POLITICS & POLICY
The French and German leftist parties have been under the spotlight lately, as both the French Socialist party (PS) and the German Social Democratic party (SPD) announced their candidates in the two countries’ respective General elections, to be held later this year.
On Sunday, on the occasion of his official nomination as SPD candidate, Martin Schulz, the former President of the European Parliament, held a speech outlining his vision for Germany and Europe. Schulz argued that “European politics” is “German internal politics” and, vice versa, that German internal developments influence the European Union. Schulz blasted US president Donald Trump for his conservative and protectionist policies, as well as those European parties pushing for a comeback of national sovereignty in the EU. According to recent polls, Martin Schulz’s nomination boosted the support for the SPD by 5%. However, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of Chancellor Angela Merkel still leads the polls with 32.5% of preferences.
In France, Benoit Hamon won the primary elections of the PS. Hamon represents the most radical wing of the Socialists. After the election results, many political analyst foresaw a split up of the PS, as many moderate MPs might be tempted to join the former Minister of the Economy Emmanuel Macron, who launched his own centrist political project, En Marche, earlier this year. Indeed, although Hamon won by a landslide in almost all French regions he barely represents 30% of the party’s members.
In other news, Brexit continues to make the headlines across Europe and in the UK. Last week the Supreme Court of the UK ruled that the Parliament has the legal authority to vote on Article 50. The Court’s decision triggered harsh discussions both within the Labour and the Conservative party.
On Friday, shadow Welsh secretary Jo Steven resigned from her position as she said that voting in favour of Article 50 would be a mistake. Earlier last week Jeremy Corbyn said that Labour would back Article 50. On Saturday, some 2,000 grassroots members belonging to the Labour Against Brexit group circulated an open letter addressing Jeremy Corbyn and calling for their leader to block Brexit. However, on Sunday, talking on television, Corbyn said that he would be prepared to sack shadow cabinet ministers who should vote against Article 50.
After an initial revolt within the Conservative party, rebel MPs opposed to the hard Brexit line of Prime Minister Theresa May decided to back Article 50 in the House of Commons, in light of May’s promise to publish a White Paper on the matter. Meanwhile, on Sunday, Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the UK government is not properly taking into consideration the views of devolved administrations. She rounded on Theresa May claiming that “time is running out”. This week, the Scottish Government is expected to publish a Green Paper examining the possibility for Scotland to remain in the European Single Market.
On Monday, the think tank Centre for Cities released a new study analysing trade relations between UK cities and Europe. According to the analysis, British cities would dramatically need to increase exports to the rest of the world, in a scenario of dropping EU-related trade. According to the study, almost half of the exports of British cities now goes to the European Union. Meanwhile, in Brussels, some MEPs drafted a paper dealing with the UK’s involvement in EU-wide environmental regulations. The aim of the document is to make sure that the UK will not to damage the European environment after leaving the Union by relaxing regulations for businesses. According to some leaks, the European Parliament would be ready to vote down any Brexit deal should this red line be crossed.
The sustainability of the Greek debt continues to be one of the main concerns of European and international institutions. On Monday, the International Monetary Fund said that Greece’s debt could become explosive by 2030. According to some leaked documents from Washington reported by The Guardian, “Greece requires substantial debt relief from its European partners to restore debt sustainability”. According to many analysts, the country needs to find an agreement with international creditors over a next round of reforms by February 20 in order to hinder a new Grexit scenario.
“The idea is to try to make this the biggest march the capital, or country, has ever seen”
Peter French (Member of Unite for Europe – referring to a mass protest planned for late March in London)
Source: The Guardian, 30.01.2017
The growth rate of the Spanish economy in 2016
Source: El Pais, 30.01.2017
Photo Credits CC European Parliament
Also published on Medium.