- Monday, 27 March 2017
We're celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Union, as crucial electoral votes are about to take place in France and Germany.
Trump's objectives: tax cuts and victory over IS
Very slowly, one is starting to build a picture of the strategies and policies of the new White House incumbent. Trump hopes to defeat his opponents (particularly in the USA) by focusing on two major objectives. The first is aserious reduction of the tax burden, which according to the White House can be achieved with the budget recently presented before Congress. A budget that axes very drastically unproductive federal expenditure – which has always been fairly unpopular in the USA – and instead invests in defence, security and infrastructure. The other objective is defeating Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Islamists may manage to hold out in Mosul for another few months, but their defeat is unavoidable. Trump has also sent a few hundred special forces into Syrian Kurdistan, in order to reach Raqqa, the IS "capital" in Syria, before Russian or government forces get there. Once again, the defeat of the Islamic forces is just a matter of time, and victory over Islamic State will probably be achieved within the year. If at the beginning of 2018 Trump could claim to have slashed federal spending, reduced taxes and defeated IS, his position would become much more solid and believable.
The European political agenda is affected by terrorism
In Germany, the 608 delegates of the Social Democratic Party appointed Martin Schulz as their candidate for the Chancellorship with a unanimous vote. A few weeks later, the former President of the European Parliament galvanised militants and sympathisers, leading his party from a 21 to a 31 percent of voting intentions, thus bridging the gap that separated him from the Demo-Christian alliance that backs Merkel, even if the polls (updated to a few minutes ago, Monday afternoon) of the regional vote in Saar refutes the Socialist recovery . The attacks by Islamists work against the Chancellor, who could see her electoral base eroded even due to individual episodes.
After the dismaying events of last week – a high school student opening fire in a school near Cannes, a parcel-bomb delivered to the Paris offices of the International Monetary Fund – on Saturday 18 March the attack psychosis took hold once again. In Paris, a 39-year-old Arab with previous convictions, Ziyed Ben Belgacem, a French citizen, shot a policeman, wounding him slightly, then opened fire in a bar and finally headed to the international Orly airport, where he attacked a soldier in an attempt to snatch her assault rifle, but was then shot down. In his rucksack they found a tank of petrol and a copy of the Qu'ran, and the following day his actions were claimed by Islamic State. It's just one more episode of the Islamic terrorist campaign that has been haunting France since January 2015, and has already had a powerful effect on both its foreign and internal policies. New attacks, in truth, are also taking place elsewhere. In London, on March 22, a British citizen of Jamaican origin, converted to Islam, pointed his car at the passers-by on Westminster Bridge and then knifed a policeman guarding the British parliament. The overall tally is forty injured and 4 deceased, in addition to the terrorist. On Thursday March 23, in Antwerp, the largest city of the Flanders, a similar attack by a young French Arab national was foiled. All episodes that convinced the Italian security to tighten controls for the special summit in Rome on Saturday, which luckily rolled out smoothly.
EUROPEAN UNION - The 60th anniversary of the Union: the multi-track approach is tabled once again
Saturday 25 March, the European Union's heads of state and government met in the Italian capital for a special summit dedicated to the signing of the Rome Treaty, which provided the ground rules for the foundation of the EU. The only one who didn't attend was Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, who on Wednesday 29 March will deliver to the European offices her formal request to set in motion the negotiations for the United Kingdom's exit from the Union. A path that will only really begin on 29 April, when the EU leaders, in a special meeting of the European Council, will approve the guidelines to be followed in negotiations with London. On the Rome's Capitol Hill, a statement was approved that is meant to boost the EU, through the instrument of "reinforced cooperation": a mechanism that will enable those willing to set up tighter integration areas, such as the Monetary Union and the Schengen Space. The area that Germany, France, but also Italy and Spain would like to move ahead on faster is shared defence and security. The federalist thrust is however opposed by Eastern European countries, which fear a weakening of NATO, and especially by Poland, whose Prime Minister Beate Szydlo was tempted right up to the last moment to refuse to sign the joint declaration. In the former Communist countries, the NATO umbrella is considered more important than EU membership, but with the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House, the United States might be more inclined to dialogue with Moscow than Germany and France. In actual fact, Trump's victory, along with the migration crisis, the expansion of Russian influence in the Mediterranean and the lingering effect of the economic crisis, still felt by many countries, have helped to destabilise the European outlook, to the extent that it has convinced recent voters (in Holland) to hold back on populist recipes, reinstating the traditionally pro-Europe parties.
EUROPEAN UNION - Dijsselbloem and the European Monetary Fund
The position of Jeroen Dijsselbloem as president of the Europgroup, the organism that brings together all the Finance Ministers of the euro area, is no longer a foregone conclusion. The Dutch elections have inflicted a heavy blow on his chances of keeping his place in the next government. Djisselbloem's Labour Party lost 5.7% of the vote, a collapse when compared to the 24.8% it had obtained in the previous political elections, and it may not be a part of the next coalition government. Dijsselbloem then let himself go to avoidable comments on the bad budget management by countries that had asked for support during the crisis, which kindled new North-South tensions within the eurozone. Immediate condemnation and requests for his resignations arrived from, among others, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, the leader of the Socialists in the European Parliament, Gianni Pittella and from Matteo Renzi. Dijsselbloem's words, published in an interview in the German daily FAZ, may not have been unintentional. To preserve a role in Europe, particularly if he was to be excluded from the new Dutch government, Dijsselbloem will have to have the backing of Germany. The Eurogroup president has also said he was in favour of a gradual transformation of the European Stability Mechanism (the state-saving fund) into a European Monetary Fund, an idea that appeals to the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaüble, on condition that such a body be granted strong powers of control over state budgets. An idea that would have the advantage, from their point of view, of no longer having to rely on the International Monetary Fund in the future, which for example has a different approach to the advisability of cutting the Greek debt. And who might be better suited to head such a mechanism than the person who considers the Southern countries as nothing more than dangerous spendthrifts?