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May 12, 2016

Watch out for another shady deal with Turkey

We noted that Martin Schulz said yesterday that he no longer expects the visa waiver for Turkey to come into force by the end of June, since the Turkish parliament refuses to change the anti-terror laws as requested by the EU. But be careful. You should not think for a minute that the EU is giving up on the deal. In the backrooms there is already work in progress on how to produce a face-saving fudge allowing Turkey to continue to violate basic human rights while the EU pretends that all is well. 

Frankfurter Allgemeine has a story taking a deeper look at the diplomacy behind the loud open exchange on both sides. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected the request for a change in the terrorism law, but the EU is now apparently ready to abandon this demand and put it off until EU membership negotiations. Erdogan has sent his chief negotiator, Volkan Bozkir, to talks with senior EU officials in Strasbourg, including Schulz. On Friday, he will talk to the Commission. The European demand for a change in the terrorism law is about Turkey's rather extensive definition of terrorism, which has a huge implications for civil liberties. The deal on visa-free travel, which dates back to 2013, demands that Turkey ensures liberty and security, the right to a fair trial, freedom of opinion, and freedom of public gatherings. The paper reports that the EU now seems to accept that Erdogan will not change the anti-terrorism laws. On the contrary, he wants to strengthen the laws further. But that's apparently no longer a problem for the Europeans. All Ankara is requested to do now is to recognise the EU's legal framework - though we are not entirely sure what that means. It looks to us that the EU would be happy with a general non-binding declaration, allowing Erdogan to continue to abuse his powers at home and the EU to pretend not to see this.

There are still a few principled people out there. Guy Verhoftstadt is one of them. He wants to pull the plug. He notes that the EU-Turkey deal has dramatically diminished the EU's credibility as a defender of freedom of speech, and press freedom in particular. Turkish prosecutors have opened 1,800 cases against people for insulting Erdogan. This includes journalists, and even children. He said the EU has sold its soul.

A deal would be subject to qualified majority voting in the Council and a simple majority in the EP. Given their record, we doubt that the EP will block a deal if it is backed by both the Commission and the Council. This is why we discount the statement by Schulz. Also we noted that Erdogan himself is talking about visa-free travel by the autumn. We find all this disturbing.

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May 12, 2016

The politics behind Italy's constitutional referendum

There is a discussion in the Italian media on the implications of a No vote in Italy's constitutional referendum in October. The implications would be nearly catastrophic: not only would Matteo Renzi resign, as he made clear on several occasions, but there is a danger that the Italian parliament could not pass a budget for 2017. More importantly, however, there would be no chance of a stable government after the next elections. And, interestingly, the Five Star Movement actually favours a Yes vote because it has most to gain from the constitutional change.

Here is the backdrop: The main issue in the referendum is the Senate. It is currently a co-chamber with equal rights, including the right of passing a vote no confidence on the prime minister. The reform would turn the Senate into a regional chamber, with the job to revise laws. If the referendum fails, the Senate would remain as it is today. Roberto d'Alimonte had an article in Corriere della Sera saying he believes the new electoral law would fail as well if the constitutional law was not approved. This is because the electoral law would only apply to the chamber but not the Senate. It would be impractical to have completely opposite electoral systems for either chamber. But if the No vote prevails, the Senate would survive in its current form, and Senators would be elected on the basis of pure proportional representation. So there would be no point in a first-past-the-post electoral system for the chamber. So, constitutional reform and electoral laws are intricately intertwined. If one falls, so does the other. 

D'Alimonte also referred to recent opinion polls showing that Luigi di Maio, one of the top politicians of the Five Star Movement, would have a good chance of beating Renzi in an election. Francesco Verderami writes a comment in Corriere della Sera this morning that the Five Star Movement would have most to lose if the vote were no - even though paradoxically such a vote would represent a general protest against the entire system. If you do the electoral math, the proposed new system would give the five-star movement a chance to run the country on its own, without the need to form coalitions.

It is indeed ironic that Renzi wanted to change the constitutional to consolidate his own power, but he may end up paving the way for the Five Star Movement. This is why it is generally not a good idea to fiddle with electoral systems and constitutional arrangements in the way it's done in Italy. We are now in a situation that a Yes would benefit the party of Beppe Grillo, while a No vote makes Italy ungovernable - which would favour Grillo in the longer term. An own goal by the establishment.

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May 12, 2016

No censure motion from the French left

The French left failed to get enough signatures to file their own motion of confidence. Only two signatures were missing to get the required 58. On the list there were 13 communists, 10 greens and, more significantly, 28 Socialist rebels. Among them are the habitual "frondeurs" - rebels - but also supporters of Arnauld Montebourg, whose return into politics has been rumoured recently. There was no one from Martine Aubry's camp, though. 

The left-leaning newspaper Liberation called it a bluff, a well-staged failure to get enough votes together. There never was any intention to topple the government, but to save face in front of their own constituencies, so the article. This might be true in the short run, the bill will get through and the "frondeurs" will not vote with the Republicans. But what does this mean for the longer run? This is the worst crisis for the Socialists since 1971, says Gerard Gruneberg in an interview with Les Echos, and could potentially lead to a split of the party. Party governance has been eroded slowly, and if there is no clear candidate in next year's presidential elections it will take the internal battle among Socialists to the extreme.

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May 12, 2016

Sapin under pressure over sexual harassment allegations

The accusations of sexual harassment in the corridors of political power are gaining momentum in France. On Monday eight women accused deputy parliamentary speaker Denis Baupin of sexually harassing them over a number of years. Prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation into the claims made by colleagues of Baupin in the green party EELV.

This also brought Michel Sapin back to the limelight, and his incident in Davos a year with a female reporter. He presented a public excuse on Tuesday while playing down the incident. In April a book by two female authors described how Sapin approached the journalist who just bent over to pick up her pen, and said: "What are you showing me here?’" and snapped the elastic of her unintentionally exposed panties. Sapin denied this twice, now saying he just made inappropriate remarks about her clothing and placed his hand on her back in a statement to AFP. 

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  • ... and a subtle shift in EU policies towards both Russia and Turkey
  • Nothing to celebrate about the end of the bailout programme
  • Support for Brexit holding up
  • July 09, 2018
  • German panic about Target2
  • AfD level with SPD
  • How the EU could fail
  • June 01, 2018
  • Will France and Germany stick together in their response to US trade tariffs?
  • From a eurozone budget to a slush fund
  • April 25, 2018
  • Macron's pitch to Trump
  • Montoro in Schleswig-Holstein
  • The old world and the new
  • March 19, 2018
  • Waiting for Germany
  • Russia’s friends
  • Can the Commons force an extension of the Art 50 period?
  • February 12, 2018
  • What the euro debate is really about
  • How Brexit can still falter
  • January 08, 2018
  • Getting real on Brexit
  • Macron in China
  • December 04, 2017
  • Can Brexit still be stopped?
  • Could Poland open up the Posted Workers Directive again?
  • Has the Bank of England solved the productivity puzzle?
  • October 30, 2017
  • Italy's electoral reform seems to backfire already
  • Bregretometer hits another peak
  • September 29, 2017
  • Is the CDU about to rebel against Merkel?
  • What about defence?
  • What happened to the French mainstream parties?
  • August 29, 2017
  • The deep significance of Labour's Brexit U-turn
  • The day after the SPD loses
  • July 31, 2017
  • Russia sanctions bill becomes US law
  • Spain's Guardia Civil in the eye of the Catalan storm
  • A grand bargain between France and Germany
  • July 03, 2017
  • Can Greece exit its programme without a credit line?
  • The softening Brexit
  • Macron's state of the nation address
  • June 05, 2017
  • What happens to Brexit if Labour wins?
  • What Russia wants
  • May 08, 2017
  • A message of hope
  • Barnier's not so easily agreed Brexit principles
  • The rebirth of the paranoid conspiracy theory
  • April 10, 2017
  • Nein, nein, nein, und nein
  • Sounds like a bad Brexit story, but ain’t
  • On how not to exit the euro
  • March 16, 2017
  • A Polish horror story
  • On the return of industrial policy
  • The limits of the multi-speed Europe
  • February 20, 2017
  • SPD ahead of CDU/CSU
  • Fillon bounces back
  • The Brexit timetable
  • January 27, 2017
  • The Brexit Bill in full
  • Fillon says he would withdraw if charged
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • December 12, 2016
  • Renzi without Renzi
  • Shall we compensate the losers of globalisation?
  • The need for a partnership with China
  • November 22, 2016
  • Towards a transitional deal
  • Estonia's new PM
  • Merkel's depressing plan for a fourth term
  • Why Italy cannot stay in the eurozone
  • November 04, 2016
  • An important decision, not a critical one
  • Europe and Catalonia at the centre of Rajoy's new cabinet
  • Turkey threatens to end refugee deal
  • Everyone against Sarkozy
  • October 17, 2016
  • Ceta is dead for now
  • L’après-Hollande, c'est Hollande
  • SPD against Russia sanctions
  • Nissan to join customs union and other fanciful tales
  • September 30, 2016
  • High drama in the PSOE
  • What happened to Montebourg?
  • Why a hard Brexit is not inevitable
  • September 14, 2016
  • Tusk's confusing message
  • Kenny says European Council won't allow single market access
  • Barroso ups the ante
  • Italy has its Obama-on-Brexit moment
  • August 30, 2016
  • Brexit facts on the ground
  • Burkinis and Republican primaries
  • The SPD and TTIP
  • August 15, 2016
  • Sarkozy to declare his candidacy
  • Do intra-eurozone current account deficits matter?
  • On the failures of modern macroeconomics
  • July 28, 2016
  • Barnier vs Davis
  • Orban's Europe
  • July 15, 2016
  • Celebrations in an age of terror
  • Shadows of a deal
  • Poland blames Germany for Brexit
  • What's behind Gabriel's impending boycott of TTIP
  • July 04, 2016
  • Hard women, hard Brexit
  • We'll miss the EU when it's gone
  • June 23, 2016
  • It's either Brexit, or Brexit - a truly historic choice
  • Brexit copycats
  • The impact of Brexit on Greece
  • Spain's interior minister under fire
  • June 15, 2016
  • An insurrection against Renzi in the PD
  • Syriza to face citizens protests and ND accusations
  • French labour reform protests weaken CGT
  • Why the eurozone crisis is unsolvable
  • June 08, 2016
  • Getting real on debt relief
  • The re-alignment of the Italian right
  • A critique of Germany's Turkey policy
  • June 02, 2016
  • Watch out for a fudge over Turkey
  • With friends like Tusk
  • May 27, 2016
  • French labour law: withdraw, negotiate or force it through?
  • France and Germany seek deeper integration post-Brexit (but not on the eurozone)
  • Merkel wants to renew Russia sanctions
  • Towards a third Spanish election?
  • May 22, 2016
  • Waiting in Austria
  • Greek court puts Turkey deal on hold
  • Sovereignty and rule of law in Poland
  • The age of the disgruntled
  • May 19, 2016
  • Refugee relocation not going well
  • The crisis' toll on the youth
  • What two new Brexit polls may be telling us
  • May 16, 2016
  • Is the Erdogan deal on the brink of collapse?
  • Towards the end of sexism in French politics
  • The case against TTIP
  • May 13, 2016
  • Brexit polls inconclusive, but Leave is getting stronger
  • What future for the Socialist rebels?
  • Christian Kern, a manager, to be the next Austrian chancellor
  • On bank capture of the press
  • May 12, 2016
  • Watch out for another shady deal with Turkey
  • The politics behind Italy's constitutional referendum
  • No censure motion from the French left
  • Sapin under pressure over sexual harassment allegations