Author Topic: European matters  (Read 94115 times)

Crafty_Dog

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Hungary-- very interesting with larger implications
« Reply #250 on: May 25, 2018, 10:22:13 AM »
https://www.dailysignal.com/2018/05/23/hungarys-experiment-could-rebuild-a-sense-of-nation-in-europe/?utm_source=TDS_Email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=MorningBell&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTlRjeU1qZGpNREprT0RkaSIsInQiOiJmWW5UM1llTE0rRTdmVHJLVW5Sd2g5cjFhTG5NM0Z6UkNjaVdXdkFLSkczMit6QW1mbVV3aDl1YjQxdENsRTYzUDFiakRidWU1R1JvSnpOOE1rQlJjR2lpYlNLSTV4NjFwS2VjQ2JZYWNcL3ZVNDcxZmdGckVLMkpsWDZPNWloNncifQ%3D%3D



Hungary’s maverick prime minister, Viktor Orban, is once again stirring the pot of goulash.

Four years ago, Orban gave his critics ammunition when he said he was constructing an “illiberal democracy.” This month he doubled down, declaring liberal democracy dead and urging other European leaders to stop trying to revive the corpse.

Instead, Orban exhorted them to get busy invoking a new democracy based on Christian principles.

“Liberal democracy is no longer able to protect people’s dignity, provide freedom, guarantee physical security or maintain Christian culture,” he said in Hungary’s parliament earlier this month. “Some in Europe are still tinkering with it, because they believe that they can repair it, but they fail to understand that it is not the structure that is defective: The world has changed.”

The liberal Left continue to push their radical agenda against American values. The good news is there is a solution. Find out more >>

The response, he added, is “to replace the shipwreck of liberal democracy by building 21st-century Christian democracy.”

For many reasons, Orban deserves our attention when he says his ambition—“now we want to hunt really big game” is precisely how he put it—is to change the course of Europe.

He is flushed with an electoral victory in which his party last month captured more votes than all of the opposition combined. He has defeated German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the important philosophical debate over immigration (Orban says it should be lowered). And he has vanquished the leftist billionaire George Soros, who just announced his nongovernmental organization is leaving Hungary.

Most importantly, the question of values is the fundamental issue confronting the Continent. Unlike the United States, modern European states are not founded upon creedal documents that lay out the constituting character and culture of the nation, and how to preserve them.

When “Europe” was more or less coterminous with “Christendom,” that text was the Bible. The culture that defined all the European nations—the paintings, the music, the festivals, the folk wisdom—was suffused with Christianity and its imagery. Greco-Judeo-Christian ethics bonded Portuguese and Finns in the absence of DNA or language links.

As Europe has de-Christianized, at best it has evolved into a values-free, empty husk. At worst it has become a supranational entity that pretends adherence to hate-speech codes, mandatory work rules, open borders, and coercion of everyone into publicly affirming lifestyles they find repugnant—all violations of different freedoms, and ironically of liberalism itself—now form “European values.”

Orban thumbs his nose at European Union pieties with gusto, which is why he can be forgiven if he uses provocative terms to attract attention to an important project.

But first it is important to note obvious downsides. Orban is no Thomas Jefferson, and his emphasis on ethnicity, not civic nationalism contained within borders, is sui generis.

If you believe that all men are created equal, are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that governments are instituted “to secure these rights” and “the blessings of liberty,” then the type of state that Orban wants to build is likely not your bag.

He says he believes that Hungarians are exceptional innately, not as a result of national traits that are acquirable. “We are a unique species,” he said last week. “There is a world which we alone see.”

This Hungarian nation is not geographically defined within juridical and electoral boundaries. The Hungarian nation, Orban said four years ago, “sometimes coincides with the country’s borders, sometimes doesn’t.”

Most important, securing individuals’ liberties is most assuredly not the central purpose of the state he is busy creating. As he said, again, in the 2014 speech:

“The new state that we are constructing in Hungary is an illiberal state, a non-liberal state. It does not reject the fundamental principles of liberalism such as freedom, and I could list a few more, but it does not make this ideology the central element of state organization, but instead includes a different, special, national approach.” (Emphasis added.)

There is good reason why ethnic, rather than civic, nationalism gives us pause. Though ethnic nationalism is unassailable from a natural rights perspective, it does de-emphasize the individual’s agency by making citizenship (belonging) non-volitional.

All of this is less of an indictment of Orban than one would think, however. First, he’s building a state for Hungarians, not Americans—and we must remember that even though safeguarding freedom must be our central animating spirit, to do that, we too, must preserve America’s unique culture.

Also, Hungarians are more ethnically separate than­­­­­ most. They are descended from seven tribes that emerged out of Central Asia more than a millennium ago and settled eventually in the Carpathian Basin.

Surrounded by a sea of German and Slavic, they continue to speak a language that is Asian in origin, not European, and to have distinct foods and customs. They are highly homogenous at home, and have enclaves in neighboring countries who are still considered part of the “Hungarian nation.”

And Orban is not—with due respect to his critics—vowing to pursue his project by depriving Hungarians of their freedom or property. He really doesn’t have a beef with liberal democracy, if understood as a system of representative government where the rule of the majority is checked by constitutional guarantees for minority rights and checks and balances prevent tyranny. Though he does not make freedom “the central element” of his project, he does secure people’s rights. He’s not Putin, Castro, or Xi Jinping.

It is instructive that for Orban, the inflection point for systemic change was the 2008 financial crisis. What he saw, what many saw, was intellectual and financial elites, transnational in outlook, suffering less than their working-class compatriots. He is trying to reconstruct a sense of nation.

By attempting to reintroduce the Judeo-Christian ethic into a secularized Europe, Orban arguably is giving Europe a chance to do just that. Even if the ethnic model he and his electorate may be pursuing is irreplicable in America or most of Western Europe, the values model could have a lot to offer.­­­

Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: Italy's Crisis -- and Europe's
« Reply #251 on: May 30, 2018, 07:10:18 AM »
Italy’s Crisis—and Europe’s
The president rejects the populist election winners, setting up a clash between democracy and the EU.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella speaks after meeting Italy's premier-designate Giuseppe Conte in Rome, May 27.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella speaks after meeting Italy's premier-designate Giuseppe Conte in Rome, May 27. Photo: Fabio Frustaci/Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata via Associated Press
By Francesco Ronchi
May 29, 2018 7:20 p.m. ET
95 COMMENTS

Minor decisions and small mistakes can change history. Italian President Sergio Mattarella’s decision to reject the populist right-left coalition’s attempt to form a government in Italy may turn out to be a turning point for Europe.

While Mr. Mattarella’s desire to protect the country from turbulence is no doubt sincere, his action could end up having the opposite result. By openly invoking the role of investors, financial markets and the defense of the eurozone in his speech on Sunday, the president lends credence to the populist argument that Italy has become the battleground in a war between the international establishment and national democracies. Even if populists win the elections, their supporters believe, they will never be allowed to hold power for fear that they would oppose the dogma that dominates the eurozone.

The statement by Günther Oettinger, one of the most senior members of the European Commission, that “markets will teach Italians how to vote” is not a reassuring one. Likewise, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comparison between Italy and Greece is an unveiled threat: Italians had better toe the line, or they will not be spared what the Greeks have been going through.

This disdain for Italian voters is not only undemocratic but also dangerous. It fuels nationalism and anti-German sentiment in Italy. By appealing to national pride and the defense of democracy against external influences, populist parties are likely to increase their share of the vote in the next elections, which may take place in the next few months. Transforming these elections into a de facto referendum on eurozone membership would be another dangerous gamble in a climate of growing Euroskepticism.

Italy is not Greece. It is the third-largest economy in the eurozone and the ninth-largest in the world. An Italian government with an openly Euroskeptic mandate would head for a clash with Germany, which would certainly have a disruptive effect on the eurozone.

But what is happening in Rome is not only about the future of the euro. It has also to do with the state of democracy, in Italy and in Europe. Discussing and questioning the governance of the eurozone, as the Italian right-left populist coalition wished to do, should not be a taboo in mature democracies.

If Berlin and Brussels really care about the survival of the eurozone, they should not fear such a debate. The economic gap between Southern and Northern Europe is widening and will be unsustainable before long if it isn’t properly addressed.

Limiting the space for democratic debate in Europe seems to confirm the perception that the EU is immune to public opinion. That dangerously widens the divide between Europe’s people and institutions.

Barring populist forces from government will also weaken Italy’s already fragile democracy. A right-left populist cabinet would have helped integrate the populist forces into the constitutional system. The League and 5 Star Movement would have been confronted with the almost impossible task of governing Italy. They would have been forced to make decisions, to form alliances, to play fully the democratic game. Incorporating populists into the institutions would have broadened the democratic base and legitimacy of the Italian constitutional system, making it stronger and more resilient.

Instead, the decision to marginalize the League and 5 Star has already radicalized their positions and polarized Italian public opinion. Italian politics is volatile and unpredictable and could change course within hours. A right-left populist government, based on a stable majority in Parliament, could still be created if President Mattarella, the League and 5 Star find a reasonable compromise that allows both sides to save face. Voters would then judge the new government based on its actions.

If this does not happen, Italy could experience a major constitutional crisis. It could end up as a case study in how liberal democracies commit suicide.


Crafty_Dog

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GPF: The Latest Chapter in the European Migration Crisis
« Reply #253 on: June 15, 2018, 10:52:47 PM »


The Latest Chapter in the European Migration Crisis


The European Union’s three largest members have had a rough week.


When 630 people were rescued by a ship called the Aquarius off the coast of Libya last weekend, little did they know their plight would set off a series of events that would deepen the divisions in an already fractured Europe. Within less than a week of the migrants’ rescue, the German government appeared ever closer to collapse, and the French and Italian governments were engaged in a diplomatic spat. The story of the Aquarius will now become part of European history, another chapter in the migration saga that began with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy in 2015 and whose end seems much further away today than it did just a week ago.

‘Close the Doors’

On June 10, as the Aquarius approached Italian waters, the Italian government refused to allow the ship to dock at its ports. The country’s new populist government, which came to power in large part due to the country’s frustration with being the frontline in the migration crisis, used the Aquarius to demonstrate that it was following through on its promise to get tough on illegal immigration. Matteo Salvini, Italy’s new interior minister, took to Twitter to make his government’s position abundantly clear: “Close the doors.”


 

(click to enlarge)


On June 11, with the Aquarius stranded off the Italian coast, Germany’s struggle over its own immigration policy was intensifying. Merkel rejected Interior Minister Horst Seehofer’s proposal to turn away at the border any refugee who had applied for asylum in another European country. Upon learning of Merkel’s decision, Seehofer canceled a presentation of his 63-point plan to deal with the migration problem scheduled for the following day. A spokeswoman for the German Interior Ministry downplayed the cancellation, explaining that some details simply needed to be ironed out, but she also declined to announce a new date for the presentation.

On June 12, France entered the fray. French President Emmanuel Macron blasted the Italian government as irresponsible and cynical for blocking the Aquarius from Italian ports. The Italian government responded the following day by canceling a meeting in Paris between the French and Italian economy ministers. Italy also summoned the French ambassador and demanded an apology from Macron. Italy’s new prime minister even called Macron’s stance “hypocritical” and decried French self-righteousness over an issue Italy has had to manage with little support from the EU. Meanwhile, the Aquarius set sail for Spain, which granted the ship permission to dock.


 

(click to enlarge)


On June 13, Seehofer declined to attend a summit in Berlin held by Merkel, and instead met with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Seehofer explained that the move was not a snub but rather had to do with the presence of a journalist who had compared him to the Nazis. But it was Kurz who stole the headlines on this day, as he called for an “axis of the willing against illegal migration” to be formed between Austria, Germany and Italy. Seehofer added that he had spoken to his Italian counterpart the previous day and that they were in “full agreement” over how to secure European borders. None of the men involved seemed concerned about the memories an axis involving Austria, Germany and Italy might dredge up.

Meanwhile, Macron’s government attempted to patch things up with Italy. Macron didn’t issue an apology, but he did call Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and insisted that he didn’t want to offend Italy. In addition, France’s European affairs minister stressed the need for dialogue and directed France’s criticism away from Italy. Instead, the minister blamed Europe for turning its back on Italy and insisted that Europe needed a much better way of dealing with migrants. This appeared to be enough for the Italian government: Conte pledged his solidarity with Europe in dealing with the issue and is scheduled to meet with Macron on June 15.

On June 14, just when it seemed the worst had passed, German media reported that Merkel’s government might collapse. Tension between her Christian Democratic Union party and coalition partner the Christian Social Union, chaired by Seehofer, has been brewing over Merkel’s immigration policies since 2015. But German newspaper Augsburger Allgemeine, citing multiple CSU sources, reported that Seehofer raised the possibility during a party meeting of defying Merkel, which could split the governing coalition. German papers are now speculating about a potential vote of no confidence should the spat go on.

A Dangerous Bet

To recap, the three largest and most important countries in the European Union – Germany, Italy and France – are now divided, internally and externally. France continues to push for stronger EU reforms and is tired of waiting for Germany to sign up; in fact, France may now see that Germany is too weak to protest and that it must take the lead. Italy’s new government is anxious to follow through on its campaign promises and is both cautious about and intrigued by the shift in power between Europe’s two heavyweights. Germany seems lost – at worst, it’s on the verge of a government collapse, and at best, it’s so inwardly focused that it can hardly play the leadership role it used to. And all this because the migration issue, now three years old, remains unresolved. A single ship with 630 refugees has laid the contradictions bare for all to see.

This, of course, is not the only problem facing Europe today. The United Kingdom, which voted for Brexit in no small degree due to Germany’s lectures on London having to accept its fair share of refugees back in 2015, finds itself in chaos over its next steps. Germany’s foreign minister gave a rousing speech about a “post-Atlantic Europe” and seems more concerned with pushing back against perceived American slights at Germany than at coming to terms with the friction in his own government. The Balkans seems primed for even more disruption, with Russia this week announcing it wants to be more engaged in the region and the Serbian president saying he was warned that NATO would treat any Serbian incursion into Kosovo as a hostile act.

But most important, and buried under the headlines, is the fact that the European Central Bank announced that it will phase out its bond-buying stimulus program by the end of the year – a program that has staunched the bleeding from the 2008 financial crisis but also exacerbated economic inequality throughout the eurozone. In both Europe and the United States, economies are finally returning to normal after a decade of being coddled by policymakers. Now, the training wheels are about to come off, and policymakers are betting that the economic recovery is stable enough to keep going on its own.

That’s a dangerous bet, especially considering that the economic recoveries in Europe and the United States are fragile at best. The U.S. has rarely gone this long without a cyclical recession. But as the Aquarius has shown, Europe has plenty more problems to contend with, even if the optimists are right about the economy. Ironically, at the center of all this is France, the new de facto leader of Europe. Which brings to mind the old maxim: Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.



Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: German Immigration Feud
« Reply #254 on: June 17, 2018, 04:08:43 AM »
BERLIN—German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling conservatives are holding last-ditch talks this weekend to defuse an escalating dispute over immigration and avert a breakup of her government.

Horst Seehofer, who is Ms. Merkel’s interior minister and a party leader in her fragile coalition, has threatened to ignore a veto by the chancellor and forge ahead next week with a plan to turn away some migrants at the German border.

Doing so would effectively hand the chancellor an ultimatum: Fire Mr. Seehofer, which would fracture the coalition and prompt new elections just under 100 days after the government was sworn into office; or give in to his demands and see her authority further diminished.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, arriving here for a debate on refugee policy at the German parliament in Berlin on Friday, said he would go against the chancellor’s wishes and order stricter policing on the Austrian border next week.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, arriving here for a debate on refugee policy at the German parliament in Berlin on Friday, said he would go against the chancellor’s wishes and order stricter policing on the Austrian border next week. Photo: clemens bilan/epa-efe/rex/shutte/EPA/Shutterstock

Signalling the level of concern in Ms. Merkel’s circle, a conservative cabinet minister told The Wall Street Journal on Friday that such an unprecedented show of defiance by a member of a government would likely lead to the collapse of Ms. Merkel’s alliance.

Mr. Seehofer and his party said he would start implementing his controversial plan on Monday, even without approval from the chancellor.

The row is pitting Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union against the Christian Social Union, its sister party in the southern state of Bavaria, which Mr. Seehofer leads. The two have long shared a parliamentary group, acting as a single party on the national stage. They rule together in a fragile alliance of staunch conservatives, centrists and left-leaning Social Democrats, all with diverging views on immigration.

But Mr. Seehofer’s CSU has grown increasingly estranged from Ms. Merkel since her decision to open Germany to hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers in the summer of 2015.

The influx has since abated but the political tension it triggered has refused to go away.

The anti-immigration Alternative for Germany, which was created in 2013 and polled in the low single digits for years, is now the biggest opposition party in parliament. An Infratest Dimap poll published on Thursday gave AfD 15% of voter support, 2½ points above its September election result.

Mr. Seehofer’s CSU is particularly concerned about a state election in Bavaria this October. A poll by Civey this month showed that the party could lose its absolute majority, dropping to around 41% of the vote as the AfD becomes the second-biggest party with 13.5%.

Immigration policy has also reshaped political landscapes elsewhere in Europe, at times dramatically so, and strained relations between European Union members. In Austria, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has moved to tighten immigration and reduce benefits available to asylum seekers since he took office in December.

On Wednesday, Mr. Kurz joined Mr. Seehofer in a Berlin press conference and called for an “axis of the willing” to combat illegal migration between Austria, Italy and Germany—the countries along the main route for irregular migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

Italy’s new populist government, which has taken a hard line on asylum, has also signaled support for Mr. Seehofer. Rome prompted international condemnation this week by closing Italian ports to the Aquarius, a French ship that carried over 600 migrants rescued at sea. French President Emmanuel Macron said the Italian government had acted with “cynicism and irresponsibility.”

Mr. Macron himself, has been no exception to the trend, announcing tighter immigration laws this year. Sweden, long Europe’s most welcoming country for refugees, has all but closed its borders.

The sudden escalation in Berlin came as a surprise this week. Mr. Seehofer had been due to present a 63-point immigration plan on Tuesday when he canceled the event because of a dispute with Ms. Merkel.

At issue is a single measure that would give German border police authority to turn back anyone entering the country illegally if they have no identity documents or are found to have previously requested asylum in a different EU country.

Ms. Merkel and her supporters argue that the initiative would alienate Germany’s neighbors just as she is trying to engineer a pan-European approach to asylum and refugees.

Mr. Seehofer argues that the move is compliant with international law and would only prevent people with no prospect of obtaining asylum from entering Germany.

After almost a week of talks there was no sign of compromise by Friday evening. Mr. Seehofer and the CSU said they would start implementing the plan next week, deploying police along the border with Austria. The party has said that if Mr. Seehofer loses the interior minister post it would pull out of the government.

In a sign of acrimony, legislators from the CDU and the CSU met separately in parliament for the first time. Ms. Merkel asked her party to wait until after a summit of EU leaders on June 28, so she could hammer out bilateral deals with countries who would take back migrants rejected by Germany, according to lawmakers who attended the meeting.

“I believe that we should not act unilaterally, we should not act in an uncoordinated manner and we should not act to the detriment of other countries,” Ms. Merkel said Thursday.

Rejecting asylum seekers at the German border could trigger a domino-effect and jeopardize European integration, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, secretary-general of Ms. Merkel’s CDU and widely seen as her preferred successor, wrote in an email to all party members this week.

Hinting at possible divisions within Ms. Merkel’s own party, Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer exhorted party members to back the chancellor against Mr. Seehofer.

Mr. Seehofer countered in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily published on Friday that it was the CDU and Ms. Merkel that had divided Europe by opening German borders to refugees in 2015.

Under EU rules, immigrants must apply for asylum in the country where they first enter the bloc. Currently, all asylum seekers are allowed to stay in Germany pending the review of their applications.

“Relations between the sister parties have never been this bad and the government is now hanging by a thread,” said Robin Alexander, a journalist who wrote a book about the 2015 refugee crisis.

The arrival of 1.4 million people since 2015 has turned politics in what had long been one of Europe’s most stable countries upside down. While Ms. Merkel won September’s election, she scored her party’s worst result since 1949 and took more than six months to form a government.

Crimes committed by migrants—including rapes, killings and terrorist attacks—have kept the issue in the news, as have allegations of mismanagement and corruption at Germany’s migration agency. And while the flow of arrivals is sharply down from three years ago, some 10,000 people still enter the country illegally every month, according to government estimates.

An Infratest Dimap poll for public-sector broadcaster ARD conducted earlier this week found that 62% of Germans supported turning back some migrants at the border, while 86% backed more robust deportations of rejected asylum seekers; 63% said they weren’t satisfied with the work of the coalition.

ccp

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Hopefully Merkel on way out
« Reply #255 on: July 16, 2018, 07:17:15 AM »

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: France & Germany
« Reply #256 on: September 07, 2018, 07:07:17 AM »
For France, keeping Europe together isn’t as important as keeping Germany engaged on French terms.


Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron called for a review of defense cooperation in the European Union – because, he said, the EU can no longer rely on the United States for its security. Macron said it was time for the EU to develop a strategic relationship with Turkey and to bring EU relations with Russia out of the Cold War and into the 21st century. On the same day, Macron threw down the gauntlet on Hungary, Italy and any other nationalist European country challenging his self-described “progressive” view of the EU’s future. Perhaps most significantly, France softened its hitherto hard-line position on Brexit. France, not Germany, has been the EU’s dominant voice on Brexit, and Paris’ softening means the European Commission may not be far behind.

That France has become the most outspoken champion of European integration is ironic. After World War II, France was one of integration’s most recalcitrant critics. That is admittedly a slight exaggeration – France did desire integration, but not of the cooperative sort. After the war, France wanted to dismember Germany and seize its resources – most importantly its coke and coal – for itself. The goal was twofold: to prevent Berlin from posing a threat to French sovereignty ever again and to rebuild the French economy with German resources. From Paris’ point of view, the only problem with Versailles was that it had not gone far enough, and the end of the war offered a wonderful opportunity to repair its shortcomings.

France’s support for the creation of what would become the EU’s grandfather, the European Coal and Steel Community, in 1952 came only after the U.S. and U.K. promptly told France that Germany was not to be dismembered (at least, not any more than it already had been by the Soviets and the Allies). Instead, West Germany would be rehabilitated as a liberal democracy in a new international order, and France would have to learn to live with it. France may have had a seat at the Allied table, but the seat had been offered as a matter of etiquette more than anything else. The Allies knew it wasn’t France that had defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Germany’s defeat did not mean France would be allowed to take its place as European hegemon.

For the next 66 years and counting, French strategy has been more or less locked in place. The French economy needed privileged access to German imports to recover after the war. And French security depended on British and American guarantees against German revanchism and Soviet ambitions, not to mention material support for France’s ill-fated attempts to keep what was left of its empire in Indochina and Algeria. If France could not destroy Germany, it would do the next best thing – integrate Germany into Europe on France’s terms. In 1948, it was the U.K. and the U.S. urging European integration. By 1950, European integration had become France’s cause celebre. In fact, one of the reasons the U.K. did not join the new ECSC was because the French-designed integration went further than the British were willing to stomach.

Emmanuel Macron is this line of strategic thinking made flesh. Macron clothes his support of EU integration in the form of “progressivism,” but that is more personal preference than accurate depiction. The European Union has come under great strain since the 2008 financial crisis. Greece very nearly left. Eastern European states like Hungary and Poland are in open political rebellion. And most worrying of all, Germany has become the center of gravity of the European project. Germany has lost some of its credibility because of its support for austerity and migration, but even so, what began as a French project to control Germany has evolved into a German project to prosper from Europe. Germany, reunified in 1990, has an economy almost 40 percent larger than France’s. Germany’s export supply chain is Europe’s blood supply. In an era when euros, not tanks, define power in Europe, Paris has found itself playing second fiddle to Berlin. For France, all of this means the EU needs serious reform.

The answer to this problem from France’s point of view is the same as it was in 1952, when the ECSC came into being – more centralized control, not less. The 1950 Schuman Plan, which led to the creation of the ECSC, proposed to put all French-German coal and steel production under a single joint “High Authority,” which would have the power to set prices, direct investment and take whatever other measures were necessary to encourage competition. The ECSC never fully exercised its considerable powers, but its original conception was nothing less than French control of German resources dressed up as a multilateral “European” institution. It is possible to see in this historical echo the impetus for the reforms France is proposing in the EU today: creating a joint EU defense force (which France, as the most significant military power on the Continent, would surely dominate), instituting a body to oversee all EU economic policy and developing a common eurozone budget.

Germany is suspicious of France’s reform efforts because Germany wants to preserve the status quo. The integrationists did their job well: Germany is militarily irrelevant but economically prosperous, and it thinks primarily in economic terms. For Germany, that means keeping the eurozone together so that more European countries can buy German goods. It means making sure that German taxpayers don’t have to bail out Greeks or Italians in times of financial crisis. And it means ensuring that Germany can do what it wants with its massive and ever-growing trade surplus – rather than being forced to spend it on other European countries. For France, the issue is not keeping the eurozone together so much as it is keeping Germany tied to an institutional framework that keeps it weaker than and dependent on France. That is why France is pushing for a so-called two-speed system, in which countries that want more integration can have it, and countries that Macron derides as nationalist, like Hungary, can stop gumming up the works.

To accomplish this, France is doing what all aspiring dominant powers do: It is attempting to recreate its would-be partners and institutions in its own image. In this sense, Paris can use Brexit to its advantage, because it means one less powerful voice with which to struggle over defining the EU’s future. Germany, despite and because of its economic power, cannot push too hard because the historical memory of the last time Germany got heavy-handed in Europe is still present. On the flip side, there is no one still living who personally experienced the Napoleonic wars or France’s many attempts to build a mighty French empire encompassing the entire European peninsula. A country like Hungary does not fit in Macron’s EU because Hungary will not kowtow to Paris, and France can afford to sacrifice Hungary or any other Eastern European satellite state. A more integrated EU-16 in which France has a dominant position serves France’s strategic interests better than a diffuse EU-27 – as long as Germany remains in the bloc.

France is in a strong position – arguably the strongest position it has been in since before World War I began. Its economy, though stagnant, is still second largest in Europe. Crucially, France’s demographics are relatively healthy. Like most European countries, France’s fertility rate dropped below replacement level in the late 1970s and remained there for roughly two decades. But in the 2000s, France started having more babies while Germany and other countries didn’t. While most European countries are aging, France is getting younger. The dividends of this “stimulus” package will allow France’s economy to grow while young Germans, Italians and Poles will be coping with how to pay for the ever-increasing older share of their populations. And unlike other European countries, France has remained a first-rate military power. France does not require U.S. protection anymore, and that France ever needed it in the first place has always been something of an embarrassment to the Gaullist mindset.

Macron got himself in some hot water over the term “Gaul” late last week – not in reference to Charles de Gaulle, but to the ancient Celtic ancestors of the French people. While visiting Copenhagen, Macron lamented the French people’s obstinacy toward the neoliberal economic reforms he wants to institute. He expressed a longing that his “Gauls, who are resistant to change” be more like the Danish “Lutheran people, who have lived through the transformations of recent years.” The nationalists in France were angered by Macron’s derision. This is the same faction in France that wanted to dismember Germany and wanted no part in NATO or the charity of the Allies at the end of World War II. It is a faction that is as euroskeptic as Macron is euro-smitten. De Gaulle and a generation of leaders after him, though profoundly prideful of the French nation, controlled nationalist extremes because France’s challenges after World War II required a certain degree of pragmatism. France had no choice but to support EU integration and to align itself with the United States, even if it held its nose while doing it.

That the extreme nationalist strain in French politics has become stronger even as the current French government pushes for greater European integration is not a coincidence. Both of these foreign policy factions inside France want the same strategic ends: the neutralization of Germany as a threat, the decoupling of French foreign policy from the U.S. and a dominant position for France on the European continent. They just have very different ideas about how to achieve those goals. Macron aims to achieve them with a stronger, French-reformed EU, and that is why he is engaging in a war of words with leaders like Viktor Orban and pushing for new and better “High Authorities” in Brussels. The bureaucrat is mightier than the sword.

This is not about progressives and nationalists. It has become cliche to talk about the “German question.” But before there was a German question, there was a “French question.” Based on how France is pursuing its strategic ends, it’s one we ought to be asking ourselves again.



DougMacG

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European matters, Sweden's economy, Lessons for America, Johan Norberg
« Reply #257 on: September 19, 2018, 07:23:53 AM »
https://www.atlasnetwork.org/news/article/the-story-of-sweden-is-about-markets-not-socialism

The story of Sweden is about markets, not socialism.

[Norberg's film]...takes viewers on a journey through Sweden’s economic past and present; learning how freedom of the press, a free market, innovation, and reduced taxation helped repair the nation one step at a time.

“Interestingly, many social democrats in the U.S. use Sweden as a kind of cover for their own statist policies,” said Norberg, who also served as executive editor for the program. “I don't think the American Left knows that Sweden is the country of pension reform, school vouchers, free trade, low corporate taxes and no taxes on property, gifts and inheritance. Sweden affords its big welfare state because it is more free-market and free trade than other countries. So if they want to redistribute wealth they also have to deregulate the economy drastically to create that wealth.”
...
“Sweden is not an exception to general economic laws,” said Norberg. “It's not the place where we showed that prosperity and big government go hand in hand. Sweden got rich when taxes and public spending was lower than in other places, including the U.S. Only then, in the 1970s did we start to tax and spend heavily. And that is when we began to lag behind. Only after reforms since the 1990s did we get back on track. So, one message is: don't get cocky, don't think you can do anything and break economic laws just because you're on top of the world for the moment."

DougMacG

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Re: European matters, so long Angela Merkel
« Reply #258 on: October 30, 2018, 07:09:18 AM »
I can only guess what the main issue was in the election that drove Merkel from power, immigration.

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/09/germany-merkel-refugee-asylum/405058/
The Staggering Scale of Germany’s Refugee Project  (2015)

I still don't know, what the hell was she thinking?

Will anything good come out of this?

« Last Edit: October 30, 2018, 07:44:57 AM by DougMacG »

Crafty_Dog

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STratfor: France, the yellow vests, and Macron
« Reply #259 on: December 10, 2018, 11:01:27 AM »
The Long-Term Implications of France's 'Yellow Vest' Protests
Protesters face riot police on Dec. 7, 2018, in Toulouse, France.
(REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty Images)


    The French government's comfortable majority in the National Assembly makes it possible for President Emmanuel Macron to implement his pro-business reforms agenda, but resistance from volatile grassroot movements, right- and left-wing political opponents and labor unions will constrain the government's room for action.
    A plan to reform the pensions system in 2019 will open the door to new street protests, while a plan to amend the French Constitution will give opposition parties the chance to weaken the government.
    Resistance from Northern European countries and institutional turnover in 2019 will make it hard for France to achieve its plans of deeper risk-sharing and greater money transfers within the European Union.

Since mid-November, tens of thousands of protesters in France have rallied against the government in a cause that has become known as the "yellow vest" movement, a reference to the safety vests that French drivers keep in their cars. While large political protests are nothing new in France, the intensity of the yellow vest protests has not only led to some of the worst rioting in Paris in decades and forced authorities to shut down parts of the city, but also forced President Emmanuel Macron to back down on a policy decision for the first time in his 18-month presidency. The French government announced on Dec. 5 that it would scrap the controversial fuel tax increase that prompted the yellow vest protests in the first place. The protests come at a time when Macron's popularity has fallen to record lows. The situation is threatening to weaken Macron's authority at home and reduce France's influence in European Union affairs.

The Big Picture

Social and political developments in France will constrain the government's ability to pass reforms to try to make the country more competitive. At the same time, they will weaken Paris' role in shaping EU policy. French President Emmanuel Macron's election in 2017 was seen as a significant victory against nationalist and populist forces in the European Union, but disappointment with the French government creates fertile ground for new episodes of social unrest and the strengthening of extremist forces.


Since becoming president in May 2017, Macron has tried to make the French economy more competitive by cutting taxes on companies, reducing public spending and easing the tax burden on the wealthy. These policies, which were meant to send the message to domestic and foreign investors that France is open for business, damaged Macron's image, and his critics now refer to him as "the president of the rich."

The yellow vest movement quickly evolved from opposition to the fuel tax increase into a broader demand to improve the purchasing power of middle-class families. Combined with demands to roll back Macron's pro-business agenda, this shows that there is a large sector of the French electorate that is vocally disappointed with the president's policies. Despite Macron's reformist push, the recovery of the French economy remains slow and uneven. France's unemployment rate is around 9 percent, which is one point lower than it was when Macron took office but is still the fourth-highest in the European Union — and more than twice Germany's unemployment rate. According to the European Commission, France's economic growth will slow to 1.6 percent in 2019, from an estimated 1.7 percent in 2018. Moreover, the French Economic Observatory, an independent think tank, has warned that Macron's policies have reduced the purchasing power of the bottom 5 percent of French households while increasing that of the top 5 percent.

Graphics showing the purchasing power, unemployment rate and income inequality in France.
Persistent Protests

The emergence of the yellow vests, a movement with no direct connections to any political parties, non-governmental organizations or trade unions, is not a new phenomenon in France. Similar grassroots movements, like the "red caps" (who protested a tax on trucks in 2013) and the "nuit debout" (who protested labor reforms in 2016), have emerged in recent years. The arrivals of such movements show that France's traditional channels of representation are failing to absorb the whole spectrum of social discontent. To some extent these grassroots movements tend to represent a temporary challenge for the French government, because movements without a clear leadership and organization tend to fade away quickly. But these movements are also problematic because they don't have a clear leadership the government can negotiate with. Social unrest can escalate quickly and incite other groups to join the protests, which is what has happened with the yellow vests.

Macron's rivals, including left- and right-wing political parties and trade unions, will try to co-opt these social forces and use the movements' demands to their own political advantage. Echoing the yellow vests' demands for higher standards of living for the middle class, the combative General Confederation of Labor recently announced its own anti-government protests. For their part, the right-wing National Rally (formerly known as the National Front) and the left-wing Unsubmissive France have used the yellow vests' proposals to ask for the government's resignation. Next year's elections for the European Parliament, scheduled for May, will show whether these parties can capitalize on the ongoing social discontent.

The more Macron's popularity erodes, the more emboldened his rivals will feel to challenge his policies. Over time, the combination of an unpopular government, modest economic growth, social protests and an increasingly active opposition could make it harder for Macron and his allies to move forward with their reformist agenda. Macron's party, La Republique En Marche! (Republic on the Move!) controls a comfortable majority in the National Assembly, which means it can pass reforms without the support of other parties. But lingering social discontent could make the French government warier of promoting structural reforms, while lawmakers in the National Assembly could become more cautious in their support for Macron. As a result, Macron's reform agenda could be compromised.

The more Macron's popularity erodes, the more emboldened his rivals will feel to challenge his policies.

The next big challenge for the French government will be to reform the country's pensions. Macron's administration wants to replace France's multiple pension systems with a single system and to change the way that pension payments are calculated, which could lead to payment reductions in some cases. The French government wants to present a formal pension reform proposal in mid-2019 and put it to a vote in the National Assembly by the end of the year. This reform would affect multiple sectors of French society, which means it will generate strong resistance and set the conditions for further protests. In 2019 the French government also plans to cap increases in family benefits below the inflation rate, tighten the eligibility criteria for unemployment insurance, and reduce the number of employees in the public sector. This means that the ground will remain fertile for social unrest in France next year, regardless of the fate of the yellow vest movement.

The French government is also planning to reform the French Constitution to reduce the number of parliamentarians by a third, introduce faster legislative procedures and make it illegal for public officials to hold multiple positions. Unlike the pensions reform, the constitutional reform probably will not generate significant protests. But Macron will need opposition support in the Senate to amend the constitution, and his adversaries may block the president's proposals in order to weaken him. In the past, Macron has threatened to put the constitutional reforms to a referendum should the Senate reject them. But in the current political climate, the government will think twice before calling for a vote it could lose or, worse, become an unofficial referendum on Macron's presidency.

France's Northern Rivals

France's domestic issues will constrain its ability to influence developments at the European level. France wants deep reforms in the eurozone, including the introduction of a separate budget for the currency area, the strengthening of its bailout fund, and the completion of the banking union. But these reforms require a broad consensus at the EU level, and France will struggle to find it.

France's main partner in the European Union, Germany, is dealing with political problems of its own that reduce Berlin's ability to make concessions to Paris. At the same time, the countries in Northern Europe that oppose France's proposals are becoming increasingly assertive. These countries, commonly known as the New Hanseatic League, want to limit, and if possible abort, France's plans for eurozone reform. The fact that Italy has a euroskeptic government that is challenging the EU's fiscal targets is giving ammunition to those northern countries that oppose increasing financial risk-sharing in the eurozone.

There are early signs that this resistance to France's proposals is working. Germany and France recently agreed to create a budget for the eurozone. But, contrary to France's original proposal, it will be a part of the broader EU budget, which means its approval will require unanimity. Moreover, Berlin is pushing for a small budget, contrary to Paris' request of a budget that represented "several points" of the European Union's GDP. France also wanted to turn the European Stability Mechanism into a European Monetary Fund with full powers to assist countries in financial distress. However, EU finance ministers meeting on Dec. 4 only agreed to grant the mechanism a greater participation in the design and monitoring of financial assistance programs in coordination with the European Commission. And plans to introduce a deposit insurance scheme for eurozone banks were kicked down the road.

To make things more complicated, new members will be appointed in 2019 to key EU institutions such as the European Commission and the European Central Bank. The appointments will require significant negotiations among EU member states and will be another source of friction between Northern and Southern Europe over the future of EU policy. France's rivals will try to take advantage of Macron's domestic weakness to contain Mediterranean Europe's influence on the future of the European Union. Even if EU governments manage to keep the discord within tolerable margins, the mere process of appointing new officials will slow policy process at a continental level and put a limit on France's ambitions.

A Constrained Government

France's next presidential election is in 2022, and Macron is likely to remain in power despite the destabilizing attempts by his rivals. The president has several tools at his disposal to deal with political crises. He can, for instance, appoint a new prime minister in charge of a new Cabinet, to try to regain popular support. He can also call for an early legislative election to let voters express their opinion on policy, but that would be a last-resort decision considering that Macron's party controls a majority of seats in the National Assembly and it would be risky to threaten that majority with a new vote.

In other words, growing social unrest and a more active opposition probably will not threaten the continuity of Macron's presidency. However, such factors are likely to constrain the government's room for action when it comes to introducing meaningful reforms. And a disappointing presidency could threaten Macron's chances for reelection and open the door for right- and left-wing political parties to improve their performance in the next presidential election.


Crafty_Dog

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Re: European matters
« Reply #261 on: December 11, 2018, 08:51:16 AM »
Wish we had a "Like" button feature!

DougMacG

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Make Britain great again, Adam Smith Institute, 100 policies for Theresa May
« Reply #262 on: December 13, 2018, 12:51:35 PM »
Almost all of these have similar meaning for U.S.  I agree with most, some are great, some are controversial.  100 specific policy proposals to make Britain "richer, freer, and happier."

https://www.adamsmith.org/100-policies-for-mrs-may-1/


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Euros backstab our Iranian policy yet again
« Reply #270 on: January 31, 2019, 08:50:39 PM »
What Happened

Germany, France and the United Kingdom announced Jan. 31 that they had established a channel for trade with Iran that circumvents U.S. sanctions. The system, known as the instrument in support of trade exchanges (INSTEX), will facilitate commerce between European businesses and Iran. INSTEX will be a state-owned trade intermediary based in France, managed by a German, run by a British-based supervisory board and all overseen by the European Union. Meanwhile, countries outside the bloc, such as India, China or Russia, may be able to join later. Under INSTEX, an Iranian enterprise will be able to sell its products in Europe and receive credit to buy European goods. In the beginning, trade will focus on food and medicine, which do not face U.S. sanctions, and likely benefit small and medium-sized European enterprises the most. Iran, however, still needs to set up its counterpart to INSTEX, and that could take months.
Why It Matters

Whether or not it works, the formation of INSTEX (a legal entity known as a special purpose vehicle or SPV) shows that Tehran's EU allies want to stand behind the Iran nuclear deal. The United States withdrew from that deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), last year. INSTEX also sends a message to Washington that European countries are willing to conduct trade unilaterally with Iran despite rising U.S. sanctions pressure. In addition, it is notable that France decided to host the institution (in a Foreign Ministry building) after the European Union reportedly encountered difficulties in finding a host country. INSTEX is part of Paris' push for greater EU "strategic autonomy" and independence from the United States. Moreover, the SPV is a trilateral initiative by three powerful EU countries, meaning that the United States will have to think twice about sanctioning such important allies.

However, the future of the SPV is uncertain. European companies may fear that INSTEX doesn't offer enough protection from U.S. sanctions and decline to use it. Iran, too, is aware of the SPV's vulnerability. On Jan. 31, Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araqchi said, "Americans have already threatened they are going to deal with this mechanism." Indeed, the United States has said it will take aim at the SPV if it facilitates trade in goods beyond food, medicine and humanitarian items.

European companies may fear that INSTEX doesn't offer enough protection from U.S. sanctions.

Another source of uncertainty for the SPV lies in how Europeans and Iranians view it, with Tehran urging quicker development of the mechanism. According to the French government, INSTEX will focus mostly on food and medicine during the initial stage. Iran, however, wants the channel to be used for sanctioned goods as well and at a faster pace — highlighting a potential point of contention between Tehran and European Union.
Background

The European Union has been trying to keep Iran in the JCPOA since the U.S. pullout in May 2018. The formation of the SPV is one factor among many that could alter Iran's decision-making. But Tehran will need to evaluate the vehicle's effects on trade and gauge whether it provides the economic benefits it needs. Those decisions and benefits will determine whether Tehran continues to follow the JCPOA and cooperate with its EU allies. Those allies are taking a multifaceted approach to dealing with Iran, as evidenced by France's decision to host INSTEX. But France is ultimately trying to continue its humanitarian trade and its economic ties to Iran, even as it and others in the bloc have emphasized the need to curtail some of Iran's ballistic missile activity and develop a common EU position on the issue before a summit on Middle East security and Iran in mid-February.

Crafty_Dog

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Walter Russell Mead: Incredible Shrinking Europe
« Reply #271 on: February 12, 2019, 08:08:19 AM »

Link copied…

    Opinion Global View

Incredible Shrinking Europe
The Continent’s grand unity project is failing, and its global influence is fading.
166 Comments
Feb. 11, 2019 6:41 p.m. ET
Incredible Shrinking Europe
Photo: iStock/Getty Images

Last week offered fresh evidence that the most consequential historical shift of the last 100 years continues: the decline of Europe as a force in world affairs. As Deutsche Bank warned of a German recession, the European Commission cut the 2019 eurozone growth forecast from an already anemic 1.9% to 1.3%. Economic output in the eurozone was lower in 2017 than it was in 2009; over that same period, gross domestic product grew 139% in China, 96% in India, and 34% in the U.S., according to the World Bank.

As its economy lags behind, Europe is becoming more divided politically. Brexit negotiations have inflamed tempers on both sides of the English Channel; Central European countries like Hungary and Poland are alienated from the West; much of Southern Europe remains bitter about the aftermath of the euro crisis; and anti-EU political parties continue to gain support across the bloc. A recent report from the European Council on Foreign Relations projects that anti-EU parties from the right and left are on course to control enough seats in the next European Parliament that they will be able to disrupt the EU and weaken it further. This wasn’t supposed to happen. The EU was founded to stop Europe’s decline, not reflect it.

As Europe’s founders saw it, two factors contributed to the Continent’s geopolitical decline in the 20th century. One was inevitable: As the technologies of the industrial heartland spread to Asia and the Americas, the wealth gap between Europe and the rest of the world necessarily narrowed. The diffusion of medical innovations—which also often originated in Europe—contributed to population explosions in the rest of the world. Meanwhile Europe, the first continent to industrialize, was the first to experience the decline in birthrates associated with urbanization and affluence.

The second factor in Europe’s decline was internal division and nationalistic animosity. This was the problem the EU’s founders sought to cure. Two world wars left much of Europe impoverished and in ruins. If the Continent could unify under a single set of values and political institutions, future wars could be averted. The unification process began with Franco-German reconciliation after World War II. As the Cold War ended and Germany was reunified, European leaders launched an ambitious program to broaden and deepen transnational cooperation.

The union would expand to the east, securing democracy in the former Warsaw Pact countries. Economic cooperation would deepen with the development of a single market, the establishment of a common currency, and the adoption of common economic policies. Diplomatically, the Europeans would seek a united front in their dealings with the outside world. Building a new Europe that could compete on equal terms with the U.S. and China in the post-Cold War world is Europe’s overarching goal.

It’s become increasingly apparent that this grand project is failing. An uneven and perhaps overambitious expansion weakened rather than strengthened the EU. The euro was both an economic and political failure, and diplomatic unity remains a distant dream.

Neighbors like Russia, Turkey, Israel and the Arab states flout the EU’s wishes at will. European influence in Washington, already declining in the Obama years, has reached a nadir under Donald Trump. Neither Moscow nor Washington showed much regard for Europe’s interests while suspending the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which limits missile deployments in Europe. China takes Japan and India more seriously than it takes the EU, and neither the U.S. nor China has been particularly concerned about what Europeans think as they negotiate bilateral trade arrangements that may redefine the world trade system.

One European initiative did work: the single market. Europe remains formidable as a consumer bloc, and the EU’s ability to regulate the conditions under which foreign companies like Google and Gazprom operate inside its wealthy market is the most important card in its hand.

Leaders in France and Germany remain firmly committed to the European project, but with Britain on the brink of secession, Italy and Poland mutinous and Hungary defiant, the outlook is dimming. If Paris and Berlin could devise a program to reignite European growth, secure its frontiers, and satisfy the nationalist emotions now roiling the bloc, Europe could arrest its decline. So far at least, such an outcome seems unlikely.

Some on the nationalist right in the U.S. welcome Europe’s decline. This is a mistake. A strong Europe, even if it is sometimes cantankerous and disagreeable, is better for the U.S. than a weak Europe that can neither secure its own neighborhood nor contribute to global stability. But the U.S. must deal with the Europe we have, and the Europe we have isn’t doing well.

Crafty_Dog

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George Friedman on the EU
« Reply #272 on: February 13, 2019, 09:49:14 PM »

DougMacG

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Re: George Friedman on the EU
« Reply #273 on: February 15, 2019, 08:52:30 AM »
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBUyoeYk4i8

Friedman makes a number of good points, that the EU as we know it now won't last.

Funny that all the talk about Brexit is from the Brit point of view, what will they do without Europe, but isn't the EU a diminished group without Britain.  Why aren't they reforming instead of disintegrating?

Crafty_Dog

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Wesbury: Don't fear a hard Brexit
« Reply #274 on: February 25, 2019, 10:53:50 AM »
Don't Fear a "Hard Brexit" To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 2/25/2019

The clock is winding down, and the United Kingdom has some major decisions to make. Should it stay in the European Union or should it go? If it goes, under what terms? Some analysts and investors are concerned about a "Hard Brexit," in which the UK supposedly plunges into chaos as they crash out of the EU without an agreement. According to the pouting pundits, this would throw the UK into a deep recession and send the British pound plummeting, taking world equity prices down steeply.

Count us skeptical.

The EU and the Euro currency are separate issues. The Euro has been a boon to the countries that have adopted it, and it would be a major mistake for these countries to leave (with the exception of Germany and maybe France). But leaving the EU is a completely different ballgame. Any harm to the UK's economy would be relatively mild, and any related drop in equities would be a great buying opportunity.

It's not like there would be no trade between the UK and the EU after a Hard Brexit. Trade rules would simply shift to the rules that apply between the EU and other countries under the World Trade Organization, like those that apply to EU-US trade or between the EU and China or Japan.

But the EU would be under enormous pressure to lower tariffs and cut a new deal with the UK. In 2017, the rest of the European Union ran a roughly $90 billion trade surplus with the UK. So if a Hard Brexit makes it tougher for the rest of the EU to export to the UK, every national capital in the EU would be flooded with lobbyists asking to cut a deal. Meanwhile, leaving the EU means the UK would have the freedom to make free trade deals with the US and Canada, and any other country it wanted, without having to wait for the EU. Yes, a Hard Brexit risks some financial jobs, but the same argument was used when the UK decided not to join the Euro currency-bloc, after which London kept its role as Europe's financial center.

But there's another basic reason why a Hard Brexit would be in the long-term interests of the UK, and it comes down to political philosophy and human nature. Let's imagine for a moment that the EU were always and everywhere dedicated to free markets and nothing else. Even in that instance, we would argue that, as much as we would like the policies it was pursuing, the UK should leave.

Why? Because any organization powerful enough to over-rule the democratic process in the UK regarding economic laws and regulations – even in favor of free markets – is also powerful enough to impose anti-free market policies as well. And, over time, since men are not angels and power corrupts, any international body with such power would gravitate toward policies that aggrandize the international political elite, comprised of elected officials remote from the people who elect them, anonymous regulation-writing bureaucrats, and judges who tend to impose their own personal cultural preferences on the rest of the continent.

In fact, the EU has already issued rules that stifle competition, like setting a standard minimum Value-Added Tax rate for all members at 15%.

Don't get us wrong, we wholeheartedly support the liberalization of trade the EU has developed through much of Europe. And the downside risk of Brexit is that it would lead to the UK experimenting with protectionism. But we are confident such policies, if followed, would make the British people suffer, and would ultimately be rejected at the polls.


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European matters, What Brexit means for (continental) Europe
« Reply #277 on: March 19, 2019, 07:16:08 AM »
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=24&v=lzEtXa_bmo8

Professor Hans-Werner Sinn: "What Brexit Means for Europe: A German Perspective" (4 March 2019)

Hat tip Alan Reynolds, his favorite German economist, for rigor, not ideology.  This is analyzed from a German perspective.

Many important points in there. 1 hour lecture.  A few of his points:

Britain (UK) economy is equal to the 19 smallest countries [of the 28] in the EU - who get an equal vote?  Britain's lack of a proportional voice is not right.

With Brexit EU loses one of two nuclear powers leaving them with just France and a NATO threatened by Trump.  From a German perspective, big loss to Europe.

Under current rules it takes 35% minority to block majority mandates.  With Britain gone, the remaining balance of EU power changes.  More protectionist and only the Mediterranean group can block initiatives, the northern countries no longer can block initiatives they oppose.

Different countries have different main economic sectors.  Britain exports financial services.  France's main sector is government, a little hard to export (subtle condescending German humor).  Germany is also an export economy.  One point: When Trump threatens duties on German automobiles to remove EU duties that protect France's agriculture, they do not have an equal interest to solve that.  EU is a much more protectionist group without historically free trading Britain.

EU should reform in a couple of ways to keep Britain. The Brexit debate has been in Britain but EU has a great loss coming if Britain leaves and should correct some wrongs in effort to keep them.

You cannot have a re-distributive welfare society and free migration.  There are two types of social benefits, earned (retirement, medical, unemployment insurance for examples) and unearned.  New migrants perhaps should not instantly and automatically receive benefits not earned or the system will collapse.  Need at least a waiting period.

Governing beyond the EU mandate must stop.  One easy example was light bulb mandate.  They already capture that externality in a tax. No need to govern the other country.  Another to him is the emission of German diesel that is local to a city, not the CO2 already governed.  Some things should be governed locally.  EU is not a country.  Britain and others want to keep some sovereignty.

There should be no punishment for leaving.  Europe needs to offer UK free trade or great trade agreement *after* Brexit is done; it is the best interest of both.

UK pays EU x per year now (forgot the number), relatively small amount.  At current duty rate 3%, UK would pay EU same x per year.  Money is not the issue.

Migration is the issue in Britain.  Migrants from outside EU but also migrants from lower wage and lower benefit countries within the EU.

Where to draw the line between UK and EU?  Create a new border between Ireland and Northern Ireland where currently there is none, big step backward, and IRA will kill a border guard the first day, he says.  Make the sea the border and Scotland sees the deal that Northern Ireland has and will also want to split off and UK is down to England, Wales, not the intent of Brexit.

He only partly expresses this point but you cannot have generous welfare system and unlimited migration.  He is for the free movement of labor and for the redistributive welfare system but there must be some rule or waiting period to receive certain benefits. 

He does not say this conclusion, but EU is screwed if Britain leaves.  He says it more gently, EU is greatly changed if Britain leaves.



« Last Edit: March 19, 2019, 07:59:44 AM by DougMacG »

Crafty_Dog

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Re: European matters
« Reply #278 on: March 19, 2019, 10:04:42 AM »
Thank you for taking the time for write up those notes Doug.

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Populist Wave in European Elections
« Reply #280 on: May 28, 2019, 10:26:59 AM »
I'm looking for good analysis of what happened and what this means.  Outsider wins in Italy.  La Pen beats Macron.  Brexit Party and everyone else beats Tories.  Socialists win in Spain.

https://pjmedia.com/trending/eu-elections-populist-wave-in-europe-shows-no-sign-of-ebbing/
« Last Edit: May 28, 2019, 12:18:04 PM by Crafty_Dog »

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor on the EU elections
« Reply #281 on: May 28, 2019, 01:58:29 PM »
 

As Expected, EU Elections Result in a Fragmented Parliament

The Big Picture
________________________________________
Stratfor's 2019 Second-Quarter Forecast predicted that the May election for the European Parliament would result in a fragmented legislature and a slower and more complex parliamentary process. The forecast for Europe also highlighted that the most recent vote would mark the beginning of a dispute between member states to appoint the leaders of the main EU institutions.
________________________________________
EuropeEuropean DisintegrationEU: Regional Blocs

The votes have been counted in Europe and the results are in. As expected, the European Parliament elections, which ran from May 23 to 26, resulted in a fragmented legislature; the center-right European People's Party (EPP) and the center-right Socialists and Democrats (S&D) lost ground to emerging forces, including the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), the Greens and the Euroskeptic Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF).

Here are the main takeaways of the vote:

A More Fragmented Parliament

For decades, the EPP and the S&D controlled a joint majority of seats in the European Parliament, which meant that an agreement between them was all it took to pass legislation. That will no longer be the case in the next legislature because the EPP and the S&D will have to canvass smaller parties to pass legislation. This will give parties such as ALDE and the Greens a greater role in shaping EU policies. While ALDE is pro-business and wants to reduce bureaucracy in the European Union, the Greens support policies to reduce Europe's carbon footprint and improve rights for workers across the Continent. The latter initiatives could become problematic in future negotiations over free trade agreements with non-EU countries because the EU Parliament could pressure the commission to include these kinds of provisions in deals.

Parties including the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe and the Greens will have a greater role in shaping EU policies going forward.

While the Euroskeptic parties improved their parliamentary representation, they are not strong enough to influence the legislative process in a meaningful way. A more fragmented parliament also means a slower legislative process and greater chances for conflict between the EU Parliament and the European Council, whose approval is required to pass EU laws.

The Race for the Main EU Institutions Is On

In the next six months, governments in the European Union will have to appoint presidents for three of the most important institutions in the bloc: the EU Commission (around September), the European Central Bank (around October) and the European Council (around November). These decisions will come in addition to replacing some of the senior staff of the three institutions. The trio of appointments are interconnected, in part because EU governments will try to find a balance between geography and ideology when it comes to distributing power within the bloc. Germany and France, the European Union's main political powers, are both eyeing the presidency of the European Commission, the bloc's executive arm. The "loser" of this dispute, or a member of a like-minded country, will probably be given the presidency of the European Central Bank, while the presidency of the European Council (the least relevant of the three appointments) will probably be a consolation prize for the region that lost the other two competitions.

In the coming months, EU governments will have to appoint presidents for three of the most important institutions in the bloc: the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the European Council.

These are not minor disputes: The commission is in charge of proposing legislation in the European Union, represents the bloc abroad and handles negotiations on issues such as trade agreements. The new commission will have to hit the ground running, especially since the European Union and the United States are still struggling to negotiate a trade agreement (agriculture remains the primary obstacle) while the White House's deadline for the bloc to come up with ways to limit its exports of cars to the United States will arrive in November. The European Central Bank, in turn, sets the monetary policy for the 19 members of the eurozone and will be a key player in any future crises in the currency area. While there is not a direct connection between geography and ideology, southern Europe is likely to push for an ECB president that continues some of outgoing ECB President Mario Draghi's signature policies — such as low interest rates and bond-buying programs — while northern Europe is likely to push for a more orthodox president.

Unhappy Governments

The elections also triggered domestic repercussions across the European Union. In Italy, the governing League party's strong performance will increase disputes with its coalition partners in the Five Star Movement, especially as the League will look to introduce policies that the Five Star Movement opposes — including competing for big infrastructure projects and granting more autonomy to Italy's northern regions. At the same time, the League will push to cut taxes in Italy. This is something that will irritate the European Commission, which is worried about the impact on Italy's deficit.

In Germany, meanwhile, the worse-than-expected performance of the governing center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD) is a reminder that this is an awkward alliance that nobody wanted. While the parties are likely to stick together, the collapse of the government and an early general election cannot be ruled out. This is exactly what's happening in Greece, where the ruling center-left Syriza party decided to call an early election after its poor performance in the EU Parliament vote. The vote is expected in late June or early July. The French government, for its part, had a bittersweet election: President Emmanuel Macron's En Marche party lost the election to the right-wing National Rally, which shows that many voters are not happy with the Elysee and could force the government to slow down its reform agenda. But Macron's party is allied with ALDE in the European Parliament and expects to be a key member in the future legislature.

Brexit Blues

The elections for the EU Parliament in the United Kingdom produced mixed results. On one hand, support for parties that want the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union was slightly higher than support for parties that want to leave the bloc. This only adds to pressure on leaders of the Labour Party, the main opposition party, to abandon its current ambiguity about a second Brexit referendum and openly support a new vote.

When it comes to Brexit, the question still remains the same: What kind of exit to push for?

On the other hand, the absolute protagonist of the election was the Brexit Party, which obtained 32 percent of the vote. This result will influence the leadership contest within the Conservative Party — which obtained a disappointing 9 percent, its worst-ever result — as a large number of people who voted for the Brexit Party are former Conservative voters. The outcome will convince the Conservatives to finally "deliver Brexit" and try to regain the votes they lost. The question remains the same, however: What kind of Brexit to push for? Surveys suggest that a hardliner (who considers that a no-deal Brexit is an acceptable outcome if London cannot negotiate a satisfactory deal with Brussels) stands a better chance of becoming party leader (and therefore the next prime minister) than a softliner. The new Conservative leader should be appointed in late July, and no matter who becomes the next prime minister, their first attempt will be to negotiate an orderly deal with Brussels.



DougMacG

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Re: European elections
« Reply #283 on: May 29, 2019, 06:32:46 AM »
If the most nationalist of the constituents can leave (Brexit), what remains is further Left - and emboldened.  The more Left the EU turns, the larger and stronger the nationalist, populist opposition grows.  I see nothing but discord and polarization in their future.
---------------------
https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/05/understanding-the-results-of-the-european-parliamentary-elections/
...
And these projects are indeed formidable: to centralize the power and sovereignty of 27 nation-states in European institutions without solving their existing democracy deficit; to replace their independent budgetary arrangements with a single European fiscal policy without the power of tax collection; to create a common European defense structure separate from NATO without increasing anyone’s defense expenditure; to replace fossil fuels with renewables to solve climate change without massive regulation, and a realistic plan to prevent a huge rise in energy costs for industry and consumers. This is the hubris of government, but its costs always fall on others.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2019, 07:12:14 AM by DougMacG »

Crafty_Dog

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George Friedman: Europe Redefined
« Reply #284 on: May 30, 2019, 08:31:11 AM »


May 30, 2019



By George Friedman


Europe Redefined


The European Parliament elections are a benchmark for a continent in flux.


The biggest takeaway from the European Parliament elections, which were held last weekend, is that the political center continued its decadelong retreat. This election is a milestone in that regard, though it is difficult to articulate why, considering the European Union has no clear constitution that defines its institutions and its powers. Instead it is governed by treaties among nations. Treaties among nations are necessarily compromises, and compromises necessarily make for ambiguity. Some institutions are controlled by constituent governments, of course, through which democracy is mediated by domestic elections. But the European Parliament is the only institution in which the votes of EU citizens create the membership. The multiplicity of authoritative bodies and their overlapping powers only adds to the ambiguity.

From the beginning of the European project, few European governments were prepared to cede power to pan-European institutions. The European Union is not a multinational state. Yet the European Parliament reflects the idea of Europe as a single political entity. The rest of the European Union reflects the fact that it is the nation-states that have joined together in a treaty organization, the elected governments of those nation-states retain ultimate authority, collectively over the EU, and ultimately over themselves.

Before the Maastricht Treaty went into effect in 1992, there were several disagreements between European nations over policy issues, with many going their own way. These faded for a while but never completely disappeared. Nations occasionally chose to disregard European rules and go their own way, but they were bound together by their original ideology, which dictated simply that after two world wars of staggering horror, Europe sought an exit from its past. The creation of economic unions (one of the stipulations of the Marshall Plan) was designed to eliminate what was thought to be the fundamental cause of these wars: nationalism. The thought was that binding nation-states together economically would reduce the chance of war. It worked insofar as there were no wars, though that had as much to do with the general weakness and dilapidation of Europe as it did with the fear of battle.

Nationalism may have been the original motive for the EU’s creation, but after 1992 the bloc adopted another principle:

technocracy, which arose from the ashes of the Soviet Union. The Cold War had been an ideological battle. Europe’s leaders envisioned something that moved beyond ideology. They wanted a government of experts, a government that made decisions without the burdens of outdated systems of belief about what government should do. Beneath the nation-states, and beneath the democratic parliaments, emerged a cadre of what might be called technocrats, a disinterested class committed to efficiency and governance. The EU managed the enormously complex system through regulations, and the regulations were formally approved by political masters but were generated and controlled by the civil service.

All this worked to some extent until 2008, when the competence of the technocrats was brought into question, and when national leaders became more responsive to the problems in their own countries for fear that they would lose their jobs. The idea that the technocracy of Europe was not ideological was an illusion. Technocracy is itself an ideology, deciding what is better and worse based on the consensus of the moment, rather than on explicit principles.

The consensus between 1992 and 2008 was the belief that economic growth, seen as the inhibitor of war, was all-important. The distribution of wealth, or the damage done to some through the impositions of efficiencies leading to growth, was simply a price to pay. Somewhere along the way, a tacit consensus emerged between center-left and center-right parties of a Europe with common values. In their shared vision, Europe’s laws aligned not with the wishes of their voters but with the principles of the parties and the technocrats who shared them.

The measure of a technocracy, though, is its competence. It appeared to many that Brussels was incompetent, and that their pious repetition of the centrist belief in European values was merely a cover for the interests of the European elite.

This came to a head with the Muslim migration issues, and it did so in three ways. First, it raised the issue of whether the EU principles could compel nations to accept migrants based on European principles from which some states and many people dissented. Second, there was the awareness that when migrants came, they would not live in the elite, affluent neighborhoods of the member states – in other words, the places that advocated the loudest for open doors. Third, it raised fundamental questions about the limits of EU power and the rights to self-determination of member states.

Over the past 10 or so years, the EU’s center held in the face of the British referendum to leave the EU, the Greek crisis, the election of governments in Poland and Hungary that pursued the wishes of their electorates rather than the EU, and of Italy, which resisted the EU’s attempt to impose a solution to its financial crisis.

Naturally, the center responded by demonizing all of these centrifugal forces. Also natural was the spread of these movements labeled as populist.  What they were was a return to what Europe had always been and truthfully never left, for all the efforts of the EU. Nationalism was re-emerging, drawing the lower classes into the system, insisting on controlling who may reside there, and treating Europe as a treaty rather than a nation. The EU was created to suppress such forces, and the EU was losing control of the situation. As happens to those who believe that they have the right to govern, they could not accept the idea that the right to govern was slipping away.

Hence the importance of these EU elections. The centrist parties weakened a little. The nationalist parties strengthened a little. And, depending on where you draw the line between left and right, left-of-center parties fared pretty well. But what is important is the fact that the elections showed that the center parties are losing control over the political system, however slowly. (Losing, but not yet having lost.) The decisions on this will not be made in the European Parliament but in the national parliaments, which are directly representative of their citizens. I suspect that one more economic crisis or attempt by the EU to impose behaviors that many oppose, such as migration into Europe, can break the increasingly fragile structure. Since the technocrats can’t imagine losing authority, this will be led by an unwillingness to adjust to changing realities, the weakness of all treaties.


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DougMacG

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Britain-European matters - Boris Brexit Plan
« Reply #286 on: October 03, 2019, 08:11:03 AM »
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgcF0f63q8A
8.5 minutes.  [watch it]
This is a serious leader with a serious plan.

I would rather be Britain leaving than be the EU without Britain.

If Britain can leave and get a free trade agreement with the EU, and
If Britain after Brexit can quickly get a free trade agreement with the US,
And if China can resolve its trade differences with the US,
Then the global economy can resume robust growth and many good things will come out  of that.
All of this is possible - this year.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2019, 11:03:56 AM by Crafty_Dog »

ya

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Re: European matters
« Reply #287 on: October 06, 2019, 07:21:30 AM »

DougMacG

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Tories pulling ahead
« Reply #288 on: November 11, 2019, 08:23:29 AM »
Do we still post Britain under European Matters?      :-D

Boris' Tories pulling ahead.  Nigel Farage's Brexit pulling out to make way.

We will see.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-49798197

DougMacG

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European matters, Boris, Brexit
« Reply #289 on: December 12, 2019, 08:25:18 AM »
Best wishes for Boris today over at our ally Britain.  If he can pull this off, it is world changing IMHO.

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Re: Tories pulling ahead
« Reply #290 on: December 12, 2019, 11:12:25 PM »
Britain and western europe will be shifting over to "islam in islamic countries" not too far off in the future.


Do we still post Britain under European Matters?      :-D

Boris' Tories pulling ahead.  Nigel Farage's Brexit pulling out to make way.

We will see.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-49798197

DougMacG

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Britain, conservatives win BIG
« Reply #291 on: December 13, 2019, 05:38:02 AM »
Best wishes for Boris today over at our ally Britain.  If he can pull this off, it is world changing IMHO.

https://www.bbc.com/news/election-2019-50765773

This is world changing.  Trump needs to make immediate free trade agreement with them, a framework for the rest of the world. 

The rest of Europe needs to re-think everything now.  Europe without Britain is badly damaged goods.

What Brexit means for (continental) Europe
https://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1078.msg116169#msg116169
This changes the balance in the EU between northern and southern Europe.  In other words, what is wrong politically with the EU now gets much worse without the UK.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2019, 05:46:21 AM by DougMacG »

Crafty_Dog

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Re: European matters
« Reply #292 on: December 13, 2019, 10:58:35 AM »
President Trump this morning repeated his previous offerings of good trade deal with Britain.

And yes, the EU faces grave internal contradictions.    If/when it goes,  what implications for NATO countries on Russia's border?

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Re: European matters
« Reply #293 on: December 13, 2019, 02:41:52 PM »
President Trump this morning repeated his previous offerings of good trade deal with Britain.

And yes, the EU faces grave internal contradictions.    If/when it goes,  what implications for NATO countries on Russia's border?

The countries actually willing and able to defend themselves need to form their own alliances.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF on Brexit
« Reply #294 on: December 14, 2019, 07:43:51 AM »
   
    Brexit After the Election: For the UK, the Political Risk Is Only Beginning
By: Ryan Bridges

The United Kingdom went to the polls Thursday and voted again for Brexit. The Conservative Party won 364 of 650 seats in parliament, giving it a strong majority to advance the EU withdrawal agreement negotiated by its leader and Prime Minister Boris Johnson and leave the European bloc at the end of January 2020. Passage of the agreement in theory resolves one of the most critical issues, the status of the Irish border, which significantly reduces the political risk for the EU side of Britain’s departure.

But for the United Kingdom, the political risk is only beginning. The start of formal trade negotiations will draw farming and business lobby groups deeper into the negotiation and force both sides into difficult compromises. Moreover, any trade deal will require the approval of the European Parliament as well as the parliaments of constituent member states, subjecting to it political scrutiny that it has generally yet to experience. Hopelessly optimistic pledges aside, the chances of resolution on the future relationship by the end of 2020 are slim. A deal would require significant concessions by one or both sides in a very short time frame, while no deal would greatly increase the risk of the breakup of the United Kingdom.

Much more important than what is happening between London and Brussels will be how London manages its relationship with the governments of Scotland, Northern Ireland and, to a far lesser extent, Wales. The pro-Scottish independence Scottish National Party (SNP) secured 45 percent of the vote in Scotland, a gain of more than 8 percentage points over the 2017 election and good enough for 48 of 59 seats in the regional parliament. The SNP campaigned on holding another independence referendum – which would be the second since 2014 – and party leader Nicola Sturgeon was quick to declare that the results gave her a mandate to follow through on that pledge. Meanwhile, Johnson – whose party lost more than half its seats in Scotland, falling to six seats from 13 – vowed during the campaign not to permit another Scottish independence referendum. Technically, the SNP needs the consent of the government via a Section 30 order to hold another referendum, though some constitutional experts believe there may be leeway.

Regardless, were Downing Street to refuse, it would likely strengthen the Scottish independence movement and create even more problems down the line. Opinion polls still show a roughly even split on Scottish independence. The three most recent surveys – conducted by YouGov, Panelbase and Survation, all in December – find the anti-independence side ahead by 10, 6 or 1 percentage points, respectively. The “No” side won the 2014 referendum by 10 percentage points, so these margins suggest a closer vote this time. A hard line by London could boost the Scottish nationalist cause, especially if combined with a hard Brexit; 62 percent of Scots voted to remain in the EU, and polls suggest that a harder Brexit increases support for independence.
At the same time, London might be facing unrest by unionists in Northern Ireland in the coming year. To secure the
EU withdrawal agreement, Johnson agreed to apply customs checks on goods moving across the Irish Sea from Britain to Northern Ireland. This outraged unionists, for whom the agreement is tantamount to the forced economic reunification of Ireland, or at least the partitioning of Northern Ireland from Britain. Unionist groups are already warning that they will blockade ports and take other unspecified measures to disrupt trade with the Irish Republic in the event that checks are instituted. Such checks would occur only if no trade deal were worked out at the end of the U.K.-EU transition period, which will terminate at the end of 2020 but as it stands can be extended until the end of 2022. At the same time, nationalist parties in Northern Ireland won more seats in Thursday’s election than did unionists, a first since Ireland’s partition in 1921. This prompted nationalist calls for a border poll on a united Ireland, though such an event is likely years away.

The Conservative Party’s election manifesto ruled out any extension, but given that the party has opposed every Brexit extension to date only to acquiesce at the last minute, there are doubts about its sincerity. And importantly, delay in this case would work to London’s advantage – not necessarily in the negotiations with Brussels, but in its dealings with Edinburgh and Belfast. The SNP wants to hold a referendum quickly – Sturgeon has said she will seek approval for a vote before Christmas – but the case for independence may be weakened if the vote is held while negotiations are ongoing, an extension has been secured (a request for extension must be made by the end of June) and a softer Brexit looks possible. The SNP’s best chance for independence may be to wage a protracted battle over the legality of another referendum or otherwise drag its feet while hoping that the Johnson government agrees to either the hardest possible Brexit deal or no deal at all – though in that case it runs the risk of a soft Brexit that deprives it of its momentum. Similarly, delay means no customs checks in the Irish Sea, which for England puts off the problem of unionist unrest in Northern Ireland.

All signs suggest that the U.K. and EU will need all the time they can get for the next phase of the negotiation. Both sides obviously want a trade agreement, but after the way the withdrawal agreement talks went, Brussels believes Johnson is a pragmatist who can get away with making concessions that other politicians can’t. Brussels will also need to proceed cautiously to better account for the wishes of individual member states in the next phase, since any deal will require national approval. And the EU is fully aware of the Scottish situation, which it can use to its advantage so long as Scotland’s status is unresolved. The British government needs a favorable trade agreement with its largest trade partner, but more than that it needs to keep its own union together – especially when it comes to Scotland, which is larger, wealthier and more populous than Northern Ireland and, importantly, shares an island with England. For at least the next year, the phase of Brexit that ostensibly covers the trade relationship between the U.K. and EU will hardly be about trade.   




DougMacG

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European matters, Michael Barone on Boris' win
« Reply #295 on: December 17, 2019, 08:06:29 AM »
 In March 2019, conservatives trailed liberals in polling.  Pasting the entire article, long but all of it is important.  Very different system, but this is a direct analogy to the US and Trump with our next election story yet to be written. The article is filled with facts and analysis.  Michael Barone is (another) rare example of a professional, credentialed journalist, where you can say all that without sarcasm.   )

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/boris-johnsons-revolution

First, the numbers. The Conservatives won 365 seats in the House of Commons, which gives them a majority of 80 if every other member votes against them. The election yielded the most seats Conservatives have won since the days of Margaret Thatcher, when they took 397 in 1983 and 376 in 1987. It’s a parliamentary majority that will endure for the five-year limit on this term of Parliament.

The Labour Party won only 203 seats. That’s the lowest number for Labour since the election of 1935, 84 years ago. This is a harsh repudiation of the party and its left-wing leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Second, this was an immense personal victory for Johnson. Twelve months ago, he was a much-mocked backbencher, having resigned as foreign minister in July 2018 to protest the latest feckless proposal by Prime Minister Theresa May to reach an agreement to withdraw from the European Union. British voters, in their highest election turnout ever, voted to Leave rather than Remain in the EU, but May, a Remain voter, placed the negotiations in the hands of civil servants — "Yes, minister" types — determined to frustrate the will of the 17.4 million Leave voters, the largest number of Britons in history voting for any party or position.

Remainers on the BBC, and even at Sky News, the Times, the Financial Times, and the Economist — affluent and fashionable Londoners — increasingly felt free to dismiss Leave voters as bigoted and stupid. Former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and John Major called for a second referendum, while the Liberal Democrats promised to ignore any referendum result that didn’t support Remain. A majority of parliamentary constituencies voted for Leave, but a majority of members of the House of Commons supported Remain and, as May fumbled, became increasingly bold in their contempt for their fellow citizens.

In the end, they didn’t capture the hearts of the people. Immediately after May missed her own March 31, 2019, deadline for withdrawing from the EU, the Conservative Party fell behind Labour in the polls. Conservatives finished fifth, with a pathetic 9%, in the May 2019 European Parliament elections in which Britain only participated because it hadn't withdrawn as expected. May was finished, and by June, she accepted that she must resign.

This time, Johnson was elected in her place. As the lead spokesman for Vote Leave, he was the obvious candidate for party leader after the June 2016 referendum, but he was opposed at the last minute by his up-to-then ally Michael Gove. That left the field open for May. Johnson became prime minister in July 2019, but Remainers, confident now that they could somehow prevent Brexit, had majorities in the Commons and the overt support of Speaker John Bercow, who abandoned the traditional neutrality of his office.

Johnson prorogued (kept out of session) Parliament for two weeks more than usual for the three party conferences, and when fellow Conservatives opposed his policy, he “withdrew the whip,” throwing them out of the party and effectively preventing them from running as Conservatives in the next election. Parliament passed a bill barring him from withdrawing from the EU on his promised date of Oct. 31; he contemptuously complied. Still refusing to rule out a “hard Brexit” — leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement and trading under WTO terms — he got the EU to agree to what smug Remainers said it never would.

In all his defiance, Johnson's course resembled that of William Pitt the Younger's tenure as prime minister in 1783 and 1784. Pitt was installed by King George III, and Johnson was effectively installed by the majority in the Brexit referendum, but both lacked majorities in the Commons. Both were pummeled each day by smug and eloquent opponents, ridiculed for their oddities and supposed incompetence. Both stood and took it, returning day after day to experience more humiliating roll calls. Both were confident that they had the backing of the voters, and both outmaneuvered their opponents to call a general election.

Pitt won an overwhelming victory in the election of 1784 and remained prime minister until he resigned in 1801. He then returned to the office in 1804 until his death in 1806. Only 24 in 1783, he served as prime minister for a large majority of his adult life. Johnson, who is 55, is unlikely to last so long in office. But last Thursday, he won a victory as smashing and as personal as Pitt’s. And under the fixed-term law that David Cameron’s Lib Dem coalition partners persuaded him to pass, he is set to be prime minister, with a large majority, for five years.

For two insightful portraits of Boris by two writers who have known him since the 1980s, see this July 2019 Quillette article by Toby Young (son of Michael Young, the author of Meritocracy) and this post-election piece by Andrew Sullivan.

A third note: I’ve known Dominic Cummings a dozen years, from the time he was leading a successful campaign to keep Britain out of the Euro. He was the lead strategist of the Vote Leave campaign and is widely credited with securing the Brexit majority in June 2016. (The definitive account is Tim Shipman’s All-Out War.) When Johnson moved into 10 Downing Street, he called Cummings in and put him in charge of political strategy and planning for a general election.

Throwing Remainer Conservatives out of the party — not just cranky backbenchers but former chancellors of the exchequer, foreign ministers, home ministers, and a grandson of Winston Churchill — was a daring move characteristic of Cummings, who has often voiced his contempt for Conservative MPs, civil servants, and all of SW1 (the postal code for Parliament and the whole Westminster village). So was the Conservatives’ three-word campaign slogan, voiced often at the focus groups Cummings studies closely: “Get Brexit Done.” So was the emphasis on beefing up the National Health Service and treating it as an essential and central institution of British nationalism rather than (as some free marketeers regard it) an inefficient anachronism.

Johnson and his campaign trail companion, Michael Gove, had worked with Cummings on the Vote Leave campaign, and Gove had hired him during his years as education secretary between 2010 and 2014. In that post, despite a hostile bureaucracy and a very hostile national teachers union called NUT, Gove established hundreds of “academies,” very similar to American charter schools, mostly free from stifling government bureaucracy and union rigamarole. Cummings left late in the term, and Cameron transferred Gove out of Education in July 2014 for fear that his presence there would motivate the teacher unions to oppose Conservatives vigorously in the May 2015 election. But as Cummings argues, the academies continue to exist, and parents and children who did well in academies will continue to be a political constituency for Gove-like education reform for many years to come.

In other words, Cummings understands that policies can be changed back and reforms can lose their edge, but the creation of long-term constituencies for policies is more lasting. He thinks more of the creation of special government organizations capable of achieving distinct, difficult goals and generating creative ideas over the long run. In some of the very long blogs he has written over several years, Cummings has voiced his contempt for standard bureaucracy and his admiration for some public sector organizations that actually got things done — the Manhattan Project, NASA’s moon launch program, the Defense Department’s DARPA — and for some similarly venturesome and unconventional private sector initiatives. Now Johnson is keeping him on, with a view toward reforming British government. A Sunday Telegraph headline reads “Boris Johnson plans radical overhaul of civil service to guarantee ‘people’s Brexit.'”

So, how about the Labour Party? Formed in 1900, it led its first government coalition in 1923; in this election, it won fewer seats in the House of Commons, just 203, than it has in any election since 1935.

Conservatives won 66 Labour-held seats, mostly in the Midlands and North of England, part of the “Red Wall” (in British politics, Labour is colored red, Conservatives blue) of Labour seats from the North Sea west to the Irish Sea and the border of Wales. These were historic gains for the Conservative Party, which has not carried many of these seats for decades — in some cases for a century. They included former coal mining and industrial seats such as Bishop Auckland (Labour since 1935), Rother Valley (Labour since 1918), Don Valley (Labour since 1922), Blyth Valley (Labour since 1950), and Leigh (Labour since 1922). The biggest swing from Labour to Conservatives, as political scientist John Burne-Murdoch calculated, came in seats with low percentages of college graduates and high percentages of low-skilled workers.

These seats all voted Leave in the Brexit referendum, as did virtually all the seats Conservatives gained from Labour (the one seat they lost to Labour, Putney, in affluent London, voted heavily Remain). But Brexit wasn’t the only issue. This was also a backlash against Labour’s left wing party leader Corbyn and the coterie of left-wing North London aides who dominated the party. Voters brought up in the working-class tradition of the North of England were turned off by Corbyn’s refusal to sing the national anthem, by the video in which he identified his pronouns as him and his, by his past association with IRA terrorists (he invited them to Westminster Palace days after they blew up the hotel where Margaret Thatcher was staying at the Conservative Party conference), and by his tolerance and effective encouragement of vile expressions of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

In the Brexit referendum, the great difference between electoral blocs was not the traditional divide between the affluent and the working classes. It was geographic — between the metropole and the ethnic fringes (London voted 60% and Scotland 62% for Remain, with higher percentages in both posh Kensington and heavily Muslim Tower Hamlets), while the heartland of England beyond metro London, with 70% of the population of the United Kingdom, voted 57% Leave. Yvette Cooper, a former contender for the Labour leadership, after nearly losing her Northern seat, said the Corbyn leadership took working-class people for granted and, while it ran reasonably well in cities (northern Manchester as well as London), got clobbered in the more numerous northern towns.

The Corbyn crowd hoped that promises of economic redistribution — higher taxes on the rich, free tuition, and free broadband — would bring back traditional working-class voters to the Labour Party. But this “boob bait for the Bubbas,” in Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s phrase, didn’t work. It lacked credibility — where would they find all that money? — and failed to offer the one thing the metropolitan elite refused to offer people with traditional working-class outlooks: respect.

The Conservative breakthrough in the Red Wall, their success in the North of England, gives them a different sort of constituency than Margaret Thatcher won in the 1980s. Those Conservative majorities were tilted toward the south of England, toward the affluent and those made affluent by purchasing public housing or seeing their privately purchased houses zoom up in value in London and southeast England’s robust housing market. They appreciated Thatcher’s contraction of the public sector and the resulting expansion of the private sector. But in the North, Thatcher Conservatives were resented for allowing the contraction of old, heavy industry and coal mining and for reducing labor unions’ powers.

Johnson’s Conservative Party is more northern, more downscale, with more “loyalty to the land beneath your feet,” in the phrase of British analyst Sumantra Maitra.

It is also a party committed to heavier spending on the NHS, to infrastructure projects in the North, even if they score low on cost-benefit grounds.

The left-wing Labour and “one nation” Conservative tendencies of the parties are contrary to their character 20 years ago. Tony Blair’s New Labour Party, with its respect for free markets and accommodation of Thatcherite reform, made huge inroads in the affluent south of England while holding onto traditional industrial Labour seats without any heavy-breathing effort. But opposition to Blair’s backing of the Iraq war and left-wing dissatisfaction with his free market policies has changed the party, without devastating electoral consequences. Blair’s New Labour won 418 seats in the 1997 general election, more than twice as many as the 203 seats Corbyn’s Labour Party won last Thursday.

The Conservative Party’s response to New Labour’s strength was initially an attempt to gain ground in the Thatcherite south. Cameron, elected party leader in 2005, took up environmental issues and proclaimed that the blue Conservative Party was also green. As prime minister from 2010 to 2016, he and his ally, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, pursued austerity, eliminating 1 million public sector jobs while cutting taxes. That exactly doubled the Conservative seat total from 165 in 1997 to a narrow majority of 330 in 2015. Then Cameron and Osborne took the opposite position on Brexit from what Thatcher’s admirers think she would have taken, and they were swept from office in 2016. May’s snap election reduced the Conservative total to a non-majority of 317; Johnson’s new Conservative Party is now up to a robust, Thatcher-sized 365.

I discern a pattern here, in Britain and in the United States as well. Post-World War II political parties increased the size of the state and pursued policies that led to runaway inflation. Conservatives did this as well as Labour in Britain, Republicans as well as Democrats in the U.S. Then free-market-oriented reformers came to power — Margaret Thatcher in 1979, Ronald Reagan in 1981 — and produced dynamic economic growth and created robust majorities for their center-right policies, centered in affluent metropolitan areas. In response, center-left parties, after repeated trouncings, turned right, and under the leadership of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair eschewed leftish expansions of government and attracted many of the upscale conservatives who had formed the basis of Thatcher and Reagan majorities.

But after the revitalized center-left loses power, Democrats in 2001, New Labour in 2010, their party turns sharply left and, either because its leaders overlook the obvious political lessons or because they elevate conviction over calculation, present an image favored by the upscale metropolitan Left but repulsive to its historic working-class base outside the largest metropolitan areas. Attempted bribes of its traditional downscale supporters are rejected as transparently insincere and irrelevant to on-the-ground circumstances. And the center-right party accepts the cues of the political marketplace, shifts its policies to match an increasingly non-metropolitan and downscale base. The question now is whether the newly oriented center-right governments of Donald Trump and Johnson can produce results for which new constituents will see as fulfilling their promises.

Similar patterns can perhaps be discerned, or teased out of recent election results, not just in Britain and America, but also in their Anglosphere cousins in Australia and Canada and perhaps in European and Latin American nations as well. But that gets beyond what has already become a lengthy analysis of what I am sure will long be regarded as a landmark British election, and one whose outcome seems rooted in fundamental trends but which nonetheless seemed far from certain even a few months ago. Political talent, in this case Johnson’s, can make a difference in the political life of a nation.

Finally, are there any implications for the U.S.? There are many possible analogies between the political scenes in the U.K. and the U.S. In the victory of Johnson’s Conservative Party one can find reasons to imagine the reelection of Trump this year, but certainly not to imagine it as inevitable. The unpalatability of Corbyn’s Labour Party would certainly seem to provide some cautionary lessons for America’s Democrats, though many of them are as unlikely as the Corbynista faithful to find them persuasive. Certainly, as I have written since June 2016, there are resemblances between the two nations’ emergent political divisions between the metropole and the ethnic fringe on one side and the geographic and historic heartland on the other — and between the center-left party moving upscale and the center-right party moving downscale in their appeal and their core constituencies. In both countries, we have seen predictions proven wrong, at least temporarily, that an increasing number of non-white voters and the attitudes of younger generations would make it impossible for center-right parties to win national elections.

The final point is that individual politicians can make an enormous difference in framing issues and determining outcomes. Johnson, moldering on the backbenches a few months ago, made such a difference this year. Trump did the same in 2016. Can he do it again next year?
« Last Edit: December 17, 2019, 08:52:04 AM by DougMacG »

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GPF: George Friedman: The Fragmentation of the EU
« Reply #297 on: January 28, 2020, 10:46:47 AM »
January 28, 2020   Open as PDF



    The Fragmentation of the European Union
By: George Friedman

At the end of this week, the United Kingdom, the second-largest economy in Europe, will exit the European Union. Meanwhile, Poland is under intense attack by the bloc for violating EU regulations by attempting to limit the independence of Polish judges; Hungary is also under attack for allegedly violating the rule of law; and one of the major parties in Italy has toyed with the idea of introducing a parallel currency that would allow the country to manage internal debt without regard for EU regulations and wishes.

The founding principle of the EU was the unification of hitherto warring nations into a single bloc, built around common economic and political principles and a common European identity. The assumption was that given Europe’s history, putting aside differences was a self-evident need for all European countries. But as we see in the case of Italy, it is not clear that there is a common European economic interest. Given the tensions with Poland and Hungary, it’s also unclear if there is a common political interest. And the U.K.’s decision to leave also raises questions over whether these common interests persist and whether national identity can be subsumed under a European identity. The tensions within the EU do not reflect marginal disagreements; they represent fundamental questions over whether national interests and identities can be reconciled with poorly defined European interests. The EU, therefore, is moving toward an existential crisis. It may survive, but only as a coalition of nations representing a fraction of Europe.

Self-Determination or Nothing

The fundamental issue is national identity and sovereignty. The U.K., Italy, Poland and Hungary are all European nations, but they have different histories and therefore different sensibilities. What it means to be Italian is not the same as what it means to be British. They in turn have a different sense of self from the Germans or Romanians. The question, therefore, is: What is this European sensibility? The common assumption is that it is liberal democracy. The problem is that there are many types of liberal democracy and, more to the point, the fundamental principle behind liberal democracy is national self-determination – the idea that the nation must select the government and that the government is answerable to no one other than the nation. If you sever the idea of national self-determination from liberal democracy, you undercut liberal democracy’s fundamental principle and, with it, the European identity. Liberal democracy is national self-determination or it is nothing.

The governments in the U.K., Italy, Poland and Hungary all have been elected. Some politicians who were defeated in elections have made the claim that these elections were the result of fraud or illegitimate manipulation of public opinion, as was the case with the Brexit vote. But the fact is that those of us who know these countries know that the views the governments hold are not alien to the countries. Poland and Hungary have their own understanding of what state power should look like; Italy has a long history of complex and fragmented government needing to control its own economy; and the United Kingdom’s constituent parts have national identities that are very different from those of other countries.

Europe’s nations are all different, and while history made each adopt the garb of liberal values beyond just national self-determination, they never gave up their own identities because they could not. They are what history made them, and while German or Soviet occupation shaped them, a few decades of horror – and the adoption of the idea that national self-determination must be determined through elections – was not enough to cause them to abandon who they were. France was France before it held its first election. In other words, national identity may exist prior to and outside of liberal democracy for some countries. This is not the case for the United States; its very identity from its founding was liberal democratic. German identity, however, has varied dramatically over the decades, and Germans were still German in spite of the variations. Hitler represented the national will well after he abandoned elections.

This takes us to extreme places we need not go, but it also points out that national identity and national self-determination can be expressed in ways that are faithful to the national will but violate the liberal democratic methodology in nations with ancient and complex foundations.

The Illusion of European Identity

If the idea of national identity is so complex, then how can we define the European identity? The European identity that the Maastricht treaty embodied was a snapshot of a unique moment in European history in which the Anglo-American occupation of Western Europe and the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe were ending. The liberal democracy that was imposed on Germany’s destroyed cities seemed to be part of German identity, history notwithstanding. The Poles and Hungarians yearned to be Europeans, and the liberal democracy that emerged from World War II was their template, as it was for Italy.

But I would argue that that European identity was an illusion to which Europe clung, fearing that the only alternative was a return to its own bloody past. After the Berlin Wall came down, there finally appeared to be one Europe, and all would be gathered into it. The problem, as I have said, is that the histories of Italy, Germany, the U.K., Poland and Hungary were all wildly different. At that moment, they all yearned for the same thing, but as the moment passed, each country recollected what it was, and they are now – without the shame it would have brought in 1991 – resurrecting it. The European invention of technocratic liberalism was alien to them, and the right of national self-determination was both an empirical reality and a moral principle.

And so they begin to go their own way, with EU officials hurling threats and condemnation over frustration that the EU bureaucracy is not only no longer authoritative but also no longer frightening. The British economy grew in January, an indication that the catastrophe Brussels had wished for the U.K. may not visit London, or Italy, if it should decide to go its own way with its currency. And certainly, neither Poland nor Hungary, having survived Stalin and Hitler, is likely to be cowed into submission by increasingly small EU subsidies. The weakening of the EU has undercut its ability to pay for conformity.
Europe once had a magnificent idea, a free trade zone called the European Economic Community whose main focus was trade, not inventing identities. It was replaced by the European Union, but the EU can now look to another example, the North American trade zone, which has a slightly larger gross domestic product than the EU. The two are fundamentally different; the North American bloc does not claim to represent a North American identity, its members sometimes dislike each other intensely, and it does not have a secretariat to dictate how they should live. But then, the North Americans did not live through what the Europeans lived through and they are not trying to suppress who they were and, of course, still are.   




DougMacG

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European matters - Germany at the Crossroads
« Reply #298 on: February 11, 2020, 07:45:50 AM »
Merkel's chosen successor drops out of Chancellor race
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/10/world/europe/annegret-kramp-karrenbauer-resign.html

Past prediction:  EU is screwed "greatly changed" if Britain leaves.
https://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1078.msg116169#msg116169

With Britain gone, the remaining balance of EU power changes.  More protectionist, hurting Germany's exports, and only the Mediterranean group can get 35% support to block initiatives.  With Britain out the northern countries no longer can block initiatives they oppose.

Deutsch-xit: Germany should leave the EU.   Germany should pass free trade agreements with US, UK, Europe if they want it.  Germany should protect its borders, manage its immigration.  Establishment shouldn't need their hated outsiders to figure that out.

Germany fears its far right.  Germany's policy of wilkommenskultur built the far right.
Crime spike:  https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/crime-spike-in-germany-puts-pressure-on-immigration-policy

Teaching Germany to migrants:
https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-europe-migrants-germany-integration-i-idUKKCN0YG1ZM
"From a list of holidays that includes Easter, Christmas and Labour Day, they must identify which ones are Christian; they must determine whether foods like white sausage, pizza and doner kebabs are German or foreign; and they must pick out the types of insurance they need here."  [All in conflict with Sharia Law, right?]

What could possibly go wrong?

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