Friday, September 22, 2023

Europe is also having a crazy start to the year

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Hello. David Meyer here in Berlin, replacing Alan today.

The United States has had a tumultuous start to 2021 that is drawing attention, so I would also like to highlight the (thankfully non-violent) turmoil in European politics at the moment.

Brexit is so last year. Here’s what’s happened in the EU over the past three days – and remember, in Europe, ‘liberal’ generally means pro-business and socially liberal, as does the dominant center-right wing (in the European eyes) of Democrats in the United States:

ItalyThe government was plunged into crisis when former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi withdrew his small liberal Italia Viva party from the ruling coalition amid a row over how much COVID-19 relief funds should be spent investments in infrastructure as opposed to grants. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte now has a left-wing minority government, but his other coalition partners are line up with him and he is unlikely to resign.

EstoniaThe government collapsed following a corruption scandal in the real estate development field involving the Center-Left Party of former Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. Liberal Reform Party Leader of the Opposition Kaja Kallas now goes try to form a new coalition with the Center Party.

-The Dutch government, a centrist coalition between conservative, liberal and social democratic parties, is close to collapse. This time around, the cause is a scandal over the payment of family allowances, in which the Dutch tax authorities mistakenly sued thousands of families for the repayment of “fraudulent” debts, causing the financial ruin of many people. Far-right opposition leader Geert Wilders waits, as always, backstage, and he recently made hay in criticize the government for its late deployment of the vaccine.

But maybe the biggest change that’s about to happen will be Germany, which has a federal election coming up in September. The big names of Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union party will choose their new leader tomorrow. As the CDU is the dominant party in Germany and as Germany is with France one of the biggest beasts of the EU after Brexit, this choice will have major ramifications outside German borders.

I wrote about the candidates last February – the pandemic delayed these elections by almost a year – but, in short, this weekend’s three options are Friedrich Merz (much more conservative and economically frugal than centrist Merkel), Armin Laschet ( the continuation candidate of Merkel) and Norbert Röttgen (Merkel-esque but rather a hawk of foreign policy).

The winner could become the center-right candidate to succeed Merkel as chancellor, or not. Health Minister Jens Spahn and Markus Söder, the leader of the Bavarian CDU party, CSU, have both seen their profile rise in the pandemic – either one could soon be on the line for the summit of the ticket, if the CDU party congress chooses a leader who polls among the German general public would make it more difficult for the party to find coalition partners.

So it’s not just American politics that is dizzying at the moment! It was always inevitable that the pandemic would have political consequences, and we are only just beginning to see them materialize, on both sides of the Atlantic. More news below, and have a great weekend.

David Meyer


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