- Monday, 03 April 2017
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.
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.
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.