[Discussion] European Political Landscape

There are three elections occurring over the coming year that are of huge importance. They are:

Italian Constitutional Referendum - 04/12/16
French Presidential Election - 1st Round 23/04/17, 2nd Round 07/05/17
German Federal Election - 22/10/17

This thread is to discuss the political realities, results and fallout around these elections. The scope is broad but try to keep the post relevant to the elections referenced above.

Edit - Updated thread title

Prederick wrote:

How the killing of an abusive father by his daughters fuelled Russia's culture wars

Hundreds of social media accounts representing conservative movements are promoting an apocalyptic narrative that claims any moves towards regulating family affairs will lead to the disintegration of Russian families – and perhaps of Russia itself.

If stamping out domestic violence causes that kind of fall-apart, it's well deserved and long overdue.

The Patriarch also recently called all women prostitutes who live with a (male partner) outside of marriage.

That law change regarding domestic violence made beating your family an administrative issue rather than a crime. As long as nothing seriously broken you get a small fine and go on your merry way.

Viktor Orban in Hungary has used the CoVid crisis to complete the country's transition to authoritarianism.

Supposedly the "rule by decree" crisis powers are only temporary, but I'll be very surprised if the "crisis" in Hungary doesn't last for numerous years.

It pains me to say it, since I do love that country, but one of two things have to happen there in the very near future - either regime change (highly unlikely, since Orban's government has rigged public opinion and elections to ensure they maintain power indefinitely), or the EU finally needs to grow some balls and finally throw them out of the EU - also as a warning to similar developments in places like Poland (EU) and Serbia (wants to be in the EU).

Trying to change behavior only through dialog with a bad-faith actor like Orban is like promising a carrot without the threat of a real stick.

Sure, the EU wants to prevent Hungary from turning increasingly to Russia, but that seems to be happening no matter what the EU tries to do via incentives and gentle slaps on the wrist. It's time to hit Orban where it hurts - free EU money.

Of course, he'll just blame Brussels, George Soros, homosexuals and migrants.

I lived in Hungary from early 2007 to early 2012. I remember when the socialist government fell because of Gyurcsány's speech in Balatonőszöd (which to my understanding was a call to action for his government to finally do something productive and beneficial to the country) and Orban's Fidesz took the reigns of goverment.

(I also remember the scary rise of the far-right Jobbik party and the formation ...and luckily outlawing... of its paramilitary guard).

At the time, when asked who I preferred - Gyurcsány or Orbán - I would say I don't know either well enough to choose, but I didn't really like either much - Gyurcsány seemed untrustworthy, but Orbán seemed like he would take the country in directions I was very strongly against.

The latter has definitely turned out to be true.

Agree, AUs_TBirD. You get the feeling that once Brexit was out of the way, Poland and Hungary were next. CoVid has thrown everything of course for now and most member states are using pretty draconian laws to combat it. Unfortunately the Commission has to turn a blind eye to all sorts of breaches of EU directives to roll back the pandemic. However seeing as Orban used his new powers to attack the LGBTQ community, his actual motivations are fairly obvious.

So, AUs_TBirD, is CoVid going to work in Merkel's favour and grant her a fifth term? Derek Scally I find it very well connected in German politics so I take this claim quite seriously. I'd say Macron must be delighted

Also, Johnson admitted to hospital?

I seriously doubt Merkel will go for a fifth term. You really got the impression that she was increasingly keeping a low profile, even in instances when you really wanted her to take a stand - though at least she did in the election in Thuringia earlier this year, in which the new state leadership was elected with help of far-right AfD votes. That didn't last long after massive backlash.

Like the article states - the two figures besides Merkel that have really stood out during the coronavirus crisis have been Markus Söder and Jens Spahn. Söder (and the CSU) represent several political stances that neither I nor my wife would support, but she started following him on FB and I honestly tip my hat to his handling of things.......even if he has ruffled a few political feathers (most notably for announcing a lockdown in Bavaria two days before an agreed upon meeting during which all state leaders were to debate/announce one) in doing so.

Jens Spahn has been very steady in all of this, and I wouldn't be surprised if Merkel doesn't support him whenever the time comes to pick a new lead candidate.

The crisis seems to have been a boon to the established "Volksparteien" CDU/CSU and SPD. These parties have traditionally always held the chancelorship, but have continuously lost voter share in the past decade or more - the SPD has even been in the mid teens lately. Come crisis-time however, voters seem to turn to the traditional powerhouses. The Green party, especially, has lost a notable chunk of voter preference after being in second place behind CDU/CSU since 2018. Others, such as the AfD, have also been feeling some polling pain however.

I see the Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, is renewing his medical license to work part-time as a doctor during the crisis. That's a symbolically impressive and very important gesture, though I'm not sure how sensible it is - especially if he were to get ill and could not execute his government duties. Who takes over in that case? Coveney, Fitzgerald, or Higgins?

Well, I'm hoping for a SPD/Green rump controlling the Bundestag next time around. That is interesting about Spahn, however. I'd have to think that Merkel must be exhausted at this time and is looking for any successor.

As for Varadkar, I'll save my opinion on this for another time but he is very media savvy if he is nothing else. That said, I still don't doubt his desire to help. He is a doctor after all.

As for succession, it would be Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Taoiseach means chief or leader in Irish and Tánaiste means heir to the chief or leader. The Tánaiste doesn't have a portfolio but is usually given the Foreign Affairs Department. Higgins is our Head of State, not terribly different to old Queen Liz. No real power but at the very least Higgins can have the Supreme Court double check bills if they happen to breach our constitution.

Thing, technically Varadkar isn't actually the Taoiseach at the moment. We had our last election in January and the parties are still debating over who will take power. A debate they began before the pandemic started. It's entirely possible, however, that Varadkar, Micheál Martin and Mary Lou-MacDonald could all inform Higgins they cannot form a government. Such an act will trigger a new election. Which brings us right back to the start of this post

Well, Macron certainly sees opportunity in a crisis. Again, I don't necessarily disagree with the sentiment as the details remain to be ever agreed. Still interesting article given the decisions that the EU will face over the coming months. I don't see Macron going anywhere anytime soon so it's really a question of what emerges from Germany.

In other news and not a Brexit story and I don't want that thread to become a UK catch-all, a leaked report was published regarding the Labour Party. You could argue the veracity of the report but the real fallout is that the Tories will hold power for years to come as Labour are going to tear themselves apart. A fractured Labour with just split votes between other parties like Lib Dems and Greens leaving the Tories a free run. Especially since UKIP and the Brexit Party have left the frame.

First past the post voting system fails again.

Is there anyone Italian on the forum who could give some insight into how Italians are feeling about the Eurozone right now?

From the outside it sort of looks like they are about to get screwed Greek style but I can’t tell if that is just because I can only read English language reporting.

Your first link is subscription-only, Axon.

Try a different browser, Malor. Just tested it and that link will open on several of mine. You might have some cookies from a previous visit.

Edit: How do I get rid of the captcha check. It's driving me wild. I've even got this Privacy Pass installed.

Ah, Greece, the memories :).

On Italy getting "screwed", the Eurozone is split on how to proceed. Italy has France and Spain on it's side while the Dutch have Germany. Those five countries basically make up well over half the Euroarea's population and wealth. Therefore, nothing has really been decided and mutualisation of debt put back for another time. Perhaps not for long.

Macron is clearly waiting to see who is going to be the next German leader. No point wasting time with Merkel if she is gone in the next few months. And then again, she might shift dramatically. European unity will trump financial concerns with the Germans when push comes to shove.

Edit: DoveBrown, we should be getting a new Eurobarometer results very soon. Euro support fell in Italy 4% to 61% in favour in from mid 2019 to late 2019. This was due to a fight over Italy's budget with the Commission, I suspect. Remains to be seen what the fallout is from this bailout. It still remains strongly popular in the Eurozone, a fact you wouldn't glean from the British press :).

I'm quite pro-EU, but EU really failed with the early Italy response, with support for their health care system. If there ever is a time to show the worth of working together it would be a moment like that, but apparently that wasn't meant to be. A bigger crisis for EU than Brexit could ever be tbh.

The financial response is complicated. It is not a great solution to show up and bail out Italy, Greece etc. every time they encounter a problem - they actually DO need to change some things themselves.
But the health crisis response should have been simple, and fast. Instead it was just embarrassing.

At the very least, the Commission did hold their hands up over the response to Italy's outbreak. But I'll be fair here and say it's not really the Commission's competence to manage health issues, that remains a Member State's. However, in the vacuum created by the Member State's lack of co-ordination, VDL is taking responsibility for it now. I'm willing to view this as one of the moments that the EU get's hit with and results in a large leap forward. Much like the recent financial and immigrant crisis, it will be interesting to see what comes of it.

That is definitely a subscription-only link here; I've tried it in three different browsers. And my main browser stores almost no state between runs; only a few cookies are preserved. ft.com cookies are not on the to-be-saved list.

No, you are right. I'll see if I can grab the text of it somewhere. It's well worth a read. Macron clearly wants to drive the EU in a direction and is starting to gain allies.

Edit: Updated the above link with I hope is a non subscriber one.

ft.com wrote:

Subscribe to the FT to read: Financial Times Transcript: ‘We are at a moment of truth’ (English)

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later but debt underwriting on an EU level is now a thing. Of course, the "frugal four" will want protections which one suspects is more power to the Commission to enforce rules. The member states don't like ceding, nobody does, but we'll see. Interesting times.

In every beginning dwells a certain magic,” beamed Angela Merkel, cribbing from Herman Hesse, when a freshly inaugurated Emmanuel Macron visited Berlin three years ago. But Germany’s chancellor added an earthy caveat: “The magic lasts only when there are results.” And there have been precious few to speak of. A plan to reboot the euro area was ground down to a budget of homeopathic insignificance. A revised Franco-German treaty substituted symbols for substance. Mrs Merkel and Mr Macron fell out on everything from Brexit to the Balkans. Europe’s “locomotive” was left idle in the sidings.

So the ambition of the two leaders’ proposal for a post-covid eu recovery plan, unveiled on May 18th, came as a genuine surprise. The plan, mainly thrashed out in three videoconferences between the pair, comprises four pillars, including boosting the eu’s health-care capabilities and its economic “sovereignty”, a pet theme for Mr Macron. But at its heart is a recovery fund worth €500bn ($546bn), or 3.6% of the eu’s gdp, to be financed by common borrowing and sitting inside the club’s seven-year budget (“multiannual financial framework”, or mff). Italy and Spain immediately signed on. Markets surged and Italian borrowing costs fell. French media, often hostile to Mr Macron, were c*ck-a-hoop.

Mr Macron would have preferred a larger fund, preferably operating outside the mff. But by far the bigger compromise is Mrs Merkel’s. As covid-19 ripped through Europe, the chancellor resisted calls to lend Germany’s full weight to collective efforts to support the hardest-hit countries. France led a nine-country push for joint and severally guaranteed “coronabonds”, but Peter Altmaier, Germany’s economy minister and a Merkel confidant, dismissed it as a “phantom debate”.

That has not changed. Under the new plan governments’ liabilities would be limited to guarantees equivalent to their contribution to the mff (Germany’s 27% share would leave it on the hook for €135bn). Yet German support for eu debt incurred on this scale is “an enormous shift in principle”, says Iain Begg, an eu-watcher at the London School of Economics. Mrs Merkel’s second concession is to agree that countries that receive the funds, which will be directed to regions and sectors in acute need, need not repay them. Germany, relatively unscathed by the crisis and less exposed to its economic consequences, such as a collapse in tourism, can therefore expect to stump up a lot more than it receives.

The deal appears to have come together only in the few days preceding the announcement, after pressure on Mrs Merkel from both Mr Macron and Olaf Scholz, Germany’s finance minister. Why did she budge? Officials say her first instinct was simply for a larger mff, until it became clear that cash-strapped governments could not afford it. The chancellor repeatedly described the crisis as the worst the eu has ever known, a hint she was open to more drastic steps. A recent ruling by Germany’s constitutional court questioning the European Central Bank’s bond-buying may also have focused her mind on the risks of over-reliance on monetary policy.

Criticism from Mrs Merkel’s conservative allies has been muted. But other challenges lie ahead. The first is to plug the plan’s gaps, among them the rules for allocating funds and repaying the debt. This is the job of the European Commission; its mff proposal, which may offer loans on top of the envisaged transfers, will be unveiled on May 27th. That in turn will kick off fierce negotiations among the eu’s 27 governments, all of which must approve the new budget. Several have already signalled displeasure. Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden, the self-styled “frugal four”, want a smaller fund, loans rather than grants, and tight conditions.

These minnows will surely bow before the combined might of France and Germany, but may extract a price. mff disbursements are usually light on conditions. But the Franco-German deal commits governments that tap the fund to “sound economic policies and an ambitious reform agenda”. German sources have hinted at a role for the annual economic-reform proposals Brussels sends to governments. But accepting structural reforms demanded by outsiders could prove hard to swallow for countries like Italy.

The frugals’ greatest fear is a permanent shift to deeper fiscal integration. The new fund is supposed to be temporary, and can only hope to mitigate the harm to ravaged economies. But establishing the principle that common challenges require common debt may ensure that next time the threshold for action is lower, says Jacob Funk Kirkegaard at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. The need to repay the debt will also spur ideas for common eu revenues, such as a tax on plastic or climate-unfriendly imports. Mrs Merkel’s rhetoric on eu reform has begun a curious shift; in the twilight of her chancellorship she has revived talk of revising its treaties to shift towards “political union”. This week’s may not be her last surprise.

Germany’s Constitutional Court has gone nuclear. What happens next will shape the EU’s future

The judgment everyone is talking about, in the case of Weiss and others, was handed down by the Second Senate of the German Constitutional Court (the Bundesverfassungsgericht, or “BVerfG”) on 5 May 2020. In what might be its most significant ruling in its more than 70-year-long history, the Karlsruhe-based court declared that both the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) and the European Central Bank (ECB) acted outside the scope of their powers (ultra vires) in relation to the Public Sector Purchase Programme (PSPP) launched by the ECB in 2015.

As a result, for the first time ever, the BVerfG declared a judgment of the Court of Justice (the one rendered in 2018 in Weiss) as inapplicable in Germany, and unilaterally granted itself the power to decide on the validity within Germany of the PSPP decision of the ECB, an EU institution under the exclusive jurisdiction of the CJEU.

It may seem that the dispute is one of a technical nature in the field of monetary policy between two very powerful courts in Europe. However, this is by no means the case. The Weiss judgment involves an act of constitutional rebellion with potentially far-reaching consequences at many levels. An understanding of its implications, though, requires putting this ruling into context, as well as examining its content and the consequences it may have in the short and medium term....

...The question now is how the EU should reply. After the recent announcement by Commission President von der Leyen that the launch of an infringement procedure was under consideration, this appears as an inevitable course of action, in spite of the cautions with which it should be managed when applied to “judicial infringements.”.

Although an Article 258 TFEU infringement procedure will not be enough to solve the challenges posed by the BVerfG’s ruling, it can be a useful tool. Nevertheless, in the long-term, further measures will be needed to reshape the scenario for judicial dialogue in Europe. One possible path, as suggested by Joseph Weiler and José Luis Requejo, may be the creation of a constitutional chamber within the CJEU, an ad hoc body composed of EU and national judges that rules upon the request of a supreme or constitutional court when it considers that the EU has manifestly exceeded its powers. In the context of the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe, this is a proposal that could at last be worth discussing.

I'm a bit late posting this up as I was interested to see what the fallout would be. Long story short, the EU is a rules based authority and if those rules cannot be enforced as this ruling does, it will fail. So this is quite serious. Fatal even. However, I've no concern the EU will cease to exist. That fatalism, as I often point out, projection from certain media outlets.

Anyway, the real tangible outcome will be seen at the Conference on the Future of Europe as pointed out in the article. This is VDLs Convention on the Future of Europe. If you consider the Convention gave us the Lisbon Treaty and all those reforms (and conspiracy theories about those reforms), we can expect some significant change coming down the track.

Considering the Commission and VDL are effectively driving a joint financial Union in response to the covid-19 pandemic and succeeding, it appears that major reforms are on the cards.