VULCAN VIEW- KEY EVENTS THIS WEEK:
AfD decides on party strategy for EU elections
During a special AfD party convention last weekend in which the party decided on its campaign and strategic goals for the upcoming EU election in May of this year, hardliners demanded the immediate exit of Germany from the EU. Calling for “Dexit” did not gain enough momentum within the party. A proposed exit by 2024 ended up being watered down as party leader Alexander Gauland said leaving the European Union would be unrealistic for Germany.
Recent Eurobarometer statistics show that around 82 per cent of Germans see themselves as a European citizen and 64 per cent have a positive outlook on the future Europe’s.
The idea of ‘Drexit’ drew heavy criticism from some high profile former members of the AfD. Both Bernd Lucke and Frauke Petry, former leaders of the party, said that leaving the European Union would do more harm than good to Germany.
At the end of the party convention the members came to a consensus to try and reform the EU from within. This follows the example of Front Nationale leader Marie LePen who has abandoned her plan of ‘Frexit” to take a more constructive approach towards the European project.
The right-wing party AfD, which just this week was put under federal review by the Verfassungschutz, Germany’s domestic intelligence service, has been Eurosceptic from the start. Now it seems that they are modifying their course in order to appeal to a broader spread of German voters.
House of Commons votes against Brexit Deal
No amount of last minute appeals by the Prime Minister were enough to get her Brexit deal through the House of Commons. The margin of her defeat was on the extreme end of estimates and represented the worst defeat for a British government since 1918.
Across Europe, member state governments reacted with caution, while there were clear signs of frustration from the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council. Michael Barnier, the EU’s Chief Brexit negotiator, said that it was up to the UK to clarify what they wanted. Jean-Claude Juncker urged the United Kingdom to “clarify its intentions as soon as possible.”
Chancellor Merkel appealed for calm and said that there was still time to ratify the deal before Britain’s proposed exit on March 29th.
Before Theresa May then faced a vote of no confidence, which opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn called immediately after the vote. After surviving the vote, entirely due to the support of the Democratic Unionist Party, Theresa May now has until Monday to present the House of Commons with an alternative to her defeated Brexit deal. The parliament is set to vote on a new proposal on the 29th of January.
For more insight on Brexit dynamics, read our in-depth analysis here.
Greek PM narrowly survives confidence vote
The Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, of the radical Left Wing Syriza Party, narrowly survived a vote of confidence on Wednesday 16 January by 151 votes to 149. The Prime Minister had called the vote after his government’s junior coalition partner, the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL), quit in disagreement over a deal to end a longstanding name dispute with Macedonia. Greece and Macedonia struck a deal in June agreeing that the Balkan country will be renamed the Republic of North Macedonia to distinguish it from Greece’s northern region, also called Macedonia.
Tsipris will now need to figure out how to ratify the agreement without his coalition partner, ANEL. If the agreement is ratified, the EU and Macedonia can re-open talks as of June 2019, after the European elections.
Macron rallies despite riots
The French President Emmanuelle Macron saw his popularity jump by 5 percentage points in January. This rise is attributed to the social measures introduced to calm the Gilets Janunes (Yellow Jackets). Macron now has an approval rating of 28% while the Prime Minister Edouard Philippe’s approval rating jumped 7 points to bring him to 33%.
The ‘social measures’ introduced include:
- €100 increase in the minimum wage;
- cutting taxes on overtime; and
- encouraging bonuses ahead of the Christmas period.
Despite these efforts, last weekend saw riots continue in several French cities including Paris, Lyon and Strasbourg. The Prime Minister has responded in recent weeks by creating a registry of violent protesters and deploying 80,000 security forces across the country.
Last Tuesday, Macron launched a national debate to address the discontent with his government. The French President met with over 600 mayors in a small town in Normandy, where he said that “the government will not tolerate violence.”
The French government released a consultation on the future of the state. This consultation focuses on several key areas: taxation, the ecological transition, the structure of the state and public services. The consultation which has 35 questions will, he has promised, be fully acted upon by the end of April.