POLITICS & POLICY

The European leftist parties have been under the spotlight in the past few days. On Sunday, the French Socialist party held the first round of its primaries, to select its candidate for the April presidential election. Benoît Hamon won the first round with 36.35% of the popular vote, ahead of preceding former Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who obtained 31.11% of votes. The second round will take place this Sunday. Approximately 1.6 million citizens went to the polls for this first round of primaries. Hamon, the most radical of the two second round contestants, compared the results to the popular enthusiasm that brought Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn to win the Labour leadership twice.

In Spain, Podemos is undergoing a period of internal reflection on its future ambitions and political orientation. Party leader Pablo Iglesias has been challenged by his colleague and Political Secretary of Podemos, Innigo Errejon. While Iglesias pushes for the establishment of alliances with other leftist movements and parties, such as Izquierda Unida, Errejon aims at a wider cross-party consensus. On February 10 and 11 the party base is expected to hold election for the leadership.

On Sunday, the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) is expected to announce its candidate for the September general elections. Meanwhile, the President of the European Left and leader of the German radical party Die Linke, Gregor Gysi, called for Angela Merkel to reunite the conservative front as a way to reduce the chances of populist right-wing party Alternative for Germany (AFD) to gain further electoral ground.

In other news, the liberal and conservative fronts are making the headlines in France, Germany and the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte is trying to recalibrate his political message in attempt to win over voters from right-wing parties. Over the weekend, the leader of the Liberal Party (VVD) published a newspaper message calling for foreigners who do not respect Dutch customs and values to “leave the country”. The VVD is currently lagging behind the right-wing xenophobic PVV party, led by Geert Wilders. The country’s general elections will be held on March 15.

On Monday, the French republicans’ candidate for the presidential election, Francois Fillon, visited German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. Fillon said that he wanted to share thoughts on the future of the continent: “Without a strong unity between our countries, there cannot be Europe”, he claimed. In that context, Fillon also relaunched talks on a European Defence Union. Later in that day, Fillon visited the German Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble, and held a speech on Europe at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

The refugee crisis continues to be high on Europe’s news agendas. In Germany, Chancellor Merkel spoke about the Government’s take on the migrant crisis, on the occasion of a conference in Würzburg, Bavaria. Merkel defended her open border policy for Syrian refugees but claimed that the country stands in front of a major civil and political challenge. Germany, she said, has to stay true to the rule of law and grant asylum opportunities to refugees. At the same time, Merkel claimed that “integration” is a matter of cooperation between locals and newcomers.

Meanwhile, a new report from the United Nations shed light on the poor living conditions of refugee children in Belgrade, Serbia, right at the border of the European Union. The NGO Save the Children also claimed that it has records of at least 1,600 illegal push-backs enacted by Hungarian and Croatian authorities.

Last but not least, Brexit continues to be the main concern for British politicians and institutions. This morning, Britain’s Supreme Court ruled that the UK Parliament has the legal authority to vote on the activation of Article 50. Meanwhile, a new warning about the consequences of a “hard Brexit” has come from the UK’s technology industry: TechUK claimed that access to European skills and markets could be cut off in a hard Brexit scenario, leading to a slowdown of economic growth.


THE STATEMENT

“There should be a minimum salary in each country of the European Union […] There is a level of dignity we have to respect”

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission

Source: EurActiv, 24.01.2016


NUMBERS

10%

The number of EU citizens at risk of “in-work poverty”
Source: La Repubblica, 23.01.2017


Photo Credits CC Parti socialiste


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