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The talk of the continent


Tsipras before the MEPs: Finally a glimpse of European democracy

Sat, 11 Jul 2015 19:17:36 +0100

, – Alexis Tsipras' appearance before the European Parliament on 8 July was a superb moment in Europe's democratic life, claims the blogger Fabien Cazenave. Of course, the debate did not resolve the Greek crisis. But what a difference to European Councils taking place behind closed doors. See more.

Presidential elections in Poland: The wind of change

Mon, 25 May 2015 18:19:09 +0100

Andrzej Duda, the candidate of the opposition right wing Law and Justice party (PiS) won the second round of presidential elections beating the current president Bronisław Komorowski, supported by the ruling Civic Platform (PO). According to official results, Duda received 51.55 percent while Komorowski 48.45 percent of the vote with turnout reaching 55.34 percent. A little known lawyer from Cracow managed to win over the countryside as well as the youngest and the oldest voters. “The [electoral] campaign was intensive and brutal while the victory of Duda ¬– a third-tier PiS politician – sensational”, writesGazeta Wyborcza. Meanwhile, Rzeczpospolita looks into the reasons of Duda’s unexpected success:

There is no doubt that the Civic Platform, or rather what is left of it, is responsible for Komorowski’s defeat. Its unpopular, faulty political mechanism, without a clear-cut leadership, has been shaken every now and again in paroxysms of scandals and arrogance. PO politicians have simply got used to ruling and treated being in power not as commitment but their due privilege.

Gazeta Wyborcza worries that Duda’s victory may pave the way for yet another PiS victory in Autumn’s parliamentary elections. “In 2005 PiS won the doublet: following Lech Kaczyński’s victory in presidential elections, it also won the parliamentary ones”, reminds the daily.

After the UK elections: “Brexit” would put Europe at stake

Fri, 15 May 2015 09:50:33 +0100

Following crises in the Mediterranean and Ukraine, “another glaring existential problem” has now emerged in Europe’s western front, writes Natalie Nougayrède in The Guardian. The success of the Conservative Party in the UK's general election last week poses serious questions for the European Union.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, newly re-elected with a slim majority, is largely responsible for whether the UK can stay united and within the EU, Nougayrède argues.

Cameron has promised a renegotiation of the UK’s EU membership, but risks disappointing Eurosceptics in the build-up to a nation-wide referendum on the matter—

Nobody – in Berlin, Paris or anywhere else – wants to embark on a painful process of changing EU treaties. That is rightly seen as a high-risk game for the whole European edifice.

Cameron’s electoral success is proof that he has weathered the storm of economic crisis better than almost any other European leader. He now stands with Angela Merkel as one of “a handful of political survivors” in the EU, a position that should give him considerable political capital. In spite of this, Cameron has pandered to populist demands to curb the free movement of people, "one of the pillars of the EU", which has damaged his credibility on the European stage.

European policy makers are unsure about how all this will pan out. It is unclear how UKIP, a rabidly eurosceptic party, will influence Cameron's stance. And the

Eurosceptics within his own party are an equally unknown quantity. More pressingly—

[Britain's] allies are puzzled as to how the country will be able to rediscover the advantages of being part of a larger European endeavour, and reclaim a role for itself within that club.

Nougayrède cautions against the gung-ho attitude to the European Union so often displayed during the election campaign, for “there is much at stake and much to lose” if Britain were to leave the Union. There is the very real risk of a Scottish secession. And an EU without Britain would lose a key economic and political partner.

If Europe loses Britain, it runs the risk of self-destruction. And if Britain drops out of the EU, it will have to navigate uncharted waters, and risk becoming a small, insignificant player in a globalised world.

Britain’s political class, and Cameron in particular, must ensure that the domestic debate around EU membership happens in a constructive and informed manner without the scare-mongering and jingoism that has come to dominate British politics. The stakes, Nougayrède concludes, could not be higher.

Investigation: A difficult EU-funded conversion for Polish airport used by CIA

Thu, 14 May 2015 10:49:52 +0100, Brussels – A small airport that was used by the CIA to fly in kidnapped detainees to the Agency's "black sites" has received millions of EU funds to be converted into an international airport. But it might well never be viable, as no sufficient traffic is expected before long. See more.

Presidential election in Poland: ‘Duda beats president’

Mon, 11 May 2015 10:22:47 +0100

Andrzej Duda, candidate of the right-wing opposition Law and Justice (PiS) won the first round of presidential elections on May 10. It is a huge “surprise”, writes Gazeta Wyborcza, adding that Duda mustered 36.69 percent of the vote. Bronisław Komorowski, the incumbent president supported by the ruling centre-right Civic Platform (PO), who was a clear favourite before Sunday’s vote, came second on 29.14 percent while the independent candidate and former rockman Paweł Kukiz got 21.28 percent. Participation was 45.88 per cent.

“It is a serious warning for the entire team in power”, said Komorowski, who will face Duda in a May 24 runoff. For most commentators, the first round results constitute a “bucket of cold water” for Komorowski and his allies and may herald “a political earthquake” in Poland ahead of Autumn’s parliamentary elections.

Adam Michnik, editor-in-chief of the centre left daily Gazeta Wyborcza daily, warns that ­–

the first round shows Poland may yet again fall into the hands of irresponsible and incompetent people.

Hungary: Far-right gets stronger in parliament

Tue, 14 Apr 2015 14:53:43 +0100

The far-right Jobbik party won a by-election in the Taploca constituency on 12 April, gaining its first ever individual constituency seat.

Jobbik’s candidate Rig Lajos obtained 35.3 per cent of the votes, while the candidate for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party obtained 34.4 per cent.

“The ruling party’s strategy has been beaten down, and not by the left, but by the right”, notes Budapest daily Magyar Nemzet. Headlining with “the change coming from the right”, the paper writes that “a shift in power is in the air”. Fidesz already regards Jobbik – which has never before obtained more than 20 per cent of the vote – as a threat in the 2018 general election.

According to the conservative daily –

even if the majority of voters are unsatisfied with the government’s latest decisions — the internet tax, rapprochement with Russia — they do not entirely trust Jobbik. But it must be recognised that while the discourse of the extreme right has had a certain resonance, the ruling right-wing party has failed to mobilise itself.

Anti-Orbán demonstrations in Budapest: Government faces corruption accusations in nuclear deal

Tue, 10 Mar 2015 13:23:57 +0100

In Budapest, demonstrations against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his nationalist policies have been growing for more than a year. Magyar Narancs reports that Hungarians took to the streets of the capital on 8 March to protest corruption and express discontent towards a new controversial measure: on 3 March, Parliament voted to extend the period during which the details of a civilian nuclear deal signed with Russia on 17 February will be classified as secret from 15 to 30 years.

Thousands who demonstrated at the call of the opposition carried placards reading “this government is corrupt” and cried “Mocskos Fidesz” (“Fidesz is dirty”) in reference to Orbán’s party, writes the daily.

The deal concerns a €10bn loan granted by Russia to Hungary in order to cover 80 per cent of the construction costs of two new reactors for the country’s only nuclear station at Paks, a project of Russian energy company Rusatom that provides Hungary with about 40 per cent of its electricity.

While the government cites a “matter of national security”, notes the site, the opposition believes that —

it is a matter of covering up corruption. While the opposition calls on János Áder, the President of the Republic, to use the Constitutional Court, the demonstrators plan to hit the street once again on 28 March.

Conflict in Ukraine: ‘Marines’ arms for Russians’

Mon, 02 Mar 2015 10:53:21 +0100

“Despite an embargo introduced 9 months ago, Czechs are selling Moscow the best rifles in the world”, writes Rzeczpospolita. According to documents seen by the daily, the weapons including American automatic Bushmaster 90705, 90838 as well as German Heckler-Koch rifles and Sig Sauer pistols used by US marines and Delta Force, were oficially ordered by Russian hunters.

Rzeczpospolita fears that the weapons delivered by the Czech Republic might be used by the Russians not only against Ukrainian army but also to stage a provocation (Moscow might want to prove that Washington has been furtively delivering arms to Ukrainians), adding that –

The news is even more shocking when considering the fact that so far no EU country has dared to supply Ukraine with deadly weapons.

Hungary: ‘Putin is breathing down our neck’

Thu, 19 Feb 2015 10:13:22 +0100

Following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Budapest, left-wing magazine Magyar Narancs explains that “the Hungarian government cannot deny the importance of this visit” and that “Moscow also needs Hungary.” Noting demonstrations on the eve of the Russian president’s arrival, the Budapest monthly writes that Putin “needed to show the whole world there was still a European country that supports him” on his first visit to an EU member state since sanctions were imposed on Moscow.

For his part, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán underlined that “even if Hungary does not support the sanctions, peace is Ukraine is a prerequisite for reestablishing good relations between the EU and Russia.” Putin, isolated on the international stage and encountering trouble finding new takers for his goods and services, signed several economic agreements with Budapest in the domains of energy, nuclear power, higher education and medicine.

Greece and austerity: Athens’ toothless revolutionaries

Tue, 10 Feb 2015 12:32:44 +0100

He may have named his youngest son Ernesto and have hung until recently a Che Guevara poster in his office, but Alexis Tsipras is not willing to fan the flames of revolution, argues Newsweek Polska. He is not a “blind ideologist but a formidable strategist who loves political games”, adds the weekly, stressing that the new Greek leader skilfully filled the political vacuum created by the collapse of Greece’s long-established two­party system. As Greek historian and sociologist Iannis Carras explains –

His main asset is the fact that many Greeks see him as a politician who stood up to defend his country. Which is why Tsipras will continue to use patriotic and nationalist rhetoric currently shared by the Greek left and the rightwing parties.

But he won’t be able to meet the “unrealistic promises made during election campaign” even if he has started dismantling some of the reforms of his predecessor. He has suspended the privatisation of the Piraeus Container Terminal and DEI, an energy supplier, raised the minimum wage and plans to reemploy some of the Greece’s fired public sector workers. However, experts put the cost of Tsipras’ promises at 10bn dollars, money Greece simply doesn’t have.

This is why, argues Gazeta Wyborcza, the new Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, has come up with a four­point recovery plan which is crucial to the government’s survival. It means linking the interest on government debt to GDP growth, continuing reforms but with “a laser not a butcher’s knife”, boosting investment by the European Investment Bank not only in Greece but across Europe and finally creating a new social assistance programme in the euro zone.

Key elements of the plan depend on the consent of EU partners and Brussels. This explains why Tsipras and Varoufakis are tirelessly travelling across the continent seeking support and looking for allies. When asked what would happen if EU leaders and the Commission reject his proposals, Varoufakis recently admitted that “death would be better”.

Small wonder Tsipras has toned down his revolutionary rhetoric ahead of the final showdown with the German chancellor. But Newsweek Polska stresses that Angela Merkel currently seems less willing to compromise than in 2012, when she feared that the collapse of Greece would result in the break­up of the euro zone –

At present German chancellor is more inclined to accept a theory of the weakest link – getting rid of the burden of the weakest member would help the euro zone. The negotiations between Athens and Berlin will be extremely difficult. One of the German journalists has put it bluntly: “Mrs. Merkel finished off all her internal and external enemies starting with Helmut Kohl. She’ll have Tsipras for breakfast”.

Greece: ‘Tsipras exposes European president Tusk’

Wed, 28 Jan 2015 11:49:50 +0100

“Greece under the leadership of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras could become a thorn in side of of the European Union on both an economic and political level,” with the Greek leader opposing further EU sanctions against Russia, writes De Standaard.

EU Council president Donald Tusk found himself “in an awkward position” when the new governement in Athens announced 27 January that it does not support his statement on the conflict in Ukraine and the attack on Mariupol by alleged pro-Russian insurgents, where at least 100 civilians died last weekend. Earlier on Tuesday, Tusk had asked EU foreign affairs ministers to propose new sanctions against Russia at Thursday's meeting. The Greek government said Tusk should have contacted Athens before sending out the declaration. According to the Brussels newspaper, Tsipras is “a likely ally of Putin”: the first person he met after his appointment as PM on Monday was the Russian ambassador in Greece.

Elections in Greece — Seen from Greece: ‘A new chapter in Greek history’

Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:21:34 +0100


“Syriza wins 36.3 per cent: Greece turns the page,” headlines Ta Nea. In an editorial, the paper says voters have sent their first clear “no” to the policies that have led to successive EU-brokered bailout plans and the first “yes” to seeking alternatives —

Syriza, which launched its bid to enter Parliament a short time after the memorandum that led to the first bailout plan, has managed to ride the anti-austerity wave, evolve, mature and ultimately succeed in transforming itself into a major harbinger of change.


For I Kathimerini, the Syriza victory has opened a “new political scene” in Greece. The paper sums up leader Alexis Tsipras’s three main promises: “cancelling the memorandum, restructuring the debt and introducing reforms”. The paper notes that the new government will meet with national institutions before opening negotiations with the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund —

Tsipras has appeared as a unifying leader in referring to a victory for all Greeks. To begin healing the wounds of the crisis, he has announced that his priorities for the coming days will be to restore popular rule […] and to promote radical reforms.


“A victory charged with the weight of History: the country’s future in the hands of the left”, headlines Efimerida Ton Syntakton. For the daily, the triumph of Syriza is of great importance for all of Europe. At a time when European integration is being worn down by the far right and the forces of euroscepticism, Greek voters have sent a powerful message against bailout plans: “The two partners of the [outgoing] coalition, New Democracy and Pasok, have been punished for their policies,” writes the paper. But Syriza now has to prove it can govern —

The left has won the election and now takes up the responsibility of running the country. It is an incontestable victory that opens a new chapter in contemporary Greek history.

Elections in Greece — Seen from Europe: ‘Athens has no interest in losing the support of the EU’

Mon, 26 Jan 2015 13:05:21 +0100

Syriza, led by 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, won 36.3 per cent of the vote, gaining 149 of the 300 seats in Parliament. The party has announced it will form a coalition government with the right-wing populist Independent Greeks.“Greece moves to the left,” headlines German left-wing paper Die Tageszeitung, illustrating its front page with a map of the Mediterranean with Greece moving west of Italy. “Greece voted democratically; the result deserves respect,” writes Klaus Hillenbrand, adding it “bears opportunities and risks” —[The victory] is a chance for Greece to get rid of corruption and nepotism. [...] Syriza can not circumvent negociations with European creditors; Greece would be bankrupt in a few months. [...] But Europe should take those negociations seriously.Headlining on the “Historical shift to the left in Greece”, German conservative daily Die Welt writes that “Greece urgently needs a functioning government.” A meeting of eurozone finance ministers is scheduled in Brussels today —Experts believe that Syriza will not remain on a collision course with the lenders. [...] Analysts of the Commerzbank believe that Athens has no interest in losing the support of the EU, thus making an exit from the euro unlikely. In Spain, El Periódico headlines “The Greece has had enough,” emphasising the fact that “Greeks have said ‘no’ to austerity, loud and clear.” In Brussels, “after having sounded all sorts of alarm bells, they have prepared for Syriza’s victory, without wanting to go back to the bargaining table, as Tsipras’s party wishes,” writes the Barcelona daily, according to which —No one wants Athens to abandon the euro. The debt level is undeniably high, but there are ways to extend deadlines and negotiate reductions, as long as they are not to be confused with cancellations. The EU knows how to be pragmatic, and Tsipras has also shown he is capable of toning down his rhetoric. [...] Only time will tell if this is the change that both Greece and Europe need. For the moment, indignation has given way to hope. “Greece and Europe on collision course after election win for left,” headlines The Independent, which adds that conflict appears inevitable due to the unprecedented situation of an anti-austerity party coming power, and that Syriza and the European Union may be quite capable of finding common ground —In theory, a radical party like Syriza is in a far better position to introduce structural reforms than that of [former New Democracy Prime Minister Antonis] Samaras representing the political and economic establishment. One of the problems for the Troika is that it is the very fact change was being imposed by abroad, and most notably by Germany, which delegitimised necessary reforms. Compromise between Greece and the EU should be possible, but the problem remains that the EU leaders hold all the high cards and may be tempted to impose their will regardless of whom the Greeks vote for.Paraphrasing Tsipras, Bucharest daily Adevărul writes Syriza’s victory “is for all the people of Europe”. However, the paper asks “when will we see the populism?” —Tsipras, a star of the socialist, anarchist and populist political scene in Greece, now has his chance to give Europe a fright. There are many Tsiprases in Europe, on the left and on the right. [...] But what is the meaning of Tsipras’s rise to power? Above all, that if people do not feel things are taking a turn for the better, they can wake up to find a young, populist, anti-system politician running their country.[...]

Early elections in Greece: The radical left worries Brussels

Thu, 15 Jan 2015 17:52:31 +0100

Europe’e elites feel threatened by the growing power of the far left, writes Le Monde, according to which the radical Syriza party could win Greece’s early general elections on 25 January. However, the Hellenic republic is far from being the only European country witnessing the rise of “the left of the left” —

Several thousand kilometres from Athens, the euro-critical far-left Podemos party in Spain stands a strong chance of winning legislative elections in 2015. […] In Portugal, Cyprus and Ireland, far-left movements are seducing voters who are exhausted by budgetary rigour imposed “from above”, from Brussels, and who are nostalgic for a generous welfare state.

The daily explains that these movements from the radical left have modernised by “dropping obsolete themes and focussing on ‘oppression from Europe and the International Monetary Fund’”. The paper recalls that “Socialist prime ministers signed the deals with the troika” in Greece and Portugal, which explains why many voters, feeling betrayed by the moderate left, have turned to more radical parties. However, even if these leaders have “a virulent discourse against Brussels”, they are not opposed to the European Union in itself, but want rather “to transform it.” This pro-European dimension could lead to a loss of influence in favour of “the populist right”, argues Le Monde.

Italy: ‘A new president by the end of the month’

Thu, 15 Jan 2015 08:37:15 +0100

Italian president Giorgio Napolitano submitted his resignation on 14 January, reports La Repubblica. At almost 90, Napolitano said in his last new year’s eve speech he was aware of “the growing limitations and difficulties” his age was bringing to his duty and that he would quit following of Italy’s EU presidency, which ended on 13 January. The now Senator-for-life was elected in 2006, then re-elected in 2013 — a first in Italy.

The Parliament, along with the representatives of Italy’s 20 regions, will begin voting for Napolitano’s successor on 29 January. Senate president Pietro Grasso is acting as interim president in the meantime, adds the Roman daily.

Presidential Election in Croatia: ‘Kolinda in the president’s office’

Mon, 12 Jan 2015 10:41:36 +0100

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, candidate of the centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, won Croatia’s presidential election of 11 January with 50.74 per cent of votes, pulling ahead of outgoing president Ivo Josipović by just over 20,000 ballots, reports 24 Sata.

It is the first time Croatia has elected a woman to be its head of state. A former foreign affairs minister and ambassador to Washinton, Grabar-Kitarović has also been Assistant Secretary General at NATO.

The Zagreb daily notes Croatians voting abroad tipped the balance in Grabar-Kitarović’s favour, with more than 91 per cent casting ballots for her candidacy. The overall participation rate was 59.06 per cent.

Attack against Charlie Hebdo: ‘France’s 11 September’

Fri, 09 Jan 2015 09:59:07 +0100

Le Monde devotes its front page to the attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead on 7 January. In emotional editorial, the daily writes —

Words can barely describe the state of shock across France the day after the terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo. Keeping the vastly different proportions in mind, it is a shock that recalls that experienced around the world on 11 September, 2001.

The paper salutes the work of its assassinated colleagues —

For several years and decades, they used caricature, humour and impudence to resist fanaticism, to attack fundamentalism, to denounce stupidity and to mock institutions.

Even though the staff of Charlie Hebdo were aware of the threats against them, they “never backed down, gave in or batted an eye”. As it condemns the attack, Le Monde also warns against a “trap” intended to “exacerbate the divisions, suspicions and fears that pervade French society” and calls for “stopping any association between the assailants and the whole of the Muslim community”. The paper hails the spontaneous republican gatherings that happened the day of the attack and concludes with the catchphrase of solidarity that has spread in France and around the world: “We are Charlie.”

Early elections in Greece: ‘On Tuesdays the euro, on Fridays the drachma’

Tue, 06 Jan 2015 15:49:24 +0100

Less than three weeks from general elections in Greece, Der Spiegel wonders about the intentions of Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the left-wing Syriza party and frontrunner in the campaign to form the next government. The German magazine sees mixed messages that leave observers across Europe “at times anxious and at others baffled” —

“Our party as a whole wants to see the country in the euro,” Tsipras has said, for example. But he qualified that statement by adding: “on the condition that social cohesion isn’t threatened.” On another occasion, he said the euro was “not a fetish” and that Greece was “nobody’s hostage,” whatever that might mean. […] Members of the current conservative government have joked that Tsipras’ positions are indeed clear. “On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays he wants to stay in the euro zone, but on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we’re back on the drachma, and on Sundays he wants a referendum,” they say.

In any case, the magazine predicts a Tsipras-led government would be one of compromises, as Syriza is unlikely to win a parliamentary majority

The aid programs for Greece from the EU and the International Monetary Fund expire at the end of February. Negotiations to form a coalition government will likely take longer than that. And in Brussels, high-level diplomats are hopeful that the economic and political reality will catch up to the leftist ideologues in Athens.

Early elections in Greece: A broad coalition at the end of the vote

Mon, 05 Jan 2015 18:25:49 +0100

I Kathimerini, Athens – Whatever the outcome of 25 January’s snap poll, Greece will end up being ruled by a broad consensus government, if only because it is the only way Athens can deal with its creditors, says I Kathimerini’s executive editor. See more.

Early elections in Greece: ‘With concealed weapons’

Tue, 30 Dec 2014 10:43:24 +0100

Greece is en route to early general elections on 25 January after its Parliament failed to elect a new president on Monday. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s candidate, Stavros Dimas, fell short of the 180 votes needed, as only 168 MPs voted for him in the third electoral round.

“This time”, writes To Ethnos

polls show there is no clear favourite, as the political landscape is blurry, with [former Socialist Prime Minister George] Papandreou preparing a new party and [left-wing party] DIMAR ready to join [left-wing] SYRIZA. […] The strategy of New Democracy [Samaras’s conservative party] will consist in suggesting to voters they face the choice between Samaras or [SYRIZA’s leader] Alexis Tsipras and the “SYRIZA or memorandum government” dilemma, while [socialist leader] Evangelos Venizelos presents himself as the guarantor of the country’s political stability.

Greek Presidential Elections: ‘Vote in an election climate’

Tue, 23 Dec 2014 14:27:19 +0100

The Greek Parliament voted in the second round of presidential elections on 23 December, after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s candidate, former EU commissionner Stavros Dimas, did not get the 200 votes needed to be elected on the first round. “The government hopes that its candidate will get more support this time”, writes Kathimerini, as Samaras sought “political consensus in exchange for early elections at the end of 2015” and “pledged to broaden the government to include ‘pro-European’ personalities”.

The government also hopes to take advantage of a prosecutor shelving an investigation into the claims by Pavlos Haikalis on Monday, deeming in his report that there was no evidence to back the lawmaker’s allegations about a mediator trying to bribe him for his support to the government.

In the end, the second round ended with Dimas getting 168 votes. The third and last round will therefore take place on 29 December.

Immigration: What is the meaning of Germany’s ‘anti-islamisation’ movement?

Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:23:33 +0100

A recent anti-immigration demonstration of the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida) movement in Dresden attracted more than 10,000 people. With more protests planned in other cities, the German press wonders what is behind the movement. “Neither the politicians nor the press saw the movement coming”, writes Claus Christian Malzahn in Die Welt — All over the country, people are discussing what the events in Dresden mean: some see a far-right rebellion, while others only see worried citizens. But they all agree on one point: Pegida is more than just a local phenomenon. Some political scientists […] even see the demonstrations as an historic caesura, a symptom of a broken relationship between politics and the people. Writing in Die Zeit, a group of nine journalists aims to pinpoint Pegida’s organisers as people from the lower-middle-class “who have a livelihood, but no big goals” — There seems to be a relation between the organisers of the demonstrations in Dresden and football hooligans. But this hypothesis of the intelligence services has not yet been proven. The journalists add that even if some protesters are clearly affiliated with right-wing groups such as the NPD, Pegida is not solely a forum of the far right. There is, however, a “fluent passage” between Pegida and the anti-euro Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, even if “officially, there is not yet a uniform position towards Pegida within the AfD.” In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, publisher Berthold Kohler urges the political establishment to take the Pegida movement seriously — The message that those marching in Dresden and other cities are not only from the radical right […] has reached Berlin. […] Taking it really “seriously” means considering the protests not only as temporary pre-Christmas haunting; it means pursuing immigration policies that are bound […] to the interests of the country. Even in Germany, it is legitimate to ask immigrants to show desire and interest towards integration. Even if harder policies would fail to convince hard-line anti-immigration protesters, Kohler argues, they would marginalise them by cutting them off from their support in the political centre. 73 per cent of the population says it fears radical Islam is gaining influenceAccording to a recent poll, 49 per cent of the German population supports the protests, 29 per cent rejects their ideas, and 26 per cent has mixed opinions. According to Die Zeit, this approval is fueled by a fear of radical Islamists on German soil. “73 per cent of the population says it fears radical Islam is gaining influence,” Die Zeit writes. Since the Muslim population in Dresden is practically nonexistent, Malzahn asks whether the far-right protesters and groups are comparable to the French Front National, UKIP in Great Britain, Hungary’s Jobbik or Austria’s FPÖ, all of which made considerable gains in May’s European Parliament elections. Nevertheless, in Die Welt, Jacques Schuster warns about hysterical reactions to the movement — To consider Pegida as a right-wing group is stupid and wrong. […] Fears and problems do not disappear simply because they are voiced by the wrong side. But it is also silly to speak of foreign domination in Germany. […] When it comes to immigration and asylum, we all know that there are problems that can be addressed by anybody. [...]

Greek Presidential Election: Leaders raise fears over euro membership

Fri, 12 Dec 2014 11:27:57 +0100

Greek and European Union leaders are sounding alarm bells over the presidential elections to be held in Parliament on 17 December, whose failure to secure a majority would trigger the fall of the country’s coalition government and shake up its EU-brokered bailout deal.

Ekathimerini writes that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, whose “coalition cannot yet count on the support of the 180 lawmakers it needs” to secure the presidency, has warned independent and opposition MPs that their votes could be a boon for the left-wing Syriza party, which he accuses “of scaring investors and threatening Greece’s position within the eurozone”.

The Economist observes that Syriza — which wants to cancel Greece’s debt and end austerity policies — would win more seats than any other party in the event of a general election, but adds it is not clear how its economic policies would be financed or “made compatible with Greece’s euro membership”.

In Brussels, EUobserver notes European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has weighed in on the election, saying he would prefer “known faces” to “extreme forces” and for the country “to be ruled by people who have an eye and a heart for the many little people in Greece and who also understand the necessity of European processes”.

Estonia: The digital republic where everyone’s invited

Fri, 05 Dec 2014 14:49:31 +0100

As The New York Times explains, Estonians can use a national identity card embedded with a microchip — to gain access to some 4,000 services, including banking, business registration and even fishing licenses. They review medical records and order prescriptions on smartphones. Almost everyone files taxes on the web within minutes, and about a third of voters now cast their ballots online. Beginning in December, EU and non-EU citizens alike can request an Estonian e-residency card, explains national newspaper Eesti Pävaleht , provided they “come to Estonia at least once to prove their identity at a national institution”. They can then access services through the portal Eesti Pävaleht goes on to say that — The e-residency card is similar to an identity card. But unlike an identity card – carried around in the pockets of Estonian citizens and permanent residents – it has no photograph. This card cannot serve as proof of identity in the real world. But it can in the virtual world, where it is used to log in to Estonian e-services and to generate a digital signature. E-residency does not give foreigners the right to take part in e-voting, which is "reserved for Estonian citizens and permanent residents." Eesti Pävaleht adds — E-residency is above all beneficial for business people, workers or students who have some link with Estonia. Previously, regular visitors to the country could not have access to e-services without permanent resident status. But, the paper continues, possessing a digital identity card "whose security is guaranteed by the Estonian state" might also be attractive for people with no direct links to the country, which "explains the rush for e-residency". Estonia transformed itself into a spearhead for e-government "on a small budget", writes The New York Times — Estonia’s decision to go digital also has been driven by one basic fact: It had no other choice. The country spends about €50m [...] a year on information technology. […] Most of the money goes to local companies, some of which began in local research centers started in the Soviet era. In large part, Estonia’s decision to go digital also has been driven by one basic fact: It had no other choice. When the Iron Curtain fell, Estonia had few financial resources and a small population to jump-start its economy. Local policy makers also soon realized that they could not offer Western-style services without using new technology, including the Internet, that could keep government costs at a bare minimum. The system rests on two pillars, notes the American daily — All Estonians are issued an identity card at 15, which includes a microchip that holds personal information and allows access to government and commercial services. To keep records safe, each card uses a personal identification number that must be correctly entered before using the digital offerings. [...] Estonia also relies on a government-run technology infrastructure, called X-Road, that links public and private databases into the country’s digital services. All personal information is kept on separate servers and behind distinct security walls of government agencies, but the system allows the state and businesses like banks to share data when individuals give consent. In these ways, notes The New York Times, "Estonia’s willingness to use digital products sets it apart from France and Germany, where p[...]

Local elections in Poland: ‘Elections without winners’

Mon, 24 Nov 2014 17:35:34 +0100

There is no clear winner to the November 16 regional and local elections in Poland, writes Rzeczpospolita following the much delayed announcement, on 22 November, of the official results.

Even though the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) received the highest share of votes (26,85%), it was the ruling Civic Platform (PO) with 26,36% that secured the largest number of provincial assembly seats.

Its coalition partner, the Polish Peasants’ Party (PSL), which mustered a 23,68% support came in third and turned out to be the “real winner” of the contest. As a result, PO-PSL coalitions will be able to hold onto power in 15 out of 16 voivodships (regions). The counting of votes dragged for nearly a week as a result of the new IT system failure and triggered allegations of vote rigging as well as resignation of the entire National Electoral Commission (PKW).

Poland: Protesters storm electoral office over delays

Fri, 21 Nov 2014 11:17:41 +0100

A demonstration of the radical right led to an occupation of the National Electoral Commission (PKW) in Warsaw on Thursday night, halting the process of counting votes of local elections, Gazeta Wyborcza reports.

Amid accusations of election rigging, the demonstrators demanded for PKW members to resign, for repeat elections to be held and for changes in electoral law as a result of the information chaos that ensued when IT system failure delayed the announcement of the results of the 16 November vote.

According to the daily’s commentator Jarosław Kurski, the occupation of the PKW office was “an act of terror against democracy unseen for the past 25 years”. Kurski blames the “act of vandalism and blind anarchy” on the leaders of the opposition parties Law and Justice (PiS) and Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), who insinuated that the elections had been rigged and demanded a repeat vote for political reasons. The demonstrators were removed from the building by the police during the night.

Rzeczpospolita warns the PKW is not ready for the parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for 2015, citing a report by the Supreme Audit Office that says the PKW has not yet announced tenders for the IT system that will support next year’s votes.

Czech Republic: ‘Zeman’s November’

Tue, 18 Nov 2014 15:50:38 +0100

Czech president Miloš Zeman was heckled and pelted by eggs and tomatoes thrown by several hundred opponents during 25th anniversary commemorations of the uprising against the Communist regime in Prague on 17 November. He was accompanied by heads of state from Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and Germany, all of whom received the crowd’s applause, reports Lidové noviny.

Critics accuse Zeman of betraying the human rights commitments of Václav Havel, the “father” of the “Velvet Revolution”, by supporting Russian president Vladimir Putin’s position towards Ukraine and opposing Russian punk group Pussy Riot, as well as showing support for Chinese leaders, notes the Prague daily.

Portugal: ‘Miguel Macedo’s exit forces Passos to shuffle cabinet’

Mon, 17 Nov 2014 11:23:26 +0100

Portuguese prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho has to rebuild his government following the resignation of Interior Minister Miguel Macedo on 16 November, writes Público.

Destabilised by the “golden visa” affair that broke on 13 November, Macedo said he wanted to “defend the government” and denied involvement in any wrongdoing concerning visas issued to foreign investors. The Lisbon daily adds Macedo —

stated that his authority as minister was undermined by the implication of close allies in the ongoing investigation into corruption in the issuing of “golden visas”.

Catalonia: ‘After 9 November, nothing will be the same’

Mon, 10 Nov 2014 15:25:54 +0100

According to official results, 2,236,000 ballots were cast, or 35.7 per cent of registered voters. Among them, 80.76 voted “yes” to the questions “Do you want Catalonia to be its own state? If so, do you want it to be independent?”


In Barcelona, El Periódico headlines with “Full sovereigntist”, proclaiming that —

Nothing was decided on 9 November, but after 9 November, nothing will be the same. […] The Catalonia that wants to determine its own future — with all the guarantees — is still standing and moving forwards. And it is demanding a response. The government’s strategy of remaining silent has proven as ineffective as its attempts to ban the decision and show contempt.


“A massive 9 November demands a political outcome,” headlines another Barcelona daily, La Vanguardia, for which the “unprecedented mobilisation marks a political point of no return in relations between the Catalan regional government and the central government”. Regional president Artur Mas has indeed —

once again called upon the Spanish prime minister [Mariano Rajoy] to “face up to the question of Catalonia in a concrete way”. [Rajoy said] the day was “useless” and would have “no repercussions”. Legal repercussions, no, but the fifth mass mobilisation in five years puts on pressure to bring an end to political inaction.


El País takes a similar view in its headline “Mas: now, the ‘real’ referendum”, and argues the moment has come for Mas and Rajoy to “return to the table” —

The two executives must now come up with a plan, a process and a flexible timeline to address the major issues for decisive reforms (powers, finances, language) that could be the basis of a credible, shared and lasting solution.


Conservative ABC, headlining “Farce and disobedience”, criticises the Rajoy government’s lack of action to prevent a vote that was declared illegal by the Constitutional Court —

The terms and conditions of each stage of dialogue between the two administrations should have been defined by the central government, through the firm exercise of the constitutional mechanisms designed to protect the general interest. This has not been the case. […] In Spain, everyone is free to disrespect the Constitution.

Catalonia : ‘Mas proceeds despite second Constitutional Court refusal’

Wed, 05 Nov 2014 12:12:34 +0100

The Constitutional Court on 4 November upheld the Spanish government’s ban against the “informal public consultation” on the independence of Catalonia scheduled for 9 November. The non-binding consultation was organised by the Catalan government after the Court ruled out a referendum planned for the same date.

Catalan president Artur Mas announced he would appeal the decision, go ahead with the “participatory process” and demand that Madrid “ensure freedom of expression” for Catalans, reports La Vanguardia.

United Kingdom: Diverging views on EU immigration study

Wed, 05 Nov 2014 09:34:01 +0100

Three British newspapers offer different readings of a major study on immigration to be to be published in the Economic Journal, as the heated public debate over government to proposals to tighten rules on EU citizens' right to work in the UK had prompted a Home Office minister to resign.

“European migrants made a net contribution of £20bn [€25bn] to UK public finances between 2000 and 2011,” writes The Guardian. For the centre-left daily, the University College researchers who authored the study have shown “Britain is uniquely successful, even more than Germany, in attracting the most highly skilled and highly educated migrants in Europe.”

More critical, conservative The Daily Telegraph argues the study finds immigration from within Europe gave the economy a boost of £4.4bn [€5.6bn] if the full period of 1995 to 2011 is considered. The daily also says the authors “emphasised their findings on the contribution of European migrants and gave less prominence to the findings on the costs of non-EEA immigration,” which it says “cost the public purse nearly £120bn [€153bn] over 17 years”.

The Independent interviews Norman Baker, a Liberal Democrat who says he resigned from his post as one of three minister of state in the Home Office due to his Tory colleagues’ “failing to pursue ‘rational evidence-based policy’” on immigration. For the paper, the study suggests government proposals to change EU labour rules “would cost the economy dear by deterring highly educated young Europeans from moving temporarily to Britain”.

Romania: ‘Ponta and Iohannis to face off for the presidency’

Mon, 03 Nov 2014 10:45:52 +0100

The first-round result of the presidential election in Romania on 2 November was “predictable”, writes Adevărul: social-democrat prime minister Victor Ponta and his liberal rival Klaus Iohannis will go head-to-head in a second round run-off vote on 16 November. According to partial results, they received 40.33 and 30.44 per cent of the vote, respectively. The participation rate was 53 per cent.

The vote was marked by the anger of Romanians in the diaspora: of the three million eligible to vote, only 161,000 were allowed to cast ballots, notes the Bucharest daily. Some “lined up for four hours in order to vote” writes Adevărul, but many were unable: in Paris, for example, security forces had to intervene in order to prevent angry voters from entering the Embassy following the closure of the voting booth.

In Bucharest, adds the paper, several hundred voters took to the street to demonstrate their support for “the humiliated diaspora”. Even unrecognised, an analyst tells the daily, —

the diaspora vote weighs infinitely heavier than the stamp they were unable to affix [on their ballots]. The invisible Romanians have become a visible critical mass.

Catalonia : ‘Farewell to the consultation’

Tue, 14 Oct 2014 09:16:36 +0100

Catalan president Artur Mas announced on 13 October that he was scrapping plans to hold a public consultation on independence on 9 November, the date earmarked for a referendum until its suspension by the Constitutional Court of Spain. As El Periódico explains, Mas’s decision to “replace the referendum on sovereignty with a ‘participatory process’ […] provoked a rupture within the sovereigntist bloc”.

Mas did not know how to rally other independence parties around his proposal, nor to bring them into his government. Some, such as the Republican Left of Catalonia, argued “the Catalan parliament must proclaim independence”, which it says would “open a constitutional process”.

Belgium: ‘Belfius trembling with fear over stress test’

Mon, 13 Oct 2014 12:54:44 +0100

Belfius Bank, formerly known as Dexia Bank prior to its nationalisation by the Belgian state in 2012, probably needs to raise new capital, and “there’s a real chance the bank won’t pass the stress test,” writes De Morgen.

On 26 October, the European Central Bank will publish the results of the test, but “more than one source has confirmed that it can work out badly” for Belfius. If Belfius needs refinancing, it would interfere with the plans of Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt, who wants to sell the bank.

United Kingdom: ‘I’ll keep Tories in power to get EU poll next year’

Mon, 13 Oct 2014 08:44:00 +0100

United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage says he would help the Conservatives form a majority after next year’s general election if current prime minister David Cameron’s party agrees to fast-track a referendum on membership in the European Union, writes Daily Mirror. As the tabloid notes —

Cameron has already promised a referendum on Europe in 2017 should the Tories win the next election. But Mr Farage said this would be brought forward if UKIP pick up enough seats to hold the balance of power in a hung Parliament.

The tabloid recalls that Farage previously “claimed he would never do a deal with the Conservatives”, but changed his tone after his Eurosceptic party entered Parliament with a by-election victory on 9 October. The daily also cites a poll showing “one in four voters now say they back the anti-Europe party,” which “could win anything between 12 and 128 seats” in the 650-seat Parliament.

Bulgaria: ‘GERB takes the elections, but not power’

Mon, 06 Oct 2014 09:18:40 +0100

Former prime minister Boyko Borisov's GERB party is leading in 5 October snap parliamentary election, but, according to exit polls, it fell short of an overall majority.

The outcome is a “highly fragmented parliament, with the presence of 7-8 parties”, writes Sega, forecasting “severe problems in the formation of a new cabinet”.

GERB is expected to win between 85 and 100 of the 240-seat parliament. The rival BSP (socialist) party “strongly collapsed”, scoring “the biggest loss since the transition. They will have less than 50 seats.” The DPS, an ethnic Turkish party, is expected to get between 20 and 35 seats, while some four smaller parties are expected to overcome the 4 per cent threshold. According to the daily —

In search of an alternative, people punished the major parties by voting for the smaller ones.

United Kingdom: ‘Human rights madness to end’

Fri, 03 Oct 2014 09:38:10 +0100

Britain’s government will lay out plans on 3 October to downgrade the European Court of Human Rights to an “advisory body”, a move that would “end its meddling in our affairs”, writes Daily Express.

Strasbourg judges “will be stripped of their powers to interfere in Britain” after the Tory government introduces a new Bill of Rights and Responsibilities that will change the application of human rights law. The conservative tabloid notes that according to the proposal —

If the judges reject the move, Britain would quit the European Convention on Human Rights and, as a result, the country will no longer fall within the court’s jurisdiction. […] It is certain to trigger an angry row with the Lib Dems, Labour and human rights campaigners. But the move was widely welcomed [...] by Tory MPs who say voters are fed up with unelected foreign judges siding with illegal migrants, terror suspects and criminals.

Poland: ‘The government will help everyone’

Thu, 02 Oct 2014 09:31:33 +0100

‘Farmers, miners, patients, veterans, students, pensioners and families – all of them may count on support of Ewa Kopacz’s cabinet’, writes Rzeczpospolita the day after the new prime minister, who took office following the appointment of Donald Tusk for the position of the president of the European Council, presented her exposé in the Sejm (parliament).

Her brief address included promises to overhaul tax system, business activity law, grant parent leaves to unemployed, pass a bill supporting those affected by the Russian embargo, continue assisting Ukraine and raise military expenditure to 2 percent of the country’s GDP. The daily argues, however, that –

on hearing PM yesterday, one might have an impression that particular interests of different social groups had become more important than a common goal of building a prosperous civic society.

After the address, Sejm passed a confidence vote in the new government by 259 votes in favour and 183 against.

Catalonia: ‘Express blockade’

Tue, 30 Sep 2014 21:00:14 +0100

“The Constitutional court suspended in a record time the 9-N” referendum, writes El Periodico, after the reception of the appeal by Madrid government against the Catalan bill on referenda and the decree calling for the consultation on Catalonia’s independence, set for 9 November and signed on 27 September by Catalan president Artur Mas. The Court issued its decision in record time because of "'the constitutional and political significanc’" of the Catalan challenge 'for Spanish society as a whole and especially for Catalonia’", the paper says.

*El Periódico adds that the Court —

agrees to suspend the [Catalan] measures and gives 15 to the Catalan government and parliament as well as the national parliament to present their remarks against the decision. The Catalan government has already announced it will appeal.

Serbia: ‘Good day for tolerance’

Mon, 29 Sep 2014 12:15:49 +0100

For the first time in years, the gay pride march took place "without incident", notes Danas, as around 1,500 people walked peacefully in the streets of Belgrade. It was the first time the pride was held since 2010, when the march was attacked by ultra-conservative groups and thus banned.

“Numerous ambassadors, representatives of the non-governmental sector as well as foreign media” took part to the march, adds the daily. EUobserver for its part reports that EU enlargement commissioner, Stefan Füle, declared that it was “a milestone in the modern history of democratic Serbia”, adding that

Belgrade’s decision to allow the parade on Sunday is seen by some as a tactic to help ease its accession negotiations with the European Union.

Catalonia: ‘The State’s offensive to block the consultation begins’

Mon, 29 Sep 2014 10:26:21 +0100

“The State implemented switfly yesterday its political and institutional response to the Catalonian Parliament’s bill calling for a consultation” on the region’s independence, writes La Vanguardia the day after the Council of State, the Spanish State's highest advisory body, “approved unanimously” the legal framework of Madrid’s strategy to block what it says is a de facto referendum. The Council met on the day after Catalonia’s president, Artur Mas, signed a decree formally convoking the vote on 9 November.

The daily explains that the government says that the consultation in Catalonia would be a covert refendum, something that, under the Spanish Constitution, it is the only one with the power to call and that all Spaniards must have a say. The government is to hold an emergency cabinet meeting on 29 September to launch a lawsuit in the Constitutional court aimed at blocking the vote. Should the court agree to hear the case, the vote could be delayed until a final decision is taken, which could take months, adds La Vanguardia. Meanwhile, Mas said in a tv interview that “ballots will be in place on 9 November”.

Poland: ‘New government of party agreement’

Fri, 19 Sep 2014 16:11:53 +0100

Ewa Kopacz, designated as Poland’s new PM, should present her new government on Friday, 19 September, with Grzegorz Schetyna, her chief opponent in the ruling Civic Platform (PO), expected to get the job of foreign affairs minister, Gazeta Wyborcza reports. Schetyna will replace Radosław Sikorski, who will become Speaker of the Sejm. Other new names in the cabinet shakeup include Teresa Piotrowska, who, as the daily highlights, will be the first woman to head the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Poland, as well as Cezary Grabarczyk (minister of justice) and Andrzej Halicki (minister of administration), who represent warring factions in the party now to be united ahead of next year's general elections.

Referendum in Scotland: Scots say No to Independence

Fri, 19 Sep 2014 12:36:30 +0100

Scotland chose to remain part of the United Kingdom in a historic referendum on 18 September, with an estimated 55.3 per cent voting to stay in the Union, as opposed to 44.7 per cent for independence. The Herald highlights a record-breaking voter turnout of 84.5 per cent, noting "the previous highest turnout in any UK election was 83.9 [per cent] in the 1950 general election." For columnist Andrew McKie, the participation rate itself is a victory for Scotland — The result is decisive enough to preclude any return to the issue for a generation – with one proviso. There must be the delivery of further powers to Holyrood [the Scottish parliament]. [...] Scotland can be proud of having conducted a debate which has, for the most part, eschewed party politics, genuinely engaged in issues and mobilised people who have never taken part in political life before. The Scotsman, which called to stay in the union, says the referundum proves that "in the right circumstances, politics can enthuse and energise". The daily says the biggest lesson in improving democratic engagement was including 16- and 17-year-olds in the vote — What was clear [...] was the energy and enthusiasm with which this group grabbed the opportunity to be part of the national conversation, with schools reporting keen interest across all ability groups. And all, of course, watched by younger pupils in each school, hopefully inculcating in them an appetite for when they too could be trusted with such important matters of state. [...] It was always a mockery that people in this age group could work, pay taxes, marry, divorce and join the army, but could not participate in the country’s decision-making. It is time now for the same franchise to be extended to other elections too. Political digest The New Statesman writes that Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond conceded defeat by saying Scotland had not decided to become independent "at this stage" — a barely disguised reference to the "neverendum" that the Unionists fear. After a closer result than most predicted two years ago, Salmond signalled that he believes there is potential for a second vote in the near future. To the south, British prime minister David Cameron said the vote settled the debate "perhaps for a lifetime", notes The Times. For the daily, the next steps are "major constitutional changes" for the entire union — The prime minister said he would ensure that a pledge to devolve tax, welfare and borrowing powers would be delivered in full, with proposals drawn up by November. [...] He also said however that the upheaval would have to include handing the English greater power over their laws too [...] at the same pace as devolution to Scotland. For unionists in England, the victory of the No vote means acknowledging that such concessions must be made. "Thank God my country is still intact", writes author Daniel Hannan in conservative B[...]

Referendum in Scotland: The costs and benefits of independence

Wed, 17 Sep 2014 08:29:11 +0100

According to economics Nobel prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz, there should be no fear of Scotland’s independence, as it would surely bear come costs, but also some significant benefits. In an op-ed published in The Scotsman, Stiglitz says that “there is, in fact, little basis for any of the forms of fear-mongering that have been advanced”.

First of all, Stiglitz he has no doubt that an independent Scotland “will still be part of Europe”. He also believes that currency is “a non issue”:

There are many currency arrangements that would work. Scotland could continue using sterling – with or without England’s consent. […] Because the economies of England and Scotland are so similar, a common currency is likely to work far better than the euro – even without shared fiscal policy.

“The fundamental issue facing Scotland is different”, writes Stiglitz:

it is clear that there is, within Scotland, more of a shared vision and values – a vision of the country, the society, politics, the role of the state; values like fairness, ­equity and opportunity. […] The Scottish vision and values are ­different from those that have become dominant south of the Border. Scotland has free university education for all; England has been moving ­towards increasing student fees, forcing students with parents of limited means to take out loans. Scotland has repeatedly stressed its commitment to the National Health Service; England has repeatedly made moves towards ­privatisation.

So, concludes Stiglitz, “independence may have its costs – although these have yet to be demonstrated convincingly; but it will also have its benefits”: Scotland could decide where to make investments and how to “recapture more of the benefits from them through taxation”. The difficult question that Scotland has to face is

whether Scotland’s future – its shared vision and values, a shared ­vision and values that has increasingly departed from those dominant south of the Border – will be better achieved through ­independence.

The main issue is, according to Stiglitz, what would happen “should Scotland stay in the UK, and the UK leave the EU”. In his opinion, “the downside risks are, by almost any account, significantly greater”.

Referendum in Scotland: A hard way back to the EU

Tue, 16 Sep 2014 08:30:29 +0100

What would happen to Scotland’s EU membership should the “yes” to independence win in the 18 September referendum? The Commission’s president-elect Jean-Claude Juncker already made clear that “there is no guarantee an independent Scotland will be able to join the EU”, writes Christian Oliver in the Financial Times, adding that —

EU lawyers and constitutional experts have no doubt that Scotland’s accession to the bloc is possible but Edinburgh will have to run a lengthy gauntlet of potential vetoes, crucially from Spain, which fears a Scottish Yes could accelerate Catalan dreams of independence. It will also need to deal with the question of joining the euro, which is now in theory obligatory for any new member. The only certainty among the treaty experts in Brussels is that Scotland’s admission to the EU will not be as automatic or seamless as the Scottish National party insists.

So, Scotland would anyway have to apply for admission to the EU if it wants to gain membership. But there would be some hurdles ahead, notes Christian Oliver. The first one would be being recognised as a new country:

Once it has been recognised by London, Scotland will need the same from all the other member states before it can apply (or reapply) to join the EU. […] The approval process could be tortuous, requiring parliamentary debates and votes.

Then, Scotland would have to commit to join the euro, like most of the EU countries (“the UK and Denmark won ‘opt-outs’ that are no longer available to new applicants’, notes the Financial Times).

Scotland would also have to manage a transition before its admission, possibly through a “transitional agreement” with the EU — “an unprecedented compromise for an unprecedented situation”, writes the Financial Times in which the new country would share the same situation as other non-EU states like Norway or Switzerland, which “often have to abide with large parts of the acquis (the body of EU legislation)”.

Eventually, concludes the daily, if an independent Scotland should be “still sending six lawmakers to the European parliament”, it “would almost certainly not be able to continue to enjoy Britain’s rebate from budget contributions”.

Sweden general elections: ‘Power shift’

Mon, 15 Sep 2014 08:43:25 +0100

Stefan Löfven’s Social Democratic Party has won Sunday’s general elections, obtaining 31,2 per cent of votes and 113 seats in the Parliament. According to Svenska Dagbladet, Löfven should soon “start discussions with the Green party and other centre-left parties” to form a government coalition. But, with 43,7 per cent of votes and 158 seats over 349, the centre-left block is far from having the absolute majority and Löfven might have to run a minority government, adds the daily.

Meanwhile, the outgoing centre-right leader Fredrik Reinfeldt, resigned as Prime minister after eight years in power and as leader of the Moderate party, which obtained 23,2 per cent of votes (84 seats), reports the Swedish daily. The populist Sweden Democrats have become the country’s third party, with 12,9 per cent of votes and 49 seats, “doubling its presence in the Parliament”.

Sweden: ‘Low, Lower, Löfven’

Fri, 12 Sep 2014 09:58:48 +0100

Stefan Löfven, leader of Sweden’s Social Democratic Party, is on track to become the country’s next prime minister, with the most recent polls showing his centre-left coalition will win the general election of 14 September. The coalition of the incumbent leader, conservative Fredrick Reinfeldt, is estimated to win 36.9 per cent of the vote, versus 48.1 per cent for the coalition led by Löfven, who Fokus gives the nickname “Comrade 25 per cent” in reference to the score his own party is expected to receive.

The vote is also likely to see feminist party Feministiskt initiativ enter parliament, Fokus notes, as well as a breakthrough for the far-right, populist, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats led by Jimmie Åkesson, which are polling at nearly 10 per cent of intentions to vote.

Scotland: ‘Business onslaught over Yes vote’

Fri, 12 Sep 2014 07:41:35 +0100

Five Scottish banks have said they would move to England if the Yes vote prevails in next week’s referendum on independence, writes The Financial Times.

Polls showing the 18 September vote was neck-and-neck prompted the The Royal Bank of Scotland to sound warning calls, writes the daily, which estimates Scotland’s banking industry employs more than 35,000 people in Scotland —

The banks believe that they risk being penalised by investors and rating agencies if they keep their domicile in an independent Scotland and lose the support of the Bank of England as their lender of last resort. Inquiries from nervous customers about the consequences of a Yes vote have also increased since the polls narrowed last week.

The daily also says the polls provoked “an outpouring of corporate warnings” about the Yes vote. Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, denounced a campaign of “scaremongering” whipped up by the office of Prime Minister David Cameron, who the paper notes “has been urging business leaders to speak out against independence for months”.

Referendum on independence: ‘Scotland heads for the exit’

Mon, 08 Sep 2014 09:03:10 +0100

“Opponents of Scottish independence are to launch a last-ditch attempt to prevent the break-up of the UK”, writes The i, as a poll by YouGov puts for the first time the Yes vote in the lead in the 18 September referendum, by 51 per cent of voters intending to vote for Scotland’s independence, and 49 per cent intending to vote against.

According to the daily, Chancellor George Osborne —

has promised that specific plans will be announced within days to enable Scotland to gain greater devolution in the event of a No vote, in an attempt to stem the tide of their voters to the Yes camp.

EU top jobs: Tusk’s not so incredible ascent

Tue, 02 Sep 2014 23:02:19 +0100

Do Rzeczy, Varsovie – Donald Tusk as president-elect of the European Council is good news for Poland, and an ominous harbinger for the fate of his own party, writes Polish columnist. See more.