In Bulgaria we have confirmation the wind is turning in favour of pro-European ideas, just as the EU-UK relationship officially starts discussing its divorce settlement. 

Trump against them all

The withdrawal of the bill that was supposed to reduce the impact of Obamacare on the US public purse is the sign of a new general offensive being launched against Donald Trump. The New York stock exchange quickly steadied the ship after a one day drop, but the euro climbed back to the levels prior to Trump's election. The crosshairs of the media of the entire world are in the meantime focusing on two of the presidents executive orders: one on the environment and the other on international trade. Trump signed a series of orders in favour of the energy industry, that gets rid of the emission limitations introduced by the Barack Obama administration and limits the competence of the Agency for the protection of the environment to the defence of water and air quality. The other order, reported by the Wall Street Journal and immediately seized upon by international media, concerns the imposition of tariffs of 100% on a whole range of European products, from mineral water to motorcycles, including beef. However, this regulation has not been approved and there's no saying it will. In actual fact, it's not even a Trump initiative, rather than an inheritance of a trade dispute with the EU which began in Bill Clinton's day, in 1999, and then has kept going as far as Obama, whose representative for trade published the list of 90 European top products that should be subjected to US trade reprisals (Federal Register, Vol. 81, No. 249, Wednesday 28, 2016. Page 95724). Exactly the products that, according to the international media, the US president is now intending to target. Judging by international media, the sovereign protectors of all that's "politically correct", Trump is in a shambles. Yet when one takes a look at what might be more objective indicators, his problems seem negligible. Such as,  for example, consumer trust  (125.6 points in March, the highest level reached since December 2000); employment (+ 1.4% in February; the mood of company management, which has reached a 65 point rating, with an increase of as much as 15 points compared to March 2015.


READ MORE: Trump plays the Great Satan, but Tehran does not fall for it


Germany: Schulz will be assessed in May

The Social Democrat candidate for the German Chancellery, Martin Schulz, lost the first electoral match in the Saar, a small region on the border with northern France, where Angela Merkel's CDU enjoyed a 5 percentage swing, earning 40 percent of the consensus. The Land's population, however, doesn't top the million mark, and a much more decisive electoral test will come in May, when voting will be held in Schleswig-Holstein (with a population of 2.85 million) and especially in North Rhine-Westphalia which, with its population of almost 18 million, is the most highly populated Land in Germany. 

Schulz keeps reminding everyone that the political elections will only be held next 24 September, that the race is a marathon, not a sprint, but he would do well to mull over the reasons for the defeat in the Saar which, despite the strong factory worker presence, penalised all left wing parties, Linke and Greens included.

Bulgaria: the centre right pro-Europe party wins out

Early parliamentary elections were held this week in Bulgaria. The centre-right party "Citizens for the European development of Bulgaria" (GERB), led by former prime minister Boyko Borisov, won with 32% of the votes. The second spot was secured by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) with 27%, followed in third by the nationalist front of the United Patriots with 9%. The cut off threshold was also met by the Turkish minority party (9%) and the new populist formation Volya (Will) headed by business man Veselin Mareshki (4%). For GERB and the former prime minister Borisov this victory could mean a return to government, the fourth in four years, though the defeat suffered in the presidential elections last November led one to believe the Socialists were on the come-back trail. Then, the GERB candidate was resoundingly defeated by the Socialist candidate, the former Head of the Airforce, Rumen Radev, which induced the then Prime Minister to resign his post, and took on himself all the political responsibility for the defeat. But unlike in the presidential elections, the analysis of this week's parliamentary elections suggest that, though the established parties have confirmed their leadership roles, the arrival of the populists in parliament, but also and especially the Eurosceptic nationalists, means that a change is underway in the country. After all, though since its entry in the EU Bulgaria has seen its pro-capita earnings double and its exports towards the EU increase (now 70% of Bulgarian exports are with the EU, against 1.5% directed towards Russia), the dissatisfaction with the Union remains high (around 51%). The reason for this rise is the tension sparked by the flow of migrants. That's why the victory of a such a pro-European party as GERB is a positive result for Europe: on the one hand, because Bulgaria is on the Balkan migration route and shares its border with Turkey; on the other because in January 2018 the country will take on the six-monthly rotating presidency of the European Union Council. The true challenge now will be trying to form a stable government. A look at the figures, and it turns out the pro-European GERB is not an all-out winner. So, the most likely scenario is a coalition between GERB and the United Patriot nationalists with the possibility of involving the populist Volya. A choice that looks unavoidable, but full of pitfalls and a high risk of instability.

EUROPEAN UNION - Brexit, we're off!

Nine months on from the vote with which the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union 44 years after its accession to the European Economic Community, Prime Minister Theresa May sent the letter to Brussels that officially sets in motion the Brexit procedure: the prime minister asked that the negotiations on secession go hand in hand with a new bilateral treaty. She tried to intimidate its partners by stating that if the latter is missing, London could feel free to interrupt collaboration on the security front. 

The activation of Article 50 of the Treaty does nevertheless mark the point of no return: within two years the United Kingdom will be outside the Union, unless the 27 Heads of State and government don't unanimously decide to extend the deadline. To give an inkling of the size of the challenge one just has to think that the free trade agreement with Canada took around ten years to be negotiated and it still isn't fully in force. The negotiations will be made even more complicated by the fact that in all likelihood they won't even start in earnest before the German elections in September, and will have to be over by the Autumn of 2018 in order to allow for ratification by the national parliaments. On Friday, the European Council, the organism that represents national governments, published a draft of negotiation guidelines that will have to be approved by the heads of state and government on 29 April next. Among the main points: (i) no cherry-picked single market; no bilateral negotiations between the United Kingdom and single member states; (iii) transition agreements will be possible providing they are in the interest of the Union, limited in time and the community acquis continues to apply for their entire duration; (iv) the settlement of the United Kingdom's financial obligations towards the EU (a sum that should be around 60 billion euro according to estimates); and (v) the negotiations will mainly revolve around detaching the United Kingdom from the EU, while a future agreement between the two parties may only be concluded once the United Kingdom is out of the EU (a clear reply to the first May request). 
The British government will certainly try to strengthen its ties with the United States and Commonwealth countries: a community that includes important countries such as India, Canada and Australia. But over 50 percent of the United Kingdom's foreign trade concerns EU countries and it is very unlikely that one can substantially modify these percentages. In the meantime, May is already forced to dedicate plenty of attention to the internal cohesion of the Kingdom. The Unionists are no longer essential when it comes to instituting a regional government in Northern Ireland, while the catholic nationalists would like to set up a pro-European majority along with the Greens and the Liberal Democrats. Is it unlikely, perhaps, but there's a growing risk that the London government nay have to take back direct administration of the region: a step that would certainly increase inter-confessional tensions. The Scottish parliament, on the other hand, has already asked to repeat the referendum on independence. May answers that the discussion can only be entered once negotiations on leaving the EU are finalised, but that's exactly what the Scots are hoping to avoid. They'd rather leave the United Kingdom before its separation from Brussels, so that their small nation can retain its status as an EU member state. There's another aspect that is clouding the British horizon: the age of Queen Elizabeth II. The sovereign is now 91, her son Charles (69) has never shown royal capabilities, and the eldest of the grandchildren, the thirty-five year old Prince William, has still to show his mettle. 
The political fiction of a Singapore solution is gradually becoming less fanciful.
 
 
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