’s growth potential, by means of investments in infrastructures, the digitalisation of the economy, social-care services for children, the integration of refugees, and decreasing of the tax burden on labour”.
International Monetary Fund
Source: Die Welt, 15.05.2017
The decrease in the GDP of Greece in the first trimester of 2017, compared to the previous year.
Source: Le Monde, 15.05.2017
Photo Credits CC Martin Schulz
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