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Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Europe’s Populists Are Here to Stay

Posted by hkarner - 16. Juni 2019

Date: 15-06-2019
Source: The Wall Street Journal By Matthew Goodwin

New parties are finding success by addressing the concerns of voters who feel neglected and disdained by liberal elites.


“Only five years ago the newspapers were talking about the League being extinct. Now we are the biggest party in the north and the south [of Italy].” This was the triumphant statement of Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister, after his national populist party, the League, finished first among Italian voters in last month’s election for the European Parliament.

“It is not only the League that is the first party,” continued Mr. Salvini, the de facto head of Europe’s growing national populist family. “Marine Le Pen is the biggest party in France. Nigel Farage has the biggest party in Great Britain. It is a sign of a Europe that has changed.”

Mr. Salvini and his allies have reason to feel confident. The percentage of seats in the European Parliament now held by populists of all stripes—whether left populists, right populists or others that aren’t easily defined, like the 5 Star Movement in Italy or Britain’s new Brexit Party—hit an all-time high of 29%. But it is the national populists who are most successful. From the League in Italy to National Rally in France, Vox in Spain and the Sweden Democrats, this party family has a record 16% of seats in the European Parliament. They are nowhere near a majority, but they have consolidated and are now a more disruptive force.

National populist parties share a common approach and program. They seek to advance what they see as the interests and culture of their country’s ethno-cultural majority; they present themselves as giving voice to people who feel neglected, even held in contempt, by distant, self-serving liberal elites. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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A Parliament is Born

Posted by hkarner - 6. Juni 2019

Daniel Gros is Director of the Centre for European Policy Studies.

With the latest election, the European Parliament seems to have taken a small but important step toward becoming a true expression of Europeans’ popular will. While many issues are still decided in the European Council, the balance of authority between European and national leaders now seems to be less lopsided.

BRUSSELS – European Parliament elections used to be a boring affair, forsaken by voters and barely noticed by the media. But the latest election, held in the last weekend of May, broke the mold, capturing attention as it confounded expectations.

Voter turnout, which had been declining since the first European Parliament election in 1979, increased sharply this time, reaching just over 50%. That is not only the highest turnout for a European Parliament election in 20 years, it is also higher than the 40-50% typical of a mid-term congressional election in the United States. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Trump’s Case Against Europe

Posted by hkarner - 5. Juni 2019

Date: 04-06-2019
Source: The Wall Street Journal By Walter Russell Mead

The president sees Brussels as too weak, too liberal, and anti-American on trade.

President Trump

“Why does he hate us?” is the question American foreign-policy types often hear from European friends and colleagues when the subject of Donald Trump comes up—as it often does. With Mr. Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Europe this week, it seems an auspicious time to attempt an answer.

The news isn’t all bad. When Mr. Trump and senior administration officials talk about China, they attack it for abusing the international system in a ruthless quest for global hegemony. Their reading of Europe is different: that a mix of dysfunctional policies, unrealistic ideas about world politics, and poor institutional arrangements has locked the Continent on a trajectory of decline. As Mr. Trump’s team sees it, they aren’t trying to weaken Europe; they are trying to save Europe from itself.

There are five elements of the Trump critique of the European Union. First, some of the “new nationalists” believe multinational entities like the EU are much weaker and less effective than the governments of nation-states—so much so that the development of the EU has weakened the Western alliance as a whole. In this view, cooperation between nation-states is good and through it countries can achieve things they couldn’t achieve on their own. But trying to overinstitutionalize that cooperation is a mistake. The resulting bureaucratic structures and Byzantine politics and decision-making processes paralyze policy, alienate public opinion, and create a whole significantly less than the sum of its parts. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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The End of the World As We Know It

Posted by hkarner - 5. Juni 2019

Date: 04-06-2019
Source: by Joschka Fischer

Joschka Fischer was German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998-2005, a term marked by Germany’s strong support for NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999, followed by its opposition to the war in Iraq. Fischer entered electoral politics after participating in the anti-establishment protests of the 1960s and 1970s, and played a key role in founding Germany’s Green Party, which he led for almost two decades.

Last month, under pressure from US President Donald Trump’s administration, Google terminated its cooperation with Huawei, thereby depriving the Chinese smartphone maker of the license to use Google’s Android software and related services. The move marks both a new pinnacle in the Sino-American conflict and the end of US-led globalization.

BERLIN – After three decades of moving toward a single global market governed by the rules of the World Trade Organization, the international order has undergone a fundamental change. The United States and China are locked in a tariff war that at first seemed to be about the bilateral trade balance, but has turned out to be about much more. Until recently, one could find hope in the fact that, despite frequent exchanges of threats, the two countries were negotiating. Not anymore. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Plunging Yields Expose Sorry State of European Banks

Posted by hkarner - 4. Juni 2019

Date: 03-06-2019
Source: The Wall Street Journal

After a broad selloff last week, European bank stocks have given up their gains for the year, with valuations of some major lenders at multiyear lows

The global downdraft in bond yields and rising trade tensions are falling squarely on the shoulders of European banks.

After a broad selloff last week, European bank stocks fell again on Monday, with the valuations of some at multiyear lows. The Euro Stoxx Banks index is down 1.7% in the year to date, compared with an 8% rise in the S&P 500 banks index of U.S. lenders. Shares in Deutsche Bank AG touched an all-time low Monday of €5.85.

It is a sharp reversal from a little over a month ago, when the European bank index had been up as much as 19% for the year.

Driving shares lower: European banks have been buffeted by the recent plunge in Europe’s already low interest rates. German 10-year government bond yields hit a record low of negative 0.21% on Friday. Low rates crimp banks’ net-interest margins, the difference between what banks pay for funding and what they make from loans. The low yields are being driven by worries about the strength of the global economy, making safe assets more attractive.

Investors said they expect the pain for banks to continue until interest rates eventually rise. But many economists don’t expect the European Central Bank to move benchmark rates for years.

“I can’t see a reason to invest in European banks at the moment. They are being hit from all sides,” said Chris Garsten, a European equities fund manager at U.K.-based Waverton Investment Management.

Among the worst performers is French bank Société Générale SA, whose shares are down nearly 20% so far this year and trade for less than a third of their book value, the lowest since 2012 during the throes of Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis.

The ECB last week in its financial stability report slashed forecasts for banks’ return on equity, a key profit measure, indicating more trouble may lay ahead for lenders.

“Profitability continues to fall short of the returns required by investors for the majority of euro area banks,” it said.

President Trump’s announcement on Thursday of possible tariffs on Mexico hit the shares of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA and Banco Santander SA, two of the region’s largest banks. Both rely on their Mexican operations to offset their slower-growing European businesses.

The headquarters of Spanish bank BBVA, whose shares were hurt by President Trump’s tariff threat to Mexico, in Madrid.

U.S. bank shares also fell in May because of concerns about the effect of dropping Treasury yields on their lending margins. But American banks have been supported by a relatively healthy economy and cleaner balance sheets.

In a sign of the differing fortunes between European and U.S. banks, the eurozone’s eight largest banks, including France’s BNP Paribas SA and Dutch bank ING Groep NV, have a smaller combined market value than JPMorgan Chase & Co., despite the Europeans having triple the assets.

Filippo Alloatti, a senior credit analyst at Hermes Investment Management, said European banks have little choice but to cut costs, but that “it’s a politically sensitive topic. Unions and politicians don’t want to see banks closing branches and reducing their footprint.” Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Centrist liberals gained the most power in the EU Parliament

Posted by hkarner - 3. Juni 2019

Date: 30-05-2019
Source: The Economist

Eurosceptics gained a similar number of seats, but are less ideologically cohesive

Eurosceptics hoped that populist parties would sweep last week’s European Parliament elections. But voters delivered a murky verdict. Eurosceptics did make progress: parties in the top 15% of hostility towards the eu, as measured by a survey of political scientists run by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, gained 30 seats. Yet parties in the most pro-eu 15% won 32 extra seats. The losers were the main centre-left and centre-right parties.

For the first time in the parliament’s history, its two main blocs, the European People’s Party and the Socialists and Democrats, failed to achieve a majority between them. In theory, that could turn the Eurosceptics into kingmakers. In practice, the older parties back the eu and want nothing to do with the populists. That will force them to depend on the liberals instead. Moreover, the pro-eu parties are likely to form a more cohesive group than their adversaries will.
Almost every possible mix of policy positions is present among the parliament’s 177 different parties. However, the Chapel Hill survey shows that some combinations tend to go together. Its authors assess parties’ views on dozens of issues, and aggregate them into ideological scores. The study was last run in 2017, so its ratings do not count recent political shifts. Nonetheless, its scores track well with other surveys, and with parties’ own manifestos.

One pattern is the boomerang-shaped relationship between views on the eu on one hand, and older divides over economic redistribution and cultural openness on the other. Before the global financial crisis, Euroscepticism won few votes. But the eu’s bailouts of bankrupt member states and struggles to absorb refugees linked opposition to European integration with hostility towards bankers and foreigners. Sensing a chance to broaden their scope, far-right and far-left parties sharpened their criticism of the eu, and Eurosceptic parties became more radical on other issues. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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When picking leaders, the EU should put skill before box-ticking

Posted by hkarner - 1. Juni 2019

Date: 30-05-2019
Source: The Economist

Surely Europe can find a better president than Manfred Weber?

Seen from afar, Europe is shrinking and ineffective. In Germany Angela Merkel’s chancellorship is winding down. Domestic woes bedevil the French president, Emmanuel Macron. Britain is leaving the eu, which is divided between east and west, north and south, liberals and authoritarians. The big centre-right and centre-left blocks are struggling, as politics fragments across the continent. If America or China wants to speak to Europe, it is less clear than ever whom they should call.

The European Parliament elections have brought yet more fragmentation, with the two main groups losing seats and their joint majority in the eu’s legislature. Liberals, Greens and right-wing populists gained. The union today resembles a patchwork of ideological and regional tendencies. That makes the task of parcelling out its big jobs extra-fiddly. There are four vacancies: the presidencies of the European Commission (the eu’s executive), the European Council (its senate-like body of national leaders) and the European Central Bank (ecb) as well as the “high representative” for the eu’s foreign and security policy. A convention of 2014 says the commission job should go to the “lead candidate” of the largest group in the parliament. Under an older precedent, those appointed to the top positions are meant to include representatives of all corners of the continent and of the big political families. Different permutations are lined up until, like a Rubik’s cube, everything slots into place. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Why Margrethe Vestager ticks all the boxes

Posted by hkarner - 30. Mai 2019

Date: 29-05-2019
Source: The Economist: Charlemagne

The steely Danish politician should lead the next European Commission

Charlemagne’s notebook

EUROPEAN POLITICS is turning more febrile after voters in elections for the European Parliament broke the old duopoly of the two main political “families”: the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and old centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D).

The two “big tent” groups, which have dominated the parliament since direct elections were introduced in 1979, were the biggest losers as European politics fragments. By the latest count, the two groups between them lost 87 seats in the 751-seat parliament. That, in turn, is re-opening the debate about who should run the European Commission, the powerful bureaucratic machine at the heart of the European Union, which acts as an executive, a civil service and a market regulator.

The president of the commission is nominated by national leaders, with approval from the parliament. Leaders will meet in Brussels tonight to begin discussing who should fill this and a host of senior EU jobs, among them the president of the European Council (representing leaders) and the president of the European Central Bank (ECB).

At the last European elections in 2014, the parliament tried to institutionalise the idea of the Spitzenkandidat, whereby leaders would be compelled to choose the “leading candidate” for commission president selected by the parliament on the basis of who can command a majority. Under a gentleman’s agreement in 2014, the S&D made way for Jean-Claude Juncker of the EPP, whose group was the largest. The leaders acquiesced despite misgivings by Britain and Hungary. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Will Merkel Be Followed by Darkness?

Posted by hkarner - 30. Mai 2019

Date: 29-05-2019
Source: DER SPIEGEL.By René Pfister
Subject: A Dim View of the World

Will Merkel Be Followed by Darkness?

As the end of her tenure approaches, Angela Merkel has a view of the world that couldn’t be much grimmer. She sees the pillars of the world order collapsing and yet, strangely, she doesn’t seem to be doing much about it.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

For a few seconds, her face brightened with pleasure, she rejoices in the moment. And why not? It’s an evening in January, and Angela Merkel is sitting in a festively illuminated glass building at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, with CNN superstar Christiane Amanpour in front of her.

„What can I say about a woman named Angela Merkel?“ Amanpour asks the audience.

That she’s the first female chancellor?
The first chancellor from former East Germany?

Merkel is much more than that, Amanpour continues, a scientist who still believes in the value of facts in this post-factual world; a woman who fights against nationalism and climate change. She describes how the chancellor has set a high standard for how to deal with the desperate people of the world.

It’s all laid on a bit thick, a mixture of Oscar ceremony and political seminar, but Merkel has a smile on her face. It’s only now and then, when the camera zooms in on her, that she puts on a more neutral, chancellor-like face. Despite all that she has achieved, she still has a reputation to defend as the West’s most modest politician. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Why the EU Election Was a Win for Macron

Posted by hkarner - 30. Mai 2019

Although the far-right National Rally edged out La République en Marche ! in the European Parliament election, broader trends in European politics now look favorable for French President Emmanuel Macron. His party will now lead a pivotal centrist bloc, and will be able to work closely with the newly reinforced Greens on crucial reforms.

PARIS – Though the final vote tally might seem to suggest otherwise, the European Parliament elections were a strategic success for French President Emmanuel Macron. There are four reasons why this is so.

First, Macron succeeded in framing the election as a contest between progressives and populists. Though he has been assailed at home in recent months – including by some on his own “side” – it is worth remembering that this message did not emerge out of thin air. Rather, it harks back to Macron’s 2017 presidential campaign, which itself tapped into a broader political sea change taking place across Europe. In that election, he overcame the traditional right-left divide. Two years later, this was replicated in the European Parliament elections. Historically, the Republicans on the right and the Socialists on the left have dominated French politics. Yet these parties’ combined share of the popular vote was under 15%, whereas Macron’s La République en Marche ! won 22.4%, and the far-right National Rally (formerly the National Front) picked up 23.3%. Behind these figures is an unprecedented collapse of the mainstream French right, which has failed to reconcile identity politics with traditional liberalism. Though some French conservatives have migrated to the National Rally, much of the center-right electorate has gravitated toward Macron’s party, owing to efforts by Prime Minister Édouard Philippe (formerly of the Republicans).Moreover, most of those who switched to La République en Marche ! are pensioners who did so despite being hit hard by Macron’s tax reforms (some of which have been reversed). This suggests that Macron’s progressive-versus-populist narrative helped to re-mobilize France’s – and perhaps Europe’s – pro-European electorate. While the National Rally performed well and Italy’s right-wing League party made gains, they failed to trigger the EU-wide political earthquake that many had come to expect.The second reason the election represents a victory for Macron is that his party will now be able to claim leadership over a pivotal centrist parliamentary group of 110 members. The relative losses suffered by the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), combined with the surge in support for the Greens, means that the European Parliament is entering a period of quadripartite governance. Provided these groups are able to compromise, the new arrangement will probably be an improvement on the old one, wherein the EPP and S&D divvied up all of the jobs. For the first time in the European Parliament’s history, the number of MEPs affiliated with the two main parties represents only 44% of the total.A more fluid parliamentary composition will allow for more ad hoc majorities to emerge in support of various policy proposals, given that there is so much common ground between La République en Marche !, the S&D, and the Greens. And, as an added bonus, the end of the EPP/S&D duopoly also marks the end of German hegemony in the Parliament.

Third, the Spitzenkandidaten process – whereby the largest party grouping selects the president of the European Commission – is likely to collapse, and this may also work to Macron’s advantage. The system is a first-past-the-post mechanism in a proportionally elected Parliament, and has more to do with partisanship than with democracy, because it gives automatic power to the largest group.

But while the EPP won the most parliamentary seats, its Spitzenkandidat, Manfred Weber, is very controversial. Just before the election, he was weakened by the political demise of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose government was by the release of a video in which his vice chancellor, Heinz-Christian Strache of the Freedom Party, appears to offer a quid pro quo for electoral help from Russia. But Merkel still defends Weber, and, apart from Macron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, most EU leaders are reluctant to confront the European Parliament on the Spitzenkandidaten issue. That may shorten the odds for Margrethe Vestager – who is not from the EPP, but who is, in a sense, a liberal Spitzenkandidat – while while lengthening them for Michel Barnier, who is from the EPP but is not a Spitzenkandidat. If the Council succeeds in ruling out Weber and his populist supporters, Macron will claim it as a success.Finally, the election provides a check on German hegemony within the EU more broadly. Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has been weakened, and the country’s Greens have grown stronger. For his part, Macron will find the Greens much easier to work with on eurozone reform, especially if they end up joining a new German coalition government.Taken together, these post-election considerations paint a rather positive picture for Macron. The question now is whether he can use his strength at the EU level to shore up his domestic position. This will not happen automatically. With the fall of the French right, there may be a temptation to position La République en Marche ! as a new home for right-wing French voters. But while this might capture Paris’s bourgeois 16th arrondissement, doing so would be a mistake. Instead, Macron should focus on securing more of the atomized left, particularly those who have moved to the National Rally.As matters stand, La République en Marche !’s base remains limited to the “winners” of globalization. Rural, alienated, and economically vulnerable voters remain in the National Rally’s camp. To win them over, Macron must reduce the polarization between the two parties.

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